Tag Archives: e-book

Diary of a hopeful author: The day I accidentally got into the wrong car

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

This week I’ve been impatient and I thought, hey, this sounds familiar. Turns out, it is, familiar, I mean, to me, this impatience thing, the jitteriness that makes me forge an inability to wait for the good stuff like a toddler struggles to wait to for the loo.

Rubbish analogies aside, while I now approach the end of edit number 3 of my second novel, I looked to my blog to trawl for posts on impatience and happened upon this one. The reason I like it isn’t just because it’s a memory road trip for me on self-publishing my first book, but it contains a very funny, real anecdote about me, basically, getting into the wrong car.

So, if you’re getting fed up with the pace of how your work is going, my message is this: hold  on. Get stuck in and keep going. Just don’t get into the wrong car.

Being impatient gets me into the wrong car

Last  week I had a cold, this week I have the sulks. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking toddler tantrums here, we’re talking a mild, lingering bottom lip, and like a case of bad flatulence, it won’t shift.

The reason for my dedums is simple: I am impatient. ‘You’re not checking your book sales again, are you?’ my husband asks as he sticks his head around the study door. I attempt to cover the screen with my palm, but, like a News of the Word Editor in a court room, it is useless.

‘I just wanted to see how it was doing,’ I say, knowing how whiny my voice sounds. ‘And,’ I continue, rising an octave to rival Mariah Carey, ‘things have gone quiet!’ My husband sighs. He is used to me and so deploys the only weapon he knows will work. ‘Do you want me to pick you up some chocolate for tonight?’ ‘Yes, please,’ I choke, and shuffle downstairs behind him to put the kettle on. ‘You know,’ my husband says, grabbing a mug and chucking in a tea-bag (actually, he doesn’t really make tea, but hey! I’m a fiction writer! I ‘m gonna run with it!) ‘you just need to be patient. You’re working really hard. It’ll all come together. You just have to wait.’

At this juncture, I must tell you a little story. As I said, I am an impatient sort. I want things to happen pretty much immediately, not only in work, but in almost all aspects of my life. Learning patience – after cooking for kids and understanding what’s happening in The West Wing – is the singularly most difficult thing I have learned to do.

So, to the story. One day, let us say three years ago, we were returning from a family trip to Wales to visit my husband’s grandmother. At the time our girls were aged 7 and 5 and at an age when we needed to stop at the delightful motorway services for a nature break or three. My bladder never quite being the same after two babies (sorry, men folk), I also needed to stop. The girls having now falling asleep, we agreed that I would nip out to use the facilities and run back.

Now, it is important to point out here that I was , even then, in the iron-grip of writing and had a deadline to meet for a Guardian travel writing competition. Needless to say, I was keen to get out and get in with maximum speed and with my skirt not in my knickers. All goes well. I run in, do what I need to do, and then, my mind on the Guardian job, I sprint out of the automatic doors and into the car park. Scanning the cars, my impatient autopilot kicks in, and, spotting our red Freelander, I peg it over and, hauling the door open, throw my self on to the passenger seat panting, ‘Come on! Let’s get a move on!’

Now, I don’t know about you, but do you know that dream when you are walking somewhere and then you look down and you are completely naked, in the nuddy, and you feel a wave of mortification wash over you? Can you recall that feeling? Well, this feeling is what came over me when, glancing from the corner of my eye I notice that the car seats in the back are different to my girls’ seats. Strange. And then my eyes fall to the seat covers – leather. What the? Ours are fabric. And then it hits me. I am in the wrong car. The wrong car.

I look up to see a man, mid-forties, balding, frowning, staring at me, mouth agape, finger, probably, hovering over 999. ‘OhmigodI’msorry!’ I blurt, and, faster than you can say, ‘naked dream’, I am out of that car and breathing like a phantom caller in a film sketch scanning the parking lot like a crazy woman. When I eventually locate our family car, my husband and girls are in fits of laughter, the whole sorry episode not having missed their unforgiving eyes, and it has made their day. ‘Mum got into a strange man’s car!’ they yelp. ‘Just drive,’ I mutter. But it is a good five minutes before we can leave because my husband is laughing too much for his eyes to focus.

