Face to face: face those fears and show them the door!

We are all in our own way battling fears and self doubts, about decisions made, life choices, jobs, creative endeavours, pretty much everything. Yes there are those lucky few who sail through life never second guessing anything they say or do, who have unswerving self-confidence regardless of any reasons pro or against – well good for them. But for the rest of us mere mortals, especially those of us who are pursuing a creative career, writers, illustrators, actors, singers etc., crippling self-doubt kind of comes with the territory. ūüė¶

The fact that you have chosen an entirely subjective career path which by the nature of it, is open to a great deal of criticism, speculation and even ridicule, hardly helps. Neither does the fact that most creative people tend to be very sensitive – almost a precursor to being a writer, poet or artist of any kind.

Pencil portrait of Richard E Grant

So, apart from navigating the choppy waters of crippling self-doubt and external criticism, sometimes, just sometimes you have to man (or woman) up and face your fears.

For me, some of that is allowing myself to be bold enough to actually set goals for myself. To say that this year I am going to achieve ___________.

Setting goals is a scary business, it’s laying your cards face up on a table and saying to the world – this is what I’m going to do and risk that ridicule and criticism if you don’t manage it.

But, as a brilliant writer friend of mine has said, someone who has ambitions and rightly so (watch this space people), what’s holding you back? Face those fears, fly your flag, pin your colours to the main brace and declare “I am here, and here is what I am going to do! I WILL achieve this!”

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So, I am risking¬†the embarrassment of setting out my goals for this year – there is no try, there is only do or do not: ūüėÄ

  1. Completely finish writing and edit Darkling Rise (the very long awaited sequel to White Mountain that has taken me FAR too long to write!).
  2. Lose a minimum of two stone (hopefully three) for long-term health benefits and a major life commitment I have made to myself (before I’m too old for it to work) – I’ll be less cryptic when I’m nearer to achieving this goal.
  3. Continue writing short stories and my dark novel, Ravenwing (hopefully to a first draft stage).
  4. Continue building my illustration business. So far I haven’t had to advertise as people have been approaching me, but I need to step up my game and get more commissions going and widen my reputation.*
  5. Build a stronger online presence, as my mate calls it, sort out my ‘brand’, which will help grow followers, fans and help sales as well as getting more reviews and make me more visible to potential opportunities. Yes we’d all love the Game of Thrones success of George R. Martin (though I’ve never fancied the fame bit)¬†but at the end of the day, most of us just want to be able to write and create full-time and make a living from it (enough to pay the bills at least).
  6. Finish my picture book ‘The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile’ (the story is written but I need to finish drawing and painting all 24 illustrations – I had no idea just how much work is involved in making a picture book!).
  7. Bite the bullet and try subbing to agents, both for my picture book and Ravenwing (once it’s finished) and stop being afraid of success or trying to be successful!!!!
  8. Continue the daily Artmaniac Challenge, creating new art EVERY DAY for a whole year!**
  9. Pay more attention to my lovely little blog (yes, you guys) and blog more often – Sorry!

So there you go,¬†9 goals for the year. Will I achieve them all? Only time will tell, but I’m going to try my bloody hardest.

Face your fears…

So, what are YOU going to achieve this year?

Pencil sketch of Christopher Walken by Sophie E Tallis

* Yes, I have some exciting news to share to do with HarperCollins. I have signed a contract with them and will fill you all in very soon! ūüėÄ

** The reason for my doing portraits at the moment for the Artmaniac Challenge, is due to the wonderful inspiration that is the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year (and yes, I am thinking about doing it next year!) ūüėÄ xxx

 

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A Year of Wonder…!

Today, is a special day – not¬†just the 1st of a new month (pinch punch sort of thing),¬†and the first day of the festive season (I LOVE Christmas and yes, I already have my trees up and decorated and excitedly switched the lights on this morning before work :D!) … BUT today marks the 1 year anniversary of my novel, WHITE MOUNTAIN, being published! YAY!!!!!! ūüėÄ9781909845978[1]

A year ago today, my epic fantasy was born or should I say re-born in all its glory by a fantastic publisher, Grimbold Books, who prizes quality above anything else and who truly GOT IT!

