Bread and Salt #26
Hello again, and so soon after the last one that I considered calling this #25b, or pre-#26!
Things have progressed quite quickly, and I’ll explain my process so far. If you don’t want to know how sausages are made, rejoin us for the last couple of paragraphs.
Firstly: proofreading. Mine aren’t the only set of eyes that have gone over the words (props to my lovely son who spotted many issues, including one absolute howler), but there will inevitably be mistakes, and I can only apologise. Part of the good thing about Print-on-Demand (hereafter POD) is that I can update the manuscript at the printers with ease, and I intend to do that. Commercially published fiction also has typos (mine usually appear on the first page, causing much embarrassment), but it’s an occupational hazard and I’ve done my best.
Secondly, design. I’m a lot more confident here, because of my time making handmade books. I know pretty much what I’m doing with fonts, font sizes, layout etc. The insides of the books are looking great. Now, the outside. Decisions have been made, and I’m sticking with them for now. I am not that much of an artist – my technical drawing standards are passable, but don’t ask me to do a hand. Or a face. Or anything resembling a living creature. I can probably do a tree if pushed.
What you get on the five separate novellas is a couple of hand-drawn cartouches. The open book picture holds the title, and the scrolled banners top and bottom, the series title and author name. Behind is a portion of the map (featuring digital assets that came with the program I used to create it, Campaign Cartographer 3+). The spine placement was the trickiest, as the novellas are quite slim, 6-7mm, but they seem to be all in the right place in the test printings. Each novella is between 20-25,000 words, roughly 70-90 pages, paperback, perfect bound, in a handily-named ‘novella’ sized format 5”x8” in old money (12.5cmx20.5cm), pleasingly pocket-sized, if you have a pocket that size…
There will also be a hardback compendium containing all five of the novellas, plus an extra sixth that turned out to be a little shorter than the others. Rather than struggle with a tiny spine for the sixth, I added it to the compendium. Because all the novellas are separate stories, that’s not much of an issue for readers. All in all, 135,000 words, 400 pages.
The printers offer the option of a linen-bound hardback with a dust jacket (this size is A5, larger than the novellas), so I took the opportunity to simply print the map in all its glory. All map, no title, nothing. Just the map. And it turned out really, really well. The gloss finish makes the blacks shiny, mimicking spot lamination, except it’s on hundreds and hundreds of little trees and hills. Ideally, I’d have been able to customise the font on the metal foil printing on the linen cover, but I can’t, so I’ve just kept that to a minimum.
Thirdly, price. This is inevitably the hardest decision to make. I want to make this fair to everyone, including me. I’ve kept the costs down as much as possible by doing everything in-house. So far, my set-up costs are limited to getting samples of the books printed, and some cardboard book mailers. The rest is my time. Yes, I could be writing, but this is also worthwhile.
So, the nub. Each novella will be £4.99. The hardback will be £30. This excludes shipping, which is the next bit…
Lastly, we get on to distribution. This is where the rubber really hits the road. I’m not part of a giant global supply chain which leads from my house to yours. Now, I could be – get Amazon to print the books and sell them on their website, and I might at some point, but I’m trying to avoid giving Amazon yet more business – their ethics are shonky, and they treat their workers (employees and contract workers) poorly, but I’m also acknowledging that for many, they’re the only game in town.
For now, I’m going to try something slightly different. Lulu, who are the POD publisher I’m using, give you the option of selling through their Bookstore. They also print in several different global centres, including France, India, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, which reduces your costs when buying the books. Therefore, I’ll be offering two options – the same books, same prices, but two different ways of getting them.
Option 1 is that you shop through the Lulu Bookstore. You’ll get freshly-printed books at a decent price, wherever you are in the world. There’ll be a link on my website to the correct page.
Option 2 is aimed at UK customers – You order from me through my website, currently using PayPal. You also have the option of getting the books signed/personalised by me and my trusty sharpies. Yes, it’s extra work for me, but I did want to offer this. Because I can buy small quantities of the books at a time, I can actually beat Lulu UK on postage and packing costs, even after I factor in their shipping to me. There’s obviously a base cost – I can send one novella for £3.10 p&p (cheaper than Lulu’s £3.24), but I should be able to send two also for £3.10 (much cheaper), and all five separate novellas for £3.60 (as opposed to £5.24), or the hardback for £3.60 (still cheaper) – in fact, the £3.60 price point is pretty much up to 2kg of parcel if you want to go wild. And they can all be signed, to different people if necessary!
I’ve played with the Paypal buttons option, which you click on to add items to a PayPal shopping cart. The results are workable, if a little clunky. If things go wrong, we may just have to take it to email and do it that way.
Delivery times for ordering from me will be a couple of weeks – slightly more if I need to order in fresh stock, or I’m away, and less if I’m home and I’ve got everything to hand.
There will be an Option 2a for those non-UK residents who are inexplicably desperate to have me scribble in their books. If you let me know what book(s) you want by email (there’ll be a button/address on my website), I’ll calculate shipping, and we’ll agree on a price before any money changes hands. International shipping is not cheap – a hardback copy to the US will be another $13 or so, on top of the $39.99 for the book. But again, I want to offer this to those who want it.
But what about ebooks, you say? They will be coming, hopefully in the first half of next year. I’d like to try and explore ethical/non-DRM distributors before throwing myself down the usual Kindle route. I genuinely appreciate that some folk prefer ebooks, and it might be that ebooks are the only way you’re able to access books at all. I hear you. Bear with me.
What I don’t know, and can’t judge, is demand. (This is where something like Kickstarter would have come in useful.) Lulu will happily print as many books as you order from them, because it’s their core business and how they make money. They’re good at it, too, and I’m happy with both the product and the service they offer. However, I intend to only hold a small amount of personal stock at any given time, and it takes anywhere between 5-10 working days for me to get fresh stock from them.
What I’m getting around to saying is, if you think you might like a novella or two or more, or the hardback, some indication of intent would be welcome. You can just hit reply to this newsletter, and I’ll get the response. Then I’ll have some idea how many to order in for at the first tranche, and a few extra for stock thereafter.
The system, such as it is, will go live soon, and I’ll trumpet that via this newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/TheFreezoneCollective), my website, and the usual socials. Should be next week.