Selling your book?

In Business, is a weekly programme of thirty minutes duration, on BBC Radio 4, produced by Kent DePinto and presented by Peter Day. This weeks programme was broadcast on Thursday 17 April 2014, with a repeat tomorrow, Sunday 20 April 2014 at 21:30 hrs. The topic for this week: Has the book a future?

The scene was the London Book Fair where Peter Day asked the question:

Can books survive, and if so, how?

The group of people proving answers were:

  • Philip Jones, Editor, The Bookseller
  • Tom Weldon, Chief Executive, Penguin Random House UK
  • Jon Fine, Director of Author and Publisher Relations at Amazon.
  • Jonny Geller, Joint CEO, Curtis Brown Literary and Talent Agency
  • C. J. Daugherty, Author, The Night School series
  • Nigel Newton, Co-founder and Chief Executive, Bloomsbury Publishing
  • James Daunt, Managing Director, Waterstones
  • Dan Kieran, Co-founder and CEO, Unbound

I found this weeks topic very interesting for several reasons.

To begin with, I want to divert you on a short tangent.

Over the years of my blogging life, I have written some blog posts in story form, normally picturing just one commenter sitting in front of me, and typing my tale as if speaking just to them. Somehow it works. The comments have been kind, some suggesting I join a writer’s group, others saying I should write a book. All very flattering. To me they may be stories, some might prefer to call them micro blog posts, while others will see them as drivel. Such is life.

800 words is not a book!

Some weeks back, I tried an experiment: A story that began life with an actual event. I was involved very much in the peripheral background, but actually only met two of the minor players, all I knew about the main participants was second hand and short in detail. Over a glass of wine one evening, I decided it was the kernel of an idea for a story, so I let my imagination take over and thus began:- The End is never the End

  1. Part one contained 1,668 words – Not a book.
  2. Part Two dried up after 800 words.
  3. Parts 3&4 and the as yet unpublished Part 5 are back on par with the first attempt.
  4. Total word count so far: 7,007. Still not a book. At this rate it might take until my dying day to finish it.

Back to the programme and I will mention just a couple of points.
Every week on Amazon, of the top 100 digital books, twenty one are self published. In the USA it is 30 and in India, it is 20%.

James Daunt, Managing Director, Waterstones said that pricing was important, depending on where you are. In a mass market shopping mall selling ordinary fiction of the John Grisham genre, they needed a really good offer, because the supermarkets are fighting for the same customers at greatly reduced prices.

C. J. Daugherty, Author of The Night School series, spoke of earning €17 per book in Germany, €18 in France and between £2.99- £5.99 in the UK. £2.99 for a book that she spent six months writing and four months editing? There would not be many parsnips buttered with that!

Now for the shocker: Huge amounts of the piled up best sellers are sent back to the publishers for pulping. Two and a half years ago, in January, Waterstones sent back £120 million worth of books not sold – FOR PULPING! This year it was down to £7 million. They are working on bringing that figure down to between 10 and 5%.

With the modern digital means of printing, it is possible to publish on a Monday and sell one million books to someone in Africa on Tuesday – if, and it is a big IF, you get your marketing right.

So, I’ll stick with my hobby and not worry about all that stress for a couple of pennies.

The Gift of Today

Sixteen year old Stephen interviewed his terminally ill grandmother for a school project entitled “The Speed of Life.” About five minutes into the interview he began questioning her about her illness and her life situation.

“So what is it like to wake up every morning and know that you are dying?”

“Well,” she replied, “What is it like to wake up every morning and pretend that you are not?”

The Gift of Today

The Gift of Today

Thursday Special ~ Wishes

A man and his wife, now in their 60′s, were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.

On their special day a good fairy came to them and said that because they had been so good that each one of them could have one wish.

The wife wished for a trip around the world with her husband.

Whoosh! Immediately she had airline/cruise tickets in her hands.

The man wished for a female companion 30 years younger…

Whoosh…immediately he turned ninety!!!

