Media

Catch up with what’s happening on our social media feeds, and find out about the latest authors to publish with The Book Guild… there’s also company news, the latest author events and a round-up of our latest reviews and media coverage.

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Media

Catch up with what’s happening on our social media feeds, and find out about the latest authors to publish with The Book Guild… there’s also company news, the latest author events and a round-up of our latest reviews and media coverage.

Good news for writers… the link between creativity and wellbeing

The January blues often catch up with us when the fun of Christmas is over but the warmer and lighter days are some way off… this year however the January blues have taken on a whole new meaning, with the pandemic still impacting every aspect of life and all of us continuing to adapt to new ways of living.

At Troubador, we have three trained mental health first aiders – staff trained upon a specialist course in 2019 who are available to support the team and put mental health on the agenda in the workplace. We run wellbeing activities, team building events, general support and compile our wellbeing newsletter full of activities, research and tips for staff. Most recently we have been focussing on the links between creativity and wellbeing.

Emerging research draws links between creativity and positivity, with creative activities having a beneficial effect on our emotions and overall wellbeing, even after just one session of being creative. The BBC Arts Great British Creativity Test (2019) surveyed over 50 000 people and showed that creativity distracts us – helping us to avoid stress. It also gives us space to reassess problems. Finally, tackling a creative activity helps us to develop new skills, giving us a sense of achievement and purpose.

Writing is a great way of being creative and expressing ourselves. Our authors write and publish in so many different genres but knowing that the act of putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, helps quiet our minds and give us headspace, is reassuring in a time when we need to be resilient.

Troubador staff embody creativity every day; cover design, text design, writing, creative thinking and problem solving, but even out of work, many of the team embrace creativity; from writing their own books, to keeping journals. In fact, gratitude journals and reflective journals are an established way of helping to deal with emotions, and writing for wellbeing is a recognised therapeutic activity that can take several forms, including:

Freewriting: set a timer for 5, 10 or 15 mins and write down everything that pops into your head, you are not judging what you are writing, you are just getting it down. Write for the full time non-stop, and when finished read it back. What themes and concerns recur? What can that tell you about how you are feeling? Freewriting is a bit like a meditation – only one that lets us get the jumble of thoughts out of our minds, to make some space for reflection!

Gratitude journal: Simply jotting down 3-5 things every day that you are grateful for. This is positive reinforcement so that even on a bad day you are thinking of the good, not focussing on the negative. Research can show that paying attention to the positive helps lift the mood and enables us to cope better with the negatives.

Keeping a diary: A simple day diary in which you write down your thoughts and feelings can be a useful reflective tool – you can look back at your general mood over a period of time and see how you change and what your mood triggers are. I kept a diary in 2020 for the first time since childhood and every time I felt that I had not achieved or done much in the year, I looked back and saw the evidence that disproved that – even with the limitations of travel and socialising. It also showed me how creative our circle had been in getting together safely, with online parties, games nights, family nights watching the same film at the same time, cheese nights, murder mysteries and theatre nights – all conducted remotely. In fact, we were far more creative in our social gatherings in 2020 than we had been for years… a positive I did not realise until I reread parts of the diary.

In terms of big changes, writing gives us a chance to stop and reflect on what we hold dear and how we want to spend our time. We’ve seen a lot more biographies being submitted, for example, as the realisation that family history lives in our grandparents, and great grandparents and should be recorded and captured. But any writing can give us an emotional boost and a feeling of achievement, no matter what genre. We don’t even have to be writing with a purpose – the act of creating something for ourselves can be enough.

While writing might be a solitary pursuit, publishing and marketing your book – both of which also call for creativity and learning new skills too – certainly are not, and in fact, require communication and networking! Many of our authors form a bond with the team working on their book – as they create the project together – which increases our safe and positive social interaction in a time when we can all get out and about less.

So next time you find yourself feeling a little bit down – can getting a little creative give you a lift?

What’s hot for 2021?

Operations Director Jane Rowland gives her annual summary of what could be big in publishing in 2021!

Most years, I take a look at the trends and genres that are likely to be ‘big’ in publishing over the next 12 months. Predicting anything 12 months ahead at the moment feels like a fool’s errand, so instead let me look at the changes as well as predictions.

