Lost in the shuffle of excitement of the last two weeks is the news that Sleepless Knights, by Mark H. Williams, has been named a finalist in the 2014 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature!
The Mythopoeic Society is a non-profit organization promoting the study, discussion, and enjoyment of fantastic and mythopoeic literature through books and periodicals, annual conferences, discussion groups, awards, and more. They are especially interested in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams, prominent members of the informal Oxford literary circle known as the “Inklings” (1930s – 1950s).
Thus, quite logically, the “Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature” is given to the fantasy novel, multi-volume novel, or single-author story collection for adults published during the previous year that best exemplifies the myth-making tradition of the ‘Inklings.’
The award may not be widely known, but the authors and works named are quite prestigious, whether declared winners or not.
Previous winners include Mary Stewart (twice), Orson Scott Card, Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman (twice), Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon, Terry Pratchett, Jonathan Stroud, and J.K. Rowling. Those who made the “short list” and never won are an equally interesting list; Michael Moorcock, Tanith Lee (twice), Charles de Lint (four times), Guy Gavriel Kay (five times), Connie Willis (twice), Elizabeth Hand, and Margaret Atwood.
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.
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:
Finally: it’s about time this happened. Amazon MatchBooks gives you Kindle eBook when you buy dead-tree edition. http://t.co/cXVjzYUePW
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:
Something I keep hemming & hawing about is ‘eBook Bundling’. Under this scheme, purchasers of printed books get a copy of the eBook edition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 THISPAGEHERE 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!
NOWTHEN: 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!
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 ↑ ]
Hush now; surely you know Douglas Adams wasn’t good at math? [ ↑ back ↑ ]
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 ↑ ]
Also: listen to Bell Book & Podcast Episode #2, wherein Ian Alexander Martin (the publisher in charge of this so-called house) babbles about how editing gets done, the publishing industry and its anarchic developments, what the Big Publishers think about the books you think you own but never actually have (the publishers do, actually), http://pgbell.wordpress.com/2013/bbp2/ and how he actually resembles a Hollywood Movie Star.
So, basically, you can read all sorts of things in the top article, then read “Part 1″ of the book for free and enter a contest to win a huge amount of things including a signed, Advance Copy of the book, then you can set-up a little diorama and tweet the picture of it and possibly win another signed copy of the ARC.
…or, you could just order yourself a copy of Sleepless Knights here and skip all of that effort.
METROVANCOUVER, B.C.–Atomic Fez Publishing is proud to announce they have signed a distribution deal with Midpoint Trade Books for supply of its catalogue of titles to libraries and wholesale trade customers in the United States of America. This agreement covers not only paperback and hardcover books, but widespread supply of electronic books as well.
The Publisher / Proprietor of Atomic Fez, Ian Alexander Martin, says this distribution agreement was “something that Atomic Fez very much needed to complete the preparations for Mark H. Williams’ Sleepless Knights. Without some proper way of satisfying the public clamour for the novel, the author would be done a disservice after all his hard work, given the tale’s appeal to such a wide swath of the reading public.”
Representing 275 independent publishers across the United States, UK, Canada and Australia, Midpoint Trade Books provides full service book, eBook and audio sales; as well as a marketing and distribution. It is based in the Flatiron District of New York City, with additional offices in Kansas, Michigan and San Francisco.
Since Midpoint aggregates many publishers under one name, they have a much larger catalog and market presence. This makes the books they carry, including Atomic Fez’s, more attractive to larger retailers such as Chapters/Indigo, WH Smith, Waterstones and Barnes & Noble; as well as the internet branches of retailers and the many international versions of Amazon, and the incalculable number of American public libraries.
Midpoint was founded in 1996 by a group of industry professionals, including current President Eric Kampmann and Executive Vice President Chris Bell. Today, Midpoint retains the same entrepreneurial spirit with which the company was founded, which was something that Mr. Martin felt was a key factor to the partnership being mutually beneficial. “Taking risks because it’s exciting is no way to run a business,” he explained. “Taking a risk which is a qualified one – using pre-orders or reviews as an indication of potential sales – is something which any small press publisher does, but always with a varying amount of success” when independent houses attempt things on their own. Midpoint understands that, and provides the ability for me to realise that goal for the authors.
