Category Archives: Industry Thoughts

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 Amazon.ca (click here to see the titles) and Amazon.com 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 Chapters.Indigo.com (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)

But.

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 Amazon.com 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.

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 (Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de, Amazon.jp) 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 Chapters.Indigo.ca 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.

Things You Missed Last Week (№40): The British Fantasy Society

Well, well, well. The British Fantasy Society (of which Atomic Fez is a member) has got itself in the newspaper again, as well as the Daily Mail and Sunday Express *. Oddly, the last time they were given space in the press resulted in a huge push to publish more female authors of horror, fantasy, and of other forms of ‘speculative fiction’, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes of this in the end.

The Logo of the British Fantasy Society
The Logo of the British Fantasy Society

I wasn’t going to say anything about this, but it all seems to be coming to a resolution, and for me not to have some sort of acknowledgement of the existence of the matter as part of this supposed “wrap-​​up of the publishing news” dog-​​and-​​pony show of mine seems a tad remiss. So, now that we can see the end of the thing, let’s whip though the main points.

It all got started when the ‘Short List’ for the British Fantasy Awards was announced and there was a great deal of space taken up in the list by Telos Publishing’s output as well the partner of one of the directors of Telos: David Howe. So far so good, except that he’s not only the chair of the BFS, which oversees the awards, he’s also the Acting Awards Administrator and thus is directly involved in the awarding of awards to winners. The votes are all tallied using a web-​​based spreadsheet, and everyone’s votes are registered using their BFS membership number and/​or their e-​​mail, so there’s no chances of his having done anything untoward at this stage.

Indeed, the BFS’s President Ramsey Campbell stated yesterday the following:

[I]t is our firm belief that no corruption or wrongdoing took place during the administration of the British Fantasy Awards, and that in this respect all awards should still stand as presented. We confirm that the summation of the votes cast was performed electronically and once the results were checked they were confirmed and verified by another member of the committee.

So, we’re all fine there; in retrospect, you understand.

During the awards, as well as right after, there was entirely a different tone to the vox populi. Given that five of the dozen awards – every single award for which they were nominated – went to either the publishing house of the Awards Admin or the lady the Daily Mail terms his “live-​​in lover” (as though the only thing that she does is snog the man silly), grumping was probably bound to occur. It just seemed a tad ‘too perfect’ for some people’s liking.

This is where Stephen Jones’s article on his web-​​site come Tuesday starts making the wheels of things turn, the title alone sufficient to getting eyebrows raised: “Putting the ‘Con’ into FantasyCon”. I urge you to read it, as there are number of excellent points to consider made within it. Note, however that “diplomatic” is not a frequently used word to describe the noted Editor and long-​​time BFS mover and shaker who is Stephen Jones. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Jones and his accomplishments. His tastes and business acumen are excellent, and – though his selections for stories to include in his anthologies are occasionally at odds with my own – he certainly knows what he’s doing. He’s not known for the most politic in ways of expressing his views, however, and this is something I can certainly nod my head at in complete understanding, as I possess the same trait.

Anyway, the point here is that even though Mr. Howe didn’t do anything at all wrong, everyone agrees that the appearance of something possibly have been fiddled with isn’t something one should permit to exist, as it then permits someone to rightly ask the questions posed by Mr. Jones. For deeper examination of that in this situation, head over to Pádraig Ó Méalóid’s LiveJournal ENTRY HERE, as he’s got a fairly good run-​​down of the ‘optics’ of the matter. Also good is Simon Morden’s entry RIGHT HERE examining both the time line of the decisions as well as a fairly good neutral examination of both sides of ‘the saga’.

As a result of the above: Mr.Howe has resigned as Chairman of the Society; Samantha Stone has returned her “Best Novel (2010)” Award; the next FantasyCon which was to be in Corby now might not be anywhere as the organizers have backed out, there’s no definite replacement for them, and it’s not east to find a venue for 500-​​or-​​so people for a week-​​end event in an Olympic year with a great deal of ease; and Graham Joyce has agreed to take on the position of ‘Acting Chair’ until such time as an Emergency General Meeting can be held in about six weeks’ time or so. Here’s Mr. Joyce’s statement, in which he says the following to put all of the above to rest (hopefully once and for all):

Meanwhile I will charge the committee with a priority agenda, which will include overhauling the Awards system; identifying and recommending new committee members; ensuring that proper records of meetings, decisions and accounts are transparent to all members of the society; and seeking  to enfranchise a wider “Fantasy” base for the Society.
     The proposed Corby FantasyCon will not now go head and we are looking for an alternative for 2012. The situation at this moment is fluid and we will attempt to keep members informed.

