I can imagine that you think I am just sitting around, gazing out of the window and eating bonbons. Far from it. My latest project – apart from “Plank 5”, of course – is to figure out how to get the Sam Plank books into more bookshops. My ploy thus far has been to woo individual booksellers with silver-tongued emails and then go in person with a delivery of books. This is (a) time-consuming, and (b) not practical on a country-wide basis, much as I would love (now here’s a retirement project) to visit every independent bookshop in the UK. And so I have gone the traditional route.
As I understand it, the majority of booksellers – from the small to the large – buy their stock from book distributors. King among the UK book distributors is Nielsen. They get their stock, for selling on to the bookshops, direct from publishers. And, through a combination of dogged determination, charm, begging and a gradual sea-change in the attitudes to indie publishing, I have managed to persuade Nielsen to recognise me as a publisher. I have a login and everything. And associated with me as a publisher are the four Sam Plank novels.
In theory, therefore, a book buyer can go into any bookshop in the land and, when they ask for a Sam Plank novel and find the shelves bare (apart from in Heffers and Davids in Cambridge, Toppings in Ely and Daunts in Cheapside, of course), demand that the bookseller order one for them. Said bookseller then logs into his Nielsen account, looks up Sam Plank and voilà! there he is. Order is placed, book arrives and reader is satisfied.
What I am a little hazy on is what precisely happens in between. I know that when Nielsen receives an order for Sam Plank they will forward it to me – his publisher – for fulfilment. And I know that I am responsible for pronto delivery to the bookshop that has ordered him. However, I do not know who has to pay for postage; I am assuming that I do. And, more critically, I do not know what royalty I get from Nielsen-generated orders. This is uncharacteristically lax of me, I know, as I am usually pretty hot on royalty levels and all that. But in all honesty the Nielsen website is so (whisper it) unfriendly that I simply couldn’t find definitive answers to my questions, and so I have decided to wing it: I’ll wait for my first statement from them and work it out from that.
Of course, to get a statement I will need to have an order or two. And so far: zilch. I am torn between wanting at least one order so that I can see how the system works, and terror that I might get dozens of orders for multiple copies that I am entirely unequipped to fulfil. After all, in order to supply copies I need to order them from America (we’ve been through this before), and I keep only limited copies in readiness. As ever, I’ll keep you posted.