Tag Archives: indie publishing

Let the Pimpslaps Fly

15 Aug

The latest skirmish in Amazon vs Hachette happened while I was on the road, which worked out well for me, as I was forced to spend five days as passive observer to the initial volley and the subsequent Category 5 Opinionstorm. I’m actually grateful for this, as when I got home I had already read the email Amazon sent out to its Kindle authors; if I had seen it raw in my inbox for the first time, I probably would have roared and said Things I Would Regret Later.

Seriously. It’s not a very good email. It’s insulting and pandering, and when I asked Brown to read it, he said: “Amazon did know they were sending this to writers, right? Because I’m taking a heavy beating from these metaphors.” You can read the full text for yourself here. If you don’t want to read it (don’t blame ya!), the takeaway argument is that readers (and yet somehow the primary audience for this email was authors who publish on Amazon…) need to come together and put pressure on Hachette to lower its ebook prices.

They referenced Orwell.

The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

They referenced Orwell several times, actually, which is a huge warning sign to me because Orwell is synonymous with the little guy fighting against a giant oppressive force. Also? That giant, oppressive force tends to be a self-interested douche. Whoever wrote that email/press release seems to have intentionally misrepresented Orwell. Amazon could have chosen better, stronger quotes from any number of Orwell’s contemporaries to support their position, but Orwell wasn’t picked by accident. There’s never any subtlety when the O-bomb is dropped: it instantly creates the impression of conflict between good and bad, oppression and freedom, mind control and free will… It’s a trigger warning that an emotional argument is underway.

I can’t stand emotional arguments. I make them myself, and I’m as susceptible to them as anybody else, but if I’m being called in as part of Amazon’s own personal army, I’d like there to be a little more logic involved. Crowdfury is an exceptionally useful tool, especially for smaller persons and companies who do not have lawyers and publicists on staff. As one of those smaller persons and/or companies, I know firsthand that you do not release that particular Kracken unless there is no other choice. Crowdfury is nigh impossible to control, and can turn on you in a heartbeat because nobody likes to be used.

Don't knock the militant cuttlefish. Those buggers are small but grumpy.

Don’t knock the militant cuttlefish. Those buggers are small but grumpy.

Which seems to be what is happening here. There’s been a substantial backlash to Amazon’s call to arms for this exact reason. No number of invocations of the ghost of Big Brother can change the fact that they are a giant organization with entire battalions of lawyers and publicists. They do not need us to fight their battles for them.

I am not obligated to go to war for Amazon. I provide content to Amazon, they provide services to me, and that is the end of that. And they are arguably less accountable to me than to some of the other service providers I’ve worked with: my relationship with Amazon has the illusion of transparency, as I can check my stats to see if my books are selling, but I can’t request additional data to verify these sales have occurred. I have to trust that Amazon’s algorithms are working, and that there is a 1:1 ratio between actual sales and reported sales. (I have no reason to doubt this is exactly what happens, but I can’t read an article about ebook price-fixing without thinking, “Hmmm…”)

I’m probably not alone in saying I would fight their battles with them if saw a righteous cause. I happen to like Amazon. They have provided great opportunities for me and many other self-published authors. I like the quality of the paperbacks they print for me. And I love the way their monthly payments arrive on time! If I saw another company actively threatening Amazon, I’d probably go and get my old plowshare and start hammering it back into shape. However, that’s not what’s happening here. Amazon’s existing business model is not being threatened, and many (most) of the points they have made to support their anti-Hachette arguments have been disputed.

Each of Disney's lawyers is formed from a minimum of five smaller lawyers.

Each of Disney’s lawyers is formed from a minimum of five smaller lawyers.

By pushing this campaign, Amazon has made itself vulnerable. Best-selling authors are ten kinds of grumpy with them. And it’s quite possible that they have overextended themselves in going up first against Hachette, and then against Disney. (Disney, people!) Google Shopping Express, the fledgling Google/Barnes & Noble partnership, sees Amazon’s fight against Hachette as an opportunity. Since nearly a third of my income comes from Amazon. I’m watching all of this play out very, very closely.

p.s.: It seems a good time to offer up a new take on old advice. Here! I’ve redone the Orwell poster for you, free!

