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Diary of a hopeful author: I’m donating my book royalties to Comic Relief!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…rnd13 logo

 This week is a different kind of post. Because this week I’ve announced that I am to donate all the royalties from my book, The Boy Who Played Guitar, to the charity, Comic Relief.

Yup, between now and 29th April, 2013, every time my book – a contemporary fiction novel – is sold, the royalties will go to raise vital funds to help people across UK and Africa who live unimaginably tough lives.

Nikki Owen_RND_13
Me, my Red Nose Day nose & my book! Read & raise, people!

You can buy my book two ways: in paperback and for Kindle.  I’ve stuck the links below for you to follow. Ooo, and just to reassure, it’s a great read – 5 star rated on Amazon. Quick synopsis: Tired teacher starts a choir to help troubled students get their grades, but things don’t quite work out the way he planned. It’s funny & sad all at the same time.

Once the royalties are gathered, as well as writing (hopefully a huge) cheque for Comic Relief, I’ll report back to you on the blog about how it’s all gone.

In the meantime, if you can tell as many people as you can about it, if they could buy the book, too, it means we’re generating more funds, helping more people out of poverty. Spread the word!

I’m calling it ‘Read & Raise’ and in advance, a MASSIVE than you for reading and raising with me to make people’s lives better.

Have a cracking week.

Nikki

Getting The Boy Who Played Guitar:

For Kindle UK click here

For Kindle USA click here

For paperback UK click here

For paperback USA click here

The Boy Who Played Guitar is also avaialble via Amazon Europe. All royalties to Comic Relief.

 Want to know more about Comic Relief? Click here

Red Nose Day does something funny for money this year on Friday 16th March on BBC TV from 7p.m

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Diary of a hopeful author: Hey! How an iPad can help you edit…

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

 These iPads are the thing aren’t they? I mean, really, they’re snazzy. Have you got one? Tap it. Go on. Hmm? You‘ve not got one? Okay, so reach over and tap someone else’s. What’s that? It’s the bloke’s next to you sat on the train? What the hell. Give that screen a little slide.

You see, as I write this, I have an iPad by my side all flat and sleek like washboard stomach at a gym. But, thing is, I haven’t used it much for writing. Well, I say much, not at all really. And the Love Film app, it turns out, doesn’t count. You see, if you follow this Wednesday Waffling/Diary blog (and MASSIVE thanks if you do) you’ll know from previous entries that I am in the throes of editing my second novel. It’s not been going so well.  Thankfully, I’ve figured out that editing a book is like painting a picture – it’s got to be done in layers, like the colours on canvas. I’ve also figured out that it takes time and patience. I know, doesn’t take Einstein to figure that one out. 

The tricky thing I’ve been finding this week though is that when I’m editing my novel, I’m not reading it, you know? I mean really reading it, like a reader. But woman! You may be saying. You are reading the thing, goddammit, you’re editing it! And yes, my friend, you’d be right. But, trouble is, I’ve not been reading my novel like I would if it wasn’t mine – and this is the nut at the centre of my issue. 

iPads- snazzy & handy for editing. Who knew?

You see, when you’re at stage one of editing a novel you have to look at the bigger picture issues. Does the plot make sense? How is the characterisation working? Is the POV – the point of view – right? All bullet-landing questions and ones, I’ve discovered via mild swear words muttered at my laptop in the small hours of the morning,  that I cannot fully answer when I’m pouring over every detail on the laptop screen, my eyes literally seeing double as I stumble jelly legged to the kettle in desperate need of more caffeine.  

So, imagine my surprise when I discover that the answer to all my problems lies not in a new foundation from Bobbi Brown (although, given my current caffeine complexion, that may also help), but in the iPad. My iPad. And, specifically, the Kindle app on my iPad. 

What I didn’t know that I do now is that you can send PDF files to a Kindle/Kindle app and then read it on said technology. Whoa! This is the gold nugget, people. Because, you see, reading on a Kindle is, you know, just like reading a book. Are you with me? And so, if I sent my draft novel as a PDF to the Kindle app on my iPad… yes! Do you see where I’m going here? Of course you do, you sharp tack in the box, you! By reading my novel on my iPad/Kindle, I can view it JUST LIKE A READER WOULD. Ta-da! Seriously, I cannot believe I didn’t think of this before. It’s like discovering that I actually do like dark chocolate all over again. 

So, what I am doing now is going through the 1st edit stage of my novel using my iPad/Kindle. I read my draft as I would any other book on the Kindle app and then, on the table, I have open my laptop on which is the novel as a word document. Then, when I read something that needs editing, I tap on the laptop and hey presto! Progress! You knew? It’s the ‘reading it like any other book’ bit that’s the key here. By reading my novel in this way I am more objective. I can see what readers might see, not just what I see, which is, let’s face it, coming from a highly critical stance. Yup, writers are their own worst critics, and, as it turns out, their own worst eyebrow pluckers, but that’s another story (why do tweezers hurt so much?).

