Monday, 26 September 2016

A busy week amidst the sniffles and sneezes.

I survived. And so did the deadlines.

Having decided to implement our new eBook distribution strategy that will focus on Ingram Content Group's Ingram Spark, I waited (im)patiently for our files to be transferred from Ingram Group's Lightning Source arm so that the conversion process to ePub could begin.

In a recent post, I talked about our visit to the Publisher Event at Ingram Lightning Source UK printing and distribution facility at Milton Keynes. Naturally, I took the opportunity to take the trip in a relaxed way and spend a couple of nights away. It was a charming interlude, staying by the Grand Union Canal, enhanced by the hot weather.

At the event, we learned more about Ingram Spark which has been set up for the smaller independent publishers like our Christal Publishing. We already had eBooks in Adobe Acrobat Reader under the Lightning Source banner but Ingram Spark - the dedicated eBook arm - offer a manuscript conversion service to ePub - the international standard for eBooks - from the physical book (which are Print on Demand (POD) from one copy to any number as required).

Having pushed a few buttons I will wait patiently for the conversion to be complete. In the meantime, you may notice that our titles have temporarily disappeared from e-Retailers such as Kindle, Apple, Nook, and shortly Kobo so as not to cause confusion and double distribute. By the end of the October we should be back to normal with these digital stores and more such is the global distribution reach of Ingram Spark. Sadly, it will be a while before Amazon Kindle is live again due to Amazon's constraints.

In the meantime, all is not lost.

Currently, we have all titles converted by Smashwords at no cost in the ePub format which qualified, due to quality, for the Premium Catalogue and shipping to major e-Retailers - see above - as well as being in a multitude of formats such as ePub, mobi for Kindle, pdf, rtf, html to name a few in Smashwords own store. This was an answer to a prayer for me five years ago and I do recommend them. Although IT literate, it was a steep learning curve as I followed their excellent style guide for formatting a manuscript for conversion to an eBook.

Formats in the Smashwords store include:

  • ePub for Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, and tablets
  • mobi for Kindle
  • pdf for desktop (best read in Adobe Acrobat and good for technical and illustrated books such as our Lifelong Learning: Personal Effectiveness Guides)
  • rtf for BeBook e-Reader
  • lrf for older Sony readers
  • pdp for older Palm devices
  • html for reading online
With a choice like that, why not check out our titles on Rosalie Marsh Profile page in the Smashwords store? Watch out for special offers.



Sunday, 18 September 2016

The crisp mornings of late summer.

Floating serenely into autumn.

September is a lovely month I always feel and this year it has not disappointed. The mornings, hidden for a while with a lingering mist, soon emerge with the promise of sunshine.
This week has been no exception with temperatures staying high. This in itself brings another problem each morning. What to wear. Tuesday was no exception.

Decisions, decisions.

We had a business appointment so smart dress was in order. I started of thinking that something light and floaty with an added light wool jacket would be in order. On second thoughts, I realised that bare legs would not be suitable, changed to a semi-formal fitted dress and all that went with it. Putting on a jacket, I went, "Phew, it's hot", so changed for a light cardigan.
Our appointment and discussions over and all dressed up with nowhere to go, I ventured of my OH, 'Are you up to a drive out or are you too tired?'. With relief at getting some movement on the current issue casting a blight on our lives, he assured me that he was OK and thought that I wold be suggesting something.

After some discussion, we headed towards the Oswestry road and settled for the Moreton Garden Centre  at Chirk for a look around before  lunch at the Lord Moreton next door.
This has changed hands since our last visit, has been refurbished, and appears to be geared more to adults. A very pleasant interlude where we enjoyed a light lunch.

On Thursday, my day off, the sun was still shining brightly. Actually, it was quite hot by late morning; a quick change into a strappy sundress was in order before our car turned its nose down the A5 towards Llangollen. The town was thronged with visitors and on turning left over the bridge by the restored railway a sign pinned to a lamppost announced the upcoming Balloon Fest - what a sight that promised.  Negotiating the narrow turning towards the Chain Bridge Hotel and the now restored chain bridge over the River Dee I reflected how cool and peaceful this spot was as you walked or drove along the narrow canal path between the towering sheer wall of rock on the other side of the canal and the river babbling along among the trees far below on the other side.