Follow the link below to download a free copy at Gumroad.

Thanks to the Guilford College library staff for letting me photograph their stack of old Orwells.

Download your own copies here. The .zip has two convenient print file sizes (4.5″x6″ and 8″x10.5″). If you want it in a larger size on heavy paper stock, let me know and I’ll see if I can get it into the store.

Self-publishing Cover Shenanigans

27 Jul
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW!

If you say “shenanigans” three times in the mirror, Brian Cox will appear and ask you why he hasn’t won an Oscar.

This is a post about self-publishing, and why Maker Space has been available since March in ebook form but took until Thursday to finally become available as an actual book.

I’m aware that some of you reading this are traditionally published authors (hi Jean!), and I am assuming that some of you are self-published (are author-published, practice artisinal publishing, engage in the craft of putting out your own writing…Ugh. Some days you just want to hit the terminology with a baseball bat and use what’s left of the pulpy mess when you’re done.). If you keep up with the publishing community in any way, you’re aware there is some controversy over which method of publishing best benefits the author. This argument can be boiled down to money and control.

Money is a big one. Royalties, obviously, but there’s also who foots the final cost of the product. Self-publishing is not cheap. Rephrase: self-publishing where the end result is a quality product is not cheap. (If you have not yet searched for “dinosaur erotica” on Amazon, please do so.*) If you pursue traditional publishing, the publisher is responsible for taking your manuscript and creating a finished product. They are also responsible for advertising, shipping, and the other elements of successful books.

At first blush, the issue of control sounds fairly simple. It asks: who maintains control over your work? If you are traditionally published, you turn over control of your work when you submit the finished manuscript. Elements of control, such as who holds the copyright and when it reverts to you, are (should be) established in your contract. The publisher is also responsible for advertising, shipping, and… Yes. That. Money and control are entwined.

I come from webcomics, and I’ve been putting out content for the better part of a decade. This has worked out pretty well for me, because I’m one of those weirdos who enjoys the process of taking my product from raw, unfinished ideas and shepherding them through the final stages. If you just did that thing where you said, “control freak” and pretended to hide it behind a cough? Thank you! When you’re responsible for putting out your own content, you are your own quality control expert, and nobody’s going to buy your shit if it looks like shit.

There are so many challenges/problems with this I can’t even, by the way. The learning curve is steep and expensive and frustrating… There are products you’re so excited to make that you forget to assess costs (case in point: the saga of the Speedy plush). There are designs you send to press and then, years later, your husband takes That One Shirt out of the closet and now you’re embarrassed that he’d still consider wearing it. To do yardwork! So, yeah, it can be horrible, and if you’re not careful, you stand a very good chance of losing a lot of money on products that won’t sell.

MAKER SPACE was the Jefferson Memorial. Jefferson was a maker, so this seemed appropriate.

MAKER SPACE was the Jefferson Memorial. Jefferson was a maker, so this seemed appropriate.

But it also can be wonderful, as you get more flexibility to work within the scope of your own ideas. The Rachel Peng novels were intended as a series. Seven books, with one overarching plot driving events. With that in mind, I wanted a single thematic cover design to carry over from book to book, so they’d look like a set when sitting on a shelf. Rose Loughran, who does the webcomic Red Moon Rising, is the cover artist: each book features a different landmark from Washington, D.C. The jacket design reflects the colors in Rose’s landscape painting. DIGITAL DIVIDE was all reds and golds, with MAKER SPACE in blues, purples, and grays.

Rose does the painting for the cover art, but I do content, text layout, and everything else. The cover layout for DIGITAL DIVIDE was delicious cake, and I had no serious problems getting this first book through printing. Since MAKER SPACE was the same size and on the same thematic template, I didn’t think it would be different.

