All posts by Atomic Fez

Fortnight to When Words Collide and Mythcon 45

Both When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta and Mythcon 45 in Norton, Massachusetts will have Atomic Fez’s Authors in attendance!

Mythcon: Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts, USA, August 8 – 11

[click to enlarge / reduce]
Mark H. Williams [photo by Simon Gough]
The author of Sleepless Knights, Mark H. Williams, [photo, left; so as to aid the spotting of same in the wild], will be attending Mythcon 45. Part of the proceedings of the event is the announcement of the winners of the Mythopoeic Awards, Mr. Williams being a nominee for the “Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature,” alongside Yangsze Choo (The Ghost Bride, William Morrow), Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the Lane, William Morrow), Max Gladstone (Three Parts Dead, Tor), and Helene Wecker (The Golem and the Jinni, Harper). Should the winner be Sleepless Knights, it’s best to seek the location of Mr. Williams by looking directly at the ceiling to locate him.

Other events and panels Mr. Williams may be involved with /​ attending at Mythcon 45 are readings and the following panel:

  • The Inklings and King Arthur
    The 2013 publication of The Fall of Arthur complicated the generic complexities of Tolkien’s work: how does Tolkien’s Arthurian poem fit into the palimpsest of Arthurian legends? how does it map onto Middle-​​earth? How does it interact with Arthurian works by other Inklings? This panel represents The Inklings and King Arthur, an upcoming academic collection edited by Sørina Higgins. The panelists discuss Lewis, Tolkien, Williams, Barfield, Arthurian source materials, MacDonald, and Chesterton.

    • Panelists: Chris Gaertner, Yannick Imbert, Cory Lowell Grewell, Benjamin Shogren, Brenton D. G. Dickieson, Sørina Higgins (Moderator).
WWC: Carriage House Inn, Calgary, Alberta, August 8 – 12

Mark Leslie Lefebvre
Mark Leslie Lefebvre [photo by John Robbie]
Attendees of the 4th Annual When Words Collide can rub elbows with such luminaries as the author of I, Death, Mark Leslie (Lefebvre) [image, left], who is also a Guest of Honour; Chris Rothe, the author of Dirk Danger Loves Life. While Mr. Leslie’s schedule is easily followed on the event’s site – for the panels and presentations he is participating in are numerous – Mr. Rothe’s are equally easy: look for the young man wearing flippers and other snorkelling equipment, or possibly making dinosaur noises.

Atomic Fez’s Publisher /​ Proprietor, Ian Alexander Martin is also attending, and during the event will be participating in the following panel discussions (subject to change) explaining how Everyone Else is Very Very Wrong (this, sadly, is subject to inevitability):

  • HOW TO WRITE A GOOD PITCH AND QUERY (Friday, 2pm)
    You can write the greatest novel ever written, but you still need to get it into the hands of a publisher. Our panel tells you how.
  • BLENDING SF AND FANTASY (Saturday, 10am)
    The world of Science Fiction is one extended from the principles of known science; the Fantasy world is based in unknowable magic. There was a time when never the twain could meet, but writers love to break down this barrier. Can they? Should they? Are there examples where this hybrid has worked? Are there spectacular failures?
  • GRIPING ABOUT GRAMMAR (Saturday, 7pm)
    Who VS That. Who VS Whom. The apostrophe goes where? And what does subjunctive mean, anyway? Bring your grammar questions for our Grammar Gurus to debate, debunk, and decipher. Be prepared to take notes.
  • THE PUBLISHERSPANEL: NOVELS (Sunday, 10am)
    Novels Publishers and editors discuss industry trends, their working relationship with authors and agents, the impact of ePublishing on their business, and other questions raised from the audience.
  • THOUGHTS ON THE eBOOK REVOLUTION (Sunday, 2pm)
    The popularization of eReaders, such as the Kobo and Kindle reader, has changed the way books are read and has caused major upheavals in the publishing industry. This panel looks at some of the ramifications for readers, authors, and publishers, with special attention to issues that remain in flux.

I,Death Launch Final (Half)Between those points in the schedule, have a look in the Merchants’ Room near the table with EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing books on it, because that’s where you’ll also find copies of Atomic Fez’s books; including copies of I, Death: freshly created for WWC, and only available there! Attend the launch at 3pm on Saturday and witness the author read words aloud!

You can probably also find Atomic Fez’s Publisher /​ Proprietor in the pub with a pint of beer in his hand. Failing that, have a look under one of the tables; you might be rewarded for helping him to his room.

Eagle's idea of 1949 Northrop Flying Wing
Artist’s impression of Northrop Flying Wing, c.1949 [Illustration originally by L. Ashwell Wood for the comic book Eagle (via XRay Delta on Flickr)]
Thankfully the Atomic Fez Flying Wing [artist’s impression, left] is going through final air-​​worthiness checks so as to be ready to whisk those involved thither and yon in the pursuit of spreading the good news of books!! The Publisher /​ Proprietor is looking forward to spending much of his time in #15 and #16, so as to properly receive other passengers as some are picked-​​up here, others are dropped off there, and so on.

Sleepless Knights Finalist for Mythopoeic Award

Cover by Jimmy Broxton [click to enlarge/close]
Cover by Jimmy Broxton [click to enlarge/​close]
Lost in the shuffle of excitement of the last two weeks is the news that Sleepless Knights, by Mark H. Williams, has been named a finalist in the 2014 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature!

The Mythopoeic Society is a non-​​profit organization promoting the study, discussion, and enjoyment of fantastic and mythopoeic literature through books and periodicals, annual conferences, discussion groups, awards, and more. They are especially interested in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams, prominent members of the informal Oxford literary circle known as the “Inklings” (1930s – 1950s).

Thus, quite logically, the “Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature” is given to the fantasy novel, multi-​​volume novel, or single-​​author story collection for adults published during the previous year that best exemplifies the myth-​​making tradition of the ‘Inklings.’