Back in the study and my mind in a work muddle, I break up the fugg by going for a run to clear my head. Showered and back at my desk, I decide to look through my marketing notes for my book The Boy Who Played Guitar. On it there is a post-it note with my writing scrawled on it. I squint (even I can’t read my own writing it seems). The note says: ‘Re-edit book. Get friend to help.’ And it comes back to me. A friend of mine read The Boy Who Played Guitar and loved it – even said she prefered it to David Nicholl’s One Day, to which I choked on my Mars Bar. Crucially, she said that she would be happy to re-edit because my proof reading skills are almost as bad as my patience skills (Oh keep up alredy! See?). Not that there is much wrong with the first version – just the odd mistype here and there (it’s only 99p…)

But, if we re-edited, it would mean that I could begin to submit The Boy Who Played Guitar to book review blogs, just like the amazing Amanda Hocking did to publicise her book. At least then I would be actively doing something to promote it and then perhaps I could calm down.

That night, me and the hubbie catch up. ‘How was your day?’ he asks. ‘Oh, I got another chapter of my next novel written. I’ve only got five chapters to go now.’ ‘Wow,’ he says, ‘how many words have you written now?’ I think. ‘67,000, roughly.’ We sit and stare out the window as the number count lingers in the air. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘and I’m re-proof reading The Boy Who Played Guitar so I can get it back out there.’

He smiles at me. ‘So you’re feeling a bit better then, a bit happier?’ I consider this. I am lucky to do what I do, I tell myself. It could be worse – at least I am not a Chilean coal miner or the Greek Government, say. ‘Yep. Happier. I know I just have to wait a little longer for it all to work out.’ He jumps up. ‘That’s great,’ he says, ‘I’ll check on dinner.’ ‘What?’ I say, ‘you mean it’s not ready yet? How long does that oven take? Come on!’ My husband sighs and reaching down, hands me some chocolate.

**Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog…**

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Media Monday: If you’re a self-published author look away now…

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

You might want to look away now. Or, go get yourself a drink. Especially if you’re an author looking to self-publish. Go on, well done…What’s that?A Pina Colada?  I roll my eyes. Right, now down it in one because the latest news for all you aspiring writers out there is that authors publishing their work DIY style online earn an average of $10,000 (£6,375) – and, wait for it, less than half make $500. I know. What? Another Pina Colada? Oh, go on then.

Yep, the latest news published in an article by The Guardian last week revealed that a survey of writers concluded that only the smallest percentage of authors were raking in more that $100,000 in 2011. In this less than 10% were earning approximately 75% of this revenue and, that’s right the rest – that’s more than half of all those exhausted writers surveyed – scraped in just enough to cover the service of their car. If they have one.

Once I pick myself up from the floor, along with my broken laptop and spilled pens, I have to admit that this news comes as no surprise. Like with any industry that has headline success stories, such as music, art, banking – oh wait, no, the lasts one’s a disaster story, sorry – for every high-fiving, cash-generating sensation, you’ll find thousands of bleary-eyed, overdraft-inducing wannabees. And, as I peer at my sorry bank balance and peel open my eyes, I speak from experience here. But hey! We are writers! We are a hardy bunch, single-minded in the pursuit of our craft, nothing but nothing can stop us from plowing forth! So, I shall whisper then that the survey found that  yes, you’d do well if you were female, with a college degree and in your early 40s. Never, ever so much before have I wanted to be older than right now. On top of this, it turns out our paper-published cousins are muscling in on the act, with big names such as Jackie Collins announcing that she is to bypass the traditional paperback route and put her novel The Bitch (sorry, bad language…) as a self-published piece. Have we nothing left for ourselves, I hear you cry? Even if it does earn us peanuts?

