Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Start of a New School Year

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Summer is beginning to wind down and all of the children are headed back to school. I graduated from college over a year and a half ago, so I’m not one of the millions headed back into classroom this school year. Even though I’m not packing my backpack and straightening my books, I still absolutely love the start of the new school year.

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is the sales. Back to school sales are always the best. I have a small obsession with office supplies and this is one of the only times of the year where this stuff is steeply discounted. You can get journals, writing utensils, planners, and just about anything in an office supply store for nothing more than pocket change. Really though, I recently got a journal for 17 cents. Along with office/school supplies, there are also excellent deals on clothing and shoes as well. A lot of stores take advantage of the back-to-school rush and usher in some of their fall collections. With the new fall arrivals, a lot of the summer clothing goes on sale. If you live in a warmer climate, it’s great because you can get these items on clearance and still get another month of use out of them.

Keeping along the line of discounts, the back-to-school season also marks a decline in travel. Families must forgo summer getaways for school day structure and for those of us who don’t live in a household with school aged children, it’s amazing. In an attempt to keep the market alive, the tourism industry offers massive discounts on just about anything travel or hospitality related. Airplane tickets, hotels, cruises, and just about any package vacation are all going to be much cheaper than they would be in the summertime. Not to mention the decline in crowds. Try going to Walt Disney World in the middle of July, and then go in October when all the children are back in school. You will notice a stark difference.

Lastly, the beginning of the school year sort of marks the end of summer. Although the first day of fall is officially September 23 this year, the start of the school year makes it feel like it’s almost here. It’s not that I have anything against summer. I love the summertime. However, something about a warm sweater, jeans, boots, and a nice mug of hot chocolate sound much more inviting than another day of 100*F weather.

To those of you who are going back to school, regardless of the grade, I wish you the best. I hope you all meet plenty of new friends, enjoy all of your new teachers and classes, and have your best school year yet!

Debbie

Starting Next Tuesday: Book Reviews!

Hello everyone!

If you’ve visited my website before, you may know that I upload a blog post every Thursday. Well, I’ve really enjoyed blogging these past few months and in an attempt to create more content for all of you, I’ve decided to start writing some book reviews. I’m going to start by posting a new book review every other Tuesday and after a month or two, I’ll increase the frequency to every Tuesday. Again, this is additional content and I will continue to upload blog posts every Thursday as well.

In terms of the types of books I will be reviewing, I don’t plan on sticking to any particular genre. I will admit that most of the books I read are fiction, but I will read just about anything if it looks good.

In terms of the reviews, I am writing these reviews just for fun. I am not getting paid for any of the reviews that I post. I also promise to write my honest opinion of every book that I review.

My first book review will be posted next Tuesday. I hope you all will enjoy it and if you have any suggestions for books that you’d like to see reviewed, please let me know!

Can You Hear Me Now? Good!

It’s no secret that the realm of audiobooks has absolutely exploded. With audiobooks becoming more widely available, people are jumping at the chance to consume their entertainment through this new medium. Some readers enjoy listening to the audiobook as a simple accompaniment to the book, while others may listen to audiobooks as an alternative to reading.

Just as Amazon was revolutionary in making publishing an option for independent authors, Audible has made it possible for independent authors to record and produce audiobooks. Audible gives you the option to hire a voice actor to record your self published book, or gives you the opportunity to record it yourself. I have decided to produce and record my own audiobook and have begun to do a bit of research into this endeavor. Through my research, I have found invaluable advice and I would like to pass along my top five tips to all of you.

1. Be aware of your surroundings.

Your microphone has the capability to pick up on the smallest of sounds. Whether it’s a bird chirping outside or your stomach growling, you need to make sure that you are surrounded by silence. If you don’t live alone, you may want to record when other members of your household are away or asleep.

2. Take your time.

This is applicable to how much time you take recording and the speed in which you speak. Remember that you do not have to complete your entire audiobook in one sitting. Consider only recording one or two chapters a day so that you don’t exhaust your voice. Your audience will know if your voice is strained. Also, make sure you take your time reading your script. If you read too quickly, you may lose your listener. Try to keep the pace in which you speak consistent throughout the entire audiobook.

3. Stay hydrated.

When it comes to recording for an audiobook, your voice is your most important tool. You need to make sure that you stay hydrated so that your throat doesn’t become dry and scratchy.

4. Use proper equipment.

No matter how pleasant your voice sounds, you will need the proper equipment for that sound to come across clearly over the speakers. At the very least, you may want to invest in some sort of microphone so that you’re not using your computer microphone or cell phone to record your voice. I don’t think it’s necessary to spend thousands of dollars on recording equipment for your first audiobook, but a small investment into some equipment may pay off for you. Do a little research to see what would work best in your price range.

5. Know your genre.

If you’ve never released an audiobook before, I would highly recommend listening to samples of audiobooks in your specific genre. In nonfiction, how does the speaker present themselves? In fiction, how do the voice actors fluctuate their voices for the dialogue of different characters? It’s incredibly important to know what your audience is accustomed to because that is what they will expect from your audiobook. Doing a bit of research into your genre will also give you a good idea of pricing for your audiobook.

Although my advice is specifically for audiobooks, I think that this advice would also hold true for someone interested in beginning a podcast as well. I do hope that this advice helps some of you and if you have any other suggestions, please let me know!

