Post Election

Time to reflect on the UK’s Election or what might become known as Theresa May’s disaster.

Some of this is extracted from a Goodreads forum discussion.

First turnout.

  • Although pleasing the turnout went up 3% since 2015 we still ended up with only 69% bothering to vote or deciding to vote. i.e. nearly 1/3 of electorate did not care or could not decide.
  • 53 to 48% on UK Brexit out on turnout of 72% of which 62% in Scotland voted to remain in EU and 60% in London did the same. EU vote also included Gibraltar
    55 to 45% on Scotland to stay in UK on 84.5% of eligible Scottish voters – no one else got a say
  • 2015 General election 66.4% turnout with wide variation dependent on constituency. The Conservatives won 36% of that which gave them overall majority of 12 seats in House of Commons

May as P.M

IMHO May got exactly what she deserved. 3 unbelievably bad decisions in under 12 months:

  1. No general election after becoming p.m and failing to seek support across parties for Brexit process after referendum and Cameron’s resignation
  2. Triggering Brexit process but not having election whilst clearly knowing there was a 2 year timetable
  3. Changing mind and having election – again this could have been agreed with other parties based on the Brexit timetable – i.e. the alleged reason of a stable government to agree deal on the timeline

If anything proves that May is not fit to be P.M it should be the above – as if her record as an appalling Home Secretary was any justification for making her leader. I think that was the anyone but Boris Johnson/Michael Gove vote in action. Luckily I was away for a few weeks of the general election campaign but seldom have I seen such a disastrous rabble as the Conservative attempt – again totally controlled by May’s cohorts, at least some of them have had the dignity to resign. Contrast with Scottish campaign run by Scottish Conservatives 1 MP to 13 is staggering.

Now what – the country will have to carry on with May (or have 4 weeks of leadership election) for a period but expect an autumn election – no party can govern without a more formalised agreement as 2010-15 showed – at least Gov was stable – unlike Lib-Lab pact of 70’s. Despite Progressive Alliance discussion Labour would need DUP as well as all the other parties to pass any legislation unless they expect Conservatives to vote for their policies – nationalise railways for example?

Labour

Kudos to Corbyn although losing an election is a funny way of claiming victory. The big losers are SNP but are still the majority in Scotland. My only comment there is if your campaign is entirely based on someone who is not standing i.e. Nicola Sturgeon then don’t be surprised if it get personal. Ditto for heresa May but at least she was standing in her constituency. Labour MPs after this election have 10 less than Labour won under Neil Kinnock in 1987. He resigned as it was seen as a disastrous result. Some Labour commentators have managed to mention the fact that Labour lost.

Some realism at last. To win an outright majority Labour need’s at least another 70 seats. To have a decent majority they need more like another 100. Even with a complete reversal in Scotland (30 back from SNP) a dozen from Wales and no resurgence in Lib Dems, somehow they need another 50 current Conservative seats.

Forecast

If there is another election will Conservatives campaign as badly? Will young turnout (thought to be Labour) be as high will places like Kensington stay with current result. My view:

  • Lib Dems will gain again impact on both Labaour and Conservative but only small number maybe another 5-8
  • Labour will hold more easily in North but lose in South end up same
  • Conservatives will regain Southern losts
  • SNP will again slip back to Labour but might re-gain Conservative wins.
  • Net result – same again but might just give Conservatives 8 seats net gain for overall majority.

I cannot see an alternate candidate for P.M – yes I know people talk about Boris but he does not have enough backing. There is no obvious alternate leader in waiting. I think May will survive for a few months, then again I didn’t expect Cameron to resign and her to become P.M. Let alone to blow the election – I had a bet for 50+ majority. This time I won’t put money on it and a lot can happen between now and then

The BBC’s poll of polls tracker actually showed it. The trend for Labour was up just as it had been for the referendum out vote and the 2015 election Conservative win. What Theresa would give for Cameron’s result now.

