Category Archives: Books

Where you’ll find our catalogue of fine books (which you will purchase many copies of)

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 ↑ ]

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.

LEMONADE: When Life Provides Only Citrus…

Below the image is the text which accompanied it on Facebook, and it’s things like this that Atomic Fez has strived to achieve. The ‘Small Press’ has let too many people down over the years, and we need to re-​​earn the trust of people with their money. Thank you for your support of us, Paulo Brito, as well as your support of Rhys Hughes.

Copy of “Twisthorn Bellow” received by Paulo Brito [click to embiggen/close]
Copy of “Twisthorn Bellow” received by Paulo Brito

Order placed and paid on March 3. Order placed in the mail on April 16. Order received today. As you can see by the dates the order took more than a month to be processed which is very bad. If I was disappointed, of course. If I will buy more books at Atomic Fez Publishing, yes I will. Reason? I have to highlight the excellent professionalism and posture of Ian Alexander Martin that solved this abnormal situation. The small publishers should be congratulated.

REVIEWS: Two Books, Much Love

Today’s news covers some reviews from the first half of this month. EXCELSIOR!

Back at the start of the month brought news the mystery The Designated Coconut written by John Travis had been reviewed by Library Journal. Plus, they liked it! Hooray!

Library Journal logo
Travis’s clever second series entry (after The Terror and the Tortoiseshell) is for readers willing to suspend disbelief… the animal characters endear themselves to readers… in this admirable comedic stab at blending speculative fiction with crime.

Library Journal (April 1st, 2013; Vol. 138, Issue 6, p65)

You can also order copies of both that title and the other “Benji Spriteman Mystery”, The Terror and the Tortoiseshell, both in hardcover for one LOW LOW PRICE of just $40 /​ £25!

Then today, the Library Journal review for John Llewellyn Probert’s book The House that Death Built arrived! HUZZAH!

Library Journal logo
The Dark Manor, constructed atop one of England’s ancient stone circles, radiates malevolence and hostility. Wealthy industrialist William Marx built the house in hopes of connecting with the spirit world, though Marx was never seen again after he entered the house. Its current owner, Sir Anthony Calverton, contacts a pair of paranormal investigators, Mr. Massene Henderson and Miss Samantha Jephcott, to furnish him with proof of supernatural activity in the house. The inclusion of four other investigators, including Sir Anthony’s niece, her physicist husband, and a famous TV “psychic,” sets the stage for a classic horror tale with a mystery at its heart. VERDICT: Probert’s début novel presents the first full-​​length adventure for paranormal investigators Henderson and Jephcott, whose previous cases have been chronicled in the collection Against the Darkness. Although the setting is contemporary, the protagonists display an endearing Victorian archness. This is a delightfully scary book.

–Jackie Cassada, Library Journal (April 15th, 2013; Vol. 138, Issue 7, p61)

Hooray! Click those links to order your copies TODAY!

NEW TITLE: Sleepless Knights Now Available for Pre-Order

Starting right now, you can pre-​​order printed or electronic copies of Sleepless Knights, with the printed copies priced around 33% less than the Recommended Retail Price. It’s just Atomic Fez’s way of thanking you for your patience for your copy to arrive in August, and your confidence in the quality of the author’s ability.

[click to enlarge / reduce]
Mark H. Williams [photo by Simon Gough: www.SimonGoughPhotography.com]

To say the author, Mark H. Williams [image, left], is un-​​known is a bit of an understatement. He is, at this point, entirely unpublished. He’s written any number of plays, one of which was short-​​listed for an award. Until now, however, he hasn’t ever had anything published; short stories, novellas, novelettes, poetry, shopping lists, novels, nothing.

How this came to be is unexplainable. The novel is something to behold, as its details, plot lines, and characters do not even vaguely resemble what one would expect of someone of this little renown.

For the past year or so, he has been slaving away perfecting the text of Sleepless Knights. It arrived in damned good shape, but there were a few areas to improve, as he worked on those, re-​​submitted the manuscript, had it returned to him with accompanying demands for more changes, and then repeated the process. That’s all done now.

During that time, he was quite possibly the most patient man in the history of writing. He calmly waited whilst his editor/​publisher replaced all of his hard-​​drives when they failed; including one of them going through and expensive recovery process. Various financial hurdles placed themselves in the way of the title coming to fruition, which he also endured the experience of. Both of those, and more, caused his book to be delayed a fair few times. Now, the waiting has come to an end, and the ordering of copies can commence.

