News, if you like stationery: I’m closing my shops on 1st September!

Hello! Big news today, if you are interested in very cool stationery and accessories: I am closing my shops on 1st September. I may reopen in December or January, depending on my workload. I’m juggling one too many plates, so I thought I’d put this one down before it smashes, aka something goes wrong in the Christmas season and I cry in the post office. So get your shopping in while you can, in case I don’t reopen!

I don’t currently have anything for sale in any local shops (although if anyone who runs a shop, especially in the Southend area, wants to stock some pieces, give me a shout!). It’s all available on Folksy or, if you prefer, Etsy (item prices are the same in both shops; international postage is a little cheaper on Folksy because of how fees work). There’s 20% off a lot of items at the moment, so grab those pieces while you can! My last mailing day will be 31st August.

Give me a shout if you have any questions! Here is a selection of what’s available:

Here’s the link to my Folksy, hint hint, and to my Etsy, hint hint…


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

A Week in the Life of an Author/Freelancer/Stationery Shop Owner ft. Chronic Pain

When I was doing the quarterly income post I remembered that the life of a creative person/student (well, not a student now my work is handed in) is a bit opaque. I’ve had people tell me I don’t have a job, or don’t work, so I figured, let’s keep a diary of a week in my life. This was a good week to record, because it’s the first I haven’t had a single college commitment since I started my diploma back in September, so I was trying to figure out a new routine. I had Patreon work, stationery shop work, and writing. Well, Continuing Professional Development, in the end, more than actual writing.

It was also an up-and-down week in terms of my health – I’ve spoken about my chronic pain before. This is it in action! I have fun little spells of depression, too, which I wasn’t initially going to include but then I thought, fuck it. We should talk more about this stuff, if only because it gets in the way of the rest of my life. I left out some details, because this isn’t a gossip column, but otherwise this is a pretty accurate look at the menagerie of work I do on a daily basis. I’ve split the days into sections so you don’t have to scroll forever. Enjoy!

Monday

6:30am

Awake. Ish. My new year’s resolution was to spend an hour every morning ignoring the rest of the universe, aka not using the internet. It’s evolved into making a cup of coffee to take back to bed, doing some meditation on the Headspace app and maybe having a read. Then I make more coffee and go for a walk. I’m on chatting terms with multiple neighbours. I can’t tell if the whole routine is very pretentious or very hippie, but I don’t care. It’s nice to go to work with a clear, news/social media-free brain. Also, today I saw some ducks.

8am

Sit down to some writing. I’ve been working on this one story for months and I’m not sure if it’s dragging because I need to focus or I’m dragging because the story lacks focus. Give in trying to figure out which is is, have breakfast.

9am

Remember I have not showered. Shower.

9:30am

My hands are aching so I do some very exciting physiotherapy with some putty and a squishy ball. Physio gets boring quite quickly, especially when you have been doing it for eight or nine years, so I have a read – Bertrand Russell, get me – while I’m using the ball. I learnt the hard way that putty requires your full attention, or it gets everywhere. It’s like the ectoplasm in Ghostbusters meets playdoh.

10:15am

Walk to my nan’s for coffee with her and my mum. Three of us are inside! Having coffee! So weird.

11:30am

Do some freelance work for a long time client.

11:45am

Work on my next newsletter and some blog posts. Break for lunch and come back rejuvenated. Well, less hungry. Post today’s blog, about getting the second Covid vaccine. Work on this post.

2pm

I’m trying to build in more breaks and not sit at my desk for long periods, so I list some clothes for sale online and organise some laundry. Between 2pm and 5pm I’m mostly useless, so I try and make that the time I do non-work things.

3pm

Work on the Do Something Directory. Trying to figure out a new page. It’s going to look great.

3:30pm

Take a walk, because it isn’t raining.

