Wednesday 16 November 2011

I've given birth to a demanding little monster

There are a few things that I didn't expect in this self-publishing process. I didn't expect it to take so long to get the perfect cover (neither did my poor cover designer). I didn't expect Apple's upload process to be so difficult (so difficult that I've yet to have Single in the City for sale through Apple - luckily the Kindle for Mac button on Amazon lets iPad users download it directly there). And I didn't expect the rewriting/editing/cover design/ePub wrangling to be the easiest part of the process.

For I am now Marketing (queue rousing music). Maybe in some small way this is what it feels like to be a first-time mother, when you realise that that helpless little thing, which you created, is completely dependent on you for its survival. I am a literary single mother.

Single in the City's UK incarnation was spearheaded by fabulous Sales & Marketing and PR teams at Penguin. They got the book widespread exposure, and dangled it in front of millions of women across the UK as they did their weekly Tesco shops, jetted off for their summer holidays and hurried back to their lives in the commuter belt on the 18.05 from Paddington/King's Cross/Liverpool Street.

But now Single in the City exists in the ether. It won't catch the eye of passing shoppers from the chart wall or the 3 for 2 sales table. It's got sharp elbows, sure, but it needs a lot of help to get noticed amongst the other 342,000 Kindle fiction releases on Amazon. I can't simply let the book fend for itself.

And that way, obsession lies. This is the part I didn't bargain for in the self-publishing process. I expected to be busy. After all, I've been through a launch before. I know there are lots of review books to send, and interviews and guest blogs to do for the lovely reviewers who kindly take an interest and are so important to a book's life. What I didn't expect was the extent to which Single in the City would sit on my conscience and whisper "Isn't there more you can do?" Ungrateful book.

For instance, I'm in sunny Florida as I type this, for my annual family fun fest feedathon (Thanksgiving is next week). I should be contemplating which sun factor to apply and instead I'm ticking off the emails I need to write to the kind readers who have agreed to review the book.

It's no wonder my mother has always said "Sleep well honey. When you have children you'll never sleep that deeply again." I fear that moms are always right... what's that? Must dash, the book is calling.

Friday 11 November 2011

Compliments from strange men - flattery or harassment?

This morning I had occasion to ponder, as I chugged around the park, about the compulsion by some men to shout comments at women. In my case, the young man in question said "Awright love? Looking good, looking good." Now, I'm fairly certain that I am not Looking Good when I'm jogging. I'm looking sweaty, awkward and occasionally in pain. If you remember Forest Gump's early attempts you'll get the picture.

So why do these men do it?

It can't be an attempt at seduction. Surely lack of success has taught them that few women, when shouted at from the roadside/pavement/window, swoon as they fantasize telling this story of how mommy and daddy met to their offspring.

That leaves two options. Harassment or sincere attempt at flattery. What say you dear readers? Are these verbal outbursts just socially inept compliments, or legitimate targets for our ire?

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Love of chick lit scientifically proven

Okay, so the methodology may not be quite as robust as, say, cancer research, but I’ve come to a conclusion about women’s love of chick lit.

It’s been weighing on my mind lately. After all, if you listen to the critics, the genre is not only dead, it’s six feet under in a box. Sales are down, we’re told by chick lit doyenne Kathy Lette, because the market is “overflooded”. So am I just adding one more unnecessary drop to a basement that’s already under water?

Over on www.goodreads.com I asked: Are the critics right, are women getting tired of chick lit? and Is the genre changing, moving away from light, funny chick lit towards more weighty issues?

The answers were illuminating, if not statistically significant. But they're heartening to this lover of the genre.

Women are saying they use chick lit to provide a little escapism from their often stress-filled lives. “I gravitate to chick lit when I'm busy in my life, then a nice easy read is called for.” says one fan of the genre. “I like having a light read to take my mind off of things.” says another. So like chocolate cake, it exists because we love it. It’s a treat we’re not tiring of.

The genre is changing though, expanding to include weightier issues. This doesn’t propose an either/or dilemma for fans though. The answer is and/and. There will always be demand for well-written books with interesting plot-lines, whether that’s laughing with a newly-landed American in London or crying with a woman struggling with a great loss. There will always be room for us all in the hearts of chick lit fans.

So here’s to you, lovely chick lit fans – it’s you, not the critics, that we're writing for. 

Saturday 5 November 2011

The glamour never stops

I just had a thought, as the toilet brush fell off its handle (not for the first time), requiring a reach-in ... forget the Kardashians, let's have a reality show following the glamorous lives of writers.

Later I'll be hoovering.

I just asked other writer friends what the day holds for them. Answers included:

Defleaing the dog.
Hanging out the washing.
Sleeping (from friend whose husband has taken month old baby out for the day).
Waiting for delivery.
Changing nappies.
Making soup.

Next time a chick lit critic laments our easy lives of riches, quaffing champagne and scoffing bonbons, I'm sending him that list.

Thursday 3 November 2011

What price writing?

I’ve been grappling with a thorny issue this week. How much should an eBook cost?

On the one hand, it’s a virtual book. There are no production costs aside from the cover design. It did take awhile, and much of my agent’s patience, to punch it into shape for acceptance by the ePub gods, but it was an inexpensive process in terms of cash outlay, if not in terms of grey hair and wrinkles.

On the other hand, it took three years of work to write and edit it.

A quick scan of the Amazon eBook best sellers tells me that eBooks are cheap. Does this mean readers won’t pay more than a few dollars for a virtual book? What’s the “magic price point”? This question raised its head months ago when I decided to self-publish. I’ve probably agonised over the answer for longer than some people take to name their babies.

I’ve chosen $1.99. Lots of books are for sale at that price point, including the big hitters of our genre like Sophie Kinsella. I figured that since I’m relatively unknown in the US, asking a woman to take a chance at $9.99 or even $5.99 is risky.

I wonder, though, if I’ve made the right decision?