Tax

One of the problems of most electorates and the promise of jam tomorrow is misunderstanding how the tax system works and what can really be obtained by raising taxes. The Lib-Dem manifesto was at least partly honest by stating that there needed to be a rise in basic taxation to generate the funds needed for higher spending without just adding to the debt. Remember our UK debt interest payments:

(paying the interest) the public debt amounted to around £43 billion (which is roughly 3% of GDP or 8% of UK government tax income)

This is roughly the same as the defence budget 2/3 of education spending and 1/3 of NHS. In other words this is a staggering amount of money, which is growing daily and current spending activity despite austerity is just adding to it. i.e. the governments since 2008 have made this worse.

If we want more money for these areas (or anything else) don’t treat public spending as a never ending credit card. The difficult austerity measures of 2010-15 were designed to stop increasing this borrowing and failed. The Labour party campaigned (somewhat successfully whilst still losing) for an end to austerity but unless tax intake goes up substantially the debt will rise as day to day borrowing increases i.e. we add to the debt.

It doesn’t mater what you borrow for (infrastructure, deficit, pay) it all adds up to debt – a failing of virtually every country in the world. It’s called living beyond our means – although in most of advanced world it is its not paying our bills. i.e. if we paid more tax privately or from business we could pay this off. Relying on GDP increase to increase taxation is not working.

The other issue on tax is the fallacy that higher earners are not paying their fair share. 25% of £100k a year is £25k. 25% of £20k is £4,000 – ignoring allowances and higher payments (First £11k free of tax for both and higher rate coming in at higher salary) the higher rate tax payer already pays £21k a year more for the same services. So the richer members of society (everyone that pays tax) already give subsidies to the lower paid. At the same time many richer members of society do not use those services e.g. private education and private health/social care.

The old tale of the taxpayers should always be born in mind – yes its glib. For 10 taxpayers substitute ten companies with corporation tax

10 drinkers in a bar who decide to settle their £100 weekly beer bill roughly the same way we pay our taxes. So, the first four men (the poorest) paid nothing; the fifth paid £1; the sixth £3; the seventh £7; the eighth £12; the ninth £18; and the 10th man, the richest, paid £59.

Then the barman decided to give them a £20 discount for being good customers. The group wanted to continue to pay the new £80 bill the same way as before. While the first four men still drank for free, the other six divided up the £20 windfall by following the progressive principle of the tax system. So the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing, making a 100 per cent saving; the sixth man paid £2 instead of £3 (a 33 per cent saving); the seventh man paid £5 instead of £7 (a 28 per cent saving); the eighth £9 instead of £12 (a 25 per cent saving); and the ninth £14 instead of £18 (a 22 per cent saving). The 10th man paid £49 instead of £59 (a 16 per cent saving).

The men then began to compare their savings. “I only got £1 out of the £20,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the 10th man, “but he got £10 – the wealthy get all the breaks!” “Wait a minute,” said the first four men, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new system exploits the poor.” So the other nine men surrounded the 10th and beat him up. The next week he didn’t show for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when they came to pay, they discovered they didn’t have enough money between them to pay even half the bill.

Inflation

Unless we as a society do some fundamental re-thinking of tax income we are in danger of the rich man/company walking away. The amount of money raised by just increasing higher rates of tax is small because there are so few. This is always going to result in less income as the ridiculous 90% tax applied in the 70s demonstrated. The same applies to rich companies – i.e. those that generate sufficient profits or dividends. If the are publicly owned then those dividends turn into investment income for our pensions – yes the senior executives pay themselves extortionate amounts. The richest companies in the world (Apple etc.) employ hundreds of people to move money around to avoid whichever country tries to get more of the income even under a current system. If you make it more expensive for them to trade the directors will be duty bound (and financially incentivised) to try a way to avoid it.  Taking their jobs (from Apple store assistants to financial traders) with them.

