Hard to get (unless you know where to look)

A narrow curlicued Art Nouveau building sandwiched in between two angular brick and plate glass edifices.

A friend messaged me a couple of weeks ago to say that she wanted to buy a copy of Speak Its Name as a present for somebody, and it was out of print on Amazon: was it still available?

It is; it just isn’t on Amazon. The same goes for The Real World. A Spoke In The Wheel is there at the moment, but may not always be there. As for my short stories, well, their availability is entirely dependent on the whim of whichever publisher controls the anthology they happen to be in.

(If anyone didn’t get Stronger Than Death in the Rainbow Bouquet anthology before Manifold Press shut up shop, keep an eye on I Read Indies over Hallowe’en, by the way. And you can get Prima Donna in Upstaged from Smashwords for free at the moment. Meanwhile, if you want my Victorian bicycling witch midwife story Layings Out and Lyings In, your best bet is to back the Bicycles and Broomsticks Kickstarter, which has just under three days left to run.)

I didn’t exactly mean to become an eccentric literary recluse, but it seems to have happened anyway. I took most of my books off Amazon to make them cheaper, but of course it’s had the unfortunate side-effect of making them harder to find.

Then there’s the undeniable fact that the project that’s currently firing my imagination the most is the one that’s designed specifically to be sold in one single bookshop that only exists for a week every year. For Book Bus Stories, exclusivity is going to be a selling point. It’s a limited edition, except it’s limited by space and time instead of by numbers.

And it’s true, there is something about being hard to get that’s rather glamorous and intriguing. You have to know where to look. You won’t find me sliced, diced and discounted in The Works. (I do occasionally leave a copy on a café table or a railway book swap shelf, though. I like letting chance play its part.)

What I suspect is actually happening, though, is that people who genuinely do want to buy my books are googling, hitting the Amazon link, seeing that it’s unavailable, and assuming that it’s unavailable everywhere. Which is not ideal, seeing as it’s not true.

Unfortunately I’m not sure that’s going to change any time soon. Every time I think that I really should look at putting my books back on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing, I hear another story about what a pain it is. Somebody I know has quoted some inoffensive passage by good friend Anonymous that’s been in the public domain for centuries and been kicked off for assumed plagiarism. Just this week, one of the Zoe Chant authors got unjustly banned, apparently by AI, and with nobody to appeal to but other AIs. They’re back now, but really. Every time I decide that it all sounds like far too much hassle.

I’m very busy and very tired, my day job’s paying the bills, my admin bandwidth is mostly being taken up by Cursillo, and selling books just isn’t a priority at the moment. My limited book time is going on creating new ones. (And writing blog posts explaining myself, obviously; but this is a half hour’s job, compared to something that could easily eat up a morning or more.) So I’m just going to keep limiting my editions. And people who really want to buy my books can do so using the links below:

Speak Its Name – paperback on Lulu

Speak Its Name – ebook on Smashwords

The Real World – paperback on Lulu

The Real World – ebook on Smashwords

A Spoke In The Wheel – paperback on Lulu

A Spoke In The Wheel – ebook on Lulu

A Spoke In The Wheel – on Amazon

Lint rollers: or why you can’t find my paperbacks on Amazon any more

A model of planet Earth hangs in the nave of a cathedral

I went to my local homes and gardens shop the other day, looking for a lint roller. The man on the till explained that they did not stock them, as the peel-off sticky bits can’t be recycled. He offered me a clothes brush instead. I said that so long as it would get cat hair off the sofa that was fine with me.

I publish my paperbacks through Lulu. It can be a massively frustrating process, but I have yet to hear of any other print-on-demand service being noticeably better. There are two ways to get your books out there. Or one and a half, really, I suppose. You can sell them through the Lulu bookstore. You can also choose ‘global distribution’, which makes it available through all the big retailers.

The snag – and this has become much more of a snag in the five years since I started doing this – is that the big retailers also wish to take their cut along the way. Which is fair enough. But printing costs have gone up, and so, I think, has the cut, and the gap is getting wider and wider.

Take The Real World. The minimum I can sell it for on Lulu is £6.90. If, however, I want to put it in for global distribution I have to whack the price all the way up to £13.72. Which is a silly price, so I put it as £13.99.

So I was in the slightly ridiculous situation of having to charge four pounds more than I considered reasonable for a paperback in order to sell the item on a platform that made me feel skeevy (because it was almost always Amazon) to make a few pennies on the sale.

And then nobody was buying them. Quite reasonably. I wouldn’t spend fourteen quid on a paperback. (OK, I do spend thirteen quid on the Girls Gone By reprints of the Marlows series: but have you seen how much they go for second-hand?)

One solution would have been to dump Lulu and go with KindleDirect Publishing. Or go with both. I couldn’t face wrangling a third platform, so ‘both’ was out. And going exclusively with Amazon would have made me feel very skeevy indeed, and probably also have lost me a few sales.

