Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas, lots of good coffee and a Happy New Year.

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My adorable gift labels. I know, right? Now just imagine them on…

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…boxes of my red velvet cupcakes! (Yes, the diet starts in January. It’s not my fault if I’ve to taste test every batch—that’s just baking sense…)

I’ll be back on January 3rd but if you’re looking for something to read in the meantime (and you didn’t get a good book from Santa!), I’ll be replaying some popular posts from 2012.

Thanks for all your interest, support and engagement this year.

Catherine x

Come See Me in 2013!

My calendar is filling up for 2013, which is quite exciting. Here are the events already in the diary, if you’d like to experience the live version of this blog (only with more coffee…):

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Bring Your Book To Market (London)

What’s this then? A 3-day workshop that covers everything you need to know to self-publish your book and master social media. I do the self-publishing bit and then the super smart Ben Johncock does the social media. We did this last February too and it went really well, if we do say so ourselves.

When and where? It runs Friday to Sunday, February 22nd to 24th, at Faber Academy in Bloomsbury, London, i.e. the spiritual (and actual…?) home of publishing.

What’s the coffee situation? Not only is complimentary coffee provided throughout the day, but there’s a Starbucks around the corner too.

Consider me convinced! Where do I sign up? Visit the Faber Academy website for more details and info on how to book. Places are limited to 15 and it’s only a few weeks away so… *looks at you pointedly*

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How To Self-Publish (Dublin)

What’s this then? A one-day workshop that is basically Self-Printed: LIVE!, i.e. how to self-publish and then sell your book while consuming a lot of caffeine. It’s me, fifteen or so of you and a really good lunch.

When and where? Saturday 2nd March in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. It’s about 25 minutes outside the city centre by DART.

What’s the coffee situation? There’s an Insomnia, like, directly opposite. I’ll be running on flat whites.

Fun fact: I did this last year too, only I stayed in a haunted hotel room the night before and got about two hours sleep. If it wasn’t for the Lucozade Sport and Dairymilk bars—and the coffee—I’d never have made it. But the haunted hotel story will be in Travelled

Consider me convinced! Where do I sign up? This workshop is being run by Inkwell Writers and the event page/booking info is here.

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Talking Self-Publishing (Waterford)

What’s this then? The Waterford Writers’ Weekend takes place in Waterford, Ireland, between March 21st and 24th, and I’ll be doing two events: Making Social Media Work For You and Going Indie: Self-Publishing Success. They’re both on the Friday and they’re both panel-style events with other Irish writers/self-publishers.

When and where? Times and venues are yet to be confirmed.

What’s the coffee situation? To be determined. Google Maps says there’s a Costa though.

Consider me convinced! Where do I sign up? The website hasn’t been fully updated yet for the 2013 weekend but once it is you’ll be able to access all information and book through there.

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The Art of Self-Publishing (Chipping Norton, UK)

What’s this then? Well I can still scarcely believe this, but I’ve been invited to Chip Lit Fest to give a workshop on The Art of Self-Publishing.

When and where? Times and venues are yet to be confirmed.

What’s the coffee situation? Who cares? I’m at the same literary festival as Jane Wenham-Jones, Richard Dawkins, Peter James, Jojo Moyes and Lionel Schriver. I’ll be the one giggling like a tween who’s just met Justin Bieber.

Consider me convinced! Where do I sign up? Tickets go on sale in January on the Chip Lit Fest website. Again, this workshop is limited to 15 places.

Hope to see you in 2013!

Catherine’s Christmas Gift Guide 2012: Favorite Things

It’s my favorite time of the year, when I happily start to fill my schedule with all sorts of present-hunting, gift-wrapping and cupcake-baking goodness and run a military-style operation to decorate the tree (ensuring there’s equal numbers of each color bauble, that they’re all evenly distributed across the tree and that there isn’t a trace of tinsel within a thirty-foot radius of our house). Which also means that it’s time for my Christmas Gifts I Discovered While Procrastinating Online Guide! 

I’ve already shared my top picks for writers, caffeine fiendsjet-setters and readers—catch up below if you missed it—but today, in the final installment, it’s Things I Like That Don’t Fit Into Any Previous Category, AKA My Favorite Things.