By the way increasing wages in any organisation increases costs unless there is a corresponding increase in productivity. Cost = goods / services price rise or cost of service for public sector. Thus either price inflation or more tax required issue. Pay seems to come first, productivity a long way behind, if ever.  Have we learned nothing from the high inflation and high interest rates of the 70s and 80s. Of course the young have an excuse. They were promised in Labour’s manifesto free University education, higher wages, and the old more spending on welfare and social care. They are the now generation and have grown up with exceptionally low inflation. This is not a Conservative manifesto it is baic economics. We as a population are childish and naive. We want something for nothing. We all want jam tomorrow. The current political situation is a reflection of lack of honesty from politicians of all parties who have failed to address the major issues of national income and national debt. If we want good health care and good social care then it has to be paid for. That means tax not borrowing. The trident row is another good example, Whatever the merits of a nuclear deterrent the cost argument is farcical. Trident cost is £100bn for whole life i.e. less than the cost of one year’s NHS spending.

I sometimes think the entire population is unable to understand basic mathematics in particular what a percentage is i.e. the tax take example above.  If we really want to sort out public finances.Institue of Financial Studies produced this in 2015. Suggested reading

And a quote from that document my emphasis – “Of the big three taxes:
  • a 1 percentage point rise in all rates of income tax would raise £5.5 billion;
  • a 1 percentage point rise in all employee and self-employed National Insurance
  • contribution (NIC) rates would raise £4.9 billion;
  • a 1 percentage point rise in the main rate of VAT would raise £5.2 billion.
 If we want £10bn more for the NHS per year we need 2% on basic rate and we will all have less to spend.

 

Drugs, Brexit Divorce Bill, Elections and Musings

I had not realised that it has been over a month since my last wittering. Many of you will be thankful for the silence especially my own son who’s has managed to embed himself into a political party and start campaigning in the UK’s latest election. I’ll get to that in a moment first lets talk NHS and drugs!

NHS

In the never ending debate about NHS spending in the UK – read across to other countries – let’s get a fact out from http://www.nhshistory.net/parlymoney.pdf

In 1950/51 spending amounted to £11.7 billion in 2010/11 prices, or 3.5% of
GDP. By 2010/11, spending had increased more than tenfold in real terms to reach £121bn, or 8.2% of GDP.
Although it has risen consistently over the period, spending has accelerated in recent years.
Between 1999/00 and 2009/10, real-terms expenditure rose by 92%

The Kings Fund has this for NHS in England in dismissing yet another politicians claim of how big an increase the NHS had received each year

Graph showing annual percentage change in real NHS spending

i.e. there has been a real terms increase in NHS spending in England since the 70s with 3 exceptions – so much for NHS cuts. The counter to that argument is that NHS costs have also increased ahead of regular inflation during this period and that is true in particular costs for new treatments i.e. drugs and they are treating more patients due to larger population size, but this is a pot % of a bigger pot as GDP has grown in the same period. There are within the numbers huge variations of what the money has been spent on – a new hospital, pay for cleaners, more doctors and nurses, radiographers, LGBT diagnosis, car parking executives, etc? But lets stick to Drugs.

Drugs

The drug market has recently been in the news with the perceived failure (in economic terms against improved life expectancy) of the UK’s National Cancer Fund. This was set up with the best intentions of funding nationally treatment that local health authorities could not afford. Thus transferring large amounts of money for very expensive drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies. Not surprisingly the results have not been as good collectively as everyone hoped. Some individuals have had very successful treatment, unfortunately most have not. This brings us to the bigger picture of drug companies, cures and such issues of the slow failure of antibiotics (due to over prescription and misuse).

Drug companies are not investing in research to replace antibiotics because there is no money in it for them. There is no money in any drug that produces a cure. What drug companies want is a population that is kept well enough to earn a living thus to pay for drugs that do not cure but keep the customer well. There is no cure for diabetes just a lifetime of insulin injections, blood tests and monitoring. Vaccines cure or prevent treatment is designed not to cure. The only answer to this problem is to either persuade leopards to change spots i.e. drug companies to work for the interests of the patient rather than shareholders or Government to be socially responsible. I have quoted before one terrorism incident provokes millions of tax money spent. Thousands of antibiotic deaths and risks of death provokes barely a whisper.

