Monthly Archives: March 2016

What creative people understand about the importance of being alone

31 March 2016

From Quartz:

In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to avoid spending time alone with our thoughts. If we don’t have family, friends or colleagues nearby, we can just whip out our smartphones or fire up Netflix. In fact, we so dislike solitude that we would rather administer electric shocks to ourselves than just sit and think. That’s right—in studies that asked participants to spend six to 15 minutes in a room without any other stimulation, a significant portion (67% of men and 25% of women) opted to zap themselves just for the sake of breaking out of their brains.

But being alone doesn’t have to be the same thing as being bored or lonely. In fact, when the word “alone” was coined in medieval times, it referred to a sense of completeness in one’s own being, according to Ester Buchholz, a psychologist and psychoanalyst and the author of The Call of Solitude. According to Buchholz as well as a many other psychologists, solitude is an important—and normal—part of human existence. And it’s also essential for our best creative work.

. . . .

Getting comfortable with solitude can be difficult, given that our associations with it these days tend to be negative. As Buchholz writes:

Invariably, solitude meets with social questioning, if not censure. Even worse, people associate going it alone with antisocial pursuits and unnecessary risk taking. Perhaps most striking, solitude conjures up pangs of loneliness.

But needing time alone, according to Buccholz, doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or that you’re antisocial. In fact, she says, it’s important that we clear away the chatter and let our minds wander: “Solitude is required for the unconscious to process and unravel problems,” she writes. “Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance, but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers.”

. . . .

Writer Ernest Hemingway also said that writers must spend time alone to do their best work. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he said that the writer’s life is a lonely one:

Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

Link to the rest at Quartz and thanks to Randall for the tip.

People can lose their lives

31 March 2016
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People can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.

Saul Bellow

15 Instagram Book Marketing Ideas from Publishers

31 March 2016

From BookBub:

Why are publishers using Instagram to promote their books and brands? According to Socialbakers, the top brands on Instagram have a 47x higher average post engagement rate than the top brands on Twitter. And then there’s the scale. As of September 2015, Instagram had 400 million monthly active users, more than Twitter’s 316 million. So while Instagram isn’t an ROI-driven marketing tool, it can have a big impact on book branding.

If you’re looking to use Instagram for book marketing but aren’t sure what kinds of pictures to post, take a look at what publishers are doing. We’ve compiled some great ideas for Instagram content thanks to the stunning photos they’ve been posting!

. . . .

4. Showcase books in relevant, interesting settings. (Bloomsbury Publishing)

A common trend is to post photos of books on a table with an assortment of props. Instead, try placing the book in a scene relevant to a scene from the book!

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. . . .

8. Make clever use of props, rather than having them just be part of the background. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In these examples from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the props are relevant to the book and tie in to a giveaway they’re running. It’s a creative way to get fans to engage.

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Link to the rest at BookBub

What You Miss After Your Child Learns to Read

31 March 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Annalee Svoboda, 7, cracked the code around Thanksgiving.

Before then, she would sit on the couch next to her mom, struggling to sound out every T, H and E of the word “the.” Her mother, Andrea, described the process as “painful.”

Then one day, it clicked. Annalee read on her own. She started bringing home from school small chapter books, with characters and stories. At bedtime, she said good night and settled under the covers on her own with her favorite “Elephant and Piggie” series book.

. . . .

“Part of me likes their independence. We can say ‘OK, it’s time for bed. If you can’t sleep, read for a half-hour,’ ” says Ms. Svoboda, of both Annalee and her older brother Adam, 9. “Part of me misses the snuggling up and being able to cuddle and read.”

The day a child learns to read independently is among the most anticipated and important childhood milestones. Parents who have been reading aloud to a child since birth, and sometimes before, have been eagerly waiting to see him or her develop the confidence and understanding to read on their own. When that moment finally arrives, however, many parents are caught off guard, and feel a little melancholic. Rituals change as their children’s horizons broaden.

. . . .