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  1. I’ve always loved The Cambridge Satchel Company, but I love them even more since I found out the story behind the company. A visit to their newly opened Covent Garden store is definitely on my To Do list for my next trip to London.
  2. Anyone who’s read Sophie Kinsella’s “Shopaholic” books will have heard of Kate’s Paperie: an Aladdin’s cave of paper, notebooks, pens, cards, gift wrap and other stationery gems that could start anyone on the path to a stationery festish—and five minutes in one of their stores in New York will take you all the way there. One of my 2013 intentions (I’ve given up on the word goals; intentions feels so much doable) is to write more letters to my faraway best friend, so I’ll definitely be treating myself to some of their exquisite stationery sets.
  3. Christmastime is the season for ploughing through TV DVD box sets. Since 24 ended my brother and I have missed our annual watch-an-entire-season-of-24-in-five-days Christmastime tradition, but there’s so much fantastic television around these days that it’s easy to find a replacement. This year we’ll be catching up with The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad.
  4. I can tell you exactly when and where I discovered my favorite scent in the world: December 2007 in a room at the W Hotel Times Square. W Hotels put Bliss Lemon and Sage sink sets in their guest bathrooms, and the scent is just divine. It really embodies all that’s fresh and clean and invigorating. It doesn’t hurt that the products are amazing too; my faves are the body butter and the conditioner. Find the gift set pictured on the UK Bliss website.
  5. I love Ladurée Macarons. They’re pretty, they’re French and they come in gorgeous little green boxes that make fab paperclip holders for your desk. Ladurée also happen to have the cutest website ever. If you can’t get your hands on a box of the macarons, there’s a gorgeous hardcover recipe book to be had instead.
  6. One of the world’s great injustices is that Oreo Cakesters are not for sale here in Ireland. (Why not Kraft Foods? WHY THE HELL NOT?!) They might actually be my favorite food—and they’re sooooo tasty that it might actually be a good thing they’re not for sale here. But if I ever have a Cakester emergency, you can buy them on Amazon.com and have them shipped internationally, although the shipping will cost you more than the Cakesters…

So to recap:

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Click here for details.

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Click here for details.

Click here for all my Christmas 2012 Gift Guides.

My 2012 in Books

For the last twelve months, I have been tracking and rating every book I read through the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Starting out I set my goal to 100 books (ha, ha, HA!) but quickly changed it to a more manageable 52 books, or one book a week for the year. Which sounds perfectly doable, right? Especially if you tend to read books quickly, usually in no more than two sittings.

But it isn’t really, because as quickly as you read books, you don’t always have the time to read them at all. So I’ll just about make my 52 books, more from reading binges than constant or regular reading and only if I finish all five of the books I’m currently in the middle of. However tracking my books means that when it comes to deciding which ones I liked best, it’s easy to decide (and remember the ones I read in the first place!)…

(NB: These are my favorite books that I read in 2012. Although most of them were published this year too, not all were.)

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The nominees for the Novel That Depressed Me The Most Because I Know I’ll Never Write Like That (i.e. “Best Novel”) Award are…
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch
  • Ascent by Jed Mercurio
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.

And the winner is…

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter! 

Just a fabulous book that, as another review of this title put it, reminds you why you love to love books. I would never desecrate a book by writing on it but if I did such things to, say, highlight my favorite phrases, descriptions that struck me or just sentences I wanted to remember, my entire copy of Beautiful Ruins would’ve been destroyed. Funny, touching and a page-turner to boot.

It also wins the prize for my favorite book cover of the year (the one pictured above, which is the US hardback that I ordered especially so as to avoid having to look at the horrendous cover of the UK paperback version. Yuck!).

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The nominees for the Crime Novel I Loved The Most/I Read So Much Of It, It Needs Its Own Category On Here Award are…
  • Criminal by Karin Slaughter
  • Broken Harbor by Tana French
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
  • The Black Box by Michael Connelly
  • The Treatment by Mo Hayder.

And the winner is…

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes!