This is a lovely spot, as I have chatted about before, and popular with walkers and tourists alike. After a walk along the canal, the terrace overlooking the river is a restful place to enjoy a welcome cup of tea and snack from the bar of the hotel. Inside, the bar has panoramic windows that, when open, allow the sound of the river rushing along as it pounds over the rocks below.
It is now Sunday and time to get ready for church. The morning is crisp with a promise of a warm sun later as it peeps through my study window. Still not decided what to wear, I am off now to talk to myself and consider all options. Again layering is the answer.

Just a small interlude in my busy life. Got to keep up standards. It is not all lunches out really. I do work hard.


Monday, 5 September 2016

Retired? Still need Time Management skills? Reflections.

Reflecting the other day how busy we were, my husband never ceases to be amazed at how full our diary becomes.

In filling our changing lives with other activities to 'fill the gap', maintaining others while dovetailing an increasing number of what I will call essential appointments,and a catch-up with long-standing friends and family, we still need flexibility and a can-do attitude.

Our trusty Outlook calendar on the desktop PCwith reminders as well as digital calendars and an old-fashioned paper diary all need to be synchronised.
I had a new computer in May which came with Outlook in Windows 10 plus an Outlook desktop application with the Office 2016 upgrade. I find that some things synchronise with both but have found it best to stick with the desktop application as I can colour code appointments, meetings, birthdays and holidays etc.

Catching up with friends is not as easy as it seems as we all have to dovetail holidays and family visits. It is important, not to forget our friends. Social media help to keep the links alive. Being active even if in a lesser manner than hitherto all helps to fill our calendar and keep our minds fresh. Must encourage the grey cells.

So, back to time management. I have always made lists but here is what I learned about time management when I was undergoing my degree in professional studies in education. This degree fell into the continuing professional development framework (CPD) where success in the Module on 'The Process of Professional Development', which was the cornerstone of the whole course, was essential in order to be successful in the whole degree course.

Essential Time Management Skills.

"‘Time’ can be broken down into three categories:

  •   Prescribed time.
  • Maintenance time.
  •  Discretionary time.

We will look at each of these in turn.

What is Prescribed Time?

Prescribed time means things you have to do such as going to work, looking after a family.
My own life was prescribed around the needs of the business and family responsibilities. I was travelling across the UK as part of the working day. Changes in arrangements with clients and learners often meant that maintenance time and discretionary time changed to prescribed time.Some family responsibilities became regular fixtures in my diary. Flexibility became second nature.

What is Maintenance Time?

Maintenance time is the time you spend looking after yourself; shopping, making meals, getting your hair done etc.
This varies according to prescribed time. You tend to fit these tasks in depending on what your work constraints are. In my own case, it had precedence over discretionary time due to family responsibilities. Using outside help for household needs (a cleaner) reduced my maintenance time, allowing me to maintain discretionary time at the necessary level.

What is Discretionary Time?

As the name suggests, discretionary time is the time which you have available to do as you please. Your spare time.
I attended a fitness centre. This activity, although located within my discretionary time was, largely prescribed as it was very expensive not to attend on a regular basis.

However, the choice is there – to go or not to go. If there was a need for a little more rest combined with an earlier start on studies, then the option was there. I had a choice. My decision to sometimes not study on a Sunday also enhanced my discretionary time. This allowed me a family day.

Now that I work from home with my writing, marketing, and publishing activities - which bring their own pressures, and with my husband having had an enforced retirement some years ago due to ill-health, we still keep ourselves very involved with various activities including our GWOCGB of friends across the UK, and networking opportunities(me). My husband also, from time to time, goes off to see friends from working days which gets him out of the house and gives me some quiet time to bury myself in my writing and other matters, including digital technology which keeps my brain busy regenerating the little grey cells.

C'est la vie! ( And we wouldn't have it any different.)


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Cutting-Edge Technology Behind Print On Demand Book production.

A Publisher Event at Ingram Lightning Source.

Last week I and my OH were privileged to be invited - under my publishing hat - to an event at the UK print and distribution facility at Ingram Lightning Source in Milton Keynes.

Of course, in true Just Us Two style I took the opportunity - quite a valid one - to have a couple of overnight stops due to the length of the journey. A good move as it turned out due to traffic delays. I found that the Pear Tree Lodge by the Grand Union Canal and Marina in Milton Keynes was a delightful choice with easy access to the Ingram location.

Arriving early on Thursday morning, we were taken up to a pleasant presentation room by an efficient receptionist. Once there, we fortified ourselves with a nice cup of tea and chatted to other arrivals.

The presentation given by Andrew, the Marketing Manager was an eye-opener as he took us through the formation of the Ingram company in the US to the present day where the Ingram Content Group has expanded to meet modern day demands of authors, publishers, and retailers.