Well now look, let’s not get hysterical. No one said this was going to be easy. We must wish good luck to everyone! And the good news is that there is something we can do. The survey also revealed that the high-earners it identified dedicated more of their time to writing, banging out an average of 2,047 words a day compared to 1,557 from those lower down the pay scale. So come on! Write! Also, making your book sound professional is another earmarked area by the survey, with it highlighting the need for writers to perhaps get their work professionally edited and proofread – this alone can help you earn 13% more than average (and, I for one shall be doing this…). Yes, that’s right, readers have been waiting our new writing voices, but, understandably, not one full of spelling errors.

Of course, as the Jessie J song goes, it’s not all about the money. What counts for success in one writer’s eyes, may not in another’s. For some, simply finishing the first draft of a novel is achievement enough, for others, the stars, my dear, the stars! Whether you pick yourself up from the floor or the ceiling, the trick is knowing what your goal is and then doing everything you can to get there. And in that, I wish you all the luck in the world. But perhaps first, just step away from the Pina Coladas, hmmm?

What are your experiences as a self-published author? Do you want to make money from your writing? Or are you content with the art of writing itself? Let me know.

 **Look out on  for Wednesday: Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author…**

Media Monday: Has Waterstones sold its soul to Amazon?

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

Isn’t it funny how things change? This morning, I was all set to write this post about the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron’s new biography reveals how he likes to ‘chillax’ (his words, not mine) by singing some karaoke, calling his tennis machine the “Clegger” (I kid you not) and kicking back to watch a DVD box set. After I’d sewed my sides back up from laughing, making yet another mental note to ALWAYS WORK HARDER, I was greeted with the bizarre news via The Guardian that the UK bookstore chain, Waterstones, is hooking up with its arch nemesis Amazon to sell Kindles in all its Waterstones stores.

Now, look, call me a fool here, but isn’t Waterstones flogging Amazon gear a bit like Tesco selling Sainsbury’s own brand? Or, to put it in book terms, like Harry Potter asking Voldemort to give him a foot rub whilst reading a copy of The Worst Witch? Either way, aside from looking strange, it’s just not going to work. At this juncture, I have to point out that I am not normally one for the negative,Waterstones Logo and like Obama himself, I like to think, ‘Yes we can! ‘when approaching most issues (for example, ‘Can we eat this chocolate? Yes we can!’ ‘Can we finish this novel? Yes we can!’ ‘Can we ignore the icky feeling we get when David Cameron says Chillax? Yes we…Actually, no, we can’t.’)  I can see what Waterstones are trying to do by linking with Amazon, hoping, as I am sure they are, that it will help sales and drive footfall. But the thing is, climb into bed with a lion and, sooner or later, you’re going to get bitten.

If Waterstones was looking at this with more rational, unfettered minds (have you seen the slump in paper book sales lately?) they would admit that they were late  to react to the emergence of the e-reader and were similarly uninspired to proactively adapt and develop as the market rapidly changed. But wait, I hear some say. The Kindle is popular, speedy! Won’t that help poor old Waterstones? Well, to be honest, I don’t think it will. You see, one of the great advantages about a Kindle is that you can have instant access to books, where ever you are, what ever the time and what ever your attire (shops don’t like you turning up in your PJs. So I hear.) And so, if you do chose to make a specific trip to Waterstones, surely that negates the need for a Kindle, because you are in a shop! Ready to buy! Wearing clothes! A book, you think, I just want a paper book! I want to browse, feel the page, soak up the atmosphere. That’s what you are there for. If you wanted an e-book, you’d get one from your sofa with your feet up and the TV on.

