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Friday Report: December 4, 2020

This week we wrapped up our big late-November/early-December sale. Thank you so much to all those who participated! During the eight days of the sale, we had 1,710 orders for 4,914 books. That will mean bigger royalty checks for a number of our authors this month, sort of like a Christmas bonus. And I hope you, our customers, will find lots of useful information in those books to help you solve problems and make better use of your hardware and software tools.

Sale Blues

As nice as it is to see lots of dollars generated during a sale, my feelings about sales overall are ambivalent at best. A significant percentage of our customers buy books only when they’re on sale. So we get these lovely peaks of income, but they’re followed by long and low valleys. And it’s unfortunate not just because unpredictable income is rough for any business but also because our authors suffer over the long term. They sell far fewer of their books at full price (and often receive artificially low royalties in the months immediately after a new book release) because customers have been trained to wait for sales.

In the future (I’m hoping for the first half of 2021, but we’ll see), I plan to set up a new discount system that will replace big sales. I want to end this peak-and-valley business for good and help customers break that common habit of waiting for sales, while still giving them an opportunity to save money. More details to come once all the pieces are in place.

But this brings me to a related topic…

Being Neighborly

We’ve never been shy about pointing out that Take Control Books is literally a mom-and-pop operation. If you send us email, a real human being (usually me) reads it and writes back (usually within minutes). We like to think of our customers as our neighbors, and we hope you think of us that way too.

However, in the real world, we have occasionally had neighbors do annoying or upsetting things, and we’ve had to go knock on their door and ask them politely to stop doing whatever it is that’s causing us trouble—so that we can stay good neighbors! In that spirit, I need to bring up (in a friendly, neighborly way) something that drives me crazy.

Every single time we have a sale—no matter how long it lasts, how many times we publicize it, or how crystal clear we are about exactly when it will end—someone always writes to me a day or two later to say they missed it and could they please still have the sale price? Sometimes we also get people asking whether they can have discounts on items that are not on sale. Predictably, both of those things happened yet again last week.

Do not do this. The answer will be no, and you will make me grumpy.

Remember, you’re not dealing with anonymous drones at some mega-corp here. You’re dealing with me. You’re asking me, personally, to go to a lot of extra effort just to enable you to pay me less money. Can you see how that might come across as rather rude? If I miss a sale for whatever reason, that’s my problem—not the merchant’s problem. If I want a thing that isn’t on sale, again: too bad for me—the price is the price.

Our sales are quite infrequent. When we do have one, we have well-thought-out business reasons for choosing which items are discounted, by how much, and during what time period. We think our everyday prices are quite fair and reasonable. Sales also serve a useful business purpose, but they do so only because they’re both rare and constrained. If a sale covered all products and lasted forever, it wouldn’t be a sale! And that would not be good for our business.

We do have an ongoing build-your-own-bundle offer, though! Put any three full-price books in your cart and save 30% on all of them. True, 30% is not as big a discount as 50%, and you do have to buy three books at once. But we still think it’s a pretty great deal!

Wrapping Up 2020

I don’t have to tell you what an awful year 2020 has been, for so many reasons. Life has been difficult. I had plans and goals for Take Control Books earlier this year that didn’t seem excessively ambitious, but in retrospect, they were hilariously optimistic, based as they were on the premise that I’d actually be able to put in full days of work when the kids were at school and that the machinery of government and society would function more or less normally.

There are still nine new or updated books by other authors, plus a dozen of my own, that I’d planned to ship by the end of the year, but that aren’t yet done. There are still 83 items on my master Take Control to-do list that I’d expected to finish by now. And there were Big New Things that I thought we’d be rolling out in January but have barely begun working on. Most of this stuff has now been pushed into next year, but we’ll get to it all as soon as we can.

Even so, I think we still have a few interesting book releases coming before the end of the month (which, realistically, means by the solstice, give or take). We’ll see how the next couple of weeks go, and in any case, plan for exciting things to come in 2021.

See you next week.