Tracy Blythe, a Kirk Langley farmer’s daughter, achieves self-publishing success

15 September 2014

From the Ashbourne News Telegraph:

A Kirk Langley farmer’s daughter has written her own success story. Thanks to the powers of self-publishing Tracy Blythe has watched her first novel turn into a bestseller. She talks to Jill Gallone.

Imagine the story… a Derbyshire farmer’s daughter who can’t ever remember writing stories at school manages to pen a novel in two-hour blasts during her baby’s naps.

After years of hard graft she finishes the book, but it is rejected by 18 publishers.

Fast forward seven years and the book is plunged into the limelight after it is self-published online. Available as an ebook, it soars to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. More than 200,000 readers snap it up.

It feels like a storyline from a novel, but it’s not; it’s happened to Duffield mum-of-two Tracy Blythe, now more famously known as Tracy Bloom.

. . . .

“Growing up on a farm creates a foundation for comedy,” she explains. “Farmers are very sharp and witty, so much so that when you are growing up the only way to get attention is to have plenty of witty replies.”

Tracy says she honed her humour from a young age. “Most farmers have a natural desire to say something funny. I think it comes from the fact that all farmers are running businesses, they are massive multi-taskers, work long hours and it can be quite solitary. So when they do meet up, they are ready to be very, very sociable.”

. . . .

Meanwhile, husband Bruce (occasionally mistakenly called Mr Bloom!) works at Rolls-Royce in Derby.

“We’re Derbyshire through and through,” says Tracy, who laughs when she hears about Bruce’s name mix-ups. “My agent suggested I wrote under a pen name because they said Blythe wasn’t very sparkly.

“Bruce finds it hilarious when he’s called Mr Bloom but in one article he was called John!”

. . . .

Tracy explains: “I was 36, had just had my first baby and gave up my career in marketing to move to America with Bruce. It was partly because I’d moved to a country where I didn’t know anyone that I started writing. It was my salvation. It gave me something to focus on – plus an excuse not to do the housework! I wrote in two-hour blasts when Tom went to sleep in the afternoons.

“I had always wanted to write. When I was in marketing it was the part of the job I loved.”

Without the day job, her creative energies could be poured into her funny and romantic novel, No-one Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday. And though she was in Connecticut at the time, it had its roots in Derbyshire ante-natal classes.

“I went to ante-natal classes before we went to America and it struck me that a very random selection of people meet up to talk about a very intimate and life-changing experience.”

. . . .

“It went on sale as an ebook on Amazon in April 2013,” Tracy explains. “Amazon spotted it and put it on promotion on June 1. By June 8 it had gone to number one in the bestseller list and stayed there for three weeks. At the time it was hard to comprehend. I was an unknown author. It seemed just ridiculous.”

With thousands buying the book online, it wasn’t long before a publisher came knocking on Tracy’s door. “I got a book deal with Penguin Random House.”

This year the book finally came out in paperback in the UK – which means Tracy can see her novel in book stores. Self-publishing catapulted Tracy to the kind of success she hardly dared dream of.

Link to the rest at the Ashbourne News Telegraph and thanks to Sharon for the tip.

Here’s a link to Tracy’s book, No-One Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday: A Very Funny Romantic Novel

The Reason

15 September 2014

The reason a writer writes a book is to forget a book and the reason a reader reads one is to remember it.

Thomas Wolfe

It’s not just journalists — for better or worse, design plays a key role in how we get our news

15 September 2014

From GigaOm:

Among its other disruptive influences, the rise of the web has caused journalism to become detached from the physical objects it used to be embedded in, whether that was a newspaper, magazine or book. Information flows over us like a river now, instead of being chopped up and frozen in time. And that means more than just an aesthetic change in how we consume the news — it means that the apps and devices and platforms we use play an increasingly large role in how we get our information, and therefore so does the design of those services.

. . . .

[J]ournalists definitely have an obligation or a duty to choose and tell stories ethically, but they are no longer the only ones that have that responsibility:

Today, press ethics are intertwined with platform design ethics, and press freedom is shared with software designers. The people at Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, Pulse and elsewhere have a new and significant role in how news circulates and what we see on our screens. We’re only just beginning to understand how these companies’ algorithms work and why they matter to the editorial calculations shaping today’s news.

. . . .

[O]ne of the players at the center of this debate is Facebook, since the massive social platform is a source of news for a large number of users — and therefore the algorithms it uses, and the design choices it makes, have a powerful influence on what news users either see or don’t see. The contrast between a filtered and an unfiltered view of the world was brought home during the recent civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., when Twitter users got a real-time flow of news that many users of Facebook missed out on completely.

