Dividend Day

I was looking for something else, of course, something about the Bank of England in 1860 that I could use in my fourth mystery, Murder at the Gasworks. My tome for this is The City of London, Volume I by David Kynaston. And in it I found a description of something at the Bank called Dividend Day, as noted by David Morier Evans in 1845. He anonymously wrote a book that Kynaston relies on quite a bit, The City; or, the Physiology of London Business; with sketches on ‘Change, and at the Coffee Houses. He described an old man with a wooden leg sitting all day waiting for his dividend.

[An aside: I’ve learned a bit about the coffee houses in the City, especially Garraway’s, which was near the Exchange (the ‘Change). Some actually served coffee during the day. Garraway’s at one point was a wine place, and it laid out sandwiches sliced up on a side counter for lunch. Many of the coffee houses used their ground floor as exchanges where products like coffee and tea were bought in bulk. Some kept collections of all the newspapers, which could become large archives. Deacon’s Coffee House kept files with every issue of the Times, so I’ve set a scene where my detective goes there to do research and overhears something interesting.]

So, the Bank. I search for “dividend day bank of england” and find this artwork:

George Elgar Hicks created this in 1859, the year before my novel, and it looks like fun. All those different kinds of people at the Bank! The dog! The child! I know they aren’t just customers, because the Bank of England wasn’t that kind of bank. They didn’t take ordinary deposits and they didn’t pay interest. So what is Dividend Day, anyway?

Evans describes the scene:

At least fifty clerks are sitting in a circle in a high vaulted saloon, well provided with a cupola and lanterns. They do nothing whatever but pay and weigh, and weigh and pay. On all sides, the rattling of gold, as they push it with little brass shovels across the tables. People elbowing and pushing in order to get a locus standi near the clerks; the doors are continually opening and shutting.

It turns out that it was the way for ordinary people to invest in the Bank of England and the government. According to the National Trust, “‘Consols’, as the Consolidated Government Annuities yielding an unvarying interest of 3% per annum were known, were the only investment permitted to the trustees of widows, orphans, and the like…” Even these days, I can see why people would be excited about 3%.

Kynaston says this was a half-yearly event, but in trying to find the exact date for 1860, I discovered it was more likely quarterly. Why is the date important? Because my book takes place between June 9, when Eliza Feltham stole doilies from Lady Emily Peel’s table at the Crystal Palace, and July 9, when she was tried at the Old Bailey*. I’d love to have a scene take place during Dividend Day and yes, as near as I could tell, this was always on July 5.

There is a subplot about a spy in the Bank, you see, so this will fit.

* Both Lady Emily Peel and Eliza Feltham were real people, and these were real events

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Mapping while writing historical fiction

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A convenient pub

Sometimes your characters just need a drink or meal. Mine is about to go to the office of the London Times, trying to find out about recent legislation on gasworks in 1860. My character, Sergeant Slaughter, recently fired for insubordination, needs to know about reports on Parliament. I need to know what the place was like, the people, the buildings, etc.

Looking for the history of the London Times wasn’t an easy task. I did much better looking for the place, Printing House Square. I knew approximately where it was located, but it doesn’t show on the several maps I have of 1857 or 1860. But I found this map on Wikipedia, from 1886:

I was also able to find some etchings of the square at all those places that take public domain art and charge you for it, and a photograph at Lee Jackson’s brilliant online Dictionary of Victorian London.

And at that same site were several wonderful descriptions, this from a German observer in 1853:

The young reporters take the upper house, the old guard do duty in the House of Commons, whose sittings are longer, while its motions and speeches are of greater importance, and its debates more intricate. In either house it is a rule that reporters relieve one another by turns, from half-hour to half-hour. Mr. H., for instance, takes his seat at the commencement of the sitting with Mr. C. who comes next by his side. The first thirty minutes over, Mr. H. retires; Mr. C. takes his seat, and Mr. Ft. takes the place which has just been vacated by Mr. C. The summary-man takes a position in the rear. To-morrow evening the turn commences where it left off this night, so that each reporter has an equal share of the work.