Brexit

Just a brief word on Brexit divorce bill for my European colleagues. Yes there will be a cost for commitments beyond Brexit date. the liabilities, but there is also a share of assets. Therefore, I presume the UK will be paid its percentage share of buildings, systems, IPR, stored wine, butter, grain, computer systems etc. Of course it appears that the rest of the EU want the UK to pay maintenance for the rest of the EU countries lives, like a distraught spouse who wants to stay in the family house and not work for a living.

UK Election

Both the elements above are key UK election issues. I know my pleads will land on deaf ears (or blind readers) but can we have proper facts. If a cut is claimed (See NHS) above please have the Oxford English Dictionary refine what the word cut actually means. I thought after Trump alternative facts might go on the back seat but no such luck. To add to NHS lets look at Education

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.TOTL.GD.ZS?locations=GB

The graph on that link shows a less than 1% reduction in Education spending as % of GDP between 2010 and 2015 since reversed and trending back upwards. This is in turn with a growing GDP i.e. higher % of higher total pot. Again internal inflation may reduce value of increase but it is not a cut. Spending per pupil – another measure may be down overall but that is because we have far more pupils than before due to net population increase, thanks to birth rates, lower death rates and better health care. Immigration may also have an impact but where more children come from is less important than the fact that there are more children living longer – I have covered this before. Normally we talk about age and long life pushing the population numbers up but higher birth rates and lower infant mortality do the same then 70+ years later add to the aging population. Just one example not in my local area and not a hotbed of immigration (unlike London), Somerset County Council had an increase in pupil numbers of 0.8% just between 2014 and 2015. This amounted to 521 pupils i.e. a decent sized primary school capacity needed. Have you noticed all the new schools being built, and the sewage systems, the roads the hospitals the…. You get my drift

I could also hope that people not actually standing in the election but in political parties might shut up for ten seconds so we can view the actual candidates – already a forlorn hope. Farage, Blair, Osbourne, Sturgeon I mean you. We then have the endless comments about voting for May, Crobyn, Farrow etc (other candidates are available) We do not have a presidency. For any one of these they first have to get elected by their area’s constituents. None of these people are standing where I live so I cannot vote for any of them. I can only vote for candidates standing in the area I am registered to vote. I continue to see commentators, media and the general public asked who they will vote for with the answer one of the leaders. All of these discussions are not in the the respective constituencies. Why is this question even asked?

Once elected as an MP, then ,if they manage to be the current leader of the largest political party (or other grouping), in the UK’s parliament, you may be asked by the monarch to form a government. If the numbers do not add up (326 MPS) you may still be asked if with other partners you can form a government as happened from 2010-2015. Sorry regional governments that’s why you still have national elections not regional ones Ms Sturgeon please take note, if you want a say on UK politics please stand as an MP and be accountable to your constituents to the UK Parliament otherwise please stick to running the bits of Scotland devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This specifically does not include foreign affairs, defence, security etc.

France

Of course by the time the UK goes to its national poll (we have local elections before that) France will have a new President. On current polls (can we believe any of them?) the likely winner on 7th May will be Emmanuel Macron and not Marine Le Pen. Here unlike UK they are voting for an individual. The whole EU leadership seems to be behind Macron as he is seen as pro-EU and business. Of course I am certain that no EU funds have been used to support any of the candidates apart from the funding all candidates in France receive from the EU – what you did not know that the EU funds political parties?

http://www.welcomeurope.com/european-funds/funding-of-political-parties-foundations-european-level-180+80.html#tab=onglet_details

It Almost Makes Sense

In the UK there are major restrictions on funding of political parties, hence potential prosecutions over expenses in the 2015 election, meanwhile the EU funds all sorts of groups and clearly the UK currently pays (via its net contributions) for this. Perhaps this is the real reason the EU wants funding to continue post Brexit. All those political parties and institutions are dependent on it just like a drug company wanting unwell patients that are never cured.

Re-Moaners and Trump’eters

Another few weeks drift past and yet the same issues which seem to have been in the news all year, remain.

