Category Archives: Books

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

Post-Event Summary Stuff

So… that went well… I think.

The actual financials are yet to be examined, especially the ones from the BFS FantsyCon 2012 in Brighton, as Christopher Teague is still probably trying to remember what he did most of the week-​​end. 

All my bags are packed…

It seems, however, that the BFS FantasyCon has once again been rocked – ROCKED! I SAY – with controversy. I’ll say no more, pointing simply to THIS POST over on Joe Abercrombie’s blog. 

Much like Chris Teague does, I approach a convention or similar event an opportunity to remind others that Atomic Fez exists, and to share information with readers, authors, and other publishers; not as an opportunity to make lots of lovely lovely money! I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to money, obviously, it’s just not the principal reason I’m there.

VCon 2012 was the thing for me here in Metro Vancouver: a chance to have a good visit with the brains behind Gaukler Medieval Wares [ :: waves at lone visitors to blog :: ], trade well-​​meaning insults with Brian Hades of EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, and generally wonder when can I run away and get some decent coffee? I did a couple of panels – one about eBooks v paper ones, the other about submitting material to differing markets – but wasn’t able to check-​​out any others, owing to being on my own in the Dealers’ Room. Ah-​​well.

Next year you’ll probably find Atomic Fez at more events, and in more locations than normal! Additionally, it looks likely you’ll see the Publisher /​ Proprietor at all those events too, as the dates don’t over-​​lap for any of them! Look forward to more details about the following events (mark your calendars now):

Now please excuse me as I try to catch-​​up on some orders that have been ignored for the last week or so. Plus some sleep that was over-​​looked. Thanks. 

NEW TITLES: Benji Spriteman #2, and a Début Novel

Well, hello there!

2012 has proven to be occasionally tumultuous and terrible, but we forge ahead here in the mighty headquarters of Atomic Fez Publishing, offering up two titles for ordering now: The Designated Coconut and The House that Death Built, both of them novels, and both of them worth a careful examination.

Click to get more details [new tab or window]
Cover art by Sunila Sen-​​Gupta

John Travis has his 2nd book in “Benji Spriteman” series: The Designated Coconut. Be assured these are not the animals in the movies of questionable intelligence such as K-​​9 or Marmaduke, these animals are mirrors of ourselves, nature’s reflection of our own societal form and pressure, plus a wink or two along the way presenting familiar cultural references.

In the twenty-​​four months that had passed since The Terror, the world had become a slightly more civilised place — so civilised that when two female feline crime writers turn up to do a signing at a local bookstore, only one of them is murdered, implicating Benji Spriteman.

In an attempt to solve the crime and clear his name, Benji ends up in Rockway, the sleepy seaside town where the remaining sister is staying. Only Rockway turns out to be not too sleepy, and the detective finds his life in danger not only from the animals on land, but from those above and below it too…

As I waited in the lobby, I listened to the comments of various animals as they came in from their early morning walks. Almost all of them were complaining about the heat. ‘World’s gone mad,’ an old Tabby in a pair of shorts muttered to himself on the way to the elevators, ‘preferred it in the Old days. Didn’t have to buy fans then. Just sat on the rug and licked my ass. Good times.’

For those of you who hesitated when The Terror and the Tortoiseshell was introduced, but are intrigued by the notion of sentient animals fighting crime, wait no more! Heading to either book’s page provides you with an offer of two (2!) books for a savings of ten (10!) dollars ($$!) or a good, solid English “fiver” (£5!) plus free shipping! Excelsior!

Click to learn more about this title [new tab or window]
Cover art by Stephen Upham

Meanwhile, John Llewellyn Probert has written a novel! It’s his first! It’s groovy, and so is he! It’s called The House that Death Built and is available in three (3!) formats! It’s available in eBook format, which is DRM-​​free as is the case with all Atomic Fez eBooks; there’s a paperback edition; and there’s a Limited, Numbered, Hardback edition which is signed by both the author and the cover artist! Atomic Fez isn’t in the habit of doing ‘collector’s editions”, but as this is John’s début as a novelist, it seemed apt to create a special version of this title, just for him. It may also be the final outing for the characters “Mr Massene Henderson” and “Miss Samantha Jephcott”, which are the “specialists in paranormal adventure” he created to engage in daring-​​do against the spirit world, and who have previously only appeared in the short stories collected in Against the Darkness (available from Screaming Dreams through THIS LINK).

You are cordially invited to join Mr Massene Henderson and Miss Samantha Jephcott, specialists in paranormal adventure, as they embark on their most perilous case to date.

The Dark Manor isn’t just any old haunted house. Built on the site of a stone circle, from bricks saturated with pain and agony, windows that have seen terror beyond insanity, and doors that would scream if the wood from which they were fashioned could voice the appalling acts to which they have been witness, the house was designed with evil in mind and deliberately constructed to bring William Marx, the wealthy industrialist who built it, into contact with the spirit world.

But Marx hasn’t been seen since he entered the repository of death and madness that is The Dark Manor, and neither have any of the people who have gone looking for him. Now Sir Anthony Calverton has purchased it and needs the place investigating properly, which of course calls for some proper supernatural investigators.