I owe them so many thanks, not least for producing a book of tremendous quality from the awesome cover to the calligraphy inside, from the production values to the formatting of text and my illustrations (a fiddly thing at the best of times…when was the last time you read an illustrated novel?), (thank you to Alex Bardy the God of Typesetting!). Everything was done with care and more than a pinch of love and I genuinely think it shows.¬†Grimbold Books¬†and Kristell Ink¬†also restored my very shaken faith in the integrity and honesty of people after my dreadful first publisher experience. To say Grimbold are the polar opposite to the cretins I first¬†signed with, would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions! So, a massive thank you to Sammy HK Smith and Zoe Harris for taking a chance on me and everyone at Team Grimbold…I love you guys! ūüėÄ xxx White Mountain full book jacket

So, on this happy book anniversary it seems fitting to take a breath and look back at the wondrous whirlwind year its been and share a few of the highlights!

1st Dec 2014 – My reaction was as always, understated and subtle… ūüėÄ SAM_5228

To my delight, not only did White Mountain gain lots of new readers and admirers but many fans of the first flawed book bought the second improved version too, just to read how¬†the story¬†should have been told. Thank you to all my fans, old and new! I really appreciate your support! ‚̧ xxx 10407894_10153042995986950_697215546084611716_n[1]

After my first ever Book Fair at the Welsh ICE Book Fair on 29th Nov, I followed that up by my first ever reading in Bristol at the ‘Fairies at the bottom of the garden’ event Sat 13th Dec. I was VERY nervous, but it was great fun. ūüėÄ 10614253_846486532082170_6044863703050848758_n[1]

After another successful book signing at the lovely Books & Pontyclun bookshop on December 20th where I formed a great friendship with Book Lady extraordinaire¬†and White Mountain mega-fan, Emily Hannah Rogers now Mrs Emily Hannah King! (She’s on her honeymoon trip around the world…I was hoping to sneak inside her suitcase when I heard she was going to my beloved New Zealand!). SAM_5401

The new year¬†brought yet more wonderful signings and ‘booky’ events. Signing at the fab Books On The Hill Bookshop in Clevedon in February with Alistair Sims and Chloe, lol, and being photographed for the Somerset Times Newspaper…gulp! My signing at Books On The Hill

In March, my second Book Fair and¬†more signings this time at prestigious Chepstow Bookshop in the shoes of my¬†hero David Attenborough! Thank you to Matt and to my lovely mate Will who popped along to say “Hello!”

April, saw me attending my very first Literary Festival as an author and illustrator for the inaugural Hawkesbury-Upton Lit Fest organised by self-published author extraordinaire, Debbie Young, to celebrate World Book Night. 51LK1eQJXNL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_[1]My poetry readings (my first ever) went down a storm and my White Mountain reading got people so hooked they grabbed another few sales! Yay! I also meet famous author, Katie Fforde, who posed for a photo op! ūüėÄ SAM_6754

The month of May was busy busy busy, juggling illustration commissions and lots of events, the highlights being another signing at lovely Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester and my third public book reading as part of BristolCon Fringe alongside fellow fantasy author, Ben Galley. May also saw me going see one of my favourite authors, Kazuo Ishiguro, at¬†the Hay Festival – where he signed two books for me and chatted about the prejudice the fantasy genre faces from the literarti, what an awesome experience! SAM_6855 (2)

In June, White Mountain continued to soar in the Amazon charts and gained yet more wonderful¬†REVIEWS – THANK YOU! This little blog seemed to explode, with a couple of days gaining over 600 visitors each day! Yet more illustrations and yes, lots of writing, including a dark fairy-tale short story, ‘The Orphan and The Iron Troll’¬†The Orphan and the Iron Trollto be published in upcoming dark anthology, Shadows Of The Oak and a gritty sci-fi space opera short story, ‘Silent Running’ for the upcoming awesome Fight Like A Girl anthology alongside big fantasy hitters like Juliet E McKenna, Danie Ware, Gaie Sebold, K.T. Davies, Kim Lakin-Smith, Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall among others! Wow! Very honoured and rather humbled to be in such company. (gulp) Fight-Like-A-Girl-V2-400ppi[1]

July was hot and awesome in equal measure…but the highlight of highlights had to be the honour of being invited as an author and illustrator to take part in the prestigious Cirencester Literary Festival, running my own illustration workshop as one of the main events! The place, Bingham Gallery in Cirencester,¬†was absolutely PACKED! The event was a tremendous success and went brilliantly, and I even managed to control my nerves! July also saw me starting my Distant Worlds author interview series on this blog, which has been such fun and has had such a tremendous response. ūüėÄ CJi9mo3WEAAGHFn[1] (2)11059440_1736544409906170_5015057545228280997_n[1]11822572_1736544419906169_8415676657590741700_n[1]11406151_1717954358431842_1815668094057261589_o1[1]

