Tag Archives: media

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…**

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…**

Latest column now out and it’s all about the Olympics…

It’s Thursday so it’s “Column Day” where I post my weekly newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is all about the Olympics and their value to us and future generations. To read it, simply click to my Column page.

Hope you like it. Thanks for reading!

**Look out for tomorrow’s brand new post, “Friday Fact or Fiction”. This week I’ll be posting an extract from a short story of mine**

A newspaper photo shoot ends up in a toe de-fluff

It’s been a bizarre week. After the hubby pointing out that, given my own marketing background I should get and do the publicity for my own book, I begin to email out a whole heap of press releases  to various media outlets.

Contacting them starts with calling the news desk numbers. And it turns out that’s quite a nerve-wracking thing to do. Keen to get the name of the right person to send the press release to, I pick up the phone ready to speak, and immediately put it down again, hands shaking. ‘Breathe,’ I tell myself.  This is daft. Given my book has a Gloucestershire connection, I have decided to start with the local papers first, and my heart is racing. ‘God help you when you contact the nationals,’ pipes up my hubbie, toast in mouth as he passes by the study. I tut. He has a point. Actually, I chastise him, but I have to admit he’s been a great help – he has spoken to his contact at Radio Gloucestershire and turns out they’re very interested in running a story about the book. ‘I could kiss you!’ I shriek when he calls one morning with the good news. ‘It’s not come to that has it?’ he replies. He has a point. But at the very least my two daughters are excited – it’s quite sweet. ‘Mum’s going to be famous!’ they yelp, jumping, knocking over their lunch boxes. ‘Mum’s going to be famous!’ I sigh. ‘Not really,’ I tell them. ‘Mum, we’re so proud of you!’  they say. Aaah. ‘ We’re telling the teachers!’  shouts the eldest. Oh dear God.

Come the afternoon, I’ve taken several deep breaths, called the news desks and finally sent out the press releases with accompanying photographs (1 potrait, 1 landscape is best, according to my friend, Press Chris). So far so good. Realising it’s nearly school-run time, I am shoving on my Converse and jacket, when my mobile shrills. ‘Hi,’ says an Irish voice. ‘Is that Nikki?’ My heart bangs ten to the dozen. ‘Yes,’ I croak. ‘It’s the Gloucestershire Citizen Newspaper,’ they say. ‘We’d like to arrange a photo call for your story tomorrow.’ Oh holy Lord. After quickly stemming the instant need to vomit, I arrange a time and date for the next day. ‘Oh, and can you bring your Kindle for the shot?” she asks.  Oh heck. I do not own a Kindle yet, but have asked for one for my birthday. So I do what I know I only can. I lie, sort of.  ‘Um, that might be tricky, because, um, it’s being…um…fixed,’  I say. There is silence. Then, yes! I remember my friend, Jo, owns one, and she only lives round the corner.  Result. ‘But I can get one!’ I say, triumphant. ‘Great!’ she replies.  ‘Bye.’ And with that, she’s gone. I text Jo, fast.

Dazed, somewhat elated and now late,  I sprint to school (turns out it literally is the school-run), and am breathless on arrival, when the Citizen girl phones again. ‘Can you get Stuart to be in the shot?’ she asks. This is Stuart Langworthy, my hubbie’s teacher who inspired the book. I try not to scare her by heavy breathing into the phone. ‘Sure,’ I say, ‘no problem.’ This turns out to be a bit tricky, as of course Stuart being a teacher, is teaching. But, bless him, he’s up for it and after a few calls and rearranging, first one venue, then the other, we have a time of 10am for the next day at his school for the shoot. It’s the same school my husband went to, the same school Simon Pegg attended, the same school Stuart’s always taught at.

That night, it’s a case of figuring out what to wear. ‘Mum,’ says the eldest, eyes narrowed at a blouse hanging up, ‘that’s okay. But make sure you don’t go too old lady.’ Then she’s off, head in book, her job done. I sigh, peer into the mirror  and pull at the wrinkles around my eyes. Make up. I’m going to need make up.

Thankfully, the photographer who meets us the next day is a nice guy. ‘I know your husband,’ he says as he sets up the room for the shot. ‘Most people do,’ I say, sighing.  The photographer is keen to get the Kindle, containing my book cover, into shot , but something’s wrong and it’s not playing ball. Last night, me and my friend Jo, whilst she was teaching me how to use it, actually deleted the book by accident. Oops. On top of the cover crisis, the photographer is actually two hours late – the Citizen girl forgot to tell him of the new time and venue we arranged, so things (i.e. me) are a bit fraught. But no matter. I stand, I smile, I hold up my friend’s Kindle, the Amazon page it’s sold on projected on to the screen behind me. When I am asked questions, I hear my voice shaking, but thankfully, no one seems to notice. Stuart is lovely, the photographer is kind and my friend Emma, who was also taught by Stuart, has turned up ready for lunch. ‘You off to work now?’ asks Stuart, once the shoot’s over. I shake my head. ‘Shopping,’ I say. ‘Ah, a bit of retail therapy,’ he replies. Hmm, yes. Therapy, I think. Therapy would be good.