Something to keep in mind at this point is that the BFS is a dashed-​​fine organization and has had far more influence than it’s often given credit. The terms “horror” or “fantasy” fiction cause people to either picture a giant, blood-​​covered chainsaw; or a dragon flying above an impossibly-​​magenta mountain peak. Both images are incorrect for about ninety percent of the literary form. The UK is especially downwards in their glance when considering the genres, seeing either of them as ‘not actually literature, you know’, yet will happily praise Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Mervyn Peake for their Great Works of Literature. To form a society which aims to promote those sorts of works is quite brave, really. To continue to do this for so very many years is laudable, and hopefully the world of the ‘legitimate literature’ will re-​​welcome them to the fold.

If you need any more convincing of the worth of the BFS, have a look at THIS ARTICLE on the aforementioned site of Mr. Jones, and perhaps you’ll get a deeper understanding of the importance the Society has had in his career as well as the careers of others over the years. Another view on the same subject is THIS POST on the Theaker’s Quarterly and Paperbacks blog of Stephen Theaker which goes a long way to explain what effect the BFS can have on those who are less involved in the ‘pointy-​​end of the stick’ when it comes to creating or publishing ‘fantasy’, and simply like reading the stuff.

Atomic Fez is proud to be a member of the BFS and to play a part in supporting it both financially through that membership and adverts, as well as supporting its goal of promoting ‘weird’ and ‘fantastical’ fiction in all its forms.

LINKS FROM THIS ARTICLE

“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.

* Non-​​UK residents ought to know that the Sunday Express is read by people who think they run the country, the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who actually do run the country, and the Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. Those who read London’s Sun don’t care who runs it as long as she’s got a good-​​sized pair of “fun bags”. [Full credit to the writers of Yes, MinisterRETURN ↑

Keep Calm and Hail Cthulhu

Something for the Week-End...?

Greetings! Two things first:

  1. the main part of the site is now iPad and Smart-​​phone compliant (the layout automagically adjusts things the smaller your screen is), as well as newly re-​​designed so that you can get where you want to easier, as well as hopefully find things you weren’t aware of in the “information” category;
  2. all of the titles have their eBooks on sale, as well as the “September Sale-​​A-​​Bration” prices being still in effect for the printed versions of most of the titles! I’m too good to you, I really am…

Now for some “less than serious” stuff.

There’s a few images in a folder I keep meaning to share with everyone that have something to do with books, or with inspiration generally. So, in a flurry of “let’s clean things up”, here’s the lot of them. Enjoy!

Propaganda_Come-on-Canada_e010695900-v8

This Week's Fish Wrap (№34): Why is Amazon Out of Date?

“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 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.

 

Poster produced for the Wartime Information Board of the Dominion of Canada (artist Hubert Reginald Rogers, 1898–1982), LAC e010695900-v8Whilst an actual post is not quite yet finsihed here, there will be a complete examination of the topic once I’ve sorted out a few things with Amazon®, the IRS, and who knows who else.

This all arises as a result of the development of THIS POST, which I thought was the end of the matter, more fool I.

It turns out that Amazon doesn’t have the same definition of “publisher” as most other people – including the IRS which is how this whole thing is supposed to work you would think – and considers itself to be the publisher, as “Vicky” in their “Tax Information Reporting” department explained Saturday in the following statement to me:

Pursuant to the terms of the agreements, Amazon considers the transaction to be an acquisition of one or more copyright rights pursuant to Treasury Regulation § 1.86118 with the rights to distribute the content to the customers. Amazon views the payments made to you under these circumstances as royalty payments subject to US income tax withholding under the relevant laws. As a publisher, you may yourself license content from your authors and pay royalties.  Amazon is still required to apply withholding rules to your payments.

Well well… This is intriguing. It’s also quite wrong, in fact. I actually have to license content from ym authors, and pay them royalties, because otherwise it’s called “theft”. Amazon might be ‘distributing’ the works, but they ain’t ‘publishing’ it.

I recall a massive hue and cry at one point of “don’t sign away your publishing rights to the Amazon Overlords™”, but that seemed a tad odd and more than a little alarmist at the time. Amazon wasn’t in the business of actually publishing books (although they are now), and they certainly didn’t have any intention of ripping people off for their book’s profits. I recall noting the specific section referred to, and did a double-​​take at the language.

Re-​​reading the defining clauses at the start of the contract, the fact that they were using the verb “to publish” seemed more clear and appropriate to what Amazon does as a distributor, if still awkward and open to misinterpretation when taken out of context. Due to this being electronic books, you can’t define “publishing” as the entity that arranges for the books to be printed, or even shipped, because there’s no physical entity to be moved around. “Publish” suddenly becomes damned close to “make available for purchase” and the already-​​thin line becomes pretty damned thin indeed.

Frankly it’s pretty damned surprising that Amazon is playing it so damned safe with the question of withholding amounts pending tax assessments, given their problems with various States regarding sales taxes in their jurisdictions. Why they suddenly are willing to kow-​​tow to a Federal Office is a bit of a mystery.