/casts summon problems

I use CreateSpace as my printer. It’s owned and operated by Amazon, so do with that what you will: hopefully, all self-publishers–heck, let’s go with absolutely everybody–is aware that using Amazon and its affiliates comes with baggage. Most of this baggage is tiny and maneuverable and needs very little management within the day-to-day of your busy schedule… but then there’s that steamer trunk that’s about to crush your grandma and her local bookstore. I’ve got my reasons for using it, and one of those is that CreateSpace generates high-quality books at a reasonable price. Copies fresh off of the CreateSpace press are as sturdy as anything you’d receive from a traditional printing press, and the cover resolution is high. My husband has a loupe left over from when he used to work in printing which we use to check for DPI resolution on my products, and CreateSpace does right by Rose’s paintings.

So, right before MAKER SPACE was supposed to hit, I submit the cover to CreateSpace and order a proof copy. Cue shenanigans.

AAAAAAAAAW!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW!

I think I ordered eight proofs in total over four months. Each time I got the copy back, there was something wrong with the cover. The color printed dark: the first two versions were purple-blue blobs. After tinkering to lighten it up, some of the colors didn’t match each other. And when I finally got the colors right, the whole cover had somehow jumped a quarter-inch to the left and the spine was misaligned.

These proofs weren’t free, by the way. CreateSpace charges me per item, same as you. I get a discount because it’s my content, but the endless proof-chain did set me back close to $70**. Now, if I were published by a traditional printer, I would have had a nice box of ARCs shipped to me prior to publication, free of charge and to distribute as I want. But I wouldn’t have had any say whatsoever in choosing the cover art, or its design, or the text on the back, or the pull quotes for the cover… Easier, less expensive (for me)? Definitely!

And I would have felt as though I had been excluded from part of the process.

Such exclusion is arguably a good thing. I might enjoy controlling the development of a product, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got specialized skills in cover design, font selection, or so on. I think the final layout of the book cover is solid; it could probably be better. In ten years, I might look back on the Rachel Peng covers like those ratty old embarrassing tee shirts in the back of the closet.

Today? I enjoy what I do and how I do it, and I’m better at it than when I started. Life’s a process, too.

 

*I am not suggesting that all dinosaur erotica is of terrible quality. I am merely saying that I have judged these books by their hastily Photoshopped covers, and by titles such as Turned Gay by Dinosaurs.

**Always figure in shipping and handling. Always.

Patreon bonuses?

2 Jul

It looks as though I’ll be starting a Patreon campaign soon, which I said I wouldn’t do until everyone and their sister had one, and since everyone and their sister now has one, I should really get my butt in gear. This means planning bonuses to entice readers to donate. Here are a few ideas I’ve been playing around with…

The Return of the Joshsmut

Josh has been married eight times (Mare was both Wife Three and Wife Eight… Look, they’re complicated), so there are seven novellas left in the series. I’d love to do these as some sort of serialized incentive program for Patreon donors, then turn these serials into a finished product for everybody.

The Disasterhouse Blog

This house, man. Today–this very afternoon!!!–a structural engineer will conduct an assessment of what must be done to keep the southern side of the house from collapsing. Guys, this house is literally falling down and the problems keep getting worse. We’re also trapped in it due to financial reasons: what was supposed to be an investment in cute structurally-sound fixer-upper has become a freakin’ nightmare. And we’re forced to live in it!So you can forgive me if I load up the home blog, look at all of the topics that would make a great (for you) update, and think, “NOPE.”

In addition to updating that blog at least once a week, Brown and I have been kicking around the idea of doing a podcast. Or, as he says, “I will happily argue with you in public if it means I get to review new tools.” Patreon donors would have access to this podcast before it goes live.