The US never-ending election still has over 3 weeks to run and just when you think the behaviour and approach of both camps can’t get any worse they manage to achieve it. If it’s not sexual abuse allegations it’s more leaked emails. I pity the American voter. I thought our choice this side of the Atlantic was pretty bad but the candidates there look appalling.

I watched the clip of Gary Johnson who is apparently also standing as a Libertarian Party candidate – I mean really? Over five years into a civil war in Syria and this man who wants to be President of the most powerful nation on earth does not know what Aleppo is?

At least Trump and Clinton have managed to answer some questions on the subject. It’s not unusual for foreign affairs (not the sexual kind) to play little part in a US election, but one might have expected that confrontations with Russia over Syria, Ukraine and Crimea, to have some impact. Likewise relations with China over the Spratley Islands rather than ridiculous notions of simplistic arguments over manufacturing jobs in the US should have some policy. It remains completely unreported what either candidate’s plans for North Korea are. Better not ask Trump but his rhetoric can’t be worse than the accusations from US Security services that NK was behind the Sony attack.

What still amazes many commentators is that Trump is still popular with large swathes of the US electorate despite all the gaffes. It demonstrates how unpopular Clinton is but more importantly how upset many American voters are with the established political class which Clinton embodies.  Here we have some of the parallels with the UK EU debate despite the referendum.

Although there is an element of the moaning bad loser side in some of the pronouncements from what was the remain side, many did set out the risks to the economy an no-vote would bring. Several senior economists have stated that the currency changes that we have seen since end of June were a long overdue correction to Sterling’s position just exasperated by the vote for exit and on-going uncertainty of what that means. In the percentages shown everything is referred to the currency position post 23rd June, failing as usual to mention that Sterling’s value had risen significantly in the lead up to the vote.

Euro over 5 years from here shows a different story than the headlines might have you believe on 19th Oct 2011 the exchange rate was 1.14 and it closed on 14th Oct 2016 at 1.11. In particular, the rise of the pound in 2015 and the lead up to the vote is dramatic. US Dollar to Sterling is a significant fall over the same period 1.57 to 1.21 and the comments on reserve currencies should be concerning, but at the same time interest rates have been signaled upwards in the US and stay the same or lower in the UK which does not help Sterling investors. By the way Euro to US Dollar has gone down from 1.37 to 1.11 in the same time period.

I have picked an arbitrary period but some of us can remember much better and worse Pound to Dollar rates. It reached a low of 1.05 in February 1985 after the ERM fiasco and was as high as 2.11 in November 2007 as sub-prime crashed the dollar

What do we learn from that brief history- currencies fluctuate – sometimes a lot – thousands of traders around the world make money doing that.

Final discussion for today is on Credit Rating Agencies and their comments – yes the same folks that branded those sub-prime investment funds as AAA, are doing all their warnings on where the pound might go next. All the discussion is based on what the UK might do as if what might happen in the Euro (How is Greece by the way and Italy, Portugal, Spain?) will have no impact. Remember Euro zone and other EU exports to the UK, exceed UK Exports to the EU – we both have a lot to lose if we are stupid and put in unnecessary tariffs.  World trade will be damaged if Trump introduced tariffs to protect American jobs and cancels NAFTA. Likewise what will be the impact on the dollar if Trump wins and implements that piece of rhetoric.

Guess what the pound might go up or down or sideways.  Can we moan about currency traders instead?

Writing to Reading

One of my work colleagues is a process improvement expert. He is a Six Sigma Lean Black Belt which surely as a title should be leaned as a process improvement itself. He can frequently be found drawing diagrams of processes and extracting critical details from our business colleagues. These details, decision points and sub-processes demonstrate where efficiencies can be made. I was contemplating him taking a look at the whole self publishing process, which strikes me as being in desperate need of improvement.

Let’s start with the basic problem. Too many books chasing too few readers who are willing to pay for the book. Economists would focus on the over supply or the under-demand aspect of the problem. To increase demand many writers have resorted to the price tactic of reduced cost to the reader, including free, to generate that demand.  Many marketing strategies emphasise the use of free to generate interest for other books by the same author. Traditional publishers have resorted to inflated pricing of e-books to protect the hard copy versions, much like the music and movie industry kept digital downloads more expensive than CD/DVD and Blue-ray packages.

