Influential pre / early teen books
A little blog post about my Top 3 most influential books during my pre teen / early teen years. I remember reading Judy Blume's Forever at the age of 11 in my last year at Junior school. This book was my introduction to sex. It was going to take me another 6 years before I had it all figured out. My first foray into the Classics came with Emma, but it was Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre that caught my attention. This is when I really began to appreciate the English language and its beauty. I always knew I wanted to write, yet I didn't realise words could depict feelings and emotions so exquisitely. Robert Swindell's Daz4Zoe captured my imagination at the age of 14. It's a story of young love and hope through trial, tribulation, prejudice and social divide. The last sentence of that book was the catalyst for much of what I wrote and school projects I worked on in my remaining years at Senior school.
As an aside, I'm listening to some great tunes today - Kelly Clarkson "Mr. Know It All", Florence + the Machine "Shake It Out", Delilah "Go", Lil Wayne "How To Love" and Beyonce "1+1".
The printing process
Just before I start this post, a quick update on my Twitter experiment. You know, the one where I asked is it really as simple as following more people to gain more followers for yourself - well, slowly but surely I think it's working, but so far my ratio of following to followers still seems far too high (not in my favour). Never mind though, I'll keep at it!
I want to talk today about errors in the Print on Demand publishing model and in eBooks and the reasons why this happens. Authors frequently take the blame for badly formatted and poorly edited work and I've found myself defending, well, myself. There's nothing more demoralising, trust me. But enough of the self pity. Starting with the book production process - typesetters take the author's word processing file (which has been electronically edited) and import it into a page layout program such as Adobe InDesign or Quark. As soon as the import happens, the file is stripped of all the author's formatting. They then turn the file into attractive book pages as per the publisher's design specifications.
At this point, all connection with the author's original file is lost. Any changes made now are created solely inside the page layout software, NOT in the Word document as well.
From these page layout docs, typesetters generate PDFs to send to the publisher as page proofs. The publisher and author - or in my case, just the author - mark their corrections on the PDFs and send them back to the typesetter, who makes the changes. From experience I did 4 or 5 rounds of proof corrections, but worryingly I kept picking up on new errors each time. In the end, I had to say enough is enough, or I'd still be editing today...
Therefore the final PDF that goes off to the printers is often quite different from the author's original Word file!
Now, if the publisher decides to produce an eBook, the process starts over because currently the page layout files used for the book are too complicated and inappropriate for eBook production. This means going back to the original Word file from the author - and because this document doesn't reflect the editorial and proofing changes that the book underwent during the page layout process, the author's Word file that winds up as an eBook is often full of errors.
Talk about going round the houses and making hard work of it all!
I will always dream of that big publishing deal where I get my very own creative team to work with - I simply can't help myself. And knowing that it's getting harder and harder to attain just makes me want it even more. However, I'll happily settle for a little success on Amazon first because I'm chomping at the bit to reach a worldwide audience...
Amazon has now created different imprints to cater for different genres and they are building up a credible editorial team to work with authors. I think we can assume that not only are they taking this business seriously, but they've looked at the publishing industry and processes with fresh eyes and now they are proactively plugging the gaps. And for that I have to applaud Amazon. For too long the conservative, elitist publishing conglomerates have been allowed to dictate the marketplace - and more interestingly dictate to us what we should be reading. If anyone was going to smash the stigma of self / vanity publishing, I'm pleased it's Amazon.
Check out more on the debate and what Amazon is doing to best place itself here.
I've been keeping up with the fight between Amazon and traditional publishing houses on Twitter this week, and with eBooks outselling paperbacks on Amazon for the first time last month, it all seems very relevant. Amazon is now signing up authors directly and writing publishers out of the deal, whilst traditionals have been accused of no longer taking risks on new authors. Shows you the industry is in turmoil and revolution is in the air. Whichever side you're on - and I don't yet know where I stand (tradition is tradition, after all) - you can't deny it's good news for us writers because for the first time in publishing history, we have someone on our side who has a worldwide audience ready and waiting for us to tap in to, and more importantly who wants the same things as we do!
Touching progress & MJ
I worked on the Prologue to Tainted last night *mini celebration*. I'm not quite feeling it yet, but at least I've set the scene and I've got something to play around with now. Sometimes it's more important to write something, then sit staring at a blank screen because there's nothing more depressing when the words don't flow. I force myself to type and I leave out technicalities to keep it simple. Other times, it's best to walk away. I admit defeat when I'm tired, I can't get my playlist right and my brain won't picture the scene. I can't make it work if I'm too detached from what I need to be feeling.