CLICK to learn about the awards [new tab or window]The award may not be widely known, but the authors and works named are quite prestigious, whether declared winners or not.

Previous winners include Mary Stewart (twice), Orson Scott Card, Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman (twice), Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon, Terry Pratchett, Jonathan Stroud, and J.K. Rowling. Those who made the “short list” and never won are an equally interesting list; Michael Moorcock, Tanith Lee (twice), Charles de Lint (four times), Guy Gavriel Kay (five times), Connie Willis (twice), Elizabeth Hand, and Margaret Atwood.

More details about the award right here.

This year’s nominees for the award are as follows:

  • Yangsze Choo, The Ghost Bride (William Morrow)
  • Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (William Morrow)
  • Max Gladstone, Three Parts Dead (Tor)
  • Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni (Harper)
  • Mark H. Williams, Sleepless Knights (Atomic Fez Publishing)

The winners of this year’s awards will be announced during Mythcon 45, to be held August 8 – 11, 2014, at Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts.

Mark Leslie's I Death Launching in August

I,Death Launch Final (Half)Atomic Fez Publishing is happy to announce that Mark Leslie’s first novel, titled I, Death, will be officially launched as part of When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta. The “book social” will be held Saturday, August 9th 2014 at three pm.

Mr. Leslie will be in attendance to read passages from the book (and different from those read during other festival reading events), as well for signing. Copies of the novel be available for purchase at the “book social”, as well as throughout WWC in the ‘Merchants’ Room’ thanks to an agreement with EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing and the brains behind the genre-​​house, Brian Hades.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre (photo by John Robbie)
Mark Leslie Lefebvre (photo by John Robbie)

Mark Leslie is leading a fair bit in pre-​​festival workshop series [MORE INFORMATION HERE], mostly in his role as Director of Self-​​Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo Canada. He’s specifically doing “Marketing Best Practices” Thursday morning, followed by “Hybrid Publishing” in the afternoon. The two sessions promise to be an excellent opportunity for writers of all levels to get an insider’s perspective at the ever-​​shifting landscape of literary publishing, especially during this period; arguably the most anarchic time since Gutenberg made it possible to produce books of guaranteed quality in high volume at a tiny fraction of previous costs.

Space is limited for these two workshops (and may already be full, actually), so e-​​mail them to reserve your seat or add your name to a waiting list.

  • Marketing Best Practices (9 AM – 12 PM; Thursday, August 7th)
    • 3 hour session limited to 50 seats, and includes topics from pricing, to marketing strategies, to working with eRetailers and local bookstores
  • Hybrid Publishing (1PM – 5PM; Thursday, August 7th)
    • Traditional or Self Publishing? Choose both. Mark Leslie draws on his experience in the publishing industry to discuss the advantages of each method in this presentation limited to 50 seats

CLICK to view their site [new tab or window]
CLICK to view their site [new tab or window]
When Words Collide exists to provide an opportunity for the literary community, from readers to writers to publishers, to gather and share information and inspiration. With the belief that different genres have more in common than they have differences, the festival includes content for all types of literature including Mainstream, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Historical, Literary, and non-​​fiction.

WWC 2014 will be held at the Carriage House Inn, 9030 Macleod Trail South, Calgary, Alberta.

In addition to Mr. Leslie, Atomic Fez’s publisher Ian Alexander Martin will be there; as well as Chris Rothe, the author of Dirk Danger Loves Life.

Join them in the celebration of reading and story-​​telling, won’t you?

WHEN? The Inevitable Reality of Multi-Binding Bundling

In order to exhume the lede, here’s the most important bit: Atomic Fez Publishing hereby publicly commits to bringing bundling of eBook editions of all of its titles when someone purchases printed copies of them.

Now that you know that, there’s a fair bit in this particular topic to be unpacked, so shove this page into your favourite “text only display” application, bookmark it to read when you have more time, or simply get comfy and learn why.

Four Bindings, One Book, Lots of Convenience
Four Bindings, One Book, Lots of Convenience

Something I’ve hemmed and hawed about since starting Atomic Fez back in the autumn of 2009 has been the idea of selling a printed copy of a book along with a copy of the electronic version of the same title; either as a free add-​​on or at a nominal, additional fee.  When this series of questions comes to mind, I’ve occasionally shoved something out into the ether via Twitter or Facebook, to little response. That being the typical result, I usually shrug and put it at the back of my mind for contemplation later.

Then there was an announcement last week about a new programme from Amazon wherein a purchaser of a printed copy automatically gets a Kindle copy as well. There’s some limitations with this to start: titles are only from a selected list of 10,000 titles, this offer is only within the USA (until they sort out the usual distribution agreements with publishers presumably), and so on.

Yet again, it got me thinking about the idea and was it something Atomic Fez should do: would anyone notice, would they care, would it actually be something that would make people decide to buy a book that they might not consider otherwise? Once more deciding to think about this whole idea later, I returned to whatever happened to be screaming at me the loudest from my in-​​box.

Later that same day, I saw this about that Amazon announcement:

This made me wonder perhaps this is the time that the market is ready; perhaps I am now ignoring the Will of the People, and – instead of being ahead – am behind their desires regarding books & technology? If that last bit was the case, it would be the break in a record of having been well-​​ahead of the curve with both the offering of eBooks and ensuring they were DRM–free. This was a bit of a blow, as I’ve prided myself on being both a pragmatist as well as an anticipator of readers’ needs.

So I tweeted the following:

To this, there was a surprising amount of response, and much of it practical as well as media-​​savvy! Granted, it was Twitter; well known as a repository of media-​​savvy people.

For the most part, I agree with all of the above.

For the most part, you’ll find it difficult to get a CEO of one of the Big Six Publishers¹ to agree with much of anything above.

