The .epub ogre – defeated at last!

So, our techie genius came round last night and seems to have solved the .epub problem at a stroke.  In the end the root cause was incompatibility between two different sets of software, one of which was OpenOffice Writer.  Being a bit of a fanatic for Open Source software, techie genius submitted a bug report to the developers and was rather taken aback to be royally snubbed  – not something which is supposed to happen – with the response that basically they knew all about the fault but had absolutely no intention of fixing it.  Well, all right then.

He wrote a brief bit of code which really ought to have done the trick; it was a nice, elegant little macguffin and a pleasure to use, but unfortunately it didn’t quite have the desired effect.  It improved the situation without actually resolving it completely.  Sigh.

In the end, what we decided  – rather than trying to make software do what it obviously wasn’t designed to do – was that we’d find some software that actually did what we wanted but still had impeccable Open Source credentials; hence Abiword, which I suspect neither of us had ever heard of until yesterday.  So far, however, we’re liking what it does.

So, this is just a shout-out to anyone who has had .epub files from us and is not happy with them.  E-mail eaditter (at) manifoldpress (dot) co (dot) uk if you would like a replacement file or files.  We aren’t promising that they will be absolutely perfect, but we think they will be a great deal better than the ones you previously received.

Now, next problem please?

Fourth week’s sales figures

WEEK FOUR – to 0700 GMT 29 May 2010

In the past week we have sold the following:

ALOES – 5 copies
DEAR MISTER PRESIDENT – 1 copy
END OF THE TRAIL – 1 copy
SEA CHANGE – 3 copies

Average response time was two hours and three minutes – maximum 9 hours 46 minutes, minimum 8 minutes – and we have broadened our horizons still further with the addition of a customer in our ninth different country, Austria.

We are also now pretty close to having a solution to the .epub problem at last – and our techie genius has almost got a bathroom and kitchen into the bargain!

Another great review

Congratulations to Jane, who is obviously our star performer at the moment, for another superb review of END OF THE TRAIL, this time from Literary Nymphs. At this rate we’re going to run out of space to add all the admiring quotes to the website!!!

This is also a good moment to mention that we have been fortunate enough to secure Jane’s new work, ABOVE ALL, for our November list. No details or teasers yet, though; all I will say is that although the setting is very different this time I think you will find the quality is exactly what you would expect from Jane, and that it’s been a real pleasure to watch this text developing.

Third week’s sales figures

WEEK THREE – to 0700 GMT 22 May 2010

In the past week we have sold the following:

ALOES – 2 copies
DEAR MISTER PRESIDENT – 2 copies
END OF THE TRAIL – 4 copies
SEA CHANGE – 4 copies

A quieter week as you’ll see, no doubt because we did not have a major review until the end of the week.

We also added a customer in an eighth different country, The Netherlands.

Average response time was back to a more reasonable three hours and two minutes, with the longest time taken being five hours and fifty three minutes and the shortest the thirty minutes referred to in yesterday’s entry.  Two other orders were also responded to in less than an hour.

– – – – –

Congratulations to Chris for a very encouraging review of SEA CHANGE on Literary Nymphs. Having had it suggested to us that some of our titles are too long, it’s especially rewarding to hear of a reader who enjoyed the gentler pace and the slower character development in Chris’s story – something we here at Manifold are particularly fond of. (Also reassuring for the future, as there are a couple of much longer scripts in development at the moment.)

Response times

I have just responded to an order I received half an hour ago. (Sinner that I am, I answered another e-mail first.)

In that half-hour, I received three follow-up e-mails from the purchaser – and a telephone call asking where her e-book was. In one of the e-mails she accused me of ‘lousy customer service’.

I did point out that the website specifies a maximum response time of 48-72 hours. The day before yesterday I undertook a seven hour journey, during which nobody was processing orders at all – and for the occasional eight hours or so, I do like to sleep.

I realise that other web publishers do things differently, but we are unable to offer downloadable files; it’s simply not a system that would be cost-effective for us at the moment, given the small volume of our sales.

