Year Two Week One

Well, we think it would be fair to say that we have just had a truly phenomenal week. In one week we’ve done 13% of the business that we did in the whole of our first year – with our joint leading sellers being Julie Bozza’s ragingly popular THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE and Adam Fitzroy’s new title STAGE WHISPERS, and Chris Quinton’s FOOL’S OATH only a whisker behind these two.

Average response time was pretty creditable in the circumstances at two hours 27 minutes, although one lucky reader got a world record response of two minutes – not something we can promise to do very often, unfortunately. We have also had some exceptionally helpful replies to our questionnaire; we’re having a business meeting at the end of the week and will be discussing all your comments then.

Which brings us to the matter of the computer. On Friday 6 May we installed a routine software update which effectively knocked all our systems out completely. (For tech-minded readers, we appear to have two incomplete and incompatible versions of GRUB at war on the Press PC.) Hooper, bless him, came over at very short notice and got us going again, although at present we are only just limping along. The long-term prescription is for a complete re-install, which will have to take place next weekend, so between now and then we will be holding on by the skin of our teeth. We thank you for your patience if this means that our service to you is compromised in any way.

We have also just about completed our link with Rainbow eBooks and will very shortly be uploading our first eight titles to their server, so anyone who has struggled with our online shop system or who despises PayPal will now have an alternative means of buying from us. We hope this will make life considerably easier for everybody!

So, if this is how our second year in business starts, we can’t wait to see how it will continue …

Week 52 summary

No sales this week, so no statistics to report. Which is just as well, when you think about it, because the quarterly/year end number-crunching has been quite a trial. At any rate the royalty payments to authors will be going out in the next hour or so, followed in the week by the formal statements … again, a printer toner crisis coincides very neatly with payday!!!

So, there are some year-end statistics to report instead. We’ve sold just shy of 300 books, to about 140 different people, and our average response time for the year was a fraction over four and a half hours. Our top seller was DEAR MISTER PRESIDENT but our fastest seller, coming up strongly on the rails and bidding to overtake in the very near future, was THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE. However Chris Quinton, with three titles in print, is of course our best-selling author to date!

In case anyone is concerned about our financial wellbeing, we have just about broken even on our first year’s trading which is very encouraging. We’ve learned a lot of useful and important lessons, but there’s nothing we would do radically differently in the second year although we are looking to move our website to a new host and trim the costs a bit that way.

We don’t know how many people find this statistical information either interesting or valuable but we will continue to produce it on a weekly basis. Apart from anything else it gives a bit of structure to our working week and ensures that we are always up to date with our accounts. Also, we think transparency (within certain limits, i.e. protecting the privacy of the authors) is a good thing in any business, and we also feel that our experiences may give valuable information to anyone else thinking of taking a step into the unknown. Plus, we would hate anyone to have any misapprehensions about the scale of our operation or the likely benefits of submitting their work to us; if there are any fortunes to be made they are still a long way off, and we don’t pretend to be anything but a modest semi-pro press. We are, however, doing the best we can within our limitations, and you can’t really say fairer than that.

So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US! The website and online shop updates will take place in about 24 hours from now – early Sunday morning UK time – and we’ll hope to hear from some of you very soon after that!

PS: If you’re wondering about the poll we promised, we haven’t had time to get to grips with it yet and hope to have it ready for next weekend.

Homosapien review!!!

It’s been a while since we had a review of any kind to post – although we are of course hoping to have a few more to deal with after 1 May – but here is Elisa Rolle’s long-anticipated response to Julie’s excellent HOMOSAPIEN. We have to confess it was tough to pick out a headline quote from this one for the website … we were very tempted by a “classy” novel, probably a step or two above the ordinary production of this time (with which, of course, we agree in every particular!) but settled instead for Adam and David’s love story starts slowly but goes deep, which tells the potential reader slightly more about the story itself. In either case, perhaps her enthusiasm will serve to convince any undecided readers to give HOMOSAPIEN a try!

Week 50 summary

Another quiet week; we assume people are ‘keeping their powder dry’ (as it were) for the new releases.  We sold precisely one book, so our leading seller this week is THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE and our response time is looking very good at a nice sharp seven minutes!

Having taken a few days off to pursue things mediaeval in Worcestershire, we are now picking up the reins again and hope to have the agreement with Rainbow Ebooks sorted out shortly.  Details of that will follow as soon as possible …

Week 44 summary

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.

Hooray for Albert!

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!

Week 37 summary

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???

Week 32/33 summary

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!

More reviews

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!

Week 28 – a less exhausting week!

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.