Friday, 30 October 2009

Oh the horror...

Creative Content wish you a Happy Halloween!

We’re very excited about the two titles we’re publishing next month: ‘Pulling Power – Pick Up Tips for Girls’ and ‘Pulling Power – Pick Up Tips for Guys’ – and it’s gotten me thinking about my own dating past. So in honour of Halloween, I thought I’d share a couple of dating horror stories!

I remember meeting an attractive Bulgarian physicist – intelligent, intense, dark good looks - and I was thrilled when he asked me on a date. He was taking me to Lake Arrowhead for the day and he picked me up early. I opened the door to find him standing there in a white shirt, white hotpants, black socks, black patent leather dress shoes ... and a Tyrolean hat. I was very young and very shallow – so I’m afraid I made my excuses...

Then there was the gorgeous Columbian doctor. When I met him (standing in line for theatre tickets), he was out on a ‘date’ with his elderly mother. I thought it was so sweet. But when she came along on our first date, it was also our last date. (Paging Norman Bates... Norman Bates, line 1, please...)

And I can't forget the Australian lawyer who, halfway through our date, got pulled over by the police and arrested for some outstanding warrant – leaving me stranded in Los Angeles, without transportation, at midnight!

(I know it seems that I only like foreign men – but in the end, I married an all-American boy... Well, an all-Italian-American boy!)

Here are some dating horror stories my male friends have shared with me:

Mr ‘X’ from the UK told me: “Yes, I’ve experienced lots of horrors, but one in particular is a warning to anyone who thinks of settling their nerves with alcohol!

I had secured a hot date in London and we had arranged to meet at Waterloo station. I had visions of a romantic stroll along the South Bank followed by supper in an intimate Soho restaurant. All very tasteful. Feeling slightly nervous though, I'd mixed myself a gin and tonic to drink on the train (disguised as sparkling water). In hindsight, I was a little heavy-handed with the liquor. After an interminable journey, I emerged onto the platform, no longer nervous but rather worse for wear. I eventually located my [unimpressed] date and lunged towards them like a wounded animal. My everlasting memory of the evening is descending the steps of Waterloo station on my bottom and giving verbal abuse to anyone who dared look at me. Sadly, but not surprisingly, I never heard from my hot date again.”

Mr. ‘Y’ from the US told me: “I went out on a first date with someone the Friday before Thanksgiving weekend. Pleasant enough movie date. They called the next day to say they had gone out to buy a turkey and all the trimmings – and were so looking forward to spending our first holiday together as a couple... Doo, doo, doo, doo. Doo, doo, doo, doo....” - LK

Wishing you a spooooktacular Halloween! We’d love to know: Do you have any dating horror stories you'd like to share?
Photo: D Sharon Pruitt

Friday, 23 October 2009

And another thing...

This week Creative Content director and audiobook narrator Lorelei King talks about audiobook producers and directors.

One of my Twitter pals (and by the way, if you’re not following LoreleiKing and CCTheLowdown on Twitter – please do!) asked me for my top ten peeves when narrating. I must really be a malcontent – because I can come up with a lot more than that!

So I’ve decided to do it in categories. This week – producer/directors!

DISCLAIMER: Most audio producer/directors are fantastic – prepared, helpful, encouraging, supportive and constructive. But just occasionally you get one who lets the side down a little...

My top 10:

1. Producers who don’t prepare because they say they like to come to it ‘fresh.’ This is laziness wearing spontaneity’s hat and hoping to get away with it!

2. Producers who over-prepare and have fixed ideas about how, for example, a character should sound.

3. Producers who are tense hear noises that aren’t there.

4. Producers who stop me a lot and break my flow.

5. Producers who give me line readings (when I produce, I’m guilty of this! *hangs head in shame*).

6. Producers who want me to read hour after hour without stopping. Narrators aren’t machines!

7. Producers who don’t give positive feedback occasionally.

And city by city:

8. London producers who insist I'm wrong when I pronounce 'shone' as 'shown' or 'suggest' as 'suggjest' (even when I prove my point by showing them the relevant entry in the
Merriam Webster dictionary).