Who will survive The House That Death Built? Only time and the pages within will tell…

Ο Φόβος είναι ο πόνος που προκύπτουν από την αναμονή του κακού

Also, for those of you who haven’t already got a copy of his collection Wicked Delights, its regular price has just been reduced! Hooray! Get the same number of excellent words for less money! HUZZAH!

PLUS! There’s a contest! But more about that a bit later. Oh, it’s worth the wait, let me assure you!

This Week's Fish-Wrap №47: Is Amazon Run by Coke-Heads?

Let’s try this once more, shall we? Earlier today this appeared, only the text was entirely made-​​up of quotes from roles played by Samuel L. Jackson in various movies, courtesy of the web-​​site SAMUEL L. IPSUM (Mother*cking Placeholder Text, Motherf*cker!), which generates far more interesting text than the classic “Lorem ipsum” material used by most layout people.

So… erm… Basically I created the post, put some text in to hold some space where the actual content would go, put a in image in, then some relevant links at the bottom, and then… walked away and forgot about it. More fool me. :: ahem ::

Amazon [he says, rapidly changing the subject from the previous one of “just how daft is Ian getting in his middle-​​age?” to a more news-​​worthy one] has recently been getting a fair bit of flack from all sides for their decision to become ‘a real publisher, just like Atomic Fez’, although the last part of the phrase isn’t one that’s commonly a point made by anyone. Not only are they to be the original publisher of works, they will be publishing these works in electronic and printed formats, as well as selling the books through a distributor so that the books will be on shelves of bookshops the world over. In theory, anyway.

WWI War Financing Poster (by Haskell Coffin, 1918)
WWI War Financing Poster (by Haskell Coffin, 1918)

The problem with the plan is quite simple: the same businesses that Amazon is in direct competition with are now to be their retail partners. One minute they’re crushing Barnes & Noble, Borders, or everyone’s favourite local independent book shop; the next minute they’re saying ‘look, just before you go completely bankrupt, could you do a big display in the window with our new titles?’, and wondering why they’re getting the stink-​​eye from everyone in the place including the university kids on holiday fill-​​in duty.

If you’re thinking “no no, Jeff Bezos and his crew surely wouldn’t be that insane, would they?” let me assure you they are either filled with so much chutzpah they don’t think they can lose, or they’re really oblivious to anything other than that which is the nano-​​second of existence of “now”.

Or, possibly, they’re on so much cocaine their irises are white as snow. After all, they do seem to be far more focused, energetic, and enthusiastic about everything than just about anyone else in the entire world, short of seven-​​year-​​old boys on a sugar high let loose in a LEGO Warehouse.

The enabler in this little affair is Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s “New Harvest” imprint, which will be exclusively dedicated to the release of’s titles, including upcoming titles by James Franco and Deepak Chopra. Clearly these are not merely Poems About My Cat (A Collection) we’re talking about here, but potential ‘hot titles’ by people the common reader will be interested in, or at least be aware of (which is far more than could be said of about 98% of any books released in a given period of time).

Amazon are the same people who released a smartphone ‘app’ prior to Christmas which permitted the user to scan the barcodes of up to three books in a store, thus providing the user with a guaranteed discount on the price of that book (up to a maximum of $5 per item, I think) as long as that same book was ordered through Amazon instead of buying the ‘over-​​priced’ book in the store they had in their hands at that very second. ALL HAIL duplication of effort! Not only do you choose a book by going to the bookshop and are reminded they still exist, you then guarantee you contribute nothing to its existence by literally going out of your way not to give it your custom! Hurrah! Let us all go to Cloud Cuckoo Land where books are cheap and plentiful, and no one needs to look further afield than Amazon for all ones worldly needs!

Now, given the above, you would think that Amazon would pooh-​​pooh the notion that getting copies of their own publishing house onto shelves in real bricks-​​and-​​mortar shops, wouldn’t you? “Stores?” you might be forgiven to presume they would respond, “do they still exist? Why would you want to go to one of those? Just sit in your chair, move the mouse around a bit, click a few times, and we’ll bring the world to you!” Oddly, this is not what they’re doing. No no.

Through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s distribution network, they are attempting to get their books into the very same shops they recently sent people into with their smartphone apps, possibly in an effort to get every single dime available in the book industry chain. The only thing they haven’t got – in addition to the eBook hardware, eBook software, print-​​on-​​demand via Lightning Source and Create-​​Space, plus now the actual publishing house, and a host of other ventures under their vast umbrella – is actual retail outlets. According to the New York Times, that’s possibly next. If true, perhaps this is a test of how much they can use books to lure people in as a loss-​​leader for their other products like shoes (Amazon now own on-​​line shoe-​​retailer, by the way), BLU-​​RAYs, and iPad accessories. Who knows?

Personally, the thing I find most surprising is the sheer unmitigated gall and blatant effrontery of them expecting to get a piece of the action they’re attempting to reduce to rapidly diminishing returns. It’s a bit like acting as a real estate agent in the area in which you’re also enacting a policy of lebensraum, and you’re actually re-​​selling the land to the people who are already living there. Plus, you still get a commission on the sale, any the tax on the transaction itself, plus future property taxes for maintaining your now possessed territories. Win!