It’s not easy being the man behind the myth.

Sir Lucas is butler to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table – the person who managed every quest from behind the scenes. He’s a man whose average working day involved defeating witches and banishing werewolves, while ensuring the Royal pot of tea never crossed the thin line separating ‘brewed’ from ‘stewed.’ What’s more, 1,500 years after that golden age, he’s still doing it – here in the modern world, right under our noses.

When King Arthur and six of his knights are exposed as living among us, Merlin is unleashed and a grim apocalypse unfolds, uncovering secrets from the past that King Arthur would rather stay buried. When Lucas is forced to confront his own peculiar destiny, will he choose to sacrifice his true love and lay down his life in the service of his master?

Sleepless Knights is a tale of high adventure and warm humour, with a spring in its step, a twinkle in its eye and, at its heart, the ultimate butler.

“I suggest you find something to hold on to,” I said. “I fancy this will be somewhat unorthodox.”
     I edged the car onto the embankment at the side of the road, which got progressively steeper the closer we got to the tanker. Realising that I was not about to stop for him, or indeed his vehicle, the driver ran for the safety of the surrounding fields. Between the cab of the tanker and the side of the road there was a gap exactly half the width of the Jaguar. I took the last few metres of the embankment at top speed.
     The car swung up onto its right side. The wheels left the ground, and we shot up and clear through the gap. The weight of the Grail on the roof turned us upside down in mid-​​air, and the momentum of the jump flipped us back round again in a perfect side roll. We landed upright on the road, on the other side of the tanker, just as its engine caught fire.
     The world exploded.

REVIEW: The Terror and the Tortoiseshell

Today’s e-​​mail brought a note from author John Travis that Publishers Weekly had reviewed his mystery The Designated Coconut. Plus, they liked it! Hooray!

pwk_logoBritish author Travis’s quirky second Benji Spriteman whodunit (after 2010’s The Terror and the Tortoiseshell) offers a welcome return to a universe where, two years after an event known as the Terror, humans have been mostly wiped out. Abhoring a vacuum, nature has replaced humanity with animals, who have changed form — many walking upright and talking in human language. The altered creatures have filled the void in the workplace as well, taking over the occupations that used to employ people. Spriteman, a cat who has assumed the last name and business of his late human owner, is a 1950s-​​style hard-​​bitten PI. His latest exploit has an unlikely catalyst: “two female crime writers from overseas were coming to do a book tour.” Meanwhile, the magazine Dismemberment Monthly begins receiving threatening letters. Murder follows. Travis shows a deft hand for detail, as shown by the police using a flock of pigeons to mark the outline of a dead body with their droppings. (May)

 

7-77-7-7: Yes, Even Editors Get to Play Along

77777. No, it’s not a Mayan doomsday prophecy. It’s a lot of writers all sharing a piece of their latest work-​​in-​​progress. If you’re not familiar with this ‘share chain,’ you go to either page 7 or 77 of your current work in progress, scroll down 7 lines, and then copy the next seven lines into your status box. Then tag 7 other writers to do the same.

CLICK to embiggen
Actual image of inside Atomic Fez Headquarters.

The fiendish part of this is that I am not a writer. Editing, publishing, proofing; all of that. “That’s bad writing, and you do good writing! Do some of the good sort of writing in this bit of the story” is more my line of things. Actual writing; no.

So, here’s the three things being worked upon currently here in Atomic Fez’s secret underground lair [image, right]. Note that these are all not to be taken as “finished”, because there’s still things to do, including grammar and punctuation checking (plus who knows what else).

So… here we go then!

— — —  —  —  —  —  — —

Sleepless Knights, by Mark H. Williams, page 77

“Merlin!” I shouted, over the escalating din. “Close the portal!” The hooded head shook from side to side and the figure rose up through the hole to mid-​​torso. “We have made a mistake!” I cried, “Go back!” The wizard was now out up to his waist. A bolt of lightning sent another shower of rubble down on my head. With a loud thooming rush, Merlin shot clear out of the ground and up through the hole in the roof. The cave mouth was nearly blocked by debris, and, as I squeezed out through the remaining gap, another rock-​​fall closed it up behind me.

