Archive for katiecramerbooks

Why Type When You Can Write?

My iPhone died this week. To say I was disappointed is an understatement, until my carrier here in the UK gave me the choice of a new iPhone 4 (yes, that’s the model from 2010 not the shiny new one) or a swanky new Android phone. When I saw a nice big, clear screen on the Android I jumped at it.

Now, those of you who follow my posts will no that I quite like to use technology to enhance my productivity. When you have two kids running around and pulling at your heels, anything that gets you through the day with a little bit less stress is fantastic. From mechanical keyboards to voice recognition, I’m a huge fan of using gadgets to improve both my writing and the amount that I can produce. So when my husband looked at my new phone and asked me why I hadn’t grabbed a Galaxy Note, I was bemused.

It turns out a friend of his has been using one for quite a while and I was intrigued. This is a freakishly large device, with a screen so big that when you hold it to your ear to use it as a phone it looks as though you have a dinner tray pressed up to it. As a somewhat petite woman, it’s not my thing. But, nevertheless, I had a play with his friends Galaxy Note and found it to be spectacular in its abilities to transform your writing into an e-book with very little effort.

Writing on a phone has never been something that appealed to me, although it is possible. Yet this type of device seems to bridge the gap between a phone and a tablet (they’re not calling these gizmos “phablets” for no reason). What blew me away was the ability to use the attached stylus (yes, a stylus! In 2013!) to write directly into the device and have it transform your scribblings into actual typed text. The accuracy was freakishly good, demonstrated by the video below, but even that doesn’t come close to how well it recognised my handwriting. It made me think – if I was in a coffee shop, or simply sitting in the car waiting for my husband to come back from somewhere or my children to come out of school, I can actually sit with this thing out and scribble out a few hundred words right there on the dashboard.

More importantly, those words could be translated into text to drag and drop straight into a Word document ready for e-book editing and production. It also got me thinking about the future of e-book reading. Although the screen on this device, at 5.5 inches, was too big for an everyday mobile phone, as an e-reader it was close to perfect. It didn’t have the weight or bulk of a tablet, yet didn’t suffer from the small screen of a phone – particularly my iPhone, which at 3.5 inches was starting to become too small for daily use.

Where are we going? Could this be the type of hybrid device that not only allows writers to produce work pretty much anywhere without having to carry around a Bluetooth keyboard but also gives readers the opportunity to have a perfect e-reading experience on their phone?

Do Psychopaths Make Great Writers?

Imagine having the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively, to be so driven that you are almost bound to succeed due to your own determination. Combine that with the incredible advantage of virtually never procrastinating – the enemy of all writers – and you probably have the makings of an incredibly successful career in putting words into the hands of readers.

It probably also means you’re a psychopath.

Okay, that’s a ridiculous generalisation. But, having watched the interviews with Lance Armstrong this week, it made me think about how those qualities can be translated into writing. When we think of a psychopath, we imagine the typical horror movie monster – a Hannibal Lecter, or my personal favourite, Christian Bale in American Psycho.

But remove the violent traits of a psychopath’s personality, and you have a fascinating character study. I’m not saying that Lance Armstrong, or any other sports person for that matter, is a psychopath. But the ruthless efficiency with which he went about his business and, by his own admission, was willing to win at any cost makes you wonder. Did he pause to think when he took so many of those performance enhancing drugs and blood transfusions? It appears not. He even said that he didn’t see it is cheating.

This inability to reason and see the wider implications of his actions was ultimately his downfall. But if this kind of behaviour could be tempered somehow, some of the psychopaths traits would make for a very successful writer. Imagine having an almost unshakeable self belief, an ability to get up each morning and, without hesitation, get to work on a defined goal that you simply will not deviate from. How many novels could you write? Combine this with an almost arrogant view of oneself and you have the makings of a marketing powerhouse.

They say a lot of politicians share the personalities of psychopaths. I’m not surprised. Watch the following video and see where you fit in. Your darker side may be more prevalent than you think.

Is the writing on the wall for print in 2013?

So, the news is in and it’s not surprising – print sales continue to slide while ebooks surge forward.

What may be slightly more alarming, however, is the amount of the print market that was made up by erotica and erotic romance titles last year – two categories that, traditionally, have been swept under the rug when it comes to shelf space in brick-and-mortar stores. The enormous success of a certain series of books by EL James (and the resultant effect on other authors such as Sylvia Day and Sara Fawkes) has been a shot in the arm for the print market. Yet, staggeringly, sales still slumped despite this resurgent new category. How bad would things have been without the Fifty Shades phenomenon? The lack of a breakout hit in 2013 could have publishers very nervous indeed.