September, apart from my birthday (gulp), saw the eventual release of the Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB) first anthology, A World Of Their Own, the fruition of four years hard work. The anthology is dedicated to my dear friend and fellow AWB member, Lindsey J Parsons who died so suddenly in January 2014, with ALL profits from the book going to charity Рso it makes the perfect Christmas present. 10628434_901588523202885_688426025216875644_n[1]

I still miss¬†Linds so much, especially late at night when my insomnia kicks in and I need to talk to someone and bounce ideas of…or chat stupidly like we often did until 3am! ūüė¶

Anyway, after the anthology publication the rest of the month was dominated by the insanely cool BristolCon run by Joanne Hall. It took place at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Bristol, where I was not only attending as an author on my first ever panel (alongside Jasper Fforde) but was also CHAIRING a panel on the apt subject of Libraries. I also got to finally meet Emma Newman which was very cool as was seeing my mate, Joanne Hall, have her awesome book launch! SAM_7710

October was a mad blur of more book fairs and signings but the highlight was an epically AWESOME 5 days up in Nottingham with my fellow Grimbold band of brothers and sisters for FantasyCon!!!! WOW!!! Where to start? Such cool panels, talks, lots of fun events, me singing Blondie and Adele at my first ever Karaoke…and yes, I didn’t completely embarrass myself! Meeting Brandon Sanderson, hanging out with my new cool friends, eating copious amounts of pizza, cake and burgers (diet was on hiatus), Steven Poore (fellow Grimbold cat) having his awesome book launch at the Con, SAM_8039playing Cards Against Humanity and my 1981 board-game, Dark Tower and cheering on the wonderful Adele Wearing of Fox Spirit Books as they won Best Independent Press at the British Fantasy Awards. SAM_8064Highlights, have to be my decision to make a visual record of the Con by sketching people. Amongst some decidedly dodgy drawings (sorry Jo, I will draw you again honey and do a better job!), I got to eventually meet the very cool Jen Williams who I’d missed at BristolCon. Not only did Jen and Brandon sign the sketches I did of them, Jen very kindly posed for a piccie with it too! SO COOL!!! ūüėÄ SAM_7981Had SUCH an amazing time! SAM_8100SAM_7917

Then, suddenly it was November and my fellow cool Grimbold cat and talented writer, Kate Coe (who I shared a hotel room with and who had to put up with my snoring!), had encouraged me to do something I have been avoiding since 1999…National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWrMo (Nano)! NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square[1]

Knowing what a slow sod I am when it comes to writing, yes hopefully I write quality stuff, but do I need to be so goddamn slow? – well, knowing that, how could I of all people possibly hope to write a massive 50,000 words in just one month. Geared up by Kate’s enthusiasm that¬†I could in fact do it…I plunged into it head long! I also took part in a little sword fighting play at Kate’s place for one of the Nano Write-In’s with Adrian Faulkner, a master swordsman and very cool fantasy writer. 12196097_10153633033412254_1672540370840878677_n[1]SAM_7910

So, November was spent ignoring emails, ignoring the TV, Facebook, friends and relatives and just writing, writing, writing…and…on Sunday 29th November, a whole day early for my first ever Nano…I achieved my impossible goal, I reached 50,143 words of my new dark fantasy, RAVENWING. Ravenwing

That was two days ago, and I’m still reeling from it. For me, this Nano challenge was also a deeply personal and important one. I wasn’t just challenging myself to write a huge amount of words in a short time, I was challenging my illness and saying YES, I CAN DO THIS! Nano Winner 2015 Certificate

As many of my friends know, I was struck down by a nasty illness a couple of years ago and that has badly impacted on my writing, making me slower again but also making the sheer effort and mental strain of concentrating for the longer periods needed to write, very very difficult indeed. This has meant that the sequel to my beloved, White Mountain, has been very slow in the making (a big thank you again to my VERY patient publishers!). So…for me, Nano was also an opportunity to show myself that I can do it, to kickstart my White Mountain sequel, and that’s what I intend to do!