To be honest, I think what Waterstones have done here is fail to recognise that consumers – us readers out here – like paper and digital book formats, but, just as you might like your boss and your betrothed, say,  that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to hang out with both of them at the same time. Yes, book stores need to adapt. Yes, it means the likes of Waterstones having to change their business models to survive. But that’s just the thing: we want them to survive and be themselves. By letting Amazon in through the front door and selling Amazon’s merchandise for them, haven’t Waterstones just banged the first nail in their own coffin? I hope not.  Or perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of Amazon’s entrance into their own-brand high street bricks and mortar store? Who knows what’s going to happen next. But either way, I’m just going to have to make like David Cameron and jolly well chillax about it…

 **Look out on  for Wednesday: Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Being impatient gets me into the wrong car…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Last  week I had a cold, this week I have the sulks. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking toddler tantrums here, we’re talking a mild, lingering bottom lip, and like a case of bad flatulence, it won’t shift. The reason for my dedums is simple: I am impatient. ‘You’re not checking your book sales again, are you?’ my husband asks as he sticks his head around the study door. I attempt to cover the screen with my palm, but, like a News of the Word Editor in a court room, it is useless. ‘I just wanted to see how it was doing,’ I say, knowing how whiny my voice sounds. ‘And,’ I continue, rising an octave to rival Mariah Carey, ‘things have gone quiet!’ My husband sighs. He is used to me and so deploys the only weapon he knows will work. ‘Do you want me to pick you up some chocolate for tonight?’ ‘Yes, please,’ I choke, and shuffle downstairs behind him to put the kettle on. ‘You know,’ my husband says, grabbing a mug and chucking in a tea-bag (actually, he doesn’t really make tea, but hey! I’m a fiction writer! I ‘m gonna run with it!) ‘you just need to be patient. You’re working really hard. It’ll all come together. You just have to wait.’  

 At this juncture, I must tell you a little story. As I said, I am an impatient sort. I want things to happen pretty much immediately, not only in work, but in almost all aspects of my life. Learning patience – after cooking for kids and understanding what’s happening in The West Wing – is the singularly most difficult thing I have learned to do.  So, to the story. One day, let us say three years ago, we were returning from a family trip to Wales to visit my husband’s grandmother. At the time our girls were aged 7 and 5 and at an age when we needed to stop at the delightful motorway services for a nature break or three. My bladder never quite being the same after two babies (sorry, men folk), I also needed to stop. The girls having now falling asleep, we agreed that I would nip out to use the facilities and run back. Now, it is important to point out here that I was , even then, in the iron-grip of writing and had a deadline to meet for a Guardian travel writing competition. Needless to say, I was keen to get out and get in with maximum speed and with my skirt not in my knickers. All goes well. I run in, do what I need to do, and then, my mind on the Guardian job, I sprint out of the automatic doors and into the car park. Scanning the cars, my impatient autopilot kicks in, and, spotting our red Freelander, I peg it over and, hauling the door open, throw my self on to the passenger seat panting, ‘Come on! Let’s get a move on!’  Now, I don’t know about you, but do you know that dream when you are walking somewhere and then you look down and you are completely naked, in the nuddy, and you feel a wave of mortification wash over you? Can you recall that feeling? Well, this feeling is what came over me when, glancing from the corner of my eye I notice that the car seats in the back are different to my girls’ seats. Strange. And then my eyes fall to the seat covers – leather. What the? Ours are fabric. And then it hits me. I am in the wrong car. The wrong car. I look up to see a man, mid-forties, balding, frowning, staring at me, mouth agape, finger, probably, hovering over 999. ‘OhmigodI’msorry!’ I blurt, and, faster than you can say, ‘naked dream’, I am out of that car and breathing like a phantom caller in a film sketch scanning the parking lot like a crazy woman. When I eventually locate our family car, my husband and girls are in fits of laughter, the whole sorry episode not having missed their unforgiving eyes, and it has made their day. ‘Mum got into a strange man’s car!’ they yelp. ‘Just drive,’ I mutter. But it is a good five minutes before we can leave because my husband is laughing too much for his eyes to focus.