Preconceived Notions

The trickiest bit, in the minds of the “Important People in Big Buildings,” is this tweet:

As far as The Deciders are concerned, that’s at least half-​​wrong and their mind-​​set is entirely based on something of which you may never have been aware:

You do not own the books on your shelves, and you never have. As David says, you’re buying the ‘rights’ to the content, but your access to those words is specifically limited to only that specific copy in that binding. You have have no right – expressed or implied – and thus should have no expectation to access any other copy of those words in that or any other binding. You don’t even own the copy, only the access to its contents. Period. 

You see, the book (in whatever form the binding takes) is simply a way to get words into your eyeballs. Thus, if you want access to the story, you have to buy a copy of the book – hardcover, paperback, ePUB file, Kindle file, PDF, whatever – and you’re expected to buy a new copy every time you want to change the way you access those words carefully arranged in a specific order by an author. A paperback is bought which permits you access to those words in that specific format, and with that specific copy only. If you want a copy of the story in a hardback, or a Mass Market Paperback, or a Large Print edition, or whatever, you better be ready to shell out more money. The same holds true when you want to get a copy of the book in an eBook format of your choosing: you’re entering into a new agreement with the publisher for access in a different fashion.

This is the same purchasing model we saw with the music labels selling us our LPs on 8-​​Track, Reel-​​to-​​Reel tape, Compact Cassette, Compact Disc, then on newly re-​​mastered CDs so that the audio is compressed (making it louder and less precise, but don’t get me started on that topic), and now as MP3 or AAC files. A bit of a scam, yeah… but, hey, we’ve been getting away with it for years, people! seemingly is the approach of the Big Six Publishers, using the example of different bindings in the previous paragraphs.

Part of the problem with this shocker of a statement – the problem, as seen by the Big Six, is that it happens to be a shock, not that the situation is as outlined; they’re fine with that – is that it’s only with the recent innovation of eBook technology as a practical format that they’re finally able to enforce in a meaningful way something they’ve tried to do for years: shutdown used book selling and trading. All of those represent “lost sales” in their eyes, just as Public Libraries do. People walk in, take a copy of a book, then walk out… without paying for it…? Who authorized this anarchy…? The fact that the biggest proponent and creator of public libraries was Multi-​​Ka-​​Billionaire Andrew Carnegie is something that seems to escape their notice, but let’s never mind about that.

The inherent flaw in the taking of the attitude the Big Six do is simple: people don’t use their products that way. People lend books to others, with the recommendation this author is awesome, you should read his stuff; try this one first. What that supposedly incorrect instance is doing is akin to “hand selling,” were it to take place in a bookshop: the salesperson recommends a particular book, puts a copy in the customer’s hand, the customer has a look at it, and nearly always buys the book. It’s one of the most labour intensive, and sure-​​fire, sales techniques in the industry. Even if a copy is passed to someone without any payment being involved, the end result is fantastic word-​​of-​​mouth advertising, and you can’t value it enough.

Unless you’re a CEO at one of the Big Six.

The fact that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy probably made more money for Pan Books through that grassroots level marketing style has been forgotten. Just like anyone, I found out about the five-​​part trilogy² because someone handed me a copy of the first book in Grade 9, told me to read it, and half-​​way through I knew that I had to buy the entire run of them. If no one had bothered to do that, would we have ever heard about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and so on? It was the same thing again, only for a younger audience who took to wizards in the same way the first crowd took to men wearing dressing gowns in space. It’s a kind of “the first taste is free, baby” approach to getting you trying something³.

There is an argument to be made against used book shops, and you’ll read that in a post next week, but that’s not the point here: it’s the fact that publishing has done a very poor job of explaining how it works, how it does business, and how the price is determined in the end when you buy something.

Cold, Hard Facts of the Publishing Business

Don’t worry, I’m not about to start being an apologist for the Big Publishers. What I’m doing is explaining where they’re coming from, the poor dears.

The RRP [or “Recommended Retail Price” you see printed somewhere on the cover] is what everything is based on: the royalties the author gets are based on a percentage of the RRP, the retailer is charged a price based on a discount subtracted from the RRP (typically 40 – 60%), and whatever is left is for the publisher to pay all of their costs getting that book to the retailer and customer.

  Speaking of distribution, here’s an article providing “3 Takes on Why Bookstores Are Dead (and Why That Might Not Be Such a Bad Thing)” partly explaining how bookstores might actually only support the old-​​fashioned – and arguably daft – model.

The publisher has to front the money for everything you haven’t seen in order to make that book the best that it is: costs for editorial staff, marketing, adverts, shipping, office space, printing of copies (both final copies and galley versions for proofing which are also sent to reviewers), shipping to the distribution firm, as well as shipping to retailers centres plus then back again as all books are “returnable” if unsold. That last bit becomes a bit like “consignment sales” in a way, but it’s the way it’s been done for at least 80 years (which seems like 80 years too long to me, but… whatever). The publisher provides a fair bit of value to the entire mix. Both author and publisher deserve remuneration for their efforts, as do the distributors and retailers who ensure copies get into the hands of actual human beings who read. No one begrudges that, probably.

But – and here’s where the Big Publishers’ argument departs from reality – people do not know about all of those costs. The only thing the average person considers to be a part of the cost of the book they purchase is the following:

  • “royalty” for the author (because they wrote it)
  • “profit” for the store (because they’re a business)
  • “printing and shipping” of a physical item which the publisher probably pays for (because that’s what I’m reading)
  • “other stuff…” (don’t know what it is, don’t care; probably someone’s smoking cigars with plentiful hookers and equally plentiful ‘blow’)
     

That’s it. Nothing more, and it’s the Publishers’ own damned fault for people not knowing.

When I tell people I’m a publisher, they haven’t a clue what that means. Typically the next question is “so what kind of books do you write,” which means I then explain I’m not an author. “Oh,” they then say, “so you print them… in your basement?” No, I doubt any publisher has had their own press production since the start of the 1970s, frankly. Some specific company is contracted to do the job of printing, binding, and boxing them for shipping. “So… what do you do, then?”

