My Year In Books – Courtesy of Goodreads

A few years back, for no reason other than mild curiosity, I set myself a target to see how many books I could read in a year, all recorded on the goodreads website. The idea being that you set yourself a target, then record the books on the site as you read them. I started doing this in 2011, when I read 16 of a target of 15. In 2012 I upped the target to 20, and managed to meet it, but only just. In 2013, I set the target back to 15, knowing that the arrival of a new baby would slow my progress somewhat, but I still managed to get in 16 books. She’s a good sleeper.

For 2014, I’ve kept the target at 15. I’m not trying to competitively consume books, punishing myself to get to the end, but I think that’s a good manageable total. So far I’ve read one, so that makes me 6% into the challenge according to the widget on the site. In December Goodreads sent out an email with a link to a summary of the books read that year. It’s quite interesting to see what you read over the last twelve months. Here’s a handy graphic they provided;

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Some of them I’d totally forgotten about, which probably meant they weren’t that good. There certainly were several average to forgettable titles in there. Totally average crime drama, a plodding literary fiction novel, and the cult A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, which I hated. Did anyone else find this annoying to read, or am I only one?

But that’s the beauty of reading, you make a choice based on what you read in the synopsis and see on the cover, but you won’t know until you read it. It all adds to the experience. Read my post on reading bad books for more about completing or dumping books you don’t like, mid-read.

Looking at the graphic of what I read last year, I realise I read three George Pelecanos novels in 2013! That’s because I’m a big fan of the writer, who wrote several episodes of The Wire and Treme. His novels are everything I’d want my work to be (if I ever finish anything!) – taught prose, great narrative, and superb characters. In fact, I have another couple of his books to read this year.

Another thing I notice is that six of the sixteen books were read on Kindle, which is an increase on previous years’. The paper versus e-reader contest will continue I guess. I read at an average speed, and my opportunities for reading are pretty much restricted to evenings, mostly before going to sleep. I drive to work rather than use public transport, but if I did I’d probably decimate my to-read pile (although it would probably grow in proportion to my reading speed.)

Who else sets reading targets, either via Goodreads or just in general? What does your ‘already-read’ pile look like?

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Adding It Up – The Grand Total For 2013

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2013 is history. Quite literally.

And with it ends my record keeping of all the additional income I earned for the year. In total, I made £627.24 after deductions and costs etc.

December saw a big spike in Amazon Seller Account book sales, presumably from people buying books for Christmas presents. Almost all of these were old aviation-related books that were given to me by my dad from a clear-out he was doing. One of which was a big book of paper planes that could be cut out and folded into various designs according to the instructions. This was still sealed in cellophane and in mint condition. It sold for £15, but was expensive to post due to its size, but there was still a chunk of change to pass on to my dad after deductions etc. Interestingly, it was posted to the Officers’ Mess at RAF Brize Norton, a large air force base here in the UK. I can imagine it being given as a gift to someone at the base and then dozens of paper planes being constructed and thrown across an office or dining room.

The only other source of additional income in December was the payment of my royalties from Amazon Kindle – sales of my short story I chucked on there a couple of years ago. Although it sounds impressive – royalties from book sales – the reality is somewhat different. I made £9.18 in total, and that’s from a year or so’s worth of it being available to buy. It also includes both US and UK sales, which is even less impressive. The only reason I got the US royalties is because Amazon and the IRS changed their policies toward overseas earnings – meaning that if you didn’t have the requisite US tax code, all your earnings are subject to a 35% deduction. After a lengthy and expensive phone call to the IRS office in the US, I got my EIN number, submitted it to Amazon, and eventually got my royalties. Which only just paid off the cost of the phone call…

So the break-down for the year looks like this;

Month Number Value
Jan 3 £41.21
Feb 3 £47.88
Mar 9 £48.29
Apr 7 £32.01
May 6 £29.96
Jun 5 £15.62
Jul 14 £127.05
Aug 7 £86.94
Sep 6 £45.22
Oct 3 £64.39
Nov 2 £23.65
Dec 9 £65.02
Grand Total 74 £627.24