So, for the rest of this week I shall be iPadding. I will be using my iPad Kindle app thingy to edit my book at this all-important big picture stage. Hopefully, it will help me steer the novel in the right direction. And if not, at the very least, it will mean that I am using my iPad. It has apps! It has games!  It has instant celebrity gossip magazine access! Oh yes, iPads really, really are the thing.

So what d’you think? Is the iPad really the thing? What’s your thing for editing or, hey, reading, you know, books? Let’s hear it.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m going back to wind turbines and looking at the cold, hard data, people…**

Diary of a hopeful author: My book’s soon out in paperback..!

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

 My book is going into print! A paperback! This is not quite what it seems but to me, this week, it might as well be everything. ‘Your dark circles are getting bigger, mum,’ says my youngest. I give her a hug and sigh. ‘Sweetie, when you get to my age everything gets bigger – and it’s not my favourite thing.’ She narrows her eyes at me. ‘I want to get bigger.’ I smile. ‘I know you do. And that’s good! You are growing.  A big girl!’ I think of my dark circles. ‘Not quite the same for mum, I’m afraid, love.’ She looks at me then announces she’s going to play with her Lego.

I make a coffee, and, as the rain slams against the window (who knew this was July?) I think of the past few days and, namely, my growing obsession with Amazon’s Create Space. Yup, I’ve been on Create Space. If you don’t know it, but it’s a new venture, if you will, by Amazon, and it allows self-published authors to create print-on-demand books of their own, well, books.  It means that every time someone orders your paperback book, they print it off -there are no reserved stocks or need for reprint. So, for example, take my novel, The Boy Who Played Guitar – I can now stick it on create Space, get it all set up and ta-da! One book in print and, get this – in my hands! I know! I shake just at the mere thought. Having your own book, printed in your hands is well, like every hopeful author’s dream. What they don’t tell you though is that dream will consist of days of frowning, formatting and some occasional swearing. ‘Are you still on there?’ asks my hubbie as I frown away at the laptop, the Create Space website open.  ‘If I. Could just. Understand how to. Format….Ah! There’s some information!’ I tap away at a ‘how to’ guide on formatting your book ready for printing to Create Space. My hubbie tuts.’You’re mad – lovely – but mad.’ I scratch my head and my hair sticks up – I fear he is right.

The good thing about mad though is that it gets things done. My obsession with Create Space has now produced a book waiting to be printed. My book. Mine! Oh God, I feel sick. If you fancy going down this route with your book too, a top tip – download their word template which has all the formatting built in and then insert your book into it. I didn’t realise you could do this at first and it took me ages to sort out, I mean ages – I didn’t wash for 2 days and the discarded mug mountain next to my computer could have qualified for an art installation.

The Create Space format is prescriptive and if your book doesn’t adhere to its format, it’s not going to work. Take a look at a paperback book and you’ll see that each right and left page have different margin sizes. The font’s specific, too, plus the headers and footers. All that is pre-formatted for you if you use the template.  With the cover, back and binding, there is a full service of formats ready to use. You can insert your own artwork, which I tried, but it turned out the pixels weren’t high enough (it needs to be a minimum of

The new cover – what d’you think?

300 pixels – this is opposed to ‘pixies’, as my daughter read it. Not the same thing. Although, nice mental image…) This means that, sadly, I have had to change my book cover. I’ve stuck it on this post – see what you think compared to the old one. Let me know what you reckon to the new one. I swear I took at least two hours deliberating what to do about the cover. I know, daft, but it’s things like this you end up obsessing over, because, once it’s done and out there, it’s really hard to turn back.

After the cover was done, I switched to pricing and, drum roll, royalties. Before you get excited, let me tell you something – the royalties are tiny. Tiny! The minimum price you can charge for your book on Create Space is £5.30, which, is reasonable, but earns you peanuts. I opted for a steady £5.99, which equates to $7.99. This earns me a small royalty per book. So why not just stick to Kindle editions, you may think? Well, the great, great thing about a digital download of your book is that it is cheaper for the reader (mine just £2.48) and the royalties are much higher for the author. But,  there are still many people who either prefer or want a paper back (over 70% of global book sales are still print formats, even though digital sales are shooting up and print declining). So, it means by making The Boy Who Played Guitar available in print format, I am tapping into 70% (run with me here) of the market that I couldn’t access before. Crikey, no wonder I’m cream crackered.

