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Books

How do you read yours? (again)

This week’s blog challenge is less of a challenge and more of a cheat: to post something old. And I don’t mean a picture of the Queen. The lovely Kate and I are reposting something we wrote a while ago to fulfill this week’s blog agreement. This is to a) save time b) save time and c) save time.

Below is a post I wrote in January 2011 about reading: hard copy books versus ebooks. I’ll comment on where I stand on this now, in May 2016, at the end of the post. Enjoy.


 

‘I’m proud of my bookshelf’

I feel guilty.  I feel guilty because I’m currently reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (supposedly the next best thing to Steig Larsson). I feel guilty because I’m reading it on a kindle and not in paperback. And I feel even more guilty because I’m enjoying reading it this way.

I never thought I’d be able to abandon the good old paperback for an eBook. Reading on an electronic device just never appealed and can’t replace the real thing, the smell of a new book, the dog ears as you create as you work your way through it (yes, a bad habit but I like my books to look read) and placing it on the bookshelf when you’re done, creating another addition to your own personal library. I’m proud of my bookshelf, it’s a history of what I’ve read and says a lot about me.

With eBooks there is no smell, no dog ears and when you’re finished no one need know. But it’s not all bad.  Certainly not for Amazon who report selling more Kindles than paperbacks during the backend of 2010.

So, a couple of weeks ago I downloaded the Amazon Kindle app to my iPad and bought The Snowman. It cost me all of £2.92, a tiny saving of around 50p on the current listing price for the paperback version but it was available to read within a few minutes; no going to a bookshop, no waiting for an Amazon delivery. I could start reading straight away. I began reading in bed and find it much easier to hold an iPad comfortably than a book; in fact I can read it one handed (no traditional page turning required) so can snuggle further under the duvet when it’s nippy.

Whether I bookmark my page or not, the Kindle remembers the last page I was reading from so there’s no ‘I’ve dropped the book, shit, which page was I on’ business and I can change the font size for ease of reading. As old age encroaches (I’m all f 31 you know) I find really small type off-putting so making it bigger is a bonus. I can change the screen brightness so I don’t get bedazzled and I can make notes if I want to (good for research when I get back on the novel-writing trail) or link straight to an online dictionary if I want to look things up. I can also pop it in my bag, along with my emails, favourite social media tools, my blog and the wider web, all in one device. And I can see it will be really handy on holidays – no more packing three heavy hardbacks and lugging them around an airport, I can pop them on the Kindle and if I run out of books to read I just download another one without even needing to move from the poolside.

All that said, I do feel guilty. I love books, I love book shops and I love adding to my little library of literature and hope one day to have a home office lined with  shelves housing all the books I’ve read. So to say goodbye to books, the real thing at least, is a bit sad.

I’m far from saying I’m ditching paperbacks altogether but I’m going to give this Kindle business a try. I’ve yet to finish The Snowman and, in fact, have no idea how close to the end I am because I have no dog-eared marker to tell me as I would with a proper book. But technologies move on, times change and I’d like to be at least trying to keep up.  My main concern was that I’d want a break from staring at a screen all day but so far, this hasn’t bothered me; time will tell, I’m still only on my first eBook.

As I said in my last post, I think library closures are a sad but probably necessary thing in these cash-strapped times, but I’d be incredibly sad to think I might read to my children  (if/when they appear) stories off an iPad. I want them to experience real books, to carry them to school in their backpacks and keep their favourite ones on their bedside table.

Are we looking at a future without books as we know them?


Personal library of a lifetime of reading

Five years on – and after a couple of years growing, popping out and coming to terms with life with children – there was a decent period where I didn’t read very much at all. Apart from utterly shit parenting books too formulaic and nowhere near bold enough to report what parenting is actually like for humans, not robots, (the Unmumsy Mum rectifies this), I was more interested in turning over in bed than I was in turning the pages of a book, paper or otherwise. Now well and truly back into reading, both for my MA, for pleasure and in support of my good friend Tracy, how do I choose to immerse myself in the written word? I’m afraid it’s electronically.

I say this like its a bad thing, I’m still romantically attached to the idea of real books, their smell, their feel, their place on the bookshelf – a personal library of a lifetime of reading (although much of mine, I confess, went to the charity shop to create space when the kids arrived).

For me,it’s as simple as this… On the iPad (no kindle for me, thanks) I can read without the light on, easily prop it up on the pillow while I lie on my side in bed with a single fingertip required to turn the page. If I fall asleep, it remembers where I read to, bookmarks it for me and turns off. Reading a paper book in bed (or worse, on a sunbed) is awkward and uncomfortable. If I finish one book in a series I can download the next edition in seconds and I REALLY like that you can read a sample few chapters from a book before buying; we all know you can’t judge a book by its cover. So, for me, it’s as simple as convenience.

How do you read yours?

PS I don’t read ebooks to the kids and can’t see this changing anytime soon. My friend Kath recommended it to me and I’ll recommend it to you… You Choose has made bedtime stories more fun for the whole family. Oh, and if you want to know what I thought of The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, here’s my review.