I’ve spent so much time in front of a screen, working, socialising, studying, partying and doing my (now online) yoga, that I had an epiphany in December. Having always loved my Kindle for the sheer ease (any book, any time) which helps keeps my abibliophobia (the fear of running out of reading material) at bay, I suddenly realised that I could not look at a screen anymore in my leisure time. I shut down the Kindle and went back to the bookshelves. And I am loving it…  rediscovering old favourites, and new classics. Christmas helped, a big stack of beautiful books just waiting to be discovered. Ebooks sales were big in 2020 and will continue to be so in 2021, in my heart I suspect that it will be the beautifully printed book that will soothe readers when it’s time to turn away from a screen.

In terms of genre… the ongoing situation has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives and it makes sense that our reading habits will change. Escapism, philosophy and self-help are areas where I anticipate big growth. In my case, in the absence of being able to travel (another of my passions), I have turned back to classic travel fiction… Bruce Chatwin, Jan Morris – and rediscovered an appetite for more. I want to be taken far away by a book (and as I type and it’s sleeting outside, preferably to the humidity of South East Asia!)

For the past two years, I have mentioned diversity in my prediction round-up. Reviewing the mainstream publishing output at the end of 2020 it felt to me like there was a tangible change in this for the first time, with books covering a more diverse range than a year before – offering wider opportunities for all readers to immerse themselves in new voices and stories. Interestingly, self-publishing has always been a platform for diverse stories and readers – and I don’t see that changing.

The disruption to school and education, and its long term impact on reading, will be interesting, especially for those children who have no access to reading material at home, for example. Figures from the National Literacy Trust have reported a widening of the reading engagement gap between girls and boys during lockdown – with boys engaging less (the gap widening from 2.3 percentage points at the beginning of 2020 to 11.5 percentage points during lockdown). Future figures about how screens continue to replace books, especially after such a disrupted year, will be interesting once they are available. Talking of screens, TV and streaming services boomed, and many, such as Netflix, are turning to books for their next big hits.

Disruption always brings change. The book trade itself has had to change how it works – remote working, selling to customers when the bookshops are closed, launching new books when there are no ‘in-person’ author events. A disrupter last November was Bookshop.org, who want to take on Amazon’s monopoly of online bookselling. Matador is signed up as an affiliate with them and I am predicting continued growth – especially while Tier 4 persists and indie bookshops are closed. We can also expect ‘Local’ to be a buzzword in 2021. With many of us staying closer to home, we are buying local and supporting local as never before. Will this turn into a bigger movement? Perhaps. But I’d say there has never been a better time to shout about being a local author.

 

Joining the Club: A Look at Writing Organisations and Groups

Like all industries, writing and publishing have a set of dedicated organisations that work for and with publishers and/or writers. These range from the big umbrella organisations like the Publishers Association (PA) to the more focused special interest groups like the Historical Novel Society (HNS). This blog looks at the different societies and what they can offer indie publishers and/or writers.

FOR PUBLISHERS:

Publishers’ Association (PA)
The leading organisation for the UK publishing industry representing companies of all sizes that publish in all genres – this includes digital products, academic publishing as well as trade and niche presses. They lobby the government and bring issues to the attention of lawmakers – currently, their big awareness campaigns are centered around copyright (as the UK exits the EU, copyright laws will change), VAT and open access (which largely affects educational and academic publishers). They also do research – with the annual Publishers’ Association Yearbook a ‘go-to’ guide for many on the state-of-the-nation in terms of the health and profitability of the UK publishing sector. It’s not the de facto organisation for smaller indie publishers – although none are excluded – the website is a wealth of resources, especially based around the current publishing issues of the day.

The Independent Publishers Guild (IPG)
The association for independent publishers of all sizes in the UK – encompassing over 650 indie publishers. They host events (two conferences a year in spring and autumn) plus free training via their Skills Hub, plus support and representation on a wide range of issues. While this is an organisation that is focused on how to run a publishing business – many smaller indie presses who started off publishing a couple of books per year and then grew are now members. We have been enthusiastic members for years, and attend as many of their events and training as we can – but their website has a lot of useful information for authors as well

FOR AUTHORS:

The Society of Authors (SoA)
The UK trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and translators – wherever they are in their career. The membership brings benefits such as contract vetting and advice on all aspects of the profession. Like the PA they are also a lobbying organisation, plus they administer prizes and grants for authors. (If you are not yet eligible for full membership, they offer an associate-level – self-publishing authors who have sold over 300 print copies or 500 e-copies can join as full members, otherwise, they are associate members, for example).