— — —  —  —  —  —  — —

I, Death by Mark Leslie, page 77:

“Shouldn’t you go?” I asked Julie. “I mean, her new boyfriend just died, after all, and …”

She interrupted me. “Sarah hasn’t been with anyone since you guys broke up, Peter.”

“What?”

“I don’t know what you’ve been hearing, but she hasn’t been seeing anyone, – certainly not Chad – and she hasn’t even been spending time with me or any of her other friends all that much. She just wants to be left alone.”

— — —  —  —  —  —  —  — —

Unnatural Acts by John Llewellyn Probert (feel free to make a joke at this point, everyone else will), page 77:

“Well I’m sure you won’t get many clients where that happens,” David said. His words came out with far more venom than he had intended and he regretted it when Arielle looked hurt.

“I meant for your loss,” she said. “I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like, losing the one you love.”

“I’d gladly tell you,” David said, “Only right know I think I’d go insane if I had to try to put it into words.”

“That’s okay, you don’t have to,” she said.

— — —  —  —  —  —  —  — —

Thus, here we go with the taggage:

  • Christopher Fowler
  • Guy Adams
  • Chris Rothe
  • Carol Weekes
  • Paul Magrs
  • Nev Fountain
  • Barbara Gordon

RRP: An Open Letter to Retailers

The following notes were sent by myself to a book retailer who questioned the charging of a price on this site which is somewhat less than the “cover price” or “Recommended Retail Price” as stated on the back of the books and in all official listings of the books’ details.

CLICK to get details
THE HOUSE THAT DEATH BUILT, by John Llewellyn Probert [cover by Stephen Upham]

They are reproduced here in the interests of “transparency” for the benefit of both retailers and readers alike. It is hoped that this clarifies the matter, and that further understanding might be gained by it. The more all of us knows about how the world’s economy works, the better we can work within it for the benefit of us all.

My first reply was as follows, replying to the suggestion that I was charging the retailer the full RRP whilst selling here for less than RRP.

Actually, you’re being charged 40% less than the RRP (or 30% for Limited Editions), so you’re still making money. You’re entirely free to choose whatever price you wish; as is anyone, for that matter. It’s hoped that I’m not right when suggesting the above has a certain whiff of  “collusion” to it. Publishing is already altogether too rife with that just now, and the public deserves far better from everyone in the industry at the best of times, never mind these trying economic times of ours.

Be assured that your order is, in fact, far larger than the number of copies I’ve sold at this slightly discounted price, so it’s unlikely that you will feel a reduction of any sales figure due to my efforts. It’s probable that none of the people who purchase from you are even aware that Atomic Fez has a web site, never mind is offering prices lower than the RRP, and any print or internet advertisement I run does not include the fact, leaving it to the visitor to discover as “an added bonus” and thus not directly competing with your offering in any way more than someone comparing prices might do with Amazon and Waterstone’s .

I am aware of the difficulty of an independent book shop competing with others’ deep discounts, having worked quite some number of years in retail, including about five in a single-​​location book shop.

If the Internet is a shopping mall, yours is a full retail bookstore with the positive aspect of a massive selection as its approach. Atomic Fez’s selection has the vastly limited “only a few titles” approach of a wholesaler, thus making selection only a few things, thus the only advantage is one of a slight discount, presuming someone wants a copy of one of the handful of titles in the first place. Your customer base is vast and eclectic, mine is “folks what know me”. So, you see, I’m still in a position of struggling and limited appeal.

But, speaking of presumption, this publishing nonsense is in fact my only income, so the “other reasons” you allude to are of little relevance to me, yet aren’t entirely clear to me either. This is a business I’m running here (although my bank management might disagree).

Your order and continued customs is valued, as is your position. Please let me know if you have any concerns.

That then got me wondering about things, and thus I tweeted as follows:

Which didn’t elicit any response, but I did a bit of research in order to know that I was actually headed in the right direction and found both the one in the Oxford English Dictionary (Concise) and THIS DEFINITION of “collusion” to be applicable, both with the “overt” and “tacit collusion” uses of the word.

CLICK to embiggen

This notion of collusion – coupled with the widely distributed (widely on Facebook, anyway) image to the left encouraging people to buy local, support the arts, and coming at the same time as people are wanting to not support the National Hockey League’s Board of Directors after screwing the fans through the Players’ Association – got me tweeting this:

The retailer then got back to me in response to my original note, asking the following:

I am sorry but collusion between who and who?  I have spoken to no-​​one about this.  I have no idea if anything else is stocking it.  Or (again) am I missing something?