The actual problem with the possible interpretation of the contractual statement of Amazon being considered the ‘publisher’ of the works sold through the now-​​called “Digital Publishing Platform” (IE: “The Kindle Store”) is what I’m now facing, as is every other Canadian publisher: until such time as you acquire some sort of US Tax Identity Number (SSN EIN, or ITIN; the last of which will probably run me about $650 dollars or more once the thing’s properly completed and certified and prepared by an IRS-​​authorized agent), you’re not going to get the final 30% of all monies earned from the sale of your books, due to Amazon withholding that amount “in trust” for the IRS, pending the review of tax assessments, which will basically state “if I owe anything, it’ll be owed to the Canada Revenue Agency, so you’re not gettin’ nothing anyway”.

Why not just file the returns every year there? Well, for a start I couldn’t do that because, once again, I don’t have one of those magical US-​​tax numbers. Additionally, preparing those forms is unnecessary because Canada and the USA have a “tax treaty” that basically negates the need to file those forms. Plus, well, the IRS really doesn’t want to be bothered about all this rubbish, they have enough on their plate as it is. I’m in the middle of getting hold of someone in the Philadelphia office of the IRS who seem to be well-​​acquainted with the whole complex issue of Canadians earning money through the USA without actually standing in the USA at the time.

What’s the stumbling block here? Amazon, and not–as stated by article’s writer in the comments of this post of theirs on the interwebs – the IRS at all. My interpretation of it is this: due to their daft insistence on covering their asses based on a very bizarre interpretation of previous tax regulations, we now have this weird policy stating that I’ve got to jump through expensive hoops in order to get the amount that ought to not even be withheld anymore.

There’s also that rather over-​​inclusive concept about who has the publishing rights to a book, but let’s leave that for another day.

Look for more about this later. Possibly after I’ve be released from custody by the US Customs Agents at Blaine.

NOTE: the last bit is a joke, and I am not about to enter the USA using armed force.

Chapters has new stores called “Lifestyle” and “Paper”

This Week's Fish Wrap (№33): Indigo Slashes Book Inventory

“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 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.

 

Before we get too far into the topic of the headline, you ought to know that the two newest titles from Atomic Fez are not only available in eBook format from Kindle and Kobo now, you could even win one of 15 copies of each book being given away through LibraryThing! Here’s some linkage and graphic-​​happy stuff.

LibraryThing Early Reviewer logo WIN AN eBOOK COPY OF DIRK DANGER LOVES LIFE
THROUGH
LIBRARY THINGS
EARLY REVIEWERPROGRAMME!

click here to see details
CLICK HERE to get more details and order copies (new tab)
LibraryThing Early Reviewer logo WIN AN eBOOK COPY OF TERRIBILIS
THROUGH
LIBRARY THINGS
EARLY REVIEWERPROGRAMME!

click here to see details
CLICK HERE to get more details and order copies (new tab)

So, there we are. As always, the winners will receive DRM-​​free files in the following formats: ePUB, PDF, and PRC (and you can re-​​name that last one with the KMZ or MOBI extension to use on your Kindle or MobiPocket unit respectively). Whee!

Plus, while were at it, here’s a couple of things you might want to look at that have nothing to do with the topic about to be shouted about in the next section:

  • Cory Doctorow’s 45-​​minute Keynote Address about copyright at SIGGRAPH 2011 in Vancouver: CLICK HERE (and thanks to ‘Jules’ for that)

  • Reading in the new age of things: CLICK HERE (and thanks to ‘Maryann Kempson’ for that)

  • If you spend all day at a desk, you can still get some exercise: CLICK HERE (and thanks to ‘Lifehacker’ for that)

 

The Bookstore's Books May be Found... Over There Behind the Pillows and Throw Rugs

Early last week, I saw that Chapters/​Indigo Books & Music, Inc had posted their latest financial figures for the year so far, or the last financial quarter, or whatever it was. Apparently, it was fairly good over-​​all, with printed books’ sales taking a bit of a dip alongside the rise in eBooks’ sales, so the end result is swings and roundabouts. All good so far, and hardly a surprise what with Amazon now getting all shouty about how they’re selling copies of more books through the Kindle store as they are selling in paperback and hardback combined. Good stuff, thinks I, this should increase the number of books available over-​​all, increasing selection for the reader and thus royalty payments for authors as their back-​​catalogues are thus easier for the publishers to maintain. Huzzahs in general ought to be heard around the land.

Now here’s the real issue that has got me jumping up and down, and possibly biting the hand which feeds me as a publisher, as mentioned in passing from the article linked to above:

The company is also planning to launch its own brand of gift and lifestyle products, which means that less space will be devoted to books.

Chapters has new stores called “Lifestyle” and “Paper”
Chapters has new stores called “Lifestyle” and “Paper”

Saying to myself …pardon me? I then saw the e-​​mail on the right (and click to make the image all big and legible), telling all and sundry on their iRewards SPAM-​​age list that Heather Reisman, CEO of Chapters/​Indigo, has undertaken to become more than merely a book retailer with a bunch of goo-​​gaws that have little to do with books on some shelves; now she’s selling her own, in-​​house designed, broad line of seemingly endless variety of goo-​​gaws that have nothing to do with books. Yes, Virginia, Canada now has its own Martha Stewart, and it’s Heather.