Back in the study and my mind in a work muddle, I break up the fugg by going for a run to clear my head. Showered and back at my desk, I decide to look through my marketing notes for my book The Boy Who Played Guitar. On it there is a post-it note with my writing scrawled on it. I squint (even I can’t read my own writing it seems). The note says: ‘Re-edit book. Get friend to help.’ And it comes back to me. A friend of mine read The Boy Who Played Guitar and loved it – even said she prefered it to David Nicholl’s One Day, to which I choked on my Mars Bar. Crucially, she said that she would be happy to re-edit because my proof reading skills are almost as bad as my patience skills (Oh keep up alredy! See?). Not that there is much wrong with the first version – just the odd mistype here and there (it’s only 99p…) But, if we re-edited, it would mean that I could begin to submit The Boy Who Played Guitar to book review blogs, just like the amazing Amanda Hocking did to publicise her book. At least then I would be actively doing something to promote it and then perhaps I could calm down.

That night, me and the hubbie catch up. ‘How was your day?’ he asks. ‘Oh, I got another chapter of my next novel written. I’ve only got five chapters to go now.’ ‘Wow,’ he says, ‘how many words have you written now?’ I think. ‘67,000, roughly.’ We sit and stare out the window as the number count lingers in the air. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘and I’m re-proof reading The Boy Who Played Guitar so I can get it back out there.’ He smiles at me. ‘So you’re feeling a bit better then, a bit happier?’ I consider this. I am lucky to do what I do, I tell myself. It could be worse – at least I am not a Chilean coal miner or the Greek Government, say. ‘Yep. Happier. I know I just have to wait a little longer for it all to work out.’ He jumps up. ‘That’s great,’ he says, ‘I’ll check on dinner.’ ‘What?’ I say, ‘you mean it’s not ready yet? How long does that oven take? Come on!’ My husband sighs and reaching down, hands me some chocolate.

**Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s about the cuts to our local libraries…**

Pottermore and the magical rise of the ebook novel…

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

 

Pottermore. Or maybe Potter more more more, because, since it’s launch a month ago, Pottermore, the flagship e-book store of the Harry Potter book series written by J.K.Rowling has sold more books than forecast, with the latest sales figures topping £3m, according to industry insider, The Bookseller. Now, you don’t have to be a wizard to work out that, naturally, a lot of the success of the website is down to the books. Since they were first published, more than 400 million of the Harry Potter series books have been sold, with translations into 67 languages with  millions of children, like my daughter, obsessed with wands, witches and the prospect that one day they might invent a real invisibility cloak (there’s always hope.) Of course, another part of the Pottermore success is down to the website itself.  It’s interactive! You have to register! You can make potions on it, have wizard duels on there and even, even, be sorted in your own Hogwarts house (can I be Gryffindor? Please?). But of course, as well as the great branding, engaging writing and good-old fashioned wizardry plots, the other element of its success is all together more modern, namely the ebook.   All the books sold on the Pottermore site have been in digital form, and it’s this ease and speed at which people can purchase them, together with the anonymity the medium provides, which has helped sales enormously. The books have been sold as bundles and heavily discounted, which of course all helps, but it’s success mirrors a wider trend which has been sweeping the publishing industry. According to latest figures in The Telegraph last week, sales of ebooks quadrupled last year, while sales of paper novels over the same period dropped by a staggering 12.5 million in the UK alone. What does this say about the future? Are we witnessing the decline of the paper book? Many readers are polarised by this, stating that nothing can replace the feeling of the page between the fingers and the relaxation that it brings. Certainly, I know from experience that reading a book can quite literally reduce your heart rate (mine drops to around 50bpm!). Some people claim that an eReader cannot have this same calming effect, particularly if that eReader is, for example, an iPad where the temptation of checking your inbox or surfing the web  is only a fingertouch away.

