Sunday, March 28, 2010

CONF 631: SUCCESSFUL FAILURE NO. 197 & INNOVATIVE SUCCESSES

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Karl Stead is a respected New Zealand academic who, in 2005, had a stroke and lost the ability to write and read. His short story, Last Season's Man,  published today, is the unanimous winner in the Sunday Times Short Story Competition, the competition with the biggest prize money ever offered for a short story. It's about the rivalry between two writers and the evils of envy that success and failure brings. I loved it. Not that I've, cough, ever suffered from that sort of thing.

Gah, I tried to link to the story but it's not working.

The Times will soon be charging for their internet content. Wonder if that's got anything to do with it?  No, it's working now: Last Season's Man by Karl Stead.

Though talking of free links, The Guardian's editor is banking on global branding to keep  Guardian Online free. The Independent meanwhile has just been sold for £1. To the same man who bought our local London paper The Evening Standard. That's handed out free now but unless you travel by tube it's really hard to get hold of, even in the central bit of London where I live.

Meantime, the iPad launches in the US next week and another much-loved independent, The Kilburn Bookshop has closed. Though I do see the e-revolution as an opportunity for authors, it is without doubt sad. But, as this article points out, publishing, with all its kowtowing to Tesco, did need a good shaking out & I'm sure proper books and bookshops will survive and thrive. Look at Lutyens & Rubenstein, a gorgeous independent bookshop that opened just recently in Notting Hill.  Whilst I was in there a girl from Holland Park Daunt's turned up and introduced herself to the staff, saying she'd heard great things about it and just wanted to look around. They've obviously put a great deal of thought into the space and are diversifying with style. There's a little coffee and tea bar plus they sell jars of marmalade and unique perfumes made by a cab driver turned 'nose' with  names like Mr Hulot's Holiday (seaweed, sea breeze & leathery, inside of suitcase), Russian Caravan Tea (bergamot, tins of tea and dusty bookshelves) and Library (books)... plus it's a literary agency!

Lutyens and Rubinstein Bookshop - Small Projects from The Architects' Journal on Vimeo.



Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, March 26, 2010

CONF 630: SPRING CLEANING AND A NEW VOICE

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Woops. Hello, yes, it's still me.

It's that time of year. All's ready now for the big push on the ebook next week so spent this morning tidying desk, throwing away old paperwork, putting all novel files away, clearing the pin board of years of layers of photos and all that.

No news on the novel but starting to feel a bit itchy about returning to fiction. Was friend's birthday yesterday. As she's about to start writing I bought her one of the classic how-to's - Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. One I haven't actually read as it happens but have heard enough about it & hope can borrow it back one day. Birthday friend manages a singer-songwriter called Anoushka Lucas. She was playing at a bar called Zigfrid von Underbelly in Hoxton Square (the arty part of London I don't know at all but wish I did, even though I'm very old). So off I went into the night on the very annoying circle line tube. It's no longer a circle, can you believe that? They've managed to break it in the middle, so you have to change platforms and wait and it's extremely annoying. Who could have seen that coming?

Navigating dark East London streets isn't favourite thing to do when tired & annoyed with London Transport, or Transport for London as they've so imaginatively re-branded themselves.  It's all so vibrant around there, like Barcelona, and the bar was great, like a cartoon: basement, jazz band, small stage surrounded with red velvet, big big armchairs, great Guinness. Then Anoushka played and I was completely blown away. She shut the whole place up within minutes of taking the stage (with a bit of shusshing from her mum). Completely original, warm and beautiful.

More last minute glitches on the ebook - making my website 'sticky' was the problem of the week.  I'd put a link up on the first page, so I was directing my traffic away from the site before they'd begun looking around. And then in such a way that anybody linking out couldn't get back! Insanity. As I was correcting had a new idea for the front page. What about putting up some of the reviews that have come in from my friends, including the readers here who downloaded the free sample and were kind enough to comment? As marketing is all about word of mouth these days, what's wrong with that? As long as it's honest. Which is more that can be said for many of those celebrity endorsements you see on the covers of print books. Anyway, I didn't see the harm. Shame has to go out of the window I'm learning, so off I went, flagging your wonderful reviews. For which - thank you thank you thank you.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

CONF 629: THE FIRST 12 YEARS ARE THE WORST

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Ten rules for writing fiction reminded me of that quote by Anne Enright, one of my favourites.

Meantime the struggle goes on. No news from agent on novel submission (7th week of waiting now). However the non-fiction is all set. The shop on my website is now open and fully functional and E the publicist is fired up and ready to go. So, let's see what happens. More Kindle excitement, currently number 4 in the homeopathy chart and number 37 in consumer guides!

A new biog written for a new SEO website described me as an author, journalist and publisher. I immediately got them to scratch out the 'publisher' bit. I'm obviously self-publishing and, though people in the know know, it still has the whiff of the not good enough about it.

There was a little exchange on Twitter about this the other day. This was agent and Curtis Brown books MD Jonny Geller & author blogger & publisher Scott Pack:

Jonny Geller said: one lit publisher told us they publish 40 titles a year; 20 fiction. Discount 15 repeat authors, so slots for only 5 new writers! Tough times.