Apparently the place was hard to find. From George Augustus Sala in 1859:

The best way to reach the office is to take any turning to the south side of London Bridge, or the east of Bridge Street, Blackfriars, and then trust to chance. The probabilities are varied. Very likely you will find yourself entangled in a seemingly hopeless net-work of narrow streets; you will be jostled into chandlers’ shops, vilified by boys unctuous, black, and reeking from the printing-machine; pursued by costermongers importuning you to purchase small parcels of vegetables; and, particularly after sundown, your life will be placed in jeopardy by a Hansom cab bouncing up or down the narrow thoroughfare, of course on its way to the “Times” office, and on an errand of life and death; the excited politician inside, frantically offering the cabman (he, even, doesn’t know the way to the “Times,” and has just asked it of a grimy cynic, smoking a pipe in front of a coal and potato shed) extra shillings for speed.

That’s so good that I may make Sala a character, hanging around the place and taking notes. Turns out he was quite a character, and even wrote a pornographic book at one point.

But I digress. Take a look at the Wikipedia map. There are two places on Printing House Lane that look to be marked as restaurants. Can I find out which restaurants, and whether one was there in 1860 for my character to have a beer?

I searched the words “Printing House Lane London pub”, and ended up at the wonderful pubwiki, where I’ve been before. Lists and lists of London pubs with who owned them when, if known. I know the parish is St. Ann’s from the larger version of the map, I know it’s near Blackfriars Bridge (where for some reason my characters always end up), and I know the street name. So that’s Printing House Lane, St. Ann’s Blackfriars.

I found one, called the Lamb & Lark. Run by either Alfred Munby (1857) or James Peal (1861)–I’ll have to do some more research. But it has an address: 5 Printing House Lane. Took me a minute to see the house numbers on the map above (they’re on the street–it looks like the 3-1/2 and 4-1/2 might be the number of floors). But there it is!

It’s always nice to find a place to have a drink after archival research. I think I’ll join Sgt. Slaughter in a pint.

 

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A glorious map of London

I’ve been enchanted by a map of London in 1851. Click on it to take a look, but be sure to use the little square in the upper right to zoom in!

London as seen from a balloon

Isn’t it amazing? It’s like having Google Street view for 1851.

What does this make possible? Well, for a writer, I can see the streeets, see the buildings all together and how they mesh with each other (most London buildings are attached). I can see where the gasworks were and how they related to the neighborhood around them, very important to my “work in progress”, as they call it.

The scale is what is truly extraordinary. It is fairly easy to find etchings or paintings of certain buildings, or neighborhoods, but they’re decontextualized. In London especially, one walks from slum conditions to lovely parks and squares in minutes. That was true in the 19th century (see Booth’s map from later in the century) and is true now. When I walk the city, I am always astonished at how short the distance is between one place I want to be and another, and that there are surprises around every corner. Here you can see some of those, from the air.

And, of course, it’s very steampunk-ish to get this wonderful illustration from a balloon flight!

 

Those wine merchants

One of the best things about writing historical novels is deciding the location of things. Which police station for the inspector? where should he and his wife live? where did the murder take place?

The joy of this is in the tangle of old maps and sources to be sought out and studied. Sure, a street in London may look like this now, but what about then? You can’t set something on Shaftesbury Avenue when the street didn’t exist in 1860.

[My first mystery, Murder at Old St. Thomas’s, was actually based on a question involving location. Old St. Thomas’s hospital had existed quite nicely in Southwark, not far from London Bridge, for many years. Then it was forced to move because of the railway, and spent 9 years at Surrey Gardens before a new hospital was built on the Embankment, where it now stands. What dislocations and confusions would that cause? Traditional histories skipped right over the Surrey Garden period, and I was curious.]