Association Of Independent Authors (Alli)
Professional membership organisation for self-publishing authors, and the only organisation with self-publishing authors at their heart – they try to be your ally… It’s a community of like-minded authors and publishers offering support and advice. They campaign for indie authors in the publishing sector, suggest best practices and education for self-publishing authors and have wealth of resources on their website.

Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB)
A trade union representing writers in TV, film, theatre, radio, books, etc., they lobby on behalf of writers and offer a range of benefits to members such as training, contract vetting and a red carpet award ceremony for their members’ books. They negotiate pay agreements with major industry bodies (such as the BBC, RSC, etc.) and have a range of membership options. As with all these organisations, they have membership options for emerging writers as well as established creatives.

And don’t forget that there are lots of other genre-specific writing and author societies and membership organisations across the UK. For example, the Historical Novel Society (HNS), which connects people all around the globe who love reading and writing historical fiction. They offer publicity and review opportunities, and members receive a quarterly magazine, plus discounts on events such as the HNS annual conferences.

Then there is The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), who run the prestigious Dagger awards for best crime writing, the Historical Writers’ Association and the National Association for Writers in Education – plus pretty much every genre in-between. The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook has a comprehensive list of societies and organisations for writers and, while not all are available for the debut writer to join as full members immediately, they often have information-packed websites that are worth exploring.

Finally, don’t forget your regional writing organisations. Here in the Midlands, for example, we have writing organisations such as Writing East Midlands and Writing West Midlands, both Arts Council England development agencies for writers; both host conferences, training and workshops, but there are writing development agencies in many regions of the UK and also worth investigating.

A Day in the Life of our Operations Director

Operations Director Jane Rowland describes a day in her life at Troubador:

I’ve been at Troubador for over twenty years. I started out freelancing when I left university, helping out on publishing projects as needed while I also worked in the radio industry (writing and producing adverts for a variety of radio stations). Eventually, I picked publishing over the radio, and moved into a full-time position at Troubador, looking after academic books and journals. This does mean that over the years I’ve actually worked in most departments – I used to manage the company’s academic journal programme, before it was sold to another publisher, coordinating and typesetting each issue and handling the peer review process, before moving over to book production for the mainstream academic series. I’ve led the marketing team as Marketing Manager and also worked in the warehouse. Interestingly, the only department I’ve not worked in is Digital – ebooks and audiobooks – which came online well after I’d stopped department-hopping and settled in as a Company Director.

My day-to-day role varies enormously – as Operations Director I look after the financial side of things, HR and all regulatory and company admin, and the marketing and distribution teams report directly to me. I do a lot of work with Heads of Department across the company, to support them in managing their own teams – sometimes advising, sometimes being more hands-on. At busy times, especially the lead-up to Christmas I’ll often be in the warehouse helping to pick/pack and get books out of the door to customers – both myself and fellow director Jeremy are there to help in any way when needed.

This year has thrown up many new challenges, which has meant a change to how we, and others, work. We’ve had the majority of staff at home for chunks of the year – but have managed to keep the offices and warehouse open to keep the books coming in – and going out. The admin surrounding Covid-19 from a business perspective has been huge – and continually changing – and trying to look ahead, adapt and keep the staff and customers safe and happy has been (and remains) a priority – taking up a large part of my administrative time. It’s been a year unlike anything else we have seen. I never thought we’d be running a publishing company in a world where bookshops closed or where we’d be unable to run our own events and workshops.

Day-to-day it’s a mixture of important admin and strategic work, then responding to what the staff, company or customer needs are – this is actually one of my favourite parts of the job and the one that I can never predict. The team here is great and I love working alongside them – even if that is not necessarily in the same space at the moment. Over the years we’ve tried to streamline the numbers of meetings we hold internally to those that are essential. This means that Thursdays are a senior team meeting and the monthly Huddle to bring all staff together for inhouse business – and to award the customer and company awards for that month. The other big meeting is a monthly planning meeting with all departments to look at the books that have publication dates falling within the next two months, books just published and discussions on the books that have just been signed up.

I don’t really have a typical week – normal day-to-day often gives way to special projects that I can really get my teeth into – recently I was writing a chapter for the Writers’ & Artists Guide to Self-Publishing about book production, for example. This week I’ve been doing the graphics and follow-up work on the newsletters for our Christmas reads promotions and Black Friday offers.

I’ve always been really interested in the data management and metadata side of publishing and moved us over to Onix data some years ago, resulting in the recognition we now get for the data with our BIC Basic Award… There’s always more to do and learn on this side. I also run in-house training on this topic.

