Thursday, May 04, 2017

The things we do for love...of writing. 

Because I live in Canada and my current novel is published in the U.S., getting copies is difficult and costly. Recently I was at Stokercon, a convention in southern California this year. I'd stayed with friends prior to the convention and they kindly allowed me to ship a case of books to their place, which I hauled to the convention. I brought along a carry-on suitcase and a shoulder bag, no checked bags for the Air Canada plane to California. My friend and I went to a Goodwill store where I bought a used suitcase for $8 USD and removed the books from the box and parcels and put them into that suitcase to take to the convention.

The box contained the case of trade paperbacks I bought (26) plus 2 copies my publisher sent me. I also had two parcels with 3 hardcovers, 1 purchased, 2 from my publisher.  That's a lot of books.  I purchased the 26 & 1 @ a 45% discount off the retail price, plus the shipping cost which added $1.35 to the price of each book. All that is in US$$s.  I live in Canada and had to exchange money at the current rate of $1. US$ cost $1.35 CDN $$s to pay for the books and shipping.

At the convention, I sold books through the bookstore on consignment; they take a 40% discount. Between what I sold and what I gave away, the numbers were reduced by 8 trade paperbacks, leaving 20 trades and 3 hard covers to haul home.

I had a 45% discount off the retail price for the books I purchased. The bookstore took a 40% discount off the retail price.
I paid for shipping @ $1.35 per book. 
There's also the 20% I must give to the Horror Writers Hardship Fund for the privilege of selling my books at the convention. Again, all in US$$s which doesn't take into account the exchange rate. Obviously, this was not a for-profit venture. 

I decided I couldn't bear the thought of paying for a checked bag @ $35. US$$s to bring home the 20/3 books left. That would add another $1.50 US$$s to the cost of each book.

What I did was madness: I stuffed the 23 books into my expanded 
carry on suitcase and used bubble wrap and a few small rolled clothing items to keep the books from moving around. The bulk of my clothing, extra shoes, jewelry, makeup, toiletries, convention book, small purchase and collapsible cane which I had to take because I hurt my back 2 days before leaving, all went into the shoulder bag, which is more like a soft rectangular suitcase or small duffel bag. I also had my purse. 

Waiting for the plane I heard the dire warning that luggage would be confiscated and checked if it was too large or there was too much of it.  In a panic, I dumped the contents of my purse into the shoulder bag then folded my purse and stuffed it in and barely got the zipper closed. Now I just had the carry-on suitcase and the 'shoulder bag' which was pretty big and which I would be calling, if asked, my 'purse', but apparently all this escaped notice as I threaded my way through the boarding line.  Obviously I had to ask a man to lift the suitcase up and another to lift it down because there was no way I could lift a suitcase with 23 books over my head without a concussion happening.

Getting off the plane was another story.  By then, my back was annoying me (delayed flight and delayed landing meant almost 8 hrs. in the air for a 6+ hr. flight) so I unfolded the cane to help me walk off the plane.  Shoulder bag on top of carry on suitcase, rolling it up the ramp to get off, when everything fell over.  A kind Air Canada flight attendant rushed to my aid and went above and beyond by pulling the suitcase and bag up the ramp for me, remarking, "My, this suitcase is heavy!"  At the top, before the escalator, another flight person from the airline took over and said there would be a cart when I got to the top of the escalator, they are driving back and forth all the time.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that I've flown into PET many many times at night and there is never a cart, ever, and there wasn't one that night either. "Your suitcase is heavy," she remarked. "I can call for a cart--it might take 10-20 minutes."  Knowing it probably wouldn't come anyway, I made my way from the top of the escalator to the moving sidewalk and to customs. She suggested I get in the wheelchair line and with a cane they would let me through. I did and it was a simple process with customs, for once. 

Meanwhile, my back was really killing me. I managed to get to a taxi and get home and after an extended sleep that night and the next I feel a whole lot better and my back is okay.

I always wonder why things are so difficult. Yes, I could have not been cheap and sent the books through the Goodwill suitcase (which I left in the hotel room), but something about having to pay people even more to read my book than what I was already paying just galled me, and Rebel Nancy emerged.  

There has been 'free trade' between the US and Canada for decades, but it's never filtered down to ordinary people that I've seen; it just seems to just benefit corporations. If I'd sent the books to myself in Canada I'd have had to pay a duty of around 20% on the price of the books. And of course I'd still have to buy the books and pay the shipping in US$$s which would be even costlier to Canada than to the U.S.

It's a conundrum. Always has been. Writers have to do a lot of work to sell books, and for most of us, promotion doesn't come easily or cheaply. If there was ever a day when editors and agents did all the promoting and writers just had to write and occasionally appear somewhere to sign books, I don't know when that was because it's not been my experience at all. There must be a better and less expensive way but I have yet to figure out what that is.  I'm certainly open to suggestions!