That night, I am getting my youngest daughter ready for bed as she asks me about my day. I tell her about the photographer and the newspaper, and she beams a smile at me. Bless her. ‘Off you go and clean your teeth now,’ I say, as I nip down stairs. Two minutes later, she is calling me from her room. ‘Yes?’ I say, coming back up. ‘Mum,’ she says, sat on the floor, feet out, ‘since you did so well today, I have a present for you.’ She wriggles her feet. ‘You can clean out the fluff from my toes!’  she announces. I smile and kneel down.  ‘Oh honey,’ I say. This is a first. Removing fluff from her toes is her favourite thing. This is a Big Deal. ‘Thank you, sweetie,’ I say.  And then, giving her a hug,  I begin to de-fluff  her toes. Now this is therapy.

Publicising the book turns into a lesson on friendship and smelly socks

Oh my Lordy.  After last week’s  book cost crisis, my sales need a boost. Thing is, I don’t know quite how to get it going. Me thinks I need a little help. 

‘What do publishing houses do? asks hubby one night. ‘You know,’ he says, ‘when they have a new author they need to promote. What do they do?’  I look up from my bar of Green and Blacks which he has kindly bought me and which I feel obliged to eat. ‘Theyggoommmaggggooo,’ I say. ‘Huh? I can’t hear you as your mouth seems to be seeping chocolate,’ he says. I swallow it whole. ‘They have their own marketing and press teams who get on the case of course,’ I say. My hubby sits back, grinning, clearly pleased with himself. I narrow my eyes. ‘What?’ Then the penny drops. I am my own marketing department. Duh! I know I should thank him for pointing  out this valuable information, but instead choose: ‘Make sure you wash up your dinner plate when your done, honey, won’t you?’ and scuttle to my laptop, my mind already on promotional plans for my current book.

What I didn’t quite home in on then and what I have realised with startling clarity since, is that without people like my husband – and he is a great, wonderful lad, if not with a worrying penchant for Cop documentaries – making my book even a moderate success will be nigh impossible. So, getting on the case, once  my book marketing plan is mapped out, including social media, promotional ideas and pricing strategy (really), I go on to PR. ‘I’ll write a press release,’ I say to myself. Being from a copywriter background, you’d think this would be pretty easy – turns out it’s not. ‘You alright?’ asks my hubby when he finds me dribbling on my laptop at midnight. ‘Huh? Who? Wassup?’ He squints at my screen. ‘You know, if you’re writing a press release, why don’t you just speak to Chris.’ I sit bolt upright. ‘Chris!’ My hubby peels a post it note from my cheek. ‘Chris!’ I repeat. My hubbie backs away. I hope he still knows why he married me.

Anyhoo, the next day I contact Chris and it is a gift from heaven. Because Chris is a Press man at a University. He is a dear friend, known him for years and when I ask his advice, not only does he say he will read my press release, he gives me so many pointers on who to speak to and what to do. As his emails fly in that day, full of advice I am filled with utter gratitude for his help. ‘Beer,’ I think as I make a note of his information. ‘I must buy him a beer.’

By the end of the week, I also receive help in the form of my husband’s old teacher, Stuart Langworthy, who inspired my book in the first place and who my hubby thought would be ideal to include in any press information. Turns out, Stuart’s more than happy to be included in my press release, and more than that, is pleased to have the opportunity to take some of the media limelight from my hubby, who is often on the telly for business news. Bless him.

Sat on the sofa the next evening, checking my emails, I sip a glass of red as my hubby slumps down beside me. Peering at my screen, he reads Stuart’s email. ‘Told you Stuart would help.’ I nod.  It is hard to say out loud that he was right. I put my glass down and turn to him. ‘Honey,’ I say, ‘what’s it like being friends with your teacher after all these years?’ He shifts on the sofa so he can rest his feet on my lap. ‘It’s just like having a good friend,’ he says, ‘but one who’s always there for you, I guess.’ I smile at him. That’s it. Having friends who are there for each other, that’s what it’s all about. It’s like the Beatles said, about getting by with a little help from your friends. My hubby wiggles his toes and one of his socks comes loose. ‘God, honey, you’re feet stink. Move them, quick!’ He pulls a sad puppy face. I sigh. He’s my best friend. I will always be there for him. But I draw the line at smelly socks.

Trying to give your work a shamless plug

 How do you sell your work? The thing is, promoting myself doesn’t come easy. Hard to believe given my profession as an advertising copywriter and a brand planner, but there it is.

Give me someone else’s brand/persona/product to promote, and I’m there. But when it comes to yourself, there’s something that makes you hesitate. What do you say? How about, ‘Please, please, please buy my new book, it’s only £0.77 or $0.99’? Or, how about, ‘I’ve written for getting on 17 years now and I’d be just made up if you bought my book and posted a really lovely review’?

Hmm. Twitter and Facebook do make the whole process a lot easier. There are some great people out there who retweet and help each other out. Thank goodness for those nice tweeters. And blogs help, too. Then there are friends and family. But, from what I can gauge so far, the knack seems to be to just tell everyone. I mean everyone. So, that’s what I intend to do. Here I go. I’ll just take a deep breath first…