One might suggest that he’s missing the fact that he spoke to me about the price being charged here on Atomic Fez site, which is precisely the point which had attempted to be made.

So, after saying the news that further orders weren’t going to be placed by them was surprising and disappointing  I took another run at explaining the position which they were placing me in.

The suggestion of “collusion” is a considered one, in that you seemed (and that word is also carefully considered) to be suggesting we both need to charge the same rates, even though we serve entirely differing markets. Additionally, whenever any product is offered for sale in the marketplace for an identical price no matter who the offering business is, then the consumer is ill-​​served as competition is not engaged in. Your tacit suggestion that my rate should be identical to yours, thus equal to the RRP, despite the differing markets and situations, amounts arguably to a mild form of collusion. I cannot tell you what price to charge, nor would I expect to do so; the closest being the recommended retail price. This principle is why the old Penguins and Corgis have the statement about how the RRP isn’t valid in Australia because even suggesting a price to a retailer was frowned on there.I’ve no idea what the feeling in [your area] is about it, nor the local regulations, but in the USA there’s a massive broo-​​ha-​​ha about “price fixing” using the “agency model” in an alleged arrangement between Apple’s iBooks Store and the major publishers. Their purported discussions and operating principles behind that situation sounded to me like just about every single principle which has driven the publishing industry since day one. The one thing which did stick out was the aspect that the publishers and the retail outlet of the iBooks Store were coming to terms regarding the final selling price to the customer, and that’s not on. The retailer sets a price at which the product is offered for sale to the customer, who then has the right to either accept it or offer a new one for the retailer to accept. No one is going to walk into a drug store and start haggling over shampoo, but that’s the theory.

What it comes down to is this: I sell to you at the RRP, which is there for anyone to sell at: Amazon, Chapters, WH Smiths, yourself, or whoever. You are charged 40% (or 30% for Limited Editions) less than that RRP for your wholesale chargeable cost. What you actually charge your customers is entirely up to you, and I’ve no part in that beyond the original RRP. If Amazon or Chapters or [another independent book dealer] decides to deep-​​discount my titles, I can’t stop them, just as when the Amazon retail partners “thebookcommunity_​ca” or “Vanderbilt CA” decide to charge several times the RRP (it’s happened several times, and is likely a money laundering scheme which doesn’t involve a single copy of the book).

My slight discount at the “manufacturing source” is not meant to approach the added value that your carrying of a broad selection of titles and authors which rightly justifies whatsoever price you seem appropriate independent of any wishes I may have.

It’s simple free market economics.

CLICK to get details
THE DESIGNATED COCONUT by John Travis [cover by Sunila Sen-​​Gupta]

It’s entirely probable that the individual hasn’t read anything of my notes beyond the first paragraphs of each of them (which is suspected owing to none of the later points made are even mentioned in passing). This is not something I have any influence over.

Honestly; I don’t expect to become Midas doing this. I don’t even expect to become able to buy a new car each year after throwing away the one from the previous year. I’m simply trying to find ever possible way I can find an advantage both ethically and economically, in order to pay authors a decent royalty and cover the simple cost of production of the books. I also have a need to pay my own bills (heat, light, food) which aren’t a part of the actual price of publishing eclectic, genre-​​busting fiction. So far, the bills for printers and author’s royalties have been always paid, and most of those and further costs have been borne by means other than revenue.

When someone suggests that someone’s slight advantage is something that they themselves cannot condone, then one should be a bit concerned about what sort of influence they feel is right. As it’s certainly not helping me anyway, then it seems even the potential of competition isn’t welcomed, and one wonders if this is the sort of world one wishes to be a part of in the first place.

Atomic Fez continues to support the selling of its books by anyone and at any price they see fit. If books are sold, then they are read; or what’s a Heaven for?

NOTHING TO DO WITH "BLACK FRIDAY" OR "CYBER MONDAY"

The title is as it is due to just about anyone I’ve come across in the last little while being well and truly tired of hearing either of those phrases. If you’re in Canada, a close third is “Grey Cup”, or “Presidential Election” if you’re in the USA, or any use of the words “phone hacking” if you’re in the UK. So let’s move on before we all acquire a case of the dry heaves, shall we?