Scott Pack replied:

Do you think we need to be more creative with how we build an author's career? If publishing and retail slots are tight, would some authors benefit from a digital debut and a plan to establish an audience before taking a print slot?

JG - Publishers need to believe again and stop listening to retailers all the time. Sales are important but passion is all..

SP: You are right but a debut published with passion but not stocked by retailers will struggle. Just thinking there are ways of building authors that may not involve print copies at all in the short term. Not for everyone but worth looking at.

...agree and there will be more authors in non trad route who will make it, but UKs USP is our talent and door needs oiling!

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.










Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CONF 628: BUSY NOT WRITING

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I meant to keep up an account of the ins and outs of getting the ebook out but it's been so full on I've barely had time to breathe. There have been lots of little problems and not so little problems along the way but nearly nearly there. I do plan to write down the whole process from beginning to end. Like so many computery things, there's so much you just don't know unless you know it.

It hasn't only been computers. Graphics - gah. After all my work on the cover, it turned out the quality of the image wasn't good enough for magazine reproduction. Thanks to E the publicist's contacts got Daz, a great graphics guy , to reproduce it (with his own improvements) very quickly and the magazine was happy. But this image turned out to be too high a quality for the cover itself so was back to square one reproducing the reproduction. Then the first shop test crashed because all the photographs in the download were way too HIGH a quality.... I could go on. A full on learning process. There have been some excitements along the way already. We haven't started the publicity stuff yet, I'm not allowed until everything is absolutely pristine and ready to run. Testing the shop out is the ongoing glitch of the moment. To accept credit cards on Pay Pal you have to be a merchant. Which means opening a merchant a/c..... which means business address... I could go on. Excitements:

Done & Dusted got its first reader review via the free preview offer on this blog from the wonderful Merewoman at No damn blog . Could any book have wished for a better, genuinely enthusiastic kick out of the door to send it on its way? E has also secured a pre-publicity mailout review and extract via a contact at Wellbeing Magazine, which was what all the graphics panic was about. My friend The Writing Coach gave me the thumbs up in her newsletter which set my mailing list going and I've also got a profile coming up on a new website about doormats! Doormats made sexy I've been reassured. It's been great fun working with E the publicist, just fantastic to have somebody with such enthusiasm behind me. Plus the invites lunches and launches are starting to come in. Last week was the launch of Dwell furniture store in Tottenham Court Road. We both agreed the lighting was the most interesting thing there and very good value. Tomorrow we're going to some kind of fashion launch at my favourite Oxfam shop in Westbourne Grove, then a party at the amazing WOW Woman On Wheels Dancer Di, for the final show of Dancing on Wheels.

No news on the novel, 6 weeks now. But I have clarified the rights to my first novel are mine again, so am very pleased I'll be able to relaunch that with its original title - if I ever get the time.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, March 05, 2010

CONF 627: PUBLISHED!

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I really genuinely thought this would be a blog about getting back on the bus. A short interlude in the gloomy netherworld between publishers until I was picked up and was on my way again.

How long was it?

Confession 1, February 2005.

I couldn't have imagined all the hard work and heartache that was to follow.

And I still don't have a print publisher. But do I want one? I'm completely unsure about sending my fiction agent a copy of the ebook. She knows I've done it but has a conflict of interest. If she wants to know more she'll ask me. On the other hand is it crazy not to send a copy when the London Book Fair is around the corner? But wouldn't it be more fun to keep on with the epublishing and see where it goes?

I've got the old Amazon tic back again. I'm loving this kindle thing. I don't understand it at all but, look!, today the book is number 96 in Green Housekeeping chart, number 57 in the Cleaning, Caretaking and Relocating chart and number 18 in the homeopathy chart. Meantime, Made in China, the short story I put up as a tester under a different name has been bought by somebody as well, for one dollar (the UK price includes costs & VAT), earning me 35 cents. The book is also up on Lulu ebooks and Scribd. Very useful place, Scribd. You can't sell from the UK but you can put sample chapters up, or any document at all, of any description, you want to share, publicly or privately.

Publishing on Kindle is very simple but different to writing for PDF. There's limited colour and photographs don't work. I had to transfer back from Open Office to a word document and close up all the gaps and tabs. Then you put page spacers between chapters and save it as word HTML. Then you upload it onto the browser and have a look. It's fairly primitive and getting indents and spacings perfect is nearly impossible. I checked out the competition's layouts via the free Kindle iphone App and then spent time downloading, checking again, downloading again getting mine up to at least as good as professional standard. You can get an HTML version back to correct it that way but I haven't worked out unzipping on my computer.

Hopefully now comes the fun bit. The press release has been written and goes out next week. Meantime, Smashwords is another ebook distributor am about to join. Ha ha:

Why did you create Smashwords?
Smashwords was inspired by my own unsuccessful multi-year attempt to get my novel published.....

spool down the FAQs to Smashwords' founder Mark Coker's own not getting published story.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.