“There is no way I could handle even a fraction of the work load Sleepless Knights is going to create,” Mr. Martin added. He pointed-out the review last week from Publishers Weekly which earned a star making the title “Highly Recommended” in the estimation of the reviewer. Additionally, the book was reportedly featured on the ‘Table of Contents’ page in the printed edition of the issue. “With attention like this prior to the official publishing date of august 5th,” Mr. Martin continued, “I’m confident this is a book that people are going to not only want to read, they’ll take the time to do it. All of the books Atomic Fez has published more than earn their place in people’s reading time, but once in awhile a book really hits all the right notes so that you know it’s something anyone, no matter their tastes, will share your enthusiasm about.”
The recent surge in eBook sales has seen a considerable need to create distribution on the electronic format. The Association of American Publishers reports eBooks represented 22.55% of the total share of the USA trade publishing market’s net revenue in 2012, compared to a miniscule 0.005% a decade earlier¹. BookStats recently released statistics showing this translated into 457.093 million units for a total value of $3.042 billion last year². This growth has expanded even to the typically staid European market, with eBooks reaching 2.4% of the German Book Market in 2012, representing a 140% increase from only the year before³. Additionally, the Institute for Publishing Research projecting that eBooks will represent 20% of the overall reading market by 2015. Additionally. most readers do not buy physical books once they switch to buying eBooks (and these readers are often the most voracious).
New supply of electronic titles to eRetailers
• Amazon Kindle • Mobipocket • Barnes & Noble • Fictionwise.com • Ereader.com • Sony eReader Store • Kobo Books • Ebooks.com • Books on Board • Scribd • Apple iBookstore • Blio Store • Book Depository • WH Smith • Waterstones
New supply of electronic titles to Public Libraries
• Overdrive • Net Library • myilibrary.com • Follett Software Company • eBook Library
Recognising this but being unable to break into the market in any meaningful way was something which Mr. Martin found frustrating. “Kobo, the Kindle store, and directly through the Atomic Fez site, the eBooks are available – and always without any DRM to screw things up for readers down the road – but sales of the books just haven’t matched what the growing market represents taking place. The problem is that, when you’re doing everything yourself, you’ve only got so much time, so much influence, and so much cash, to try and make a big enough splash readers take note of your titles.
“So when Laura Robinson” – Midpoint’s New Business Manager and National Accounts Manager – “pointed out that they handle eBooks, my heart skipped a beat. After skimming down the list of retailers Atomic Fez’s books could be brought to, especially the Public Library market, there wasn’t any question that signing an agreement with Midpoint was going to be a cornerstone of our step up in the next few years. At long last, this is going to put the words written by Atomic Fez’s authors in front of a huge number of readers’ eyeballs compared to before now.
Citing text on the Midpoint Trade Books’ website quoted below, Mr. Martin says “it’s obvious that Midpoint is dedicated to create the kind of connections that small press houses need” to make the difference between being a hobbyist concern and an on-going, professional concern.
The digital marketplace has expanded well beyond Amazon Kindle. It now includes retailers, libraries, and independent eBook websites — and new sales avenues are developing all the time!
At Midpoint, we have developed an extensive sales network for eBooks. Midpoint eVolve gives you access to this network, so that you can provide customers with more opportunities to buy your books.
The digital marketplace offers a huge growth opportunity for publishers, but entering that market can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why we created Midpoint eVolve. eVolve is a full service eBook solution, which includes consultation, conversion, distribution, sales, secure digital storage, and reporting.
Principal to any distribution agreement is the physical movement of printed books from one place to another, mostly from the distributor’s warehouse to a retailer’s location. With Midpoint’s use of Leisure Arts’ distribution centre located in Little Rock, Arkansas, shipments by common carrier can reach either the Pacific or Atlantic coast in two days, while both UPS and FedEx deliver to most of the USA within one to three days, at regular non-priority rates. Even postal shipments tend to get to their destinations faster when shipped from Little Rock. In fact, more than 98% of all orders ship from the warehouse within 24 hours of being released, and more than 99% of orders ship accurately
Midpoint’s storage of its inventory using Leisure Arts facility enables use of the latest technology and equipment in order to provide fast, efficient service. The distribution center is an air conditioned, secure, state-of-the-art facility, equipped with high-flow sprinklers and both fire and burglar alarm systems. The modern wire guide system ensures safe and efficient movement of products and can handle pallet loads of up to 4,000 pounds.
