Meanwhile back on the learning curve

A customer has complained today about receiving locked .pdfs which she can’t print out.  This is a strange one, as it’s our feeling that an e-book is a distinct product from a physical book and our expectation is that people will read them on either dedicated e-book readers, palm-tops or mobile phones.  Presentation of the product – page size, type size etc. – is all geared towards this expectation.

Moreover we feel that unlocked .pdfs would be just too vulnerable to exploitation from people who might want to pirate the text for their own purposes.  We have absolutely no suspicion that this particular customer had any such intention, I should add, but as a general rule of thumb it seems sensible to us to protect our product from copyright theft to the extent that we can.  I would not leave my house unlocked for fear of theft, and the same is true of my .pdfs.

Since nobody else has queried this I suspect that it hasn’t been an issue for anyone else, although as usual I would welcome any comments that might be helpful.  I have ended up offering this customer a full refund on the basis that it could have been made clearer on the website that these were locked .pdfs – which, presumably, she would not have ordered.  Ironically of course there is no way of locking the .epub files; however when it comes to protecting our authors’ sales – and thus their already minuscule royalties – I don’t particularly want to be caught up in explaining the difference between ‘there is no lock’ and ‘there is a lock but I didn’t use it’.  The latter, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, just looks like carelessness.

Tenth week’s sales figures

WEEK TEN – to 0700 GMT 10 July 2010

In the past week we have sold the following:

ALOES – 4 copies
DEAR MISTER PRESIDENT – 1 copy
END OF THE TRAIL – 1 copy
SEA CHANGE – 3 copies

Average response time was 96 minutes, with a low of 8 minutes and a high of 284 minutes for one order which arrived in the middle of the night UK time.

After last weeks’ intensely depressing statistics – as well as the two poor weeks leading in to it – this is a distinct improvement and is making me feel a great deal more optimistic about the future!  Probably has a lot to do with the wealth of very good reviews we’ve received lately – and perhaps we underestimated the effects of preparing for the Fourth of July weekend on our American customers.  Obviously they were all far too busy to read!

Reply from Astatalk

After what seems like a very long wait I have today received the following response:

These are requests. If you login to site you will see there is no download links available at all. If you are viewing without logging in than you may see sponsored fake links. If you want these links to be blocked then refer the correspondent site’s abuse department.

Not having a membership at Astatalk I won’t be logging in, and I haven’t a clue what a ‘sponsored fake link’ might be when it’s out walking. Does anyone else out there have more experience of this sort of thing?

Like buses, three come along at once!

There are two more new reviews for MANIFOLD PRESS books over at Michele’n’Jeff Reviews, courtesy of reviewer Lisa who seems to have spent her Fourth of July weekend reading and writing industriously!

Chris’s ALOES is warmly reviewed here, and SEA CHANGE in similarly glowing terms here. In addition, there is also a delightful interview with Chris to be found at this location which sheds a lot of light on the way Chris works and how she finds the inspiration for her fiction – definitely worth going over there and taking a look!

A stunning review!

Guest reviewer Val Kovalin over at Jessewave has done full justice to Chris’s ALOES with a most erudite analysis of the synaesthesia sub-plot; it’s really nice to have readers responding in such informed detail – it makes all the effort of researching seem so much more worthwhile. Congratulations again, Chris – you really seem to have made an impression on this reviewer!

The review drought is over

Chris’s SEA CHANGE, which has lagged behind a little in the reviews because it is a longer text than the other three, has now been warmly reviewed at Dark Diva Reviews; congratulations, Chris!

We hate to think what’s going to happen next time – we have two texts of well over 100,000 words for the November list. Should we be worried?

Ninth week’s sales figures

WEEK NINE – to 0700 GMT 03 July 2010

In the past week we have sold the following:

ALOES – 0 copies
DEAR MISTER PRESIDENT – 0 copies
END OF THE TRAIL – 0 copies
SEA CHANGE – 0 copies

Response times were either zero or infinity, depending on how you look at it.

Yes, you read that right; rather embarrassingly, we have sold precisely nothing this week.  While we try to work out why this is the case and what we can do about it, however, we are pushing ahead with the titles for our November list.  Julie’s THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J STERNE is with the proof-reader at the moment and Adam is still scribbling away frantically and muttering darkly about deadlines.  At the last count there were several distinct possibilities for the other titles, and we’re still waiting to learn which of them is most likely to be finished in time.

So, in answer to the question ‘Are we downhearted?’ we would have to say ‘A little bit … but not for long.’  Like Mr Micawber, we are constantly waiting for something to turn up.

Finally …

I have at long last managed to get to grips with the very odd Nielsen BookData website and entered the details of ALOES, END OF THE TRAIL and SEA CHANGE into the ISBN database. Honestly, the way Nielsen do things is strange … there’s one system for people with a physical book and another entirely for the e-book community, and while I can understand the logic of that I don’t quite see why there’s no crossover. ‘Physical’ people might want to enter their details online, ‘virtual’ people might prefer to use a piece of paper and a pen – but they’re not allowed to, which seems arbitrary to me.

I will say that, having cracked the code and worked out how to do it, it was relatively simple in the end. Not as simple as it might have been, however, and not intuitive by a very long way. You virtually need a degree in computer science just to do the “paperwork”.

Next hurdle is the equally Byzantine bureaucracy of the British Library deposit system. I expect it to take several attempts to get to grips with that, too. I must keep reminding myself that we’re on a learning curve here …