the state of things

 

A Brief Departure From Yuletide Merrymaking

by Douglas Lindsay - 11:33 on 24 December 2008

The initial release date for The Final Cut was August this year, announced at the same time as the April 2008 release date for Lost in Juarez. I think I decided them about seven or eight months in advance, before I’d even started writing Juarez. When doing the whole publishing thing without the treacherously slow quicksand of the big publishing houses, everything happens a bit more quickly, but that initial time frame was just plain barking mad.

A few weeks into writing Juarez, when I had written a chapter and a half and didn’t look like finishing the book before the 22nd century, I adjusted the dates, Juarez to August and The Final Cut to November. Thereafter I locked myself in a cupboard with a laptop, an internet connection and six months’ supply of cheese sandwiches, and got on with it. Juarez was finished in time, but only just. There was no way that The Final Cut was going to make it for November. This time, rather than put myself under undue pressure, I decided to push it way back, to next September.

Each time I make one of these changes, I alert the company in charge of distribution for Long Midnight Publishing, and they pass the news onto the publishing world at large, the big wholesalers, the on-line outlets etc. Enter on-line retailing giant, Amazon.

They picked up the first few changes, but not the last one, not The Final Cut moving to September next year. I wondered if the information hadn’t gone out, but other on-line sites, Waterstones and Borders etc, they had it, it was just Amazon which still had the November 2008 release date.

Time passed. I thought I ought to do something about it, but didn’t get around it to in that way that human beings don’t get around to stuff. The date never changed. Eventually I signed into Amazon as the publisher and changed the date. This seemed to go well.

November arrived. On The Final Cut page on Amazon, although the publication date showed as 1 Sep 2009, the Not Yet Published was removed and replaced by Temporarily Out Of Stock. A friend sent me the e-mail they’d received from Amazon saying that delivery of the book had been delayed and they wouldn’t be getting it until 20th-24th December. Given that it still isn’t finished, it was a bit optimistic to tell a customer they’d be getting the book delivered this week.

Try to find someone at Amazon to write to about this stuff. Bloody difficult. I wrote to someone. It was the wrong person. They wrote back - form their non-replyable to e-mail address - to say that they’d passed it on to someone. Maybe they did. Nothing was done. A few days ago, when there’d been some movement on The Final Cut ranking, indicating that some poor fools were actually buying it, I wrote to Amazon again, asking that they remove Temporarily Out Of Stock and replace it with Not Yet Published. I got this reply:

On checking our website, I can confirm that this item has already been released and currently we do not have it in our stock.

So I'd written to them to say there's a problem with what's on the page, and someone looked at the page to tell me that what I was saying was wrong, because it was different from what was on the page... What can you say to that? I’m writing the book, I’m going to publish it, but the on-line behemoth has decided that it’s already been published...

I replied, trying to sort out the confusion. They replied apologising for the confusion. Not apologising for the confusion in such as way as to indicate that they’d do anything about it, just a general apology. From an e-mail address you can’t reply to, with no phone number attached, and from a different person to anyone else I’ve ever heard from at the company.

And there the matter stands. It’s Christmas.

In the New Year, Long Midnight Publishing launches its long-awaited hostile takeover bid for Amazon.co.uk.


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