The pricing and marketing elements and the social media excursions are all about launching or promoting the book after it has been produced. The lean methodology came out of Toyota’s factories i.e. it focused on the method of production.  Although the techniques have spread into post-production and anywhere else efficiencies need to be made. These techniques have led directly or indirectly to just-in-time supply, significant automation and other changes to the production workplace. Many American commentators often critique lean and claim Henry Ford should be credited with the methodology. It is not an argument I would wish to get into as I am not an expert on the history. For the purposes of this article it is irrelevant.

So what would a lean book production look like. Starting with the authorship. Clearly a writer drives a fictional story but let’s face it. We all suffer from foibles. Some writers are very good at scary scenes, others romance. Some are excellent with descriptive passages whilst others can create fabulous dialogue.  Clearly despite the inefficiency caused by increasing the number of writers involved, a lean book should focus on the allocated expertise of multiple individuals to create the book. The justification for the perceived inefficiency would be that more books of a higher qualitative standard would be produced in a shorter time frame. Not something that most authors would contemplate. Yet this type of authorship is common in the workplace – collaborative documents anyone?

Judging by the rumour mill several name authors already produce books in this way for traditional publishing houses.  Who knows if this is true but remember mainstream publishers are businesses not art houses. They want regular product to sell. They do not want to wait till the artist is ready, they have a production schedule to keep and a line of employees from copy-editors to marketeers to keep busy.

The next stage of the production involves the various forms of editing and proof reading. Starting with the authors own efforts (see above where each author could complete this stage). This process varies greatly from a qualitative point of view depending greatly on the skill level of the editors involved. There is a significant variable cost to this process in terms of production costs. An area that under lean should be ripe for automation. Of course if all the authors were experts in grammar, structure and spelling, then editing would be greatly reduced. This would require a major expansion of the processes to be studied extending our lean approach to childhood of the authors from learning to read and write all the way through the education system. Probably outside the scope of this article.

There have been major efforts in the software industry to automate much of the editing process. I think like most operating systems there is still a good way to go.

The next stage of production is formatting and then printing. (I will skip over the cover artwork elements) The new creation of e-books has been a very lean process, prompted by technological change. E-book production in whatever format and through whichever seller is remarkably cheap and efficient. What was once a huge barrier to entry (typeset, review, print review copy, review, print for distribution, distribute, book sellers sell) has been reduced to a few clicks of buttons. Even hardback versions can be produced very quickly.

With a finished manuscript and cover (if not using available default ones) the new publishing process can be completed in under an hour (excluding the seller’s review process) Yes there are foibles of the systems to be overcome regarding pricing, copyright and for Amazon the KDP Select or not decision. Then with the click of a menu item, the new book or a revision is launched on its way. Now here is where us authors need some real process improvement. That newly minted tome is just one of several thousand published each month. It is not only competing with thousands of other new self-published authors but also all of the output of the traditional publishers. That is of course just for books. In the entertainment industry it is competing with similar amounts of music and and hundreds of movies and TV shows for the attention of the buying public.

One of the elements of the lean process is the value chain. The value chain of any published book is long from the hours and hours of writing to the endless revisions and edits. Then we get to the sale. Prices in $ for comparison sake and because that is how Amazon requires prices to be set. Free, 99 cents, $2.99, $4.99 for an ebook. or higher. A new Blu-ray with two and a half hours of movie is approximately $20. Yes there may be extras, but how often are they watched and how often is the film re-watched. Like re-reading a classic book sometimes, but not often. Like most books are read, a movie is watched once.A full novel which should last a minimum of six hours is 99c or Free! We must be mad as self published authors to value our work so little. Even if the book is short, poorly edited and a rubbish story, it will still have some value.