I am an organiser – so I am always running lists and schedules and tend to be thinking several steps ahead – we’ve got a strategic plan that I am working on for this financial year, so each month we have projects and tasks to bring online, further developing the company, which is both exciting and means that nothing is ever dull!

 

 

Introducing Bookshop.org

Assistant Marketing Manager Philippa Iliffe introduces Bookshop.org

Following its great success in the US, Bookshop.org has recently launched its UK version of the bookselling platform.

Bookshop.org allows customers to head over to their local independent bookshop and search their catalogue of books or the recommendations they have made for their favourite titles. Purchases made through bookshops (via their affiliate programme) will mean that they receive 30% of the cover price. The books are sent centrally directly to the customer rather than from the individual bookshop. Alternatively, visitors can place an order on the website without going through a particular bookshop, and in these cases, 10% of the profits go into a shared pot for all affiliates to share.

A recent article in the Guardian stated that “despite books being deemed non-essential items by the government, the publishing industry has seen record sales this year. But as we enter a second lockdown, there are a number of the 870 independent bookshops in the UK that have been unable to create a functioning website where their customers can buy books directly from them. Bookshop.org allows any independent shop to customise its own online storefront and select books to recommend… It’s what the publishing world has been waiting for… It’s what the publishing world has been waiting for.”

This new platform has opened a world of possibilities for bookshops, publishers and authors alike. The freedom the platform gives has really allowed creativity to flourish – we see that alone in the ways in which booksellers are categorising their books. From ‘Feeling a bit peckish’ for foodie books (Bourne Bookshop) to ‘Explore the world when you can’t leave the house’ for travel books (Bourne Bookshop), booksellers are making their collections stand out with eye-catching storefronts and uniquely named book categories.

Jasper Sutcliffe (UK Publisher and Affiliate Manager at Bookshop.org) recently cited in the first Bookshop.org newsletter that, in its opening week in the UK, Bookshop.org sold over £415k of books, which raised £90K for indie bookshops. There are currently over 250 independent bookshops and 3000 affiliates on the platform, with more planned to join in the near future. These are incredible game-changing numbers that have already had real-life benefits for indie bookshops.

In The Bookseller, Bookshop.org’s UK M.D. Nicole Vanderbilt said: “We are very encouraged by our first week of trading. We’ve seen great support from publishers, authors, bookshops and readers. The money generated for independent bookshops on the platform will have a real impact on these shops which are so vital to our culture.”

We were pleased to open our own affiliate shops for both of our publishing imprints last week and it has given our authors hope that, despite the continued lockdown situation, there is still a growing need for books and this platform is allowing more independent bookshops to flourish online.

Visit Book Guild’s affiliate bookshop.

If you have any questions about Bookshop.org, please get in touch with your Marketing Controller or contact us at [email protected]

Troubador launches new audiobook marketing services for indie authors

Following the launch of Troubador’s indie author audiobook production services in 2018, we are delighted to announce that we are now offering a range of audiobook marketing services to help our digital authors promote their audiobooks.

“We already offered extensive and popular paperback and ebook marketing services and have been wanting to increase the range of digital marketing we offered to include specific audiobook marketing options,” says Megan Lockwood-Jones, Troubador’s Head of Digital. “We have carefully curated our newly launched audiobook marketing services specifically for our indie authors.”

Troubador’s audiobook marketing service focuses on the digital nature of the product. Services are built around audiograms (which combine audio, visual and a moving sound wave video to give listeners a teaser of the product), a digital press release plus exposure to bloggers and online review sites. In fact, Troubador’s Digital Team have curated a range of services which include:

  1. An Audiogram using an audiobook sample and the book cover.
  2. An Audiogram advert using the book cover and the audiobook narrator talking about the audiobook.
  3. An Audiogram teaser using the book’s cover and the audiobook narrator reading the blurb.
  4. Distribution of the above audiograms on our social media and YouTube channel, as well as sending copies to the author for use on their own website or social media pages. The audiograms could also be uploaded to the author’s Amazon Author Central page.
  5. A Digital Press Release in PDF format for distribution to reviewers. A copy will also be sent to the author to use in their own marketing efforts.
  6. Contacting dedicated audiobook bloggers and reviewers on the author’s behalf with a view to gaining independent review coverage.
  7. Inclusion of the audiobook in our Goodreads account where a large group of dedicated audiobook listeners and reviewers suggest new titles and review recently listened-to audiobooks.

