Our first review

This morning, MANIFOLD PRESS’s first-ever review hit the wires.

See the review here.

This reviewer’s enthusiasm is almost overwhelming, and it’s going to leave us with a bit of a tough act to follow. Nevertheless this looks like a very good moment to thank everyone who has been involved in launching MANIFOLD PRESS for all their hard work and dedication on the journey; I’m not sure that we ever really imagined that this moment would arrive!

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To revert to sordid business matters briefly, some buyers have expressed reservations about PayPal. Since alternative payment methods can be very expensive, we are looking into the idea of having a US agent/distributor handle credit card transactions on our behalf. Hopefully something should be sorted out over the weekend.

Okay, I spoke too soon.

I thought the ‘Payment method temporarily unavailable’ problem was solved when an order came through safely last night, but this morning there’s another complaint that someone has received the message again.  It looks as if it is confined to the USA/Canada and I’m pretty sure it’s PayPal’s problem, but as I wasn’t able to post to their user forum again this morning (surely a clue in itself) I tried the 24 hour helpline for the e-shop software instead.  I’m waiting for them to get back to me but she was quite confident it wasn’t a fault with their system.

I know other people have had hassles with PayPal in the past but this is the first I’ve encountered.  The alternative services are just too expensive for us at this stage in our development, although no doubt we will be able to add one or other in a few months’ time.  Let’s hope PayPal can get this sorted out before it loses us too many sales.

PayPal problems

Two people reported yesterday that they were having trouble making payments to Manifold Press via PayPal.  On each occasion I checked the whole system through and could see nothing wrong; the test transaction went through perfectly.  (Alas, if all our test transactions were real, sales would already be through the roof!)

The only conclusion I can come to is that there was a problem with PayPal itself yesterday, specifically in North America.  There are alternate payment methods we can sign up to at a later stage, when we have more disposable income, but at the moment we are not in a position to pay either the set-up charge or the monthly fee.  For now, we will just have to rely on PayPal, and obviously we need it to be working properly!

Our first few real orders went through without a hitch, so I’m hoping this is only a temporary problem which will soon clear itself.  If not, then we’ll need to investigate more thoroughly.  All I can say at this stage is that Manifold’s set-up has a clean bill of health; the fault, whatever it is, is definitely not at our end.

P.S.  All Manifold Press orders received so far have been sent out, usually within an hour of receipt (not a record we can promise to maintain).  If yours seems not to have arrived, please check your ‘Spam’ bin to make sure your e-mail software has not sorted it into the wrong place!!!

P.P.S:  As a result of this little local difficulty I have discovered that there is a very useful PayPal users forum where such questions can be answered.  As far as I can see, this should only be a small local, technical problem which hopefully has been cleared up by now.  Time will tell, I suppose.

Sorted it out …

… can I go to sleep now, please?

Thank you to one of our authors, Jane Elliot, for spotting that the ‘Order’ buttons were not working on the website – a fairly fundamental part of the process.  It didn’t take long to fix, once I got home from scoffing chocolate fudge cake and other delights with a couple of my fellow-conspirators.  (Waves to Chris and Julie!)  If anyone’s concerned, the website now connects to the online shop the way it should have done in the first place.  Well, progress is achieved by trial and error – and now that the problem’s solved, I’m awarding myself a bit of a rest!

Nothing penultimate about this one …

Dear Friends and Fellow-sufferers,

As of a few minutes ago MANIFOLD PRESS is live; the revised website and online shop have both been uploaded satisfactorily, and we’re now open for business.  Whether it was worth all the fuss I’ve been making about it these past several months, I’ll leave it for you to judge.

As for me, I’m rewarding myself with a nice hot shower, last night’s episode of Ashes to Ashes, and later in the day a celebration lunch with two of my co-conspirators – the only two who live within a couple of hours’ journey!

Any orders that happen to come in during my absence will be processed either this evening or tomorrow morning; things tend to get done very early in the day around here, as you may have noticed.

Let me just add one final plea for anyone using the system to let us know if they find any glitches or inconsistencies – other than the problem with the .epub creation software, which we’re working towards fixing – or anything else we should be dealing with.  We’ve done our best so far, but this is a big project and it’s quite possible there are things we’ve missed; we’ll appreciate being told about them.