The survey, of 2,558 parents and children, found many children wished the parents hadn’t stopped. Eight in 10 children ages 6 to 17 said they loved or liked being read aloud to because it is a special time together with their parents. Among children ages 6 to 11, 40% wished their parents would continue.

“There is nothing a child of any age wants more than a parent’s total attention,” says Mary Brigid Barrett, founder and president of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance in Wayland, Mass. She read to her three grown children until they were teens, sharing the adventures of Harry Potter.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Publishing ain’t what it used to be – an article of thoughts, articles of faith

31 March 2016

From author A J Dalton:

So, we’ve seen libraries and book shops close across the UK – apparently because people didn’t want hard copies anymore and e-books were cheaper. We’ve seen the undignified bun fight between Amazon and the main publishers – because book prices had been forced so low that publishers could no longer justify taking such a big cut from the pittance that authors were making. And we’ve seen an era of mega-mergers between publishers – as they sought to realise economies of scale and thereby continue to survive.

It was looking apocalyptically bad for publishing. But was the view of things described above the whole picture? Not really. The main problem has been the behaviour of the publishers – they have been victims of themselves in large part. Where other industries have survived changing markets (via innovation and changing themselves), publishing has only made an already bad situation worse. Let’s look at a few behaviours as examples…

  1. Publishers are more reluctant to ‘take a punt’ on authors these days. They don’t want new authors who have no established fan base. Seems sensible? It’s not. How can a genre evolve and remain relevant unless it’s through new blood? If a publisher publishes the same old names over and over, it will soon begin to see a decline. Look what’s happened to the book sales of scifi and horror. Dead. Why? Because no one would take on Necromancer’s Gambitby the young A J Dalton, a book that he was forced to self-publish, a book which proved to be the UK’s first new wave zombie book and which became the best-selling self-published title in the UK. The book was rejected by publishers as not being ‘squarely within the genre’ – the fact it was fresh and different was seen as a weakness!

. . . .

5. Publishers over-extend series. If a series does emerge as relatively successful, publishers then insist the series-author writes more and more titles in that series – it doesn’t matter how good the book is, it’ll sell anyway. Yes, in the short term it will, but in the longer term it’ll die a death. Look at the Joe Abercrombie Gollancz series (ending with The Red Country). Or the True Blood series, which ended up with 12 or 13 titles. At the same time, the publisher puts all its marketing resource, time and effort behind that one series, ignoring all the other authors, meaning that other stuff starts to fail, no matter how good it is.

6. Publishers aren’t even offering book advances anymore! Even established authors (like myself and Tom Lloyd) are being told that no advance on their next book will be paid (that or a derisory amount will be offered). Seems sensible of the publishers? Not really. If the author isn’t paid any money to live on while they write the next book, how can they actually write the book? They’re too busy doing other work, work that pays and therefore buys food. Many authors have given up. Some authors manage to keep writing, but it takes them far longer to write a book. And by the time they deliver the book, things have moved on and the book is no longer the game-changer that is required. The book gets rejected. Dead.

Link to the rest at Metaphysical Fantasy and thanks to Mike for the tip.

Here’s a link to A J Dalton’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Amazon, Google Update Text-to-Speech Voices For Your Listening Needs

31 March 2016

From The Digital Reader:

I can’t tell you how many users take advantage of the TTS features on their Android or Fire tablets. I usually don’t, even though a lot of Android apps support  TTS, and even though the Fire tablet supports Ivona as a core feature.

Now they’ve gotten an update. Last week Google quietly started rolling out an updated voice for its TTS service, and this week Amazon followed suit with a similar update for the Fire tablets.

Android Authority reported last Wednesday that Google had updated the US voice for its TTS engine which is “new, smoother and less disjointed”. It’s said to have “more natural intonation” and a more fluid delivery which is more life-like.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader
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Jim Harrison, Mozart of the Prairie

31 March 2016
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From The New Yorker:

The first chapter of Jim Harrison’s first novel, “Wolf,” begins with a two-page sentence. Jim said it was vanity, that he wanted to show it could be done, because he was a young writer and hungry. That was in 1971. A few years later, when I was starting to work with him, I asked if his editor had tried to do something with that first sentence.