Ah… the open, airy, spacious experience that is the new paragraph… ahhhhhhh.

This is a bit of a “catch-​​up”, “bits and/​or bobs*  which got missed”, word about some “new stuff”, plus a bit of news about pricing.

First: NEW STUFF!

Let’s say, for some reason, you think the world of Atomic Fez, and love it so much you’d like to declare to the world your support of it. How might one do this, you ask yourself? Why, by ordering something with the mighty logo of Atomic Fez Publishing, that’s how! Shirts, mugs, bags, caps, beer steins, glasses, hip flasks, cocktail shakers, even “unmentionables” for both ladies and gentlemen!

There’s two shops on the interwebs, in order to increase your options for the sake of flexibility.

So if you are already thinking of getting one of Uncle Warren Ellis’s shirts on Café Press, there are options for Atomic Fez to add to your order and make your shipping charge go farther.

On the other hand  If you don’t want to tell people that “Warren Ellis put his disease in me”, then you can head to the Spread Shirt store and fill your life with all sorts of Atomic Fez stuff! I’ve not yet located other worthwhile things in Spread Shirt. No doubt they are there, they just haven’t been found by me yet. 

Here’s the two options: 

Spread Shirt

or

Café Press

 

So… there you are.

New Books Fully Available!

CLICK for details of this titleAfter some nagging and sorting and more nagging and some payment of bills, there are the full range of both The Designated Coconut and The House That Death Built available in the shop (click the cover images or the titles for the particular pages).

While the print runs for the North American market won’t be done until the spring of next year, those of you in Canada or the United States of America can order copies today if you just can’t wait until then for your very own copy, you’ll just have to pay the shipping cost for the extra distance to your address from the United Kingdom (which, honestly, isn’t that much or a rise in charge). 

CLICK for details of this titleIf you prefer your books to be electronic, however, WAIT NO LONGER! as those editions are available in all three flavours: locally sourced, the international Kobo store, or your nation’s Kindle Store (there’s seven to choose from)! All are available now, just remember that the most money ends up in the hands of authors with the “direct from Atomic Fez” option, and you can still load those on any device you own that displays eBooks, and they’re always DRM-​​free for your technological and “future-​​proof” convenience. The authors thank you for supporting their ability to have real roofs under which to eat actual food (greatly increased health has resulted in extensive lab testing when including both these things in a writer’s environment).

Most Prices Newly Reduced!

After some time has passed after initial excitement over a title, people need a little incentive to re-​​awaken their interest in a book they might have passed over initially. Thus, some alterations on some prices for earlier titles in a rather downward direction (IE: old books cost less). Also, the new books available here are at special “direct from the publisher” prices, even when brand new.

The third thing that’s changed is the “one penny less than a full, round number” is gone. Honestly, who are we kidding here? Yes, there’s the famous idea of if it’s priced at $19.99 people don’t think of it as $20, that seems too expensive idea, but it’s probable that everyone is entirely wise to that by now. If a book is £8.99, I suspect that all of your are saying to yourself “right, so that’s just over a ten-​​pound note by the time there’s postage added” just the same as if it was priced as “nine pounds”. So, when the prices being charged went down, the rounding was included along the way.

Here’s an example of how this works, in case you got lost along the way of my oddly constructed explanation.

Wicked Delights by John Llewellyn Probert
Cover of WICKED DELIGHTS Recommended Retail
(or “Cover”) Price

$39.99 (Canada)
£22.99 (UK)
$39.99 (USA)
Old “Atomic Fez
Direct” Price

$39.99 (Canada)
£22.99 (UK)
$39.99 (USA)
New “Atomic Fez
Direct” Price

$30 (Canada)
£15 (UK)
$30 (USA)

So much easier, isn’t it?

The buttons for the various editions and nations have been moved over so that it’s more obvious as to what’s applying to which thing, so that ought to go some distance to helping everyone understand what’s available. 

Conclusion

There’s not much point in me forcing people to operate under my rules if they don’t either make sense to you or you think they’re stupid. After all, you’re supposed to want to buy these books and navigating your way through complications and mystery options isn’t going to do anything for your happiness, which is going to have a damaging direct effect on the number of those books being read by people… which is not what any writer wants. 