So now I’m working on the fourth book, a prequel. I needed Sergeant Slaughter and his wife Ellie to reside in the City, because doing so was required for everyone working on the City of London police force. I read about the City then, and I “walked around” in Google street view, because I like to use buildings that still exist when possible (one of the joys of abandoning the medieval era for the Victorian). Much of the area is banks and businesses, but I needed a home, and one you could have for a sergeant’s pay. I liked the look of Philpot Lane, then I found this entryway:

It leads to Brabant Court, so I looked it up to make sure it was still named that. Then I found several current ads for flats on Brabant Court and Philpot Lane. I read that one building had recently been converted into flats as “its original use” after the private 18th century home had been divided up. A good place, then. I had read somewhere else that there there had been a wine merchant there. So I started writing a scene where the sergeant’s wife is sick of the smell of sour wine drifting into their lodgings. Then later I wrote a scene where she is out of kindling, and goes downstairs to borrow some straw, figuring straw would have been used in crates for wine bottles. So I needed the name of a wine merchant.

And the London Directory (thanks, Google Books!) helped me out. Now of course I couldn’t find one for 1860 (whatever year you really need, you won’t find it) but I could find the 1852 and the 1862 versions. I began with 1862. Google wouldn’t let me download it (oh I do miss Google Books Downloader) but I could search, so I put in “Brabant”:

Hard to read, I know, but in 1862 we have a Frederick John Duckworth and Co., wine merchants in Brabant Court. Were they there back in 1852 also? I searched for Brabant Court and read each listing, and found not one, but quite a few wine merchants (and a solicitor, and a tea merchant).  And yes, he’s one:

He’s moved from #2 to #3 but it’s the same one. So I can be pretty sure that if Ellie goes downstairs, it can be to Mr. Duckworth’s business. Plus I can have the solicitor and tea merchant there as well. And at best guess there were at least three wine merchants in the court, so yes, it would smell like musty wine.

4 comments to Those wine merchants

Murder at Old St. Thomas’s is published!

My first Victorian mystery, Murder at Old St. Thomas’s, is now available at a number of shops, with more purchase options to come!

THE BODY WAS SEATED IN THE OPERATING THEATRE

In 1862 London, the body of a famous surgeon is found, sitting upright, in an old operating theatre. His dead eyes stare at the table at the center of the room, where patients had screamed and cried as medical students looked on.

The bookish Inspector Slaughter must discover the killer with the help of his American sergeant Mark Honeycutt and clues from Nightingale nurses, surgeon’s dressers, devious apothecaries, and even stage actors.
Victorian Southwark becomes the theatre for revealing secrets of the past in a world where anesthesia is new, working-class audiences enjoy Shakespeare, and women reformers solve society’s problems.

Murder at Old St. Thomas’s is a traditional historical mystery, meant to be read in front of a fire, real or electric, with a cup of cocoa. The story unfolds evenly, without jump scenes or shockers, and there is no graphic violence.

Real historical figures guest star throughout the book, bringing Victorian London to life. A book for lovers of Agatha Christie and Anne Perry.

Murder at Old St. Thomas’s
Novel, 240 pages
Historical Mystery / Historical Fiction
ISBN: 979-8-9853027-2-1 (print)
ISBN: 979-8-9853027-3-8 (e-book)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2022901917

Paperback ($11.99/£ 8.99/€10.99):

E-book: $7.99/£ 5.99/€ 6.99

 

A thumb-print among wagtails

I confess I am struggling to write my current mystery, and when this happens I sometimes allow myself to disappear down rabbit holes of historical research, following a trail.

Deciding that my victim was to be poisoned instead of garroted (which would have been unlikely for the accused to have achieved), I began researching poisons. Arsenic would be the obvious choice, but I was tired of arsenic: in 1860 it was in everything from wallpaper to rat poison, and there had been an accidental case of poisoning in commercial candy in Bradford two years before. The more I read about it, the more I realized it was appropriate for a slow poisoning, given in small doses over time to look like a natural illness. I needed a quick death. So, cyanide. It turns out many people cannot detect the trademark “burnt almond” smell, and it was quick and easy to obtain as “prussic acid”.