Speedy’s Kids

Speedy has over fifty kids throughout the United States, and will soon have a couple hundred more in Australia. None of his offspring can talk, and they aren’t quite as bright as he is, but they still have human-level intelligence. I’ve wanted to do a simple one-panel inkwash comic featuring four of these young koalas on Tumblr for ages… Think Chopping Block, only cuter and much, much darker. Patreon donors would have access to each comic before it goes live.

Other Stuff?

I dunno. What do you want from me?

Caveat:

None of this will happen immediately. Kickstarter fulfillment takes priority, and I need to also finish the thank-you gift for people who bought the serialized version of Digital Divide before it went live. Which was over a year ago and… ugh. Anyhow. In my opinion, it’s dickish to ask for more money before fulfilling prior obligations, so I’m at least going to get the bonus gift, the Digital Divide audiobook, and League Night (the .pdf of the Kickstarter bonus story) sent out before putting up a Patreon campaign.

Thank you for reading. Please enjoy these owls.

owlconvention

 

Schedule Update for 2014

12 May

As I sit here, watching the pool we uncovered this weekend slowly turn through multiple shades of green, it occurs to me that the year is already slipping away and I should post a project update.

Kickstarter

Big success. Huge. On many different levels. Most of the rewards have been ordered, or are being processed in some way. The release of the bonus story, League Night, has been held up, but for a very good reason that I can’t talk about until it’s confirmed. However, once all this is over, I will be writing up a post about how difficult it’s been to interact with many organizations which work with seeing-impaired persons. Not all organizations, mind! Just almost all.

JoshSmut

The JoshSmut series has been indefinitely postponed. Sales of The Russians Came Knocking weren’t nearly as strong as I needed them to be, and it hasn’t earned out its costs, This is sniffles-sad for me, as sex comedies are too much fun to write. I’ll see if it’s feasible to return to the other seven wives of Josh Glassman at a later time.

The Rachel Peng Series

The third book is taking shape. I’m much more hopeful about this one than Maker Space; by this third book, the world’s nicely established and now there’s some adventures to be had. As for when this is supposed to come out? Well. Last night, I realized there was potential for a spinoff novel from this book, but told from Hope Blackwell’s perspective because it involved the ghosts. Since there won’t be any ghosts in the Rachel books (or talking koalas. sorry), this spinoff novel would get shifted back to Hope. So what is essentially a series of books spun off from the comic is now spinning back to the comic’s characters… and now I’m so dizzy I’m going to throw up. The question is, do I write two books and publish them simultaneously? I would love to do this to make sure consistency between events carries over between them. Downside? These novels are now my primary source of income and I will be hella broke by then. Mull, mull, mull…

Intelligence

As of this weekend, Intelligence has been cancelled. We behaved like sensible adults and let the show do what it was going to do, and now we can move on with our lives. I’d love to see OACET on the small screen one day, Scandal-style. Maybe we should see their version of the straight-up cyborg procedural as testing the television waters for what would need to happen with full-on OACET conspiracy theory sexytime weirdness.

Now, have a baby possum.

Possums are the working definition of "conditionally cute".

Possums are the working definition of “conditionally cute”.

 

Where should I buy your book?

28 Feb

No no, not “me” “I”. I meant “you” “I” and…

Let’s try this again.

I’m now reading on a Kindle. A friend gave me his Gen 2 Kindle to test the formatting for Digital Divide. I expected to use it once and then stick it on a shelf to collect dust until the next time I had to proof an ebook; instead it has created a fundamental shift in my reading habits. Yes, it’s convenient; yes, it’s portable, but…

Okay, backing up again. I’m an avid reader, and run through at least two or three books a week. Until I got the Kindle, I made a bi-weekly trek to a used bookstore, filled up a shopping basket with whatever paperback caught my eye, and paid about $10 for the entire mess. I discovered a lot of good authors this way, saved a hell of a lot of money, and supported a fantastic independent used bookstore.

Now, I go to Amazon, locate the book I want to read next, download it, devour it, and repeat the process a few days later.