A BIT OF NECESSARY DISCLOSURE: Atomic Fez books are available through both Amazon and Indigo, including the Kindle and Kobo outlets therefrom.

To be perfectly honest, the selling of non-​​book items in bookstores is hardly something new. No doubt even as far back as the early 1800s people have been able to locate copies of books alongside blank journals and other ‘note books’, stationary, reservoir pens, wrapping paper, and illustrated note and post cards. No doubt the availability of books at newsagents’, filling stations, grocery stores, and cafés has been just as equally maligned by those who wish those locations to be purely places of broadsheets, transportation fuel, food, and caffeine. Just so have the denizens of book shops decried the offerings of non-​​book items therein. Nothing new there, then.

However, I find it difficult to recall any bookstore which has decided to create their own non-​​book stuff in any sort of amount this substantial, never mind enough of a selection that they could declare it their “fall collection”, as Ms Reisman has done. They’ve got two shop specifically dedicated to these products: their Lifestyle Shop and their Paper Shop. The video below appears on this page of their site, along with a 39 item display of their new in-​​house designed products. They are, in their words, creating “Home as a Nest”; although ‘nesting’ is something I thought all those YUPPIES were doing about half a decade or more ago, but whatever.

Were one not to have “Indigo” shoved at the camera repeatedly (and it’s a wonderful study on how to reinforce your ‘brand’ in that regard), it would be entirely understandable to mistake this for a new line of products from Bowring’s, the Bombay Company, Pier 1 Imports, or some such place. This may be the sort of market placement Indigo is hoping to accomplish, as any business is best operated when following where the money leads it. That said, what went so wrong with book retail that the books on offer are no longer seen as a sufficient enough draw to bring in customers to purchase the books they wish to read?

The answer, obviously, is Amazon.

Even before Jeff Bezos had the idea for the Kindle, Amazon was already making life damned difficult for book shops of all sizes, and apparently the struggle is even there for Indigo. A couple of years ago, if you had asked me what the landscape in the retail book industry would look like at this point – and some people did, so this actually was the answer – I would have said that, while the big boys might take some hits, the really narrow niche shops such as Murder One (in London, for the mystery lovers) and Biz Books (in Vancouver, for everything to do with show business from acting to writing to technical specialties) would continue, due to their one-​​stop shopping convenience. Well, gracious me, was I wrong. Neither the UK or American versions of Borders were expected to tank, Barnes & Noble in the USA is struggling its way through some complicated negotiations for a part change in ownership, it’s possible that Indigo is struggling (otherwise why would they try to hit a new market), and independent stores like Vancouver’s Biz Books and Ardea Books & Art have shut, along with Murder One and several others in London, as well as countless more the world over.

Obviously, times are hard for everyone, and the result is that people’s discretionary income is nigh-​​on non-​​existent. I know this to be the case because, despite all my efforts with promotion, marketing, and simple pavement pounding, there’s not a single Atomic Fez title on a shelf in a book shop anywhere in the world. Having mailed countless packages to store managers in authors’ hometowns suggesting in-​​store readings and signing events – complete with promotional posters, leaflets, and generous wholesale discounts and return policies on un-​​sold stock – nary a peep has come to this office by return post or e-​​mail; unless you count the three envelopes in front of me marked “RETURN TO SENDER, ADDRESSEE NO LONGER AT THIS LOCATION”.  While I hadn’t thought it a “slam-​​dunk /​ easy to do /​ wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” sort of affair, one had expected some sort of reply, especially after an author had done a face-​​to-​​face follow-​​up; none of which got anything more than “oh yes…? …so?” response. Further materials quoting glowing reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and other respected industry sources, as well as British Fantasy Society Awards’ long– and short-​​list inclusions for titles and the publishing house itself have gone similarly ignored by those in the retail environs.

The key to retail shops being interested in a publisher’s books is often said to have a distributor: someone like Ingram, or Baker & Taylor, and so on. This permits the shop to include your book in an order for stock with a lot of other books from other houses, thus resulting in one shipping cost for all of them, as well as one bill to pay. Thus, very near the end of last year, Atomic Fez entered into a distribution agreement with Author’s Choice, thereby having not only the respectability of saying “yes, we’re distributed by…”, but also getting direct, up-​​to-​​date inclusion in the on-​​line catalogues of Amazon.ca and Chapters/​Indigo, and potentially on the shelves of the latter retailer too! So far… nothing in that latter situation; neither Chapters/​Indigo or a shop on any continent.