And the break-down of the income sources looks like this;

Source Number Value
eBay 35 £285.28
Amazon Selling Account 33 £220.23
Quidco 3 £76.75
Survey 2 £35.80
Amazon Kindle 1 £9.18
Grand Total 74 £627.24

Not surprisingly, the bulk of the money was earned through Amazon and eBay. The eBay money comes in irregularly as I tend to list things on an ad-hoc basis, when having a clear-out or something falls in my lap and has a) no interest/value to me, or b) is worth a bit online. I have about 30 items listed on Amazon at present, these are just old text books etc that sit around until someone buys them off Amazon or the value drops so low that I donate them to charity shops etc.

Ultimately what this information tells me is that there is money to be made from sources other than your salary. In theory, the Amazon and eBay listings could be stepped up and provide more income, but like all these things it’s a balance between effort and value. I’m happy to keep an eye out and list things as they come to me, but I don’t really want to be hoarding piles of junk on the off-chance I’ll make a sale.

So what did I do with the money I made?

Like spending money in general, it’s hard to keep track of where it went. More than half of it went on car insurance, which was good to know I had that covered. The rest was used to pay for Christmas presents and helped to fund a 50 inch plasma TV I bought second hand from a friend. Ultimately, it was £627 that I would have had to find from my monthly salary if I hadn’t done this.

I don’t plan to do much differently this year, but it would be good to improve on the 2013 figure. £1000 perhaps?

Posted in Amazon, Books, Charity, eBay, Economy, Finance, Income, kindle, Making Money, Money, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adding It Up – November

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November’s extra income was a bit lower than previous months, clocking in at £23.65. This is mostly because I didn’t make much effort with putting things on eBay. I only listed one item, an old mobile phone that was in good condition with all its accessories and original box etc. I put this up for Buy It Now for £25 and it sold quite quickly, making £17.35 profit after fees and expenses.

The story didn’t end there with the item though, as the buyer sent me a disgruntled email about the functions on the phone, and sent me negative feedback, which he posted before contacting me! To cut a long story short, I replied to his question, expressing my annoyance at his knee-jerk feedback. He then asked how he could change the feedback, to which the seller has to request a feedback revision, and lo and behold he changed it from a negative to a positive saying ‘item as described’! So I went from a negative to a positive, and didn’t have to argue the toss about a refund. eBay is a strange and confusing place at times.

The only Amazon sale was for a book, a big collection of Commando comics compiled into a tome the size of a cinder/breeze block. Luckily I’d priced it to cover the postage, as although it wasn’t heavy it certainly was bulky! I like Amazon sales as it has that double whammy effect of clearing junk and making money. I don’t have a big inventory, perhaps a dozen books which are a mixture of unwanted titles I’m finished with, or items I came across which looked like they might have some value, or in a few cases, books given to me by my parents in an attempt to clear some of their junk. 

Nov 2 £23.65
Amazon Selling Account 1 £6.30
eBay 1 £17.35

I haven’t listed anything on eBay in December, but I have had a flurry of book sales via Amazon, which I suspect are Christmas presents. These have been specialists titles, namely books about aviation – again a mix of books given to me by my parents for resale, or things I’ve spotted in charity shops which I knew might sell. December’s income already beats November’s total, so that’s good Although I suspect I won’t get any/many more as it gets too close for Christmas post etc, but it’s another title out the door and a bit of extra cash in the slush fund. Incidentally, a large chunk of the money raised paid off my car insurance as well as provided a nice boost for Christmas present buying!

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Adding It Up – October

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I almost forgot to write up last month’s additional income review. October’s total was boosted by a cashback payment that had been in the pipeline for months, so much so that I forgot about it. Here’s a breakdown of where the money came from last month;

Oct 3 £64.39
Quidco 1 £34.00
eBay 2 £30.39

The cashback was from Quidco, most of which was earned via a home insurance policy I took out about 6 months ago! Luckily I wasn’t relying on this money for anything, as it certainly doesn’t get paid as a matter of priority between the retailer and the cashback company. October also saw two eBay sales, both for the same type of item.