Between the draughty garrett-​​located Author and the book in their hands, there’s this massive gap in the reader’s awareness of what Publishers actually do; other than rip off authors and charge $34.95 for a hardcover, and often only slightly less than that for the eBook.

Yet, when the average person screams at paying more than $14.99 for an eBook, the publishers defend themselves with “but we have costs to cover!” and wonder why anyone would scream about the price in the first place.

Here’s a secret, civilians: the printing and binding and shipping of your hardback probably isn’t more than $3. If it’s from a smaller publisher – Faber & Faber, or Coach House Press, say – it’ll be north of $4, but not by much. The smallest cost in publishing is the physical object you think of as a ‘book.’ Getting those words in that precise order with the author’s consent, on those spots on the page, using that spelling, with that cover, which you heard about through that review /​ newspaper ad /​ bookmark /​ billboard /​ flyer /​ newsletter /​ contest on Goodreads /​ in that window or table display, that’s the expensive part. The publisher pays for all of that, and won’t see a nickel in recompence until probably a year after the ‘official publishing date’ when the retailers finally are able to calculate the amount of inventory that they’ve taken delivery of which won’t be returned to the publisher unsold.

Again: this is something publishers do, and have always done, so it’s not offered up as “woe is me,” only “here’s what’s behind the offered defences from those who feel entitled.” They’re not actually being greedy, they really do need to pay oodles of people other than one editor, one author, and some guy running a Gestetner™ machine cranking out books downstairs near the furnace room. 

However…

Listen to the Market, Don’t Dictate to It

Yes, the idea of bundling an eBook with a printed copy of a book makes a lot of sense, because people read that way now. This is something that the Big Six doesn’t quite get. They’re – understandably – stuck in the mind set of “publish hardcover, wait six months and strip un-​​sold hardcover copies for pasting new outer wrapper on for Trade Paperback sales; wait six or eight months and release smaller Mass Market Paperback edition and sell to airports, druggists, and grocers.

If you were to propose the notion of selling two different editions of the same book, at the same time, at or near to the same price as only one of them, it would be a good way to watch the top of a CEO’s head explode. Yet, this is exactly what the customer says is of use to them, so it behooves the CEO (or their minions) to figure out a way to provide that in a fashion where the market can continue to afford to produce books people will buy. If they do not, then the invisible hand of the economy will move on and offer its money to someone else, and the Big Six will go the way of milkman: out of work due to people getting their supply from someone else.

People now read on their Kindle, their iPad, their iPhone, their tablets, their Kobos, their laptops, their multiple Android and Windows devices… as well as the printed editions. The genie is out of the box, and they’re either still trying to stuff it back in there or simply hope it goes away so they can get back to the old way of doing things.

It’s no wonder that people such as Publishers Weekly’s Alex Crowley are now asking “Why Are We Still Not Bundling E-​​books?” As Lee Rosevere pointed out above, for years now the music people have bundled MP3 or AAC files with purchases involving vinyl and sometimes even CD copies of albums. Logically, you want the consumer to enjoy the art of the music or stories and thus rave about it to others, so that you can then… all together now, folks… sell more copies of the album or book.

Then there’s a rapid increase in the adoption of this, witness the the news that “Morgan James to Launch E-​​book Bundling Program.” Last August, the people at Angry Robot started doing this and tripled their sales on the bundled titles. People have asked why it’s not being done yet as early as February of last year, although I haven’t bothered to look for any earlier than that. Certainly I had started thinking about it by the spring of 2010, and I hadn’t come up with it on my own, so someone must have been suggesting it by that point.

There’s more than a few things to sort out in the way of practicalities, not the least of which is how do you ensure only people who actually bough a printed copy get a set of the files? Morgan James has solved it this way:

The publisher will be partnering with BitLit, a Vancouver-​​based smartphone app company that enables readers to claim free or discounted eBook editions of print books purchased through traditional channels. With Morgan James, the customer redeems his or her free eBook alongside the purchase of a print book by using a smartphone to take and send photos of authenticating materials, much like digital deposit apps used by major banks. The customer will sign a page at the front of the book, take a photo of the autographed page, and then send both that photo and a photo of the cover to BitLit, who will then provide an eBook file in the customer’s preferred format.
Publisher’s Weekly

This seems a bit convoluted, and when the process was presented to a randomly selected eBook consumer the other day (no, it wasn’t me) the response was along the lines of “look, if you’re going to offer me something like that, you have to make it as easy as possible otherwise I’m not going to bother.” The suggestion then was – quite logically – that the same process as the “Digital Version” for movies on DVD or BLU-​​RAY discs could be followed, with some sort of sticker with a random number placed inside the book’s cover that the purchaser then enters into a box on the publisher’s web-​​site. How someone of Atomic Fez’s size would accomplish this wasn’t discussed (it probably involves Secure Socket encryption for a download link, among other things, otherwise how do you authenticate both the number and the fact it hasn’t been used previously, and WOO-​​DOGGY that sounds spendy), but that’s clearly the publisher’s problem: this is what the customer wants, it’s up to us to figure out how to accomplish the thing to make it work for both us as a business and for them as an end-​​user; just like it always is.

So…

Where Do We Go From Here?

Frankly, I’m not entirely sure how we do any of the above, as there’s multiple issues involving secure downloads, prevention of abuse of the system, possible effect of DRM making a complete dog’s breakfast of the whole thing, and – if DRM was found to be a non-​​starter in making this work – massive trust issues for the publishers despite the DRM–free nature of audio files when purchased from companies such as eMusic.com or from the Apple’s iTunes Store.

One thing I am certain of, however, is that this is what the customers seem to be leaning towards, and it’s the publishers’ job to figure out how to provide it across all platforms, in all the variant stores on these interwebs, and in a way that protects the financial investment they have made in bringing the authors’ words to the eyeballs of readers, as well as protecting copyrights while not harming the ease of people reading the aforementioned words. It’s not easy, but it cannot be impossible. 

