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Gallic Books

Gallic's big summer read for 2011

Five years ago Jane Aitken set up the publishing house Gallic Books with fellow Francophile Pilar Webb with the aim of introducing British readers to French literature. A bold move in a country where works by foreign authors make up less than 3% of the market. But it seems to be a gamble that is paying off.

Every year around ten French books make it across the channel and end up on Britain’s bookshelves. The publishers specifically look for books that will make the transition well. Amongst the first books they published were detective novels and historical fiction. However, now anything contemporary goes, after the runaway success of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Books have to prove themselves in France before Gallic Books will consider taking them on.

Marketing is of course extremely important, and Gallic Books uses all the tool it can lay its hands on – including Spotify, posters on the Tube, postcards, and tours by authors. It all works closely with book bloggers, book clubs and indie bookstores. And they are beginning to produce Kindle editions of some of their books, very reasonably priced, so that gets a huge thumbs-up from me!

This is the perfect publisher as far as I, a British expat in France, am concerned. I’ve been wanting to read French literature but have struggled with it in the native language and quickly given up. I’m a French speaker, rather than a French writer and reader. I will start with Armand Cabassson I think, in paperback since his Quentin Margont books look like being exciting reads. And in the meantime I  may succumb to a Kindle book too, probably one of the Hector’s journeys series or Anna Sam’s Checkout – A life on the tills. Décisions, décisions !

 

 

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Kindle Million Club

So, the Kindle Million Club now has its seventh member – Michael Connelly. He joins Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child and Suzanne Collins.

Which isn’t good – I haven’t knowingly read a book by any of these guys! Let’s see what they’re about.

Michael Connelly – he has written some standalone thrillers, some series (Jack McEvoy and Harry Bosch). Said to better than Grisham and Archer.

Stieg Larsson – author of the Millenium Trilogy. His fame has come post mortem as he died in 2004. He is described as using ‘machine-tooled plotting’. I’ve heard of these books but not read them.

Nora Roberts – 190 romantic novels, 300 million books sold. Wow. Again, I’ve not read one of them.

Charlaine Harris – aha! She writes the True Blood series about vampires, which I’ve seen on TV so all is not completely lost. I’m not a particular vampire fan, but if the TV accurately reflects the books, then I think she’s the  most appealing out of these authors for me.

Lee Childs – thrillers, the Jack Reacher series. He apparently prides himself on the plausibility of his settings and characters.

Suzanne Collins – from chief writer for Clifford’s Puppy Days on TV to bestselling author of YA science fiction. Seems to get more mixed reviews than the other authors.

So I’d better start reading these guys to see what I can learn from them. Quite frankly none of their material is really literature that appeals to me. I like modern mystery, some chick-lit, travel memoirs and history. And at present, I’m writing those sorts of stories. This could be why I’m not likely to be number eight in the club!

It all boils down to whether you should write what you want to write, or what people want to read. Decisions, decisions …

At the moment I’m reading The Fashion Police by Sibel Hodge, or at least a sample of it. It’s extremely similar to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels in my opinion. I’d hoped for something more orginal. So I shan’t be investing in that book. Next up on my list is Tourmen by Les Woodland about Tour de France cyclists. That looks promising so I plan to review that and French Revolutions by Tim Moore, another cycling book, in a timely fashion just before the TDF gets going on 2nd July.

 

 

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Kindle Quickies

Two Kindle quickies for you.

1. Did you know you can lend and borrow Kindle books? I didn’t until earlier this evening. To find out more, go to this site.

This section of the book details shows you if a Kindle book is lending enabled.

I’ve signed up to the site. I’ll let you know how I get on.

2. And go here for a chance to win a Kindle Tablet. Good luck!

 

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Sunday Stuff

Three things that caught my eye this weekend. The first two are good morale boosters for all authors like me thinking of self-publishing on Kindle.

A recent Pollack book

1. Neil Pollack in a New York Times interview says: “My self-published product may not be the easiest proposition for mainstream publishers. It will be short, it’s about Jews and basketball and bumbling fascists, doesn’t involve teenage vampire sex or the Knights Templars, and wouldn’t be likely to sustain a $9.99 download price, which is the low end of what publishers are charging now for new e-books. Here are the economics: I’m going to charge five bucks, or $4.99 a download. For every book sold, my online vendor will send me 70 percent of the revenue. In raw dollar amounts, that’s more than three times what I’d get from a mainstream publisher for each paperback sale. If I manage to score a thousand downloads, which I almost certainly will at that price point (I have a large family), I’ll make 3,500 bucks, and if I get 5,000 downloads, I’m looking at $17,500. Quickly, I’ll have earned the equivalent of a pleasant advance for this book.”