This new service costs £350 + VAT. There is also a range of add-on and standalone services to suit every audiobook marketing budget:

  1. Additional options to promote the audiobook alongside the ebook on NetGalley.
  2. A ‘Meet the Audiobook Author’ video about the author that is posted to social media channels.
  3. A Podcast ‘Minisode’ – a short podcast (approx.. 10-15 minutes long) dedicated to an author and their audiobook
  4. Additional options on BookBub to promote and advertise the audiobook.

Prices for the above are all available here.

If you have any questions about any of our audiobook services, please get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Writing a Book That Will Age Well

Rachael Cooper from Jericho Writers looks at longevity for your writing.

The oldest known literary work, the Epic of Gilgamesh, was created almost 4 thousand years ago. Although we don’t know who the author is, he would definitely be delighted with the long life of his creation.

Every author is curious about how long people will read their books, and many of us consider the time to be the ultimate judge of a writer’s quality. And even the most zealous ministers of the craft occasionally think about what can be done to interest several generations of readers.

No one can guarantee the book’s longevity and too much is up to fate and whimsical chance. But a writer can tip the scales in his favour with insights from the work of old masters, psychology and common sense. Not to mention, that following advice on how to write a book that will age well may also improve your writing.

Read a lot of great literature of the past

We learn to write by reading and almost every good writer is also a prolific reader. The advice to read more sounds obvious but surprisingly many aspiring writers read very little. The entire library of classical literature is full of books that aged well and their authors can share a lot of secrets of the craft if you know where to look.

Close reading can be a helpful way to study literature. Francine Prose discusses it in her book Reading Like a Writer. We usually swallow prose too quickly to experience the richness of the brew. Close reading is akin to wine tasting. You take your time and study the page. Try to find all the subtleties of the wording, all the nuances of the paragraph, to unravel the details in images, words, rhythm and tropes…

A lot of writers from Leo Tolstoy to Chuck Palahniuk are notorious close readers. They make notes, analyse and study the material. Take them as an example and start with close reading – it’ll help you to hone your style and find inspiration. More than that, the work of your predecessors can become your literary beacon and help you navigate your writing in volatile and uncertain times.

Think big

Big ideas survive better. Some of the greatest books started movements, not to mention that in the foundation of every major religion lies a very special book. Surf your memory of literature and you’ll see that books that live longer tend to have a lot to say about polarising issues.

To Kill a Mockingbird tackles serious problems of race and rape. War and Peace talks about the neverending opposition between chaos and order. The Grapes of Wrath explores the darkest period in America’s recent history. Through Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy offers a new perspective on marriage, motherhood, and infidelity. Quite a bold and controversial perspective even today.

The issues that trouble the writer determine the scale of his creative personality. Heavyweight social problems call for heavyweight authors. That is why you should choose your topics wisely. They don’t have to be pretentious and pompous, they just have to be important and meaningful for you. It can be mental health and women’s rights or loss of a loved one and life after stroke. Ask yourself “Can I not write about that?” and if the answer is “yes”, then you should find another topic.

When we talk about serious issues, great old literature comes to mind, but it would be a mistake to dismiss popular contemporary fiction. It could be argued, that Stephen King’s It raises questions of child abuse and The Handmaid’s Tale explores themes of religion and gender roles.

Write about the general human experience

Erik Bork in his book The Idea argues that a great story should be, among other things, relatable. Relatable equals engaging, understandable and interesting. The minute your reader loses interest, you lose a reader.

Myths, parables, and fairytales age well because they describe archetypal events and characters that a lot of people can relate to. We all can understand what it’s like to endure pointless labour, fly too close to the sun or descent into the unknown. And we all have similar fears, hopes and dreams. Concentrate on things people have in common and your readers will thank you. And your book will age well.

You can find inspiration in your life. There is nothing closer to the author than his own experience. A deeply personal story will resonate with the reader if the writer is brave enough to be sincere. That means if you write about recent events you can create a detailed and believable world and share your perspective on circumstances. The answer to the question “Why am I the best person to write about it?” can help you find the story that no one else can tell.

Consider writing about historical events

Think about writing historical fiction. Historical events or figures can provide a solid foundation for the story and become an almost inexhaustible source for the details and trivia that make the realism genre so appealing.

Plenty of writers from the Literature Hall of Fame have woven historical detail into their books that have outlived their authors by far. Homer, Sir Walter Scott, Charlotte Brontë, Honoré de Balzac, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, Victor Hugo, Virginia Woolf — are the few names that come to mind. Works of Russian writers like Dostoyevsky, Gogol and Tolstoy are good accounts of the Russian Empire of their time.