As a Sky TV customer I was sent a wireless Sky TV on-demand box that arrived unannounced in the post. The idea is that you plug it into your Sky box (TiVo is the US equivalent) and it connects with your wifi and gives you access to films and TV shows via the TV. I couldn’t really see myself using this, as I have Netflix plus my time is at a premium any way, so I thought I’d check out sales on eBay for them. Surprisingly, they were selling for £20ish, and seeing as this was free, boxed and unused, selling it made sense. I shelved it with the idea of getting it listed soon. Then a few days later another one arrived, so I listed them both. Selling identical items on eBay is easy as you simply enter the quantity number and it goes down every time someone purchases from you. So I made my listing and waited. The same day I listed them I got an email from someone on eBay asking if he could come round that night and buy one, paying in cash. I agreed, he turned up, and the sale was made. When I went to look at the listing, I realised that the buyer hadn’t actually used the ‘Buy It Now’ function, he’d simply sent me an email and then paid cash for the item on my doorstep. This means as far as eBay is concerned, this sale never took place. I changed the quantity from 2 to 1, and waited for the last one to sell, which it did, this time in the conventional way via Paypal etc. Due to one selling for cash, and the other via eBay, the profits for each item were different. I made £18 straight profit from the cash buyer, and £12.39 for the eBay one. £30.39 profit from two items that cost me nothing. Not bad at all.

I haven’t sold anything on Amazon or eBay during November yet, nor do I have any cashback waiting, so this might be a lean month in terms of extra income, but we shall see. The money from this extra income is getting funneled into a slush fund savings account that I use for ad-hoc expenses, but this time it looks like it will be used to pay for my car insurance, which strangely enough is the same total as the money I have in the account, so at least that’s taken care of!

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Adding It Up – September

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September’s additional income was a bit smaller than the previous month, but it was about average overall considering I didn’t really sell much on eBay. I made £45.22 after expenses, the majority of which came from Amazon.

Sep 6 £45.22
Amazon Selling Account 4 £35.44
eBay 2 £9.78

The Amazon sales were from second hand books. The largest share of which was a big hardback book about Star Wars figures. It sold so quickly that now I fear that I priced it too low in the first place, but at £20+ after postage and fees that’s not bad. The book was the first and only book so far to sell from a batch of books my parents gave me to sell in order to clear out some space in their house. Non fiction books are the best sellers on Amazon when it comes to re-selling books. Fiction doesn’t really sell second-hand unless it’s really new, and even then the prices are pretty low. As for the titles of the non fiction books, they were a completely random assortment. There was an old text book on hydrology, I suspect this was needed for a Phd course or something, two books about fairy tales and folklore (these went to two different customers), and the Star Wars action figures guide.

The eBay sales were varied too. My wife was throwing some clothes out, so naturally I couldn’t help but have a look at what she’d piled up as ‘unwanted’. There were various items, but the only thing that looked like it was worth listing was a Ted Baker blouse. It was in great condition and is a branded name, so I listed it and it sold quite quickly. There wasn’t much profit in it, but it was worth doing. especially as it would have been thrown away.

With the new Grand Theft Auto game getting a lot of attention and topping sales charts, I realised that I still had my copy of the previous version, and that I was never likely to play it again. So I listed it as Buy It Now and it sold in a day or two, making me £7.79 profit after fees and postage. I’m not going to count the original price I paid for it as that would have been about £35, and seeing as it was bought years ago and provided hours of entertainment I don’t think the original price can be taken into account when selling old household items. I’ve since bought the new version, and the £7+ I got for the old version effectively helped to subsidise the purchase, which makes great economic sense as far as I’m concerned.

Right, I’m off to car-jack a sports car and get in a high-speed chase across Los Santos…

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Blog-posting Novel Excerpts – A Good Idea Or Not?

Lego Figure Writing a Blog Novel

Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of throwing chunks of my work-in-progress novel on to this blog, possibly in 500 word segments or even a chapter at a time. It’s a crime fiction novel set in modern day London, following a corrupt undercover detective as his double-dealings unravel around him. This is my first attempt at writing something that will have elements of a police procedural, so no doubt it’s full of inaccuracies, but I can iron those out later.

