If you are a fan of my writing, this applies to you. If you hate what I do, it certainly won’t; you have my permission to go tend your turnips or plait your naval hair.
The wonder that is the internet leads to a culture of getting things for free. I cannot complain too much, as I have made my name through the internet. But the problem remains: how do I make a proper living?
After two years unpaid, I now get approximately £40 a week for my column on the official LFC website. (The NUJ says that around £275 is the going rate for articles of a decent length). This is the only guaranteed income I have.
The fee is small because I am allowed to promote my books in return. But if people don’t buy enough books, or I don’t have a new book out, I don’t make a sufficient living.
And this is the constant problem I have. Every year I try to find new solutions, but eventually hit a brick wall and find myself at this point at the start of each calendar year. Dynasty was designed to be a more commercially popular book, with a wider-ranging theme, but unless I could get it to sell like a seriously commercial book (which it never really could), I would be stuck making thousands of pennies rather than thousands of pounds.
While Dynasty continues to sell well for the genre (four months in the football book top 10 as published in FourFourTwo magazine), retail sales see my profit margin at a minimal level.
Sales go through a wholesaler, who takes almost 60% of the cover price (almost £6 on a £10 book). Waterstones only take independently published books if sold through this wholesaler, while I dealt direct with Amazon for my first book, but it was a nightmare, and they take an even bigger share of the cover price if you don’t use a wholesaler. So the wholesaler is a necessity.
Printing of the book and couriering costs equal 20-30% of the cover price. So I’m at almost 90% of the money gone, even before my other overheads in actually writing the books and running a small business (computer equipment, electricity costs, accountant fees, book cover image fees, blog hosting fees, internet and phone costs, etc) are taken into account.
My books previously tended to retail with an RRP of £12.99, but I was advised that it was putting shops off, as it was too expensive; they want books that are under a tenner. My aim for Dynasty was to see if I could break into stores like WHSmiths and Borders, the but former still won’t bite and the latter aren’t dealing in serious quantities.
I managed to slightly reduce the costs of printing Dynasty, but this was offset by having to reduce the cover price to an RRP of £9.99 to try and open retail doors.
Sales are now understandably slipping because a) it’s no longer brand new, b) the Christmas market has gone, and c) the global recession is kicking in. Sales are also adversely affected after a bad result/run of results. So January’s sales weren’t great!
I have made all of my major books available for retail purchase, as it gives everyone a chance to buy the book, and gives me the chance of sales by people stumbling upon it in a shop or online.
However, it has got to the stage where I will make any 2009 book of mine available only via my website. It will mean fewer sales, but at a decent profit, rather than more-or-less breaking even. In the past I have sold a limited amount this way, but from now on the economics mean it will have to be 100%. But that will be later in the year, and my first concern is getting to that stage.
I will also be publishing an excellent book by Chris Rowland (veteran of all ten of Liverpool’s European finals since the first UEFA Cup win, and contributor to Dynasty’s Brains Trust) about his experiences at Heysel, relating to his travel experiences, the terrible events within the stadium and the aftermath. At his request I will be supplying the Foreword, and this book will be available via my site and also retail outlets around autumn.
As such it clearly won’t be much of a money-making project for me, but is a chance to get an important account full of humour (leading up to the match) and the madness of the tragedy from a Liverpool fan’s perspective into the public eye, as the 25th anniversary approaches.
For the time being, I need people to buy Compendium to help my general living expenses, as well as with the treatment for my illness, so I can continue with my own writing.
At present I am committed to spending about £500 a month to try and help combat my illness (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). If it helps improve my condition, I can then do more work, and as well as feeling better, I can earn that money back.
This is split between the Perrin Technique (£50 for weekly treatment and travel), and a whole range of recommended vitamins, supplements and dietary items.
There is no known cure for ME (even though more breakthroughs are being made in understanding the condition, including damage to genes by a virus), but the Perrin Technique, if maintained over a long period of time, is believed to be able to help a good percentage of people improve. I’ve had a few sessions so far, but it’s been too stop-start, due to the festive period, two snowbound cancellations and the severe winter causing more health problems for me than normal, leaving me unable to attend on a couple of occasions.
The vitamins, supplements and dietary items have all been shown in studies to help, too. I take Corvalen M (bionergy ribose, helps with energy); Vegepa (pure EPA, shown to help brain function in people with M.E., but needs to have the DHA removed so standard fish oil no good); Moducare (immune support); Whey Protein (helps the immune system, and because studies have shown people with M.E. need more protein); plus a range of other supplements, multi-vitamins and antioxidants, as recommended by Christine Craggs-Hinton in her book on the illness.