4pm

Fuss about online for a bit, checking sales for the paperback of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes. They could be worse! My biggest fear was that no copies would sell. End up on a YouTube Q&A with a mortician (verdict: I’m not sure I fancy being embalmed). Poke about on Goodreads, because I’m smug I’ve read a lot of excellent books this year. Find the page for my favourite novel of the year so far. Some of the reviews are terrible. I don’t mean to be rude, but what did these people read? It was a masterpiece. Read the book in self defence.

4:30pm

Do some physio – knees and back this time. I live large – and pack an order from my stationery shop. Read the news: apparently a man in Spain has been found dead, trapped inside a papier-mâché dinosaur. It’s thought he dropped his phone inside, climbed in to get it, and got stuck. How appalling.

5pm

I lied. I’m not productive yet. Do some ironing in front of A Place in the Sun. What is one without the other? Read the news (terrible). Get an email from my critique partner (good). Give up on the day and make dinner (better).

7pm

Waste time chill out on YouTube, which is almost productive because I’m also messaging a friend, S, who’s working on the Do Something Directory with me. Fuss about on writing groups.

8pm

Remember that today is the anniversary of the day my littlest dog, Adonis Wheezeface Bean, passed away. It’s somehow worse than last year. Also, the news is still shit. Someone’s body washed up on Southend beach this morning. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. Today becomes is what we in the mental health department call a Bad Day. There’s not much to do when one of those descends, so I spend the rest of the evening on a clothes swap group – bye my purple jumpsuit that doesn’t fit, hi to a new wrap dress that hopefully will – and on Reddit. Learn that David Yoon, the author, is lovely.

10pm

Do a Pilates routine I found on YouTube because I’ve been sitting down for ages. Bed.

photograph of a webpage with squares showing photographs and words overlaid, including 'LGBTQ+', 'Children & Young People', 'Environment & Climate Change' and  'Mental Health'

Psst, Paperback Edition of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes Available Now!

Surprise! My baby is now available in corporeal form. A few weeks ago I asked on social media how people feel about audiobooks versus physical books (you guys were unanimous, physical it is). I’ve been wanting to test the waters for a print copy for a while, not least because my Ultimate Dream is to have a iridescent, map-on-the-front-pages, probably-linen-bound hardcover. With a little ribbon for keeping your place. You know the type of book I mean: the type that is a work of art.

Anyway, those are expensive and since I’m self published, I’d have to figure out some sort of pre-order system to gauge demand before committing to a print run. I don’t fancy being stuck with books I can’t sell, even if they are linen bound with a ribbon. So I thought, let’s do the smart thing and have a sort of soft opening using Amazon’s print on demand system.

I’m pretty sure I’ve bitched about Amazon on here before, but if I haven’t: it’s an unholy trinity of bad packaging, ethically questionable business processes and is at least partially responsible for the devaluation of the book industry.

Unfortunately for the high street but fortunately for my bank balance, Amazon does print on demand really well. It took me about half an hour to upload my files, less than 72 hours for Amazon to check the details and tah-dahhh. You can now order a paperback of the world’s best YA fairy tale. It cost me zero pounds, because I downloaded a Photoshop trial to design a back cover and spine. The book is priced exactly as the ebook at £7.99 (well, it is until Bezos discounts it to 89p). I will make about £2 on each copy, assuming they sell at full price, so I need to sell about a thousand copies to afford a posh hardback. Less if I’m willing to put all the money toward the hardback, but I’m quite invested in earning a wage. This is probably a good time to mention that after 11.5 years of blogging, I’ve joined the Amazon Affiliate programme with the strict goal of scraping every last penny from this paperback as I can… the links in this post are all affiliated. I think a lot of you would have to click and buy for me to hit the minimum payment threshold of £25, though, ha.

Anyway, I am already in profit, because a few members of the No. 1 Readers’ Club have bought some copies (this is why you should join the No. 1 Readers’ Club). I haven’t forgotten about doing a quarterly income round up, by the way! The last quarter ended a few weeks ago but I have diploma work to finish, so I’ll probably get the post done in a month or so. My ebook royalties aren’t in, so it’ll be a short post.

