I’m composing this blog-post sitting in a warm Istanbul coffee shop. I should be at school teaching English as a foreign language but last night, because of the threat of heavy snow in the region, the Ministry for Education made the announcement that all schools will be shut today, as they were yesterday and the day before for the same reason. Some parts of the region got it but the heavy snow has not arrived here although the skies appear heavily laden with it.
I’m sitting next to a window with a view over the Sea of Marmara. It is snowing very lightly. The flakes are like blossom falling at the end of summer. It’s not laying. A little way across the sea are the Princes Islands. They are all but obscured today. I have plans for those and Acer to become acquainted.
Unexpected days off like this are special. I’m being paid to sit in a cafe and live my second life.
At midnight on 1st January 2015 an EU taxation law changed making all sales of ebooks now subject to the VAT rate of the country in which the book is sold. (I think I got that right.) The result for me of that stroke of money making genius from some bean-counting git who probably doesn’t read is that every time I now sell an ebook in the UK instead of there being a 3% VAT cherry on top for someone’s government there is now a 20% VAT layer of heavily iced sponge cake for them to gorge themselves on at the trough. Hey! Maybe all that increased revenue from ebook taxes will encourage them to start another unwinnable war somewhere. There’s a cheery thought to kick the New Year off with.
The change doesn’t have to be my loss. I think that the increase is intended to target the end user. (Did I really just refer to readers as ‘end users’? What’s happened to me?!) Nothing new there, I suppose. Kick the consumer on the street right where it hurts most – the pocket. It’s certainly nothing to do with Amazon and the other ebook outlets. But Amazon had to do something about it so they automatically hiked all the prices of my ebooks by 20%. (They did let me know well in advance that they would be doing this if, as the publisher of the ebook, I did nothing about my pricing prior to the changes coming into being.)
So I had a decision to make when I turned on my computer to see that all my books had gone from £1.99 to £2.32: leave it like that and let the reader/customer take the hit if they wanted my books, or reduce my starting price so that the £1.99 that I like to price my books at now includes the 20% VAT. Obviously, that means that now the financial loss becomes mine.
I don’t know that readers wouldn’t buy my books at the new price of £2.32. But I don’t like the look of it. I thought about rounding it up to £2.49, or maybe £2.99. Just for the aesthetics of the numbers. Not long enough to do anything about it, though. They are now back to £1.99 and I feel that’s right. I’m big on feelings. (If anyone I’ve ever had a ‘special’ relationship with sees that they’ll probably be on the floor crying with laughter now, or throwing breakables at walls.)
As many who follow this blog will be aware, over the Christmas period I released the third book in my Acer Sansom series. Please, take it from me that being solely responsible for putting an ebook out into the world is quite a stressful thing. I’d rather have a baby. It would probably be easier, less demanding, less painful. (Mothers: please direct your scathing remarks to my agent.) There are many worries for one’s paranoia to feed upon, and to lose sleep over. I’m deadly serious for a change. Did the formatting survive the transition from my computer to Amazon ebook file? Does the plot have any massive holes or inconsistencies? Did I get all the names right? Does it make sense chronologically? Did the changes I made after getting the book back from proofreading bugger anything up? And the big one, will readers like it?
In the case of Smoke and Mirrors, I was seconds away from pressing the upload-to-Amazon button when I realised that the title page said Smoke & Mirrors and the cover said Smoke and Mirrors. Honestly. As the author/publisher you see something like that and it makes you want to read the whole thing again. Twice. Just to be as sure as you can possibly be.
Pardon my language, but if you fuck up with something you’re going to let yourself and readers down. You’ll destroy something fragile and valuable that’s taken a lot of time and effort to build up even if it’s only in your own mind. There will be no second chance. You can’t get those books back that have been downloaded. Any new readers will probably slate you in the comments and ratings sections.
I’m thrilled/relieved to report that the initial response to Smoke and Mirrors has been wonderfully generous and encouraging. I know that I have readers who look out for new publications (that’s a very special feeling) and I am truly grateful and not a little humbled to have my ‘regulars’ feedback so positively on the read. One of my maxims for this second life of mine is that writers are nothing without readers. I should have it tattooed on my forehead. (Maybe backwards so I could read it in the mirror every time I…looked in the mirror. Actually, maybe not. Might be confusing for people who don’t know me and it would definitely be an unwise career move. Just write it on a sticker and keep it near the laptop, eh?) A massive thank you to each and every one of you.
Booker and Cash #2 He Made Me came back from the gentleman who proofreads my books. One day I should compile a list of the comments he makes in the sidebars and stick it on here. They make me laugh. I know that elements of Booker and Cash #1 didn’t please/convince everyone. I really believe/hope that #2 will help to win those readers over.
Over the last couple of days I’ve had the opportunity to read it through again. I’m happy with it. Just waiting on the cover and I’m going to stick it on Amazon.
I’ve made a start on Romney and Marsh #5. It’s going pretty well and just the other day I had two great ideas for it that did something to my skin.