Saturday, December 29, 2007

Paperback Babes

In search of a book club, I looked out the facebook version. I won't go all snobby about reading, it is just what I like doing, but sometimes a group is good. The next book being read by the book club babes is Jeanette Winterson's The Passion.
Sue McGregor (London) wrote on Oct 16, 2007 at 6:42 AM.
This is the place to be. In the pyramids. Not at the back As the Man Booker Prize looms, every competing publisher has every finger crossed that their book will be boosted into the stratosphere. But what are the reasons a book sells well? Below are 10 of the factors that could influence the next sales behemoth. And if you haven't read the six titles on the Booker shortlist, watch the Guardian's John Crace summarise each, by clicking on the boxes on the right. We've re-hashed some of them from the Guardian originals to make them slightly less fruity and slightly more suitable for a family audience.
1. Word of mouth. Who do we really trust? When the chips are down, it's the opinions of our friends and family and colleagues that matter in all things. When you're trying on an item of clothing you don't scratch around for a piece of pertinent fashion journalism, you just ask a mate to have a quick look. "Word of mouth is still number one even in this media-saturated age," says Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller. A survey of 1,000 people by BML for World Book Day in 2005 found 25% of respondents had bought their last book for pleasure on the basis of a recommendation from a friend. But that's not to say that word of mouth is an entirely natural, organic process. Publishers would sell their grandmothers for ways to manipulate it. From viral marketing to social networking, they'll try many avenues of multimedia attack to get the books into the hands of the literary pioneers in any group of friends.
2. The book group. A big part of the word of mouth network are the little reading groups of friends that have sprung up around the country in the past decade. Over cheese and nibbles the fates of novels are decided. Most people are not in a book group but many people know someone who is in one. Book groups are the crucible. These people hold the fates of books in the palm of their hand Book group favourites from recent years include Life of Pi, the Bookseller of Kabul, Shadow of the Wind, the Alchemist, the Time Traveller's Wife, the Line of Beauty, A Million Little Pieces, Everything is Illuminated and so on.
3. Richard and Judy. Book groups have to get their ideas from somewhere and many implant themselves into the minds of the members via the Richard and Judy Book Club. Modelled on the fearsomely influential Oprah's Book Club, it has backed many of the titles that have come to be book group classics.
4. Author. It's almost too obvious to state, but the easiest people to market to are the people waiting for the next instalment. If all you have to do is alert people to the latest John Grisham or Martina Cole then life is a bit easier. Despite the belief in word of mouth, the 2005 BML survey found the only factor that trumped it was "having a read another book by the author". "The author as brand has become ever more important," notes Mr Rickett.
5. Art of covers. Pop into a second hand bookshop and feel the thickness of a paperback cover from 2006. Then feel a book from 1956. Luxurious, thick paper, cut-out sections, embossing, full colour, even glitter. The rise of cheap publishing in the Far East and elsewhere means the book front cover is a battleground as never before. There has always been great cover art on novels in British mass publishing, particularly on Penguins, but the production quality has now rocketed. "Penguin blazed a trail but everyone else has caught up. The cover can make or break a book. The book as 'object' is ever more important," explains Mr Rickett.
6. In-store marketing. Be honest. What percentage of the books you've bought in the last five years came with a "3 for 2" sticker on them? Serialisation can generate massive publicity With the end of agreements that controlled the price of books the key battlegrounds are the supermarket and the chain bookstore. And in these chains if you're not on those pyramids of books in the front of the ground floor of the store, you're dead. Does anybody find themselves flicking through a new novel where one copy has been placed in the far corner of the fourth floor?
7. Rise of prizes. There is nothing as priceless as free publicity and this is what the literary prizes offer in spades. The trinity in the UK of the MAN Booker Prize, the Orange Prize (for female authors) and the Costa Book Awards (formerly the Whitbread) can get the ball-rolling for a monster-selling book. Yann Martel's Life of Pi was one such success, blasting its way through the million sales mark and revolutionising the fortunes of Scottish publisher Canongate.
8. Unusual titles. Who isn't tempted to at least pick and have a flick through a Salmon Fishing in the Yemen or A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian?
9. Praise for. Once upon a time in the monomedia world, the reviewer was king. Powerful newspaper literary critics bestrode the world of publishing like colossi. Now not so much. As Mr Rickett notes: "People themselves are the reviewers now on Amazon and on all kinds of sharing websites. Reader response has almost supplanted the top-down role of the critic."
10. Newspaper serialisation. One for the non-fiction work predominantly, serialisation delivers a risk-free prospect for the author at least. If the attention brings sales then great. If it persuades people they've had enough then the writer has still got a whacking fee from the newspaper.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Foggy in my Heart

I struggle with Christmas, in fact any season where jollity is "enforced", perhaps because my nature is melancholy. I was on this bridge on Friday, in London from the Midlands to get a bit nearer the festive spirit, but even the Christmas lights didn't inspire. So what did, the charming manners of all and sundry in M&S today. The knowledge that we were all shopping for Christmas gave a good natured feel to an expedition more akin to queuing on the M25! Well done Fosse Park M&S for organising your food ordering collection for Christmas sooo well. XXX

The actual trip to London made me look up *anal retentiveness. The trip had been organised by 3 of us for 4 of us but the 4th couldn't come. I happened to be talking about it in the presence of another colleague (V) who said she would like to come. It wasn't an exclusive invite, I just would never have wanted to go anywhere with that person, but I haven't been with the team long and others might have found her easier company than I. I had a good idea that one of them (J) didn't but was told by (yet another colleague!) that the A did get on really well with her. When I asked A about V (in her absence but during the trip) she said there must be people in the world that think she gets on well with them that she doesn't at all. V had driven me mad in the planning stages of the trip, wanting to sit down and plan it appears sensible, but none of the rest of us were planning anything. We had 2 shops we definitely wanted to go to and the rest evolved. V has to eat at a certain time which meant not searching out somewhere nice for lunch and later not going somewhere unusual but ending up in a franchise of a chain we have in our home town.

F***king hard work but I did good work and I don't think she knows how difficult I find her. I might find a way to confront specific issues in the New Year. I won't go on more but learnt a lesson, well nearly, I mentioned on the way down that I have Springsteen tickets for May in Manchester but might want to go with someone more enthusiastic about him than my partner. Guess who volunteered, not A who I would want to go with, but V. A didn't even hear the question & now I couldn't go with A because it would look like I have snubbed V, which I would have done.

Obviously there are always going to be people at work one gets on better with than others, there are going to be people we make actual friends with, and invite to our weddings for example. This team would be inviting the whole team not to leave anyone out of anything. In fact, someone who is my friend felt left out of the trip because seeing V coming, she thought I must have asked the team, because otherwise it would have been a very odd combination. I take responsiblity for all of this, not finding a way to indicate the trip was not open to all comers, not wanting to hurt V who is nice and kind and well meaning, I just don't get on with her. Resolutions looming are finding a way to be direct without hurting someone and not tangling myself up in my own senstivities which result in doing something I don't want to do at all.

*Sigmund Freud believed that in a child's psycho-sexual development there is an anal stage (during the second and third years of life) in which the child's main concerns are with defecation. His responses to his parents' demands for bowel control may have far-reaching consequences. Should a person become fixated in the anal stage he may become a noticeably orderly, frugal, and obstinate adult.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

US Foreign Policy

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Led Zepplin's Green Room

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tearing it Up!

I was in tears watching this!