Orders are processed at the earliest possible moment. For some recent customers this has been 24 hours or more, and they have not complained. We make it clear that we are unable to respond instantaneously, and had hoped that customers would understand why this must be the case.

I was also obliged to advise this particular customer that while I was talking to her on the telephone I could not also be processing her order. We are not Waterstones or Barnes and Noble and we never will be, but we are doing our best with the resources available to us.

This needs to be made clearer on the website, I feel.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible …

For the past week Manifold Press has been operating from a friend’s laptop 200 miles from home, but has now returned to base. A gratifying number of orders were received during that time, and so was our third review, which we were able to mention here but have only just had the opportunity of adding to the website.

There has been a slight hold-up with registering the ISBNs for ALOES, END OF THE TRAIL and SEA CHANGE, largely due to the odd way Nielsen seem to do things. Their website isn’t all that clear, and the spelling mistakes on it don’t exactly inspire one with confidence. However we are now trying again, and we’ll see what happens this time.

We have three more scripts under consideration for future lists, too; one will need more work than we can reasonably hope to have done in time for November, so it is looking a strong possibility for next May; the other two are with our reader at the moment and we expect to receive her comments in due course.

One question has been intriguing us, however, since we started processing orders at the beginning of the month. Sometimes, people order three of our titles but not the fourth – and it’s always a puzzle to work out why they’ve chosen to omit one. Are they choosing on length, or price? But it isn’t always the same book, of course; each of our titles in turn has been omitted from some purchaser’s order. As they are so diverse in subject matter, it’s difficult to form any conclusions about what it is people don’t like about them (or, rather, don’t expect to like). And. admittedly, if we had more titles on offer we wouldn’t have time to worry about little matters like this – we’d be far too busy with other things. However we must confess that in our idle moments we really wish we knew the answer!!!

Second week’s sales figures

WEEK TWO – to 0700 GMT 15 May 2010

In the past week we have sold the following:

ALOES – 3 copies
DEAR MISTER PRESIDENT – 8 copies
END OF THE TRAIL – 10 copies
SEA CHANGE – 3 copies

We have also added customers in three new countries, Denmark, Finland and the Russian Federation.

I can’t give you response time details this time as I am away from my own desk – currently working on a terminal in a public library – but these will certainly have come down, as we had one of 18 hours 42 minutes in the week.

I can also report a second great review for Jane’s END OF THE TRAIL, which is to be found here. Congratulations again to Jane on impressing so many reviewers!

We are still looking around for an alternative to PayPal; this seems to be taking longer than one might reasonably have expected, but we want to make sure that we get it right. We are not looking for anything that wants a signing-up fee or a large monthly fee; anything that takes a manageable percentage on each transaction would work for us. We also have enquiries out with a potential agent in the USA who may be willing to handle credit card purchases for us, but unfortunately such decisions are not arrived at overnight and it may still take another week or two to sort out. Likewise, the .epub spectre is still haunting us; we need one more line of code in our work-around, but as our technical genius is up to his ears in having a new bathroom and kitchen installed at the moment and it is impossible to schedule any time with him this is also going to have to wait. Rome was not built in a day, alas. (Even they needed to take time out to install kitchens and bathrooms!)

[EDITED 20 May when I got home and did a recount of orders received while I was away.]

[ETA: To complete the statistical information, average response time was 6 hours 10 minutes for the week.]

Our second review

Jane’s wonderful END OF THE TRAIL has been reviewed by Rainbow Reviews who seemed to have loved it just as much as we did, so many hearty congratulations to Jane!

– – – – –

The .epub creation problem has now been resolved to our almost complete satisfaction, and we’ve had good reports back from .epub customers. As a result, we’ve taken the warning notice off the online shop. There is still a slight issue with blocks of text in italics, but this is nothing that can be solved without having our technical genius completely re-engineer the software – which, in fairness, he is quite willing to do, but it is not the sort of thing which can be done overnight. We’ll leave it with him, and hope for a solution in due course.