As with the ebook, I’ll be paying it forward with three copies: if you or someone you know wants a copy but cannot afford it, hit me up and I’ll order you a copy to to your mailing address. I’m also doing a giveaway right here on this very blog! To win a signed copy of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, comment on this post and tell me your favourite fairy tale or folk tale. Mine changes all the time, but Femlore Pod recently did an episode on Lieutenant Nun, who is fascinating. The contest ends on 30th April at 11:59pm BST, it’s open internationally, and I’ll pick a winner at random the next day.

Oh, one last thing:

If and when a hardcover run becomes a reality, I may pull this particular paperback. Ideally, one day I’d like this book to have a permanent home with a publishing house that can do hardcover, paperback, audiobook et al and handle all the logistics (and ensure that Amazon is not the only paperback retailer). That would mean a different ISBN, different blurb and spine and whatnot. So there’s a distinct possibility that in twenty years’ time, this particular Amazon offering will be like first printings of MCR’s first record: rare and sold on eBay for inflated prices. That’s actually already happening to an extent; the book’s been live for a week and someone’s already selling ‘used’ copies at a premium. What they’re actually doing is drop shipping: buying new copies and sending them straight to the customer, because they are [censored because it’s too rude even for this blog]. Anyway, if you’d like to be a part of history, just saying, the book is here.

'The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes' paperback on shelf
Much love to my cousin Ellen for taking The Princess and the Dragon‘s first ever shelfie!

Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Top 10 Reasons to Read The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, by someone who is in no way biased

I haven’t slept properly because I spent yesterday in a Magnus Archives-ending bubble, then woke up at 5:30am which is probably not related but also I had at least one dream about [spoiler] so who knows. It’s the Easter holidays now, so I’m officially off the clock academia-wise for a few days, and between Magnus and holiday brain, my words aren’t working. So here’s a post I put together on a lark recently and figured I might as well finish because the world is on fire and I’m empathising with a boat stuck in the Suez Canal (that poor boat driver. I’m never going to feel bad about a work fuckup again. If a boss ever calls me out, I’ll look them dead in the eye and ask: ‘have I held up 12% of the world’s trade?’).

Top 10 Reasons to Read The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes*

*well, my top ten reasons. Yours might be different, but you’ll have to read it to find out, won’t you?

10) Upcycled fashion

9) Dragons that are people

8) Dragons that are dragons

7) Small to medium-sized nods to Real Life Events, although unfortunately none of them are boats stuck in the Suez Canal

6) Irritable psychics

5) Teenagers with ethically questionable levels of responsibility for those around them

4) One My Chemical Romance reference

3) Breakfast meetings

2) Rabbits wearing little harnesses so they can go for a walk

1) Cups of tea in difficult situations

ereader mockup of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, on a Lilly pad/leaf background
Art by Nell from Instagram!

What more do you need from your fiction, honestly. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of retailers but you should be able to find a copy in most ebook stores or app, including library apps. Actually, while I’ve got you here and have a couple of spare braincells: would you, hypothetically, prefer to consume a hardback print copy of a book or an audiobook version of a book? I’m not saying that this question pertains to the rest of this post but, hypothetically, if it were to pertain to the rest of this post, which would you prefer? Potentially, at some point in the future?

Let me know. Imagine I’ve pasted four eyeball emojis here.


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

No. 1 Readers’ Club Updates: Tarot, Merch, Books & More

Hi hi. Just a quick post today because a) I haven’t finished any of the lengthier ones I’m working on, b) I missed last week’s post and feel I have to abide to arbitrary goals so needed something that could work as a mini post and c) this is actually news.