Honestly, what part of this whole thing made someone think “yeah, that’s a great idea; let’s do that!”…? 

The cocaine suggestion doesn’t seem so ludicrous now, does it?

  •’s eBookNewser, “Author’s Guild Argues That Amazon’s Dominance Comes From Antitrust Laws”; Wednesday, February 1st ~ READ THIS POST
  • MobyLives, which is the blog of Melville House, “Amazon finds a beard to sell books from its publishing unit”; January 25thREAD THIS POST
  • Publishers Weekly, “Books-​​A-​​Million Won’t Carry Amazon Titles”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS POST
  • Globe & Mail, “Indigo joins growing boycott of books published by”; Friday, February 3rd (and correction on the following Monday) ~READ THIS POST
  • Publishers Weekly, “End of the Line for Dorchester?”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS POST
  • The New York Times, ‘Bits’, “Amazon Has Tried Everything to Make Shopping Easier. Except This.”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS ARTICLE
  • Publishers Weekly, ‘PW Tip Sheet’, “This Has All Happened Before”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS POST

“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.

This Week's Fish-Wrap №46: iThoughts About iTextbooks This iWeek

It seems fairly often that Steve Jobs Apple brings out something that changes the face of the world – or at least what its face is pointed at – inexorably. They’re infrequently the first to do whatever it is that now has a lower-​​case letter “i” slapped on the front of the name, but they are typically the first ones to get it done the right way. For example: the tablet is finally done right with the iPad, after Microsoft tried to get manufacturers to figure out how to do it for most of the ’90s and ‘the noughties’; personal music players worked fine as cassette machines like the Walkman™, but it took the iPod to get the digital file format taking off; and the smartphone was clunky, awkward, and difficult to use for the acquisition of basic information until the introduction of the iPhone.

Beckman RIIC advert (“New Scientist and Science Journal”, Apr 1st 1971)
Beckman RIIC advert (“New Scientist and Science Journal”, Apr 1st 1971)

Thus, the iBook 2 (not to be confused with the PowerBook, which is an old Apple laptop model) now presents textbooks in a far better, cheaper, and easier distribution model. HOORAY! say I. This is one of the best applications of the eBook format, as it drops the cost of the most expensive part of the production cycle for text-​​books: printing. Most text books have, at the very least, graphs and charts as illustrations. Anything used for science and artistic pursuits have colour illustrations or photographs required to properly explain matters of any complexity, be they medical matters of the body, or painted representations of the body. This need for acceptable colour reproduction – while both less expensive and less complicated than even two decades ago – still requires a hefty increase in costs than if there were nary a graphic included. The fact that a text book typically requires up-​​dating two years after its release only adds to the necessity of developing a way to reduce costs as much as is possible. Thankfully, the eBook is the answer.

No doubt the tales I could tell of the cost of my Geography text books in the mid-​​1980s would be enthusiastically laughed at by today’s students, and I don’t wish to consider what the cost of them are today.  But,  given the charges for typical education at any level are increasingly beggaring those who administer the provision of learning today, at any level, the method of providing texts at a fraction of the cost to the student is welcome indeed.

This is not without some valid considerations, however. Is the so-​​called “walled garden of Apple” too limiting for the freedom-​​loving world of academia? Will university and college lecturers and Deans of study find they are no longer able to regulate themselves or exercise their creativity within the technological constraints placed upon them by DRM and geographic distribution agreements? Will the publishers find increased revenue from their titles, rather than what trickles of cash they get from the photocopying licenses for ‘course packs’ used in a majority of higher learning institutions?

Do publishers even have the balls to make the sea-​​change of their entire business-​​model to this new platform? Are they just in time to make it, or are they merely trying to sort out how to rearrange the deck chairs on a rapidly sinking ship? Do we even care?

Lastly, what of the printed book – whether a textbook or simply a novel – being released with an electronic copy as a bonus? When buying a DVD or Blu-​​Ray disc, one often gets a “Free Digital Copy” for use on one’s smartphone or tablet, so why not extend this to books also?

Would Atomic Fez readers wish to receive an eBook copy of the book they just purchased in paper format? I’ve often seen it as an either/​or situation, mostly because I’ve seen eBooks as mostly a new reader market. Perhaps I’m wrong, though, and you want the option of having increased access to the book, as this means you can start reading on your iPhone the novel you left at home this morning. Let me know! Atomic Fez is here to help you enjoy reading more, as well as helping you enjoy more reading!

  • “Apple Launches K-​​12 iPad Textbooks, New ‘iTunes U’ & Self-​​Publishing Platform”, | CLICK HERE
  • “Pearson Made $3 Billion From Digital Content Last Year”, | CLICK HERE
  • “Apple Move Will Spark Flurry off New Companies, Content in Education Market”, | CLICK HERE
  • “New Stats: 2011 Libraries’ Digital Check-​​Outs Up 133% Over 2010″, | CLICK HERE
  • “Do we want textbooks to live in Apple’s walled garden?”, GigaOM | CLICK HERE
  • Confessions of a Publisher: “We’re in Amazon’s Sights and They’re Going to Kill Us”, | CLICK HERE
  • ECW Press Experiments with Free eBbooks for Print Customers”, Publishers Weekly | CLICK HERE

“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.