Thus, please let me know what you think of all of the above, either by replying directly to me through Graphic used to foil SPAM or by commenting below, whichever you’re most comfortable with. 

Thank you for your time reading this, your custom, and your support of independent authors and their publisher.

* I’ve always wondered, if a table is covered with ‘bits & bobs’, and all of them but one fall on the floor, what’s left? A ‘bit’, or a ‘bob’? Answers on a postcard to the usual address. [ ↑ return ↑ ]

The Mighty logo of Atomic Fez Publishing logo and colophon designed and Copyright © 2009 Martin Butterworth of The Creative Partnership [ ↑ return ↑ ]

Anywhere but here. Thanks. [ ↑ return ↑ ]

This Week's Fish-Wrap №48: Back Again From the Dead

People initially pooh-​​poohed the electronic book format as being “a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist”. Admittedly, the eBook for the first decade or so basically sucked donkeys, but those days are over. Nearly. Any day now. Trust me.

© Tom Gauld
Cartoon by Tom Gauld for the “Guardian” (Saturday Review letters page)

Okay, they’re not really all that bad, but they could still do with a step-​​up in the break-​​through department. Doing everything exactly as well as a printed book isn’t really enough of a draw to convince the doubters that eBooks are even worth consideration. I’m not sure what ‘the tipping point’ might be – dancing video? free drugs? full sensual experience with 50 Shades of Grey? no idea – but we’re not there yet. There are times that even simply going to the next chapter of the book I’m reading seems a task (I’m looking at you Terry Pratchett YA titles!), but the affordability of hardware and lack of really good colour eInk video rendition seems a bit of a downer. It can’t be the price of the things anymore, as there’s a good number under $100 now, and there’s even one coming for less than €10!

Anyway… where was I…?

Oh yes! eBooks! They’re popular! Really! Look at this:

So the first interesting thing here is that the Kobo is seen as the ‘go-​​to device’ for their eBooks, rating “27% saying they plan to use a Kobo device to buy their next e-​​book followed by Kindle at 19% and the iPad at 14%.” Given the delay on Amazon getting clearance for a Canadian version of AT&T’s ‘WhisperNet’ connection in the USA, it’s not too surprising, but it’s still surprising to me. Possibly heart-​​warming, given how much I’ve been rooting for Kobo since Day One when they were ‘ShortCovers’.  

The second thing here is that the paperback is still holding its own with 57% of sales (hardcovers had 24% of unit sales), which I’ve always seen as the one format that eBooks will supplant for popularity; Mass-​​Market Paperbacks especially (you know, they’re the really crappy ones that last for one or two readings at most and are smaller that most others). 

But wait! There’s more from the mighty offices of K0bo! Big stuff! So big you’ve got four! (4!) links from which to choose! Behold!

The one thing that might get people shifting to eReading – if not for the Madefire application – is the ability to read graphic novels on their devices, especially if they can get hold of content that either does things otherwise impossible (such as the aforementioned Madefire material for iOS devices), and/​or material that hasn’t been available for awhile. I can imagine a complete run of the entire Marvel or DC catalogue would be something incredible (although some of the mid-​​WWII stuff might raise more than an eyebrow or two). 

The expansion of the Kobo catalogue to New Zealand means that the unsuspecting Antipodean readers shall find themselves exposed to the crazy world of Atomic Fez’s genre-​​bustin’ fiction! HUZZAH!!!

Beg pardon. [:: polite cough ::]

Kobo’s acquisition of a ‘digital service company’, as well as its continued geographic expansion, is quite large a development, announced now no doubt in order to be a part of the Frankfurt Book Show on right now. This is the perfect time for anyone to shout about their European Business Developments, what with them being in Europe, obviously. But it’s also a way for the gathered business leaders to take encouragement from each other with new industry ideas, business plans, and general re-​​assessments of goals and methodology.

This is encouraging, as it details the discussion of Big Publishers approaching the format from a business model which isn’t based on the one adopted about a century ago. given the non-​​physical delivery system of the product, as well as a non-​​geographic-​​based market, it’s surprising that it’s only now that the fresh approach is being taken. That said, it’s excellent that it’s being done, never mind the delay involved. Hooray! Perhaps we can start moving forward for the sake of everyone involved?

Please?

“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and/​or announce the latest news Atomic Fez has about the publishing house, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.