Until next week,

Debbie

Team Amazon

For months, there has been a staunch debate between Amazon.com and Hachette Book Group. As many of you may know, Amazon is one of the largest online distributors, offering their customers incredibly low prices for just about any product imaginable. Hachette Book Group is a major publishing house based in New York City. These two companies came to a clash when Hachette decided that they wanted to charge higher prices for their authors’ e-books. Amazon is not pleased with their attempts to increase the price from $9.99 to possibly $11.99 or $12.99 for an e-book and the two companies have come to a crossroads.

There have been countless articles written on this debate. Publishing houses, authors, agents, and readers all seem to be picking a side in the Amazon-Hachette debate and it wasn’t something that I was going to even think about writing about. That is, until I received an email from Amazon a few days ago.

I was checking my email the other day and saw that I had an email from Amazon.com. It was titled “Important Kindle Request” so I, of course, opened it at once. As I began to read the letter, I discovered that they had sent out this email to all of their independent authors and inside was an open letter. It was quite lengthy, so I won’t go into all of the details. At the end of the letter, Amazon asked their independent authors to email Hachette in opposition of the potential price increase. Amazon also implored their authors to mention these points while conducting an email to the CEO of Hachette, Michael Pietsch:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

If you would like to read the entire letter, it has also been posted online here.

Although I have yet to conduct an email, this letter really intrigued me. This debate has gone beyond the corporations and Amazon is actually recruiting the help of independent authors and readers to support their cause. I then began to think of this debate as a reader and a writer and have concluded that I am on Team Amazon in this debacle.

As a reader, I certainly don’t like the prospect of paying $12.99 for a single e-book. If you look at other best selling e-books, especially in the YA category, they are almost half this price. I would much rather get two books for that price than just one. For those of us on a budget, it would seem difficult to spend $12.99 on a single e-book when we could go pick up a paperback in the store for less. The pricing almost seems elitist and as a reader, I would be turned off by e-books if it were to become a trend.

As a writer, I don’t think it’s fair to charge that much either. I have independently published my own novel and know that the production costs of an e-book are virtually zero. You don’t pay for binding, production, or distribution. All of the formatting, editing, and cover art would have been done for the paperback or hard cover book anyway so there’s no extra cost there. It just seems crazy to me to expect readers to spend as much money or more money on an e-book as they would a physical book.

There have some who have debated that lowering e-book prices would equate to lower quality books. I don’t think this is the case at all, it would just make the books more accessible to more people. Hachette claims that they don’t plan on raising every book’s price, but I can’t help but wonder if this would start a trend. Sure it could start with just a small percentage of books being over the $9.99 mark but who is to stop any more from increasing? If Hachette is able to charge those prices, who is to stop other big publishing houses from charging those kind of prices? And would this affect the pricing of paperback or hardcover books as well?

I don’t like that prospect one bit. So, as a reader and a writer, I am on Team Amazon on this one.

Until next week,

Debbie

Why Don’t We Read?

I love to read. There’s almost nothing better than getting lost in a different world for hours or days at a time. Before advances in technology, reading was essential for entertainment. However, as new technological advances developed, it almost seemed like reading began to be viewed as a lesser form of enjoyment. Television, movies, video games, and the Internet have become larger sources of entertainment than books once were. To put it simply, people just don’t read as much as they used to.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are plenty of people out there who still love the pure enjoyment of sitting down with a book and reading. However, it is still a bit troubling how many people ignore the simple pleasures of books. Now, I will say that I can only speak for what I have experienced in the United States. I haven’t been many places abroad, so I’m not sure how every society values reading and books. However, in the American society, most people crave instant gratification and technology has brought about these new, quick ways to deliver entertainment. To some, watching reality television and scrolling through Facebook is more enjoyable than reading. I cringe at the thought, but I had started to get used to it. That is, until I stumbled upon a set of harrowing statistics.

What if there is another reason why Americans don’t read? What if the reason why we don’t read is because, as a country, we can’t read?

I realize how ridiculous that question sounds. How can one of the most advanced countries in the world have a literacy problem? Well, there may be some truth to it.

According to the Literary Project Foundation, 50% of adults cannot read above an 8th grade reading level. 45 million are functionally illiterate and cannot read above a 5th grade reading level. To me, that is eye opening.

I’m not sure if there is one single reason for this lack of literacy, but it would explain why we don’t value books like we used to. With television, movies, and video games, little to no reading is required. On the Internet, almost everything can be abbreviated and knowing how to spell is almost unnecessary with spell check. If half of American adults can’t read above an 8th grade level, it makes sense that our society would begin to lean on these other forms of entertainment.

There’s just one big problem with finding new alternatives to reading: many children will begin to do the same. It’s been shown that children who read with their parents at home can read on a higher reading level in school. Well, if the parents can’t or won’t read with their children, the children will lose this opportunity to excel. Not only that, but if a child grows up watching their parents value television and the Internet over books, they will mimic this. These children will grow up and continue the cycle and these illiteracy numbers will only continue to grow.

So what can we do about this reading crisis in a society that has the attention span to only read one 140 character blurb at a time before scrolling onto the next thing? I honestly don’t think there is an easy answer. If you are a reader, definitely try to encourage those around you to pick up a book and read. If you have a friend who is not a reader, recommend a book that is being made into a feature film. From what I’ve seen, non-readers are more willing to pick up a book that is becoming a movie before they will pick up a book that isn’t. This might form some sort of habit and your friend will be better off. If you have old books that you need to clear out, consider donating them instead of selling them. People on welfare or people who live in poverty are more likely to be illiterate. Donating books will give people with lower incomes the opportunity to have access to books they might not have been able to afford. Lastly, keep reading. Not only is it enjoyable, but it’s a privilege that not everyone has.

Until next week,

Debbie