Gotta love that fairy! Not forgetting Paddy who sent this to me.

Céad Míle Fáilte

Ireland, the land of A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, – Céad Míle Fáilte, it  is a pronounced like this:

How would you like a welcome to Dublin like this:

I bet that got your toes tapping! It was a flash mob of Irish dancers from the cast of ‘Take The Floor 2013′ at Dublin Airport recently.

Now there’s a grand way to get rid of jet lag!

Trip to Paris

Reading The Incident on the Champs-Élysées at Nelly’s Garden It brought back a memory for me.

Over forty years ago I was invited to join a group who were going to Paris for a five day weekend. The dates worked for me and I had a valid passport. So I said “Yes, I would love to go along”!

My name was added to the list and accommodation booked, so all I had to do was decide what to wear, pack a bag and turn up at Dublin Airport at the appointed hour.

My knowledge of Paris, at that time, came from the movies or books. I knew little more about the small group of girls I was to spend the few day with, all booked into same hotel. In fact The only person I knew on the whole trip was the friend who invited me. We were part of a much larger group, scattered about in different hotels. By the end of the five days I knew at least twenty five by first name and we had plenty of fun & laughter as well as great food, vino and much shorter legs!

Our hotel was central, good for walking from place to place, quite small with lots of stairs. Thankfully we were booked on a Bed & Breakfast tariff, so once we came down those stairs, we returned no more that once in the day and that was usually to freshen up and change before dinner.

We covered most of the popular tourist attractions:

Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysées, and Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine took the life of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and where today Tour de France runs its grand finale.

Notre Dame Cathedral where, because of the great number of tourists, I did not feel the spiritual magic of the cathedral, but enjoyed the quirky, funny, scary, and spiritual details of the artwork and the architecture. All those Gargoyles and flying buttresses were something else!

We visited the Louvre Museum not quite covering over 35,000 pieces of artwork, we had only allowed three hours for our visit. We waved to the armless beauty of the “Venus de Milo,” and “Winged Victory,” before joining a long queue to see the Louvre’s most famous work – Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. This small, iconic painting, only 21 by 30 inches (53 by 77 cms) was covered with bullet-proof glass and flanked by guards; with not a hope of getting anyway near it – the result of it being stolen in 1911. (It was recovered in 1913.) Is it any wonder her smile is a little faded! ;)

We drooled our way along Place Vendôme – where owning a store is a haughty statement and every shop window is worth over €1 million. You may remember Place Vendôme the 1998 movie starring Catherine Deneuve. We however, moved on and found time and shops with prices more suitable to our fast emptying purses.

We allowed more time for The Château de Versailles, which 30 years ago was added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. I have visited again (when Elly lived in France) and my memories of Versailles are from that time.

We explored back-streets where ordinary tourists don’t generally venture. We felt the real Paris as we passed elegantly dressed young mothers escorting their dancing or skipping young children to or from school or kindergarten.

We found time to eat, drink and pause to soak up the atmosphere and one evening we went to the movies. Last tango in Paris, had been banned or cut to ribbons by the censors in Dublin, so we wanted to take the opportunity of seeing the film in Paris. We found a cinema with the film in English so booked for a late showing.

We returned along the Champs-Elysées late that night chatting animatedly about the movie, on the way to our accommodation. The street was busy with people walking in both directions, when a man bumped heavily into me. He almost knocked me over. He mumbled and staggered past, and as I looked over my shoulder I saw him lurching through the crowd behind me. We walked on, I had no handbag/purse to think about. My money was in my gloved hand, a trick I learned from my mother. It was only when we got back to our hotel, that I discovered I had blood all down my new, first time airing – dry clean only -trouser suit. We were going home the next day so the stains had to wait until I reached Dublin, to be sorted.

We never discovered the ‘what or why’ of the incident, from the amount of blood, I assume the guy had been stabbed.