The downside of using historical events and figures is the potential loss of relatability. These books live a long life but with time it becomes harder and harder to relate to the worlds of the distant past. Memories fade, society changes, technology grows and the stories of Ancient Rome or Old England start to more resemble fantasy rather than realism.

George Orwell once said that “You are noticed more if you stand on your head than if you are the right way up.” That might be the motto of every writer. We should try to see things that others can’t and dive into waters that others avoid. Mechanical copying of things that worked before won’t do the trick. We should be willing to walk an extra mile, to push the boundary a tad further, to stretch ourselves a little more. In that unique journey, the experience of the past dreamers, passion for telling engaging stories, your courage to think big can be your shield and sword. With that armour, you can fight your meaningful battle on the page, creating the brave new word.

 

Rachael Cooper is the SEO & Publishing Manager for https://jerichowriters.com, a writers services company based in the UK and US. Rachael has a Masters in eighteenth-century literature, and specialises in female sociability. In her free time, she writes articles on her favourite eighteenth-century authors and, if all else fails, you can generally find her reading and drinking tea!

Amazon in the time of COVID

In response to the recent press reports, Sales & Marketing Manager, Jonathan White summarises Amazon’s current position during COVID:

Since March, we have been receiving an increasing number of queries in the Sales and Marketing Department about Amazon. To try and explain things better, here is a summary of everything we currently know about the retail giant’s position…

Amazon are extremely busy, and we’ve had reports of delays in stock deliveries being booked in to their various warehouses, and then associated delays in processing those deliveries into orderable stock. We do not know if this is due to the sheer number of orders or if the requirement to work in a more socially distant manner is having a knock-on effect. What is obvious, though, is that more and more books on Amazon are appearing as ‘out of stock’ and the times they are quoting for getting new stocks of these titles also seems to be getting longer.

For books that are going out of stock, there seem to be a number of messages that Amazon display. For some titles they are quoting very long lead-in times before they will have stock again. We are seeing books where they are saying they will not have any new stock until dates in November. For some titles, customers are being directed to other retailers who sell their books through the Amazon website as vendors, rather than the book being shipped directly from Amazon. One such company is Wordery, and, interestingly, Wordery are now owned by the same parent company that own Waterstones, Amazon’s main rival in the UK. Finally, and most worryingly, we are seeing situations where Amazon is just removing the ‘Buy’ button from a book’s page. The book is still listed, but you cannot currently place an order for this title on Amazon, and no date is given when they might be taking orders again.

We are constantly being asked if there is something we can do about the situation, but there is not. Amazon are a third party retailer who choose what to sell, or not, via their warehouses in the same way as any other retailer – and there is no obligation that they must stock and supply every book published. We deliver books to Amazon as rapidly as we get an order from them – indeed, not only has our warehouse has remained open right through the Covid situation, we are actually supplying more books to Amazon now than ever before.

We are seeing variable patterns of ordering from Amazon – including over-orders of some titles, resulting in returns almost immediately. Our Distribution Manager is making judgments about the Amazon orders we receive on a daily basis with this in mind. We have also been through our Amazon sales forecasting for the entire Christmas period, to ensure that we have the stock we need in our Leicester warehouse based on that forecast. We have, as a result, already contacted authors if we feel that reprints may be required.

At the start of lockdown, back in March, Amazon announced a stop to all non-essential product ordering – which included books. Like many companies, it seems since then they are not yet back to full operation under the new operating conditions. It should also be remembered that Amazon, although absolutely massive in size, is still just a retailer and, like every other bookshop, they have to both order books in as well as selling them to their customers.

So for the moment, if you do want to get a book quickly, and Amazon do not have it in stock, it may be a better bet to place your order with your local bookshop, who do not have any of the warehousing issues that their giant competitor seems to be experiencing – or order off our website, where we despatch orders within 24 hours.

