So things have been busy since the last post some six weeks ago. Most of my time, and more importantly energy, has been spent on writing more manuals for a laboratory incubator that detects E.coli. Still it seems it’s a growing business. (See what I did there, biology joke?)
In the mean time I’ve almost completed the move to my new publisher, which has turned out to be a challenging experience including a few sleepless nights, especially on a Sunday before I’m due to go back to writing about the bloody incubators.
Ever since I decided to go down the self publishing route in 2006 I’ve been using a distributor called Gardners Books and a printer called Antony Rowe, both in Eastbourne. Antony Rowe seem to be okay, offering a proper print on demand service (they print the books as readers order them so it’s never out of stock). Their printing costs are good and everybody should be happy.
Think of it a bit like the value chain that Evan Davis likes to talk about on his business programmes. It starts with the printer or in fact the author. When the book is ordered the author pays the printer £3.00 and adds his profit bringing it up to £5.00; the distributor then sells it to the retailer for £8.00 who then sell it to you for £10.00. With sensible print on demand the distributor takes the order (and the money) from the retailer, pays the printer, and just sends the author the profit. The payment sequence and the numbers might be a bit different but this is basically it.
However, Gardners Books like to make life overly complicated. Instead of sending the author their profit every time someone orders some books Gardners send the author an invoice for the printing and invite the author to send them an invoice for the cost of the printing plus the profit. So they sell one book and invoice the author for the cost of the printing at £3.00. The author then invoices them for the cost of the printing at £3.00 and adds his profit (+£2.00) selling it to them at £5.00. They then send it to the retailer at £8.00. Worse than that they require payment in one month but they insist on paying after three months. I’ve had late payments from them that took up to a year.Are you following this? There’s going to be a test at the end.
What the hell’s going on?
Now I’m a writer not a businessman. (See my blog in response to Alan Rinzler’s about me being an arse.) So excuse me for not being on top of this but each time an invoice came in I’d put it to one side just because of the time it would take to pay their invoice, write the cheque, write my own invoice, ensure they are all properly cross referenced and recorded in the accounts so that my account wouldn’t later charge me £108 per hour to figure out what the hell’s going on.
So I’d put it off and get stressed and put it off some more, all while being knackered from writing about E.coli incubators and commuting for two hours a day on top. Not to mention dealing with the lodgers, forgetting to do the laundry and generally keeping life on the go. Anyway, I try not to whine because modern life is like this for all of us but it’s much easier if you don’t have ambitions to become a successful novelist.
So last month they threatened to take me to court over a late payment of £7.71. Now you can see the pointlessness of this as if I have not paid them the 7.71 then I have not invoiced them for the same sum plus my profit. If I don’t pay they actually end up with more money! Don’t forget this is their day job while I’m writing about bloody incubators.
In the mean time I’ve been slowly working towards getting my books moved out to my new publisher, but he busy as well so it’s not been easy. See my last couple of blogs for the prospective cover designs.
So my response was to write Gardners a long letter telling them to get stuffed, pointing out the irrationality of their approach and suggesting that the complexity of their business model actually increases the number of late payments. I went on to accuse them of bullying tactics suggesting that, perhaps, some on-line retailers, or God, or whoever had bent them over and made them sign a deal so that they don’t get paid by the retailer until way after the event. Of course being bullied they then bully whoever they can and that’s the poor bloody author.
Well this isn’t ethical business if you ask me. Anyway, I didn’t send them the letter that started out with a suggestion that they go stuff themselves. Instead I just paid them off and told them to cancel my account in the most businesslike way possible.
Don’t get me started on Amazon
I’m only able to do this as while this has all being going on, while writing about incubators, I’ve been working with my new publisher on getting the first of my books out. So, for the moment, my books aren’t available from any retailers. The Hidden Masters (not quite) Pocket Book of Tarot is now listed on Amazon (don’t get me started on Amazon) but I’m hoping to work with the new publisher to sort out some glitches before I start to promote it properly. (You could order it now if you wanted to and you’d end up with one of the rare early copies before the formatting is finally sorted.)
In the mean time people keep asking where the next novel is. Well apart from the first three chapters, which are pretty good, it’s still in my head. If I can ever get rid of this admin nightmare and perhaps stop writing about incubators I’ll manage to get it written so that you can read it.
I'm still waiting for the new publisher to sort it out by the way.
When we first started running Libra Aries Bookshop we signed up with Gardners because they claimed to be able to supply any book in print.
However, they were actually nothing but grief…it was a long sorry saga, but the upshot was that we decided to stop using them, at which point they produced an utterly bogus invoice for a damaged book that we had already returned to them. They then persisted in hounding us with monthly demands and threats of court action for 18 months. The invoice was for £7.50.
Gardners are the biggest book distributor in the UK. BB Jean & Tim
Oh indeed, I sympathise. Gardners are not my favourite organisation.
The latest news is that the new publisher fell through as I got tired of waiting and decided to concentrate on eBooks. I should probably have left him publishing the paper books and kept control of the eBooks but after nine months of treacle pace I lost my rag which was probably the wrong thing to do. However, life and it's opportunities have been passing me by and it had been frustratingly emotional for some months. Not the best environment for business negotiations.
So now I don't have a hard copy publisher and I'm open to offers. A small press would be okay, a bigger press would be better.