Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Lurking in the attic

 Back in 1980 I spent nearly three months in America. Its so long ago I'd almost forgotten about it, but the other day I found a bundle of airmail letters - the kind that were folded, stuck down and super light - in a bundle of old university papers that my mother had kept. DH and I seriously considered cleaning out the attic and we made a start, which was how I found these letters. Sad to say, we never finished the task, but I enjoyed reading the letters and I thought I'd record the last one here.

"I am travelling around the great continent of America now in company with Maggie and John. You must excuse the hasty writing but I have to do it before the sun sets, which is imminent, or I shan’t be able to see to write. We are camping in a tent and have stayed at Montreal, Toronto and now just past Buffalo, which is the second largest town in New York state after New York itself.

Montreal was a pleasant, well-bred town, not rowdy and frenetic like the bit of New York I saw nor cool and precise like the bit of Boston I whizzed through. Montreal is set on an island in the middle of two rivers and a canal and has huge sea-going liners gliding past its gates every day. It has a hill in the centre, like Edinburgh, and the city swirls round the foot of Parc Royal Mount in all directions.

Everything in Canada is in French – I expected some French, but not 99.9% French like it is. Some people don’t speak English! The shops look very French, ie chic, and there are cafes in the Old Quarter (Vieule  Quartier!) where everyone sits out and drinks wine on little street balconies. We went into Notre Dame Eglise and found it very beautiful, looking like Notre Dame in Paris, but built here in Montreal in 1889 or some such recent date.

The French influence in driving is apparent, too, for navigating the motorways in and out of the city was hazardous to say the least. The legal limit in the US may be 55mph but here in Canada  its 100kmph and I’m sure they exceed that; I’m  inclined to write-off our correct selection of route 20 out of a handful of criss-crossing intersections taken at speed as due to Madame Luck.

The same thing happened at Toronto. I don’t know yet where the city began or ended. The map I had from Ontario Tourist Information Office just stopped communicating information about 15 miles from the city limits, and we hurled along a huge section of dock-land sub-auto routes with  crossing rail tracks for freight trains,  which regurgitated us smack bang in the middle of Canadian National Exhibition. The number of people collected around this centre was too much for us – used to rural Maine for two and a half months – and we just kept going. I never noticed where Toronto  ended either; one town just faded into another.

 But I noticed Niagara Falls, which we saw today along with  along with a million other tourists. (It is Labour Day, after all, the equivalent of out Bank Holiday). I took some pictures, so I hope they’re alright. We are now heading east again, for Boston this time, where Maggie and I have the offer of a floor for a night with Joanne from Camp Modin.* Then its off to New York on Saturday and then down to Pennsylvania to meet Nancy and her family. Take care, see you soon, about three weeks…"

 *Jewish summer camp in Maine where between university breaks I spent a summer working as Camp Counsellor. Still have vivid memories of swimming and canoeing in the freshwater lake every day and some of the personalities I got to know. Sadly, no pictures survived. Or perhaps they are lurking in another part of the attic.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Predicted trends for self-publishing 2021


Spotted this piece floating around the internet, and it seems to be proving pretty accurate.

1: More traditional authors will move to the indie model

Some indies are having major financial success, and the rest of the publishing industry is taking note. Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell have signed with Thomas & Mercer. Big publisher corporate mergers means traditional authors will have less negotiating power and at least some will be tempted by the indie path

2: More indie authors will collaborate or consolidate in collectives

From sharing production costs to combining marketing efforts, this is a great way for indies to publish quicker, expand back catalogues, increase output and earnings, not just by combining email lists, but actual books as well to compete on a level above.

3: Authors will benefit from competition in the eBook marketplace between Amazon, Apple, and Google

Amazon is the largest retailer for indies, but in 2020 Apple redesigned its author portal so authors without a Mac could publish to iBooks and Google Play revamped its publishing analytics interface in fall 2020 making it easier for authors to analyse their sales on the platform. Apple and Google are clearly investing in indies in 2021.

4: More platforms fighting for Audio supremacy will benefit
savvy authors

5: COVID-19 will impact book sales in different ways at different times

2020 saw more people turn to books for at-home entertainment and education via digital means and will continue in the first half of 2021. The second half of the year could mark a downturn for eBook sales if vaccination efforts in the US and Europe are successful. This could mean a temporary lull in eBook sales during the “post-Covid re-emergence” phase of our lives.

6: The overall eBook market will continue to grow

Overall industry stats show that upwards of 70% of people who read, still read print and haven’t yet adopted a digital reading. Covid 19 turned more readers to digital in 2020and more readers are joining the digital eBook market in 2021.

7: Authors will see more success with international sales

Authors willing to invest in translation could get a great foothold in this rising European eBook market. The German market first, but the French, Italian and Spanish ones will be catching up quickly.

8: It will be a volatile year for paid advertising

More retailers and brands will spend more marketing dollars in digital channels in 2021. Increased spend and competition will drive up the costs of digital advertising for authors.

9: Email delivery and engagement will become a focus for authors

Email lists become more important and the competition is fierce. Nothing prevents you from letting them know about your latest release. Other marketing channels will suffer in 2021, so email is more important than ever.

10: Authors who write into series, and with big backlists, will win larger pieces of the pie

Writing a series results in more sales, and authors know it. Expect to see more authors writing series, and those who do will see the financial rewards.


Thursday, 9 September 2021

It's OK, I've got the message.

Patterns in the fields?
 Do passwords give you a headache?

They do me. I thought I'd give spoken books (not a brand name!) a whirl and joined as a trial member. I spent a couple of hours trying to download the chosen volume. I was asked for my password every time I tried to download and each time they told me the password I had just entered was incorrect. After the fourth attempt  I gave up,  only to discover (eventually) that my ipad was not of a generation that could play spoken books.

 I don't want to sit at my pc or laptop and listen. I wanted to snuggle up in bed with my ipad and earplugs and listen to a bedtime story. Since my ipad won't play ball, I had wasted my time and decided to cancel the brand new membership and reclaim the whole 99p I had spent (!). 

Seriously, the 99p was not important, but I did not want to end up paying £7.99 a month if I did not cancel. Of course, you can guess what happened. Before I could contact anyone to cancel, I had to enter my password, didn't I? Incorrect, they said, over and over again. There is nothing more infuriating than a computer that tells you your password is incorrect. I had to input a new password twice, get it verified, purified, clarified or whatever the term is, and after three unsuccessful attempts, managed to get a new password accepted.  Then and only then, could I cancel the membership. 

It's OK, I've got the message. Spoken books are not for me.

Saturday, 4 September 2021


 I've never had to worry about getting bitten in this country before, but his year I've been bitten twice in the last fortnight. (I'm discounting the notorious Scottish midgie) 

But I have been bitten twice in the last fortnight.

It is happening when I walk my dog. The first offender was definitely a tick,  expertly removed with the correct tweezers by my husband. We are not sure what bit me this time, and I can't really see the bite area as it is at the back of my knee, but we are "keeping an eye on it" as they say. Drenched the spot in TCP, so I smell a little clinical this morning. I was wearing wellies and thick fleecy trousers on both occasions, too, but I must take care not to walk through long grass or I suspect it will happen again.

It must be another effect of climate change. I'm looking forward to autumn when the insect population seems to disappear in these regions.

Taking a Risk

  Poised on the cliff edge about to take the leap! No thoughts of suicide - oh no! Or perhaps only in terms of covers for my e-books. I am a...