HUZZAH! Books on Shelves of Stores!

For those of you who wish to fondle before you purchase, copies of Terribilis and Dirk Danger Loves Life are now on shelves of select locations of Chapters/Indigo/Cole’s Bookshops across the Dominion of Canada! 

For those of you desiring photographic evidence, behold the images below!

This represents a personal first: never before – as far as I am aware – have books published by me been on offer in a bookstore anywhere in the world. Yes, they’ve been available on ‘virtual shelves’, as well as being available for order through ‘bricks and mortar’ locations of stores, but not actually sitting on shelves waiting for people to discover them for immediate purchase. This is a happy thing.

Also, for those of you who love all things old – both books in paper form and stop-​​motion animation without computer generated imaging, for example – here is a short animated film of such accomplishment I cannot begin to comprehend the amount of work involved in it.

This Week's Fish-Wrap №45: This Daft Publishing Life (A Primer)

Early last week, the Canadian Distributor of Atomic Fez titles – Author’s Choice – received an order from Chapters /​ Indigo /​ Coles for a substantial number of copies of Terribilis and Dirk Danger Loves Life. Huzzah! Exposure in shops at last!

Metrotown location of Chapters/Indigo
Metrotown location of Chapters/​Indigo

Well, actually, possibly not; plus it might not be the best time to break out the champagne and caviar and dispense with the beer and hot dog budget either. You see, this isn’t anything quite like a “guaranteed river of money” situation. In years past I’ve sometimes been surprised at the seniority and years of experience which authors and readers alike might possess, yet they’ve not much idea of the business specifics of the retail selling of books. So as to further the understanding of all, here’s how things come top play in this daft publishing life thing. Besides, it’s something that I have to remind myself of in order to keep in mind how insane this whole notion is to begin with.

Also, please note that all Atomic Fez books have been in the Chapters/Indigo/Cole’s catalogue since the agreement with Author’s Choice about a year ago (click here to see the titles). Due to the same agreement, you can also locate Atomic Fez books in the (click here to see the titles) and catalogues (click here to see the titles). So, this isn’t a change, except for the actual quantity of copies ordered.

Here’s how these things work: Chapters calls the distributor in Ontario with orders for books they’d like in the warehouse, and then either the distributor tells me to ship them a big shed-​​load of boxes like last week, or – more frequently – the distributor parcels-​​up the four copies of some title and those get sent to Chapters’ warehouse. Typically Author’s Choice has no more than one box of anyone’s book in stock, as they are only a small distributor, and not a warehousing or storage firm. Once the books head to the warehouse of Chapters/Indigo/Cole’s for their inventory, anything can happen and I’ll not know a thing about it. Yes, copies could be sent to some of the 247 Indigo, Chapters and Cole’s stores across Canada, or they could merely hang-​​on to them in the warehouse to supply their on-​​line orders through (the same as I do through this site’s ordering), or they could do a little of both. Again, I have no idea what they’re doing, and I won’t ever know until either someone stumbles across copies on a shelf and tells someone, or I stumble across an inventory entry on their web-​​site (and that would take a concerted effort of experimentation with searching through the item’s status using major population centres). So, basically, if someone sees some copies, they really ought to take a picture of them, then send me a copy.

This is the first time – as far as I know – that a shop has ordered copies ‘on spec’ of an Atomic Fez title. I’ve sent occasional copies to wholesalers and shops both in the UK and in North America, but as they’ve been very small amounts, they’ve probably been ordered by customers. I’ve never, never seen any book I’ve published on a store shelf, either in person or even in a photo, with both outfits I’ve worked with. So this is an excellent thing.

WH Smith Train Station shop (c. 1933)
WH Smith Train Station shop (c. 1933)


Here’s where things get stupid with this publishing industry thing.

All 268 books that were just sent to Ontario could very well be returned to me come April. Because all Atomic Fez books are “returnable” by retailers (as most publishers do), shops are more interested in carrying them, because their risk having them is eliminated. Likewise, their costs are further reduced by the fact that I pay for the shipping there and back, plus they get charged 40% or so less than the RRP so that they can sell at a profit (which is a business-​​like idea, obviously). Likewise, shops pay when they’ve actually sold the books; although not by design, but due to the delay in paying happening to fall outside the point at which they’ve returned the un-​​sold ones.

now keep in mind that I’ve not only paid for those books to be printed months ago, plus get them shipped from the printers to the house here, I’ve also just paid about $300 to ship a bunch of them to Ontario to the distributor. the distributor will now get those boxes to Chapters/Indigo’s Distribution Centre, at a cost which will be deducted from any sales earnings. Once the books are decided to be “too old” and the remaining amount is sent back, once again the cost of transport is borne by the Distributor and Publisher. Yes, I get to pay for shipping in both directions, and that’s an industry standard arrangement for a large chain. You should hear the sorts of things that fully expect to be done at a minimum for them by the bog houses like Random House, Simon & Shuster, and so on. It’s a wonder there’s not sacrificing of pets and virgins involved sometimes, given the lengths of demands.