A bottle lying around the victim’s flat? Perhaps. If so, finger-prints would be nice. But everyone knows 1860 is too early for that; it wasn’t until 1887 that finger-prints were part of police methods. As a historian, however, I’m aware that things are often known earlier than we suspect. So what was the state of forensic science in 1860? Wikipedia mentioned that Sir William Herschel was doing it in 1858:

I followed that footnote and sure enough, I found The Origin of Finger-printing by Sir William Herschel, explaining how he knew that finger-printing ideas were much older, and that there had been isolated cases of a handprint or even a tooth being used to verify identity.

Sir Francis Galton, however, has pointed out that in our own times the engraver Bewick had a fancy for engraving his thumb-mark, with his name attached, as vignettes, or as colophones, in books which he published. As a boy I had loved Bewick on Birds: I regret that it is not now to be found in our library. Galton’s remark has reminded me that I used to see a thumb-mark there, as well as I recollect, in an ornamental title-page.

So naturally I had to find Bewick on Birds, in my library of the web. They had a copy of A History of British Birds (1832) at Google Books and I looked through the first few pages, but no luck. Certainly it wasn’t on any title page. So I image searched for “Bewick Bird thumb-print” and found two images. The Cleveland Art Museum said it was on page 180, so I went to look at a prettier version, at the Wellcome Collection, an 1847 edition. Not in the title pages nor on page 180, so I began scrolling through every single page.

Bird after bird scrolled by. Each bird had his/her portrait at the top of a section, then at the bottom of each section was some other illustration: a house in the snow, a team of oxen ploughing. Some of these images were rather strange, like one man carrying another, or a funnel in a bottle. But on a page about the Wagtail, which had no bird image at all, it was at the bottom:

A lovely thumb-print which, I must assume, was Thomas Bewick’s.  (I have a bit of a soft spot for Bewick anyway, not because I know his bird books but because I’m very fond of the Bewick’s wren. One nested on a counter outside my kitchen, and I accidentally flooded her out watering a plant, and since then I watch for them and am more careful, understanding that they nest a few feet from the ground and sing the most lovely song.)

Obviously Sir William’s memory was a bit off as to the thumb-print’s location, but there it is.

So now I have every intention of working Herschel and Bewick and finger-prints somehow into my mystery. When writing fiction, research rabbit holes are rarely traversed in vain.

Now, about that prussic acid . . .

When Medium isn’t the message

Somehow I missed this new policy sent out to writers on Medium last August, and I am slated to be removed from their Partner Program because I do not have 100 followers.

When I joined Medium and began writing there, I was charmed by the idea of a site supporting writers through micropayments. A bunch of people read my post, I get a few pennies. Obviously it wasn’t something I was doing for money. And I posted about both history and online teaching, as I do, and even contributed to a magazine there about history. Several of my posts, mostly the ones to do with online teaching, got a significant number of views, but I have only a handful of “followers”.

I’m miffed, for several reasons. The first is that I thought micropayments for authors were the point, and obviously they don’t care if you’re not allowed to earn any without 100 followers. The second is that they couched this as being better for authors. And the third is that it conflates the writer with the writing.

Since I posted articles in different topics, it’s unlikely anyone would follow me. Instead, they might want to follow the topics they’re interested in (online teaching or history) which, on Medium, they do. The fact that my work may have brought people to subscribe to these topics is in no way accounted for.

Instead it has to be a personality cult, the following of one author. The fact that this is more important than what the author is writing seems indicative of the celebrity bent of the larger culture, where “influencers” have “followers” and the content is irrelevant. My content is relevant.

Last, I am in the process of publishing a book where my bio notes that I have posted on Medium. I am now sorry to have advertised the platform. Perhaps I shall post this there.