Tag 9560 by Jane H Wood

Jane H Wood, author of GoldenEars: The Whispering Mountain and the upcoming GoldenEars: The Pale Skulls shares a short story which raises awareness of Compassion in World Farming:

It was another dark-time; for the lights that glared overhead had, at long last, been extinguished. Long hours of darkness lay ahead. She could hear bodies either side of her shift restlessly. The hours passed in a bored stupor, standing on the hard concrete floor, though she had managed to doze once or twice. They were blissful moments that had been all too fleeting. The ache returned in her feet bringing her fitfully awake. She desperately wanted to turn around to ease the throbbing in her legs and vanquish the ache tearing into her back muscles, but even that small movement was denied her. The moist atmosphere remained a constant where a fug of fresh excrement circulated on the air. She lifted her head, trying to see over the iron railing that surrounded her body. She released a low grunt, sensing a warm body a few inches away. The familiar despondency resurfaced and she lowered her head again. There was no way out, she was trapped, confined as though she had done a terrible wrong. Why was she being treated like this? She thought very hard, perhaps she had displeased the long-shadows that had hovered around her. A shiver rippled down her back, as she recalled the pain and discomfort that always accompanied the long-shadows arrival.

Her tongue slid over her rough teeth. The raw pain had subsided, though they still felt tender after she was so brutally handled by the long-shadows when the last light-time flooded from above. She had closed her eyes as the taste of metal rasped against her molars and dug into the soft flesh on the inside of her cheek. She had tried to move her head, to twist away and cry out for mercy, but it was useless. Her pleas were ignored, the long-shadows continued, deaf and blind to her pain. The blood had now stopped flowing, the cuts beginning to heal in her tattered mouth.

A loud clanking of something metallic stirred the air… then a hum of machinery whirled into action. Others like herself began to wake, the sounds escalating into a hubbub of chaotic noise. As though they had disturbed an invisible power, the light suddenly dazzled from overhead. The contraption in front of her rattled, then a liquid ooze flooded from the tip of the metal pipe, filling the trough at her feet. She watched it flow like she had so many times before; a measured quota of nourishment was allocated her. Instinct drove her to eat. It was expected of her, after all, she didn’t want to feel the hot spike of a metal pole jab at her flank. She had learnt her lesson: retaliation was futile.

Both of her ears had already been clipped when she was but a few weeks old. The notches denoted the litter size, and the ear tag piercing her right ear displayed her identification number. She had cried, but that didn’t matter. The long-shadows hadn’t finished and held her upside-down by her hind legs in preparation to dock her tail… leaving behind a painful and bleeding stump. Then she was cast away from her mother. That was the last time she ever saw her. It had been a bad time when the choking sadness had engulfed her.

Pain was her life; not a moment of kindness or consideration was shown her. She endured it, endlessly, and without thought or malice towards her tormentors.

Each light-time was the same, the incarceration absolute. Her mind had grown slow, but her senses had remained heightened to the hostility that was forever surrounding her.

Then a new occurrence began one unusual light-time. The long-shadows arrived, making much noise and fearfulness. She cowered in fright as many of her kin were herded past her narrow crate, their cloven hooves clattering on the concrete floor. Unseen machinery banged and whirled and a great squealing resounded in the air, only to fade.

It puzzled her. What was in the light beyond? She pressed her face against the bars trying to see further down the passageway that led into oblique darkness. It was impossible to get a clear view, her fat body prevented her from moving but an inch or two in either direction and pressed uncomfortably against the cold hard bars in protest.

Young voices roused her from her inertia. Sensing new neighbours sparked a slight interest and she snorted in response. She tried to manoeuvre herself so she could see their faces. The simple action brought her to a stop as her belly dragged on the ground bringing a new hurt to her swollen nipples, now sore and engorged from the repeated pregnancies she had been forced to endure. Thirst made her seek her drinking spout. She licked the end, but no water came forth. A mounting panic made her grasp the iron bar before her, grinding her teeth upon it. But the bars didn’t yield an inch, but then they never did. It was stiflingly hot in her confined space and she licked her dry mouth as a new panic rose inside her. The air was unmoving, the constant hum of machinery had ceased, and also the long-shadows that tormented them daily were absent. This light-time was different, she hadn’t experienced this before. No food or water came in its usual automated way.

Suddenly a great disturbance resounded from the dark passageway. Then the latch on her crate was lifted, and a gentle hand touched her rump. A soft voice coaxed her, and obediently she began the slow walk down the dark passageway with a group of other sows at her side. Together they ascended a ramp and entered a place strewn with fresh straw and a long trough filled with cool water. Her eyes watered in wonderment as she gazed around. Then the doors were gently closed behind them; unaware that very soon, they were all to begin a new life at the Farm Animal Sanctuary.

Supporter: ciwf.org.uk

Embracing the pre-adventure by Martin Smith

Martin Smith, author of Are We Doing the Stelvio Today? shares a short travel story about embracing the pre-adventure:

Pre-adventure is having to make changes on the fly before departure. Is this classed as part of the adventure? If you accept, as I do, that the planning is part of the journey then the answer is yes.