The bad news extends, naturally, to physical bookstores. Barnes and Noble reported a slump in both print books and Nook ereaders, a sure sign that the mighty Amazon is starting to cause deeper wounds than just bruising, even in the ebook space. Could 2013 be the year we see one or two dominant platforms take over? It’s hard to imagine the market being shaken up much further – the Kindle and Apple’s iPad appear to be winning the ereader/tablet wars, leaving the Nook and others fighting for scraps.

B&N claim the Nook will scale in 2013 but you have to wonder if it’s a case of too little, too late. A world where only two companies are fighting it out for dominance in ebook distribution while print goes into freefall is a sad (and slightly scary) prospect. The battle lines, it appears, have been drawn. 2013 is going to be a very interesting year.

Merry Christmas – Have You Been Naughty or Nice?

This is a brief post today. I just wanted to wish all of you a wonderful Christmas and New Year and hope you receive all the things you wish for during the festive season. Here’s The Killers with their annual Christmas song that says things far more eloquently than I can:

Are Paperbacks the New Cool?

This last fortnight, I put together my first ever paperback using Createspace. There was something slightly therapeutic about the process, not least the notion that I was now able to hold a physical copy of something I had written – a ‘proper’ book, if you will.

This is still the normal way of thinking here in the UK. Ebooks have not really taken off just yet (though all that may change this Christmas). Physical books are still, don’t forget, the most popular format – but, just like CDs, are diminishing in popularity. This slide is unlikely to be halted. Ebooks are the MP3s of the publishing world.

Which led me to thinking…what will publishers do to stop the decline? What can self-publishers do to take advantage of physical formats? The answer is to make a physical release special in some way, to give readers a compelling reason to buy and own paper books. As a lover of vinyl records, I appreciate the warm sound, big artwork and exquisite packaging. Check out this gorgeous piece of vinyl loveliness for Bowie fans (like me):

Or this example of Radiohead’s last release, “The King of Limbs”:

You could argue that the content is what’s important, that the receptacle is secondary, and you’d be right. But there’s something to be said for the simple joy of a physical object, especially when it’s beautifully designed and enhances the experience of music or literature. You may not always watch DVD or Blu-Ray extras, but it’s nice to know they’re there.

Maybe the future will include a hybrid approach. Many new vinyl records include a copy of the CD inside, a download code for the digital files or even both. Movie studios are also edging towards this “multi-format” model, albeit with restrictive DRM attached.

I, for one, would love to buy an elegantly designed hardback book from an author I love which provides the ability to also legally download the ebook to my Kindle, iPad or other device. Why not? Maybe the way to embrace the digital future is to accept that new formats can not only complement paper sales, but encourage them.

End of an Era

This past week, the last ever typewriter was produced and in the UK by Brother. Now some people, like me, may have been surprised to hear they were still being produced at all. Regardless, it marks the end of an era – the last chapter written on mechanical word processing.

The writing was on the wall for typewriters in the late 1980’s. Despite advances to electronic models, the IBM PC was quickly eating into its market share, thanks in no small part to Microsoft’s aim of putting a Windows computer into every home and office. WordPerfect and the arrival of MS Word in the 90’s sealed the fate of the humble typewriter and its iconic carriage return.

But as this article proves, there are still many good reasons to use a typewriter. Some people simply refuse to give them up, citing them as excellent distraction-free machines designed solely for the purpose of writing. For many developing countries, they are an important way of producing professional business and legal documents, especially in areas where cost is prohibitive and reliable electricity scarce.

For many writers, however, the typewriter won’t be missed. The clack-clack-clack of their operation has kept many an angry spouse awake at night and they are, after all, a pretty lousy way of producing an ebook.

Rest in peace, typewriter. You will always have a place in my heart for one reason…the iconic scene in “The Shining” where we finally find out what Jack Nicholson had been writing for all that time. I can’t see an iPad ever looking that sinister…

Sit Down and Focus

One of the biggest obstacles to writing is writing itself. I’ve found this out the hard way lately. With two children who simply refuse to let me concentrate, let alone write my next Magnum Opus, I’ve become increasingly irritated at the amount of words that I’m generating each day. As a result, I’ve had to change my working methods a little and make the best use of the time I have to get as much written as possible.

This has meant slightly changing how I do things. I’m very lucky in that I have my own office where I can switch on a desktop PC and right away to my hearts content. But the reality is that I don’t get to go there that often, and more and more writing is now being done on non-traditional devices such as smartphones and tablets and in less than ideal places, such as waiting rooms and cafes.

So here are some of the things I’ve been using to get as much writing done as I can lately:

iPhone Keyboard Case – this has been an absolute godsend. Don’t get me wrong, it makes the iPhone a little bulky but it doesn’t matter. I simply can’t type fast enough on a piece of glass, and this inexpensive keyboard is both surprisingly comfortable to use and decent quality. It’s even backlit, so there’s no excuse not to write in low light, and the ability to tilt your phone’s screen forward to create a better typing angle is a stroke of quiet genius.

