Thursday, 20 October 2016


In May, I wrote about Amazon's 70% royalty rate.
   To keep the 70% rate for my shortest and lowest-priced books, I was forced to increase the basic price from £2 to £2 and change.
   May feels like a million years ago. The pound strapped on concrete books and jumped off a cliff after that.


The problem comes from setting the £ price to the $ price, inside the Amazon bookshelf.
   Set the $ cost there, and the prices in all other territories are calculated automatically. In a few cases, showing the price before and after Vampire Added Tax.
   I may be spelling that wrong.
   Once the price is set, is that it? On the bookshelf, yes. Over time, markets drift, and Amazon takes account of this. Looking at my cheapest books online, I see two listings...
   Inside the bookshelf, I spy the $ cost that grants me a 70% royalty rate. The price is fixed in chalk unless I take a damp cloth to it.
   Outside the bookshelf, on Amazon, the $ cost fluctuates. Once it drops below the $2.99 threshold, a book no longer operates at the 70% level. Fiddly.
   The solution is to take that punch to the jaw...or pass the cost onto the customers. I delay price increases as long as I can, of course.


Pricing, pricing, pricing.
   A short work used to cost half the price of a long work. The short works kept hovering around the low borderline figure. In May, I had to muck around with the polarity, alter the coffee quotient, and belay mutiny.
   The easy solution is to take the cheaper works and boost the cost well above the irksome borderline, so that I don't keep seeing books slipping in and out of the changing royalty threshold.
   Upshot. I increased the cost of my books in May. And now I've done that again in October.
   Short works cost £3 after VAT, for those who pay VAT. Longer books cost £6...back to the exact doubled price of a short work, finally, and no fiddly spare change to worry over on this side of the Atlantic.
   I increased my omnibus collection from £5 to £7.50. If you buy all five stories separately, you are spending £15 - and the omnibus should always come in at half the total cost of the stories.
   No fiddly spare change to worry over, though, as transactions are electronic. ;)
   That leaves an unpublished project that's going out at a fiver. On top of that, there's the gerbil porn. I always charge maximum for the gerbil porn. It shot up £1. I was aghast.

Friday, 14 October 2016


Surviving the vortex of blog alteration, I embarked on an epic journey back through every blog post I made.
   To see if any of the photo layouts were screwed up by the vortex. Just shifting sidebars from right to left caused me major hassle.


And then I discovered a blogquake. In truth, I'd known about this for ages. Blogger updated the blah-de-blah and tweaked the thingummy and altered the terms of conditions for the heart of the sun.
   Along those lines.
   Deep in the archives, I found a photo layout roundly slapped by the vortex of blog alteration.
   I fixed that.
   Blogger wouldn't let me fix that. The red warning signs flashed on and told me everything lay broken. Broken. Damn. What to do? Security measures may be compromised...
   When people tell you that, walk off and buy a pizza.
   Well, what could I do? There was a button to fix this. Genuinely. Couldn't believe that. I tried to disbelieve that, but no.
   Fuck it.
   I thumped the button to fix EVERYTHING, and everything became, er, well, y'know...fixed.
   I pressed on further back into the archive. The deeper I went into the stacks, the fewer images appeared on blogs. A couple of items cried out for updating. I updated.
   The major consequence of all this bloggery is that I still can't feature snow on my blog. Everything else looks okay. I revised a few links - not many. Obvious ones.
   There is no inclination to check every single link on the blog. I do that when I work on Amazon Kindle books. Periodically, I go back in and ensure that all links function. But for the blog...you have to let a lot of that material settle in the dust...
   If you can't find a place after clicking a blog link, go and use an engine and search hard. I've had it with blog maintenance, for now. Oh, I'll return to it when there's another blogquake, I'm sure.


Upshot? I reacquainted myself with every person featured on the blog. There they all were...mostly. I had to update one guy's book cover for technical reasons.
   Read Tuesday is no more. But those people are still out there, writing, in the dark.
   Today I wondered at the relevance of the blog, staring at old posts. I laughed a lot at #badwritingtips. Technical changes mean that bits and pieces of writing advice are no longer as shiny as they were when scribbled. I can live with that.
   And now, to disappear into the ether. There, I'll investigate why two of my books don't show up on an Amazon widget. I republished both of those overnight, to see if that might make a difference.
   For this, I'll need coffee. Coffee is the one piece of writing advice that never grows old.

Thursday, 13 October 2016


   Foolishly, I decided to flip the layout around so that everything on the left went to the right and everything on the right vanished in a digital puff of cybersmoke.
   Well. Damn.