I’ve updated the tiers on my Patreon, the No. 1 Readers’ Club! There are now six, which feels nice and even. I’ve changed up some of the rewards; essentially they’re a little quicker to fulfil my end and a bit more cost effective postage wise. I’m offering more stuff on the higher tiers, because I want you guys to get your money’s worth, and I’ve taken the free copy of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes off there, because frankly it’s available to buy and I’d rather you bought it. Those of you on the higher tiers will get more regular merch-y bits including patron-only book merch, pieces from my stationery shop and books I’ve had on my shelf that I think you’ll like (I tend to know those of you on the higher tiers well through either real life or social media, so I thought it would be nice to do something personal and pass on a novel I’m finished with.) I’m also doing tarot readings! Not sure how they’ll look yet: I know a lot of people have a groovy camera set up and film themselves pulling cards on a flatlay type thing, but I am firstly inept at videos and secondly camera-less. Maybe photos or something, I don’t know. I’m looking forward to it, though. Mostly because I’ll get to test my memory… and offer you guys the most secular, non-spiritual card readings in human history, bahaha.

deck of tarot cards on a table

I’m going to have to reuse these photos for the rest of time, because my cards are dogeared as anything now. Look how shiny they were! Now they are full of existential crises. Right. Time for me to return to my Monday state of hibernation and schoolwork. See you later in the week, probably?

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.

Making Money: introducing a quarterly income round up!

Hi hi lovelies. A slightly quicker post from me today. More of a heads up kind of a thing? I’ve been sharing a survey on my socials about how I can improve my Patreon page, the No. 1 Readers’ Club (please take a couple of minutes to do it, whether you’re a member or not, because more voices equals better direction for me, and your input will influence the posts I share here).

One of the suggestions that has come up so far is more transparency about where patrons’ money goes. I’d already been considering sharing a post, or posts, about how I earn my money, because I’ve had a lot of questions about book royalties and how they work. I figured that, since royalties are a quarterly thing, it might be more useful to do a quarterly ’round up’ post detailing all my income rather than a monthly one… also, frankly, I don’t earn enough at present to warrant a monthly post. So what I’m thinking is, I’ll do the first one when my first royalty statement comes through. That will be some time in March, I believe. I can also talk about the money I get in from my stationery shops, plus of course income from my patrons. I’m not sure how long the post will be, but I want to be as transparent with patrons as I can, so I figure I’ll do it every quarter? I won’t be sharing how I spend my money, but the number of questions I’ve had about book royalties alone has convinced me that the general public could do with a little bit of an education about how much authors actually earn.

Spoiler alert: this will be my face when I calculate how much I’ve earnt versus what publishing dragonnovel cost:

Gerard Way pulling a face next to a BBC reporter at Reading Festival in 2014
from bloodinfections.tumblr.com, according to my computer

(That image has been sitting on my computer for SIX YEARS.)

Anyway. Leave a comment if you’d like to see anything in particular in this as-yet unwritten income round up post! Let me know if you have any questions about book royalties and how they work, or how publishing works, and I’ll do my best to add those in too. I feel like people tend to think of the creative industries as a bit mystical and opaque, not to mention lucrative, so anything I can to, you know, add some reality to the perception is something I’m interested in. I know March isn’t for ages, but this is the sort of topic that requires planning and I want to do it properly.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.

Let’s talk about stamps, baby

Let’s chat about the post. The mail. Shipping. Stamps! Here is a pretty example of postage:

stamps from Finland on neat postmarked envelopes
By Anne Nygard on Unsplash

Here is a realistic example of postage:

I started my stationery business back in 2014 or so, and in summer 2017 when I was looking to increase orders, I asked my friends whether they prefer to pay postage on online items or not. They were unequivocal: postage is annoying, especially when your budget is £20 and your basket is £19.50 and then you hit the check out and you’re actually paying £26.72. So I decided to experiment and offer free UK postage. The same day I changed the postage settings, I had my biggest order to date, which felt like a good sign. Back then I used very thin paper envelopes and most of my items were the size of a regular letter, so free domestic postage wasn’t going to bankrupt me.

Royal Mail always put their prices up in March, sometimes by quite a bit, and over the years I began to invest in thicker envelopes and larger items requiring more postage. But my margins were still okay-ish. In 2020, Royal Mail upped their prices in March, July, September and then again from 1st January. Mostly it was international postage changes but in January UK stamp prices went up by 2-12% (biggest increase since 2012. Small parcels have gone up too. Going to blame Covid for that. And Brexit, because it makes me feel better). I realised that if I kept offering free postage, I would be paying my customers to buy my products. So at the end of December I introduced a 50p postage charge on UK items, with 10p on items thereafter. Large letter second class stamps are 96p now, so the customer is still getting a deal; I’m just making sure I don’t lose money.

