We’re somewhat surprised to be here at all today, after a disastrous week equipment-wise. We won’t bore you with the details; suffice it to say that we had to find temporary solutions to keep the Press more or less up and running – answering e-mail on a PDA and filling orders from an alternate location – which proved surprisingly effective, although we’re glad they won’t be necessary any longer.
Salvation came in the form of ‘Mike’s big cable’. We don’t know who Mike is, but he kindly lent us his big cable – a lethal contraption which is even now dangling down the stairwell here at Manifold Press’s plush global headquarters and reconnecting us to the outside world. A few more days like this and we’ll have a new permanent solution in place – together, of course, with a dazzling upturn in efficiency!
Meanwhile, our performance under adverse conditions is not to be sniffed at; average response time was creditable in the circumstances at 5 hours 45 minutes – two of these being overnight orders – with our leading seller this week (by a substantial margin) being THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE. We’ve said this before, but we find Albert’s popularity incredibly reassuring in view of all those dire prognostications about longer books not selling; in fact, if Albert keeps selling as strongly as he is at the moment, he bids fair to take over as our most successful title some time in the summer. For such a driven, socially-awkward character, Albert has certainly made a lot of friends among our customers!
We hope to report from a slightly more even keel at the end of next week.
At long last, and after what seems an unconscionable time, Julie’s THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE, which has always been a strong seller for us, has received the substantive review it so richly deserves on Elisa Rolle’s influential LJ.
We’ve expressed our feelings about short attention-spans and disposable fiction before and we won’t do so again here, but it is nice to see a book of this quality finally being noticed by the critics – albeit not without a comment on its page-count. A quick calculation will reveal that we average something in the region of 250 words per page across our entire output – and will continue to do so, in view of the font and page size we use – which is far less than in a printed book; therefore higher page-counts are inevitable. We would hate to think that good fiction was not given a chance simply because someone had arbitrarily decided it was ‘too long’. A story is as long as it is, in our opinion; the author writes until the characters stop dictating – there simply is no optimum length.
We make no exaggerated claims for the literary merit of our books – we think they’re excellent, and we hope you’ll agree – but a comparison with the lengths of more famous works can be found here. We might disagree with the description of them all as ‘great’, but there’s enough of a range represented there to give a clear idea of what sort of variation exists in mainstream publishing. We say again, therefore, that we do not feel obliged to publish short books to meet people’s artificial expectations; if the book is good, it’s automatically exactly the right length. We hope to be able to convince a few more readers of that in due course!
Sales have dropped back to their usual relatively quiet mode after the Christmas/New Year ‘rush’. Our top title again this week was Julie’s THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE, which is selling strongly despite the absence of a single review, and our average response time (due to a query which delayed filling one order) was thirteen hours.
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This would be a good moment to mention a situation which has arisen a couple of times lately – that of people ordering e-books in two different formats on the same order. Wherever this happens, I am going to query it – which will delay completing the order process. I have settled for giving people 24 hours to reply and clarify their requirements, otherwise I’ll just send what they ask for. There is a reminder on the website to make sure you order books in the right format, after all, and the online shop is actually quite clear – each format is listed as a separate item with a separate order code. [The observant will have noticed that .epub files have an -E suffix, .mobi files -M and .pdf files -P; that’s what we’ll go on when the order reaches us.]
You may well have a perfectly good reason for wanting different formats, of course, but it’s rare enough that it can look like a mistake from this end and therefore we’d like to give people a chance to amend it if necessary. On the other hand, we don’t want to delay things and we prefer not to have uncompleted orders hanging around too long – it messes up the office and confuses the staff! So you get 24 hours to respond – and if we haven’t heard from you by then we’ll assume that you want exactly what you ordered and that’s what we’ll send you. We hope that’s fair enough???
Our best-seller over the past two weeks has been Julie’s THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE, once again neatly confounding those critics who told us that long books would not be at all popular … and also despite the fact that we have not received a review for it yet. (Maybe people have been planning to relax with it over the holidays???)
Notwithstanding my absence in the Frozen North, response time for the past two weeks averages out at 4 hours and 38 minutes which in the circumstances isn’t anything like as bad as I had feared!
It’s always the same isn’t it? Reviews are like buses – you wait ages for one, and then two come along at once!