(I know, I didn’t choose Gone Girl, even though I’m a huge Gillian Flynn fan and have been reading her since long before the rest of the world discovered her this year. That’s not to say that Gone Girl isn’t brilliant. It is. But this is even better…)

There’s something about this book that just curls every last nerve ending you have into a fist of tension while you read it. It is easily the most tense and suspenseful book I’ve ever read. All the more impressive because it’s a relatively simplistic plot. “Psychological thriller” is applied to so many books, but this one actually delivers that. So, SO good.

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The nominees for the Non-Fiction Book That Made Me Turn To The Nearest Person And Bore Them With New Stuff I’d Learned About The World (i.e. “Most Interesting”) Award are:
  • The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of Tour de France: Doping, Cover-Ups and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
  • How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown
  • Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez
  • People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished From the Streets of Tokyo and the Darkness That Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry
  • Wild: From Lost To Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  • Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
  • Totally Wired: On the Trail of the Great Dotcom Swindle by Andrew Smith
  • Exposure: Inside the Olympus Scandal by Mike Woodford

And the winner is:

A four-way tie: The Secret Race, How I Killed Pluto, People Who Eat Darkness and Wild!

Sorry, but I just can’t pick. Although if we spilt them into categories (Best Sports, Best Science, Best True Crime, Best Memoir), they can all be winners. Hooray!

If I had to pick just one novel and one non-fiction book to recommend to you, I think it’d probably be Beautiful Ruins and The Secret Race. You cannot go wrong with those two.

So what’s the one novel or non-fiction book you’ve read this year that you’d recommend everyone reads? 

Replay 2012 | Why, For Me, Print Will Never Be Extinct

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not only dragging out the Stuff I Found While Procrastinating Online Gift Guides, but also replaying some of my most popular “self-printing” posts from the last twelve months for those who might have missed them first time around. Today’s replay probably MY favourite post on Catherine, Caffeinated, this year, because not only is about my favorite book, like, ever, but it also got Freshly Pressed, bring hordes of new Jurassic Park lovers to my little blog! It was originally published back in July, just after my L.A. adventures. I’m off to countdown to JP 3-D in April…

Regular readers of this blog and those who’ve kindly subjected themselves to my books will know that I’m a huge Jurassic Park fan. I love the book, I love the movie and even though I’m a total coward who wouldn’t get on a rollercoaster if I was told there’d be a million dollars waiting for me at the other end of it, I braved Universal Studios Jurassic Park River Ride just to see the JP view from the lazy boat ride bit that came before the 80 foot drop.

The first edition jacket design of Jurassic Park.

I love Jurassic Park because it’s one of the first adult books I ever read and I can clearly remember reading it—or trying to; it was 1993 and I was only 11 —in the little caravan my parents used to have installed by the sea. It’s not Pulitzer Prize-winning literature or anything, but it’s a truly great read and reading it was the first time a book really took me away. I re-read it at least once a year, and still have my totally tattered, dog-eared and barely-held-together-by-Sellotape movie tie-in paperback. And if you are thinking What is she on about? Isn’t that book just about dinosaurs?, then I’m afraid we can’t be friends.

And you’re missing out. Big time.

But anyway, my point is I love Jurassic Park. And because I love Jurassic Park, I got a bit teary-eyed watching this TED video in which designer Chip Kidd talks about working on book jackets for Alfred A. Knopf.

I was watching it because I’d heard it was funny and interesting and it was about book cover designs. But a few minutes in, I suddenly realized who I was watching. This was Chip Kidd! The Chip Kidd who designed one of the most iconic book covers in recent memory—the T-Rex silouhette on the cover of the first edition of Jurassic Park! I was transfixed as he described how he bought a book from the gift shop at the Natural History Museum in New York, found an interesting-looking T-Rex skeleton, put a sheet of tracing paper over it and filled the spaces in with pen. Then he added typography to give the cover an overall look of “public park signage”—which, as soon as you hear this, you instantly see and understand. It could be a “Warning: Dinosaurs Crossing” sign, which is of course the kind of thing you’d find in a park of dinosaur attractions.

(Albeit one where the fences had failed.)