Actually, there’s a bit of relief that Chapters/​Indigo hasn’t wanted to stock Atomic Fez books, because if they did want to stock them, I’d have to get a good two thousand or so copies of each title done and shipped to their warehouse, all at my expense, and then be prepared to get all of them back inside six months because none of them sold, and I’d be paying for that shipping as well as having to figure out how to sell nearly ten thousand books from the basement (never mind where to put them down there). The additional problem is that the return policy for Chapters/​Indigo has recently had the time period reduced by 50%: where it used to be the case that books could be returned from each shop after that title hadn’t been moving for 90 days, now only 45 days are required, making it likely that no book that a reader has heard about a month ago will be available to pick-​​up and handle in a store. The one advantage any retail outlet has over Amazon is that people can look at a book, leaf through to a random page inside, read it a bit, have a look at the page layout, maybe look at the photo plates in the middle if there are any, and then walk out of the shop with their book in their hand. To limit the number of ‘new’ books that a customer can do that with – especially given that this sort of customer is less prone to get the latest book quickly – is possibly the worst thing a retailer could do.

I have, quite honestly, given-​​up on ever seeing books published by Atomic Fez on sale anywhere but on-​​line book dealers, this site, and the occasional table at a convention where I (or the delightful men of Wales who generously handle UK orders) happen to be in attendance. While I had hoped to fulfill a vision of seeing my efforts sit proudly in public for people to wander past, judge the worth of through direct contact, then purchase, this dream shall remain unrealized. Instead, one must throw in one’s lot with the Artisans who ply their trade in craft shows, parking lots, and bazaars.

I refuse to believe, however, that people are reading less, or will ever not enjoy the telling of tales through the written word. All the rules may be changing, but surely this one is eternal…?

UPDATE: For those of you who, like me, could use a bit of a cheerier end to this, head over to THIS POST on George Verdolaga’s blog to read about a success that an author he knows has made.

February 1946 cover of “Science and Mechanics” magazine with Monorail feature article

This Week's Fish Wrap (№32): A Canadian in the USA Market

“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 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.

There are many complications in the small press publishing game. As soon as you move objects from one place to another you double those complications. Have those same object cross an international border and you can easily make that an exponential increase. Even with the North American Free Trade Agreement (or ‘NAFTA’) you can still have thing pop-​​up that you hadn’t considered to even exist. For today, let’s limit ourselves to the oddities experienced by a Canadian publisher – let’s call them “me” for easy reference – dealing with the market of the United States of America.

February 1946 cover of “Science and Mechanics” magazine with Monorail feature article
February 1946 cover of “Science and Mechanics” magazine with Monorail feature article

Let’s say that I sell electronic books through the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing set-​​up. This means that I actually ‘earn’ money through the sales of books in the United States through Amazon.com; as well as the United Kingdom through Amazon.co.uk and in Germany through Amazon.de, but let’s not get too far ahead here). Thus, the USA’s IRS wants to know what’s going on with all of the money changing hands. Here’s a quick explanation of that (thank you, Wikipedia):

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the revenue service of the United States federal government. The agency is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury, and is under the immediate direction of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. The IRS is responsible for collecting taxes and the interpretation and enforcement of the Internal Revenue Code.

So, in essence, I am collecting revenue inside the USA, and thus the government of that nation wishes its cut of the proceeds. Due to a tax revenue treaty between Canada and the USA, as a Canadian Citizen I will be taxed on that income by the Canadian Government, and not by the American one. The inverse of the situation also applies, should an American person earn monies in the Dominion of Canada; although that situation is far more complicated due to the US Government taxing its citizens no matter where they might earn their income, but again, let’s stick to the topic here.

In order to make everyone aware that there’s nothing untoward going on, it’s necessary to present the IRS with the right bits of paper proving that everything they might want to do isn’t required, as the Canada Revenue Agency will be doing their bit, what with me not actually living in the USA.

Here’s where things start getting complicated, because there’s two different things you need if you’re an author, and only one if you’re a publisher.

SELF-​​PUBLISHING AUTHORS: If you head to THIS ARTICLE, then you’ll get a full set of details, but the relevant bit here is that you need to get a W-​​7 form so as to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (or ITIN). This is because you don’t have either an American Social Security Number or a Work Permit, yet you’re earning money in the USA because that’s where the transaction takes place. You’ll also need a letter from one of the firms who sell your books on-​​line, such as Smashwords, Kobo, Createspace, or whoever, saying that they are indeed selling your book(s) in the USA, and that you are a Canadian as far as they know due to a Canadian mailing address or something (you can request one from Smashwords HERE).

There’s a list of Canadian Acceptance Agents HERE, and the W-​​7 form is available HERE. You need to fill in as much of that form as you can (instructions for that are HERE), then head to one of the Agents on the list who will then confirm all your information, then fill in particular bits with specifics such as photocopies of your passport and so on, then you can send the whole lot off to the IRS. This step will cost you money, but getting it done right the first time is obviously worth the cost. If you’re in Vancouver, I highly recommend Bluecarp Tax Consulting Limited at 1055 West Hastings Street in the Guinness Building, as the chap I spoke to there was wonderfully helpful and charming as well. Once he realized I am only a publisher and not an author receiving royalties – and that’s the dividing line here – he took some time to explain what I ought to be doing next, and he waived his hourly consultation fee as I could do all that myself. A sterling fellah.