It used to be that books could prove themselves on the shelvesas being “something that sells” through a three-​​month period or longer, which would permit reviews as well as ‘word-​​of-​​mouth’ to drive sales, plus the staff would get to know the book at least by reputation. Early this year Chapters/​Indigo changed their period to only 46 days, which doesn’t even give books a chance to actually gather dust. Honestly, the notion that this is enough time for someone to read a review, decide they want a copy for their birthday/​Christmas, tell a relative, the relative then gets time to go to the store, then remembers the name of the book… it can easily be out of stock in the store. This is another reason why the on-​​line reviews excellent people do works wonders, as the text on various web-​​sites – Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and many of the new Canadian public library sites – acts as further advertising and proof that ‘someone actually read this book’, thus encouraging others to try them out.

Bottomless pit of books
Bottomless pit of books

The reason Chapters/​Indigo changed the length of the shelf-​​life for titles, in my opinion anyway, was due to reduced floor space for books when they switched to being a Home Design Shop as well as a book store. Thus, inventory they haven’t invested money in building themselves (as all the rugs, clocks, pillows, candles, etc. are designed and created by Indigo) needs to work harder to keep their space, or ‘earn their space’, if you will.

And therein lies the under-​​pinning problem of the whole thing that really needs a re-​​think in not just publishing, but just about any manufacturing industry. Publishers pay authors, artists, printers, distributors, shippers, eBook formatting people, and everyone else in advance of even taking a single order, never mind making a sale. The best comparison here is the lottery: you buy some quantity of tickets and hope that one will return more than the amount you spent, but there is no guarantee of any return. I publish books with the hope they will sell, but I front the cost of printing as many copies as I can spend money to get, and then do what I can to ensure people will part with their cash so that I can then publish some new titles, with exactly the same principle guiding the manifestation. That’s fine, really, and it’s the same as if you were paying the ante for a poker game, and that is another good comparison to this. 

But, when the big retail stores get involved, it’s even more serious an ante, as the combination of shipping charges and wholesale discounts on large orders (which may not ever sell a single copy) mean that I not only pay for the production of the books that never sell, I get to pay for moving them all over the place because they didn’t sell, thus losing even more money than just the cost of manufacturing. Remember, once a massive order is placed by Bob’s Big Book Box, say 1,000 copies (which is insane compared to my situation), then those thousand are tied-​​up in the warehouse of the store, leaving me with whatever I got printed over and above the thousand I just sent to Bob’s. So, do I run another 250 or 500 copies of the books, and gamble the thousand at Bob’s won’t all return to me in a few months’ time so I then have 1,500 books filling the basement, or do I run the risk that a bunch of people will order copies from me direct and I’ll not have any more left because I didn’t order a new run of copies? Besides, those thousand copies  Bob’s won’t pay me for any sooner than about four months from the day they take delivery, and even if they did pay me for the whole lot immediately, if they all get returned un-​​sold, then I have to return those funds as they were for “books sold” which didn’t happen in the end. See?

Books heading for the trimmer at MPG Biddles
Books heading for the trimmer at MPG Biddles

The entire thing is a daft notion. Lord knows why anyone would want to even try this, never mind keep at it, which is obviously why I need to get a day-​​job. The ‘cost of doing business’ is always something that makes or breaks a business, but it really feels like the book trade has it staked against itself even more than others do.

This is another reason that the entire supply-​​chain of books needs a complete re-​​think, as well as who knows how many other manufacturing cycles for goods. As far as I’m concerned, the eBook is perfect to replace the obscenely wasteful production standards of the Mass-​​Market Paperback, for which many publishers pre-​​determine the amount of copies in a run which will be pulped at numbers typically around 33% and 45%. Yes, they actually budget throwing away nearly half the run, knowing that they’ll be damaged on shelves, and then not be bought, or they’ll get dinged in transport to and from various distribution centres and warehouses. the additional reason is that the price for running ten-​​thousand copies of a title can actually sometimes be less than printing 7,500 copies (or at least it’s often a good third or more per unit to run the larger figure), thus making the throwing away of part of the run actually cheaper than printing less of them in the first place.

There’s so much in this industry which works on the basis of the economics of supply and demand of the late-​​1800s, as well as the levels of available resources of that period, it’s a wonder that books are even still available in the same form as that time.

But, we continue. Onwards!

“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.

WINNERS: Signed Copies of Two Different Titles

Back a ways, we announced two contests for copies of the two September titles below. Two copies of each book are to be signed and personalised to the winners, one copy of each for “North America” and “UK and Others”. In the case of Terribilis, both winners receive a copy of the book in the ‘hardback binding’ (which is not available in North America).

The winners are:

Dirk Danger Loves Life
Dirk Danger Loves Life


Dirk Danger Loves Life

Christine Taylor
Newport, UK

Renee Johnston
Tweed, Ontario, Canada


Patricia Esposito
St. Charles, Illinois, USA

Renee Johnston
Tweed, Ontario, Canada

[owing to a shortage of valid UK entries, North American
entries were included in the drawing for this title]

Congratulations to those three people (and extra congratulations to Ms. Johnston for her win which defies normal rules about ‘standard variations governing probabilities of occurrence’), as well as sincere thanks to everyone who ordered copies of these titles and others as well.