I had been planning for the next trip to the Picos, Asturias, Galicia and Portugal. With the route selected it was time to kick back and enjoy a nice cuppa while admiring my work. That was, until, the email dropped into my inbox like a casually tossed grenade. The email from Brittany Ferries, in relation to my inbound ferry, got right down to business “I’m writing to you today to confirm your sailing on Connemara has been cancelled.” … BOOM!

I had spent so long considering the viral effects of COVID that I had not considered to be blindsided by the economic fallout. I suppose naively I had thought that the routes were viable and, like myself, other bikers had fallen over themselves to book when Europe opened. In my mind, the ferries were booked to capacity. This was a pre-adventure obstacle.

On opening the email, I threw my head back in my chair. I stared at the ceiling, my eyes darting side-to-side as if looking for an answer that would emerge from the white emulsion. I held this posture for a couple of minutes while I considered my options. Initially, ‘right, it’s all off!’ became ‘ok, let’s work with this’. I returned to my upright position and my eyes returned to the screen.

I took a further look at the email. It went on to explain that they would look to offer me an alternative sailing and I would be informed in due course. This was no good for me. The sequential nature of the trip meant there was no hotel I would be at that I could book out of a day early. We would be a day’s ride out of place. Despite being told to sit put I called them.

The line was initially engaged and then I ended up in a queue giving me the impression that there were quite a few seeking clarifications. Eventually, I was connected to a customer adviser and after the initial pleasantries she brought up the details of my booking. I explained that the email said to wait but I wanted to know if I could influence the selection at this stage. I explained my preference to a later sailing rather than one a day earlier. The line went momentarily quiet.

When she came back, she had found another grenade and tossed this into the conversation. “It looks like your outbound ferry has also been cancelled”. Were we edging back to calling the whole thing off again?

Our discussion returned to the inbound journey. There was a later sailing. Sure, it would extend our trip by a day but If I couldn’t find an enjoyable ride in Northern Spain to occupy the time then I shouldn’t be route planning in the first place.

As it turned out it was a better sailing altogether. The timings meant that we would spend most of our time onboard in the afternoon and evening. This would allow us a night’s sleep and to be off the boat the next day with time to ride home.

We moved onto the outbound sailing. I was given two options from my original Tuesday ferry. The first was to Santander on Sunday, but that was too early. My other option was a boat on Wednesday. Ok, I lose a day, but I’ve gained a day on the other end of the trip.

This revised outbound sailing was now to Bilbao. It’s not far from Santander but far enough for me to realise that I had to accommodate a few additional miles. The main change was on sailing times. As with the inbound revision, much of the crossing would be on the previous day meaning we would be disembarking at Bilbao just after midday. We had previously been arriving late in Santander and losing the light, meaning a mad dash to a local destination. Could this now really work to our advantage? This was the pre-adventure I had alluded to. Adapting travel plans with an element of fluidity and thinking on your feet.

The cancellation of Santillana del Mar left us with the challenge of retaining the original route and getting to Gijón. This had now been promoted to our first night’s accommodation. The mileage was within our upper limits, but our departure would be restricted to a start time dictated by ferry disembarkation. We would have lost a good five hours. It looks to be a challenging day. I could look to simplify the route, but this would be at the expense of a lap of the Potes triangle.

Our previous last night of Spanish accommodation had us in sighting distance of Santander and our ferry home. We were still in a good place for a short ride to Bilbao, so the challenge was to find a good day’s ride and a place to stay that offers a similarly easy ride to catch the Bilbao departure.

You only had to open the map for the solution to present itself, or should I say, slap you in the face! Not far from Camasobres was the town of Potes. The opportunity had presented itself to ride one of the jewels of the area again, with a stay in town.

So yes, the adventure is not constrained to the duration of the actual riding. The unexpected events that are thrown in your path that cause you to deviate from the plan and make you think on your feet can happen at any time. This is the pre-adventure.

Somewhere between the overland motorcycle adventurers crossing the wild continents and the motorcycling day-trippers lie a group of adventure bike riders. Are We Doing the Stelvio Today? is a story of one such eclectic group of travellers from across the UK and America heading across the French, Swiss and Italian Alps towards the iconic Stelvio Pass.

Part story and part guidebook, this is a tale to inspire those who have yet to embark on a motorcycle tour of the Alps and shows that you don’t need to cross untamed lands to have an adventure.