Now carry on with the next step, as you’re acting as “a publisher” in addition to being an author.

PUBLISHERS: Because you’re not the ‘end point’ of the money, but are dividing it betwixt you and the authors, you get to skip the step above, including the note from someone that the books are being sold in the USA. Hooray!

What both Publishers and Self-​​Published authors have to do is fill in a W-​​8BEN which is – obviously – a Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding. This then clarifies to all concerned that Amazon.com doesn’t need to withhold 30% of any monies earned through them, which normally would be done until I had filed a tax return with the IRS. Because I won’t be filing a return with them, but with the Canadian Revenue Agency, there’s no need to hang on to the 30% that would normally be held as being the likely amount of taxation on the US income. Thus, Amazon hands over all of the money, and then I can carry on with my normal Canadian tax forms. Hooray!

You can find a copy of the W-​​8BEN RIGHT HERE, and the instructions for that are RIGHT HERE.

If you’re sending it to Amazon, this is important:

We need to receive a physical copy (paper form) of the W8 that contains a US tax id and that is signed in blue ink. Please put your supplier code/​vendor code in the upper right hand corner and then mail it to the below address. As soon as we receive it, we will update the account and reimburse withholding that has been deducted this year. Note: withholding can only be paid back in the current year it was deducted.

Amazon Digital Services
ATTN: Vendor Maintenance
PO Box 80683
Seattle, WA, 98108 – 0683.

If you’re sending the same things to Smashwords, then HEAD HERE for some instruction.

ADDITIONAL NOTE FOR CANADIAN AUTHORS: Just like the UK authors, you can get in on the “Authors’ Royalties from Library Borrowing for Canadian Authors” programme. Sure, it might not add up to much (especially if the Ford brothers in Toronto get their way with hacking a bunch of libraries out of that city’s system), but there’s not much point in throwing money away to which you’re entitled. Additionally, it proves to the CRA that you really are an author, and thus you are justified in declaring all those expenses of your income. For details on how to get in on that endless river of money, HEAD HERE.

Spot for Gillette Razors (“Vancouver Sun”, 1932, March 9)

This Week's Fish Wrap (№30): Win Books & “The Media” [UPDATED]

“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 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.

In my continuing effort to understand story editing, have a broader awareness of popular culture, and possess a greater recognition of story tropes, the viewing of films continues. Head to THIS LINK, head to the very end of the images, then click the first of the three relevant posters to discover how yesterday’s marathon viewing of the Star Wars ‘prequel’ of Episodes I – III were greeted. “Phah!” is the best summation, really.

Meanwhile, “News of Atomic Fez Authors and Their Works” again starts us off this week, as it did last time! Both of their books are available in eBook format right now, with North American editions arriving in paperback edition come November or so. You can get details of all that by clicking the covers of the books below.

Chris Rothe's “Dirk Danger Loves Life”Carol Weekes’ novel “Terribilis”Chris Rothe, the author of Dirk Danger Loves Life [cover, left] is on Goodreads now! You can link-​​up with him using THIS LINK if you so wish.

Should you have a desperate desire (or even merely an idle curiosity) to know more about the man, then HEAD HERE to read the short interview /​ Q&A with him.

If this has sufficiently piqued your interest, HEAD HERE to win an “Advance Reading Copy” of Dirk Danger Loves Life by Chris Rothe.

If you would rather win an Advance Reading Copy of Terribilis by Carol Weekes [cover, right], then you should immediately HEAD HERE to do that. You could even do that if you wanted to win a copy of that in addition to the book by Mr. Rothe! Isn’t ‘freedom’ a wonderful thing, citizen?

If you’d rather show your support of their efforts in a financial fashion, you can buy the eBook version of their titles right now: click the covers on either side of this section, then click the little orange button on the top right. Just as soon as the ePUB file is ready for release to the world, you’ll be e-​​mailed a link to a ZIP file containing that, plus two more DRM–free eBook files (which ought to happen in about two weeks or so, hopefully sooner).

 

Thoughts on the Growing Media Frenzy; Both Social and Journalistic

The past week has been filled with a number of things that have either driven you mad with anxiety or made you want to punch someone for mentioning something you’re already tired of hearing about. Let’s have a look at some topics, shall we (and I’ll try not to trigger any punching instincts in anyone)?

  • Google seems bent on dominating the entire world through two things announced this week
    • Google Plus (or, if you prefer: Google+)
    • a Google-​​branded eReader
  • Rupert Murdoch’s Nerws of the World folded yesterday after being accused of hacking mobile phone accounts of various people
  • Kai Nagata quit his job as a journalist with Global Media in their Québec bureau

Google’s ‘branded’ e-​​book reader (learn about that here) will, no doubt, also interact with Google+ (which, if you’re wondering what the fuss is about and should you care, then here’s a quick look, or you can head here, or possibly here instead).This is intriguing for a couple of reasons, the first being that now people will actually start using the on-​​line Google Reader material; secondly because they’ve never put their name on a piece of equipment before (other than server racks for people who wanted to do in-​​house heavy-​​duty searching, which I’ve never understood the need for).  The unit is made by iRiver, but they’re putting a little logo on the unit (which resembles a Kindle) so that you get reminded to use the services of the company so ubiquitous their name is now a verb.

