Books on Botox…The Enhanced E-book?

During a period of prolonged www fossicking I came across the latest thing in e-books – enhanced e-books. Well I say latest but I don’t get out much so it could be old hat to some of you. But I’ve only just digested ebooks so what is this enhanced version?

Now just to prove I’m no Luddite here are a few snippets I’ve garnered.

Audio – if you want to quote an extract of a speech say by Winston Churchill or Abe Lincoln why write it? Why not insert an audio extract, possibly of the great man himself if you can get the permissions.If your recipe book includes instructions for simmering your soup why not have the steady “gloop gloop” noise playing in the background to illustrate the process. If your hero is caught up in a great conflict why not have a bit of background bang and crash to help make the point?

Video – travel writers you could show people, places and events using short video clips to enhance your words and make them come alive. Instead of static book covers we could have a little vid clip – Orcs slobbering, masked killer about to strike, heaving bosoms as heroines meet heros…your imagination’s the limit.

Author Interaction – not enough just to write the ebook we all need to give additional interactive material – our reasearch, where we get ideas from, where and how we write. We could even share our notes, plot lines and characterisations. Talking of characters…

Hyperlinks – internal hyperlinks inserted say for a list of characters so readers can tag along with them or find them quickly in any part of the book. External links too can take the reader to other sites, resources, people or places.

Then, one of my favourites – tables. When I wrote Time for Your Life it was replete with tables that the lovely Steve at http://www.kindlemybook.co.uk had to convert for me to make them more Kindle friendly. But no more…embedded pdfs, that’s the way to go so I now can have tables, graphs, graphics of whatever sort for my ebook.

All of which creates a multi-media, multi-sensory reading experience.
Does it mean writers will need to add other techie type skills to their profile?
Or will books become collaborative efforts with people with different skill sets sitting round a table to produce an enhanced ebook?
If we have an ebook can we still be said to be reading? Yes, but not as we know it, Jim.

I guess it’s a bit like cosmetic surgery – it all depends on how judiciously we use these enhanced features, which by the way, only Apple and B&N readers support.

Whatever will happen to curling up quietly with a good book?
The runes are there to be read or multi-media’d.

Of Reviews and Reviewers

Just been reading an interesting post from Slepsnor at Legends of Windemere about book reviews.

It seems there are a nasty-minded numbnuts out there, savaging authors’ books just for the hell of it.

The post got me thinking about reviews and how important (or not) they are. Certainly when I’m a prospective purchaser of anything other than books I will check out reviews and I can think of a couple of occasions recently when a review has influenced me not to buy.

When it comes to books however I’m not really interested in reviews. Whether I (or anyone) likes a book is almost totally subjective and subtly influenced by other factors such as curiosity, what friends are reading, price, cover, any other books by the same author and genre.

I bought and read The Da Vinci Code and 50 Shades of Grey for no other reason than curiosity and because friends were reading them. I didn’t like either of them for different reasons but I never felt the need to rush off and write a destructive review.

I find well-thought out constructive criticism is often more helpful than paeans of praise; a thoughtful opinion whether for or agin a book, short story or article helps me to see and get to grips with other perspectives. However a mouthy infantile slagging handed out to an author deserves nothing but contempt. I say handed out to the author because I do believe that the author is the real target not the book.

To me there is something quite cowardly about writing a review that aims to destroy a book and make nothing of it and its author. It is the act of a bully and a bully usually protected by pseudonym or anonymity. Thankfully whilst they may seem to shout loudest they are not the majority.

Is it envy, a sense of their own inferiority, scatter-gun malice or just plain stupidity that motivates these type of reviewers? Are they looking for five minutes of fame? I neither know nor care. The best medicine is silence – a total refusal to even acknowledge their existence.

The “Real” Book is Dead, Long Live the “Real” Book

A new day and I’m not as grunty as I was yesterday…it’s the artistic temperament dontcha know. I’m still musing over a chat I had yesterday with a group of participants at one of my workshops. It was break time and good for dropping the oh so casual hints about THE book. There was apparent interest – apart from one guy whose eyes had glazed over the moment I started the workshop and who slipped quietly into a state of catalepsy as the session continued. I had to proddle him awake at the end of the afternoon and he had the nerve to tell me he thinks better with his eyes closed. But I digress.