“Of course,” he said, wearily, as if in my tragic inexperience I was unable to grasp the basic construct of editing him. Jim did little revising and was proud of it. Rewriting was for people who hadn’t worked everything out early—not for Jim, who insisted he always thought things through before he wrote anything down. As for editors, why should he let them fool with his choices? They were not, as he had explained to me when we first met, writers. He also liked to note that he was a poet and “editors don’t change poems.”

“I wouldn’t change any of your poems either,” I said, but when it came to his journalism I wasn’t so sure. Being above editing was a pose some writers found situationally useful the way some children are “allergic” to lima beans. It was the foot Jim liked to get off on, and, sure enough, we tangled over copy our first time around. I was at Outside magazine and suggested that his lede on a piece about Key West was really the second paragraph and that the first paragraph should be the kicker. He hung up on me.

I got an immediate follow-up call from his agent, Bob Datilla, a tough, reasonable guy.

. . . .

Some writers set themselves up so they can work with a view—the mountains, the sea, a river, perhaps an interesting cityscape. Others work closed-in, with no distractions, just their desk and whatever they have on the wall in front of them. Jim lived on a farm in Lake Leelanau, Michigan, fifty miles from where he was born. There was also a cabin on sixty acres off a two-track road five hours north by car, beyond Grand Marais on the Upper Peninsula, where he sometimes retreated to write. But he worked best from two to four in the afternoon in a tight place like the one-room ranch cabin in Patagonia, Arizona, with small windows and a twenty-year out-of-date calendar on the back of the door, the winter place Jim’s early screenwriting money had paid for. A journalist sent from New York to interview him had walked with Jim the half mile from the main house to the writing cabin and asked if it was a movie set. This turned into a story Jim would tell about what he saw as the double misunderstanding about his work, because no, he wasn’t in the movie business. Not really, anyway.

The stories about Jim’s adventures writing for film began when Jack Nicholson loaned him thirty thousand dollars to live on for the time it would take to write three novellas that might make good movies. They could also be published together as a book, which was more important to Jim. He had a draft of “Legends of the Fall” in ten days and was done with the second, “Revenge,” in another two weeks.

. . . .

 For years after, the prominent blurb on the paperback editions of all of Jim’s books was from Bernard Levin, in the Sunday Times of London, about the “Legends of the Fall” collection: “Jim Harrison is a writer with immortality in him.”

. . . .

 Jim’s books had always sold very well in France, and when I heard that “Mozart de Prairie” was the headline of a story about him on the arts front of Le Monde, I looked for it and found many pieces in French newspapers about him, but none with that headline. Maybe it was apocryphal. If it had run, I hoped the photo was the one of Jim as a young poet in overalls without an undershirt, leaning back with his arms spread across the side of a farm horse.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Sourcebooks Strikes Gold with Personalized Adult Coloring Books

31 March 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

In recent years, Put Me in the Story, the line of personalized books for children, has been a huge hit for its publisher, Sourcebooks. What’s more, this trend has coincided with the surge in popularity of adult coloring books.

To that end, since the beginning of 2016, personalized adult coloring books have been responsible for a whopping 40 percent of Sourcebooks’s Put Me in the Story sales.

The two books the publisher currently has out, Keep Calm and Color On: For Stress Relief and Keep Calm and Color On: For Your Inner Creative, were released in the fall of 2015 and quickly gained attention from television shows, including “The View,” “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show.” Customers also responded positively, gifting the books to friends and family interested in creative ways to relax and de-stress.

For the team behind the 29-year-old Sourcebooks, this success has been a bit of a surprise. After all, it was one of Sourcebooks’s many experiments which, according to CEO Dominique Raccah, have an 80-percent overall failure rate. But several members of the Sourcebooks team had a genuine interest in adult coloring books and, for them, the project seemed like a fun one to take on.