The old cover…

Anyhoo, I can happily report that in the next few days you can buy a paperback of my book from Amazon. How cool is that? Mind you, if you see a sales increase it will probably be me and my very excited family and friends buying loads because we are, you know, very, um, excited. I really hope it works out. I’m off this week to do a blog tour, pushing The Boy Who Played Guitar to be reviewed, hoping to get it read by a wider audience. And then? Who knows? Maybe the whole thing will grow and get bigger. Just as long as my dark circles don’t expand some more. I think might go and buy some more concealer today. I need it. Nice to meet you, by the way.

Right – over to you. Which book cover do you prefer for The Boy Who Played Guitar? And have you used Create Space? How have you found it? Are your dark circles growing, too…?  We’ve all got to stick together…

Links: Amazon’s Create Space

 Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about green wheelie bins (honestly)…*

It’s Media Monday: What would your top 100 books be?

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Writing news

How do you know which books you should read? This is the question that I pondered the other day as I searched for some new summer reads for my holiday. In this search I stumbled across an article in The Guardian entitled “The 100 greatest novels of all time”. (You can read the list here) Great! I thought, there must be some I’ve read on here. On the list, the novels range from Clarissa by Samuel Richardson to Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. Hmmm. I’ve never heard of the first one and the only Tom Jones I know is the Welsh hairy bloke that women throw knickers at when he sings on stage – but somehow, I don’t think this list quite refers to this version.

Anyway, as my heart sank, it got me to thinking about these 100 greatest novels. I mean, what really does make a novel great? Does the fact that we can’t quite understand it make it great? Should it be a high-brow classic to be great or will a fast beach read count? Is it the theme it tackles? The way it is written? It’s complex characters or plot? I think different novels mean different things to different people – what works for one doesn’t always work for another (step forward Fifty Shades of Grey…)

So, in this quest for greatness I’ve decided to compile my own short list of best books, a top ten, if you will. Take a look and see what you think. For me, the books below are ones that I haven’t been able to put down and that have stayed in my head long after I’ve finished them – and that, to me, makes a novel great. Are these the kind of books you view as great? Or are the novels in the top 100 article more your thing? And what makes a novel great for you? Let the count down begin…

My top ten books (in no real order, sort of):

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – An all-time classic whose themes are still so relevant today.
  2. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen – Beautiful story and insightful account of old age
  3. My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle, Marcel Pagnol – not strictly a novel, but an all time favourite of mine. It’s an account of Pagnol’s childhood in Provence, France – atmospheric, magical. You can almost hear the cicadas.
  4. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt – so well written, it was a book that stayed with me for a long time afterwards.
  5. Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller – sharp, dark, cracking plot, amazing characterisation.
  6. 1984, George Orwell – has to be on the list. ingenious, a book way, way ahead of it’s time and one that still influences society today. Big Brother and Room 101, anyone..?
  7. Keeping up with Magda, Isla Dewer – on the list because it’s a book I re-read  when I need some calm and imagine I am by the sea. Cracking characters, great writer.
  8. Tell no one, Harlan Coben – The master of a thriller, this is his best book, bar none. Fast, intelligent – and the film’s just as good (french with subtitles)
  9. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte – ahead of it’s time, Bronte devised a novel full of humour, sharp cultural observation and poignancy. It surprised me how much I loved this book.
  10. The History Boys, Alan Bennett – alright, so it’s a play, but I have the book of it. The script of the play reads so, so well in book format – I couldn’t put it down. Relevant themes, rounded characters, lashings of wit – highly recommend.

 What makes a book great for you? Do you have your own top ten? Or do you prefer to let your preferences change as you go along?

Link: The Guardian 100 greatest novels: a list

 **Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

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…**

Diary of a hopeful author: A teenage sulk makes me realise what I’ve got…

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

What a difference a week makes. If I’m honest, and I don’t know whether you picked up on this, but, like a helium balloon in the hot sunshine, last week I was feeling a tad deflated. ‘What’s the matter?’ my husband asks as he simultaneously carries an iPad, coffee, rucksack and his dinner to the sofa. I shake my head and, reaching for the coffee pot, shrug. ‘Dunno,’ I say, hearing my voice. I tense my shoulders and prepare my self for the inevitable retort, which, like ageing or my family’s bad flatulence, say, I am powerless to fight . ‘You sound like a teenager!’ he laughs. I relax my muscles, grateful it wasn’t too bad. ‘I know, I’m sorry,’ I say, grabbing a mug, ‘I don’t know what’s to do, to be honest.’ He spears a piece of soggy broccoli with his fork whilst checking the football scores on his iPad and scratching his thigh – who said men can’t multi task! ‘Why don’t you take some time out for a bit?’ he says. ‘Read maybe? Have a nice bath?’ I sip my coffee. ‘Hmmm,’ I say, ‘maybe you’re right.’ I know he has a load of work to do that evening, so kissing him on the forehead, I wish him luck and leave him to it while I go upstairs and run a bath.