3 comments to When Medium isn’t the message

  • Vanessa Vaile

    Well, rats. Just because they’re too cheap to spring for an algorithm that will track users that click from your account to another — or just don’t care. Is it too late? You’re already on my feed reader — since POT. Happy to pop into Medium, clap a lot, share from there, etc.

    • Lisa M Lane

      Aw, thanks, Vanessa. So nice to see you! I won’t be an influencer any time soon, but your vote is appreciated. 🙂

  • jmm

    This is such a transparent money grab for Medium, too. They obviously just want to collect more users’ data to sell.
    The purely transactional nature of contemporary America is so depressing.

The “M” word

That would be marketing. Now that I am independently publishing my books (Murder at Old St. Thomas’s is due out March 6), it is time to look at how to get them noticed.

Let me say first that I am a terrible customer. I do not respond well to marketing. When I want to buy something, I go find it. I do not enjoy the feeling that I am being manipulated. I use an ad blocker on my browser and the mute button on my remote. I find advertising interesting as a sociological demonstration of society’s concerns, but the last vendor I’d consider for anything is someone whose ad I’ve seen. I figure their company is spending too much on advertising to have a good product.

But now I have something to sell. This brings up ethical and personal considerations for me that many authors just don’t bother with.

The prejudice against independently published books

Everyone agrees that marketing books is amazingly difficult. With a traditional publisher, one would think it might be easier, but even there today’s authors are expected to market themselves. In fact, the only advantage to a traditional publisher seems to be the name recognition, and possibly getting ones books in bookstores.

Independently published books are of highly varying quality. So, in fact, are traditionally published books, but somehow no one blames the publisher for that. But it means that self-published books get a bad rap. Sometimes this is totally valid: I am reading a mystery right now that has so many errors it should never have been printed. But I’ve also just finished several that were wonderful, and better than some of the traditionally published books I’ve recently purchased.

Doing it on one’s own, all sorts of advice is available, and I’ve spent some time learning. Here are some recommended ways to market my books, and why I’m struggling with them.

Make it free

It is advised that if one is writing a series, one should make the first book free. Prices are already ridiculously low (99 cents for an e-book), and few authors talk about how this devalues books. My first book is literary fiction. It does not deserve to be in a 99 cent junk pile with a “non-fiction” book on how to talk to your cat.

It is also recommended that if one is publishing an e-book, it’s a good idea to enroll in Kindle Unlimited. KU, as it’s called, is a subscription service. Customers pay a monthly fee and get to read all the KU books they want. The author is paid in tiny percentages based on how many pages are tracked as being read. Trouble is, enrolling as an author means a contract where you cannot sell your e-book anywhere else, for 90 days at a time. Plus, it’s Amazon, who ran out all the other bookstores in the universe. So there’s an ethical problem here.

Take returns and give a 55% discount

Photo by Ashley Byrd on Unsplash

To get your books in physical bookstores, you must agree to accept returns. This means that if a bookstore orders, say, 20 of your books, and sells one and that’s it, they return 19 to your printer. The printer refunds the bookstore’s money, and you have to pay for these books. That can be incredibly expensive, and it seems to happen quite a bit. It’s kind of ok not to make money because one’s books don’t sell, but to owe money is a different story.

When you decide your price, you decide what discount bookstores will get when buying your book. This discount is set for all the print versions, not just those going to physical bookstores. If you choose less than 55%, bookstores won’t carry it. So your profit from a $10 book is $4.50 minus the amount it costs to print it (in my case, $4.44). The minimum at Ingram is 30% even if you don’t care about bookstores.

Sell them yourself

The alternative to bookstores and aggregators and Amazon is to sell the books yourself, ordering boxes of them and keeping them in your garage, mailing them out. Then you have to charge/pay postage, package and mail your orders, take returns (or not). This is a job in itself.

And, if you’re going to sell them, you need a seller’s license in most cities, so that’s a thing. Plus you must charge and keep track of sales tax.

Publish it at Amazon

I actually took this advice, to a point. I am publishing the e-books at an aggregator, Draft2Digital, but without allowing them to distribute to Amazon. Then I am publishing the e-book separately with Amazon for them to sell.