A couple weeks back in L.A., I was floating through Barnes and Noble at The Grove on a fluffy cloud of contented delirium when I gasped at the sight of a special edition of Jurassic Park on a table a foot away (and then quickly looked around to make sure no one had heard me gasp).

It was a thing of beauty. Hardback. That thing where the cover is a soft leather and the imagery is embossed into the surface that I don’t know the technical name for. The original T-Rex. Two books in one, Jurassic Park and its inferior but still really good sequel, The Lost World. Silver-edged pages, and on them the original type that I know so well. A map of Isla Sorna (the island from The Lost World) inside, and a red ribbon to mark my place.

I was in love, and I could bring home that love for only $20. Despite my self-imposed rule of no book buying due to no space in my suitcase, I practically ran to the register to pay for it.

On another trip to that same Barnes and Noble, I came across the edition of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth that was made famous by Oprah’s Book Club.

My edition of Pillars of the Earth, AKA The Fugly One.

It really is a stunning-looking book. My edition of The Pillars of Earth is an offensive eyesore that I can only hope was “designed” (ahem) and printed before Oprah picked it and the eyes of the world turned in its direction, because it really is a horrible, horrible looking book.

The pretty US/Oprah edition, soon to be winging its way to me from Amazon.com. You can’t really appreciate this in 2-D; the physical book is all shiny and embossed and stuff.

The gold/cream edition hadn’t been in Irish bookstores and so now, naturally, I wanted to buy the pretty one, replace the ugly one with it on my shelf (or in the boxes I have in storage as I am currently bookshelves-less) and donate the ugly one to a charity shop or something.

Hearing this, my companion said, “But it doesn’t matter what they look like.”

I swear to the Book Gods, life left my body for a second. My heart felt it like stopped.

It doesn’t matter what they look like?

It doesn’t matter what they look like?!!

Are you ON CRACK?!

But then I realized something: this is why some people can love their Kindles without pining for printed books. Because they don’t love the books themselves, like I do. They’re just after the words. For me, the words are the most important bit, yes, but they’re not the only important bit. For others, the format is irrelevant. We’re two entirely different kinds of readers. And that’s fine. That’s great even, for them, because I’d bet they haven’t cleared out their bank accounts buying multiple editions of the same book because the newer one was prettier.

But don’t tell me that a world without physical books will be a better world. Don’t tell me that I’ll “get used” to e-books. Don’t tell me that literature is going the way of music, because I don’t know about you but I never lovingly stroked a CD case (except for maybe a John Mayer’s Battle Studies but that was for, ahem, different reasons…) or held it in my hands, gazing at it adoringly, while I listened.

You only think that people will one day ditch print books completely because you are not a person who loves printed books. You love reading books, which is a different thing. It’s just one component of what I love. And what I love can never be replaced with some HTML and some plastic.

There are readers, and there are readers who also love books. I think there’s enough of the latter to ensure that while we all might profess love for our Kindles, the printed book is here to stay.

Now kindly all go and read Jurassic Park.

[UPDATE 16.07.12: Woo-hoo—Freshly Pressed! WordPress obviously love JP too. Obviously. I think we should start a book club…]

Replay 2012 | Why Promoting Your Book Online is (a bit) Like Fight Club

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not only dragging out the Stuff I Found While Procrastinating Online Gift Guides, but also replaying some of my most popular “self-printing” posts from the last twelve months for those who might have missed them first time around. Today’s replay is about the difference between what works and what doesn’t when it comes to promoting your book online (which I wrote after the 20k night-time charity walk sprained ankle incident, so the advice that follows is decidedly codeine-infused…)

The first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club.

And the first rule of effectively promoting your book online is that you do not promote your book online.

By which I mean, you do not blatantly promote your book online.

(Yes, it’s a tenuous link but let’s just go with it, okay? It’s Monday, and I have a sprained ankle.)

Some self-published authors take offense at being told that they shouldn’t regularly send out tweets like “My book, YOUR EYES ARE GLAZING OVER, is on Amazon now, just $2.99. PLEASE RT! OKAY? THANKS!”, or that they should avoid working the title of at least one of their books into every comment they leave on someone else’s blog, or that they shouldn’t send e-mails to people they don’t know or don’t know really well trying to flog their book because, even if it’s done manually, it’s still spam. (For a lesson in what not to do with e-mail and your book, read this.) They want to do things their way, and that’s fine. But the reason I’m suggesting not to do it that way is because that way doesn’t work.

