THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY BEHIND THE £1.99 BARNEY THOMSON PAPERBACK
12 March 2012
To be honest, it's not that extraordinary.
I have a vision. The seven Barney Thomson novels, with wonderful testicle-grabbing covers, staring out at customers from the shelves of WH Smiths, Waterstones and airport book stores all over the world. I'll turn up at the Frankfurt Book Fair with my shiny covered books, and have queues of overseas publishers, overawed by the books' shininess, throwing giant wads of cash the way of LMP for foreign language rights around the world.
I've had this vision for quite a while now. Doesn't seem to be happening. I've never had a paperback cover I liked, or that worked particularly well, or that was ever likely to jump off the shelf. The one that's currently on THE LONG MIDNIGHT OF BARNEY THOMSON is particularly uninspiring. Too grey. Much too grey. It was going to be a template for the whole series; I did number 7 with that template, but haven't had to reprint any of the other books, so none of the others have it.
IT'S ALL TO COCK
To complicate things:
- Books 1, 2 & 3 were originally written in the present tense with a fair amount of Glasgow dialect
- Books 4 to 7 were written in the past tense with very little dialect
- I rewrote 1 to 3 to be in keeping with 4 to 7 in terms of tense/dialect
- I've printed the rewritten Book 1, but not the rewritten Books 2 & 3
- Now printed books 1, 4, 5, 6 & 7 are past tense, but books 2 & 3 are present tense. It really is all to cock.
In addition to this, they're not really selling terribly well, and so I've been concentrating on Kindle editions for the past year. The one main overhead that LMP has - storing thousands of copies of printed books that are all to cock - just seems pointless. I want to get rid of them. I am, in fact, quite happy to pulp them all, but thought I might as well cut the price and try to sell them first. If I can sell them, then it would at least provide funds to start again, with decent shiny new covers that one day might be purchased in WH Smiths everywhere. (WH Smith's mission statement is to Judge A Book By Its Cover.)
At my request, my distributor reduced the price of all the books to £1.99. Amazon, which accounts for most of my sales, reduced the price of all the books to £1.99, except Number 1, which they left at £5.49. Seriously, what was the point of that? That's the one you need, if anything, to be cheaper than the rest, not more expensive. I wrote to Amazon and said. My distributors wrote and said. Amazon came back to the distributors and said:
"We note that the list price is now £1.99, so from now on we will give you your share - 40% - of £1.99 and keep the rest of the £5.49 for ourselves. So fuck you."
My distributor, who obviously didn't really care, gave up at that point. I wrote back to Amazon and said, that's nuts. Shortly afterwards, the price came down to £4.01. A week later it was reduced to £4.00. Someone, somewhere, probably had a reason for all that.
I thought of directing my website traffic to The Book Depository, because they had Book 1 at £1.99. Except, they had some of the others at £3.06.
I kept writing to Amazon. Eventually Amazon wrote to me last week and said:
"Suck it up. It is what it is. You're not the distributor anyway, you don't have a seller account with us, so we're not even going to talk to you. Fuck. Off."
I think that was the point that I gave up. Then two days ago the price of Book 1 was reduced to £1.99.
So, there you have it. For a while, each title in the Barney Thomson series is available from Amazon for £1.99. Maybe they'll all sell, and then I'll have the financing to embark on a new exciting chapter in the Barney Thomson story. Or maybe they won't, and I'll pulp them all and go and live in a yurt on the Mongolian steppe. The latter sounds good for the moment. Click on the picture of the beach at Millport, if you want to be taken to the home page of the first Barney Thomson book on the website of those incredibly helpful chaps at Amazon.