A Warm Fuzzy Feeling

Twitter Page showing Ellis' RT
Twitter Page showing Ellis’ RT

The combined excitement of The September Sell-​​A-​​Bration and the two contests for signed copies of Terribilis and Dirk Danger Loves Life among those ordered all comes to an end on Sunday.

Now, now, stop sobbing like that… you still have a little time.

In the meantime, let’s all give Uncle Warren a big hug for the encouragement he extended to Atomic Fez. Have a look on either side of the screen for two versions of the same thing: him tweeting a copy of the original one – the kids call it “Re-​​Tweeting” or “RT-​​ing” I’m told – to his crowd of followers numbering 418,978 souls.

Twitter Page showing Ellis' RT
Twitter Page showing Ellis’ RT

Sometimes it’s the littlest thing which can too easily be over-​​looked that can be so very affecting.

I recommend highly his slim novel Crooked Little Vein: A Novel (also available in Kindle Edition) as being quite mad and highly entertaining, but you can pretty much find just about anything he’s written is damned good (even if he’s not published by Atomic Fez… yet).

Enjoy your week-​​end.

Things You Missed Last Week (№42): Competition is Competitive

For about a couple of weeks now, I have been predicting my own demise. Not too surprising, the usual estimate for each human being’s chance of death is 100%, after all. However, I’m speaking of ‘me’ as a publisher.

Scribner’s submissions readers deciding what to do with latest arrivals (Parker Brothers Ouija Board advert, Dec. 1969)
Scribner’s submissions readers deciding what to do with latest arrivals (Parker Brothers Ouija Board advert, Dec. 1969)

No, no; I’m not making some heavy-​​handed statement of portentous variety regarding lack of sales, quality of submissions, or the economy in general. I’m thinking in realistic terms about the likelihood and viability of publishers as ‘literary gate keepers’ or ‘curators of quality books’. I don’t foresee this as being something which either the reading public or the creative authors considering as tenable in the years to come.

Ever since someone said to Homer (no, not the yellow guy, the ancient Greek poet) “that’s great writing, but I don’t think we’ll be making copies of that story for people… try Demonites down the road, maybe he’s got room in his catalogue”, the Publisher has had control over what the public can read. Yes, there have been some notable exceptions to this power – DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, TE Lawrence’s (no relation) Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph, and James Joyce’s Ulysses–but mostly due to either “unprintable words” or the fact that publishers thought no one would like to read a book about people living in Arabia. Publisher’s aren’t alone in making foolish oversights: the man at Capital Records, UK must still bemoan his note stating “people no longer are interested in Rock & Roll bands” after listening to the audition tapes for The Beatles, to the great gain of EMI.

As a side note, the nasty aspect of this attitude of “only we can declare what is ‘worthy’ of your reading time” manifests itself in murmurings such as the recent decrying of “readability” as something the Mann Booker Prize Jury considered as part of their deliberations. Apparently when deciding what is good fiction one isn’t supposed to ask questions like “is it fun to read?” and one should limit oneself to “is it good for you?” Poppycock, say I, and so does Graham Joyce, the currently Acting Chairman of the British Fantasy Society (but then, he would, wouldn’t he?) in his piece titled “Don’t Confuse ‘Readability’ with ‘Dumbing Down’ ”. As much as I’d like to take a piece out of the attitude that “fun” is akin to “low brow” or even “sinful”, the real problem here is that it’s thought to be ‘of reduced quality’. I’d be hard-​​pressed to locate a musician who can play much of the music of King Crimson, Queen, or Steely Dan, but it sure is fun! Complicated, complex, intricate, and brilliant, absolutely! But don’t confuse it’s “fun quality” with it being ‘easy’, or ‘popular’ with being ‘sub-​​par’!

Just after the start of the millennium, there was a big resurgence in the “why can’t we just print copies ourselves?” school of thinking, and three things resulted directly from this:

  1. small press formed in the vein of the Bloomsbury Generation style where everyone ran their own house and acted as launderers of literary works by their friends, or published works they truly believed in and nurtured them to perfection
  2. people truly self-​​published (sometimes using an editor but frequently not, more’s the pity)
  3. unscrupulous bastards started “author’s fulfilment houses’ which basically sucked every single cent out of the authors who innocently handed over all their worldly assets in order to see their name on the front cover of a book

I don’t see this as a bad thing (with the exception of the third, which is all bad plus a bag of chips). Some suggest that “it’s good for people to release crap that ought to have been edited, never mind proofed, as then the readers will understand just how valuable the publisher is!” This is the argument of the grumpy, self-​​important, and bitter. The reading of low-​​quality writing isn’t anything but harmful to everyone who writes, for this can only lead in the long term to people being ‘turned off’ to the joys of reading. I decry this situation and those who see it as good even in the short-​​term. Self-​​publishers should be encouraged to use editors and proof-​​readers for the simple reason it makes their work better in the same way it improved the works of  Dickens, Joyce, Christie, Atwood, and every other writer you can think of.

