Hello everyone – just a quick update so that you know I’m still here and still (albeit very slowly) writing the final Sam Plank book (“The Notes of Change”, due out on 25 February 2022). The life of a self-published author is never dull: just when you think you’ve got a grip on some part of the publishing process, it slips away from you.
As regular readers will know, the very first bookshop to stock my physical paperbacks was my beloved Heffers, the university bookshop here in my hometown of Cambridge. Their crime buyer – the renowned Richard Reynolds – is a great champion of indie authors, and he was kind enough to take a chance on “Fatal Forgery”. It obviously sold well enough for him, as he took all subsequent books, and even invited me to take part in various crime fiction events at the shop – where I met people who (entirely unprompted by my pleading or their pity) called themselves “fans”. Over lockdown, of course, things halted in the bookshop world, and when Heffers finally opened up again my books were (through no fault of their own – it’s a system thing, going purely on how long it is since a copy sold, and very little sold during lockdown) deemed to be “aged stock” and put into the sale. No problem, thought I: I’ll simply get another order and take in some new copies.
But no. In a bid for greater efficiency, Heffers has streamlined its book-ordering system and now does not allow its booksellers to make arrangements – like mine – with individual authors or small publishing houses. Instead, all orders must be placed through the big book distributors, such as Gardners. Now, I have jumped through the many hoops required to get my books listed on Gardners, and what happens is that a bookshop places an order in response to a customer order, Gardners passes the order to me (as the publisher of record), and I then fulfil it. I know this, because I have once done it for Heffers – and “fulfilment” entailed me jumping on my bike and cycling it over to them. I believe I fulfilled the order within an hour of it being placed, which surely is a record.
So come January – when I am a more full-time author – I will go into Heffers and find out exactly what I need to do to keep my books on their shelves: I want them to have stock all the time, waiting for casual purchase, not just when a customer orders a book. I think it means changing my settings on Gardner, which will require a gathering of strength, a cold compress to the head, and industrial quantities of Jaffa Cakes. Wish me luck!