One thing it also cannot be is anything like the approach the music industry took initially, or the one the film industry continues to take. That way leads to complication for the end-​​user and ultimately to failure of the business model. No one benefits there.

Something we have to ignore right from the start is geographic markets. They don’t exist anymore, people. Someone in Australia doesn’t understand about “UK Publishing Rights (with the exclusion of all Commonwealth Countries and/​or Territories),” they just want to read a copy of Bryant & May and the Invisible Code and “take my money, what’s so bloody difficult about that?” 

Additionally, the notion of an eBook release being different than the initial publishing date is simply daft. All markets should get the eBook edition at the same time as the first printed edition is available somewhere. If you need to shift Heaven and Earth to print copies on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as in China and India, in order to match your hardcover’s initial arrival on shelves with the eBooks being released for the Kindle, Sony, Kobo, and Apple’s iBookstore, then do that. Scholastic, Bloomsbury, and Raincoast accomplished it for “Harry Potter,” so obviously it can be done.

If there’s a delay of a few weeks between the eBook coming out and the printed version, so what? It doesn’t seem to harm the music business, does it? People understand that it takes time to ship a box to their door, but they do not understand why it takes six months to get a file into their eReader; mostly because it’s not supposed to, and that’s how Amazon’s Kindle created the eBook market – pretty much from a blank piece of paper – in the first place.

Conclusion and Future-​​Gazing

Atomic Fez Publishing hereby publicly commits to bringing bundling of eBook editions of all of its titles when someone purchases printed copies of them.

Be assured that the entire Atomic Fez Publishing operation is slaving away all the hours of the day in headquarters [image below] to make this work for all people involved both in the creation and consumption of eclectic, genre-​​busting fiction!

As noted above, I haven’t a clue how this is going to happen – especially as there’s a brand-​​spanking-​​new distribution agreement with Midpoint Trade Books in NYC to factor into the practicality of the matter, never mind the distribution through the various high street and on-​​line stores – but it will.

For now, if you’ve bought a printed copy of a book published by Atomic Fez and want an electronic copy, head to THIS PAGE HERE and use the information provided to request one, along with some sort of basic information about where and how you purchased your copy. You’ll shortly get an eMail from me (really from me, yes, there’s no one else working in this one-​​man outfit) giving you a link to a page where you can download a *.ZIP file containing DRM–free ePUB, KMZ/​MOBI, and PDF files for your selected title, which can then be loaded onto your device of choice.

Moving forward, hopefully there’s going to be a simpler way to do this; as well as other people adopting it as well.

The basics of any business is “supply and demand” and you cannot tell the market that what we supply is what you demand, because you’ll hear about it right quick [c.f. “New Coke”].

One of the ways you can influence the demand is by showing the customer what they’re missing, using the aforementioned first taste is free method. “Try it and see how you like it” is always a good thing to boost potential sales, as often times people really don’t know if something works for them without actually giving it a go first. This is a new technology for many, and there’s still some confusion about what eBooks are and are not. Often times it’s easier to not bother explaining and simply shoving people in the direction of experimenting for themselves. Thus, bundling works for the uninitiated as well as for those who already are conversant with eBooks. It’s “all win” here, people!

NOW THEN: What do you think? Does this sort of “2-​​for-​​1″ bundling offer appeal to you based on the way you read now? Even if you don’t read eBooks now, might you see yourself doing so in the future, or even sooner if you were able to start using a “buy one get another really cheap” arrangement as a transitional thing? Do you think it’s a case of unnecessary consumption and people should choose one or the other formats, pay the going rate for that version, and support the publishers’ and authors’ efforts using the “one price, one binding” approach we’ve had throughout the previous 100 years? Or is some sort of middle ground what you think should be done?

Speak your mind in the comments. Gwaan!

Click to learn more about Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine [new tab or window]
Atomic Fez headquarters and nothing at all to do with Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine. No. No no!!!

Footnotes

  1. Term used to refer to the six largest publishers in the United States: Random House, Penguin (USA), HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan. When their sales are combined, they represent something approaching either 90% of the market or 90% of the New York Times “Best Seller List,” or something equally insane. [ ↑ back ↑ ]
  2. Hush now; surely you know Douglas Adams wasn’t good at math? [ ↑ back ↑ ]
  3. Those of you recognising the phrase would be wise not to admit that. Let’s just move on and never speak of this again, shall we? [ ↑ back ↑ ]

ROUND-UP: Too Much News for One Post!

…but somehow I’ll cram it all in.

[pause for inevitable ‘that’s what she said comment from somewhere in the back of the crowd

So… herewith: a whole bunch of news!

Change of Publishing Date for Sleepless Knights

Due to overwhelming demand, all printed copies destined for stores and libraries in the United States of America has been re-​​scheduled to September 24. Note that orders placed directly with the publisher through this site remain entirely unaffected. The only copies this covers are the 2nd official run of the paperback destined for retail outlets distributed through Midpoint Trade Books.

CLICK to read the interview [new tab or window]Interviews A-Plenty

Read an interview with Mark H. Williams!! He tells you all sorts of things like his preference for coffee v. tea (depends on the time of day), cats v. dogs, and many other exciting things!  Head here: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1477641-an-interview-with-mark-h-williams-author-of-sleepless-knights

Also: listen to Bell Book & Podcast Episode #2, wherein Ian Alexander Martin (the publisher in charge of this so-​​called house) babbles about how editing gets done, the publishing industry and its anarchic developments, what the Big Publishers think about the books you think you own but never actually have (the publishers do, actually),  http://pgbell.wordpress.com/2013/bbp2/ and how he actually resembles a Hollywood Movie Star.

If you’d prefer to hear something from Mark H. Williams about how he writes (which interests many people far more frequently than the publishing nonsence), head to http://pgbell.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/bell-book-podcast-1/ for a shorter, more fun podcast. 

For more Bell Book & Podcast yumminess, subscribe here:

and so on.

Sleepless Knights Launch Party!

