State of the nation
It might be the nice-smelling daffodils on my desk that fills me with an urge to spring clean, but the house is looking pretty tidy, so I shall direct my urges in Snowbooks' direction. Here is an update on what's going on, where we currently are with a bunch of things, and so on. Do shout with questions. If nothing else, we pride ourselves on openness, even when it really hurts (remember this?) so here goes, a warts and all update. You wouldn't find the following sort of thing on any other publishers' website. Bet you 20. It's not so much that I took my eye off the ball during the events of the last year (divorce, fling, revelations, shutting down Onix Central, Ro's manky ear and so on) - more that the bloody ball kept bouncing around so fast it was tricky to keep track of it. Things are a lot more settled now. I still have a very busy work schedule, because I work two jobs, essentially: Snowbooks, and Snowangels. This isn't entirely through necessity, although I do have to pay the bills - I love the technical data-oriented work that Snowangels brings. I've been getting more and more enjoyment from code: it's certain, conforms to rules, brings order. It doesn't take a psychology graduate to see why I might find that sort of thing attractive. So one of my projects at the moment is to develop in Ruby on Rails. More on that another time, perhaps. On the plus side, Ro is now pretty much full-time at a lovely pre-school, where he has adorable little friends, his own peg, and where he charms the ladies and postman. And things in general are looking up up up. Anyway, so. Nightmare year, in summary, and a busy work schedule.
Which is why it's handy that we did all the work we've done over the years to automate as much of the publishing process as we can. The last major outstanding area is the production of eBooks, which we're working on now. Many other things we have down pat: typesetting, print file production, sales, website and catalogue production etc. Regarding sales, we work with the inestimably wonderful Allison and Busby team who manage our sales and chase me at the relevant times for the relevant things.
With print, though, things have been more tricky. We had a pretty major hiccup recently with the demise of our sole printers JF Print earlier this year. The printers formerly known as Haynes, based in Sparkford, went into administration, with a bunch of our books on the line. It didn't take too long to find a new printer (CPI), but it did take a while to figure out what stock had been printed, what needed reprinting, what files the new printer needed etc. I'm pleased to report that everything that should be at the printer is at the printer, and proofs are on the way to me.
I took that bookkeeping and accounting course to get more expert with the actual gubbins of running a business. I've had a lot of hands on practice, obviously, over the years, but I really wanted to know - rather than hope I knew - what I was doing. 93%. That's all I'm saying.
And to that end, I can report that our financial position is, well, let's call it 'fine'. You're only as good as your last month's sales, of course, but just at the moment we have about twenty grand in the bank. We owe about nine grand to various suppliers over the next couple of months. And we are currently owed about twenty grand from book sales, and an additional bunch from other sources such as foreign rights.
Snowangels sales go through the Snowbooks accounts, but they are not included in these figures.
Another area of ongoing work is royalties. The last two royalty runs, as some of my authors will no doubt attest, have been a bloody nightmare. This is because I migrated to a new system - one Onix Central Publishing Manager (which lives on, it appears, as The Book Engine, but not with our blessing. In fact, Rob, I recall that you came up with that name, didn't you? Which is why you and I already owned the domain name TheBookEngine.co.uk. Tsk). The system works for title management but when I started to use it, I discovered it had a fundamentally non-functional royalties module. Through gritted teeth, late into many nights, muttering oaths, Filemaker manual in hand, I fixed the thing, although I still don't like it. Whilst I was trying to fix it, I manually calculated royalties for those authors I thought might be owed money and did an interim payment to them, but it doesn't excuse the fact that the statements were late. My medium term plan is to write another royalties system - one I know is solid and robust and, ooh, how about this, functional - but in the meantime the situation is resolved, at least temporarily, by my patches.
The next area we're going to look at is distribution. We're moving distributor in the summer to sort out our eBook dissemination and to take advantage of a decent POD programme for backlist books that fall out of print, as well as to save money on the deal. More on that when I've signed the contract!
We have a packed publication schedule for the rest of the year. Sarah Bryant's Serendipity, Paul Magr's Enter Wildthyme, Alan Baker's Martian Ambassador, Mark Hodder's Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, Lee Jackson's Diary of a Murder, George Mann's long awaited Immorality Engine, Thomas Emson's Pandemonium Road *and* Pariah, Darren Guest's Dark Heart and Nicola Morgan's Write to be Published are all out before midsummer.
And so there's a summary of things at the moment. Do shout if you'd like more info about anything in particularly. Thanks as ever for buying our books and looking out for us. It's appreciated more than you know.