You could argue that changing my habits might have hurt some people: yes, I’m now supporting Amazon instead of a used bookstore; yes, there are repercussions for the publishing industry because fewer print books are in circulation. I would argue that an in-law worked in that used bookstore and I got mad store credit, and that sales of those used paperbacks weren’t tracked by the publishers.

I would also argue that changing my reading habits now means I’m supporting authors. There are (enormous) flaws in the ebook pricing model, but for every traditionally-published book I download, the author gets a cut. For self-published books*, the percentage the author keeps is higher. This was not the case with my used paperback habit: I might have been keeping the stories alive by reading used books, but I was doing no favors to the authors who created them.

There are other hidden benefits in how self-pubbed ebooks are purchased. Speaking for myself, I make the most financial profit through .pdf sales through the store, because the third-party cuts are smaller. However, purchasing my books through Amazon or another online vendor gives me free advertising. Ranking is everything; the more sales that a self-pubbed book gets, the higher it climbs in the lists, so its exposure increases, which results in more sales… It’s a lovely circle of profitability. It’s also an indicator that a self-pubbed book is good–or at least readable–as there is the very real problem of the self-publishing shit volcano.

If you’re a reader of mine and you want to know where to purchase my books, use the purchasing service that best benefits you. I will get different benefits, financial and otherwise, no matter which method you use. But if I were asked about my ideal book-purchasing scenario, I’d say: (1) Download from Amazon; (2) Read, read, read!!! (3) Post an honest review; and (4) Tell your friends if you’ve enjoyed it.

With this in mind, Maker Space should hit on Monday. See you later! I’m off to the Anxiety Pantry for some cake mix, and then I’m spending the weekend in the Weeping Closet sucking that cake mix through a straw.

*Or author-published, or whatever you want to call it. Lately I’ve been saying I practice “artisanal publishing”. Check back in June for my hand-crafted slow-brewed Summer Wheat fanfics!**

**Totally kidding about the Summer Wheat fanfics.

 

Kickstarter is live!

21 Jan

Here is the link to the Kickstarter!

This is my first crowdfunding project, which is apparently exactly like self-publishing your first novel, in that you think that every new donation or purchase is a fluke and you obsessively monitor your stats while trying to not lose your shit completely or think about what might happen if you fail (oh God oh God we won’t be able to afford dog food and the monster will eat me…).

It’s not really that bad.

(it’s totally that bad…)

I know not everyone likes audiobooks, so over the past month I’ve been working on different products that would be worth the purchase price, as it were. The first of these is a new Rachel story, where she takes Shawn for his first social outing. Shawn’s getting better, but “getting better” in the OACET mansion and “getting better” in a public place are two very different things.

The second is a laser-cut custom name plate:

Can be customized!

Text can be customized!

There’s NO adjustment of the colors on this image. Our buddy Steve took a photo of a nameplate on a black satin background with a light above it, and removed the stands and some dust specks in post, but otherwise this is an untouched image. We’re working with a local laser cutting shop on these. Brown and I have been to the shop a couple of times, and the design’s been tweaked so the detail glows. We’ve had some of the samples out on the counter and when the sunlight hits them, you have to move them or they’re distracting.

The next is the Cuddly Hippos t-shirt:

Brad says: "We can kill it!"

Brad says: “We can kill it!”

I thought long and hard about using Rosie the Riveter as the basis of this design (feminist icon > and is also ≠ to gang of assassins), but you see that Latin motto there? It translates to “underestimate us at your peril.” So, the spirit of the homage is consistent, and if anybody makes a joke about how hippo = woman, just don’t hang out with that person and maybe let a little air out of their tires when they aren’t looking.

Finally, the badges. I talked about these in the last post. All in all, I’m pretty happy about how it’s going, but I’ll be happier in a month when it’s over. And then I can freak out about releasing MAKER SPACE…

I think I lied. It’s never over.