Books, Just stuff, Life in general, Motherhood, what I think

Bateman is back blogging in 2015. You heard it here first…

New Year’s Resolution number one: to blog more. Well, to actually blog at all. Given that much of my husband’s Christmas break was spent firefighting the billion hack attempts on this site, I owe it to him, at least, to put up some content.

I won’t blather on about why the last couple of years have been a bit thin on the blog side (two kids born in 2013!), I’ll just get on with it…

This is what I’m up to as we break into 2015… Continue Reading

Books, Food, Just stuff, Life in general, Motherhood

What I’m doing now…

It’s been a while since I blogged, and even longer since I blogged regularly. Somehow, having kids and all that that entails, has seen my writing slip to one side and I fear I’m not as good at it as I once was. I’m out of practice. So, stealing inspiration from this post, here’s one to ease myself back in…

Reading: Well, I’m not actually reading anything at the moment, in anticipation of the publication of The Atlas of Us – tomorrow! It’s author, my good friend Tracy Buchanan, had two dreams: to have a baby and to get a UK publishing deal. Typically, both arrived at the same time but she’s so super talented (and a bit bonkers) that she’s managed to write a book and raise a lovely little girl all at the same time. Hats off to Buchy! The last book I read was The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult and it’s utterly amazing. I urge anyone to read it and not want to change their life for the better afterwards. It’s just fantastic. Continue Reading

Books, crime, Journalism, Media, Writing

There's a serious lack of fiction in my diet

My bookshelf

My bookshelf fiction... or at least some of it

Over the past couple of years I’ve worked quite hard to expand my taste when it comes to reading. No longer reaching for the blood, gore and investigative mystery most crime fiction offers, I now touch on the literary, the romantic, the fairytale, the adventure and, most importantly of all, the recommended. I’ve now started to trust the recommendations of friends.

It’s not only expanded my reading list, but also my ability to talk about books, genres, styles of writing and ideas. Good writers have to be good readers too.

But with that said, for the last month I have ditched novels altogether. The start of my Masters signalled the end of my fiction feast, at least for now. I am reading more often that I ever have, at least more regularly – not only because I have to but because I’m enjoying the reading list so far. But I’m reading a different sort of book now: non fiction, educational, informative, historic, technological, eye-opening.

My favourite so far has been What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis, which I quote on a semi-regular basis, and I feel like my current read – Journalism Next by Mark Briggs – should be a permanent fixture in my handbag, a mini guide to my career.

But I am starting to miss fiction, immersing myself into other characters’ lives, problems and stories and taking myself off, completely, to another place; an armchair traveller. And I’m not sure when there’ll be time for fiction because I struggle to read more than one book at a time, like it’s a kind of infidelity to start one before finishing with the other. And it’s such a pleasure to get lost in another world for a few chapters and put the stresses of the day behind me.

The reading for the MA is a permanent reminder of the work I do (good and bad) and sparks a trail of ideas which pour from my brain to my hand to my notebook to my computer, an endless stream of things I want to do, follow up or achieve. And it’s a tad exhausting, an educational reading journey rather than a relaxing escapism.

But I’m not surprised, it’s what I expected really. So, when the Christmas break comes around I’m going to treat myself to a fiction novel and revel in it. Merry Christmas to me!

Anyone got any recommendations?

Books, friends, Writing

Inspire and mentor: how to get published

Last week I hooked up with my girl pal and published author Tracy Buchanan to mingle with fellow literati at the Marie Claire UK’s How to get Published event, part of their Inspire and Mentor 2011 series. A jolly good campaign if you ask me! Plus we scoffed champers and canapés, bonus. Apologies for the picture of me and Tracy  by the way (Buchy as I call her) – this is the only one I can find of us together without a wig on or wine glass in our hand). And no, we’re not very photogenic.

Anyway, I digress… so, as we sat on mega uncomfy chairs in a super hot room at the Malmaison Hotel in Birmingham, we listened to a panel of uber nice and informed folk in the publishing business as they handed out stories of their own success, top tips and general encouragement for those of us who want to see our manuscripts turned into best-selling novels.

So it was mildly amusing to me that when Q&A time rolled around, one wannabe author asked Lindsey Kelk to tell us how she got into publishing. Er… she told us like 20 minutes ago in her little talk? Were you not listening? Lesson 1, pay attention.

Another asked if you need a degree to get your book published. Can you imagine it… “JK, we just love your Harry Potter books, they could be massive, but there’s just one thing….

Tracy Buchanan and Robyn Bateman

Christmas hats and cheesy grins... Tracy and Robyn do Christmas

you don’t have a degree. So maybe come back to us in a few years when you’ve got some letters behind your name?” Unlikely.

Another said she couldn’t get published in the UK because she was young, successful and black. I’d like to think the publishing industry represents more than just middle class white women and that it’s your writing and ideas that get you published, not your ethnicity or your degree.