(I don’t avoid Amazon entirely, but if I can get a book somewhere else, I will. For various reasons. And it does make a difference as to whether I get it in the first place. There are a couple of authors who’d be instabuy for me if only they weren’t Amazon exclusive. As it is, I only buy the books that really, really, really appeal to me.)

Anyway, I was fretting about this for months. Then Lulu emailed to say they were putting their prices up. And I realised: I could pull my books from everything except Lulu.

I know, I know. It doesn’t seem fair to react to ‘Lulu putting their prices up’ by ‘removing my books from everything except Lulu’. But see above. Lulu drive me up the wall, but they don’t make me feel skeevy. And actually, a company being honest about the true costs of something was surprisingly refreshing. Stuff does cost money, and if we’re not paying for it, chances are someone else is.

So. The best place to get paperback copies of my books is now Lulu. It’s worth waiting until they run a 10% or 15% sale, which they do quite frequently; this ought to go some way towards covering the cost of postage. (Alternatively, my mother has six copies of The Real World which I got sent to her address and then forgot to sell when I was there, and then forgot to take away with me. Sorry, Ma. Do you want to post them?)

The ebooks of the two Stancester novels are on Smashwords, from which you can download them in every format I’ve heard of and some I hadn’t. I have made my peace with their not being on Kindle: when these ones sell, it’s usually because someone’s enthused about them on Weird Anglican Twitter, and the denizens of WAT tend to be sufficiently net-savvy to track them down. A Spoke In The Wheel is still on Kindle. I have no idea why the others broke and this one didn’t, but for the moment I’m going to let well alone.

But what of my principled local homes and gardens shop? Well, I didn’t buy a lint roller. I didn’t buy a clothes brush, either, but only because I phoned home and discovered there was one on order. I did buy a garlic press, a potato brush, and an ash bucket in which to keep the dried cat food. The cat meanwhile, has decided that she prefers sitting on the windowsill, which is much easier to sweep.

Fluffy black and white cat curled up on a cushion

Another #IndieAthon done


IndieAthon is done for another year. I got further through that rather spontaneous TBR pile than I expected, reading:

I also read, but have still to write up:

  • Love/War (Ebba Witt-Brattström, translated by Kate Lambert)
  • Go The Way Your Blood Beats: on truth, bisexuality and desire (Michael Amherst)
  • Smash All The Windows (Jane Davis)

That makes a book for each day of the readathon week, which isn’t bad going.

I will note that those boots let me down, and the water in, during a rainy but pleasant short break in Lille. I’ll have to save them for dry days in future.

And finally, the UK Amazon store has the paperback edition of A Spoke In The Wheel marked down by 40% at present. I’ve no idea why. The inner workings of Amazon are a mystery to me!

“What’s the best way for me to get it?”

Scales, geddit? ... oh, never mind
Scales, geddit? … oh, never mind

This is another question that I get asked a lot and, now that there is an option to get it on Kindle, it feels reasonable to answer it.

In terms of how much money each option brings in, I get the most from somebody buying the ebook from Lulu (£3.40), and the least from someone buying the paperback from Amazon (about 50p). Everything else hovers around the middle, with a range from £1.73 to £2.70.

However, it’s all more complicated than that. Sales on Amazon make me less money, but they move me up Amazon’s ranks. (Whether that makes any appreciable difference in the real world I don’t know, but I quite like watching the numbers.) I don’t much like buying stuff from Amazon myself, but I know that it’s very convenient.

I make more from an ebook than I do from a paperback – but the existence of the paperback means that it’s far more likely that someone will pick the book up, like the look of it and order one for themselves. If somebody found it in a charity shop I’d be delighted. I am not one of those authors who gets upset by the idea that more than one person might read the same copy of the same book.

My only answer, then, is going to be ‘whatever works best for you’. What I lose on the swings I make on the roundabouts, and anyway, writing isn’t my day job, and probably won’t ever be. I’m already making more per copy than a conventionally published author (the pay-off, of course, being that I’m selling fewer of them). Buy the book in whatever way is least hassle for you, read it in whatever fashion is easiest for you, and pass it on to whomsoever you like – unless the terms and conditions attached to your ebook reader exclude that possibility, of course.

On Amazon – twice over


Speak Its Name is now available on Kindle. My apologies for the delay. Some people, I know, have already given up and run the .epub through a converter. Lulu’s support team say that this delay is par for the course; given this, I may consider taking future books straight to Kindle, though it would be an extra layer of hassle that I don’t particularly want to deal with.

I’ve also set up an author page on Amazon. There isn’t – and won’t be – much there that you can’t find on this blog, but if you’re using your Amazon account to follow authors that’s where I am.