The End is never the End ~ Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Finding experts to carry out a sensitive restoration programme of the house, seemed like a mammoth task. Alice realised she needed the assistance and advice from a surveyor, an architect, an auctioneer and maybe even an archaeologist, well, she did find jewels under one floorboard, who knew what else might be uncovered as the work progressed! Yes. Professionals to steer her clear of carrying out work that may not be appropriate for ‘Thudder house’. their experience with old properties should be able to suggest cost-effective and well-designed solutions to problems that she was sure to encounter.

Deep thoughts to tax her brain, while skipping round the ‘Home house’ to the tune of the vacuum and the dance of a duster. It was no wonder she was feeling at the hard end of circumstances beyond her control. Knowing someone in any of these fields, would be a help, but a lifetime spent in the shadow of her silent father and Lovell, never gave her much chance to move in those circles. She would talk to Morgan when she met him in town for coffee later in the day, he had a habit of calming her. Behind his six foot two inches of handsome healthy manhood was the head of a meticulous mind for detail and a mine of information.

She would need to have a survey of the house as it stood before any work was done.
Written specifications that detailed what works need to be undertaken, which
materials to be used and what standards should be used in the construction.

If she decided not to employ a professional to prepare a specification, tender the work or find a builder then there were sure to be issues beyond her control. Would she need planning permission or building regulations approval for any changes? Was she up to tendering works and deciding on a contract before finding suitable builders & contractors to carry out the work required?

Somewhere in the mists of time, long before she heard of ‘Thudder house’, she remembered reading an article…

When having building works carried out it is always advisable to have a contract drawn up that includes start and finish dates, the agreed fixed price for the work, and exactly what the price does and does not include (rather than an estimate). The contract should also cover insurance issues.

Work to old buildings can often include items that were unforeseen at the time the price was agreed but which become apparent as work proceeds and the building is ‘opened up’. Establish with the builder before starting a project how additional works will be costed, and consider a contingency sum to cover unforeseen problems.

Before work starts, find out how it will be carried out, and in what sequence, so you can be prepared if you are ordering specific items yourself. Try also to establish how the site will be run, where materials will be stored and what protection measures will be put in place to prevent damage to the building or your possessions.
It is always worth having a photographic record of the building before works start in case there are any problems later.

“Gosh”, thought Alice, “The back of my mind is not such an empty place after all. To think I have carried all that information around with me for all these years!”

“Right. Time to stop thinking and start doing…!” She needed to hurry, prepare a quick lunch for herself and Lovell, then change her clothes or she would be late for her appointment in town.


A grand total of £189,620 was all Alice could focus on right now, she set her hands on the desk in front of her too steady herself. She felt her legs were like jelly and ready to give way if she stood up. The written breakdown with pages of details for every item would have to wait until she had a cup of coffee. She was more used to dealing with bread and butter money and not amounts like £189,620.

Mr Grimes the jeweller had talked her through the list, was still talking away to, or rather at her now, and she needed to concentrate and listen. He suggested holding on to the items in the company safe until she had time to digest the information and decide whether to keep or dispose of the pieces by auction.

“Of course” Mr Grimes was saying, “The price on the day might go up or down, and that was not something in my control. Brooches are now back in vogue and an auction highlight. Recently, an impressive platinum and diamond spray brooch, circa 1950s, reached £25,000. Some of your pendants would take easily to conversion”

He allowed that to sink in for a few moments before continuing:

“In the bottom of the box, under the velvet lining were a number of loose gemstones, from the collection of a very reputable late gemmologist”.

He was familiar with the stones and named the gemmologist, a man they had regularly done business with, but who had passed away about twenty years earlier. Mr Grimes told her that they had checked, and none of the items had been reported as stolen.

The name meant nothing to Alice.

“He was a wonderful character with eyes that sparkled like the gems in his collection, when he laughed, and that he did often.” Said Mr Grimes.

“The gemstones are all listed with approximate values on the penultimate page of our valuation. They would make a fantastic collecting opportunity for a keen gemmologist or for anyone considering starting a gem collection or studying gemmology!”