The question most asked was “can we get a copy?” I explained it was an eBook available from Amazon, hastily adding that if they didn’t have a Kindle they could download a reader for free onto their PCs/Laptops. Their disappointment was flattering although I harboured an unworthy suspicion that it might have had something to do with their assessment marks but I like to think not. What this particular group wanted was a hold-in-the-hand, curl-up-by-the-fire “real” book and they wanted it signed. (Note to self – query possible sycophancy?)

Driving home I thought about why I had chosen to be Kindled. Apart from the fact that all the publishers out there seemed to suffer from a distressing form of myopia when it came to my book, the royalties from Amazon do at least offer an author the possibility of bread and dripping rather than one or t’other.

Last night I had a little Google (no scatological or salacious comments please). I found that there are certain genres – fantasy, sci-fi, romance, crime and thrillers that all do well as eBooks but non-fiction and more literary fiction do less well. It seems that many people consider eBooks to be disposable whereas they seem to regard non-fiction to be for keeps.

So which way to go? Do I want to go down the road of hard-copy publishing? Time to put the brain in gear. You know, I definitely think better with my eyes closed.

Book Sales, Telephone Repair Man and Me

At last, normal service is resumed; the world is at my fingertips once more and guess what? It’s been a day of firsts.

I’ve just sold my first copies of my first book; I have my first two 5* reviews for it ( no I haven’t bribed my friend or neighbours) and I’ve got my first commission this year for a magazine article.

Woohoo – I’m on a roll. I’m pleased. No what am I saying… I’m as happy as a church mouse that’s discovered a stash of Double Gloucester in the vestry on the cat’s day off.

However, the idea of someone, a real person buying the book really tickles me. I’ve sold articles and the odd short story but never a book. It feels more personal – an act of faith on the part of the reader. I wonder if it will bore, amuse, irritate or even get read at all? Will they delete it or file it for posterity? Perhaps they’ll say it was all a mistake; that they got their cursor crossed and really wanted “Time for Your Lies – a Beginner’s Guide to Telling Porkies”.

I mentioned the book to Telephone Repair Man this morning. I’d made him a cup of copper-coloured tea after he’d been freezing his whatnots off up a ladder fixing the phone line.
“Have you made any brass from it?” he asked in typical direct Yorkshire fashion.
I had to be honest about the anaemic sales figures.
“Thought not.” He supped his tea.
“Are you famous at all?”
I admitted the path to my door was unbeaten.
“Thought not”.
I bridled inwardly (is that physically possible?)but I’ve picked up the gauntlet along with several dozen bits of snipped off wires. I’ll show him. And this is where I’ll need your help.

All you need to do is click on this link http://tinyurl.com/d2wfbb7 and make the appropriate donation to the Make Sheila Famous and Confound all Telephone Repair Men Fund.

Ta very much.

Competitive Spirit

In another life I once worked with a guy who was competitive, very very competitive. His whole life was a great, winner-takes-all competition. He competed against his boss, his colleagues, his wife and even his children. He turned everything into “I betcha…” He was a tiresome creature to be with especially on those occasions when, on winning whatever infantile comp he dreamed up, he would wiggle his backside in your face chanting “I won, I won”. Of course he always won because no-one ever had the energy, will or interest in standing against him. I think he was probably weaned too young.

I still bear the scars that resulted from working with this guy and it really turned me off any sort of competition. Besides I don’t think I’ve ever won anything much. I vaguely remember winning a Basildon Bond letter-writing set when I was about 7. I think it was for neat hand-writing. Oh yes, I won a third prize yellow rosette in a best turned out pony class. Let me rephrase that…my pony won a third prize yellow rosette etc. After that my luck changed; zilch, rien, nada, nothing and nowt (as they say in my part of the world). I decided I was behind the barn door when the “Competition Success” parcels were given out. I was pretty sure that even if I were the only entrant the prize would go to the judge’s cat. I gave up competitions and retreated to the hills.

That attitude endured until recently when I was a trifle discombobulated by the idea that entering writing competitions is a good way to hone your writing muscles, whip yourself into disciplined writing mode and give yourself another possible outlet for your short stories. The author of these wise words,Iain Pattison in his book Cracking the Short Story Market, makes a persuasive argument for writers of short stories to enter writing competitions. He does say that some skill may be required oh, and the ability to tell a great story. But what the heck. Now that I’ve come down from the hills, I think I might have a go.

