My Plays were selling out around the country – which was great because it meant I sold more books after. When people left a show, and liked it, they’d often ask about other work, other Plays or writing. The key was to put a review of El Niño on the programme so people could read about it before the show, at the interval or even when they got home that night.
Soon, I ran out of books. The next step was how to get more. I called up the publishing house and they sent me a list of prices. None of them were cheap. The only advantage was – the more I ordered, the less I paid.
For instance –
100 books = €5.75 per copy (Plus Postage, Handling Fee and Delivery.)
200 books = €4.75 per copy (Plus Postage, Handling Fee and Delivery.)
300 books = €3.25 per copy (Plus Postage, Handling Fee and Delivery.)
As you can imagine, this would eat into the profits and again gave me the feeling of people making money off my work when they did nothing to create it. For instance, the handling fee was €1.50 (per book) and they didn’t have to handle anything. Just process the order.
I always suspected that the printing costs were inflated too, just to give them that extra edge. However, I was so busy with the theatre company I didn’t have much time to shop around so I took the hit and ordered as many as I could each time. I also went on to publish my second novel Fisherman’s Blues. At least I was guaranteed they’d sell and wasn’t letting them go at a loss. The crucial thing was to keep the books at a reasonable price (I felt €10 was the best) and as long as it was costing me less than that to get them to the reader then I was doing ok. And it was still better than making 10 cents a copy!
Fisherman’s Blues looked like this:
Another thing this company did was sell on my behalf – from their website. Again, they had a convoluted system of charges which amounted to them selling the book for €14.99 and me getting €1.90 in Royalties. All the charges/Costs/Handling fees were taken out of my cut and they took 30% of the profits. Great people altogether. So I resolved to publicise their site as little as possible, build up my own stash as much as I could and sell directly myself through my exposure in the theatre world.
One day I called for an order and there was a new girl on the line. She said the company were “….making some adjustments…”. The manager had left and she’d be taking over. I said ok and told her I wanted 300 books in the next week. She hesitated, then agreed. When the books didn’t come I called her again. She sounded upset and told me they’d all gotten a call that morning and the company were going into liquidation. The bailiffs were en route and they were to be gone from the building by five that evening.
Great. What about my order?
‘Obviously that won’t be fulfilled.’ She sniffled.
‘What about my files? My work?’
‘That’ll be dealt with in due course.’
‘Before 5 this evening?’
‘No. The CEO will be in touch.’
‘I’m not at liberty to say.’
‘You’ve also been selling my books on your site – I’m owed some Royalties for that?’
‘You’ll need to discuss that with the CEO.’
‘What’s his number?’
‘I can’t give that out. I’ll e-mail you all the details about what to do, we just got the news and it’s a panic here at the moment.’
And that was my last ever conversation with them. You hear stories about writers getting dropped from publishing houses all the time, but rarely about what happens when a publishers goes bust.