Some more information about the event in Cardiff can be found on the author’s blog in the post titled “Launch! Party! Prizes!” Meanwhile, here’s some pretty pictures.

Images of the diorama competition entrants as well as wonderful images of the launch (above)!

As mentioned a few posts ago, Mark held a competition on Twitter using the hashtag #DioramaFriday.

DIORAMA FRIDAY WINNERS!

Draken was hopeful that he'd be in Mark's book but Sir Kay wasn't convinced ... by @Indigo_Blues_
Draken was hopeful that he’d be in Mark’s book but Sir Kay wasn’t convinced …by @Indigo_Blues_
The palisade's guard by Zoe, aka @SaidHanrahan
The palisade’s guard
by Zoe, aka @SaidHanrahan

These photos below are also quite nice.

LAUNCH PARTY FUN!!

Mark H Williams reads from Sleepless Knights at the launch. EXCITED!
Mark H Williams reads from Sleepless Knights at the launch. EXCITED!
PHOTO BY: Laura Cotton ‏@lalscotton
CAKE!!!
CAKE!!!

Other bits about the launch can be found here: http://pgbell.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/sleepless-knights-book-launch-and-podcast-update/

WORDS: Sleepless Knights Author Speaks!

So… you know… there’s this book coming out short-​​ish, eh, and… well, we’ve been talking about it, like…

…and then I wrote:

…but a few days before that, Mark wrote:

…and then someone else wrote:

Just click the thing.
Image of Mark’s original tweet, which was tweeted by Sarah Dollard and then re-​​tweeted by @Indigo_Blues_… click to read the Tumbler post associated with the image, original tweet, and so on.

…and then Mark decided to give some stuff away for #dioramafriday in addition to the Name the Knights contest and wrote:

So, basically, you can read all sorts of things in the top article, then read “Part 1″ of the book for free and enter a contest to win a huge amount of things including a signed, Advance Copy of the book, then you can set-​​up a little diorama and tweet the picture of it and possibly win another signed copy of the ARC.

…or, you could just order yourself a copy of Sleepless Knights here and skip all of that effort. 

It’s up to you, really.

CONTEST: Sleepless Knights Name the Knights Competition!

To celebrate the launch of Sleepless Knights on 5th August, Atomic Fez have put together a prize-​​packed Questing Kit for the winner of our “Name the Knights Competition!” A goody bag-​​full of Arthurian delights can be yours, featuring variations of Jimmy Broxton’s Sleepless Knights artwork – including: a T-​​shirt and Hoodie in your choice of colour & design, a set of buttons*, a mug, and a signed Advance Reading Copy [or ‘ARC’] of the book. Plus a tote bag of your choice to put it all in, perfect for ease of access for any questing knight in the field. To be in with a chance of being the envy of Camelot, just follow these steps…

Download and read the 42-​​page Part One for free, here. “Day One” of Sleepless Knights introduces the main characters, as Sir Lucas the Butler attempts to round them all up for their annual get-​​together, while the clock ticks, tempers fray, and chaos escalates…

Next, jot down your own cover art Who’s Who, using the following character names:

Knight Contest Key
Knight Contest Key
  • Lucas
  • Kay
  • Pellinore
  • Perceval
  • Gawain
  • Lancelot, and
  • Arthur

To (hopefully) avoid any confusion, we’ve given each figure on the cover a brief description, corresponding to the numbers in the picture to the right. 

So all you have to do is complete the following…

  1. Knight behind long shield is…
  2. Background knight, clutching kebab is…
  3. Knight with moustache is…
  4. Central knight with white face & sword is…
  5. Background knight, with stabbed roast chicken is…
  6. Knight in full armour is…
  7. Knight peeking out in front of starred shield is…

Once you’ve done that, email your seven named knights to Image used to foil SPAM by Friday 2nd August.

The person guessing (or closest to guessing) the author’s own Knight-​​identification, will win the coveted Questing Kit, instant promotion to the Round Table, and the eternal fellowship of Camelot.

In the happy event of two or more correct guesses, Atomic Fez proprietor Ian Alexander Martin will randomly select the winner from those entries.

Let the naming begin!

ARC* of SLEEPLESS KNIGHTS
Win an ARC* of SLEEPLESS KNIGHTS signed by the author!
[*Author’s thumb not included]
Knights diorama with mug
Win a Knights mug with a diorama of your creation!
[figurines not included]
Knights only t-shirt
Be a proud wearer of a Sleepless Knights t-​​shirt, just like this lady!
[winner must provide own lady]
 
* People in the United Kingdom will know this as a set of “badges.” 
 

FREE: Sample the Quest!

For those of you wishing to “try before you buy,” you can now read PART I of Sleepless Knights by Mark H Williams

Cover design and art by Jimmy Broxton
Cover design and art by Jimmy Broxton

Follow this link here to discover why Muriel Gray said the following:

Mark Williams’ dazzling début shakes up Arthurian legend into a wildly inventive, roller coaster ride of thrills, hilarity, dark fantasy and brilliant characterisation all written with an exquisite elegance befitting the originality of the tale. Treat yourself.

Muriel Gray, author of The Trickster, Furnace, and The Ancient

Plus, stay tuned for more educated acclaim from the Great and the Good, as well as a SPECIAL CONTEST!

ANNOUNCEMENT: Distribution in the USA

METRO VANCOUVER, B.C.–Atomic Fez Publishing is proud to announce they have signed a distribution deal with Midpoint Trade Books for supply of its catalogue of titles to libraries and wholesale trade customers in the United States of America. This agreement covers not only paperback and hardcover books, but widespread supply of electronic books as well.

The Publisher /​ Proprietor of Atomic Fez, Ian Alexander Martin, says this distribution agreement was “something that Atomic Fez very much needed to complete the preparations for Mark H. Williams’ Sleepless Knights. Without some proper way of satisfying the public clamour for the novel, the author would be done a disservice after all his hard work, given the tale’s appeal to such a wide swath of the reading public.”