Anyone got a bottle of luck for sale?

Reflections on Kindle

I spent most of the weekend working on my marketing platform for The Book – mainly bullying the friends and family category. However, I also invested a little time in thinking about this Kindling experience. Here are four early learning points.

1. Don’t assume that everyone has a Kindle or similar. I lost count of the times I was asked to “show” the book because the f&f member didn’t possess a Kindle. This was also the case when I spoke to a couple of local newspapers and a radio station. So, buy a copy of your book and hawk it around on your own Kindle and you can give people a bit of a taster.

2. I had planned to publish The Book in other digital formats however, if you publish in KDP (Kindle Digital Publishing) you are tied in to an exclusivity clause for 90 days. Check the terms and conditions thoroughly (if you are doing your own “Kindling”) and don’t make commitments that you won’t be able to keep.

3. You can have up to 5 “free” days in any 90 day period so you need to think about how you’re going to use them (if at all). I’ve decided to save mine for around the end of the 90 days when they can help me put a bit of a sales boost on.

4. Was it worth going through a Kindle publisher? For me yes, yes and yes again. I’m not tech-savvy; learning how to Kindle is not a priority for me nor a good use of my time. I think it better to stick to my knitting. The publisher I used (www.kindlepublishmybook.co.uk) had loads of experience and inside knowledge; managed the whole process once I gave him the mss and was affordable. I’m sure you can d.i.y. it but for me it wasn’t worth the potential hassle.

Finally, be prepared for someone (at least one) to say to you: “Oooh! You are a clever thing aren’t you, but it’s not like it’s a proper book, is it?”

AAAGH!!!

Happy Monday.

Time for Your Life on Kindle

It’s there! The Book. It’s up on Amazon and I can’t believe how quickly affairs have moved. From having the final, final, final draft of the manuscript to it being uploaded and available has taken little more than 36 hours.

I’m sitting here at 7.30am, having a cuppa, just staring at the cover page and feeling a little tearful. It’s almost as though I’ve lost a bit of myself. Silly I know – I’m just getting sentimental in my old age.

Part of my professional training and background is always to ask two questions after the completion of any project:
What have I learned?
What would I do differently another time?

It’s a little bit too soon to answer those questions; there are some very practical things to understand about “Kindling” and also some “touchy-feely” stuff. I’ll come back to them in Monday’s post when I’ve had time to reflect.

However, one thing stands out above all: there was no buffer between me and the publisher. There was no editor with a sharp blue pencil to cut our the persiflage and waffle; no-one to correct grammer and other howlers; it was all down to me and I found this the hardest task of all – to be objective and distance myself from the writer’s viewpoint. I did ask a chosen few for their feedback and it was always very positive and helpful. But I noticed that the closer the book came to completion, the less I trusted anyone’s opinion, especially my own. That may just be me – I do have the odd kick in my gallop from time to time – and then maybe a collapse of self-belief is a quirk that most writers endure?

Anyway, ’tis done.
If any of you kind readers are interested The Book is:
Time for Your Life by Sheila Williams and you’ll find it on Amazon.

I’m signing off now for the weekend – back on Monday.

I just got Kindled

Yesterday my first book got Kindled. When I got the email to say it was ready I confess I got the shakes a bit. There’s no going back. It’s not a huge 100,000 word blockbuster rather a modest twenty-odd thousand words of self-help type but it’s mine and I’m proud of it.

I’ve lived with this book for more than six months in between the day job – first in the research and then the writing. Sometimes it flowed easily; sometimes it was sluggish. But the most fiddly part was the editing and like the guy in Camus’ The Plague I got stuck writing and rewriting the same sentence. Then I was gripped with this fear that I might have inadvertently nicked someone else’s words or phrases. The subject of the book – making time for the things you want to do in life – is by no means original and the internet is larded with articles, blogs and references. I know I’ve read some of them. I spent last night checking over the mss for possible copyright breaches – for the third time.

All that is left now is for me to write a few persuasive sentences for the advertising blurb and decide on key words for searches. Despite all the anxieties and neuroses it’s brought out in me I feel…not exactly satisfied – I’m never that – but perhaps elated. I’ve done what I set out to do, as well as I could do it. Whether it burns with a bright flame or fizzles out remains to be seen.

I’m also relieved that I can move on. For sure I’ve got work to do in marketing and selling the book but my head’s stuffed full of other ideas and projects all crying to get out.