“We thought people would really like them [adult coloring books] because they were something we wanted ourselves,” says Becca Smith, a publicity and marketing specialist at Sourcebooks. “We had a group of people in house who loved to color and bought coloring books.”

. . . .

The idea behind Sourcebooks’s adult coloring books is to let people be part of the creative process. As soon as customers go on the books’ product pages, they’re invited to “build” their book, which involves entering a personal dedication and name that will appear near inspirational quotes throughout the book.

“I think people are looking for an activity that’s creative but where they don’t have to be artistically gifted,” says Sourcebooks Editor Anna Michels.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

14 hour days, marketing and dealing with snobbery: my life as a self-published bestseller

31 March 2016

From author Rachel Abbott via The Guardian:

Last week I looked at the complex set of spreadsheets I use to track my ebook sales and gave a whoop of delight: I had just sold my two-millionth book, something I would never in my wildest dreams have considered possible just over four years ago, particularly as the vast majority of those sales were achieved through self-publishing. Initially my most ambitious target had been to sell a thousand copies.

It’s been quite a journey, and all the more exciting for being so totally unexpected. There is no point denying that I became self-published because I wasn’t able to interest an agent in my first book. I had originally written Only the Innocent for my own benefit and pleasure, but I was encouraged by family to give publishing a go. I contacted 12 literary agents, and they weren’t all negative. At least two said they enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t the type of story publishers were looking for.

. . . .

In the last four and a half years, there have been some dramatic and brilliant changes in my life, but my initial vision of days spent doing nothing other than plotting and writing were way off the mark. The self-publishing model can look attractive because, depending on the price of the book, the author can take up to 70% of the proceeds of each sale – which is a bigger return that they would get through a traditional publisher. But it takes a lot of work to make those sales: when I started to follow my marketing plan for Only the Innocent, I was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. For three months, not a word of a novel was written. Even now, with my fifth full-length novel, Kill Me Again, released on Kindle less than a month ago, I am still working similar hours – but I love the variety and the challenge.

I’d like to say that there has been a dramatic change in attitude towards self-publishing since I released my first novel. In some quarters that is definitely the case. But sadly there are still some influential people who believe that, first, self-published authors sell a lot of books because they are cheap (Kill Me Again is currently in the Kindle UK top 20 and only one book in the chart is more expensive) and, second, that if the writing was good, the author would be offered a traditional deal. Despite being placed 14th in the UK Kindle chart of all authors over the past five years – above many of my favourite authors – some festival organisers still believe I don’t have as much to say about writing and selling books as a traditionally published author, regardless of their popularity.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Here’s a link to Rachel Abbott’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Mysterious Stacks Of Books In NYC Are Connecting Strangers From Around The World

30 March 2016

From The Huffington Post:

Could this be a new chapter in the way we interact with one another?

Shaheryar Malik has left stacks of books from his own library at popular destinations all over New York City. He doesn’t stick around to see if anyone takes one of his books, nor does he re-visit his stacks. Instead he leaves a bookmark with his email address printed on it inside each book, in the hopes that he’ll hear back from whomever decided to pick that book up.

. . . .

“If I stuck around or revisited the stacks then it would be very close to how we live ‘digitally,’” Malik told The Huffington Post. “Nowadays we can go back and look at something we posted whenever we want. We can just hang around on social networks for hours [watching a post].”

So, instead he decided to leave the books to “live their own lives.”

“I felt much calmer, relaxed and yet more excited when I walked away from them,” he said.

. . . .

Malik says he’s left eight stacks through out the city at locations like Central Park and Grand Central Station, and aside from one small stack, each consisted of about 45 to 55 books, which he typically transports from his home by car and then from the car with a trolley.

Each stack has a note that reads: “Take a book. Any book. When you finish, email the artist.”

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Randall for the tip.

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