Logitech Ultra-Thin Keyboard Case for iPad – it’s not particularly cheap, but the quality of this keyboard is like nothing else I’ve ever used on an iPad – and trust me, I’ve used plenty. This has completely transformed how I use the device and, while an iPad could never be a full replacement for a laptop, this brings a compact MacBook Air style feel to the Apple tablet. The use of the Smart Cover magnets is terrific, and it lasts a full six months on a single charge.

iA Writer and Focuswriter – these two apps are simply superb, doing away with all of the distractions of a full word processor and stripping everything back to the bare bones. Both save in plain text, which I find ideal. I only ever add formatting during editing anyway, so I find these purely writing focused programmes wonderful.

Focus Booster – recommended to me by a fellow writer, this is a terrific little app that works on the principle of getting things done in short bursts of time. The idea is devilishly simple – set it up for an amount of minutes, normally 25 but you can choose, and write. The app will alert you when the time is up, at which point you take a break. Then you do it all over again. I was sceptical of using something like this, but I was wrong. It helps to focus the mind on the task at hand, and stops you from wasting your allotted time on things like web surfing and tweeting.

Dragon Software – from their excellent NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software to their free apps for iPhone and iPad, Dragon is not only the technology behind Siri but possibly the only company out there providing top-notch speech recognition that actually works. This blog post, for example, has been dictated in Dragon. The program is now frighteningly accurate, but if you can’t stretch to the cost then Windows has its own built-in voice recognition and this free program is rumoured to be worth a try.

So that’s what I’m doing to boost my productivity. What about you? Are there any tips or ideas you have for getting the most words out of the time you’ve got?

As Christmas approaches, where is the Nook?

The first fall of snow has arrived here in the UK. That can only mean one thing – Christmas is coming, and the holiday buying season is now in full swing. As we enter November, shops have begun to push their product ranges on us from all angles – billboards, window displays, television advertisements. There is no question what the hot ticket items are this year – e-readers and tablets.

This looks like being the year when the e-reader market goes mainstream in Britain. For the first time, all the leading brands are finally selling a variation of their devices. We finally have the Kindle fire, Kobo have a huge lead as a competitor (with distribution in WH Smith and Asda supermarkets) and, finally, Barnes & Noble is bringing the Nook to the UK. You’ll notice that I used the word “bringing” – because, despite being promised in mid-October (which is already dangerously late to market), the launch has been delayed further. Devices are now believed to be available from 29th of October, yet all the major retailers (including Currys, our largest electrical chain) show no indication of them being in stock for that date. Most are not even allowing pre-orders on their websites.

The reason for the delay? None given, although it is believed that the UK version of the Nook website was not ready to go live.

It’s a damaging development for a company that already faced a massive uphill battle. Barnes and Noble have absolutely no brand recognition in the UK, and it was believed that the Nook would be sold at Waterstone’s, our largest brick and mortar bookstore chain. That deal, an eternity in the making, fell through for some apparent reason and Waterstones will now be selling the Kindle, a device partly responsible for their own struggles. Bizarrely, the Nook had a chance. If it had launched on the date intended, it would have had a head start against the new Kindle models by two weeks. That advantage has now evaporated as Amazon continue to sell their devices unchallenged.

Sadly, it gets worse for Barnes & Noble. What little publicity there has been for the Nook in the UK has gone virtually unnoticed. They desperately needed those devices on shelves as quickly as possible in order to gain any sort of recognition in the market. Now, with things delayed further, Apple has gone ahead and announced the iPad mini. This could deal a death blow to the Nook’s chances in the UK – news reports and magazine articles, both online and in print, ask one question: Which device will you be buying this Christmas? In every case, the choices have come down to the iPad mini, Kindle fire or Google Nexus tablet.

If Barnes and Noble’s international rollout hasn’t been disastrous enough already, they have not even opened up the PubIt platform to authors outside the US. Why are they getting this so wrong? How can a company that has recently received hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from Microsoft make such a mess of their flagship product?

The saddest thing of all is that I’m led to believe from my American friends that the Nook is a terrific device. By all accounts, it’s a pleasure to read on and the tablet is easily up there with the best. Yet, incredibly, Barnes and Noble seem unable to leverage these devices to their advantage. There is a terrible danger to all this for the wider company, of course – if Nook fails internationally (and I’m sad to say, it’s not looking good at this stage) then the costs involved could have a devastating effect on the overall business. It also raises the question as to whether the platform will ever succeed outside the US – leaving Barnes and Noble in a precarious position as a domestic-only e-book operation.

I sincerely hope the Nook does well. Giving Amazon and Apple the odd prod results in better devices and choices for everyone. But this shambles of a launch demonstrates why those two companies basically own the markets they currently are in. They have their critics, but when it comes to announcing new products and services and delivering on them, they get it right pretty much every time. It’s hard to see how the landscape is ever going to change if competitors are not just playing catch up, but can’t even deliver on their own deadlines.