Spot for Gillette Razors (“Vancouver Sun”, 1932, March 9)
Spot for Gillette Razors (“Vancouver Sun”, 1932, March 9)

Meanwhile, they’re getting into the ‘business’ of social media with what some call a “Facebook killer”, or a “Twitter killer”, or a “Facebook and Twitter killer”; but the best description is probably “a work-​​day killer” because after setting up my personal account I’ve never had so many browser tabs open at once, or got so far into the day without actually accomplishing anything of substance. So, basically, it’s like both Facebook and Twitter, but with more words and pictures than the latter and more ease of use than the former. At some point later this year there will be an Atomic Fez presence on Google+, but here’s the reason why there’s not one right now. Also, if you’re a writer, this might be a better thing for you than you’ve found either Facebook or Twitter to be thus far; read this for some thoughts (WARNING: even the name of the blog is sweary).

And then there’s this whole journalism question being bandied about. Many started thinking about it due to the News of the World finally getting dragged up on the carpet about mobile phones (but they’ve been unscrupulios for years, so one should hardly be surprised at this), and then it was the turn of the guy covering the Québec legislature for Global News who has said what everyone has been avoiding admitting publicly for years: that news media is doing it all wrong and the tail is now leading the dog about by the nose. He explained it all in words of one syllable on his blog Friday, and apparently everyone in the world has now read it twice.Mostly he quit his job because he realized he wasn’t able to feel comfortable with not saying what he felt ought to be said, but the underlying cause of that was the inherent, non-​​functioning nature of the news media today. As far as I’m concerned the start to fixing things is getting Rick Mercer to do a week night show in the same format as either the Colbert Report or The Daily Show, and start taking shots at the politicians and news personalities when they screw up. It’s not the solution, but it’s a part of one.

If the topic of “do we really need news as ‘entertainment’, or should it principally inform and initiate thought” interests you at all, however, here’s Spin Cycles, which has got to be some of the most intelligent and worth-​​while information on the media today. It’s not the be-​​all-​​and-​​end-​​all in the topic, but it’s good enough to start you thinking about things clearly enough as a jumping-​​off point. Go there. Download the files using the link on each episodes’ description page, and become a better informed person. Critical thinking is an important tool to reading both fiction and non-​​fiction, and knowing the difference betwixt them.

UPDATED: here’s a response to Kai Nagata, titled “Why I Didn’t Quit My Job” by a Vancouver print journalist CLICK HERE

 

'Lorem Ipsum Dolor' Just Got a Tad Yummier

Who needs boring old ‘placeholder text’ that’s doggerel Latin based on an 18th century manuscript when you can have ‘placeholder text’ that includes bacon? No really: HEAD HERE and you’ll get 5 paragraphs of “all-​​meat” text to paste into your layout for whatever design purpose you have. Here’s a sample of what that means:

Magna eiusmod ex, bresaola ad brisket meatloaf pancetta cillum. Jowl beef ribs swine jerky t-​​bone. Esse sirloin excepteur pork chop id in, bacon short ribs pig rump strip steak. Laboris shoulder reprehenderit excepteur, t-​​bone meatball est sed pork belly beef ribs ullamco turkey sirloin boudin. Jowl strip steak cow, ground round ball tip pork chop ea beef. Andouille pork pastrami, voluptate meatloaf sirloin jowl ground round id pancetta pork chop ullamco. Short loin consequat aliquip, sirloin consectetur quis officia pariatur salami cow flank commodo adipisicing do.

Head to the bottom of that page and you can specify a different number of paragraphs, as well as whether you want some filler included with your yummy meat, or if you want to start with  the words ‘Bacon ipsum dolor sit amet…’ and then carry on with meat or a meat mixture. Yes, anything goes better with Bacon!!™

CLICK HERE to see the official announcement of this (new tab)

This Week's Fish Wrap (№29): Short Lists & Short Wizards

“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 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.

 

Tiny, One-Man Band in Burnaby Twice Makes Short-List in Far-Away United Kingdom

CLICK HERE to see the official announcement of this (new tab)Well now, this is the way we like to start the week ‚wot?

Not just a British Fantasy Society’s Short-​​List nod for Andrew Hook’s Ponthe Oldenguine in the “Best Novella”, but also a position in the short-​​list for “Best Small Press” for Atomic Fez itself! HUZZAH!

CLICK HERE to get more details and order copies (new tab)Considering the full list of those being considered was massive – and yes, everyone says the next bit, but it’s honestly true – just getting on the list of the “best five” is an achievement-and-a-half.Considering that Atomic Fez is based 13 of the way around the planet to the west of the United Kingdom, and it gets even more amazing. “Right chuffed” is the way the entire offices of Atomic Fez feel just now.