The principle that I see being served is that of “providing an increased choice of material”. There are only so many books I can publish, no matter my desire. There are only so many books Simon & Shuster or Random House can put out each week. The more books which are made available, the greater the selection available.

Around the same time as the above three points came to pass, there was a common view that a narrower and narrower variety of books were being released; especially in the UK bookshops. There were oodles of new books coming out, have no doubt! But they were all of a piece: homogeneous in style, length, story, and often even in their cover art. The notion that “fantastical fiction” (SF, Fantasy, Horror, or amalgam of all three plus some other things as well) might see the surface of a shelf in a store was anathema to the large-​​house publishers, as the Big Boys® were of the opinion that ‘people aren’t buying those sorts of books any more’ and then they’d chuckle in that superior way of someone who had all of the answers.

However, obviously the large houses’ eschewing of SF&F titles was correct in one simple way. People such as Orion, Spectra, and Del-​​Ray were keeping things going as well as they could, but if you don’t release lots of SF&F titles, then it’s quite difficult for anyone to buy lots of lots of SF&F titles. QED.

So, a large number of people who loved ‘those sorts of books’ decided to do something about it and started small presses in the UK and North America so as to release either their own work, the work of others whose writing was in many instances excellent, as well as long out-​​of-​​print titles which couldn’t be found in anything but the rarest editions. Things were furthered by word-​​of-​​mouth and the development of superior “digital printing techniques” which made the printing of books in quantities as small as 200 the same wholesale cost per unit as doing a run of eight hundred or a thousand using traditional lithographic /​ offset techniques. Hooray!

Fast forward to today, and the matter gets a great deal easier for the author or “hobby” publisher to release works, as well as those such as myself who make this a full-​​time concern.

The main benefit to the author or “hobby” publisher is Amazon for various reasons, but they all come down to being a single source of solutions to every imaginable problem: electronic books (Kindle Direct Publishing, née “Digital Text Platform”), as well as paperback and hardback books (Create Space) can be had easily as well as providing a place to sell them to the world (,,,,, and the author/​publisher can keep a piece of the retail action if they set-​​up their links correctly (Amazon Associates Programme).

The side-​​effect of this is that Amazon has essentially destroyed the necessity of the “bricks and mortars” store, especially the independent book shop. There is no conceivable way for even a ‘big box’ book retailer to have close to the selection of titles that Amazon has on its sites. Even has a far larger selection than the biggest location you can walk into. The average small– or one-​​location bookstore owner has to compete in the only way they can: by specialisation in a particular content type.

There are other ways, obviously, as WH Smith has started to do recently, as their deal with Kobo looks far more to the future than simply making space in their stores for the hardware and their site for the eBooks by connecting with the largest eBook catalogue in the world. Again, the approach here is the re-​​gain the customers both through their stores as well as individual homes or offices (or wherever they’re using their computers).

In addition to adding eBooks to the shop, the other way a ‘high street’ operation can compete with the vast selection of titles offered on line is to install the Espresso Book Machine, something which has been around for a number of years now, and seems to arrived at an iteration which offers both decent-​​enough quality and reasonably good value for reader, store-​​owner, publisher and author alike. Next week I’ll babble about that here.

Next week will also see the announcement of winners in the two “get your book signed to you by the author!” contests, so head over to order your copies of Dirk Danger Loves Life and Terribilis today! This week is also your final opportunity to get both printed editions and eBooks on sale, so head to the Book Catalogue to fill your basket. 

“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.

Things You Missed Last Week (№41): The Ever-Changing Retail World [UPDATED]

Before we get into anything ‘newsy’, let’s have a look at what’s been consuming me nearly steady for a couple of weeks or more on the main site: “platform compatibility”.

There were a few things I didn’t like about the main site, but didn’t much feel like trying to hard-​​code the HTML and so on. There are ways to do just about anything on a site, but unless you want to have nested tables galore, complicated style-​​sheets with floating location specifics, and a shed-​​load of other things I can’t even spell, it wasn’t easy. Possible, yes; but not easy.

Then an old friend of mine said “you know, I think we should re-​​do my site again”. So, I poked around a bit trying to find some way to do what I knew had to be easier now that HTML standards have actually become more… well, standardised. Heavens be praised, things have gotten far easier and more compliant across various browsers. No longer do Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari make things look so different you wonder if you’re looking at the same site sometimes!

The new headache: multiple viewing devices with screens anywhere from a mobile handset all the way up to a Cinema Display. Something that looks great on your 28″ wide-​​screen monitor isn’t going to look great on a 3 1/​2″ phone. Plus, even if it does look decent, there’s a hell of a lot of scrolling to be done on that tiny screen to find the bit on the page you want.

So… after a steep learning curve shoving the knowledge of multi-​​media aware style sheets into my tiny brain, he’s got his site, and I’ve got the same sort of stuff going on here as well. Hooray!

All of that sounds quite geeky, but what it comes down to is that, no matter how you’re looking at the main part of the site (as opposed to this blog; I’ve still got to sort this part out), it’ll adjust to the screen you’re looking at it with, and the site will look pretty as well as be practical.

