Friday, April 14, 2006

Hot cross buns

Minx on definitions

Minx has some useful definitions of terms such as 'editor' and 'mss'.

The Never Ending Story

The Never Ending Story (with or without spaces between the words) describes itself as the 'world’s first interactive constantly evolving books website..... a unique new online facility that for the first time allows Internet users from anywhere in the world to read, and importantly contribute to, a range of online publications including fictional constantly evolving stories that are started by well-known authors and personalities.'

This project seems to be aimed at wannabe writers and has some backing from firms which provide services to new and self-publishing writers, so you would need to read the small print carefully -- which I haven't done.

Attitudes will vary, I'm sure. Some will think it a waste of time if not positively pernicious; others will think it fun. The founder is Arup Biswas, and he has hopes that it might become the next Friends Reunited.

Investing in business books

Publishers Lunch a day or two ago had a link to an article in BusinessWeek, wherein the results of a survey of writers of business books are presented.

Writing a book, we are told, pays dividends for the owners of small businesses. Most of the authors surveyed said that 'the indirect benefits -- generating more leads, closing more deals, charging higher fees, and getting better speaking engagements -- far outweighed the direct benefits of book publishing. Even if a business book sells 15,000 copies -- which is considered quite good [US market] -- an author getting royalties of $1 per book, minus percentages for book agents and ghostwriters, is not going to make much, considering the time they devote to the process.'

And, please note: Selling the book was recognised as absolutely vital, a task that 'involves significant investment -- both up front and after the book comes out. Writing a book takes at least nine months or a year and it's quite a difficult creative undertaking. Our survey showed that 51% of authors invested personal funds in marketing their books. The amount they invested ranged from under $1,000 up to $150,000. The median amount was $4,500.'

As little as that then.

Engineering, anyone?

Four UK engineering bodies are offering scriptwriters £35,000 if they feature a fictional engineering character in a positive light, either on stage, screen, radio or in print.

Andrew Ives, IMechE President, says that 'For too long, people have had misconceptions of what an engineer is and does. Remember, without medical engineers, the fictional doctors of ER and Casualty would not be able to save all their patients, or without aerospace engineers, Top Gun would be a rather less action-packed movie!' (Link from booktrade.info.)

Delivery times

I don't know about you, but when I decide to buy a book I want to get hold of it pretty damn quick. Which is how impulse buys come about. You see it, you buy it. Also, on Amazon, there is the one-click system. Very tempting.

However, it is worth just restraining yourself for a moment, particularly if you're an online buyer. Shopping around is sometimes worthwhile, particularly if it's an expensive illustrated book. A few clicks to comparative suppliers may result in a saving of £10 or $15.

What is more, it is sometimes instructive to compare delivery times. Theoretically, all retailers should be equal in this regard. But they ain't.

If you live in the UK, you might, perhaps, find it worthwhile to compare the obvious Amazon with some other kids on the block. The giant supermarket Tesco, for instance, run an interesting site. And yesterday I was recommended to look at another supplier that I'd never even heard of before: Play.com. Worth a look.

Specifically, I cannot advise you at present, to buy any Kingsfield Publications books, including my new novel (see below) from Amazon. Delivery times are simply unacceptable. For the moment at least it is better to use Tesco.com or Play.com, who actually can deliver promptly.

5 comments:

Clive Keeble said...

Delivery times and better quality of service is generally achieved by going to your local independent bookshop who can often offer 24 hour delivery on many titles.

We are a society obsessed with price : the cheapest price is often offered with the lowest quality of service by businesses which pay their staff little better than subsistence wages.

Amazon are trading too many new books "unprofitably" with the deliberate intention of taking those sales away from the terrestial bookshops and thus endangering our short-term viability.

There's a marvellous business saying

"Turnover is Vanity : Profit is Sanity"

Amazon could not be offering their current discount schedule if they did not have the benefit of their third party sellers. This is a subject now under close scrutiny by some publishers who are seeing their books listed on Amazon by merchandisers who are prepared to offer them as "used" at a slightly lower price than the 34% off Amazon norm. These "new" books are sourced through normal wholesale channels, and the only profit for the merchandising supplier will be a few pence from the cost difference between a Royal Mail packet post contract shipping price and the payment provided by Amazon.

Of course, Amazon get a monthly "Marketplace" listing fee from these merchandisers, as well as taking 15% commission per sale and a rake off from the shipping price paid by the customer.

So the moral of this story is go to your local terrestial bookshops, especially the independents, who are guardians of the booktrade.

Anybody visiting my bookshop,can for many titles, get an up-to-the-second stock holding from wholesalers and thus know that when they order they should be supplied with no extended delivery schedule.

Have a nice Easter, Michael.

Steven List said...

I tend to agree with Clive that going to your local bookstore will get you the greatest immediate gratification in the form of delivery time.

I don't agree that it will always get you better service. While an attitude of service does seem to be increasing, it's not ubiquitous yet.

Amazon is not a fair standard for quality of service, since they're HUGE and very impersonal (in spite of their ongoing attempts to personalize your visit).

We've struggled with this, and work very hard to provide both excellent service and the best delivery we can manage.

Steven List
Co-Founder, Back of the Room

Clive Keeble said...

By way of a PS to my earlier comments, I believe that society nowadays expects instant satisfaction.

In years gone by customers built relationships with the specialist retailers (butcher, baker, bookseller etc) : this helped to ensure that customers purchased the most suitable product for their purposes, and also ensured that there was a "real world" community.

Amazon, eBay and many other virtual worldwide portals have tried to recreate this atmosphere : however, since most people's interests and requirements are not so shallow as to be trackable by a computer system this seldom results in the longer term satisfaction which will be provided by a more personal exchange.

Enough rhetoric, time to look after the shop and (hopefully) the customers.

Maxine said...

Well, I have just taken your advice and looked at Amazon and Play.com. Today (19 April) Play.com is showing 3-5 days dispatch for "Lisa's Dad" and Amazon (UK) 24 hours. Obviously Amazon have read your post and acted. (Amazon is showing £6.49 and Play £7.49 -- though with Amazon I suppose you have to make up an order to £15 to get the free delivery, Play's price says "delivered".)

I looked at the latest Robert Crais and Sara Paretsky as I;m interested in both of those -- but probably will wait until paperback. Both are showing 24 hours on Amazon and Play, but both are 2 pounds cheaper on Amazon.

I suppose it is "swings and roundabouts": always check both before clicking that purchase button!

Maxine said...

May I just add a PS to the independent booksellers? I do agree entirely with your philosophy. But for the consumer who is a full-time working parent with a commute, sometimes that half-hour in the evening between last child in bed and crashing out in preparation for the next early morning is the only chance to purchase one's train reading, or any reading.

I buy books every week, but although I visit bookshops when I can, I would not gladly face a visit to the shopping centre every weekend. Once a month is about what I can stand.

I have just come back from a holiday away and for a boring reason was in Warminster waiting for a train for an hour on Easter Monday (about 4 pm). While hanging about in the deserted High St I saw a most tempting and adorable bookshop. If it had been open, it would have lightened my purse by at least £30. But of course, it wasn't. Not that I am blaming it, of course, far from it, but it illustrates the problem -- opportunities to spend time in a bookshop are rare, and do not come at convenient times for the bookseller.

But I do hope that independent booksellers thrive, somehow -- I love bookshops.