So…to start as I mean to continue, here is an exclusive for all my White Mountain fans…

The sequel, DARKLING RISE,¬†is coming (promise), but to tide you all over…there will be two brand¬†NEW White Mountain short stories published next year!!!!

A Friendship Forged Рis a wonderful back story of how Mr. Agyk and Gralen first meet with some awesome fight sequences and more than a few hints about Book 2 and tie-in events from White Mountain.

The Siege of Kallorm Рis the back story of Korrun, why he is such an angst character. It charts his fateful fall from grace, from being a hero figure, the Captain of the Kallorm City Guard to becoming a vilified, hated figure after he makes the worst of mistakes. Can you ever atone for your sins? The Siege of Kallorm sketch

Both new stories are coming soon…watch this space!

***

So…there you go, a year of madness, mayhem, wonderful weirdness, lots of ‘firsts’, and a real personal turning point.

I wonder…what on earth will the next year bring?!

See you all there, for yet more fun…roll on 2016! ūüėÄ xxxxx

AWB Illustration Unicorn BattleAWB Illustration Archer

ūüėÄ ‚̧ xxxxx

Rankings!

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Okay, we all know the addictive game of watching the rankings on Amazon Рthat wonderfully fickle pastime of seeing our beloved and cherished masterworks slide up and down the proverbial scales like a demented yo-yo dieter!

Well, I’m as guilty as the next author of taking a sneaky peek at my rankings from time to time. We all know the routine, keep¬†quiet when your book falls and jump up and down shouting from the hills when it shoots up the charts.

So, delight of delight…although my highest ranking was the day after my¬†book was first published, a wonderful¬†23,737 out of over 7 million books, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, is STILL doing remarkably well!

59,981!! UPDATE!!!! Now, 37,774!!!!!!!!! That’s totally awesome especially for an unknown indie author with a debut novel which was published well over two months ago! I’m SO thrilled!!!!!

Just HAD to share! ūüėÄ

Books‚ÄļFantasy‚ÄļEpic‚ÄļLast 90 days‚ÄļPaperback‚ÄļEnglish

21.
No.21!!!! Yay!¬†ūüėÄ xx

Book signing – what you need to know but were afraid to ask!!!

books[1]Okay…I’m jumping ahead here, but seeing as I just had my fourth book signing event on Saturday and have my next coming up this Saturday, I wanted to share the freaky experience of author¬†book signing.

Think you’re ready people? I can guarantee you’re not!

Well, like many of us, my only ‘experience’ of book signing was watching it portrayed¬†on TV and in film, i.e. a pretty exciting, thrilling glamorous thing, right? LOL!!!!!!¬† Oh dear… If you are a celebrity, you’ll have people thronging around you, lining up to get a glimpse of you and a signed copy of your latest tome. If you are a new writer…you’re a nobody. No lining people, unless it’s to the tills, no throngs.

Well, again, like every aspect of a writer’s journey, it will be unique to you. Some writer friends I know don’t do it all. Whether it’s because of time constraints or simply because they feel they can’t and don’t want to do the whole ‘selling’ thing, I don’t know.¬†In fairness, it is an expensive venture, travelling, petrol, parking…it all adds up!

I must shout out though, to some brilliant surprises I had on my book launch at wonderful Octavia’s Bookshop, apart from selling out in an hour! Thank you to my gorgeous fellow fantasy writer, Lindsey J¬†Parsons, turning up (a welcome distraction and lovely support) and¬†my¬†lovely and nutty mate Will Macmillan Jones who LOVES book signings – he¬†has a natural confidence in talking to people and an ease when doing these events.

Octavia's Bookshop signing 2012Then there’s me…the nervous jelly in the corner. Cold sweats, lack of sleep, bitten nails,¬†dodgy tummy, dry throat and well, a host of other nervous complaints. It IS hard and difficult but what nobody prepares you for, is that it is also one of the most totally bizarre experiences a human being is ever likely to find themselves in!

Exactly like walking down the street naked. That is how it feels…and no, I haven’t gone romping down the local lanes and roads starkers! But you feel utterly exposed and naked in a room of crowded strangers…yeap…prepare yourselves guys!

Firstly, you will have to decide on what approach suits you best. By now we all know the changed policy from Waterstone’s¬†head office regarding signings, so NO pushy hard sell! It doesn’t work and it’s at least one of¬†the reasons¬†Waterstones¬†cites for changing their policy, because they were getting complaints from customers who had literally been frog marched to the tills!