Here’s how things looked on the three major screen dimensions originally (using a post from a week ago as an example; click for embiggenization):

Full-Size View of Page
Full-​​Size View of Page
Tablet View of Page
Tablet View of Page
Smartphone View of Page
Smartphone View of Page

Basically, what you have is an increasingly smaller section of the top left corner.

Here’s how it looks on the three major dimensions now (again, click for embiggenization)!

NEW Full-Size View of Page
NEW Full-​​Size View of Page
NEW Tablet View of Page
NEW Tablet View of Page
NEW Smartphone View of Page
NEW Smartphone View of Page

Quite an improvement! Now the navigation buttons adjust where they are as the screen narrows in, plus the header graphic changes to take-​​up less space. When you get small enough for the smartphone, everything turns into a long, single column arrangement, no longer requiring things to work much wider than a single picture (because that’s all the width we’ve got really).

With 16% of traffic to the site identifying itself as a tablet (to say nothing of monitors using resolutions near tablet-​​dimensions), it’s important for any site to have these things in mind, but especially when you’re selling eBooks which some people want to read on their tablets, iPods, or smartphones.

In theory, it should be so easy to use now you shouldn’t notice any change has happened until it’s pointed out to you. However, I hope you find the site easier to use as a result.


Electronic Sales v. Retail Sales v. On-Line Retail Electronic Sales

Apparently, WH Smith and Kobo have teamed up to provide equipment for the people to read their eBooks on. Kobo supplies the back-​​end to the WH Smith site, plus possibly arranges for re-​​branding their wi-​​fi touch-​​screen readers (which will be the first in the UK) with the high-​​street shop’s logo. It’s the second time Kobo has scored a European deal, as they announced a deal in France just the week prior to the UK deal with WH Smith, and only a few days after the announcement of the Kindle France Store opening.

The move is a smart one for both the UK and French firms, apparently. According to Bloomsbury executive director Richard Charkin speaking to delegates at Frankfurt Book Fair as part of a Google panel about e-​​books, if retailers are to compete with Amazon, they have to create their own devices to sell to people, presumably to keep the customer inside their particular garden. It’s worked quite well for both Apple and Amazon, as both companies have found ways to not only sell equipment to people, but the content to go on that equipment as well. “One stop shopping”, if you will. Add to that houses such as Hyperion as well as Macmillan Bellow and others finally realizing they can make people happy by re-​​releasing their back catalogues and actually have people buy the stuff that’s been out of print and un-​​available for years (and it’s about bloody time, say I), the sooner the shops get wise to the ways of the Big Companies Who Are Beating Them At Their Own Game, the better.

It’s a bit of a losing proposition, though, as the UK has been seen as the worst nation to protect the chains. Some might see that as a damned good thing. Maybe there’s a point there, too. However, the independents flourish by being able to point at the major shops and say “we deliver something they can’t: speciality in selection”. Thus, if all the big stores up and disappear, then the independents will suddenly have to make a go of it without the large stores to do their constant barrage of advertising which serves to remind everyone that “books is good”. It seems a bit odd, suggesting that the little guys are served well by the big guys plastering their 3-​​for-​​2 sales everywhere, but there is a give-​​and-​​take relationship where both sides benefit from each other more than is apparent initially. Certainly it’s a more balanced relationship than the competition between high street shops and the Sainsbury’s of the world (and there’ll be a digital edge to that one soon), and one which John Lecarré now admits he was part of the push that opened to the door to.

Granted, if the big publishers and the large distribution corps keep slapping DRM all over everything, the more electronic reading devices there are out there, the faster and more frustrating the arrival at “but I can’t read my book now” will be. If you buy a book through Amazon, then try to read it on your iPad using Amazon’s app, you might find that book’s digital lock isn’t iOS 5 compliant. Or, possibly, the book you bought at Penguin’s site might not be something your Sony Reader wants to open for you. Why not? Well, it’s the Digital Rights Management that prevents you “trying to do something that’s not allowed”: basically, anything they hadn’t thought about two years ago. Even if your eBook file opens on your Samsung tablet today, who’s to say the next Android operating system up-​​grade won’t do something ever-​​so-​​slightly differently than it used to, the file’s pre-​​programmed settings have a look at things, don’t recognize the way things are done as “correct”, and then shut the door and refuse to open it again.

This is why Atomic Fez sells all its eBooks clean of DRM. You should be able to read that eBook file on whatever equipment you’ve got today, tomorrow, and in the next decade. People basically are honest. You’re not going to try to sell CDs of the books on a street corner next week. Publishers have more trouble getting people to buy any books these days, and really ought to stop worrying about people buying books “the right way”.

Price eBooks fairly, skip the DRM rubbish, drag out the books that have been out-​​of-​​print for a couple of decades and do the same, and everyone’s happy.

Seems simple, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: Over on FutureBook (part of “The BookSeller”), there’s a post explaining how Kobo’s recent in-​​roads in Europe actually demonstrate how it’s better at market penetration than both Apple and Kindle. Mostly, it’s because of the minimum of DRM-​​control and lack of “you buy from us, yo0u read with us, you are owned by us” approach to things, thus completely contrary to the other two big players.


“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.