The publishing industry it is true, is nervous about the future of books. But this is perhaps due to the fact that they are suffering from a lack of ability to embrace change? Look at LPs and CDs, now all but replaced by the downloading of music to MP3s and iPods. And if you’ve ever seen the Oscar-winning film The Artist, you’ll know what happened when the talkies were introduced. Stand in the way of change and it may just run you over, whatever industry you are in. But change should reflect the past, and if the past is a paper novel, then so be it. The answer, I think, is to make room for both formats in a reader’s bookshelf, and the sooner we embrace this fact, the sooner the industry will move on and everyone will benefit, with the bottom line meaning more books will be available, helping more people to read. Now, whether it’s Pottermore or not, that’s a little sprinkling of magic we’d all welcome.

What do you think of ebooks? Are they the way forward? Do you think paper novels have had their day? Or is there room for both? Let me know.

**Out on Wednesday: “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author. This week it’s all about my runner-up prize in a short story competition…**

My mind’s gone blank, but I’m having a good Northern natter on the radio…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” where I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author… Photo of a Diary

My mind’s gone blank. I’m sat here at my computer and I can’t think of a thing to write. That’s what happens to my head sometimes, long periods of tumbleweed where I can’t think of anything to say and then when I do say something, it turns out to be complete bobbins. As it goes, this is what also happens to me  when I listen to myself speak on the radio. A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by the lovely Claire Carter for the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Breakfast Show – and this week it’s airing, every day, 5 mornings a week. Oh dear lord. ‘Who-hoo!’ screeches the youngest, dive-bombing onto our bed. ‘Ouch!’ I cry. ‘That was my stomach!’ Apologising, the youngest catapults herself in between me and my half-asleep husband and settles down for a listen. ‘Turn it up, dad. Mum’s on in a minute.’ ‘Whhaaaaaaaa!’ comes another yell, this time from the direction of the room of the eldest, the door crashing to the wall as she belts in and belly flops on the mattress. ‘Bloomin’ heck,’ mutters my husband, ‘it’s like WWF in here.’ Ignoring the fact that the coffee I am holding has just spilt all over the sheets, we turn up the radio and settle down to listen.

Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s something about listening to the sound of my own voice that I just find, well, cringey. I’m originally a Dublin lass, but when I was about 5, we sailed the boat to Liverpool and with my mum, dad, sister and new baby brother, we set up home in Leyland, Lancashire, and overnight, I became a fully paid up Northerner. Since my childhood, I have moved about a far bit. I went to University in Liverpool, mixing my voice into the melting pot of accents from all over the UK.  Later, I worked in Manchester, moving down to Bristol with my Southerner husband, eventually settling in the Cotswolds surrounded by a mix of the Queen’s English on one hand and the farmer’s on the other.  And so, when we sit in the bedroom and hear my voice, I am quite surprised. ‘Mum,’ says the youngest, ‘that doesn’t sound like you.’ We all lean into the radio. ‘She’s right,’ says my husband, sitting up, ‘it doesn’t.’ We all nod. ‘You sound nice, mum,’ says the eldest. ‘What,’ I say, ‘like I don’t always sound nice?’ The ensuing silence speaks volumes.

And so, each day this week, in the ‘Thought for the Day’ slot, I am hearing my voice on the radio talking about Gloucestershire. Some days I sound right northern, others I swear I could be from the south, but each time the things that I am talking about come across, well, okay, really. I return home later that morning and switch on the radio only to catch the second slot of the day at 8.45a.m. where they repeat my thought of the day from the earlier 6.45am slot. The thing that really touches me this time though is the presenter, Mark Cummings. Because, even though he doesn’t have to, when he introduces me he talks about my writing, mentioning my e-book, The Boy Who Played Guitar, by name. It makes me stop and think, about how nice people are sometimes and how, even when you don’t ask, they will do something for you, something that can help, something that can make all the difference.