Remember you are selling your literary masterpiece, not a tin of beans. Nobody likes being hassled, especially if they’re in a bookshop quietly browsing…so back off. Always go with a relaxed soft sell approach.

That aside, you still need to decide how to do this. Do you stand and wander round the shop? Stay permanently seated at your table? Or a mixture of both? Sometimes the bookshop will tell you what they would like you to do, so you can just follow those guidelines.

My friends all do it slightly differently, which works for them. You’ll need to find out what works for YOU. For me…I just don’t have the confidence to wander, so I tend to stay permanently glued to my table and let people come up to me, or not.

Even though all the Waterstones¬†staff I have met have been absolutely lovely, very friendly, welcoming, helpful and¬†ply you with as much tea/coffee as you want, you will most likely be given a small round black table only a little bigger than a napkin, to display your books. So be prepared! ūüėČ

You may be placed in the fantasy section, teen section, children’s section or by the doors, it totally depends on the store. If they are planning to place you right at the back, you can very sweetly ask if you could be moved. Remember they want you to be¬†every bit as¬†successful as you want to be. You sell a lot of books, it’s great for the store, great for you and most likely you’ll be asked back.

As far as symbiotic relationships go, it’s pretty good – they are the oak tree and you are the nourishing fungus at its roots! Ummm…now doesn’t that sound sexy?!

The next thing you need to be prepared for is…people. Lots of them, none of them, crowds jostling¬†past you, ignoring you, bumping into you. People glancing at you and your book then thinking better of it, shy people wanting to approach but nervously edging past, brash people, “So, what’s it about?” You start your well rehearsed but genuine¬†spiel, “Nah…not for me,” as they drop it on the pile with a clunk. You notice the smear of finger prints on the cover and quickly pop it to the bottom of the pile.

Also, depending on where you are stationed, be prepared for arses¬†(asses for my lovely American friends) and lots of them as you see them¬†leave the shop¬†having NOT bought your book, or worse still, as they queue at the tills and the queue goes back to you. Suddenly you’re sitting in a forest of people’s legs, backs and arses, totally obscured! ūüėõ

You’ll find yourself with a gentle fixed smile, trying not to look desperate as you shift your weight, stare aimlessly into middle distance or try to make eye contact and lightly engage passersby with a, “good morning,” you check your watch. Damn it! It’s 12:30pm. So you change tact to, “good afternoon”.

Or you start to play ‘spot the fantasy fan’ – a fun game which entails eyeing everyone coming into the shop and trying to place which section they’ll head for. Even though I’ve only done¬†4¬†signings so far (my amazing book launch at Octavia’s Bookshop and three lovely Waterstones branches to date, with more going right up to Christmas) I’m getting pretty good at this¬†detective game.

But the frustration comes, if you see someone heading and then lingering in the fantasy section and before you can get a chance to talk to them, they’ve left the shop carrying a Robert Jordan, G.R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, David Brett and walked straight past¬†you without noticing…despite the 7ft¬†banner next to you! You could try a¬†net or lasso, but I wouldn’t recommend it! ūüėõ

Then,¬†you get the ones who have no intention of buying your book but haven’t had a decent conversation with anyone in a while and as you’re just sitting there doing nothing, how about a chat? You know what? Always be gracious and grateful…at the very least you are talking to someone and look busy – this is good! Unless of course they stop you from engaging with those who really are interested in buying your book. Tricky.

Then, you get the good stuff, the reason you are there, putting yourself through this…the interested person…what a thrill! The person or people who ask questions, are really engaged when you tell them about the story, who ask about when and why you started writing it, your inspirations¬†and in my case,¬†those who¬†get totally enthralled with my¬†illustrations.

Btw, it really really helps to have visual aids! I’m lucky, I have my own illustrations so I enlarge them, colour some of them, even laminate them and put them in this flick through book for people to…er…flick through! If you don’t have any visual aids – GET THEM!

Now don’t get me wrong, even though the experience can be¬†akin to¬†having root canal, which I have had, there is a genuinely awesome payoff¬†– you get to be on the frontline, talking to people about your book, the characters, the plot, how you created it, what your influences are, and most amazingly, you get to sign a book and watch someone walk to the tills and buy it!!!!!!!!!!!

There really isn’t anything like it!

