Saturday, 28 April 2018

Review of ‘Everybody Works in Sales’ by Niraj Kapur

Two things stand out about this book: one, the excellent advice on the noble art of selling, and two, the unique journey that the author has been on to bring us this book. I do enjoy a book that not only expounds knowledgeably on its subject but also gives us a flavour of the world and experience of the writer.

Niraj Kapur
occupies a very interesting position in the modern world. Of Indian extraction, he was raised in Northern Ireland and schooled in an atmosphere of bigotry. He moved to London to pursue his career, so the tips on selling are interspersed with observations about his particular experiences in school and work. But lest you worry that this is going to be a relentlessly positive 'how I overcame adversity to be who I am today' sort of tome, take comfort from the section of the book where Niraj examines bad business practice and ruthlessly dissects the sometimes poisonous dynamic that can infiltrate the upper echelons of management, resulting in those who are 'managed' being overlooked, demoted and leaving from frustration. Niraj sensibly gives vent to his experience of this but draws a positive from it for us, the readers.

This book then, serves as a 'what I wish I knew when I was younger' manual. Niraj draws on his extensive work in publishing, advertising and shipping and boils it down to this: we are all in sales, whether we sell our wares, services or even propose what's for tea for the kids. Niraj wants us to tap into this often-unacknowledged talent that may be quite sublimated in many of us. What is it about the idea of 'sales' that puts us Brits off exactly? The Americans have no problem with it as a perfectly respectable occupation. Look at who's in the White House right now. Hasn't Trump sold the American electorate an idea of themselves and the changes that might be possible under his leadership? Of course, politicians do that here too, but we don't call it salesmanship.

Containing 27 valuable lessons, plus 17 interviews with experts, Everybody Works in Sales combines unique storytelling and personal development to ensure you have the tools you need to do better in your career.

I think we're going to have to up our game in a post-industrial world where we in the West are such huge consumers. With everyone on Social Media, entrepreneurs, Mumpreneurs, Specialpreneurs would benefit from the approach laid out by Niraj in this excellent book. Not only that, those who are not in sales might also gain from reading it: teachers, parents etc. The one thing that resounded for me is that so much of selling your service is about managing people's expectations and about fostering good relationships, as well as the product or service that you're trying to generate income with.

Available to purchase from Amazon here.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Everybody Works in Sales by Niraj Kapur: BLOG TOUR

I am jazzed to report that I will be posting a review of this book on Saturday!
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

REVIEW: Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film by Lucy V. Hay

At last! A book that pinpoints why we need more diversity in the characters we read about, watch or importantly, write about. Not only does Lucy's book highlight the same dreary old stereotypes (my own particular bĂȘte noire being the lack of complexity in disabled characters), she gives the reader some excellent observations and insights as to how to actually redress the situation in their own writing without reorting to jargon (I hate jargon!) or exhortations to the writer to flagellate themselves IMMEDIATELY in the name of white, male, middle-class, ableist, homophobic guilt. Save it for the writing, people!

Which is not to say that the writer shouldn't examine their own unconscious bias when writing about characters that have hitherto been marginalised. If the adage 'write what you know' has any value at all, it is surely the writer's own inner workings that prove a worthy source of knowledge. In the age of the internet, as Lucy says, it's never been easier to research the reality of lives that are dramatically different from the writer's own. Authenticity is the name of the name of the game when writing diverse characters, not the recycling of tired old stereotypes (dead sex worker, inspirational disabled person - AARGH!) from OTHER FILMS. This is certainly soemthing I've been guilty of in the past in my own writing. Reading Lucy's book has sparked off some interesting tangents that I hope will enliven my own work.

Lucy backs up her observations with facts and figures, quotes from peers, established writers and producers and her own expertise built up over many years of script reading, writing and blogging. She's not afraid to practise what she preaches. Most importantly, she is passionate about writing, writers and the strength of connections, relationships and community. And if you think it's 'political correctness gone mad' - consider this: audiences want stories that reflect their own realities. Films, series and books that flip the usual characters on the head will be the ones that get made, talked about and REMEMBERED. Isn't that what any writer wants?

Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction TV or Film

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Other TwinThe Other Twin by L.V. Hay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me state an interest here; I accompanied Lucy on a recce of Brighton for this book and have listened to the evolution of it over the last two years. Even though I knew the nature of the twist, it still came as a shock. No spoilers here, however! Suffice to say that the nature of it drags crime fiction firmly into the 21st century for this reviewer.