CLICK to log-on to their site [new tab or window]Representing 275 independent publishers across the United States, UK, Canada and Australia, Midpoint Trade Books provides full service book, eBook and audio sales; as well as a marketing and distribution. It is based in the Flatiron District of New York City, with additional offices in Kansas, Michigan and San Francisco.

Since Midpoint aggregates many publishers under one name, they have a much larger catalog and market presence. This makes the books they carry, including Atomic Fez’s, more attractive to larger retailers such as Chapters/​Indigo, WH Smith, Waterstones and Barnes & Noble; as well as the internet branches of retailers and the many international versions of Amazon, and the incalculable number of American public libraries.

Midpoint was founded in 1996 by a group of industry professionals, including current President Eric Kampmann and Executive Vice President Chris Bell. Today, Midpoint retains the same entrepreneurial spirit with which the company was founded, which was something that Mr. Martin felt was a key factor to the partnership being mutually beneficial. “Taking risks because it’s exciting is no way to run a business,” he explained. “Taking a risk which is a qualified one – using pre-​​orders or reviews as an indication of potential sales – is something which any small press publisher does, but always with a varying amount of success” when independent houses attempt things on their own. Midpoint understands that, and provides the ability for me to realise that goal for the authors.

“There is no way I could handle even a fraction of the work load Sleepless Knights is going to create,” Mr. Martin added. He pointed-​​out the review last week from Publishers Weekly which earned a star making the title “Highly Recommended” in the estimation of the reviewer. Additionally, the book was reportedly featured on the ‘Table of Contents’ page in the printed edition of the issue. “With attention like this prior to the official publishing date of august 5th,” Mr. Martin continued, “I’m confident this is a book that people are going to not only want to read, they’ll take the time to do it. All of the books Atomic Fez has published more than earn their place in people’s reading time, but once in awhile a book really hits all the right notes so that you know it’s something anyone, no matter their tastes, will share your enthusiasm about.”

The recent surge in eBook sales has seen a considerable need to create distribution on the electronic format. The Association of American Publishers reports eBooks represented 22.55% of the total share of the USA trade publishing market’s net revenue in 2012, compared to a miniscule 0.005% a decade earlier¹. BookStats recently released statistics showing this translated into 457.093 million units for a total value of $3.042 billion last year². This growth has expanded even to the typically staid European market, with eBooks reaching 2.4% of the German Book Market in 2012, representing a 140% increase from only the year before³. Additionally, the Institute for Publishing Research projecting that eBooks will represent 20% of the overall reading market by 2015. Additionally. most readers do not buy physical books once they switch to buying eBooks (and these readers are often the most voracious).

New supply of electronic titles to eRetailers
• Amazon Kindle
• Mobipocket
• Barnes & Noble
• Fictionwise.com
• Ereader.com
• Sony eReader Store
• Kobo Books
• Ebooks.com
• Books on Board
• Scribd
• Apple iBookstore
• Blio Store
• Book Depository
WH Smith
• Waterstones
New supply of electronic
titles to Public Libraries
• Overdrive
• Net Library
• myilibrary.com
• Follett Software Company
• eBook Library

Recognising this but being unable to break into the market in any meaningful way was something which Mr. Martin found frustrating. “Kobo, the Kindle store, and directly through the Atomic Fez site, the eBooks are available – and always without any DRM to screw things up for readers down the road – but sales of the books just haven’t matched what the growing market represents taking place. The problem is that, when you’re doing everything yourself, you’ve only got so much time, so much influence, and so much cash, to try and make a big enough splash readers take note of your titles.

“So when Laura Robinson” – Midpoint’s New Business Manager and National Accounts Manager – “pointed out that they handle eBooks, my heart skipped a beat. After skimming down the list of retailers Atomic Fez’s books could be brought to, especially the Public Library market, there wasn’t any question that signing an agreement with Midpoint was going to be a cornerstone of our step up in the next few years. At long last, this is going to put the words written by Atomic Fez’s authors in front of a huge number of readers’ eyeballs compared to before now.

Citing text on the Midpoint Trade Books’ website quoted below, Mr. Martin says “it’s obvious that Midpoint is dedicated to create the kind of connections that small press houses need” to make the difference between being a hobbyist concern and an on-​​going, professional concern.

The digital marketplace has expanded well beyond Amazon Kindle. It now includes retailers, libraries, and independent eBook websites — and new sales avenues are developing all the time!

At Midpoint, we have developed an extensive sales network for eBooks. Midpoint eVolve gives you access to this network, so that you can provide customers with more opportunities to buy your books.

The digital marketplace offers a huge growth opportunity for publishers, but entering that market can be confusing and overwhelming.  That’s why we created Midpoint eVolve. eVolve is a full service eBook solution, which includes consultation, conversion, distribution, sales, secure digital storage, and reporting.

Principal to any distribution agreement is the physical movement of printed books from one place to another, mostly from the distributor’s warehouse to a retailer’s location. With Midpoint’s use of Leisure Arts’ distribution centre located in Little Rock, Arkansas, shipments by common carrier can reach either the Pacific or Atlantic coast in two days, while both UPS and FedEx deliver to most of the USA within one to three days, at regular non-​​priority rates. Even postal shipments tend to get to their destinations faster when shipped from Little Rock. In fact, more than 98% of all orders ship from the warehouse within 24 hours of being released, and more than 99% of orders ship accurately

Midpoint’s storage of its inventory using Leisure Arts facility enables use of the latest technology and equipment in order to provide fast, efficient service. The distribution center is an air conditioned, secure, state-​​of-​​the-​​art facility, equipped with high-​​flow sprinklers and both fire and burglar alarm systems. The modern wire guide system ensures safe and efficient movement of products and can handle pallet loads of up to 4,000 pounds.

While specific dates and details weren’t available, discussions regarding distribution agreements with firms in both the United Kingdom and Canada which are allied with Midpoint are expected t be concluded soon.