On the first order I had after changing the postage price, the customer used a browser plugin to use a free postage coupon I’d forgotten about. I love my customers, I am grateful for my customers and I understand that times are tough. I get that we all resent paying for postage. I’m not frustrated at the customer, I’m frustrated at past Francesca for not remembering to cancel those long ago coupons. But still.

Frank Iero fuck off gif
from Tumblr

Orders have been quiet since. That’s a bit because it’s January, of course, and a bit because Covid is getting to everyone. But is it also a bit because of postage charge? Over on the Big E, they prioritise showing items that offer free shipping over those that don’t (great idea for those creators who have to send their expensive hand crafted items tracked and insured, or those who can’t afford to absorb the cost of postage, or anyone who isn’t a drop shipping shitbag reselling crap they found on Urban Outfitters).

I don’t know. I can either continue offering pencils at £3.95 plus 50p postage, or I can start offering pencils at £4.45. Either way people are going to be thinking ‘well that’s a bit pricy.’ It isn’t, of course. My margins are almost too low to be practical; the majority of my products are purchased from small UK suppliers, so they’re more expensive than the standard fare you find on Amazon or eBay. My suppliers are VAT registered and I’m not, so I can’t claim back that 20%. I’m not busy enough to apply the old economy of scale, either, and purchase a thousand pencils at a lower price than I pay for 250. I’m thinking of changing up my packaging, because those higher quality envelopes are eating my profits. Any savings might be negated by free replacements of items that have been crushed in the post, though. Or maybe I should only offer bundled items, because two or three products per order is a much better margin.

Or perhaps we could as consumers could start understanding that when we buy an item on the internet, the product and the postage are two different things? When I had free shipping on my shop, Royal Mail wasn’t being paid in smiles and small talk; the postage cost was coming out of the product cost alongside packaging materials, the item itself and, you know, my time. Now I’m just asking people to see the two costs in two separate columns. Are we really so used to Amazon Prime’s free-postage-24-hour-delivery-free-returns that we’ve lost our understanding that indie sellers on Folksy or Etsy aren’t using the same business model that Jeff Bezos is?

Probably.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep the postage charge or just raise my prices. I suppose I could go back to those cheap as eff packaging materials and say a small prayer every time I ship something. I could experiment with other postage providers, like Hermes, but I’ve heard so many bad things about their service. I could make another attempt at Click and Drop, although last time I tried printing my own shipping labels I almost threw my printer out of the window. You still have to buy those mailing stickers, anyway, so I don’t know if it’s worth it for my little cards and prints. Maybe it’s time to offer digital items with no postage cost, or much heavier, larger items with a big enough price point that I can include postage within the item price without the customer blinking. Maybe my entire business model needs rethinking.

WHO KNOWS. It’s 2021. We’re living in a world where I can’t hug my nan but white supremacists can attempt a coup d’tat in the United States legislature at the behest of the president. Anything is possible! I’m going to pop off to make a cup of tea – or maybe a gin and tonic, because 2021.

Here’s my shop, by the way, if any of my moaning has whetted your appetite. Are any of you in the online sales business? Are any of you customers with really strong feelings about online sales? Let me know your thoughts on this! I think to-charge-postage-or-to-not-charge-postage is one of those weirdly large issues that will be hanging around for the foreseeable future, and I do not have the answers so I’d love to hear some other perspectives.

Look after yourselves!


Want to support this page and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Or we could just get coffee?

700 Blog Posts & Chatting About THE FUTURE… and scones.

My hands have been playing up, so I filmed a wee 17 minute video instead of spending 4 hours writing the equivalent. A free piece of stationery of your choice to anyone who counts the number of times I say ‘er’.

Those links I mention:

Thank you for watching!