Publishing Stuff

Where Did The Solstice’s Store Links Go?

Short answer: I took them down.

(Well, obviously. There’s only me working on the site!)

Long answer: I don’t sell a lot of books; I barely sell any. I’m never gonna hit the #1 spot on… well, anywhere, or get people sending me fanart. But of the few copies of The Solstice I did sell, they were only on Amazon. I checked: nothing on Kobo, nothing on Smashwords, nothing on Apple Books, nothing on Google Play.

But why? If I take it off all those platforms that I’m getting no sales on, then I can enter the book into KDP Select, which means I can take advantage of Kindle Countdowns (and maybe I will when I stop being lazy and figure out what one is) and free book days.  KDP Select also lets the book be available on Kindle Unlimited (so people can read it free, if they want) and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.  All I have to give up in return is those non-existent sales on other platforms.

Bit of a no-brainer, really.

Image showing three book covers by Pax Asteriae (Maddeson's Selkie, The Night Fair and The Fair Automaton) overlaid with the text "Revised Covers!"

New (More Blatantly M/M Romance) Covers and Book Layouts!

I've been increasingly dissatisfied with the covers of some of my books, but in a couple of cases the technology wasn't quite up there with what I wanted when I did them.  And in the cases where it was, unfortunately my hardware very definitely wasn't!

Anyway, over the course of several weeks I've been revising the covers, and I'm fairly satisfied with the results.  (Well, until maybe a year from now...!)  Additionally, I've updated the interior layouts of all four books with proper back matter - I suppose I should stop hiding that I wrote four stories, right? - which proved... interesting.

The 'several weeks' in question mostly refers to the amount of time it took to render the images.  My computer, albeit newish, isn't a dedicated render machine; I bought it for playing games I already owned, because I didn't anticipate falling back in to 3D work again. Poor thing hasn't quite grasped what's happening to it yet, but it does the very best it can which, if you give it enough time, is as good as any of the flashier machines with far more advanced graphics cards.

And then, to add insult to many, many days' injury, is that once I'd finished all the covers (and worked out which ones I was supposed to be using for The Fair Automaton) the ebook files kept throwing all kinds of mysterious wobblies.  Images would vanish from inside them, mostly, or suddenly pretend they weren't there when they were. I had to move them all to a cloud drive to keep them in line.

And speaking of 'in line,' I think these are a little more in line with what people expect from the genre. I can't really see them leading to any change in sales, but I'm much happier with them for myself, which is probably more important.  Not, like, a lot more important, but still.

The only thing I'm a little irritated about is that I really, really liked the new cover for The Night Fair, particularly Iphre's hair... but now I've finished, I actually prefer Maddeson's Selkie.  I'm sorry, Iphre!  And the cover for The Fair Automaton is a lot more in line with what I'd wanted - if it hadn't worked out, I'd have gone for a picture of one of the characters leaning over a wooden railing, a scene that happens in the story. But I'd feel a little like I was betraying the plot, since it's the machine itself that's so important to the story, and to North's confused feelings.

What's harder to see in the cover for The Fair Automaton, but what amuses me mightily, is that part of the reflection visible in the automaton's body is actually North.

Well, I suppose you've got to take your enjoyment where you can, right?

The Solstice, an m/m romance novella by Pax Asteriae

I Did A Thing (which means m/m romance novella The Solstice is now available for preorder!)

I should have been writing, I know.  I've got a whole bunch of things, not just Marcus and Blake, waiting for some love and attention.

The cover of The Solstice, an m/m romance novella by Pax Asteriae

One of them, though, is The Solstice, one of the Tales from Rosgarde I started writing in preparation for NaNo.  It took a... little longer to finish than anticipated: I completed it around midnight at New Year.  Quite aptly.

And now, in an uncharacteristic fit of optimism, I edited it and published it!  Well, set it up for preorder.  It comes out Friday 22nd May.

It was going to be Amazon exclusive, like the others, in order to be enrolled in KDP Select, but with the backlash against Jeff Bezos' news that he is now a trillionaire (!!!) I know quite a few people are now avoiding Amazon.  So, to everyone's dismay, I dusted off my passwords to Kobo Writing Life and Smashwords and logged into Google Play Books, and it's now available to preorder from there too.

Do I imagine queues of people desperate to preorder?  Not on your life.  And it's currently giving me a headache because it means lots of links on book pages instead of one or two, and Smashwords never actually gives you the links to the pages for their expanded distribution just to be awkward so I can never track down a link to Apple Books / iTunes / whatever the hell they're calling themselves now.

Couldn't I just submit through Apple, now they've finally opened their registration to us plebs without a sainted Apple device?

No.  Because Apple couldn't run a piss-up in a brewery, if that archaic and ridiculous sign-up process is anything to go by.

So Smashwords it is, for that anyway.

And what else?

Well, there may be a paperback on its way too...  I really can't imagine anyone buying it, but I felt like having fun.  (And yes, I really do consider formatting fun. 😀 )

So now it's just a matter of waiting, and then pretending I didn't Do The Thing because this always strikes terror into my little withered heart.

Such fun.

So if you like your m/m romance with boys who're angry, arsey and quick to fall in love, it's a short read, it has smut (ooooh) and it'll be relevant maybe once a year or so. Who knows.  Maybe if I write more of the longer Rosgardian stories, it may one day warrant a page of its own...