M.E. is a complex illness, listed by the World Health Organisation as a neurological condition, and taken seriously in all developed countries, bar the UK, where the deeply offensive NHS NICE guidelines are currently being challenged in court. It is even still occasionally referred to as Yuppie Flu, which is a pathetic term, as it’s not flu, and it has nothing to do with idiots from the late ‘80s.
M.E. is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but most sufferers loathe the term as it trivialises the condition; while fatigue (after physical or mental exertion) that doesn’t abate with simple rest is a defining symptom, it affects are far more wide-ranging than that, not least the serious suppression of the immune system, and a nervous system that is totally haywire.
It causes muscle aches and pains, headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, problems with concentration, food and chemical intolerances, hypoglycemia, digestive problems, serious sleep disturbances, palpitations, and a number of other issues like muscle tremors/spasms and an inability for the body to properly regulate its own temperature; all of which affect me to varying degrees.
Stress is a major cause for people with the condition, due to problems linked to the adrenal glands, but I’m in a catch 22 – if I don’t work I definitely don’t get enough money to live on; if I do work, I encounter stress, which makes it harder to work, and it’s a struggle to get enough money to live on!
It is a condition that can ebb and flow on a daily basis, but an overexertion almost always leads to a worsening of the symptoms. I cannot work a regular job because I cannot work regular hours; there is no way of knowing how much time I can spend at the computer each day, while some days getting to a job would not be possible. Therefore I have no choice but to work for myself. This has its perks, but it also adds to the stress, as anyone who is self-employed knows.
My condition is nowhere near as bad as some (plenty are bed-ridden and unable to even sit up unaided), but it is worsening each year (partly due to just getting older!), putting me nearer the middle of the scale. I certainly don’t feel sorry for myself; as a natural pessimist I’ve had to learn to look on the bright side, in case anyone hasn’t noticed. When I was first ill I had to overcome a sense of just giving up, but these days I try to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can’t.
Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee I’ll be up to doing something pre-arranged even if I rest for it; some days it can be bad for no obvious reason. Even getting to Liverpool games is now getting tricky; the last one I made it to was Luton at home in the FA Cup in January 2008, and that was with help.
In recent years I’ve been to some European games as part of group trips organised by a mate, but the problems I encountered with walking in Barcelona means that this is no longer feasible, even with the help and support of the group I travel with. I went to Athens but spent much of the time resting, and it took too long to recover afterwards to make such trips viable.
And in the last year I’ve turned down countless TV, radio and podcast opportunities that would have helped me promote my books, but but the effort involved, and the nervous energy and concentration required, is too much for me; with writing I can pause if I feel unwell or if my brain gets ‘foggy’.
I was finally diagnosed in 1999 (aged 28), when, having been a semi-professional footballer (and long-distance runner), I found I was collapsing a couple of hours after a game and unable to stop sleeping for four-five hours.
I kept getting virus after virus, and was tired for days afterwards. I had to give up my job as a designer at The Guardian (achieved after six years of self-funded study at design college), and have not kicked a ball for more than a couple of minutes in almost a decade; any attempts are met with serious consequences.
For someone who at one point played football in one form or another seven days a week (semi-pro Saturday and midweek, plus training, Sunday league and work five-a-sides), it was hard to deal with, and to this day I miss this more than anything. Writing about Liverpool is great, but nothing compares to being able to play football.
So this is not a case of begging; simply understanding the economics of how I work due to my illness, and, if you enjoy what I do and can afford to, helping me to continue.
Each book has been well received and well reviewed, so it’s not a case of selling a load of rot, even if not everyone appreciates what I do or agrees with what I say. While donations can be made and are greatly accepted, buying my books ensures I have a chance of keeping on with this and you get something in return.
Compendium, available for £16.99 including postage to anywhere in the world, is a collection of the best bits of my first three books, including the chapters on Instanbul, Cardiff and Athens. There is also a chapter that was left out of Dynasty due to space issues (I could only afford a 256-page book, and didn’t want to reduce the type size to make room). Finally, my best articles of 2008 are in there, too. All books bought from me are signed.
Use the link below to purchase:
It can also be bought with An Anfield Anthology 2000-2008 for £23.99 including P&P using the link below:
Finally, donations can be made using the link below:
Finally, if you want to buy Dynasty, please use the link here as I will then get a referral fee of up to 50p for every copy sold via Amazon.
Thank you for your time, and thank you to everyone who has supported me now, and in advance of any future purchases and donations. I am not looking to rip people off or get rich (fat chance!), simply be in a position to take it one book at a time.