9. Los Angeles producers whose idea of direction is not 'a bit slower' or 'I think we had a bit of a tummy rumble there, darling' but rather 'I'm sorry, Lorelei... but like... I just don't feel like... you know ... that it's like... resonating from the core....' (Huh?)

10. New York producers who insist on ordering lunch from a vegan sushi bar instead of Cajun extra-hot burgers medium rare with blue cheese from
Island Burger. (Okay, we're not exactly working on the oil rigs, but narrators need sustenance!)

We’d love to know: If you’re a narrator, what are your pet peeves about producers? Or (fair’s fair) if you’re a producer, what are your pet peeves about narrators?

Friday, 16 October 2009

Music To Your Ears

Ali Muirden wonders if there's a way for musicians and audiobook publishers to work together...

I’ve been reading a transcript of an interesting article broadcast on Radio 4 ‘s Today Programme this week where musician, Nick Cave discussed his love of audio books but was deploring the lack of imagination in the use of music to enhance the listening experience.

This is actually a very old chestnut and one that most publishers have been unable to crack over the last few years. The conundrum is that while most publishers would love to use music with abandon throughout some of their publications, the sheer scale of the cost of doing this and still allowing for a commercially competitive price point means the figures just never balance out!

It made me wonder whether there might be an opportunity here for struggling musicians to use audio publications (especially in download format) as a showcase for their talents? To show your skills off by creating a music score to fit a particular book must surely be a great way to let the world know what you’ve got to offer?

My husband Al and his talented band of musician mates are a great case in point. They spend hours of their spare time devotedly writing songs and creating their own unique music (some of which I love and some I loathe!) but which largely goes unappreciated in an internet sea of downloads and free radio content. Also not being of the age where they qualify to be the next “boy band” no doubt counts against them! Sorry boys! I know its harsh, but it is a valid point!

From time to time I have “pinched” some of their work and used it on audio books, usually paying them a small fee to compensate but which they appreciated more for the exposure it gave to them than for the actual money they got back in return.

Might this be something other musicians would be interested in? Would there be budding musical entrepreneurs who could see the value in doing a deal for their work which while it didn’t pay them a huge fee upfront gave them a great platform to launch their careers?

I don’t want to deny other established music composers the opportunity to sell their work for the normal commercial rates but it does seem to me this impasse is something that needs to be addressed and I just wonder if this might be a way of making it happen? - Ali Muirden

Tell us what you think!

Friday, 9 October 2009

A Cover Story...

This week our fantastic designer, Daniel Raven Clift, talks about the challenges of designing jackets for audio downloads.

Although it may be hard to believe, given my youthful appearance, this year I celebrated 15 years in the design industry. It’s been a slog I can tell you, but one of the things I’ve always loved about my job is the variety. I’m usually working on something different every day and, over the years, I’ve dipped my toes (and tried to make a splash) in many business sectors. I hadn’t worked in audio publishing before, so when Ali and Lorelei asked me to create the cover designs for their Lowdown series, I was cock-a-hoop.

Designing the cover for an audio download is no straightforward task. Of course, you’re not actually designing a cover at all, rather a postage stamp-sized picture to sit on a webpage among other postage stamp-sized pictures. The need to stand out is obviously important. One advantage we immediately had was that we were creating our designs from scratch – have a look at any audio download site and you’ll see that many audiobooks adapted from print simply use a scaled-down version of the book (or CD) jacket for their online thumbnail. Although this will undoubtedly give consistency between a digital download and its physical counterpart, it can – and usually does – suffer with legibility and standout issues. With Creative Content’s titles, we were able to start with a blank canvas (albeit a tiny one) and have in mind, from the outset, that anything we came up with had to grab someone’s attention straight away and tell them at a glance – not a squint – what the title was all about.