Is that Facebook’s fault? Does it have some duty or obligation to deliver the news in an ethical or responsible way, like the newspapers it has said it wants to emulate?

Link to the rest at GigaOm and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Is Amazon crazy?

15 September 2014

From author Lazette Gifford:

(This is not about one of my own books, but rather about a book that was published through A Conspiracy of Authors, which I oversee.)

I will not go into the specifics of what is going on in this case — no names and no book title, since nothing has been resolved yet — but I’d like people to consider something about Amazon which is so totally insane that I really couldn’t believe it was true until I had three different emails from them.

Anyone can simply go to Amazon Kindle and say ‘I wrote that book or I have rights to that book, not the person who published it’ and Amazon will immediately remove the book from the store without any sort of proof. Not only that, they will not put the book back up until both parties come to an agreement. So. . . .

So if this new person who claimed the book is his own work does so for malicious reasons, they need never come to an agreement and the book will never be for sale on Amazon. Apparently in such a situation, the best the true author can do is take the other person to court and force him to say they were wrong, which is going to cost money. For an Indie author with an ebook, that’s going to be tough.

. . . .

If the person isn’t interested in coming to terms, then the book is never going back up for sale. Here is the quote from one of Amazon’s emails (This exact line is in at least one other email as well):

If a resolution is reached, before we may take any appropriate action regarding the book(s), all involved parties must contact us via (email address).

Oh, and the other part from Amazon? They will also threaten to terminate the publisher’s account. That’s part of their ‘take any appropriate action’ part.

. . . .

Is it possible Amazon was provided with some sort of proof? I would like to think so, even if it is false information. However, all I have been able to get from Amazon is that someone made the claim. If they had proof (which I have asked to see and not gotten from Amazon or the other person) don’t you think Amazon would show it to the other party so they had a chance to at least know what was claimed against them?

Link to the rest at Lazette Gifford and thanks to J.A. for the tip.

In Latest Volley Against Amazon, Hachette’s Writers Target Its Board

15 September 2014

From The New York Times:

Amazon is at war with Hachette, and it sometimes seems as if it has always been that way.

As a negotiating tool in the battle, which is over the price of e-books, Amazon is discouraging its customers from buying the publisher’s printed books. After six months of being largely cut off from what is by far the largest bookstore in the country, many Hachette writers are fearful and angry. So this week, they are trying a new tactic to get their work unshackled.

Authors United, a group of Hachette writers and their allies, is appealing directly to Amazon’s board. It is warning the board that the reputation of the retailer, and of the directors themselves, is at risk.

“Efforts to impede or block the sale of books have a long and ugly history,” reads a letter being posted to the group’s website on Monday morning. “Do you, personally, want to be associated with this?”

. . . .

“Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand,” it says. “But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

. . . .

The letter warns the directors that the discontent might spread.

“Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand,” it says. “But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Tom for the tip.

Row over literary agents’ ‘transparency’

15 September 2014

From The Bookseller:

Industry database Agent Hunter has accused the literary agent community of appearing “elitist, exclusive and hostile to outsiders”, and has released a Transparency Index (TI) rating every agent and every agency.

But Sam Edenborough, president of the Association of Authors Agents, has hit back at comments made by the group, formed by crime writer Harry Bingham, saying that Agent Hunter is offering “shrill criticisms”.

Agent Hunter, part of the editorial consultancy The Writer’s Workshop, said its research is the “first authoritative guide to the world of literary agents”.

It found that 66% of literary agents are women, 86% of them are based in London, and less than 3% are black or Asian. Agent Hunter said: “Those data might suggest an industry out of touch with broader society, so it’s concerning to note that many agents release strikingly little information about themselves, thereby discouraging approaches from new writers.”

. . . .

Bingham said: “At present, the literary agency industry can look elitist, exclusive and hostile to outsiders. I don’t believe it is any of those things in reality – but the lamentable standard of disclosure tends to disempower writers and discourages them from seeking conventional publishers. We urge literary agents to bring their communication practices into the 21st century – and we praise those agencies who have already done so.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Apple CEO Tim Cook digs at Amazon: ‘They’re not a product company’

15 September 2014

From Geekwire:

Apple CEO Tim Cook was on The Charlie Rose Show last night for the first of a two-part interview about topics ranging from the company’s new products to the legacy of Steve Jobs.

But one comment in particular will sting for Amazon, as Cook essentially dismissed efforts by Jeff Bezos & Co. to compete in smartphones and tablets.

“They’ve come up with a phone. You don’t see it in a lot of places. They have some tablets. But they’re not a product company. Apple is a product company. And so, in the long term, will they become a bigger product company? I don’t know. You would have to ask Jeff what his plans are. But when I think of competitor, I would think of Google… much above anyone else.”