Waiting for my bath to run, I flop on to the bed, and opening my iPad, log on to my WordPress account to check for any messages. Since I began this blog, like an old friend or good supportive underwear, it has become very important to me. Sometimes I sit here and type and I almost forget that whatever I publish will actually be read (which explains a lot, really, for which I sincerely apologise…). Thing is, of course, the reason I began the blog was because I have published a book, The Boy Who Played Guitar. ‘Start a blog!’ read all the advice. ‘Comment like crazy!’ said the forums. ‘Eat a truck load of chocolate!’ said the…actually, I said that. Anyway, being someone who, when they don’t have a clue themselves, takes advice and follows it until they find their feet, I set up this blog.

Now, I have to admit that in the early days – and this, if you’ve read any of my very first entries, will have you nodding and going , ‘Ah, yep, thought as much’ – I didn’t have the foggiest what I was doing with this blogging thingymajig. I didn’t know what WordPress was; I didn’t know how technically a blog functioned (still don’t to a certain degree, but I digress…); and most crucially, I didn’t know what on earth I was going to write, never mind if anyone would read it. But no matter what doubts I had, like a voter at a polling station, I went into it anyway, and the rest, as they say, is history, or at the very least, today. Bath over, I flip open my iPad and catch up with my diary. Every morning for as long as I can now remember, I have been rising at 5a.m to bash out novel number two, and, to my surprise, when I go through my outline, I realise that I have only 3 and a half chapters of the novel left to write. Three and a half chapters! Whoohoo! Quickly logging onto the manuscript I clock the word count and slap my hand to my mouth – I have written just over 80,000 words. I knew I could waffle, but 80k words? Where did the time go? Probably into my coffee cup.

Smiling, I skip to my WordPress account and notice that there are some comments flashing. At this point I have to say that I love getting comments on my blog, not necessarily because it means people are reading what I write – although that is nice – but because you get to chat to really jolly lovely people. Oh, and I LOVE a chat. Peering at the screen, I see that the comment in question is from a nice chap from Canada called Steve Marchand whose writing blog goes under the name Citizen of Ville Joie. From what I can tell, the comment is in response to last week’s Wednesday Waffle diary post in which I, basically, worry. ‘I think of you as someone who has already made it,’ says Steve’s comment. I sit back, and, feeling a bit floored by it, think. Viewing myself in that way – as someone who has made it – has never actually occurred to me, and, a bit like driving along a scenic coastal road with a blindfold on, I never really see what’s actually around me. Have I made it? Hmmm, if I think back to what I’ve done writing wise even since this January, I guess I haven”t done so bad.

Needing a second opinion, I nip downstairs to find my lovely husband pretty much knee-deep in paper work. Making him a drink, I ask him how things are going and plonk myself down beside him. ‘Can I ask you a question, honey?’ I say. He glances up. ‘You’ll have to be quick, I’ve got a lot on.’  I go to open my mouth then change my mind. ‘It’s okay,’ I say, standing. ‘It’ll wait.’ And, as I leave the room, he returns to his work and I am not 100% sure if he really clocked I was there.

That night before bed, I go through my messages, catch up with tweets and do some quick research ready to write my column. As the week unfolds, whether its down to comments on my blog or my busy husband – or simply the sunshine – I begin to see things in a way I don’t think I always have. I notice how happy our girls are when we are all together; I notice how hard my husband works and how little he complains about it; I notice how much I write now and how many different styles I am getting used to trying; I notice my lovely friends, where we live, even the trees on my run I notice, trees that I normally miss because I have my iPod earplugs rammed into my ears in my constant attempt to DO EVERYTHING FASTER. 

One evening, having tucked up the kids and given my hubbie a big hug just because, I click on to my Kindle and decide to read a little of the Tina Fey autobiography, Bossypants, before I do any writing. Sat in the longe, my hubbie sits by my side with his feet on my lap. ‘I read your Monday Media blog post,’ he says, streching. I chuckle. ‘Why are you laughing?’ he frowns. I chuckle again, my eyes on my iPad. Then, I burst out laughing. My husband rolls his eyes. ‘Oh God,’ he groans, ‘you’ve started that Tina Fey book, haven’t you?’ I glance up. ‘How did you know I’d got it?’ I say. He shrugs and pulls a little pout, ‘Dunno.’ I narrow my eyes and return to my reading. He flips open his iPad and taps on to the football news. I smile; at least it’s nice to know I’m not the only teenager in the house.

**Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about saving water…**

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…**

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…**