‘Do you know,’ I say to my husband later that evening, red wine in hand, ‘when this week of radio interviews have aired, I’m going to send a thank-you email to Mark and Claire at BBC Gloucestershire. They’ve been so good to me, mentioning my book, tweeting about me, all sorts.’ My husband puts his arm around me and gives me a hug. ‘And they’re running your main book interview this week, too.’ My bottom lip wobbles. ‘Look,’ he says, ‘it’s because you’re so nice, honey, that’s why they do these things.’ I start to cry. ‘You okay?’ he asks. I nod and wipe my nose. ‘Wouldn’t it be great,’ I say, ‘if it all worked out and I really could make a living out of writing.’ He smooths back my hair. ‘What would you write about when you make it there?’ he says. I open my mouth to say something and then frown. I take a swill of wine. ‘What were you going to say?’ asks my hubbie. I shrug. ‘I’ve completely forgotten. My mind’s just gone blank.’ He sighs and we stick the telly on.

Catch me on BBC Radio Gloucestershire all this week at 6.45a.m. and 8.45 a.m. You can also listen to the Mark Cummings breakfast show on BBC iPlayer here

**Out tomorrow: “Thursday Thought”, where I post my local weekly newspaper column to the blog. This week: do we worry too much as parents today?**

Fifty Shades of Grey: e-book success or top-shelf snigger?

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday”, when I bring you a short, sharp post of the latest writing news…

Fifty Shades of Grey. Heard of it? It’s the erotica novel that has just pushed the phenomenal Hunger Games off the US bestseller list and has bagged its author, E.L. James, a $5 million publishing deal – oh, and it’s a bit racy. While industry experts and publishing houses are now dusting off their erotica authors and getting them out on the shelves to cash in on this new trend, many journalists and reviewers are hailing this fiction genre as the long-awaited voice for all women. News streams such as The Huffington Post have applauded E.L.James’ book, with guest blogger, Lisa Guest, declaring that it was ‘about time’ women spoke of s.e.x (see, I can’t say it…), while Goodreads.com has announced that the book could be turned into a movie. But, the thing is, I think they’ve all missed a major point here, namely, has the fact that this was originally published solely as an e-book contributed to its success? Fifty Shades of Grey is, as the media claim, ‘mummy porn.’ But answer me this: How many mums do you know who go to the top shelf of the local supermarket and chuck a copy of Playboy in with the mince and the nappies? I’m guessing there aren’t many. And that’s the point. These women saw an opportunity with the e-book format – and so did E.L.James. Namely, they could buy their erotica and no-one would be any the wiser. Except, perhaps, their other halves.

Now the book is in paper format, it’s doing very well, but for its author E.L.James, the success lay, not only in having the guts to write a book of such an explicit kind in the first place (it’s one of a trilogy), but to then sell it as an e-book so readers could purchase it in the privacy of their own homes. Like it or not, the e-book is a seller, and while Fifty Shades of Grey is not my kind of novel, top-shelf snigger or not, you’ve got to admire the sheer success of it all.

What do you think? Is it an e-book phenomenon or simply a top-shelf snigger? Let me know.

**Look out for “Wednesday Wafflings”, my Diary of a Hopeful Author out on..Wednesday. This week, I talk about the sheer agony of listening to my own voice on the radio…**

The day starts with a pasty and ends some tears…

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and all I can think of are pasties. Not because I work at Greggs, but because the BBC Radio 5 presenter is updating all us early risers on the latest British Government VAT disaster that is “Pastygate”.  I sip my coffee (strong) and try and focus. This week has been manic. It’s the Easter school break from Monday, and while we’re off away on holiday then, the run up means getting everything sorted so we can go away without me or my husband waking up with a start in the middle of the night realising we haven’t sent an important email. It’s the work equivalent of going away and leaving the cooker on.

