Week 26

Hooray! Week 26 has arrived, and our new titles will be out on Monday! As far as I can tell (and my brain has turned to mush, so it may not be 100% reliable) all I still need to do is make the .epub files and update the online shop module; after that, all is ready for the launch of the November list at an early hour on Monday morning UK time.

Meanwhile, authors’ royalties for the second quarter are about to be sent out – and as a result we have been number-crunching like mad! One of the statistics we are able to bring you at this stage is our regular weekly report on response time: a relatively sedate five hours 42 minutes, alas, due to most of this week’s orders arriving in the middle of the night. The fact that they were dealt with at 6 a.m. UK time did not deter one customer from demanding to know, in forceful terms, where her book had got to – and having to be reminded about the explanation on our website. We are not Amazon, we are not Barnes and Noble, and we do not – contrary to rumours – sleep with our computers. It’s a shame that some people still don’t quite seem to comprehend this, and are so quick to tell us what other companies do. The short answer to this is that WE ARE NOT OTHER COMPANIES – we can’t afford some of the services they offer, although that doesn’t mean we never will. We are not a supermarket, we’re a stall in a craft market – where everything is handmade with loving care and the staff are here because they want to be; if you’re looking for mass-production and all the benefits it brings, there are other places you can find it. We’ll just continue to do what we do, to the best of our ability; we hope that’s okay with the majority of our readers.

To avoid confusion …

We have been asked to point out that Adam Fitzroy has never submitted ‘Dear Mister President’ to any other publisher or sent it out for review except through Manifold Press and has no intention of doing so – and that the same will apply to Adam’s future work including ‘Stage Whispers’.

A belated – but very welcome – review (and thoughts arising from it)

Guest reviewer Val Kovalin has done us proud again at Jessewave with a very strong review of Chris’s SEA CHANGE. However the comments to the review raise some interesting questions – once more, the subject of word/page-count is mentioned (and by implication attention span), and someone makes the distinction between ‘mainstream’ and ‘m/m’ fiction as if the latter was a separate genre. We find this fascinating, as we at Manifold Press don’t really understand the difference. As far as we’re concerned, what we deal with is romantic fiction in which the main protagonists happen to be men; yes, from time to time they’ll have sex and it’ll be described, but we’re not in the pornography business – we’re writing about people who have other things in their lives than mere bedroom antics!

In terms of ‘straight’ romantic fiction, Harlequin/Mills and Boon and ‘Northanger Abbey’ are different aspects of the same continuity. We’d like to try to reflect that range and variety here at Manifold; it’s one of the reasons why we don’t have a mandatory sex scene requirement. Our aim is simply to present you with gay romantic fiction of the highest possible quality. If we’re not considered ‘mainstream’, that’s only because male-male romances are still something of a minority taste – although we’d like to see that change. In every other respect, ‘mainstream’ values are the ones we’re shooting for – well-rounded plots and characters with accurate settings and convincing relevant detail. That does sometimes make our books a bit plot-heavy and involve relationships which develop slowly, but we like to think there’s a niche in the market for more than just – if you’ll pardon the expression – “Wham, bang, thank you man!”

In fact, to paraphrase Marlene Dietrich: We like a man who takes his time.

Week 25 – we’re getting there!

As of a few minutes ago, three of the .pdfs for the next four titles are done – which puts us firmly on track with our November 1 publications. If anyone cares, that’s a total of 1132 pages so far – with one book left to finish; our overall page count is going to be considerably higher this time than it was in May.

Response time average for week 25 was tidy enough at 2 hours 28 minutes. I’ll try to find an opportunity of crunching the response times to give an average for the first six months, although as there were a couple of aberrant occasions due to equipment and logistical problems I suspect they will not be particularly impressive.

So, as we go into the last week of preparation, this is a good opportunity to thank everybody who has contributed to preparing the November titles – our authors, of course, Julie, Penni and Chris; our behind the scenes heroes Reader, Cruncher and Hooper; our long-suffering proof-reader Thalia; and last but not least the Staff Kitten (aka Scrappy Doo) who has such a delightful way of helping out with the filing and has displayed a very strong (and entirely understandable) inclination to eat the ‘mouse’ …

Nearly there, folks; fingers and toes crossed, please.

Week 24

Still ticking over nicely, thank you; average response time this week settled down at 25 minutes which is not to be sneezed at. It will be interesting to see how this changes after the November titles are published.