Amazon also offers publication of paperback, and now hardback, versions. When I chose to publish with IngramSpark instead, Amazon started screwing around with my book, first posting it, then a day later fobbing it off to BookDepository with a huge markup, then another third-party vendor with an even bigger markup. No matter what their price, I get the same amount. Amazon clearly makes it difficult, deliberately, for you to sell any book versions not published through them.

Get reviews

The only way anyone will notice your book is if it has reviews. The only way to get reviews is if you are already noticed.

Money, of course, gets around this conundrum. You can buy reviews. The most respected reviewer is Kirkus, where the price starts at $425. For those with less cash, you can use a site like Book Siren, where an account costs $10 and each copy of your book downloaded by a potential reviewer is $2.

Note the word “potential”. It is illegal/ill-advised/crass to pay directly for a review, because it’s assumed the review wouldn’t be honest. Book review sites get around this by not promising a review. So you offer free books to a certain number of people, hoping for a review. A rate of 60% is considered damn good.

What you really want is a review by Someone Who Matters, so you can quote it. People do this even on the cover, which I think is really tacky. To get a review by Someone Who Matters, you need to kiss up to them in groups of mutual interest (see “Join a community” below), or write and beg.

Win a prize

There are zillions of writing and book contests out there. Big organizations, like Mystery Writers of America, hold their own. Many do not accept independently published books; only major publishers can enter works. Some that are more inviting charge money to enter the contest, and may create the contest to collect entry fees, some of which are given as a prize. Others don’t charge to enter, but you have to buy the product if you win. I published a story in  a collection for one of these contests, and had to then purchase the collection to see my work in print.

Have a website

This was the easiest thing for me to do, so I did. It’s here. I’m not sure anyone knows it’s there. But it’s supposed to be connected to . . .

Start a mail list and newsletter

This is touted as the absolute “must have” for authors, especially independently published authors. You dangle something out there, like a short story, as a prize to get people to sign up for your email list. Then you send out a newsletter occasionally, but you wouldn’t want to be crass and just advertize your next book, so you need to have content. This content might be fun things about yourself, or your writing, or your dog.

I looked into this. I got a free account at MailerLite. I set it all up, and put the code on my new website. Then I read in one of the communities I joined (see below) that there is this interesting law called CAN-SPAM, and that you must have a lot of provisions to get around it legally. I don’t like getting around legal things, especially those that are protecting me from spam. I don’t want to receive email advertising. Why would I be ok with producing it?

Then there’s the content. The idea is to get known, to connect with readers. As I’ve mentioned before, this is not a good use of my time. I want readers to connect with my work, not with me. I hate to be all Hemingway about this, but it’s one thing to market my books, and another to market myself. I’m actually a very private person. I am on all the social media outlets and hardly ever post about my family or my personal life. My work is out there, not my self.

Buy ads

There is some disagreement as to whether Facebook ads or Amazon ads are more effective — some swear by one, some by the other. They don’t cost much to run a few ads over a week or so, but cost much more to actually have them work. And we’re talking those horrid little square ads that pop up everywhere, the ones I complain about, and skip or block with my ad blocker. Again, subjecting others to something I won’t allow myself to be subjected to seems unethical.

Go social

I’ve been advised to post on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Post what, I ask? About yourself, what you’re writing, what you’re working on. Who cares, I ask myself. Then I look and see that what people are posting is just their book, an image or video (some professionally produced) to get people to buy their book. Could I do that? Yes, I could. Would it sell books? Well, I have “friends” lists in the mere dozens, so not likely. I will consider focusing on hashtags of people who buy books, but I have noticed that most of those are just filled with authors trying to sell books.

Do Book Tours

A book tour online is apparently posting about your book on a “book blog”, a blog run by someone who reads and reviews books. I went looking, and most of these are authors themselves. You can hire a company that does book tours, and they slate a blog post spot on some book blogs for a period of time. Apparently people go to those blogs to look for books to read. You can pay to just have posts, or schedule interviews, guest posts, that sort of thing. The more you pay, the more you get.