Link to the rest at Geekwire

Writers as Casualties of Commerce

15 September 2014

From author James Scott Bell via Kill Zone:

Since 2009 or so, the so-called midlist at traditional publishing houses has dried up faster than a mud patch in the Serengeti. The bleached bones of writers who did not earn out are scattered around in random configuration.

. . . .

I’ve heard from many friends and colleagues about traditionally published writers––some who have had relationships with a house for a decade or more––seeing their advances drop to record lows, or not being offered another contract at all.

And then what? What happens to these foundering careers?

. . . .

I was gobsmacked last month when I read a post by [NYT bestselling author Eileen] Goudge about her travails as a casualty of commerce. She describes what happened to her and many other writers this way:

I know from my husband, the aviation geek, that when a plane goes into what’s called a death spiral, as it reaches a certain altitude and succumbs to the pull of gravity, it can’t pull out. The same holds true for authors: fewer orders results in smaller print runs, a smaller marketing budget and lackluster sales, then a smaller advance for your next title, and the vicious cycle continues. In short, you’ve entered the “death spiral.”

The cold, hard truth is this: If the sales figures for your last title weren’t impressive enough to get booksellers to order your next title in sufficient quantities to make an impact, you’re basically screwed. It doesn’t matter if your previous titles sold a combined six million copies worldwide. You’re only as good as your last sell-through.

What’s even more dispiriting is that you’re perceived as a “failure” by publishers when your sales haven’t dropped but aren’t growing. You become a flat line on a graph. The publisher loses interest and drops the ball, then your sales really do tank. Worse, your poor performance, or “track” as it’s known, is like toilet paper stuck to your shoe, following you wherever you go in trying to get a deal with another publisher.

Goudge details some of the things that happened to her, personal and corporate. One of them is fairly common: a key executive or editor who is your champion leaves or gets laid off or moves to another company. You become an “orphan” at the house and your books don’t get the attention they used to.

. . . .

A writer friend of hers told Goudge she should go indie. She resisted at first, but the friend simply asked, “What’s the alternative?”

So Eileen Goudge jumped into the indie waters, more than a bit nervous about it. But then discovered something wonderful:

My creative wellspring that’d been drying up, due to all the discouragement I’d received over the past few years, was suddenly gushing. An idea for a mystery series, something I’d long dreamed of writing, came to me during a walk on the beach in my hometown of Santa Cruz, California, where I lived before I moved to New York City. Why not set my mystery series in a fictional town resembling Santa Cruz? … I immediately got to work. I was on fire!

Goudge is pro enough, and has seen enough, to know that nothing is rock-solid certain in a writing career. But she concludes:

Was it worth it? Only time will tell. Meanwhile there it is, beating in my breast: that feathered thing called hope. Something I thought I’d lost, regained. Something to celebrate.

Link to the rest at Kill Zone and thanks to Anthea for the tip.

Here’s a link to James Scott Bell’s books

Famous Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary

14 September 2014

From Brain Pickings:

“You want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you,” Madeleine L’Engle counseled in her advice to aspiring writers. W.H. Auden once described hisjournal as “a discipline for [his] laziness and lack of observation.”

. . . .

Anaïs Nin was perhaps the most dogged diarist in recorded history — she began keeping a diary at the age of eleven and maintained the habit until her death at the age of 74, producing sixteen volumes of published journals.

It was while writing a Diary that I discovered how to capture the living moments.

Keeping a Diary all my life helped me to discover some basic elements essential to the vitality of writing.

When I speak of the relationship between my diary and writing I do not intend to generalize as to the value of keeping a diary, or to advise anyone to do so, but merely to extract from this habit certain discoveries which can be easily transposed to other kinds of writing.

Of these the most important is naturalness and spontaneity. These elements sprung, I observed, from my freedom of selection: in the Diary I only wrote of what interested me genuinely, what I felt most strongly at the moment, and I found this fervor, this enthusiasm produced a vividness which often withered in the formal work. Improvisation, free association, obedience to mood, impulse, bought forth countless images, portraits, descriptions, impressionistic sketches, symphonic experiments, from which I could dip at any time for material.

. . . .

This personal relationship to all things, which is condemned as subjective, limiting, I found to be the core of individuality, personality, and originality. The idea that subjectivity is an impasse is as false as the idea that objectivity leads to a larger form of life.

A deep personal relationship reaches far beyond the personal into the general. Again it is a matter of depths.

Link to the rest at Brain Pickings

Talent

14 September 2014

If a man has talent and can’t use it, he’s failed. If he uses only half of it, he has partly failed. If he uses the whole of it, he has succeeded, and won a satisfaction and triumph few men ever know.

Thomas Wolfe

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