A bit like a cooker, I feel like I am running out of steam. I’m getting tired and I think it may be affecting my hearing. ‘Mum,’ says my eldest whilst I am furiously checking emails at the kitchen table. I look up and I see her mouth moving, but nothing else. Smiling at her by way of an answer, I hope it will do the job. It doesn’t, and she simply rolls her eyes, pats my back and says, ‘Mum, you need to get to bed earlier,’ and with that she’s off upstairs to read her book.  I slump into the chair and realise she’s right. That night, though, instead of going to bed I stay up to work on my blog. I read something about Search Engine Optimisation and blogs the other day, and so I spend most of the evening linking by blog URL to search sites so it has some sort of fighting chance of people finding it (I used www.addme.com – it’s easy & free). I sigh and rub my head.  People actually finding my blog on the internet feels like the cyberspace equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. ‘Hey, when are we going to do your You Tube video?’ asks my husband, who is sat encased in the sofa and a blanket. I shrug because my brain seems to have ceased functioning – I have lost the will to speak. Right then, my laptop dies. Normally, I take this is my cue to go to bed, but tonight I am not a happy bunny – there are a few choice words directed its way.  ‘Hey,’ says my husband, ‘what’s up?’  Tears spring to my eyes and I begin to warble on about something to do with slow book sales, getting novel number two finished and other such nonsense. Giving me a hug, he smiles and says, ‘Hey, should we look at some funny videos on the t’interweb?’ I wipe my cheeks.  ‘Yes,’ I choke. I sit up and stare at his iPad and start to feel better. ‘Thanks,’ I tell him, and with that, we’re watching You Tube till late in the night, laughing and feeling a whole heap better. We even figure out when we’re going to do my own You Tube promotion video for my book, which is when I tell my husband that earlier that day I hit the half-way point on writing novel number two. ‘Just in time for a holiday,’ he says. ‘And while we’re away, maybe we can do you a plan, you know, to get things done.’ I sit up. ‘Yes! There are some short story competitions to enter, and some articles I can write for magazines and get paid for!’  I let out a breath. I need my bed.

The next morning, we rise to frantic news stories of a potential petrol crisis, with MPs suggesting we buy extra petrol and put it in Jerry cans; stamp prices are going up by a third (a third!); and there are more details on how you now have to pay VAT on your pasty if it’s hot. ‘The country is running out of petrol,’ announces the radio. My husband shuffles out of bed. ‘I know how it feels,’ he mutters. While the girls get ready for school, I am perched at my laptop, quickly uploading my book to send it off to be reviewed at website www.enovelreviews.com. I hit send and cross my fingers that they will review the thing – it could make a big difference to sales vs. no sales, sort of. Logging on to my email account, I delete some messages, tidy things up and making a quick list of what I have to do that day ready for holidays. From our bedroom, I hear the sound of my husband laughing. ‘Nikki!’ he shouts, coming into the study. ‘Listen to this, it’s sooo funny!’ I put my pen down. ‘It’s from The Poke,’ he trills, holding his iPad. The Poke (www.thepoke.co.uk) is a website we both now follow on Twitter which gives a funny take on current news affairs, and posts some internet comedy gold. My husband loves it. ‘Listen to this tweet,’ he whoops. ‘It says: Where am I going to put all this petrol? The bath’s already full of stamps and pasties.’ We both fall about laughing, tears and everything. Even the girls come in and ask what’s going on. We try and explain, but I don’t think we do a very good job.

After we’ve composed ourselves, I shoo the girls so they can finish getting ready. In our bedroom, my husband asks how the work is going. I tell him about the review site, the emails and the like, to which he sighs. I frown. ‘You okay?’ I ask. Suddenly he says, ‘Do you think we should buy stamps at Costco before they go up? They’re cheaper there anyway.’ I shake my head. ‘Daft government. Pick up some pasties while you’re at it, will you?’ The mention of a pasty sends the girls running in. ‘Are there pasties? Where are the pasties?’ ‘Ooo,’ says the youngest, ‘I like a Steak Slice.’ The eldest joins in. ‘I love cheese pasties!’ My husband laughs out loud. ‘What?’ I ask. But I don’t think he hears me. He’s looking at tweets on The Poke again.  I go and turn off my laptop. We need a holiday.