Clearly I can’t give my Oscar speech since I ain’t sold a single copy yet but I would like to publicly thank Steve at http://www.kindlepublishmybook.co.uk for his support and help. I gave him the worst possible example of a mss for Kindle – full of formatting, tables, illustrations – all the Kindle no-no’s. He took it all on the chin and worked his magic in no time at all.

Now, I need 5 or 6 sentences to promote the book – how hard can that be?

Research is what I do when I don’t know what I’m doing*

Yesterday I took myself off to a local landmark called Spurn Point – a sliver of sand and grass hanging off the southernmost edge of the East Yorkshire coast. I went there, not because I wanted to skive off but because I needed to experience the atmosphere. I wanted to understand what it felt like to stand on this sand spit, with an angry sea on three sides, the wind howling down all other sounds, rain and sleet lashing at my face. I’m no masochist and nor do I wish to die for my art – I just like to research my writing and sometimes the only way I can do it is to experience what I’m writing about.

I enjoy doing the research – apparently many writers don’t. But I love where it can take me, what I can learn and how it can add that touch of authenticity to my work. I divide research into two types – outward bound like yesterday and deskbound when I’m on the PC, reading or in a library.

My outward bound research covers observing, doing and interviewing. So, I visit places, museums, country houses, gardens and so on. I take a camera and notebook and, most important, a list of questions for which I need to get answers. Sometimes I’ll interview an expert and it’s amazing how people will give of their time. For example, recently I’ve interviewed a poker champion, a lady who trains animals for TV and film work, an expert on Daphne du Maurier and my GP to get some medical info. On the same lines I’ve spent a day on a grouse moor working as a beater and done a stint with a hill shepherd during lambing time. All of this gave me some great material for magazine articles and short stories.

Deskbound research, particularly on a cold, snowy February day is an attractive proposition. The quantity of information off the Net can be a bit daunting and the quality of some of it throws up warning signals. However, I find the real risk with www. is the way links lead to links and to more links and I lose myself in a mass of fascinating yet irrelevant facts and figures. For all of that it’s a million times preferable to those readers they used to have (maybe still do) in libraries. I remember spending hours bent over one reading old newspapers to get material for some work I was doing on the Luddites. I blame my poor eyesight on them.

Research offers added value too – not only does it open a window on worlds I know nothing about, it also provides ideas for more writing and prods my sluggish imagination into action.

Now where did I put my specs?

*Title quote from Werner von Braun

To Market, To Market…Revisited

I received an email from a reader of this blog scolding me slightly for sounding negative in yesterday’s post. Said reader (I know where you live) suggested that instead of being “sarky” I shared my approach to building a marketing platform. Personally I think it’s just a ploy because she’s too lazy to work it out for herself but she makes mighty good cakes which often make their way to me. (No! It’s not my mum).

So, using the list I produced yesterday, here are some of the planks and nails that are going to build my marketing platform for my book “Time for Your Life”

Social Media – I shall tweet, facebook and link-in in an escalating format – “only ten days to go…” you know the sort of thing. It’s also where early reviews extolling the virtues of the book will make their debut.
Press, TV & Radio – these call for press releases. There was a helpful blog about writing these to be found at http://writegoodbooks.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/promote-your-self-published-book-give-the-media-what-they-want-better-press-releases/. I realise I’ll have to keep slots in my diary for the several interviews that will naturally follow the press releases but hey ho…that’s life.
Articles – I’m already on with this and angling each article so that it is specific to an industry, profession or other group. For example healthcare, small biz owners; working mums.
Public Speaking – here’s where I piggy-back onto the day job in the form of workshops that I run particularly Personal Effectiveness and Time Management. I’m not sure whether anything else is possible given that there will be no back-of-room sales with an ebook.
Websites/Email – Promoting on my own sites plus a link to my landing page on few others. Going to add a little banner to my email signatures.
Friends and Family – will be bribed or bullied unmercifully to promote and sell on my behalf.

One additional one – Influencers – clients/ex-clients/HR Managers whose organisations have a staff training section on their Intranets. I’ll let them have a free copy to put up in the hope that individual staff members will want to have their own copies.

There, that’s my platform and not a bit of sarky in sight. I’ve no doubt as it gets closer to launch date (only 30 days to go folks) it’ll all change.
Am I shriven now?