Join a community

I have joined several online communities related to writing, but I only belong to two or three having to do with history. The ones related to writing are very useful for learning about the process, and there are a couple of groups where I really enjoy the people. But the people are all authors, trying to sell their books and help each other sell theirs. So you don’t meet readers that way, but rather get the kind of advice I’m listing here.

Join groups about your era of history, they say. Well, there’s nothing that annoys me more than someone joining a history group to advertise their book. So should I do that?

But here’s the kicker

I’m a voracious reader of books. I decide what I am going to read based on books I already have (I liked the book, or used the bibliography), recommendations by friends, and the London Review of Books. I have never bought a book because it’s free, on Amazon, gotten reviews at places like Kirkus, or won a prize (well, once, and I regretted it). Nor have I bought one because of an author’s mail list or newsletter (I didn’t even know there were such things), social media profile, ads, book tours (didn’t know about those either), or belonging to a common community or organization. Never.

Now some would say, I am not a typical book buyer. That is true. But I am the sort of book buyer that I would like to buy my book. I honestly don’t think that a person who relies on a relationship with me as an author, or wants my newsletter, or responds to advertizing is the type of person who would enjoy my work. I realized this sounds like not wanting to be in a club that would have me for a member. So I’ll just have to think about it some more.

2 comments to The “M” word

  • jmm

    …and this is why I don’t bother trying to get anything published. Or stand in my yard to catch meteorites.

    • Lisa M Lane

      I’m not against publishing things, but I do want to be clear-eyed about the process!

The WTF of publishing a book

Yesterday, January 5, was the release date for my first novel, Before the Time Machine.

It had been available for pre-order for a week or two, and during that time had taken its place on several vendor websites, including A-zon, at my suggested price of $9.99 for the paperback.

I got up in the morning and the price had been changed to $12.59, and the main page for the book had that price with the book sold by Book Depository rather than A-zon directly. An hour later, the price was over $16 with the same vendor. In order to get to the $9.99 price, you had to click the tiny “2 New from $9.99”, which popped up a window with A-zon itself selling the book.

I was irate, and posted in an author group for help. I was led to an article from 2017 about how upset publishers and authors were that Amazon allowed third-party vendors to purchase the “buy button” page. When I wondered why they would let another company usurp their sales, I was told that Book Depository is owned by A-zon anyway.

Now my paperback is printed by Ingram, so no matter what price a retailer sets I get $3.07 per sale. My profit doesn’t change regardless of the retail price. So Book Depository, if they sold anything at that absurd price, would make a clear profit of at least $13 for doing nothing but being the vendor ordering from Ingram.

But it gets weirder. Today, A-zon is no longer listed at all as a vendor for the book, and there is no $9.99 option. The paperback looks unavailable on the main page, and is only listed at $18.70 (!) with one vendor: a “californiabooks” with a residential address in San Francisco. If she sells any, that will be $15 profit for reselling my work.

I knew this wasn’t going to be fair, and I’ve read plenty of horror stories about the way booksellers mess with prices, and how the author can do nothing about the price of her book. I know that Ingram doesn’t allow the author to choose vendors. And I deliberately chose to publish with Ingram and vend at A-zon rather than have A-zon do the print publishing, and perhaps I am being punished for that (the listing for the Kindle version is okie dokie and at the original price). But I did not expect A-zon to refuse to sell my paperback all together, foisting it off onto a reseller who will sell nothing at their inflated price.

My whole intention was to get the book out there for people to enjoy, and like it or not, most people shop at A-zon and anyone who wants to buy my book will likely look there despite the fact that Barnes & Noble, Blackwell’s, and Bookshop.org (support your local bookshop!) are carrying it at the right price.

All I can say at this point is that this is disheartening in a whole twisty way compared to the disheartening experience I was prepared for.