And this is how you win me as a client

1 Jan

I’ve been shopping around for product manufacturers for donor rewards for the upcoming Kickstarter. One of the big-ticket rewards will be OACET badges. I’ve been looking for vendors who can make badges which look as authentic as possible. Ideally, they would be the same quality, size, and weight as traditional law enforcement badges.

Problem #1: Can’t use a traditional law enforcement badge company. There are many companies that offer badge templates, and you can just plug-and-play with an organization’s information. However, these companies won’t sell to anyone who isn’t an authorized representative of a law enforcement agency. I’m not about to test this, and I’m certainly not about to offer a product as a Kickstarter reward and then find I can’t deliver on it.

Problem #2: Most alternative custom “badge” designers offer shoddy products. Think gumball machine sheriff stars. Woo.

Problem #3: YOUR WORKMANSHIP IS BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD. Let me show you what happened when I approached some alternative custom badge designers which offered slightly higher-end products. This is the original design I sent to them:

The original artwork.

My original artwork.

This is what I received from one company:

sdg

I see that you have done nothing with my original design except applied a thorough dipping of “brown”.

A second example from another company:

Gradients mean quality!

Gradients = quality

I received a few more of these from various vendors. They are all nothing but the original art with some form of Photoshop treatment.

I was almost ready to junk the badge idea, but every so often you find a company that can deliver:

Bam.

My favorite part is how Angry Eagle wants to eat a face.

This last sample came from a jeweler’s company in Maryland who does custom decorative work for state and federal law enforcement. The final design will be tooled in 3D, cast as a die, and then reverse casts will be made.  I’m hoping the Kickstarter goes over its cap, because one of the stretch goals would be to get challenge coins made, and this company does fantastic commemorative coins.

Samples of MAKER SPACE

13 Dec

I’m sure most of you good folks over here at Ye Olde Blogge follow the comic, but in case you missed the news posts (and you wouldn’t believe how almost everyone misses the news posts), I’ve put up the first nine chapters of MAKER SPACE, free.  You can download a .pdf here, or a Kindle-compatible .mobi file here.

Why give away the samples? Many, many, many reasons. To get readers interested in the release, sure! But there was also that little matter of a television series with a lot of similarities to AGAHF. I was supposed to have MAKER SPACE out three weeks before the show was released, but they pumped the show’s premiere to early January. Le sigh.

FOR THE RECORD — It doesn’t matter where the ideas in that show came from. They are remarkably dissimilar to the book which inspired the series, but (a) you can’t copyright an idea, and (b) if the main character suddenly has a wisecracking sex-crazed koala as his best friend, I wouldn’t have the money for a legal battle anyhow. I’ve basically decided to never watch the show, and just appreciate how Josh Holloway is now paid to pose shirtless from time to time.*

What I am concerned about is having fans of a brand-new television show claim that this fictional universe I’ve been working on for more than seven years is a derivative of this other similar work. I’ve invested too many hours in developing these characters, their society, and how the implant functions. So, nine chapters of MAKER SPACE have been released ahead of schedule. There’s not enough of plot in these chapters to form spoilers, but the two tech concepts associated with the implant that I have developed in this book are firmly established.

So, be sociable. Share! And download some free content when you have time! Again, you can download a .pdf here, or a Kindle-compatible .mobi file here.

*And answer a lot of emails along the lines of Why aren’t you suing-Why don’t you-Why won’t you… These are already showing up in my inbox, and I am not looking forward to January. Guys, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s not just one vampire movie, or zombie movie, or even one cyborg movie. The best thing to do is to say “Hey, if you liked that, then I bet you’ll love this!” and spread the word of the comic and the books.

Schedule for 2014

4 Dec

You know that moment when you’re all like I NEED TO WRITE OUT MY SCHEDULE FOR… OH HELL JUST PUT IT ONLINE AND CALL IT A BLOG POST? I did not just have one of those moments. Nor is this my rough schedule for first-quarter 2014*

JAN 20 – Launch 30-day Kickstarter for the DIGITAL DIVIDE and MAKER SPACE audiobooks.

