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Friday, February 05, 2021

Comic Cuts - 5 February 2021

Just when I thought everything was going fine... Twitter!

As mentioned last week, I have been trying to tidy up my two blogs, Bear Alley and Bear Alley Books. The former, which you're reading now, has been around since August 2006, and I set it up originally with a custom three-column template that I found online and liked. When I put together the Bear Alley Books site, I used the same template. Over the years, Blogger has made various changes to its programming, not always for the better. It is far less flexible now, and, since last year, I've had problems trying to add third party code.

Most of this hasn't been visible on the surface because I tend to keep things simple with my posts. However, after 14 years I thought both blogs had started to look a bit untidy and needed a bit of a clean-up. I didn't want to do too much with Bear Alley, but I did spend a day this week resizing all of the book images down our right-hand column and cutting out some of the dead wood. There are still some things that need doing, but it's already an improvement.

The Bear Alley Books site has had a bit more of a transformation. Gone is the three-column format. I did try to retain it, having found a different third-party  template, but Blogger simply wouldn't accept it. Instead, I went for a nice, simple, clear template which means that (hopefully) all of the books currently available are visible, easy to find and it's easy to access payment options.

There are still improvements to be made. I now have two-thirds of Bear Alley's output listed on Lulu's stores, but only a handful of titles are directly linked. (I have put in links to the latest batch of releases, and the two Longbow books, so that people no longer have to email me to order them, but I'll work on others over time.)

Also, I now have all available titles up on Amazon, so you can order that way, too. You might notice price differences between ordering direct from me, ordering from Lulu and ordering from Amazon. This is down to how they calculate postage costs and fees. Just to give you an example: the novel Hercules, Esq. by Gwyn Evans is available on Lulu for £9.95 plus p&p, but is £13.99 on Amazon. Now, I'm not ripping off Amazon customers. They fix their postage prices at £2.80 and then roll that into the cost of the books, and then take a fee as a percentage of that total of £15.79. In other words, they're clawing back a percentage of the postage. The total fee is almost a third of that total, leaving £10.78. Out of that, I now have to pay for the printing, postage & packing of the book through Lulu, which comes to £8.18. However, that's not the end of the costs, as payment is made to PayPal who charge 30p + 2.9% per transaction — in this instance, 54p. So the profit on a £13.99 book is only  £2.00. Sales will be in the tens, not the tens of thousands, so I don't benefit from the economics of scale that a publisher like Penguin Books will, nor a warehouse so I can carry stock. (If you click on the pic, you can buy the books at Lulu for the cheaper price of £9.95, and my Gwyn Evans bio for a mere £6.95.)

Books sent abroad are a whole new hell since Brexit. Through Amazon, I'm limited to selling in the UK now rather than across Europe as happened pre-Brexit. Amazon are offering a service to make sure you are VAT compliant with sales across the EU, but that only lasts for a year. Under the heading "Low Cost" they say: "for the second year you only need to pay €400 per year per country for your on-going VAT filing report submissions." So about £350 per year per country. I think not.

At the moment I'm not sure what the solution is. With postage costs soaring and a variety of VAT rates on books to negotiate — 5.5% in France, 7% in Germany, 5% in Romania, etc. — and shipments taking ages to get through, I suspect my sales to Europe will dry up, at least until things settle down. We shall just have to wait and see.

OK, that's my rant for the week over.

You want to hear some good news instead? I had a blood test recently and health review and I'm going to be around for a while longer. I was diagnosed as diabetic a year ago, but I'm now in remission thanks to a few lifestyle changes I've made — eating more healthy food, getting more exercise and losing some weight. I had a clean slate as far as the health of my liver and kidneys were concerned, blood sugar and blood pressure were good, and I've been told to "keep doing what you're doing because it's working."

I'm back under the microscope in six months, so we shall just have to wait and see how that goes, too.

Oh, yes, Twitter. I was trying to think of ways to promote the release of the four Bill Kellaway novels that I've just reprinted. The usual way is to send review copies out, but in these days of online websites it isn't always easy to track down a contact point. There was one site in particular that I thought would be a good one to get some publicity through, but all I could find was their twitter account. So I thought it was finally time to join Twitter.

On Wednesday I signed up, which proved quite easy, and changed my Twitter address to @BearAlleyBooks, which I thought would be easy to remember. I posted a tweet to say that the Bill Kellaway books were now available. I then went to see how I could post a tweet to other accounts and immediately hit a screen that asked if I was a robot. Ticking the box took me to a page that asked for my phone number so I could verify that I was not a robot. Put in my number. No call. Tried again. No call and this time my account was suspended for suspicious activity! Could this be a record? I think I only had the account active for a couple of minutes.

I've contacted them, but had no response so far other than an automated one which, again, resulted in no phone call. The dumb thing is, they say they will phone, text or e-mail, and they have my e-mail — and they've verified that it works. So why not try sending another verification code that way? I'm still waiting to hear from them.

Because I'm suspended, you can't even see the tweet! I'm now thinking of setting up an Instagram account. Wish me luck! I'll report back in next week's "Steve vs. Technology Blog".

(* Our column header is a random yarn by Gwyn Evans to illustrate the kind of thing he wrote. This is 'The Assassin' from Thriller, artwork by Arthur Jones, which is © Rebellion.)

1 comment:

  1. Brexit. What an utter utter disaster it is. And just imagine, literally NO ONE saw it coming.