Did you hear me? IT DOESN’T WORK. So yes, of course, you’re free to do whatever you want. But personally, I’d rather just do stuff that is at least likely to work.

The reason it doesn’t work is because people aren’t using social media because they love being sold stuff. They’re using it, I think, for one or more of the following three reasons:

  1. Because they want to be entertained
  2. Because they’re looking for specific information
  3. Because they want to connect with other people (connect as in virtually meet, but also as in relate to).

From what I’ve seen over the past two years, both in trying to sell my own books and watching what other self-published and traditionally published authors have done to try to sell theirs, is that your promotional efforts have to have a value of their own, and that value has to satisfy one or more of the demands in the list above. Online promotion works best when the book actually comes second to the content’s main objective.

[You: Say what now?]

To put it another—hopefully clearer—way, your goal should be to improve the internet, above all else. Make it a better place than it was five minutes ago by writing a great blog post, posting a funny tweet, using a tweet to direct your followers to a great blog post you just found, uploading a video that helps people perform a task, uploading a video that makes people laugh while they’re procrastinating to keep from doing that task they’re supposed to do… You get the idea. Adding a mention of your book to this content might also sell a few copies of it for you, yes, but that’s secondary. That’s not the most important bit. We need to create stuff to put on the internet that would still be something useful and worthwhile even if we took the selling books bit out of it.

Book trailers—good ones, anyway—and other book-related videos are a really effective way to demonstrate what I mean. The video above, Love in the Time of Amazon, is one of my favorites, and I showed it at Faber Academy and Inkwell Writers earlier this year to demonstrate this very point. Yes, this is a book trailer that’s advertising the authors’ books. But if you took that away—if you just imagined for a second that this was just for fun, and that those are actors and those books don’t really exist, and you took away the information at the end—it would still be a video you have a little giggle at. It would still be a video you post on your blog, share with your Facebook friends and/or tweet a link to. Especially if your friends are published authors, because we can so relate. (And so—added bonus—connect.) It’s been viewed over 8,000 times, I saw countless links to it on Twitter, I’ve posted about it myself several times and it got picked up by high-traffic sites like Media Bistro.

My own video, How Much Editing Backpacked Needed, has been viewed over 1,000 times and passed around numerous editing and writing blogs. It’s about my book Backpacked, and at the very end of it, there’s some info about the book. But if I didn’t name the book that was being edited and took that info at the end out, the video wouldn’t lose any of its value. It would still have the same number of views and have been passed around and shared just as much. Because this isn’t a video about me wanting you to buy my book. This is a video that, first and foremost, contains useful information and/or is interesting.

This blog post and my other “self-printing” themed posts contain information that some people might need. Fun, chatty tweets that bemoan the pain of having to put words on paper are something any writer can relate to, and over time we might make a connection with the person writing them. Anything that makes us laugh, mutter, “Hmm. Interesting…”, holds our attention for longer than a few seconds or could be considered “just for fun” falls into the entertainment category.

And after they’ve entertained, informed or made a connection, they’ve also informed a new person that our book exists, which is the first step is getting someone to buy it. (Making them interested in the book is the step in between.) Obviously the number of people who know our books exist is far greater than those who actually buy it, but as the first number increases, so does the second.

Am I silly enough to think that everyone who reads this blog post is going to run straight over to Amazon and buy up all my books? No. I don’t think that anyone is going to run over there and buy one of them. I’m not trying to open and close the deal in the same shot. My main priority is to make this a good blog. I genuinely love this blog, and I’m prouder of it than I am of some of my books. (Don’t tell them that, though.) So above all else, I want new people to keep discovering this blog, and I want the people already reading it to keep doing so, and I want everyone to find it useful with a side of occasional giggles, even if they don’t like pink.

Below that on my list of priorities is selling my books. Over time, a very small percentage of blog readers become book readers, but because I have a lot of blog readers, that’s enough for me to feel a little thrill every time I check my KDP units-sold-to-date report (which I do at least four times a day).