I’m keeping production of books and audiobooks completely separate. MAKER SPACE will exist no matter what. Audiobooks? Well, that’s what the Kickstarter is for. Since Rachel is blind, I think it’s critically important to make the Rachel Peng series available in audiobook form and improve accessibility of the story to persons who may be visually impaired. However, producing a high-quality audiobook is pricy. Boom. Kickstarter.

MARCH 3 – MAKER SPACE RELEASE DAY

I learned quite a few things from the release of DIGITAL DIVIDE. I think “set a release date and stick with it” might be the most important of these. Then you can schedule the production phase of the book, and add some extra time when all of these internal deadlines go whooshing past like doves. Or bullets.

MAY 1/JUNE 1 – JOSHSMUT THE SECOND

The next Joshsmut will be a treasure hunting adventure through ancient ruins (giggity). It will either come out in early May or early June, depending on how well the Kickstarter does and how much time I have to spend on shipping.

AUDIOBOOK RELEASE(?)

Again, depends on how well the Kickstarter does. I’ve heard a high-quality audiobook can take over a month to record and another month to edit.

And then there’s the comic, and the paid work, and the home repairs, and the work on the next book in the Rachel Peng series…

Bye gonna fall down for like six days okay thanks.

* This is totally my rough schedule for early 2014

Hold on International Shipping

29 Oct

NOTE 1: This post does not apply to international orders purchased from the store prior to 10/29.

NOTE 2: I am aware there are other methods/options/opportunities/fish-in-the-sea. I am looking into these.

International shipping will be discontinued from the store until I can find a method that doesn’t screw negatively affect me in terms of my time and money.

90 minutes writing out forms + 48 minutes in line + 8 packages = huge net loss

90 minutes writing out forms + 28 minutes in line + 9 packages = huge net loss

I mailed the first batch of international orders of Digital Divide today.  This was my test batch. I have another, much larger, batch to do tomorrow. A total of 7 international packages and 2 domestic packages were mailed today, for a total of $127.40 in shipping.  I’m rounding down to make the math easy, so let’s say it was $7 for domestic shipping with $120 for international shipping, or $17 on average per international package.

This was not an anticipated expense. I had weighed the packages and priced out shipping, and costs came to approx. $9 for the UK and Canada, and $14 to Australia. The price for shipping and handling in the store reflected these expenses.

This was also not the first time I went to the post office to mail these books. It was the third. The first time, I was told it was now policy to complete my custom forms online. The second time, I was told the online custom forms were invalid and needed to be submitted manually. Today, I went with a stack of old forms, the ones where you have to write out your information, the buyer’s information, and a tiny bill of lading to tell inspectors what’s in the package.  The clerk took those seven forms, then painstakingly entered this information in the computer.  It took her nearly thirty minutes to finish my transactions.

It’s not like the final total was a surprise–I had watched the numbers climb as the clerk worked, and I knew something was off when the Canadian shipping costs came back at $10.55 and the UK costs at $16.95.  They continued to go up from there.  I had a lot of time to think (pulling out a book and reading at the counter seemed like a dick move), so I did math instead: It costs me $5.05 to print each copy, plus $35 to have them shipped to me, plus $0.60 for packing materials, plus at least a dollar of my time for handling because I’m not using that time for paid work, I’m doing brainmath instead, whee goodtimes, so that’s an investment of $6.95 in each book… I was charging $8.95 for shipping to Canada, so that’s not too bad a loss, I’m still ahead by a few bucks, but outside of Canada… aw hell.

(The flat rate for international shipping begins at $19.95. Not-quite-ironically, none of the packages made it there.)

So, yeah. Today pooched me hard, tomorrow will pooch me harder. Nothing to do about it since these packages need to go out. However, until I can expect predictability in international shipping and charge accordingly, I have disabled international orders from the store for all products except digital downloads. I apologize for any inconvenience.

/angry rant off