I promised a little piece on the wonderful MJ Forever tribute, so turn away now if you've got no soul because this is all about the amazing artists that performed and the build up to the gig. Firstly 2 things you need to know about me: 1) I always follow my heart, so if there's something I really want to see or do, I'm there and no amount of advice against or bad press and hype will deter me. 2) I always want to go with someone who's 110 percent into the event with me and totally matches my enthusiasm like for like. I knew my soul "music" mate Wendy was the perfect companion to head to Cardiff with. We love the same music and we could wax lyrical all day every day about our favourite artists. Wendy rocks! I don't think she'll mind me saying ;)
When we arrived in Cardiff the city was buzzing (Wales had just beat Ireland in the rugby that morning and 50,000 dressed up MJ fans had descended on the city for the concert), so being women with no sense of direction, we wandered down St Mary's street - I'd like to say soaking up the atmosphere, but we were also trying to locate our hotel...! It ended up being opposite the castle (handy landmark for later) and we checked into our room with an amazing view of the stadium. Lucked out there!
Once back out onto the sunny streets of the city, we headed for food. We'd both spotted (and smelt the wonderful aroma of) the same hot dog stand outside Cardiff Central train station. That's where we met the man we dubbed "Onion man". He wanted free onions and banged on and on about it, hence the name. We couldn't tell whether he was a real beggar or just plain loopy. I kept looking for the giveaway mobile phone. But come on, onions?! I wouldn't want to be sleeping rough next to him... It seemed he followed us around after that because we then bumped into him again on the way to our gate where Wendy, big hearted that she is, gave him a few coppers - which she had thought were silvers. I guess she couldn't ask for them back to then replenish him with 5 and 10 pence pieces. Could have been awkward.
The build up outside the stadium before they let us in was immense. Lots of media VIPs shot past us and the ones that remained on the streets were geeing up the crowds. I think our screams made it onto a few Welsh radio stations that evening! There were also plenty of MJ hat stands and concert glow-in-the-dark props for sale, plus an awesome impersonator in every sense of the word. Not only did he look like him (nose job an' all), but his persona, mannerisms and voice were spot on too. It was like Michael was right there with us. Freaky!
I love to take my seat early and watch the stadium fill up, and as soon as the light dims and the sound system kicks in and the crowd roars with anticipation, I'm totally and utterly mesmerised. Neyo's opening with Billie Jean blew me away. The beat to that tune is timeless, not to mention hypnotic. The music was so loud it crushed my skull, split my ear drums and pulsated through my body like adrenalin. That sounds really off putting but trust me, it was anything but. When your heart is pumping in rhythm with the beat, OMG!!! We were then treated to a host of artists - some of the greats sprinkled with up and coming UK talent - who showcased the 5 decades of MJ's music and work. For both of us, we would've paid just to see the Jackson's perform and also to hear the children speaking about their father. Love them or loathe them, there's no denying the Jackson's are a legendary music family, and always will be in my mind.
Surprises for me were Alien Ant Farm who totally tore up the stadium with their set, and at the other end of the musical spectrum, Yolanda Adams, the gospel star, belting out Earth Song. She really gave that song a whole new meaning with her awesome vocal.
Smokey and Gladys were incredible, but then, I knew they would be. I felt honoured watching them perform and it is something I won't ever forget. I just sat and listened to every word, and I felt every word. Magical.
Adding to the experience was a drunken Scottish bird who was unfortunately sitting right in front of me. I mean, come on, what were the odds?! She did my head in to begin with, but then I got to know her and we were cool by the end. I totally surprised myself because at one point I was considering knocking her out. I don't think it would've taken much. It was the falling about all over the place and constant arm waving with beer glass in hand that got my goat. On the other hand, the drunken rambles and shout outs were quite amusing. She won't remember any of it in the morning, but she thought my name was piranha and she almost stuck a straw up Wendy's nose. We also high fived a lot once the formalities were over.
I must be mellowing in my old age!
After the thrill of the concert, we bust a gut queuing for a program (only 1 stand in the whole stadium selling merchandise, yep, go figure...) and then it was back to our hotel for room service and a massive XFactor catch up. I almost wet myself when I saw the trailers from our window and thought maybe the stars would be mingling and we could spy, but they were only production trailers unfortunately. Damn shame that!
To seal an amazing day, we ordered everything on the menu for brekky (which would be arriving in approx 6 hours time) and hung our card on the door, then laughed and laughed ourselves to sleep. We chuckle about the tiniest things, Wendy and I.