CLICK to get details about this titleMr. Martin cites Midpoint’s approach to pro-​​active sales demonstrated through their positive, friendly environment at conferences and expos attracts large numbers of people to their booth at events. Midpoint is known for having a particularly strong presence at Book Expo America – aka “BEA” – and The London Book Fair. Author signings at the Midpoint booth provide their publishers with a strong platform for promoting their authors and titles.

In addition to international events such as those, Midpoint is always interested in other opportunities to connect with the publishing industry. They often have a presence at The Frankfurt Book Fair, ALA, CBA, NEIBA and other regional trade shows.

“All in all,” Mr. Martin concluded, “things couldn’t look brighter for Atomic Fez than they are right now. There’s not just the awesome novel Sleepless Knights from Mark H. Williams on the way, there’s a system ready to go to make it available as widely as possible in any edition people can want. Not only that, it’ll apply to the entire current Atomic Fez catalogue of genre-​​busting fiction. Things feel ready and, with this agreement in place, things are ready.”


Links from this article:


¹     Library Journal, April 11, 2013: “Statistics: Ebook Sales Made Up 22.5% of U.S. Trade Publisher Revenues in 2012

²     Library Journal, May 22, 21013: “Ebooks, Online Drive Trade Sales Growth

³     The Digital Reader, June 13, 2013: “eBooks Reached 2.4% of the German Book Market in 2012

EXCELSIOR! News of a Starred Review

HOORAY!! Huzzah! Plus other exclamations of joy! We’ve got a splendiferous review of joy of Sleepless Knights from Publishers Weekly! With a star! Plus there’s a reproduction of the cover by Jimmy Broxton on the issue’s “Table of Contents” (still trying to track down an image of that page’s layout)!

But before we get there, let’s a provide a bit of information about who that is. Some of you are reading this in the United Kingdom and may not have heard about this US-​​based trade journal. A few years ago I was looking for Quill & Quire, which is the Canadian version of PW. I went into a location of one of Canada’s national bookstores and had the Store Manager tell me he didn’t know what Publishers Weekly was – never mind Q&Q unsurprisingly – explaining that he was “new to books.”

Jesus wept.

Anyway, let’s put it this way the most easily: Publishers Weekly is to the book trade essentially what Variety is to TV and Movies.

Publishers Weekly is described by Wikipedia as “an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents. Published continuously since 1872, it has carried the tagline, ‘The International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling.’ With 51 issues a year, the emphasis today is on book reviews.”

Fairly succinct and a fine job of summing it up.

Just to be fair, let’s go to the source and let Publishers Weekly describe itself.  “Publishers Weekly, familiarly known in the book world as ‘PW’ and ‘the bible of the book business,’ is a weekly news magazine focused on the international book publishing business. It is targeted at publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary agents, authors and the media. It offers feature articles and news on all aspects of the book business, bestsellers lists in a number of categories, and industry statistics, but its best known service is pre-​​publication book reviews, publishing some 8,000 per year.” You can read more about them in their own words right here on their site.

Notice that the magazine pushes the international aspect of the thing. They’ve recently appointed an editor specifically for reviews of Canadian published books, thus acknowledging we have the printed word i the Great White North (even if it might only be about hockey and coffee shops originally owned by former hockey players).

Cover art designed and drawn by the mighty JIMMY BROXTON!
Cover art designed and drawn by the mighty JIMMY BROXTON!

And speaking of reviews of Canadian published books…

logo ©Publishers Weekly, which is the property of PWxyz, LLCA ‘Highly Recommended’ STAR! from “Publishers Weekly!”Action and comedy duel for prominence in this brilliant début novel about the knights of the Round Table. Sir Lucas, King Arthur’s butler, has been Arthur’s faithful servant for hundreds of years. In the modern world, it’s Lucas’s job to make sure that Arthur and his remaining six knights gather on an annual basis to drink from the Grail and continue their Eternal Quest toward “truth, justice and the Arthurian way.” When the exploits of Lancelot and Gawain make the modern news broadcasts, threatening the secrecy of the quest, desperate measures must be taken, but plans to find Merlin end up releasing a host of dragons and undead. Lucas is left, Jeeves-​​like, to clean up the mess, which might do more harm to Arthur’s legend than the fall of Camelot did. Lucas brings a refreshing “downstairs” sensibility to the usual heroic acts, and his fate is both surprising and entirely satisfying. Williams, an experienced playwright and television writer, has created a delightful addition to the Arthurian canon. (Aug.)

Publishers Weekly, 6-​​17-​​2013, Vol. 260 Issue 24

What’s that star thing really mean, anyway? I hear you cry. I am so glad you asked, astute and inquisitive reader! Let’s turn to the people who award that little doo-​​dad, shall we?

Reviews editor Sybil Steinberg, starting in the mid ‘80s,  had a keener, more sophisticated critical eye, and for a wider range of books. She also yearned to give more prominent attention to books she particularly admired, and it was under her aegis that PW began to award stars to books of exceptional merit, and later to create the lengthier and more prominent boxed reviews.

Meanwhile, over at Wikipedia, we learn that Texas novelist Clay Reynolds, in The Texas Institute of Letters Newsletter (February, 2004), gave a behind-​​the-​​scenes glimpse into the policies of PW, saying he’d written 87 reviews for them and only “given three stars in all that time.” That’s a ratio of 1:29. My perusal sees that a bit a on the tough side, with over-​​all use of the star being one in about fifteen or twenty reviews.

This marks the ninth Atomic Fez published title from a total catalogue of  ten which has been reviewed by PW.

This is the third review with a star, so Atomic Fez is running a 1:3 ratio of critical acclaim. Which is fairly awesome!

The previous stars were for 2010’s back-​​to-​​back hits of John Llewellyn Probert’s Wicked Delights, plus the first “Benji Spriteman Mystery”: The Terror and the Tortoiseshell. Both are still available. Click the links. Please.