Now, off you go and enjoy yourselves in our friendly little world – and don’t forget to tell us what you think of our titles!

Ready, Steady, Go!

I’ve just put the finishing touches to the last .epub file.  It’s not without its faults – the software seems to get very confused whenever there are italics in the text, it just doesn’t like them.  Nevertheless we’ve done our best for now, and we’re working on finding a proper solution.  Anyone who buys an .epub file and isn’t satisfied with it will be entitled to a free upgrade as soon as we’ve solved the problem.

All four titles have now gone out for review, and we’re hoping to get some responses in the next few days.

Our loyal proof-reader phoned this afternoon, bless her, to wish us luck for the launch and to say how much she’d enjoyed working with us.  We’re going to let her take a month off, and then start her with the first title for the November list – Julie Bozza’s 165,000 word blockbuster ‘The Definitive Albert J. Sterne’ (affectionately known simply as ‘Albert’).

And, having now disposed of all the major tasks on our list, we are down to completing the paperwork for the next three ISBNs, organising deposit copies for the British Library (!!!), and planning our celebration lunch on Saturday.  This latter has caused almost as much anxiety and heart-searching as the rest of the Press project put together.

Sadly, we didn’t make a note of the date when the inspiration for Manifold Press first struck, and the best I can say is that it was about eleven months ago.  Well, it’s been quite a long and at times difficult road, but the end is in sight at last.

Fingers crossed, please.  (I type better that way anyway.)

On the home stretch …

The last script has come back from our hard-working proof-reader and been forwarded to the writer; to judge from the time stamp, 01.42, it was sent in the middle of the night my time – and since our proof-reader is at least on the same continent as us rather than on the far side of the world this means she was working very late.  I’m mentioning this so that everybody will know how much we appreciate her efforts – although we have also, of course, said that to her.

I had a bit of a shock the other day; Penelope Friday, who interviewed me a few weeks ago, asked for a picture to go with the interview.  Scary stuff – I have been known to crack the lens glass of cameras at 100 paces.  Fortunately, however, it transpired that a copy of the Press logo would do instead, and so I sent her one.  Narrow escape there, world!

Someone asked me this morning if I would be posting links to whatever reviews we receive and the answer is yes, of course.  Links will appear here in the first instance and will later be added to the website, although I will also make sure that the author is aware of them.  In addition I have promised one of our authors that for the first three months, until the first royalty statements are sent out, I will be posting weekly sales figures here on the LJ.

Administration-wise, the only remaining chore is to send off the relevant ISBN paperwork on ‘Aloes,’, Sea Change’ and ‘End of the Trail’ – which can’t be completed until I have a definitive page-count on ‘Sea Change’.  Then I get to work out how the heck to send deposit copies to the British Library.

Meanwhile, we’ve had another very interesting submission for the November list which is currently with our in-house reader, so it looks as if our continuing existence is guaranteed.  Not bad for a project that started life as an idle remark over a cafe lunch about a year ago, eh?

The online shop software has been defeated at last!

I have just succeeded in wrestling it to the ground and giving it the thrashing it so richly deserved!  We really are in the final stages of preparation for launching now; one script to come back from the proof-reader, two e-book files to be generated from it, and then the website and the online shop can be uploaded and in one week’s time MANIFOLD PRESS will be open for business.

I am having a lot of difficulty deciding whether that’s the tough part of the exercise more or less over, or whether the tough part is still to come.  It’s no good going to a huge amount of time and trouble to produce something if, in the end, people don’t show any interest in buying it.  That, of course, is the big unknown; watch this space.

Setting up the online shop …

… is a seriously freaky business.  You have to go through a whole list of countries to decide where you want your products to be available and where you are willing to accept PayPal payments from.  One at a time.  It involves making all sorts of decisions about places like Azerbaijan and the Heard Islands, and when you find you’re clicking Hong Kong, Hungary and Ireland all in one go it starts to get pretty surreal.  Will we ever have sales in Hong Kong, Hungary or Ireland, I ask myself?  But then, if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years it’s that the target audience is wider and infinitely more diverse than my poor imagination can possibly comprehend, and that the world is getting smaller every day.  So what about Barbuda and Burkina Faso, then?  This is the kind of dilemma I thought I’d never, ever encounter.

Tomorrow, the world!