There were at least two options open to me, and I mean barely ajar when I say open.
   The third option...ah, but I have no goats to sacrifice, not-so-gentle druid. Off with ye.


One option was to summon code from the internet and use wallpaper paste to fix it in place.
   I didn't care for that messy option. You'd only know it worked or shirked once the paste set...
   The other, painless, option was...
   Well, if you are bludgeoned enough, you'll be desensitised to the pain.
   The other option was to click a different layout. Just hit that button and flip the switch. So easy to flip back again. I flipped the switch.


What fresh hell is this?!
   Much juggling, and some coding, later, I pretty much had the blog under control. If you think it looks a little different, you think rightly.
   Sadly, the capacity to generate snow is much-diminished. The snow is gone from my blog, quite possibly for eternity. Aslan chomped the White Witch in two, and spring returned to Narnia.
   Something like that.


I've also lost two of my titles from the slideshow. Amazon isn't recognising those. Either I fix the glitch or complain vigorously to someone else who can fix the glitch.
   Alternatively, I may reinstate the old carousel. Shaking the blog out, the odd dead moth falls to the carpet. And what an odd moth that dead moth is.


Upshot? I'm forced to include a new image on the blog banner, with the title mocking me as I look on. A Vampire's Hallowe'en sits unwritten as I type.
   Though, as I type more, that will change.

Saturday, 1 October 2016


Gambling laws.
   I researched the laws in different countries. My plan, in the far-flung future, is to host a competition with terms, conditions, rules, guidelines, and whatever else has to go in there to stay legal.
   Holding back recipes and driving directions, for now.

   The main thing is to avoid accidentally turning a competition into a lottery or a gambling event.
   No purchase necessary, and no bets on horses.
   Pictured...boxes with prizes in them. Definitely not lottery prizes. I checked.


Oh, how I checked.
   The competition is at an early stage, yet. And if you are thinking of hosting a writerly competition on your blog, make sure your early stage involves double-checking all sorts of laws.
   I sorted the legal business. Then I arranged the prizes, and boxes to post those prizes in. The competition involves no purchase. I'm in the clear, legally, no matter where the contestants live. For I'll employ that age-old piece of boiler, this contest is void where prohibited by law.
   All of this, to give away crates of loot. Reading material. In support of...
   Ah. Well. In support of a new publication. The road is twisty, and steeply downhill when not abruptly uphill. I may fall off a cliff or into a bog, yet.
   However, the end of the end of the end is now in sight. You can't bet on that. All bets are off.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Today I added another dedicated page to this blog, which is a rarity these days, and then I republished INSANITY. 

Several of my e-books held images inside them. INSANITY carried a map. For reasons technical and strange, I shifted the map to this blog and reformatted the story to ditch the graphic.
   Yes, for reasons of cheapness. But cheapness that serves as a model for later, more complex, stories. I can't cram loads of images into a story and then pass the data-handling charge to the customer.
   Beyond that, I'll say that Amazon seems a bit twitchy tonight. The updated version of the book is out, and I know the hyperlinks are fine. I'm seeing a slight change in the way the Amazon preview is presented.
   Instead of discovering 10% of the story when clicking to look inside the e-book sample, I'm seeing that and a lone asterisk noting that the story jumped behind the paywall.
   Or something. I'll look into the general twitchy nature of Amazon's links over the next few days as I test this, test that. But I suspect it's (once again) an Amazon thing and nothing to do with me. This twitchy glitchy stuff doesn't affect readability for the purchaser. It sure as hell annoys the scribbler, though.

Thursday, 1 September 2016


Books to the left of me, and, ooh, books to the right of me. Or...to the left and right of this blog post, if you look carelessly.
   Those tomes are Folio Society books.

My umpty-year membership of the Folio Society is at an end.
   What happened?
   The internet happened. Passing trade passes on by in the digital age, if the august body's Palladian entrance is guarded by a three-headed watchdog.
   That is not a Harry Potter reference.

How did the weary traveller gain admission to the storied vaults? Through the purchase of four books a year, all at once, as the leaves on the trees yellowed and reddened by turn.
   Freebie volumes accompanied these luxurious purchases. Occasionally, trinkets were thrown in, too. I look at a bonus key fob, with FS on it.
   People will guess and call me Frank if I'm hit by a truck, when all they have to go on is the ID of a monogrammed fob.

In the end, the internet terminated membership. The reaper's scythe had a hand in that, it's true. It's possible that members who joined the Society in 1947 are still, barely, with the organisation.
   But membership, as annual concept, bit the dust. Why buy four books in a massive wedge of cash once a year, when I can buy at any time, day or night, across the internet?