So as a final reference to lean this should not refer to price but to process. The technology process has meant that we have a very efficient production and selling process. The pressure of over-production has created over supply which has been used to drive price down in an attempt to increase demand. I believe this process has failed as the buyer now perceives no value in the product. As the self-pub writer gets no return on their investment they cannot invest in the quality of their product i.e. editing or a better cover. Now the rant…

Amazon as the largest player you have created this monster by allowing books to be given away to support hardware sales of Kindles and other tablets. Yet Amazon has to provide the infrastructure (storage, network, billing) to support a zero price. A zero price provides no covering income for anyone. So Amazon and the others please ditch the free sale and its distortion of the market. It’s not free and puts no value on anything. It also massively distracts readers and reduces the quality of the overall product. I seriously doubt whether it actually increases reading.

For my fellow self-pub authors is your product really worthless, if not why do you price it as such! Being top of a best seller list cannot mean free as nothing has been sold.

For my fellow readers – how many free books have you actually read – was it worth your time. The reading process is not lean – it consumes time. Yes libraries have provided free books but of course they are not free – they are paid for in taxes. The books provided have a value – so should ebooks.

 

Translations

I have been looking into getting my books translated. This seems to be another minefield for the self published or indie author and yet another potential drain on funds with little possibility of recovery or a return..

So far I have tried Babelcube and now Fiverr without luck. Babelcube has a risk share approach to creating foreign editions which at least is more attractive from a financial point of view but so far I have received no offers. Fiverr as discussed in the comments on my last blog allows buyers and sellers to join up. Sellers or buyers bid or request gigs. I requested a gig for translation services into French or Spanish for my books. I have received 20+ notifications all straight forward unadjusted offers to translate approx 1,000 words for $5 or variations of such. Some offers of work have reviews some don’t.

The contact mechanism was broken on two of the offers when I wanted to make contact. Not one of the offers addressed the request i.e. to translate a book the shortest of which is over 95,000 words. Based on the offers that is $425 minimum per language per book. At Kindle 70% royalty of $2.99 – my normal sale price that is 203 sales of that edition to break even. Then there would be foreign blurb, foreign descriptions, cover art, author profile and marketing – what would be the break even point then.

Is this a risk worth taking. It is impossible to know, will foreign readers flock to my tales that I have kindly arranged to sell in their own language.  Advice is split, and of course it is likely that not all the translations will be perfect, recommendations are one thing but I as a non-speaker I will not know until the dreaded review. Of course if the review is in a foreign language I won’t be able to read it. Yes I know I should have studied harder at school to take my limited French further or carried on my Spanish classes, my few words of Russian and most embarrassingly off all my lack of Dutch despite a Dutch mother. There are still language courses and of course Google Translate. These have helped for odd words in the books I have written. No one has told me I have those little elements of French (mostly) incorrect. Perhaps I have put of every French bi-lingual reader on the planet with my offering – who knows. If I really wanted to expand my market I would translate to Chinese.

As with editing or proofreading there is no way of proving a negative. If I invest will I get a return or is this just more vanity on my part?

Now if there is a bi-lingual person out there who would like to help – let me know

A Year of Writing

I   have now completed my first year as an author. My first book An Agent’s Demise was not actually published on Kindle until the end of January 2013. Paperback and hardback versions followed via Lulu.  Even writing the words I am an author still seems strange. I prefer the term writer but that also seems pretentious. Not as pretentious as I felt when friends and family asked me to sign my first editions!
 

IMG_0146
New Author
IMG_0147

I currently have three books published and available. To The Survivors and A Persuasive Man followed An Agent’s Demise in May and August respectively. To say they were all written in 2013 would be misleading. An Agent’s Demise was originally started in 2006 then disappeared until November 2012, when a change in work circumstance led to what was supposed to have been a three to six month break but turned into nearly a year. Writing filled my time, and frequently took over all my time outside of hunting for work, but that is another story and not the purpose of this blog.  Then there is the joy of that first review (good) the despair at the first bad which meant that someone other than friends or family had actually ready my scribble.  Of course making number one in free downloads was fantastic however short-lived!