I grew very fond of Poppy, the contradictory protagonist, in her guilt-filled search to find out the truth but also to atone for her own behaviour in the past. I could totally relate to her desire for her ex, even as she manipulates the situation to get closer to the truth. But more than anything, what resonated with me was the fucked-up family dynamic. Secrets are dangerous things and skeletons do indeed tumble out of the cupboard, whatever the attempt to keep them concealed. There’s a warning to us all, here.

Poppy is a heroine for our times; flawed, yes, but with courage and resolve and eventual self-knowledge. The character of India inhabits every page, much like Rebecca in the film of the same name. I liked the diversity of the characters in The Other Twin, this isn’t some antiquated clichĂ©-ridden white middle-class milieu, this is the modem world. It rings true and possible in a world governed for the young by social media. It’s entirely plausible that Poppy takes on the search for India’s real fate herself: the police can only act on the facts. Poppy is self-contained and utterly lacking in self-pity, using the peculiar energy of grief to propel her forward despite the danger to herself. She’s very much in the mould of Smilla in Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (one of my fave thrillers). She has autonomy, complexity and isn’t that bothered about pleasing others, and that’s so refreshing. More please.

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

REVIEW: Twenty First Century Horror Films by Douglas Keesey

If you love reading Sight & Sound magazine (and I do), I think you’ll enjoy this exhaustive trawl through the famous, the cult, the controversial, the remakes and even the spoofs of the last two decades and occasionally of the twentieth century. You may not always agree with the analysis (I certainly didn’t) but that’s the great thing about horror or indeed films of any genre – they are subject to multiple readings and critiques.

Interestingly, what the book did for me was polarise exactly what it is I love about horror. I love the creepy and the jump scare (Sinister, the Babadook, It Follows). I’m not likely to see Martyrs or The Human Centipede any time soon, though I did love Neon Demon. On the strength of the analysis in this book I will certainly see Green Inferno. I also like horror films that say something about politics so it’s Purge 2 all the way for me! Horror is at its strongest when it’s the return of the repressed, so in that vein (arf) I’m keen to go see The Love Witch which seems like it's harking back to an era of just that: fear of female sexuality. Surely that will be included in future editions? I was surprised not to see any of the hugely successful Blade films featured (surely ripe for a revival?) but then I imagine that with such a wealth of material to choose from, it was hard for Keesey to whittle them down.

Buy this for the horror fanatics in your life, it’s practically guaranteed to keep heated debate alive. Perfect also for anyone engaged in more formal film studies. And, like the best horror films, I found once I started reading that I couldn’t look away.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Taster for ‘The Other Twin’ by Lucy V. Hay

I’ve never read one of these taster booklets before but what a good idea they are! Let me declare an interest here: I went with Lucy during the Brighton leg of her research period for the book. A great time was had as we drank in the local pubs – well, I drank; Lucy made copious notes.

There’s an art to these tasters, clearly. Chapters must be excerpted in such a way as to set up curiosity in the reader. Job done here, I must say. I particularly like the sense that bad things can happen in ‘good’ (rich) families; the shadiness of some aspects of social media culture; and the eloquently allusive online messages from India to Jenny that hint not just at the transcendence of love but at the transcendence of death and possible rebirth.

Protagonist Poppy’s own journey also intrigues; she’s indomitable in her drive to discover what happened to her sister but has issues of her own to resolve along the way. She may not even be likable but she certainly comes across as compelling in this extract. The prose is spare, incisive and written with urgency as though the reader must find out the missing pieces of Poppy’s jigsaw, what happened before India’s awful fate, and who exactly Jenny is before it’s too late. The book is released later in the year, you can pre-order it here.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review of Running a Creative Company in the Digital Age by Lucy Baxter

This book could not have come at a more fortuitous time for this reviewer. If you’re thinking of starting or restructuring a creative company in the digital age this is the book for you. Extensively researched and compiled with view to Brexit and how that will affect the digital media companies now thriving in the UK, it acts a s a timely reminder that creatives cannot afford to be left behind in a rapidly changing landscape.

All that you need to know is addressed here: from establishing your company, legal documentation, the dreaded tax, managerial structures… All delivered in succinct chapters that tells it how it is. It doesn’t pull any punches but it also delivers the information in a humorous friendly way. True, you could research what you need from the web, but sometimes you need one book to act as a useful reference top take the headache out of the whole process. This is it. Put it with your dictionary. Lucy Baxter has extensive experience in production and you can put your faith in her insights. I particularly enjoyed the case studies from those in the industry who share their own experiences with generosity.

Hopefully, Lucy Baxter (who clearly loves her subject) will be updating this book every year, or at the very least maintaining a blog on changes that occur. I think it's not enough to have the good ideas, you must also have the savvy to put them out there in a world that is flooded with content and subject to rapid digital evolution. Recommended.