The tour around the print and distribution facility was both fascinating and staggering. We watched each aspect of print as jackets of all kinds came off a print run, some were I off a title some were 2 copies; the book block (inside) was passed through the printer at a rate of knots; the book and jacket were married up , trimmed and passed for packing.

The cutting edge technology was set up so that the right jacket met the right inside. Most important! All in the space of minutes.

We have been using Lightning Source for many years now. The economics of print on demand made sense to me as there is no need for a 'shed load' of books to be stored and sold to wholesalers. All that is handled by the print and distribution facilities of Ingram Lightning Source. Of courser, another benefit of Print On Demand (POD) is that each copy of pristine clean and fresh-off-the-press. The paper used in environmentally friendly and acid free. No nasty stuff to wash off after you have picked up the book as happened to me a few years ago when I ordered a book about publishing from an on line company. The book was yellowing at the edges due to storage, the paper was thick, and I had a residue on my hands. I was so glad that the publisher hadn't accepted my manuscript. And so glad that I went down the POD route with a major organisation.

Our titles are a quality production from design, to upload, to print, and receipt. Some years ago, I took a copy Chasing Rainbows to a local major retailer for consideration. The manager examined the book and declared 'well, you have quality.' At the time, there were still some reservations - and suspicions - about POD. It has taken some time for the industry to realise what a benefit POD is. In fact some major organisations use Ingram Lightning Source. They are not a special order in the traditional sense as for retailers,there is the 'returnable' option if they want to find shelf space for a copy or two and they only need to order what they need from one book upwards. Ordering a copy at the point of sale would of course probably be regarded as a special order by the bookseller.

The day was well organised by Emily Wright, Marketing Coordinator. Andy was on hand to answer any queries and I also had the opportunity to discuss eBooks with a member of the new Ingram Spark set-up. We left with much food for thought. 

(There is also a machine called the Espresso Book Machine which is available in some retailer stores/Universities in various parts of the world including Europe. Imagine ordering a book at checkout and watching it being printed, bound and handed to you before you could finish your cup of coffee. All our titles are in the catalogue.)

Arriving back at our hotel after lunch, we walked along the canal bank, over Pear Tree Bridge and around the village green for a cool cider at Ye Old Swan.



Monday, 22 August 2016

More tales in the hurly burly of writing life.

The last few weeks have been a mixed bag.

Wearing two hats in my writing, marketing and publishing life I hop about from one focus to  another. I was going to say  from my main love, travel,  but both travel and personal development are dear to my heart.

It is August and the silly season when many people forsake the UK for more exotic climes. I did read this weekend that the number of what they call 'staycation' holidays have increased massively. In other words people have stayed in the UK.

During our years riding our beloved Honda Gold Wing we went on ride-outs in North Wales and beyond as well as  to events in other parts of the country. I have to say that if we had not, we would never have discovered the true beauty, diversity, and the staggering extremes in the formation of this land of ours. On a bike you can go on roads that you wouldn't have dreamed of before. It is not the same in a car - you are not at one with the world the same.

With our wings clipped now - forgive the pun -  we are limited to reading on Face Book how our friends are having fun as they hop from one event to another or simply ride off in a group. Snowdonia is one of our favourites as I have posted on here many times. The drive to Llangollen in particular and Betws-y-Coed are so different at all times of the year when the mountains are wearing a different dress. Barren one season, clothed in purple heather and yellow gorse, or snow capped mountains giving way to the new growth of spring in others, at every turn the view is stupendous.

So what about this mixed bag?

It is also that time of year when many are leaving full-time education and stepping into

that scary new world of work. Their learning journey has not ended with full-time education. It in reality is only just starting as they forge their way in the world.

Now that I am a lone worker, I find that I am increasing my knowledge on the technical front as the organisations that I work with on the publishing side have updated and expanded their websites for data submission.  All exciting as I can now feed more detailed metadata to the printer/distributor.  The hosting company for my websites recently re-designed their platform which meant that I had to completely update and input  before the cut off date of September which is now alarmingly near. The changes make for a more vibrant site and even more user-friendly experience for anyone not familiar with using HTML to build a site as I am.

Now, after a change of priorities in the 'to-do' list over the last few weeks, it is time to focus on outstanding work, complete the metadata updating, and progress the notes on Tenerife and complete the first draft for Island Interludes before the end of August. ( We do have a field trip planned next year to re-visit the interior of Tenerife - just to check facts and update you see.