How do blog readers become book readers? These are some of my theories:

  1. They like the way I write; they want to read more
  2. They want to get my book to see how it’s turned out (after reading about its production)
  3. After hanging around here for ages, they read the About page or My Books, and one of my books catches their eye
  4. They buy a book of mine as a thank you for me helping them with their book (through my posts)
  5. One of the above, combined with me telling them I have a free promotion on, and perhaps reading one for free leads them to buy another one.
  6. Then they might write a review, recommend me to a friend, etc. etc. leading to other, “outside” sales
  7. After reading this blog from the beginning and following me through the release of four books, they just can’t resist my Jedi mind tricks anymore…
Let’s say that instead of writing blog posts, I just stuck up a picture of a book of mine up here with an Amazon link and a price-tag. And I did that every day, without fail and without deviation. Where do you think I’d be then? I’m pretty sure I’d have zero blog readers. But yet people treat Twitter exactly in this way, and expect not only people to stick around and put up with it, but also to go buy their books. Put down the crazy juice and have a cup of coffee instead. May I recommend this which I’ve been trying out this weekend:

(I could write a whole other post about how after Starbucks VIA, every coffee maker in town ran off to produce their own instant-made-from-actual-ground-beans product, and then rushed it onto the shelves in a silver cylindrical container, offered it at half-price as an introductory offer to get people to buy it and then encouraged refilling of the container with slightly less expensive “eco” refill bags, which no one was encouraged to do because it’s so damn expensive that you’re far better off hopping from brand to brand, picking up the half-price containers as they become available. But I won’t.)

Think about it: what does you tweeting “Another 5* review for MY BOOK on Amazon! Here’s the link so you can go read it and marvel at the praise I have received...” achieve out of those three? And no, it doesn’t fall under information, because the information has to be useful. If you’re going on a blog tour and you have five guest posts lined up to send to your kind hosts, ask yourself: are these posts good by themselves? Are they likely to entertain, provide information, have readers relating to them, or is the only point they make something like buy my book and buy it now?

Let’s return to the word rule. You—I—can’t really say “never do this” or “as a rule, don’t do that.” Sometimes you have to tell the internet something, even if that something doesn’t achieve one of our three aims. There’s little point, for instance, in your book being free for Kindle for a few days if you can’t tell people about it. (Although, in my opinion, the opportunity to get a free book falls into the information category. I’m slow to admit this thought because I JUST KNOW that someone will take it a step in the wrong direction and assume tweets on the hour, every hour about how his book is “just $1.99” falls into the same category. IT DOESN’T.) And what if you get a review from like, someone amazing? What if your writing hero says she likes your book, and says it on the internet? You couldn’t keep news like that in, even if it doesn’t do anything but make the rest of us sick with jealousy. So sometimes, it’s okay to break the rules, or not follow the principles. But only in extreme moderation. Because remember, the hard sell doesn’t work. No one is listening to it, because that’s not why they’re there.

Over time, what’s considered valuable information will also change. For instance, if I pick 1,000 people at random and tell them that I’ve released a new book and go buy it now, please, thanks, I’d probably get into trouble for spamming or at the very least, waste my time. But what if those 1,000 people had already read a book of mine, and signed up to a newsletter so they could find out about my future releases, and they were happy to hear from me because they were fans of my work? Then “my book is out now!” becomes valuable information to them, because finding that out was exactly why they signed up to the mailing list. BUT—before you bring it up—this isn’t the same as me following you on Twitter. I didn’t follow you on Twitter to be constantly told about your new book. I’d like to know if you have a new book, sure, but I want it to come on the side of the real reason I’m on Twitter in the first place: to be entertained, informed or connected.