If I hadn’t been sitting in public, I would have welled up and cried, it’s that emotional. A really unforgettable and moving moment.

That’s¬†why you do it, why you put yourself through the nervous emotional¬†exhaustion of it, not to mention the¬†difficulty of travelling there, finding somewhere to park, finding the store¬†etc¬†– because the payoff is¬†SO sweet. Isn’t that what we all want? To feel that sensation – pride, accomplishment and sheer joy? It doesn’t happen often in life so try to embrace it when it does.

So the next time you’re in a bookshop, do spare a thought for the lonely author sitting or standing there, being brave or possibly nutty, and go and talk to them. Even if they’re selling a manual on how to clean the inner tubing from a bicycle wheel and you couldn’t be less interested in what they are selling and certainly don’t want to buy it…spare a thought for them and go a have a¬†natter and a smile, you’ll really make their day! ūüėÄ xx

P.S. Make sure you have a bottle of water with a good screw top, you’ll need it. In your nervousness, if you knock it over you’re¬†not going to spoil your precious books. Oh…and make sure you have at least three pens, at least one is likely to fail on you! ūüėČ

P.P.S. I must say a special mention to my pal Lucy for stopping by and saying hello yesterday while I was book signing in Waterstones¬†Cribbs¬†Causeway, thank you honey! AND a special mention to Bryony,¬†the lovely lady I meet yesterday who was so interested in my book and who I had a¬†fascinating chat with. I hope you keep going with your writing sweetie, and DO check out The Alliance of Worldbuilders¬†on¬†the HarperCollins¬†writing site, Authonomy¬†www.authonomy.com¬†or on Facebook¬†https://www.facebook.com/TheAllianceOfWorldbuilders¬†or on it’s own website http://theallianceofworldbuilders.weebly.com¬†we’d love to see you on there with the rest of us nutters!.

Right, so that’s it, at least for now…everything you needed to¬†know about author signing events, but were afraid to ask! HUGE good luck guys and I hope to meet you on the circuit!¬† ;D xx

Waterstones and Amazon’s Kindle turn a new chapter!

Here is a very interesting article…!

By Leo Kelion Technology reporter 24 October 2012

Leo Kelion¬†talks to Waterstones’s managing director James Daunt about his company’s relationship with Amazon.

It was the twist no-one saw coming.

After previously describing Amazon as “a ruthless, money-making devil”, Waterstones’s managing director, James Daunt, announced in May that he was teaming up with the US internet store and would sell and promote its Kindle tablets and e-readers in the UK’s premier book chain.

Few predicted a happy ending: “A deal for destruction”, “Strange bedfellows”, and “Waterstones let the fox into the chicken run” exclaimed some of the resulting headlines.

Had the former JP Morgan banker doomed the group less than a year after being appointed as its managing director?

“A world that is totally dominated by Amazon will be a poorer one,” Mr Daunt tells the BBC when asked about the decision.

Jeff Bezos and Kindle Paperwhite e-reader Amazon’s boss, Jeff Bezos, says his firm sells Kindle e-readers and tablets for break-even prices

“But that is not to say that I don’t think that Amazon is – within the limits of what it does – absolutely fantastic.”

Secret deal

The 49-year-old has already distanced Waterstones from its roots, dropping the apostrophe in its name to the dismay of punctuation campaigners. But the decision to ditch Sony’s e-readers and promote Amazon’s is clearly his most controversial to date.

For someone who has apparently signed his company’s death warrant he appears focused and optimistic about the group’s future, determined to complete a costly refit programme designed to upgrade its 300 stores.

And though he remains tight-lipped about the terms of the Amazon arrangement, he insists the agreement is to his advantage, whatever others suggest.

“I certainly won’t tell you what I’m going to make with Amazon, but what I will freely admit is that we have a commercial business here, and we make sensible commercial decisions.

“I have, rather flippantly, also said: ‘Do I look like a total moron? Because what you’re describing is the behaviour of a total moron.’

“I may be many things, but I don’t think I’m that.”

Model hold Sony e-reader Mr Daunt ditched a previous deal to sell Sony’s e-readers shortly after taking charge

Although the criticisms may have stung, Mr Daunt believes he has made the pragmatic choice. His customers are increasingly reading books on digital devices with Amazon proving their most popular option.

To ignore the phenomenon, he argues, would undermine the bookseller’s relationship with its readers.

