Saturday, January 05, 2008

The donkey on a treadmill ...

God will I be glad when next week is finally over and I can go back to some semblance of normality and actually having a life. I honestly don't know how people who are forced to work full time manage - for the last few weeks I have felt like the proverbial donkey on a treadmill going nowhere - except round and round in circles that is. There just seems to have been no respite whatsoever - I mean, I know things are calming down somewhat now that most people (those who do not work in retail or customer services that is) have stopped sitting on their big fat ar....mchairs and gone back to work like the rest of us, but it just seems never ending.

The fact that I am physically having to go to work every day is preventing me from doing other things that I really do need to start doing again to get my book out there and maximise my chances of success. Having come so far I cannot just give up. Certain people (and I include myself in this) have made great personal sacrifices so that I can be in this position, and I do not intend to let them down - not having come this far.

Mind you, I must admit that the money is handy - or at least it would be were the tax man not taking 22 percent of it. This is I suspect because I did not have a P45 to give to work when I started with them almost 2 months ago, and so not knowing how much tax I have paid or what I have already earned this year (precisely zero) they are taxing me at the so called emergency rate. This is a pain in the armchair, but until they get off their armchairs and sort it out, I just have to put up with it. I guess at some point before April 5th I will get it all back again in my payslip - but that is not the point, I could do with the money now! Ah well, these things were as they say, sent to try us, and I suppose at least I have some money coming in even if it a pittance. It might be minimum wage, but that is considerably more than I get from book sales ... Not that I am the only one to be feeling the pinch. 60 percent of UK based writers are earning less than the minimum wage when you take into consideration the time that we spend writing our product before it is sold, assuming that it can be sold and that we don't have to pay for the privilege of paying for it to be published ourselves. With the rise in self publishing I wouldn't be at all surprised if at some point in the next couple of years we see one of the major publishing houses go to the wall. The same has already happened with several independents.

Despite a dismal Christmas though for retailers in general, book sellers are celebrating record sales. According to Nielson Bookscan, book sales smashed all previous records to reach £280.2m in the four weeks to 29th December. This is 5 percent up on the same period last year. As Christmas Day falling on a Tuesday this meant there was a last minute three day blitz of sales on the high street (I was there) and in supermarkets as shoppers sought last minute gifts. presents. Internet sales were also strong, with trading up to 21st December.

Let's hope then that when I do start ringing again next week, I find that some of that success has rubbed off on me and I have some healthy sales to report.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Decisions, decisions

I knew the time would come one day when I may have to choose between the need to earn money from outside and the need to continue promoting my book and begin work on the next one, but I hoped it would not happen quite so soon as it has. Today my boss made me an offer which I may not be able to refuse.

He mentioned before Christmas that he may be able to offer me some extra hours in the New Year on a more permanent basis and the moment has come for me to make that choice. At the moment I am contracted to work for 20 hours a week at a basic rate of £5.53 per hour. It is not a fortune, but more than I have earned or are likely to from book sales. That is sad but true. He has now told me though that he can offer me up to 32 hours a week, or the equivalent of 4 whole days. I am in a quandary as to what to do.

While I can't deny that I do need the money, I am also torn between the need to have time during the week to continue telephoning book stores and getting the sales, and the need to kick start the second phase of my writing career by writing some articles for magazines hopefully to be published, and also by beginning work on my second book. Until now I just have not had the time to do either of these things. I also of course need time to continue with my role as Editor of the village newsletter. This is not a major problem though, since most of it can be done in the evenings and weekends - indeed most past Editors have worked full time while acting in this role, so I certainly wouldn't be the last to have to continue with this tradition.

Having done the sums, I don't really feel that I can turn the extra money down, as I have to face facts - namely that book sales at their present level will not pay the bills. I have been living on savings for the past two years since I resigned from my previous job and need to start saving to replenish those dwindling funds, and also paying into a pension. If I do not start this soon then I know that I am risking a retirement living in poverty, and that is something that I really do not want to have to face. One has to then be practical and face facts.

What though is the solution, when one also has a book to promote and write. It is a difficult decision to have to make, but one that thankfully may have a solution.

When I was first interviewed for this job I stated that I did not wish to work on Saturdays, since this is the day when all book promotional activities, such as book signings, fairs etc inevitably took place. When I look back though over the past few months, realistically how many of these have I done? Not that many. Last year I did three holistic fairs in which I made a loss, one mind, body and spirit weekend at our church at which I made about £5, and one book signing in Waterstones, Staines during which I sold just one copy. Fortunes are not made by this and it seems that my time would be better spent at work where I earn more money, especially on the busiest day of the week, which would earn me even more.

This evening Coran and I watched the film Bruce Almighty which was shown on BBC1. It was a bit corny, but one of the best spiritual films made in recent years. It is the tale of a man whose life is not working in the way that he would like, so he prays to God and is temporarily given his powers, so that he can now more tangibly create his own reality. Of course we do that already, but the film is made to illustrate a point. Towards the end anyway, after Bruce's girlfriend has left him and he is involved in a car accident, God asks him to say a prayer for something that he really wants and desires. He says that he wants Grace, his ex to meet someone who sees her in the way that he sees her right now in that moment as he is in God's presence and saying that prayer.

That got me thinking as to what it is that I really and honestly do want. The answer is that I want this book to be a success, that is to me more important than anything else, and so I am not ready to give up on it yet by returning to work 4 days a week and scuppering my chances of that success. I also though have to be practical and pay the bills ans start to save some money.