…okay, it’s just me, but all of me feels that way.

While Mr. Hook’s is the only single title to be recognized, obviously the hard-​​work of all the authors in 2010 making their books as good as can be has been noticed, as the publishing house itself has been ‘short-​​listed’ for “Best Small Press”. Thus, the collective effort by all of the authors over the previous year is what made the “Best Small Press” inclusion possible for this publisher. Hooray for all of them as well!

 

Old School Magic-User Goes New-Age High Tech with 'Pottermore'

Right, so we’re probably all sick of hearing about this by now, but let’s step back and brush aside the NEW! EXCITING! HOOPLA! portions of the coverage so far. Yes, the stories are finally available in e-​​Book format, and that’s grand. This ought to mark the way the young folks get hooked on the format now, as well as getting a fresh generation of readers’ eyes staring at the tales already beloved by young & old. All very good, but this was bound to happen with the Harry Potter… stories; and if they don’t hook the young ones, then some story series will do it eventually.

But, as Olivia Solon of The Telegraph pointed out on the 23rd, there’s more to this than meets the eye of just a new format. I’ve said time and time again that e-​​Books are the new and better version of the Mass Market Paperback (better because there’s no shipping cost, no paper wasted, and the RRP is less than printed copies), and that’s all essentially what this is, according to the typical “we’ve got 45 seconds to cover this” media. Lots of copies of the books have been sold in paper, now they’ll be sold electronically as well so that the piratical sites will no longer have PDF copies to shove at those with no money or the willingness to part with some.

But…

We're shakin’ up publishing like The Pastors were shakin’ up Vegas!
We’re shakin’ up publishing like The Pastors were shakin’ up Vegas!

There’s more on offer over at that site of Ms Rowling’s. You will not only have available the books as already released, you’ll have bonus materials as well, just as movies have been offered for quite some time with DVD Extras. She’s apparently written another 18,000 words to expand the information on characters and settings. Additionally, there’s an on-​​line forum to supplement the already extant ones such as “Mugglenet” and permit a central location for people to share their love of Potter arcana. Part of the appeal here is the addition of ‘official extras’ such as being sorted into houses, wand selection, and so on. All of this combined makes it possible for people to scratch their wizardry itch without feeling odd about going to some fringe-​​like message board filled with wackos and repressed adults; this is, after all, a professional and commercial site.

The chief lesson to be learned here is twofold:

  1. you can do it yourself (the rights to the electronic versions are reportedly held exclusively by the author)
  2. you can do more than merely reproduce the words on paper electronically

Mike Cane has repeated called for e-​​Books to do more than merely provide words, but until the tablet came along, it was damned difficult to provide anything fancy, what with a forest of operating systems making cross-​​platform guaranteed delivery of anything nigh-​​on impossible. What with the iPad, Galaxy Tab, and a whole bunch of others operating on three solid programming standards, all should be possible in the new, post-​​PC world of equipment. When you’ve got something as basic as a web-​​browser available (two models of the Barnes and Noble “Nook” can be easily ‘hacked’ to make it live, and even the new Kobo Touch has one if you know simply drill down through the settings to activate it), you’ve got the possibility of audio supplements, video, e-​​mail, coupons, and who knows what else? No, it’s not going to be something you see everyone doing, but if you’ve got source material such as a young wizard, how do you not take advantage of the magical possibilities?  Ms Rowling’s team had started including these sorts of this a years ago, and the tablet revolution was not nearly begun as yet.

Also not yet begun was the Apple v. Big Publisher battle for an open approach to customer data. The idea of them fighting over the 30% of the RRP as the main issue is a joke. Any bookstore that sells copies of authors’ works gets at least that in return for making the book available. Apple could have charged far more, and would be in the same league as Amazon.com, who gets anywhere up to 60% off the RRP for stocking popular books (which is why they can then sell them at such insane sale prices, and destroy your local bookshops in the process). No doubt many executives in New York City and London were relieved to hear it was only 30% that the Cupertino-​​based Apple was expecting for inclusion of catalogues in the iBook Store.

The real desirable thing is the data: customers’ ages, locations, and so on. By creating her own site – or ‘platform’, as the marketing people will chirp – Ms. Rowling has kept everything in her control, and can market directly to her customer base in a broader way possible than were it merely a fan base. This is far more influential to the market, in my view, as this really takes the last of the power from the oligarchical publishing model of the previous centuries. not only can the author write and publish their own works in the same way as an independent band might, they now have a model to provide far more than one form of limited content to their customers.

We all need to challenge ourselves to ‘work harder’. How else can we reach people? How else can we entertain them? How else can we do all of that and maintain the quality of work – in whatever form it takes – and make things exciting and fresh whilst making it worth someone’s time and hard-​​earned money?

These truly are the most revolutionary times since Caxton and Gutenberg.