This Is the Day

Do you have a story you want to tell? If so, today should be the day when you finally decide to unleash it on the world.

It’s almost a year to the day when I first started to self publish. For those of you – and there are many – who don’t know my back story, I have worked as a freelance writer for many years on national magazines in the UK. I had always wanted to write fiction but I was also familiar with the slow as molasses process of submitting work to a traditional publisher. I’m not knocking it, it just wasn’t for me. I’m the type of girl who likes instant results – I wanted to get my story told, edited and into the hands of readers as quickly as possible.

I never thought that was achievable so, for many years, my fiction remained unfinished in notebooks and on hard drives. Then, in November 2011, I watched a podcast on self publishing and the Kindle platform in particular. I was blown away, particularly at stories of unknown writers who were suddenly selling thousands of ebooks every month. I dusted off that story, finished it and published it. The rest is history.

That was the day my life had surely changed.

I still work as a freelance editorial writer, but only very rarely and mainly as a favour to friends in the industry who still ask. For some time now, I’ve been a full-time fiction writer. It’s an incredibly liberating life that many writers still choose not to experience because their perception of self publishing is either completely condescending or misinformed. Maybe attitudes are different in the US, but here in the UK I still know of people who believe self publishing is an easy way out, not the sign of a “real” writer.

They are, of course, talking complete and utter garbage and, for the most part, leaving money on the table.

The level of misinformation that I still come across is staggering. I know of people who believe self published authors get paid a pittance, scraping by on the pennies that Amazon and Kobo etc throw at us. They couldn’t be more wrong. 70% of $2.99 is always going to equate to far better than 15% of whatever the net profit is of their traditionally published books. For some people I know, they simply don’t believe it’s possible to earn a living self publishing. For the most part, these are people who have been struggling with their publishers to earn even a part-time wage for many years. Some of them are lucky to make a small income per year, while others I know are broke.

My efforts to bring them over to the world of self publishing and finally see them get some compensation for their efforts continue to be ignored. It’s their choice. The world of publishing, as we all know by now, has changed beyond recognition and if they want to get left behind then that’s up to them. I still know of people who spit on the idea of reading books on a Kindle or other electronic device. Fine – I love vinyl records, too, but I’m not going to give up my MP3 collection. The two can coexist – both old and new – and so they should. But to simply ignore that reading is moving from paper to screens is like cutting off an arm and trying to write as effectively. It’s a stupid, pigheaded attitude that will come back to burn them in the future.

There are readers out there waiting to read your books and you don’t need to spend six months sending out letters and waiting for responses (or, more likely, rejections) to get to them. Get your story finished. Edit it well. Find a good cover designer. Do these things correctly, produce a good product – then publish. Not next week, not next month. Now. For free. Today.

Change your life.

Dreams of the Everyday Housewife

The erotica market, so long the black sheep of the e-book world, has never been in better health. Much of that is thanks to E L James and the phenomenal success of “50 Shades of Grey” – the trilogy that took the repressed sexual tension found in books such as Twilight and mixed this with the raw eroticism of the likes of True Blood. In truth, erotic romance has been phenomenally popular for a long time and is often just as filthy as its straight up “erotica” counterparts. It’s just that those books, like James, mixed in this little thing called “plot” (who needs that, anyway?), characterisation and a happy ever after (or happy for now) ending.

With Sara Fawkes “Anything He Wants” series about to be released via St Martin’s Press just in time for Christmas, it looks like the trend will continue of shy, everyday secretaries getting whipped and ball gagged by their billionaire boyfriends. But why are these books so popular? I’m experiencing some success myself with my “What Money Can Buy” series. People tell me they have fallen in love with the characters and literally cannot wait to find out what happens to them next. Maybe these books are more than just erotic – maybe they are also a welcome escape from the mundanity of everyday life.

We all have dreams and desires, but most of them are repressed. The harsh reality is that real-life simply isn’t that exciting most of the time – in between work, shopping, doing the household chores and picking the kids up from school, there isn’t an awful lot of time left for feeling sexy – especially when your husband rolls in from his night shift, exhausted and snoring away in bed beside you.

Maybe it’s the workplace setting or the familiarity of the possibility of a handsome, rich and enigmatic boss sweeping you off your feet that makes these books so immensely popular. Whatever it is, being able to provide an everyday housewife, such as myself, with a little “me time” is one of the pleasures of my job. This Christmas could be the biggest yet for e-books and e-readers and something tells me that the publishing world has woken up and realised that erotica authors – from Sylvia Day to Sara Fawkes and beyond – are not just worthy of shelf space. They provide stories that people love and, for that, they deserve respect too.

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