Others said they were half way through writing their first novel and looking to approach agents soon. I wrote my novel over a year ago and am currently on draft 2.5. Given, I’ve utterly neglected it of late, but I’d be naïve if I thought my first draft would ever get beyond an agent’s in tray. I guess I’m lucky enough to have a published author for a buddy and several completely dedicated writing friends who are fonts of all knowledge when it comes to publishing dos and don’ts.

The most telling part of the evening, to me, was how the audience, 70 of us in total, formed an orderly queue to get books signed by Lindsey Kelk when the evening drew to a close, yet very few dashed to speak to the agent – the woman in the room who could actually help get our books published. But maybe the bulk of these girlies aren’t ready for pitching yet, just there to soak up the info.

Gah, maybe I’m coming across as bitchy and what do I know, I’m so far from being a published novelist I might as well be writing from the moon. The panelists were surprisingly unbitchy (given the competitive industry they work in) and highly likeable and composed. The theme of the evening was Inspire and Mentor, after all, and they certainly succeeded in both. I loved Rowan Lawton from PFD and would love for her to be my agent; she was nice, informed, passionate and fun. And she takes a lot of commercial women’s fiction (chick lit – considered to be a dirty word these days), which is what I write (despite my mostly hate-hate relationship with the genre). So Rowan, when I get my novel to a ‘fit for public consumption’ state, I’ll be coming for ya!

The over-arching theme was to GET AN AGENT, so much s that I had to write it in capitals. Your agent is a friend, your champion and the one person who’s going to work their sweaty butt off you get you in print. After all, they don’t make money of they don’t get you a publishing deal so have to believe in you and your work.

Anyway, here’s a round up of what was said, hope you find it useful…

THE BEST-SELLING AUTHOR

Lindsey Kelk

Get an agent! Be passionate, believe in what you’re doing and keep trying are Lindsey’s key themes. Working as a copywriter she took a pay CUT to work in publishing, to be closer to her passion, and when she decided to start writing her own book she was determined, made contacts and opened the right doors. And now she has a series of published books with more on the way.

THE ONLINE MAGAZINE EDITOR

Helen Russell, online editor, Marie Claire magazine

  • Do your research – editors are impressed by salient facts
  • Know your audience! Who will love your ideas, who will love reading your story?
  • How to pitch – catchy title, snappy synopsis and spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck
  • When contacting an editor, know their name and how to spell it right and call their assistant to find out if you don’t already know
  • Include your CV and examples of any work you’ve had published when you make your pitch
  • Don’t hide behind email, face to face works too. Get to know an editor by offering to take them for a coffee and learn more about their personality, their tone and their interests – they’re more likely to remember you that way
  • A great idea is a great idea so don’t get disheartened
  • What Marie Claire is looking for now –  what readers are doing now that they wouldn’t have done six to 12 months ago, for example, infidelity via Twitter; cultural zeitgeists; emotional first person stories; and the wow features that make people talk
  • If you want to work online you need to be online already – so get on Facebook and Twitter and start blogging etc
  • Make contacts and connections and have a USP (unique selling point)

THE AGENT

Rowan Lawton, Peters Fraser & Dunlop (PFD)

  • Get an agent! Most publishers don’t accept unsolicited submissions so you will need one, plus they’re your first champion, someone who’s always going to be on your side
  • A good agent will be honest and may disagree with you
  • How to get noticed – you need a compelling submission, a high concept idea with strong plot and characterisation
  • A strong title will get noticed and needs to tell the reader exactly what the book’s about.
  • Know your market!
  • You have to really want it. Agents get bombarded with submissions so you won’t have long to get an agent’s attention
  • Do your research so you approach the right agents – Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, online, author websites and the acknowledgement section of authors’ books. If your writing’s similar to a published author, check out their agent
  • It boils down to the quality of your work in the end but the first step is to get noticed so do something bold
  • Write a stellar covering letter, make it personal to the agent’s client list and pitch your idea in a couple of sentences
  • If you have friends or contacts who are authors or journalists, mention it but don’t make your letter too long
  • Treat it as  career, be dedicated

THE COMMISSIONING EDITOR

Kate Bradley, Harper Collins

  • The publishing world is challenging, book sales are in decline and the market is poor. So it’s a tough nut to crack!
  • Traditional booksellers are fading fast with Tesco is currently the biggest bookseller in the UK. With the price of books so low it’s hard for publishers to make money so they have to be certain they can sell your book; it’s all about profit. Publishers want books that Tesco will want to sell.
  • Out of the 70 people in the room, one is likely to get published
  • Make friends with other writers, they can help and support you and possibly even write a quote for the back of your book should you ever get published
  • Sign up with something like the Romantic Novelists’ Association
  • Authonomy – useful site where you can grade each others’ books, make connections and possibly get noticed
  • Do you have a personal story to tell, something to pitch about you? Use your USP to set you apart
  • Editors WILL pick your work apart
  • Practice. There’ always something to learn