The answer then is for me to work Saturdays as that way I will still have 2 days off each week, during the week, to continue doing what I need to do to give this book the best chance that I can. My boss is a decent and honest man who will understand this and give me this opportunity. He needs another weekend person, since one of his Saturday staff has just resigned, so this is the obvious solution. There will be times when I do need a Saturday off, but I am sure he will be accommodating enough to allow me to work an extra day in the week as and when this happens, provided of course I give him plenty of notice. This then I what I have decided to do. It seems the best thing all round, after all, all I ever really do on a Saturday is sit around doing rubbish and trivial things, so I may as well be at work anyway.

Not sure what Coran will think of the idea - but actually I think he will thoroughly approve, and see the logic therein.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 By Numbers

Today's edition of The Daily Mail has an article on pages 28 and 29 written by David Thomas entitled 2007 By Numbers which makes interesting and sometimes depressing reading. To start 2008 off on a thought provoking note, I have decided then to write my own version of this, addressing the issues affecting someone such as myself - a writer and part time employee.

Here then is my version of 2007 By Numbers

£1.39 What I earn from each copy of my book bought either online or through a retail store

£2.64 What Gardners books earn from each copy of my book bought from them for sale either online or through a retail store

£6 What the average retail store earns from selling each copy of my book

7.19 The number of books I would have to sell either online or through a retail store in order to cover the cost of sending out a 'free' review copy

£10 The cost including postage to me of sending out a 'free' review copy of my book

14 The number of copies of my book which have been sold within the United States and Canada

32 The total number of 'free' review copies I have sent out

33 percent The number of UK based writers whose earnings fall below the minimum national wage

60 percent The number of UK based writers who have been forced to take a second job to supplement their income

£104 The difference in average weekly earnings between full time male and female employees. No prizes for guessing which of the two sexes earns the least!

£252 The average weekly earnings of a typical UK based full time retail worker

390 The total number of books sold direct by myself, online or ordered from book shops in the UK via Gardners Books

£457 The average weekly wage in the UK

510 The total number of books ordered from my publisher for distribution by Gardners Books

£1615 Total monies received so far from the sale of my book

£1651 The total cost of publishing my book, including the new cover for the updated second edition

£4000 Average annual earnings for UK based writers in 2006

5000 The total number of hardback copies sold of Chantelle Houghton's autobiography

£18,000 Typical entry level salary in publishing for a university graduate

200,000 The total number of hardback copies sold of Katie Price's (aka Jordan's) ghost written novel, Crystal

£4.6 million The advance reported to be paid to Tony Blair for the sale of his memoirs

£4.7 million Royalties reportedly earned by JK Rowling for first day sales of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

Makes you think doesn't it?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A big thank you to those who have helped me along the way

It has been a really strange year for me in so many ways, with so many things happening it seems all at the same time. Yet in some strange way, it has also seemed as if nothing has been happening at all. When I read back that list that I wrote though just the other day and go back over some of the older posts on this site, I am astonished to see just how much has happened, and how far I have progressed along both the writers and the spiritual path.

Coran has of course been the greatest inspiration in my life. We celebrated our 10th anniversary last summer (2007) and he has been there at my side during all those years, holding my hand and keeping me steady on the path when it seemed that all hope was lost. He was there mopping up the tears each time that I lost my job through redundancy or whatever, when my mother died just before the millennium, when my sister attempted suicide and called us in the middle of the night as a cry for help. He was also there each time a rejection letter popped through the letterbox from an agent, a publisher or a job, and when I signed the contract with Authors OnLine Ltd. He was there when I made my first ever book sale, and he will be there with me I hope until the day that I die. I can't think of anyone that I would rather spend the rest of my life with, and I don't need a piece of paper or the blessing of any church in order to declare that.

It seems fitting then as this year draws to a close, and I begin to look back, and then forward to the next year which is about to start, to acknowledge not just the part that he has played in creating that success, but also the part that so many others have played as well.

Of course the first person that needs to be acknowledged is Mr Fitt himself, the owner of my publishing company Authors OnLine Ltd. Were it not for his foresight and his belief in the book that I have written, Gardners would never have deigned to even look at placing it on such favourable terms, and it would not be enjoying anywhere near the level of success that it has done. I know that this is very modest compared to the likes of JK Rowling, whose programme a year in the life of was shown on ITV earlier tonight, but still to me it means a lot.

I also of course need to acknowledge the rest of his staff - his wife Marjorie who writes my royalty cheques, Gaynor who deals with all the book orders from Gardners, Bertrams and hopefully in 2008 some independent retailers, and of course the wonderful and rather eccentric, even if I do say so myself, Paul Rix, whose little black book (volume one) is a mish mash of contacts the mysteries of which I have only just begun to tap. I wish him well with his own second book due out in early 2008.

There are too many friends to mention them all by name here, so to any that I have missed - thank you, and you know who you are. The most influential and helpful during 2007 though have included Gillyann Osborne, Ariadne (I have been banned from mentioning her real name), Nadine Laman, Leslie Yetter, Claire Williams at Paradigm Shift Magazine, Phil Harris and the editors and journalists at the various publications that have featured me this year. I also cannot forget the rest of the team at the newsletter that I edit, and of course our regular readers, and finally the the staff of Lundy Island and the crew of MS Oldenburg and helicopter pilots and team that keep the island open and welcoming during the cold winter months. I look forward to my 23rd visit I think (I have lost count) on February 8th.

I don't mean this to sound corny or contrived, and I realise to some that it might, but it is important to acknowledge those who have helped you along the way, and this is my way of saying a big thank you.

So the countdown to the end of the year then begins and the dregs from the bottle of Baileys await ....