“If they choose to read digitally I have to become involved in that game,” he explains, adding that it would be beyond the firm’s resources to develop its own family of tablets and e-readers.

Instead he plans to offer add-on services – allowing visitors the chance to use Kindles to browse Waterstones’s own recommendations and then read them for free while in-store.

“The principle is simple,” he says.

“You are in a bookshop, you can pick up any of these books – you haven’t bought them yet – you can browse them. Until you leave the shop you don’t have to pay for them, and that same principle should apply to a physical device as well as a digital e-book.”

Ultimately he hopes to be able to tailor recommendations to each shop’s location and staff – but even in its basic state the feature won’t be able to launch until technical issues are worked out and publishers sign up.

Hot drinks

Reports have suggested one way Waterstones would make money out of the deal would be to take a cut of each Kindle sale made over its stores’ wi-fi networks. Mr Daunt would not confirm or deny the claim, saying only: “We make money out of everything we sell.”

A potential problem with this model is that once shoppers try out an e-reader – whether its a¬†Kindle, Nook, Kobo¬†or other device – they often browse bookshops’s shelves, make lists of what they want but then buy via the internet at home.

The e-book trend may be inevitable, critics say, but embracing it will only hasten Waterstones’s decline. Mr Daunt suggests they misunderstand his methods.

Cafe W inside Waterstones in Norwich A Norwich branch of Waterstones was one of the first to be fitted with a Cafe W outlet

“All that we have to do is encourage people to come into our shops and to choose the books,” he says.

“I don’t frankly care how they then consume then, or read them, or indeed buy them.

“But if you spend time in my shops, and you really enjoy it, and you come back more often and spend longer – you’re going to spend money in my shops.”

That money won’t necessarily be on books. Waterstones¬†stores are already stocking more stationery, games and puzzles. The next step is to create cafes inside the chain following a successful trial.

“It is literally the booksellers that’s made you the cup of coffee,” he says. “Yes, it’s slightly grubby that you’ve handed over two quid to get that cup of coffee – but it is extremely nice.

“The conversation as you buy your latte is often about the book and it’s a really fantastic thing. And our sales have leapt.”

The move may appall traditionalists, and making space for coffee and Kindles does ultimately mean less for bookshelves. But Mr Daunt says the action is overdue.

“Do we have an awful lot of books in our shops that don’t frankly sell?” he asks.

“Yes, and they actually shouldn’t be there. I do think the shops will have less books, but they will remain absolutely first and foremost physical bookshops.”

Kindle display unit Kindle display units were installed weeks before the launch

Fiction, cookery and biography will stay, he says, but specialised topics, such as law studies, face the chop.

‘Fundamentally unsatisfactory’

At the core of his strategy is the assumption that if his staff make the right picks and provide the right environment, customers will want to spend time in a book-browsing environment.

“I certainly believe that ownership of the physical book does matter,” he adds.

“Whereas that little file embedded in a piece of plastic isn’t pretty to look at. You can’t lend it. You can’t sell it. And you can’t bequeath it to your children.

“Digital is convenient in some situations – travelling, or reading at night when you don’t want to wake the wife.

“But it is also fundamentally unsatisfactory in all sorts of other ways. And that will preserve the physical book as being the majority choice for some foreseeable time, even fiction.”

Whether Waterstones’s next chapter goes as planned will now depend on how much the public are as wedded to the traditional format.

By Leo Kelion Technology reporter BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20046568

Many thanks to the BBC and Leo Kelion for this and to Beattie’s Book Blog where I first saw this article! http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Interesting stuff, eh? ūüôā

OMG! The word is spreading…!

It is true that the world is a strange and bizarre place, but wow, sometimes it can surprise you in an utterly delightful way!

Firstly, there seems to be a small but growing ‘word-of-mouth’ about my book. Exclamations like, “It’s better than Rick Riordan and Harry Potter!”I never read fantasy but I loved this!” “Beautifully written and captivating!” etc. All wonderful comments that fill you with butterflies and a nervous kind of energy you can’t quite explain.

Reviews? The ones I’ve had so far have all been great, but like any author, I’m desperate for more. Reviews after all are what people turn to when deciding what book to pick off of a shelf. They are also essential in spreading the word about your book.

Well, all of these are fantastic but what about the gritty reality of how your book is doing?