Each week I’d post a piece of it, with a brief disclaimer about typos and it being a WiP etc, just to see what it looked like ‘out there’. So far I’m almost 20,000 words in, possibly a quarter of the total projected novel length. So I have enough to post to get me started, and as long as I keep working on it I’ll have more to add as I build it up. I might even pick up some tips and useful critique.

But I’m not convinced it’s necessarily a good idea. While it will give me guaranteed blog content for a few weeks, it will basically be me showing the world (or the couple of lost internet travelers who stumble across it) my first draft. And first drafts are always a bit stinky. Combine this factor with the possibility of receiving some harsh criticism from readers and it could be pretty off-putting. Plus, I’m not entirely sure what direction the narrative should take, so without a strict outline I’d be writing blind and asking people to read it.

Do people actually read what is in effect serialized novels by unknown, unpublished writers? Have you ever done it, and what did you get out of the experience?

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Adding It Up – August

Lego Man Holding Cash

August was another good month for additional income, coming in at a nice £86.94. The break-down of where the money was earned can been seen below.

Aug 7 £86.94
Amazon Selling Account 3 £25.92
eBay 3 £42.52
Survey 1 £18.50

The total was given a nice boost by a survey site paying out the cash I had accrued from months of giving them spurious market research data. Two payments in as many months is good going actually, although that does mean I’ll probably have to wait a while until I get any more from them.

The Amazon funds came from selling three different books. One was an unwanted present that had been sitting unread on my shelves for a couple of years, one was sold on behalf of a family member, and another was a charity shop find.

The eBay sales were from yet another set of varied items. The best profit came from a brand new PS3 game bought with Amazon vouchers earned from online surveys and converted into cash via an eBay sale. This is the second time I’ve done this and it’s a nice little earner. List the item as Buy It Now at more or less the top price on eBay and it sells within 24hrs of listing. The only drawback to this is the infrequency of having the vouchers to make the ‘free’ purchase in the first place. Plus, I often use the vouchers for stuff I want myself, or to subsidise birthday present purchases.

A much smaller chunk of the money from eBay was earned through selling second hand items I already owned. One was an old LG mobile phone, the other was a pair of Hush Puppy pumps. The shoes sold quickly via a Buy It Now purchase with just enough profit to justify the (minimal) hassle of listing and posting them. The mobile phone is another story altogether.

The short version of the LG mobile sale is that it and it’s boxed accessories sold for £7 plus postage in a Buy It Now sale. Phone bought, paid for, and posted with positive feedback sent and received. However, I had previously listed this in auctions twice, with a starting price of .99p each time, and twice people won the item but never paid. The first buyer won it for £7.50, but never paid and never replied to any emails. I got my fees back through a ‘Non-Paying Buyer’ case. The buyer’s account was reasonably new and he already had a negative from a buyer, so this was clearly not a good eBay customer to have. I re-listed it at 0.99p.

The second ‘winner’ won at £6.50 then messaged me to say he had no intention of paying as I or someone I knew was clearly bidding against him to drive the price up. On a phone that cost £6.50! I replied saying that he was mistaken and where was his evidence, and apart from receiving a cryptic response that made no sense to me, it all ended there. My ‘NPB’ case auto-kicked in after two days of non-payment and then I cancelled the sale and got my fees back.

Despairing of the phone’s bad luck in auctions I decided to list it as BIN. The only advantage of having two aborted sales was that I now had my pricing point for an old phone that had an intermittent fault, but also had all its accessories. I relisted it for £7 BIN and it sold in a couple of days. I suppose it’s a good example of the weird things that go on in ‘eBay world’.

I don’t have any listings up right now as I don’t have any obvious items to sell at the moment. I have a dozen or so books on Amazon, and they sell in a pretty random fashion so I’ll have to see what happens in September for those. I’m yet to have a month with no extra income coming in, so fingers crossed!

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