Clear typography was an essential part of creating the look for the Lowdown series. With titles like ‘Improve your Speech’ and ‘Business Etiquette’ that encourage you to communicate clearly, we had to ensure that the design echoed this. And, once again, as we were creating a brand new design, we were able to avoid cluttering with reams of text that would have undoubtedly turned into a microscopic, illegible blur on screen. Likewise, any visual imagery had to be unfussy and eyecatching; we used stock illustration to bring the covers to life and give a cohesive look across all of the titles.

The use of colour was also very important and I soon discovered that Lorelei, in particular, is no shrinking violet* where her views on it are concerned. In fact, I fondly recall one afternoon where we were trying to get the right shade of pink for a cover design; the flurry of emails went along the lines of: ‘just a teensy more yellow’ and ‘almost, but slightly less red’. As I was changing the colour, I remembered a story she told me about making her husband paint the same room eight times to get the right shade of white, so I counted myself lucky that all I had to contend with was a few clicks of the mouse. Of course, we achieved perfection eventually and, I have to admit, she was right… as usual!

When we created the first cover designs, the one thing I wanted was to be able to instantly spot a Lowdown title among the competition, and having a browse through some of the audio sites, I think we’ve done a pretty good job. And seeing one of the original cover designs on the iTunes bestseller list is something that gives me a little thrill every time I think about it… which is at least every couple of minutes.
- Daniel Raven Clift
We'd love to know what you think: How important is book jacket design?
*Violet? Not sure, Dan . Could we try something with a bit more blue? - Lorelei

Friday, 2 October 2009

Glass half empty...? Are you kiddin'?!

This week CC director Ali Muirden's husband Al gives us a window into the importance of family support when starting a new business.

OK – I’ve just got a spare few minutes to write this Blog entry between my “day job” and my NEXT task for Ali and Lorelei – I can feel the whip recoiling and about to be well and truly “cracked” even before I get to finish that glass of beer..!

Seriously though, if there was a simple maxim that I could apply to Creative Content's first 10 months of existence it would be “get on with it!” Being a “glass half empty” kind of guy, I’m quickly learning from Ali And Lorelei that procrastinating and putting things off are NOT options when it comes to running a successful business - fuelled by an incredibly strong work ethic, regular communication (all praise the hallowed Blackberry and mobile Internet access !), great ideas, extremely relevant experience to the business they’re in and the highest respect for each other, the two co-founders of Creative Content have come a LONG way in a SHORT time…Couple that to an incredibly strong self-belief shared by both of them - in themselves and the business and you really have something VERY special…

Ali and Lorelei are most definitely two of the most focused, capable, experienced and above all DRIVEN people I’ve met - for sure, two “glass half full” personalities!

Naturally, costs are a factor when setting up a new venture and I (as Ali’s husband) have been very happy (and honoured!) to get involved in as many aspects as I can to assist her and Lorelei in certain areas of the business (…”whip crack away…” I hear you say!), whether it has been shooting and editing video for Creative Content’s YouTube presence, proof checking artworks or most recently checking AND editing audio content, I have been pulled along by the incredible drive and passion that is the bedrock of CC’s reason for being…

Additionally, Ali and Lorelei have some contributions from some very talented professionals that remain heavily involved with the business be it website design and maintenance, artwork, recording and editing or legal matters and not forgetting of course, the authors and readers that CREATE the CONTENT - again, another observation I have made is that to make your business work you have to work with the RIGHT people - Ali and Lorelei have picked EXACTLY the right people - period.

The REALLY cool thing is that I know what’s in the pipeline for the future - Ali and Lorelei are never short of ideas - in fact there’s so much great stuff to come, I can barely contain my enthusiasm !

Ouch..! There goes that whip, best I crack on myself with my next bit of CC business, so in closing this time around, remember - optimism and having a “glass half full” outlook is the new black..! - Alan Muirden

We'd love to know: Did you treat friends and family as a 'natural resource' when you were starting your business?