He mentioned something about the necessity for special insurance if she decided to keep the jewellery. If she wished to present them for auction, his company were well placed to handle that for her. This was a whole new world for Alice.

Asking Mr Grimes to please keep the jewellery & gemstones in the safe for the moment, she thanked him for his patience, time and care for her, and she promised to phone if she had any questions in the meantime. They shook hands and Alice left the jewellers, still in a state of shock.

All Alice wanted right now was that cup of coffee and it was almost past the time that Morgan had agreed to meet her. She was relieved not to have to carry the jewellery through the busy streets. She was not so anxious on the day she brought them in, but then she did not have a large figure of One hundred & eighty nine thousand, six hundred and twenty pounds branded in front of her eyes!

Morgan was waiting at the appointed spot and quickly moved to find a table for them. He could see the state Alice was in, so decided to refrain from questions until they were served. Afternoon teas were served in the traditional manner. A selection of finger sandwiches, delicate pastries and scones with clotted cream, gracing a silver tea stand all complemented with tea, coffee and maybe some Champagne. It was served daily until 4.30pm

Morgan’s later appointment was cancelled just as he left the office, so he had plenty of time to sit and listen. With each sip of coffee, the tension eased in Alice. This place was a good choice, comfortable, spacious and the food was of excellent quality. Tiny portions. Beautifully presented but wouldn’t fill a hole in your tooth!

Eventually, Alice was relaxed enough to talk about her meeting with Mr Grimes. She produced the document with all the details and handed it to Morgan. He remained silent as he cast his eyes down the details on each page.

• Diamond And Aquamarine Pendant Brooch . The briolette-cut aquamarine drop, with a single-cut diamond cap, suspended by a single-cut diamond ribbon bow, gathered by a baguette-cut diamond knot, mounted in 18k white gold £17,225.
• Diamond pendant. A stunning pear shaped diamond pendant with centre stone of 3.25ct and surrounding diamonds of 1.01ct. £24,950.
• Emerald and Diamond pendant. A stunning Emerald and Diamond pendant set in 18ct white gold. Diamonds approx 2.21ct Emerald approx 4.08ct £24,800.
• Diamond Pendant. A fabulous Edwardian Diamond pendant circa 1910 Approx total Diamond weight 3ct. £18,100.
• A pair of Diamond stud earrings set in 18ct white gold Diamond weight approx 2.50ct. £17,400.
• Aquamarine and Diamond Ring. A rare central stone with good colour, the Aquamarine is approx 6.60ct Diamonds 4.25ct £32,750.
• A beautiful 1830s Sapphire & diamond three row ring. The central row of sapphires were set in white 18ct gold, between two rows of diamonds, excellent quality and condition £15,895.
• Georgian Platinum Diamond and Onyx Mourning Ring of rectangular plaque shape, centring an oval onyx plaque with five cabochon-cut effect within a border of rose cut diamonds of various sizes, approx gross diamond weight of 1.5cts set in platinum. The rear of the ring, with rubbed hallmarks but there are no visible losses or damage. £ 3,500.
• A fine diamond three-stone ring in 18ct white gold, the central emerald-cut diamond weighing approx. 3.31 carats and set between two rectangular-cut diamonds: £26,000
• A collection of loose gemstones, all in excellent condition and individually valued to a total of: £9,000.

A grand total of £189,620.00

Letting out a long slow almost silent whistle, he understood why Alice seemed so stressed when she arrived. Figures like this were normal in his working day, but jewellery? Being happier with oily hands under the bonnet of a car, jewellery was a total other world for him. Oh yes, he had admired a necklace or pendant worn by a young lady or two that he had invited to dinner over the years, but the cost of the items never dawned on him. Alice was wise to leave them in the safe keeping of Mr Grimes for the moment.

Lifting his eyes to Alice, he asked “ I wonder what Sidney would have said about this?”