Stack of multicoloured envelopes shared by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

PO Box Alternative for UK Writer’s Newsletters

I’d complained previously about how EU privacy laws and US anti-spam laws involve having to publicise your address on every email newsletter you send out, even if it’s your home address, or risk a fine of $42,530 per email under the US’s CAN-SPAM Act or a max fine of €20 million or 4% of your global turnover, whichever’s higher, under EU rules.  That giving out my home address per-email would be a breach of GDPR is a bit of irony, I guess.

While I can see the logic, kind of, it’s… not something any LGBT person feels safe doing.  Nothing like hanging a big sign over your door and yelling “hey, here I am” by handing out your home address willy-nilly, right?  I’m only a writer who barely sells a couple of books a year, not a massive company like Facebook who, incidentally, have already begun appealing their £500,000 fine over Cambridge Analytica, not something I think l’il old me could get away with.

The advice most often given on sites is “get a PO Box.”  Unfortunately, it’s advice usually given by American writers who have a massive range of variable prices for them, ranging from as little $34/year (£26) for little ones in small towns to ~$150-200 (£115-154) for larger areas.

In contrast, a Royal Mail PO Box in the UK if you travel out to pick up any mail yourself; you’re screwed if you don’t live near an accessible delivery office is £270 ($351) a year.  If you want them to forward your mail on to you, it’s £342 ($444) a year.

So… bearing in mind my stunning book sales, that is… well, bluntly, it’s one hell of a rip-off.

So I figured that was it, I’d just give up.  As the Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock said, “If at first you don’t succeed, quit, quit at once.”  (Pretty sure Homer Simpson is the more memorable version.)  It’s galling though, when everyone bangs on about how ‘every author needs a mailing list’ but it’s out of your reach because of pricing and privacy issues.

Well, I can’t remember what I was irritably Googling last night, but I remembered the whole thorny problem and eventually stumbled over UK Postbox, a non-Royal Mail PO box with a wide variety of plans including crucially, one that gives you a PO Box and only charges you for the mail you receive (£1.20): they open it and scan it for you (£1.20 per letter) and you can decide if you want it forwarding on to your home address.

As it’s priced per letter it could easily add up to be expensive if you were expecting a deluge of post, but as I suspect that at even ~£2.40/letter it’ll be under £12/month, the Pay As You Go tier is the best for me.  There are other prices available, as well as other services (you can pay to have a fancy London address, for example, should your audience be more on the snobbish side) and on the whole it beats having a Royal Mail PO Box.  Particularly as, with the price of petrol (or indeed frequently-extortionate public transport costs, depending on where you’re going and how) I don’t think I’d actually be saving money on fetching the post myself.

Unless I suddenly become massively popular and end up needing a proper PO Box, but if that ever happens then I’d hope the book sales might, just might, cover it.

Until that day so distant on the horizon it might as well not exist… at least this is another thing now out of the way.

The Sky Is Falling, Chicken Little

Something’s been bugging me for weeks now and I’m lacking anywhere else to have a little rant.  Here’ll do.

Lately certain indie authors have been throwing their hands up and running around going “Britain is leaving the EU! This means doom for UK book selling!”  And I’m just sitting here scratching my head and wondering where the fuck they’ve been for the last four years and why they failed to notice the damage the EU has actually done to indie publishers?

Did the entirety of 2015 pass them by, when the EU insisted that digital products — books included — had to suddenly abide by an esoteric and complicated new VAT structure that included raising the VAT rate on digital books from 3% to 20% (since many large companies are based in Luxembourg, which meant passing on the tax saving to the buyer)?  Or the way it screwed over indie book markets who now have to calculate VAT based not in their home country, but on the country of the consumer?

Presumably they didn’t have to sit down and go through the process of working out whether or not they needed to raise their prices to offset the fact VAT was no longer added on top of a book’s list price but was suddenly taken out from their earnings instead.

No wonder people flocked to Amazon, who did it all for them; if you had your own small storefront, but didn’t earn enough in the UK to be VAT registered, guess what?  It didn’t fucking matter.

2. If you are not UK VAT registered, and you are not using a digital platform, store or marketplace to supply digital services, then you will need to:
• Register for VAT in each Member State that you supply digital services, or
• Voluntarily register for VAT in the UK and then use the MOSS

Oh, and, just for added shits and giggles:

3. You will need to determine if your customers are 'taxable persons' who are in business and have provided you with their VAT Registration Number (VRN), or other information that they are in business, because if this is the case, you will be making business‐to‐business (B2B) supplies which will be dealt with under existing EU VAT rules, rather than B2C supplies.


​Bit personal.

Of course now people are falling over themselves to say, “but, but, but … the EU says people can reduce the VAT rate of ebooks to match printed ones! If we leave the EU we won’t be able to do it!”

Uh, says who?  And this is the same EU who, in 2014 when Malta and Italy did exactly that, decided it was illegal and threatened to prosecute them.

Oh no.  What will the UK book market ever do without the EU?

Maybe, possibly, become more fucking stable, that’s what.  (But let’s be honest, that’s unlikely because Bureaucracy.)

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