Meanwhile, we are starting to make arrangements for next May’s publications already. One previous customer e-mailed and told me it was big mistake to have four titles out all at once and then nothing for another six months; we should have one a month, s/he thought. I suppose in an ideal world we might be able to do this, but given the resources we’re working with – virtually nothing, in fact! – it makes better sense for us to do it this way. At least we all know what to expect!

So, although the lead-time seems interminable to all of us, I hope that what we’re producing will in the end be considered worth the wait. I, for one, am very excited about the November titles … but then I freely admit to being biased!

Not long now …

Number crunching

I had the opportunity today to pull together a little statistical information about sales. I was particularly interested to see whether there was any kind of identifiable trend in the sales of individual titles which might give us useful information as we prepare to launch our second list. Disappointingly, however, there wasn’t much. Sales of individual titles spiked after a good review, which is the kind of revelation that rightly falls into the “Well, duh!” category. Otherwise, the trend has generally been downward, but with peaks and troughs which appeared to be more or less random.

The overall sales picture, however, does give a rather more useful picture. There are regular spikes in sales, which it doesn’t take a genius to figure out probably coincide with pay day when people feel they deserve a treat. This is a consistent picture, too, with the only exception being August when people are probably either on holiday or preparing to return to studying.

Obviously the more data you have, the more useful this sort of thing becomes. I doubt very much whether we are in the business of predicting trends just yet, but if the second half-year is not actively worse than the first – a remote possibility, IMHO, given the strength of our next four titles – I think we are probably going to end up being fairly well satisfied with the results of our first year in the e-publishing business. Fingers crossed, please!

Week 23

Average response time this week, a tidy one hour 15 minutes. It’s been a busier week than we’ve had for a long time, too; advance publicity for the November titles is obviously bringing in a few new customers for the May titles, which we had hoped would be the case.

There is little to report this week in terms of progress towards the November list, however; the proof-reading/correction/layout process is one of those ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ things – you just keep going until you get to the end, but when you’re in the middle it’s sometimes difficult to see how far you’ve come and how far you still have to go. There are some layout decisions to be made, none of them of earth-shattering importance, and some solid keyboard time ahead of us all over the next couple of weeks, but – like the Chilean miners – we’re beginning to see the light at last!

Strange developments

Tootling around on the Web the other day, looking to sweep up any reviews that might inadvertently have escaped our notice, I came across a blog where a writer claimed to have reviewed one of our books at our request – a review which we had then failed to publish. (I will say that her general comments on the book were favourable, too.) The odd thing was, we’d never heard of this lady and had had no contact with her – and certainly hadn’t failed to publish any review. So we investigated, and it turned out that another publisher had asked her to review our book. We can’t imagine why, and neither can she, but we can’t help thinking it’s something to do with the attempt to distribute a couple of our titles on the Astatalk file sharing site a few weeks ago. The other publisher cited ‘website issues’ as the reason for not using the review; we convinced the admins at Astatalk that nobody had the right to distribute our books but ourselves, which certainly counts as a ‘website issue’.

So this is just to formalise what you already know. Manifold Press books are only on sale through the Manifold Press website. We don’t sell on Amazon or make files available through Astatalk or anyone else. (If we ever do, we’ll tell you about it.) So if you happen to see our titles offered for sale in another location, we would really really appreciate you letting us know!

Week 22 – New titles announced!

At last, Dear Reader, and thank you for your patience! The website has been updated, and our stunning new trailer can be viewed here! (But watch out, that music – it’s called ‘Event Horizon’ – will get into your head and stay there!)

We are thoroughly enjoying working with our two new authors, Penni and Julie, both of whom in different ways have made the whole submission-acceptance-contract-publication journey a particularly pleasant one this time; it’s a real joy to feel that our little project is gradually expanding to become not just a team but almost like a family.

The last month before publication is of course a time of intense effort, with layouts and a million other details to be finalised, but I think we’re a lot better prepared for it this time and will attack the remaining tasks with great enthusiasm.

Plus, we are already lining up titles for May …

– – – – –

Average response time this week was a tidy one hour 44 minutes, which unfortunately didn’t stop a customer e-mailing to ask why the book hadn’t arrived immediately. Maybe if we were a gigantic mega-publishing corporation we could have automated servers and staff on hand around the clock, but where would be the fun in that? Manifold Press at the moment is being run from a space about half the size of the average Japanese car and on a budget so small it’s laughable; more sophisticated delivery arrangements will have to wait until we’ve made our fortune!