I think my morning after tweet encapsulates the whole experience: "The Michael Forever tribute concert was EPIC last night. Still dazed and starstruck and in awe of the whole event. Simply amazing *hashtag*mjforever
I know I've been slack with blogging about the MJ gig, but I promise you'll hear all about it by the weekend. I'm just trying to sort out in what order to tell you about piranhas, the Onion man and a drunken Scot. Yes, you did read me right ;) They will all feature, but not necessarily in that order...
There's so many exciting things coming up on the website so keep checking back! Apparently I should have started marketing myself 3 years before I wrote my debut. WHOOPS! Who knew, eh? I can see how that would have been mighty useful. It takes many hours to maintain your website and do the social networking thing on a daily basis when all you want to do is write and work on your next big project. I love it because it's new territory for me, but I seriously need more hours. The way I tackle it at the moment is to set myself a target of 1 marketing thing per day, even if it's just an idea. If I'm thinking and reading about publishing, that still counts. Like I said yesterday, Twitter is awesome for this. You get headline news to dip into, but never swamped with information. I also enjoy the daily writing prompts!
BUT BUT BUT BUT
At some point (very soon) I will have to get down to some serious "in the zone" writing and plotting - not just for Tainted, but for the overall marketing strategy - and I'm really looking forward to that.
Writers to writers
I've often wondered about Writer's circles and how beneficial they could be. I had email contact with a fellow writer today (we met at an event in May) and it was wonderfully refreshing, so much so that I think I should be connecting with other writers more often! I'm used to discussing the industry with complete novices, but to step it up a level for a while felt pretty good. One of the concerns I have is that we writers want to make it so so bad, we are stupidly willing to sell ourselves short, myself included. Talking to other writers and learning from each others' experience is invaluable at keeping us all on the straight and narrow. No one else in the biz will give us that advice willingly. I guess that's why we have the Society of Authors looking after us and our rights. Another thing we were discussing is broadening our audience through social networking. I've done a bit of reading on this specifically with regards to Twitter. Is it really as simple as following more people and more people will follow you? I'll let you know... At first I was horrified at the thought of an overloaded timeline, but then I discovered lists! Yes, I'm getting the hang of all this slowly... All my lists are public so feel free to take a nose. I'm still working on them. Everything "evolves" with me, you know that!
I was reading today that Indigo / Chapters stores are giving Canadian Publishers the jitters as the chain moves to market books as a lifestyle instead of a product. What does all that mean? Have a read of this article, it's a real eye opener. I've almost given up hope of ever seeing one of my books on sale in a traditional book shop, but at least Tim Daunt (MD of Waterstones) still believes that the content sold in his stores has a value beyond monetary. Check out what Waterstones is up to here.
eBooks are the future and book stores know it. Some will run away and others will stay and fight. When I say eBooks, I don't just mean words on a screen like the Kindle currently offers, but interaction with the plot and characters so the story literally "comes alive" in real time. The advent of Pottermore is the best example I can give you. JK Rowling is a true visionary. However, as much as that really excites me, the question "what will become of books?" bugs the hell out of me. Imagine the next generation being totally oblivious!
I am so excited!!! Tonight is the controversial "Forever" tribute concert to Michael Jackson - and I'm going!!! With stars being kicked off and pulling out left, right and centre (Kiss, BEPs and Chris Brown so far...) and Facebook jumping ship, it's been predicted a disaster. But how can they (the media) say that when you have some of the Jacksons performing together for the first time in years and years, Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Ne-yo and soulful legends such as SMOKEY ROBINSON and GLADYS KNIGHT - I mean, come on people, LEGENDS!! I don't care what they predict, it's money well spent for me and it's gonna be awesome. Whatever happens, I'm sure they'll do the King of Pop proud :)
I find it funny that people are incredulous when I say I could self publish an eBook on Amazon for 99p and still make the same profit (25 to 50 pence) as my current £12.99 offering (Little Child) on Amazon. This is the absolute truth, no word of a lie. The one thing you can guarantee in this game is that different publishing models all result in a very similar profit margin, but the real gain for us as writers and authors is when we hit a worldwide audience simultaneously with minimal effort. The more people you "hit" with your book, the better chance you have of raising your literary profile to dizzying heights. Remember what I said in an earlier post - it's not just about the book anymore, YOU have to be a brand as well. I thought about this for a long time today and I came to the following conclusion: the internet is an amazing resource with no limits, but to utilise it properly the only thing stopping you, is you. Anybody who has a remote interest in writing can self publish some kind of book, but if you know your market and your price points and you've done your research, the potential to reach as many people as possible is right there waiting for you. I'm going to experiment with my theory and come back to you on this. Don't forget, I'm still learning too. I'm a marketeer in the making!
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.