A few final points:

  1. Before you take a dump on this, don’t bother. It seems like every time I draw attention to something some other author did to promote their book that I thought was fun or funny or clever or some other good word, someone or someones then feel the need to take a dump on it in the comments. This annoys me in the same way people who look down on other people for watching reality TV annoys me, which is A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT, because in saying this, you’re saying that if I don’t like the same things as you, I’m somehow inferior. It doesn’t matter if Love in the Time of Amazon didn’t make you giggle, or if you’d “never buy a book just because you saw a video about it.” This isn’t about you. This is about the book buying public at large, of which you are just one in a sea of millions. Don’t focus on the video I’ve used to demonstrate my point. Focus on the point itself. And you want to take a dump on that in the comments, feel free.
  2. Modeling yourself on exceptions to the rule isn’t helpful. For every bit of advice I dispense on this blog, in Self-Printed or in person at a workshop or something, someone manages to find an example of an author who has done the opposite and been successful. “Hiring a professional cover designer because the cover could make or break your book? What about that guy who’s sold a trillion e-books since Tuesday? His covers are terrible. Looking at them makes me feel like I do when I eat eggs benedict while hungover and on a boat in rocky seas…” etc. etc. You can find an exception to the rule for absolutely everything. But where does it get you? As I said in a post last week, we all know stories about writers who got book deals in strange, serendipitous ways. They sketched an idea for a novel on the inside of an old Cornflakes box, their kid brought it to school for arts & crafts, the teacher happened to read it, mentioned it to her sister who happened to work for William Morris, and by the end of the following week the writer had a book deal, foreign rights sold and a movie option in the works. How nice for her. But don’t you think that querying in the usual way would give you a far greater chance of success than scribbling on cereal boxes and sending them to school with your kid?
  3. After writing this post, I’m no longer sure the title is relevant. But hey, I’ve a sprained ankle and am doped up on codeine and some weird ice-cold gel that apparently seeps into your muscles through your skin (which, I’ve been wondering, is sure to work better on people skinnier than me, right?) so, whatever. Or whatevs, as the kids say.

Click here to see a list of all my self-printing posts in chronological order.

Catherine’s Christmas Gift Guide 2012: Readers

It’s my favorite time of the year, when I happily start to fill my schedule with all sorts of present-hunting, gift-wrapping and cupcake-baking goodness and run a military-style operation to decorate the tree (ensuring there’s equal numbers of each color bauble, that they’re all evenly distributed across the tree and that there isn’t a trace of tinsel within a thirty-foot radius of our house). Which also means that it’s time for my Christmas Gifts I Discovered While Procrastinating Online Guide! 

I’ve already shared my top picks for writers, caffeine fiends and jet-setters, and still to come we have, um, great gifts for me, as in a collection of my favorite things that don’t really fit in any one category. But today it’s my favorite set of picks, the one that could go on forever if I let it, Gifts for Readers!

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  1. For those of us who are still reading actual books with covers and pages and spines and things, this Folding Corners Over is Over bookmark from Waldo Pancake is the perfect stocking filler.
  2. This Bill Amberg Penguin Logo iPad Cover is pricey (£150!) but so classy. The perfect accessory for the iPad that’s also an e-reader.
  3. Rugged Readers are a fantastic new product: reading glasses whose frames fold onto the lenses so no case is required. Their sturdy construction means that they’re perfect for every reader-glasses wearer, from the backpacker hiking in the mountains with a beat-up copy of Shantaram, to the klutz who is forever sitting on them, dropping them and generally abusing them while leafing through the morning papers. Plus they have a handy clip for attaching to pages, book covers or necklines, and come in a variety of colors and magnifications.
  4. There are no end of hot beverage holders for the constant reader (which is a good thing because what goes better with reading than a cup of hot tea? Nothing, I tell you. NOTHING!). I love this this cheeky I’d Rather Have Mr. Grey Than Earl Grey Mug from Not On The High Street, and…
  5. this The Common Reader Penguin Mug and…
  6. this Libraries: Where Shhh Happens Mugavailable from the Literary Gift Company. But…
  7. My favorite writing-related hot beverage has to be this Scrabble Espresso Cup and Saucer Set, available on Amazon.co.uk.
  8. If you do have a Kindle, disguise its plastic horror with one of these beautiful Classic Book Covers for Kindle from KleverCase.
  9. And finally, if your library or favorite reading spot has a bare wall, you need A Book On One Page Print. I just need them to do Jurassic Park with the T-Rex silhouette…

Click here for all my Christmas 2012 Gift Guides.