Classics? As far as classics are concerned, it's possible to pick up freebies for the Amazon Kindle at any time, day or night, across the internet. A princely sum of nothing to you, squire. 

As I type, John Masefield is still in copyright and unlikely to be running wild and free on Kindle, though you can trawl Amazon for secondhand copies of The Midnight Folk at a penny plus postage.
   I pick up paperbacks for pennies, it's true. Online paperbacks? Cheaper than chips. Quality hardbacks? Online?
   Well, yes, I am staring at a secondhand Folio Society book for a penny and postage, but it seems to be at the lonely end of a long playing field.
   Online paperbacks and hardbacks, used: cheaper than chips. Quality hardbacks from the publisher, zero owners, maybe one careless postal worker involved in delivery: NOT cheap as chips.

There's crossover between those two distinct and wholly separate markets of secondhand and new, if the purchaser wishes to make that journey through the hole in the tall hedge of financial separation...
   In other words, I'll pay heavily for a durable copy of a classic book. That means picking up a paperback for pennies elsewhere, to fund the far more expensive purchase. Price of doing business.

That's neither here nor there. The main thing is, with an online shop guarded by the four-volumed dog of annual membership, visitors to the site came, they saw, and they went away.
   Annual membership discouraged the casual purchase. The birthday gift. That festive present. A reward for success in one of life's endeavours. Any reason for buying, including no real reason.
   And so. The ritual barrier to the one-off acquisition, the impulse purchase, is gone. No more annual membership. I didn't quit the Society. The Society rolled out the red carpet connecting to the internet, and swept membership under that red carpet.

I like hardback books, as they are durable. Yes, I do my bit to ensure that my paperbacks survive the reading of them. The pages on my e-books have yet to yellow and fade.
   If I'm to kill someone with a book, let it be a sturdy armoured hardback with the power to impede bullets.
   It's the 1st of September, and a few leaves on hasty trees are turning autumnal...
   Where are the books? Autumnal membership is gone. The books remain, for they are sturdy.
   Even in the digital age, even as a digital author, I find it easier to read paper. And I prefer to have my books survive casual or serious perusal. Many a paperback fell to the cobbles, from the guillotine of time.
   I keep writing no more books, no more shelves, and these are lies. Today...no more Folio Society membership. But there's still a website, and there are books to be had.
   Excuse me, while I peruse their new September collection...

The Folio Society.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


Are you now or have you ever been an American citizen?
   I ate a burger once. Does that qualify?


Do you have a U.S. TIN?
   Yes. I picked it up on one of my trips to the distant planet of America. The tin held chocolate, as I recall. Does that qualify?

For those of you thinking of self-publishing on Amazon Kindle, ask yourself if you are an American citizen. If you aren't, Uncle Sam will ask you to prove that you aren't.
   Otherwise, Uncle Sam will snare 30% of your American-derived royalties in the name of truth, justice, and the American Way. Mom's apple pie on Sundays may feature further down the list.
   Should Uncle Sam grab 30% of your readies, remember that this doesn't entitle you to vote in American elections.


When I self-published on Kindle, I waded through the murky rivers of foreign taxation. Luckily I proved I wasn't American, and the cash-grab faded.
   At the time, I remember asking Amazon if I'd have to fill the paperwork out all over again, say, five years down the line...
   No, of course not.


Amazon contacted me today, months ahead of the deadline for renewing the tax information. Would I fill out the handy form? Why, it takes but a moment on the interwebs.


The tax regime changes shape faster than the blink of a cliché. One constant remains. Tax is levied. How does it work? Uncle Sam instructs companies to withhold 30% of royalties due to bloody foreign devils.
   It says that in the official paperwork.
   Okay, I lied. It says danged furriners.


I had to prove I wasn't American. Then, as a foreign person, I could gain from the exemption under a prearranged tax treaty. There were plenty of ways to do this, when I handled the paperwork first time around...
   And it was paperwork. First, I obtained an Individual Tax Identification Number from Uncle Sam.
   Of the many options available, I found the cheapest method was to send my passport to the American Embassy. Opting for the cheapest threadbare path, it was easy to prove I was Scottish and not American.


They may take our lives, but they'll never fake our accents!


Being un-American, or non-American, I received the go-ahead from a tax bunker in Texas. The ITIN arrived. I filled out a stock letter for Amazon, and threw the reference in.
   Nothing happened. The letter never reached Amazon HQ. I sent a fresh copy and I was done and dusted.