I’ve had a little inkling¬†that my debut novel, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, is selling well. But of course, as an author you are a little removed from the hard-line of sales figures.

Instead, we tend to focus on what people think of our books – Did they like it? Were they swept along with the story? What were their favourite characters? Did they like the way it was written? etc etc.

We naturally love our stories and want others to love them too, for an author, there is no greater feeling than having a reader tell you how much they loved your creation. So, actual hard sales don’t really enter the consciousness…maybe¬†they should, but I’m just not a business type person, my brain is far too chaotic for that!!!!

Anyway, imagine my joy when out of curiosity I popped onto Amazon and looked at epic fantasy paperbacks for the last 30 days and found my own book on the first page at No.12!!!!

I couldn’t believe it! My novel was higher in the charts than established authors like David¬†Tallerman, Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time), ¬†A. E. Marling and even G.R.R. Martin! It won’t last of course, and by tomorrow I’m sure it will change…but WOW!

Totally unbelievable!!!!!! ūüėÄ xx

‘Aspiring Author’, really?

writing

I was having a discussion with some writer friends recently and this topic came into the conversation. It is also popped up on my publisher’s website, and they are of the same opinion as me. That although it is certainly a very common turn of phrase on writing forums and social media sites, it is also a complete cop-out!

Why ‘Aspiring’? Yes, to be an author may well be a long-held dream, certainly in my case, it has been a lifetime’s ambition, harboured and nurtured since I was a child. So I understand the longing, the desire to achieve ‘Author’ status, what I don’t understand or agree with, is the sentiment behind the word ‘aspiring’. It is such a terribly¬†weak statement.

You are not an ‘aspiring¬†doctor’, or teacher, or lawyer, or dentist…you either ARE a doctor, teacher, lawyer, dentist, or you are NOT. There is no halfway house. Yes, you may be ‘in training’ to join one of those professions, but you should still consider yourself to BE one of them, even if you can’t practise on your patients! Have confidence in your abilities and in where you want to go. You wouldn’t consider yourself an ‘aspiring human’, would you? Ummm…well in some cases that may actually be true! ūüėÄ

Have the strength of your convictions and the confidence to see them through.

Putting yourself in the category of ‘Aspiring Author’, merely tells the world that you don’t have confidence in your own writing and that you don’t consider yourself to be a professional. Why should any publishing house take you on and take you seriously, if you don’t take yourself seriously. Publishing houses are not looking for amateurs. Debut novelists, new writers…YES! But ‘Aspiring Authors’? Really?

Your approach and your thinking must always be professional, from the outset. No¬†weak ‘aspiring’ here.

Some consider the sacred term ‘author’ to be based on sales. That you cannot call yourself an author until you are published and those royalty cheques start coming through your letterbox. Again…is this right? If you are basing your status as an author purely on sales…then you are in the wrong profession! Yes, being an author is a professional endeavour, but it is also a highly creative one. Creativity should and MUST always come before hard cash.

Although it is easy to get carried away with stories of instant success and truck loads of money, Christopher Paolini is a good example. If you are writing to get rich…you are DEFINITELY in the wrong profession! These stories hit the headlines precisely because they are so rare. Most writers struggle with sales and building their fan base for years and years, there’s nothing instant about it. It’s hard graft all the way. A good mate of mine, Will, once said that writing the book was the easiest part about it and he’s absolutely right. As hard or as easy as you may find the process of writing and editing your work, that really is the easiest part of being an author.

Think of the great writers of the 19th and 20th century, few of them had instant success with their very first book. They too had to build their readership, hone their craft and get on the carousel of marketing and promotion. Why a carousel? Because it NEVER stops! If they had dismissed themselves as merely ‘aspiring authors’, when their first book languished on the bookshelves due to poor sales, then they probably would never have written a second or third book and thus deprived us readers of some literary masterworks!

Sales has nothing to do with writing or wanting to be a writer. Yes, you’ve got to be professional and yes, good sales are what you want to strive for and achieve, but it should NEVER be a motivational tool or a yardstick by which you class yourself as an author or not.

Be what you want to be. Have confidence in your abilities, your imagination and your writing. There is nothing ‘aspiring’ about it…inspiring, hell yes! Wouldn’t you rather be an inspiring author than an aspiring one?

Whatever your professional day job…You ARE a writer…or you are not. That simple.

For me?

I am and have always been a writer, an author¬†and proud to be one. ūüėÄ