While specific dates and details weren’t available, discussions regarding distribution agreements with firms in both the United Kingdom and Canada which are allied with Midpoint are expected t be concluded soon.
Mr. Martin cites Midpoint’s approach to pro-active sales demonstrated through their positive, friendly environment at conferences and expos attracts large numbers of people to their booth at events. Midpoint is known for having a particularly strong presence at Book Expo America – aka “BEA” – and The London Book Fair. Author signings at the Midpoint booth provide their publishers with a strong platform for promoting their authors and titles.
In addition to international events such as those, Midpoint is always interested in other opportunities to connect with the publishing industry. They often have a presence at The Frankfurt Book Fair, ALA, CBA, NEIBA and other regional trade shows.
“All in all,” Mr. Martin concluded, “things couldn’t look brighter for Atomic Fez than they are right now. There’s not just the awesome novel Sleepless Knightsfrom Mark H. Williams on the way, there’s a system ready to go to make it available as widely as possible in any edition people can want. Not only that, it’ll apply to the entire current Atomic Fez catalogue of genre-busting fiction. Things feel ready and, with this agreement in place, things are ready.”
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.”
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).
And speaking of reviews of Canadian published books…
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.)
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!
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.
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.
Yes, you read the title correctly: eBooks are expanding their market share but Independent Book Stores are doing quite well, thank you very much. This is as I predicted, but I’m not going to be smug about it as, about a year ago, it looked very, very bleak for the one-location shops going it alone.
The first article, from North American industry bible Publishers Weekly, provides an incredibly lengthy list of the top sellers in the eBook format for last year. So lengthy I haven’t a clue how many there are mentioned there. Yowza, is it ever long. Still, a scan for the names you recognize will come up with at least one title for each author, often several. Stephen King, a long-time advocate and fan of the eBook (and considering the size of Under the Dome, fans ought to keep that in mind before investing that volume of space on their shelves) even makes an appearance with his novel about the Kennedy assassination. The Fifty Shades of Grey series is predictably at the top, proving the anonymity of a eReader is something people take advantage of; and the Game of Thrones series is also scattered through the top of the list. Tom Clancey shows up a few times, as does John Grisholm. So do other authors, but it seemed best to get those out of the way right off the bat.
The point here is that people like to read, and the thing that I started hearing when the Kindle first came out–I’m reading more and more now–seems to be continuing un-abated. The more they read, the more they read; tautology aside.
The second article is something that I hoped would happen: people running their own bookstores are learning to turn lemons into lemonade (sorry about the hoary old phrase) and are turning their businesses struggling to compete with the large chains, into more successful places to get people in in order to enjoy the book as a destination. Celebrate the book, they cry, here we are to act as your enabler! Given the large chains have fewer and fewer locations – and those locations have fewer and fewer employees – the independents aren’t in competition with anyone who provides an actual browseable inventory of titles. The automatically generated suggestions on line where “if you liked Guy Adams’s Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God, then you’ll also enjoy Accountancy for Cornish Tin Mining, 1845 – 70 (Vol.3)” clearly has never worked no matter how many times they change the calculations. In the shop, however, Lucy or Andrew (or whoever), will point you instead at either Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine or Andrey Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin and you’ll be far better off as a result. This is something that the local stores have always done very well, and the modern reader – possibly having grown-up in an on-line world – knows not the joys of having someone point them at their new obsession of an author. Thus, the indies are playing to their strengths, this time with a whole new generation.
The Bestselling E-books of 2012 Jaw-dropping numbers in digital sales By Daisy Maryles, Publishers Weekly | Mar 17, 2013
The Novel Resurgence of Independent Bookstores Defying the onslaught of the e-book revolution, many small bookshops see a rise in sales, aided by savvy business practices and the ‘buy local’ movement. By Yvonne Zipp, Correspondent, The Christian Science Monitor | March 17, 2013
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.
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:
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, a retailer wanted me to stop charging less than RRP on my site. That would be “collusion”, wouldn’t it?
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 THISDEFINITION of “collusion” to be applicable, both with the “overt” and “tacit collusion” uses of the word.
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.
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.
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 ladiesandgentlemen!
There’s two shops on the interwebs, in order to increase your options for the sake of flexibility.
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.
After 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).
If you prefer your books to be electronic, however, WAITNOLONGER! 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.
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.
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 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 ↑ ]