I wrote back in September in a blog called Advertising for the Self-Published Author of my experiences in trying to sell my books; I thought it would be worthwhile to share my sales figures, not as a way of boasting (there is little to boast about and I don’t want to discuss A Persuasive Man) but as information to my fellow new authors, I have excluded all physical copy sales (nearly all directly to me) – they don’t change anything and SmashWords sales which total less than 10 – so here goes.

Book Stats 1

I have cut off the first couple of months of An Agent’s Demise as this distorts the charts due to the number of Free Downloads and my brief number one position, using KDP Select so here it is on its own.

Book Stats 2

The impact of various advertising campaigns I have run has been disappointing to say the least. I have not been able to attribute any increase in sale to promotions through:

  • Book Daily
  • Project Wonderful
  • GoodReads

These campaigns have cost hard earned money, which can only be recovered through higher sales. So far I would have to say they are a pointless waste of time and money.  I cannot even be bothered to list the actual statistics, number of views (allegedly hundreds of thousands) the number of clicks (tens) then the number of attributable purchases (0)

I did save money initially, by not Professionally Editing (in progress as I write) nor did I pay for cover design, promo video (I only have one) web site design or formatting. I purchased Scrivener and Aeon Timeline software after trying others.  Add in costs for ISBNs, review copies to approve physical output, then there are the library copies British library and the others.  I may never publish a physical copy again simply because of the cost.  In other word I have to purchase 7 copies of each book version just to fulfill these requirements.

I have set up two blogs, this one and one for the forthcoming Sci-Fi series The Interplanetary Geographic Service, a Facebook page and tried Twitter as guided by my betters. For book two I created a YouTube video. I have attended one writer’s workshop but personal selling has been non-existent much like my paperback and hardback sales. I did not join GoodReads until March. I updated my LinkedIn profile to include my new status.

So after my first year what are my conclusions?

KDP Select worked (for the downloaders) for An Agent’s Demise but of course free means nothing for the author.  I am not convinced free actually leads to any reviews or even readers. Amazon knows whether someone downloaded for free but do they know if they have read it?  Does a free download lead to a greater likelihood of a review?  I left KDP Select alone for To The Survivors it has never been free except for a couple of Review Copies but remains my best seller.  For A Persuasive Man it has been very difficult.  It has had more advertising then any of the others, and KDP Select Free promotions and recently a KDP Countdown.  I recently received some personal feedback on the book, which may explain its lack of sales or at least partially explain the reason.  I shall be addressing that over the next few months.

I have several new projects underway:

  • The first part of my proposed Sci-Fi tale The Observer Series – The World of Fives has had a couple of Beta readers
  • An Agent’s Rise the sequel to An Agents Demise is nearly done.
  • New editions of An Agent’s Demise and To The Survivors after editing will be out soon
  • Adjustments on The Persuasive Man
  • My collection of short stories
  • A thriller on revolution
  • More ideas in outline or just paragraphs
  • More ideas about other genres
What have I learned:
  • Building an audience takes time – if I wanted patience I’d be a doctor
  • Advertising has little if any effect – If an advertiser disagrees then put your money where your mouth is.
  • Marketing in any form, including writing this blog, significantly reduces available writing time
  • I’ll never understand how the algorithms that Amazon uses to rank sales actually work
  • Nor which Amazon search expression should be used to describe the books
  • We need more books in more varied categories
  • Too many writers, not enough readers, and even fewer reviewers
  • I have interacted with hundreds of new people around the world making friends with many – may that continue and expand
  • I love writing!
  • That being ranked in the hundred thousands is OK when it’s out of several million!
  • Pushing Publish is always going to be scary.
What would I do differently?
  • Professional editing before launch – if only it was financially feasible for many new authors.  Payback could take several years.
  • Think about a marketing plan, but don’t expect any return
  • Don’t check sales everyday, write more instead
  • Learn from fellow authors – thanks GoodReads – but not all advice will work and don’t pay for the advice.
  • Get more Beta Readers – contact me if you would like a Kindle copy for private review.
  • Blogging and commentating is OK but that is not writing
  • Keep writing!