Michele’n’Jeff Reviews have once again done us proud with a very favourable response to Chris’s FOOL’S ERRAND, and also Jessewave has many encouraging things to say about Julie’s HOMOSAPIEN. Congratulations to both authors for impressing the reviewers!
A welcome chance to catch our breath this week after the frantic activity of the November launch; there have been no reviews posted anywhere yet, so things have been a little quieter and we’ve managed to catch up on admin at last. This is all still very much a roller-coaster ride, and we never know where it’s going to take us.
Anyway, our top seller this week was HOMOSAPIEN, and the response time averaged out to a neat and tidy 60 minutes.
We are also delighted to report that two of the titles for next May have reached us in finished form, and we have very high hopes of seeing a third before Christmas. As often seems to be the case with us, there are currently two possibilities for the fourth slot so we are not making any concrete plans in that respect just yet.
An absolutely stunning week for sales, dear readers – thank you so much for your faith in us! In fact, we have done so well out of sales on the November list already that we feel confident enough to go ahead and buy another block of ISBNs soon – this time a hundred, which should keep us going for a few years at least. (To those not familiar with the process – ISBNs are bought in blocks of either 10 or 100, with the prices heavily slanted in favour of those buying more. We were cautious and only bought 10 at first … and had dithered about whether to buy 10 or 100 next time!)
This has inevitably been a week sitting at the keyboard for yours truly, which has brought the response times down correspondingly. Our average this week has been tidy enough at 93 minutes, although one lucky customer got a record response of 4 minutes; not something we feel is likely to be repeated very often, and which only occurred because their order came in while we were already dealing with another!
If anyone is wondering which titles are proving most popular so far, it would be fair to say that THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE and FOOL’S ERRAND have been neck-and-neck all week with FOOL’S ERRAND just nudging ahead at the line. HOMOSAPIEN and THRACE are selling steadily, too – as well as any of the titles we launched in May – and are bound to take a leap forward when the first reviews appear; I have great faith in the merits of both of them! Reassuringly, every one of our May titles has sold at least one copy this week too.
Next time you visit our website, take a moment to scroll to the very bottom of the page. It may not be the best location for it, perhaps, but there is a map down there which records the locations of all our visitors. This is new, only added during the week, and already it’s proving its usefulness. If we have visitors to the site from locations not selected in our online shop module (as we did in the week, with people from Croatia and Puerto Rico dropping by) we’ll add them to the list of countries to which we ‘deliver’. The geographical diversity of our customers never fails to astonish us … and you are all most welcome, whether you buy anything or not. (Although we hope you will!)
Dear customers, you are – almost without exception! – absolutely awesome, and we’re learning a lot from you. Thank you for taking this journey with us.
As far as I’m concerned, sales over the past twenty-four hours have definitively (if you’ll pardon the expression) put to rest any worries we may have had about the popularity of longer books: THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE is currently the most sought-after of the four new titles and at 171,000 words it is actually 20,000 words longer than the other three put together. It’s very reassuring to know that those comments about readers and their attention span don’t refer to Manifold Press’s readership, and that as well as enjoying a good shorter book some of you are willing to batten down the hatches and settle in for a long satisfying read. As we have another blockbuster – Adam Fitzroy’s STAGE WHISPERS – lined up for next time, we’re taking this as a very good sign indeed!
No sales to report on this week, alas, so response time is back to either zero or infinity. However I can now tell you that we hold a signed contract on Penelope Friday’s intriguing anthology Thrace which will be before you in November. I’m not sure whether it quite falls into the category of science fiction, although it takes place on a different planet and features unfamiliar species and technologies; nevertheless the emotions will be understood by all – love, loss, fear and hope combine in three outstanding short stories.
In addition we have the first part of a trilogy by Chris Quinton – a murder mystery set in Barcelona some thirty years from now. It isn’t just the suspect that’s unusual – the cop pursuing him has some rather unique abilities, too.
And then there are two titles by established author Julie Bozza, both of which will take your imagination off in very different directions. However we’ll resist the temptation to give too much away at this stage; full details will be available by this time next week.
Meanwhile we are busying ourselves preparing for the website update and the launch of all four new titles; I’m sure I saw smoke pouring out of our proof-reader’s ears!
Stick around – this is all going to get very interesting again soon!