2. From: Kindle Self-Publishing. John Locke, author of Saving Rachel says: “The first time I saw the business model for selling eBooks on Kindle, my eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas,” says John, “because Kindle doesn’t just level the playing field for self-published authors, it actually slants it in our favour. For the first time in history there’s an advantage to being an independent author!”

His advice: Write the types of books you like to read and are good at writing. In John’s case that’s light entertainment. “I offer my readers a fun, breezy read,” says John. “If I can give them some chuckles and hold their interest for a few hours, I feel I’ve earned my 99 cents.”

3. And here’s a cool free e-book of poetry by Christopher L Jones. I can honestly say this is the best poetry I’ve read in a long time.

 

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Book Break-Up

Something Fishy has become enormous. I’m at 180,000 words and not finished. It’s too big. So I started thinking hard about what to do today while lugging hay and water around for the llamas and goats. It’s amazing what a spot of not-so-gentle exercise can do for the old grey matter. I found the solution. I’m going to break the whole thing up into two (or more) books. I’d already been planning the sequel. And the sequel’s sequel! So … it will mean a fair bit of replotting and rewriting, and of course new writing, but I’m confident the project will work a lot better that way. Just need to jiggle the plot here and there. Watch this space!

I’m starting to think about a cover. This website was brilliantly helpful. I need to start taking lots o fishing photos to choose from. Here’s one that will be on the ‘to be considered’ list:

It’s maybe a bit too ‘quiet’ for my story but it’s a beautiful picture and an inspiring starting point. The only books out there that are even remotely like my book are in The Syndicate series by Mark Cunnington. Here’s the cover of one of them for comparison:

You know what – I can do better!

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Do Kindles Need Covers?

My Kindle and carrying bag

In a nutshell – yes! They would be bound to pick up scratches or worse if you don’t put them into some kind of case or bag for carrying around. I use a small Peruvian shoulder-purse as my Kindle cover. It could have been made for it, it’s such a perfect fit!

How else could you cover your Kindle. Well, if you’re good at arts and crafts, you could have a go at one of fifty different covers at this website.

And if you prefer pre-prepared, there are plenty of covers to choose from any of the Amazon sites.

To help you narrow the field down, try this site, at cnet.com, which lists its preferred 15 covers and other accessories. Some covers are said to have caused problems, making the Kindle freeze (really annoying when that happens), but Amazon has promised to replace them.

There are so many to choose from, you’d be best to make a list of what you’re looking for in a cover when you start your search, such as: hard or soft, sensible and subdued or funky, low cost or top of the range, with or without a stand, with or without a light …

I’m glad my bag proved to be so perfect or I know I’d be agonising for days over what to cover my wonderful Kindle in!

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Finally – A Free Kindle Book

I’ve finally found my first totally free Kindle book. I’ve been rather miffed to find that all the free books I’d seen advertised and tried to get hold of up until now were either unavailable to my Kindle in France, or had to be paid for (not much admittedly, a few dollars, but they weren’t free). However, idly looking up ‘Oakley’ (my maiden name) on my Kindle last night, I came across a book called The Princess and Joe Potter by James Otis and illustrated by Violette Oakley. And it was definitely free. I had to get it! But I can’t read it. It’s too nineteenth century with the lower class characters speaking in sentences like “He was willin’, so long’s I ‘greed to be careful about fire, an’ well … there’s nothin’ to keep you from comin’ down to-night and seein’ it” and “I s’pose we’ll have a high old time between now and mornin’, ‘cause that kid, sweet as she’s lookin’ jest now, ain’t goin’ to be quiet.” Way too annoying! And no illustrations by my possible distant relative in sight. I’m beginning to see why it was free now!

So I’ll carry on reading A Song for Europe by Simon Lipson on my Kindle instead, so I can do a timely review of it to coincide with The Eurovision Song Contest, compulsive viewing in our household. It’s a very funny, delightfully readable story that I’m enjoying no end.

Do check out the reviews on this site. I’ve just added one on Martin Calder’s A Summer in Gascony which is a really excellent book.

And now, time to get on with writing my own books for the Kindle…