There's a section on tax information inside each author's Amazon Bookshelf. Here's the relevant slice of the page...

   Being decidedly Scottish, I am puzzled to find the info reached Amazon on the eighth day of the 17th month of the year. What sort of Tolkienised calendar are they using over in the States?
   It's safe to say that Americans know all about second breakfast. That's served on the same hearty plate that barely contains the first breakfast.


The important thing is that my withheld tax rate is a healthy 0% of my American royalties. My Individual Tax Identification Number grants access to the shield of liberty known as the tax treaty.
   If all this is news to you, go to your Amazon Bookshelf, head into your account, find that Tax Information box and click on the (What's this?) link.
   That leads, eventually, to a piece about filling out all the forms so you have the tax number you'll need.
   I can't give you up-to-date advice on that, not even if you are reading this on the day that I published the blog post.
   Tax rules shimmer and change with the seasons. Research as much as you can, choose the least-painful option for your circumstances, and quadruple-quintuple-check the paperwork before it leaves you.


This time around, I didn't send any paperwork. Amazon directed me to the electronic tax interview. With the information to hand, I filled the e-form in an instant.
   That is a lie.
   I kept being bounced back. Missed the box that validated my address. Red warning sign. My address was not valid. WTF?! It's my address!
   Oh. I have to tick the box that states my address is valid. And here, I thought they'd use software to check that I hadn't lied about living in that cardboard box.
   Unfurling my Evil Laugh, I recklessly validated my address. Enough of this wild abandon. Just get me to the end of the fucking process, will you?
   And there it went. Zap. Into the ether. Done.


   Not American, but planning to self-publish on Amazon? Pay attention to the tax section inside your Amazon Bookshelf. There are plenty of links there to the relevant Amazon guides on avoiding 30% Federal Withholding Tax.
   You'll need an ITIN to claim the benefits of the tax treaty. Then you are in the clear.
   If I misremember rightly, you'll want to sort this mess out BEFORE you start earning American royalties. Otherwise, you'll need to file an appeal to claw back any money grabbed in the meantime.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


Miraculously, I've just added 35 42 feet of shelving. How I did this, I know not. It occurred to me that I might shift one small container...
   And then I'd make room for a bookshelf end-on, at the other side of the room. The shunting of furniture was required.


It's true. I sit here and type no more books. Then I reach saturation AGAIN, and I find a way to reorganise or rearrange available and unavailable space.
   But I don't go daft buying bookshelves. Last time I went daft buying a bookshelf, I rearranged things so much that I suspected I'd created room for two more massive bookshelves when the time came.
   The time came, but I moved that one small container and made room for an extra monolith.
   So, yes, this year, three jumbo bookshelves waltzed in and pushed saturation away from me. For...


No, I don't know how long.
   I recreated an alleyway. Placing bookshelves against the wall becomes a luxury. You hold off projecting books and their shelves into the room itself. The library doesn't put up with that nonsense...
   But the old office does. Easily, I walk into one room. Cautiously, I navigate my way through another.
   One place, I could run into. Not very far. The other place, well, if I ran in...
   I'd need to be stretchered back out.


At least I resolved thorny issues like bookcases in cupboards downstairs, or, gasp, bookshelves in the kitchen.
   A temporary horror, I assure thee.
   If I put bookcases in the loft, the loft will collapse on me in the middle of the night. That much we know as truth.


Foolishly, I thought I'd published this post. It's a post in need of a follow-up...
   Oh. Unpublished. In that case, I'll score through the figure at the start, and update the number.
   I clambered through awkward spaces after introducing new bookshelves, and reached a conclusion. That's a technical term.
   Wooden bookshelves in the loft? Bad idea. Those awkward plastic shelf units? If I reorganise my reorganisation of my reorganisation of things, I can shift those plastic terrors to the loft.

And so...
   Once I added organisation to my reorganisation, I had more space to fill. Instantly. And I moved another eight feet of shelving into the office.
   Doesn't sound like a huge amount of shelving. But to me, that's a golden value. It means I can shift another 35 feet of shelving in, spread across two rooms, at a later date.
   No, not next Monday.


The cry is not about books, and no more of them.
   Now the cry is of bookshelves, and where to cram them in. Nowhere. I am in sight of the final point of saturation.
   Books on shelves. Shelves in rooms. Less room available in rooms for things that are not books or shelves.
   My handy tape is sitting here, and I believe I can squeeze two more giant bookshelves in, if I take the chance on a measurement.
   It's taking that chance that'll kill me. Bookalanche is not a word you want to use on your epitaph.