Archive for the 'future of publishing' Category

Digital Book World 4

A new study from
Digital Book Word and Writers Digest

I wasn’t able to attend this year’s Digital Book World conference in person because of the kid’s tonsillectomy. (It went well!) But at the last minute someone sent me a link for live streaming and on-demand access. I haven’t made my way through all the sessions yet, and it’s already been worth the money. I especially like the ability to pause, rewind something interesting and watch the sessions on my own schedule.

The “What Authors Want” study from Digital Book World and Writers Digest was a really informative piece, and several of the smaller sessions have led to ideas for new projects and investigations.

 

Margaret Atwood talks about dead authors and the cheese sandwiches they will never again eat

tee
The “Dead Author” T-shirt by Margaret Atwood

At Book2Camp in February, I attended a discussion about book blogs attended by Margaret Atwood. (Just so you know, The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favorite books, ever.)

I was a total shy fangirl, in awe that Margaret Atwood and I were in the same audience. And the highlight of the camp–not to knock all the wonderful conversations and ideas that were discussed about building reader communities, piracy and the definition of the book–was when Ms. Atwood carefully noted a list of book blogs and took special care in repeating “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.” Teehee.

So when I was reading through Guy Gonzalez‘s blog and saw the link to Margaret Atwood’s TOC keynote address, I clicked, and watched, and laughed and took some notes.

I’d recommend anyone interested in writing, publishing, editing or ebooks watch the whole video, below. It’s worth your time.

Here are the key editor-related things I took away from Margaret Atwood’s TOC talk:

** The most important thing a good editor can do is provide encouragement and validation to an author, although not every day because that would become tedious.

** The #2 thing an editor or publisher can provide is a trustworthy name. So a reader may say, ‘if they thought it was good, then I will trust that there is some merit in the work, most of the time.’

** The final thing good editors provide is guidance, by catching unintentional mistakes via copyediting, line editing and developmental editing.

** If authors want to go the “United Artists” way, there will still be a place for editors. Trained editors are out there, and ready to be hired.

Here’s the talk:

Clips from Brian O’Leary’s speech: “containers limit how we think”

I was perusing my neglected RSS feed and came across Kassia Krozser’s fabulous recap of TOC, which I didn’t get to attend this year.

Through her links, I found the text of Brian O’Leary’s “‘Context first, revisited‘” keynote address.

It’s thought-provoking, and I recommend you read the whole thing. But if you can’t, here are a selection of my favorite quotes from the speech:

….we [book publishers] are no longer selling content, or at least not content alone. We compete on context…

Digital has made convergence inevitable. Marketers have become publishers; publishers are marketing arms; new entrants are a bit of both. Customers have become alternately competitors, partners and suppliers.

The challenge is not just being digital; it’s being demonstrably relevant to the audiences who now turn first to digital to find content.

When content scarcity was the norm, we could live with a minimum of context. In a limited market, our editors became skilled in making decisions about what would be published. Now, in an era of abundance, editors have inherited a new and fundamentally different role: figuring out how “what is published” will be discovered….

To manage abundance, we can (and do) use blunt instruments, like verticals, or somewhat more elegant tools, like search engines.
But when it comes to discovery, access and utility, nothing substitutes for authorial and editorial judgment….

Anyone want to discuss how convergence in the daily publishing workflow (not just in the marketplace) affects the editorial role? Editors already do a little marketing. As project managers we create titles and copy; we inform and approve cover art. As author liaisons, we help authors’ marketing efforts blend with company marketing efforts. Will there, necessarily, be more convergence, with other departments? (Choosing new, more specific BISAC codes for each book? Editing pages and chapters not just for story, but so they are easily chunked or searchable?)

Or, can anyone share details of what it means to use editorial judgment to improve discovery, access and utility? (I’m thinking this is about meta-data and understanding the way a user interacts with material when using a digital product like an ebook, but I’m not sure.)

As always, Brian brings up lots of interesting concepts for discussion!

The view from here…

DBW seminar
The view from the lobby at today’s forum.

Today’s Digital Book World forum, Digitize Your Career: Editorial and Marketing, gave me a lot to think about. Ideas for me, ideas for my company and lots of notes. (Did you doubt the last?)

But the two parts I can share right now, while my kid is getting ready for bed, are: 1) The view from the 50th floor lobby is GORGEOUS. Skyscrapers, Central Park, the rivers and the GW Bridge highlighted by spring greenery. How the receptionists keep from staring out the gigantic picture windows all day I don’t know. 2) The folks who presented at and attended today’s session were awesome, entertaining, thoughtful and full of practical advice.

If this is the future of publishing, I like the way it looks.

My picture is in the “paper”!

original photo of TOC
(Original photo courtesy of James Duncan Davidson)

When I was a kid, my family used to squee when anyone got their picture in the newspaper, no matter the reason.

So I loved that my face showed up in a digital “paper,” Publishing Perspectives, this morning. See, here I am, circled.

circled at TOCCON

Squee!

Also, the Perspectives discussion piece poses an interesting question. Are the many recent book conferences creating a “paywall around best practices” to keep the democratic means of production (read: publication) out of the hands of the masses? Or are the conferences the result of old industry leaders paying for the seeds of new industry innovation so they don’t become obsolete?

Maybe it is an attempt at the former, but the tone of the sessions leaned toward the latter. I learned a lot of specific and useful information, but I also heard a lot of ego-stroking (e.g., the new way needs you and your content) and pitches for products aimed at the pub biz market.

Several of the sessions and keynotes were from folks who had innovated at somewhat of a distance–or even completely separate–from the business. If they can do it with sweat equity, why not anyone else?

The tools of change are out there, free for the learning. A conference is just a filter, a way to cut through some of the noise on the way to finding out what you want to know.

My personal TOC

There are a lot of solid wrap-ups for the Tools of Change for Publishing conference making the rounds today. DBW’s webinar chose TOC Take-Aways as today’s topic, though technical problems and catch-up work prevented me from listening. Mark Coker had a piece, as did Publishing Perspectives. [Update, 2/27/10, a few more TOC links: an insightful observation about the value of chance and open-mindedness at conferences from Debbie Stier; Kirk Biglione’s DRM slides; Don Linn’s observations; and a summary of Tim O’Reilly’s speech on Teleread.]

I’m still working my way through my notes, which are way more detailed than usual, thanks to typing them instead of writing them. But I do have some personal take-aways from the conference.

1) It’s really fun to take your computer into a room with free wifi and interesting speakers. I took notes, looked up URLs as they popped up on the big screen, added books to my Goodreads to-read list as they were mentioned and had my RSS feed right there for reading should I get bored, which only happened once or twice. I wish actively using your device was socially acceptable at every conference.

2) Social media is the new SEO, especially when it comes to selling more books via word of mouth. I found the panels by Bob Carlton, Chris Brogan and Angelina Ward to be immediately applicable in my daily business.

3) Analytics will become (or have already started to become?) the new sales numbers. The amount of information that will soon be available…I mean, you can actually know if the book was bought and not read. Or, if the reader started, but then lost interest at page 20. As one presenter put it, you’ll know the multiple differences between those who read at 2 am in bars and those who read at noon during lunch. Talk about niche markets.

4) Technical guys who can create their own version of xml, automate all of their publishing systems (e.g., turn a 2-day process into a 37-second process), publish all of their royalty data for everyone to see and make money…well, they make me wish I could write a book about code and publish it with them right now.

5) I don’t like to feel that my content is brought to me by sponsors. I found suspicion creeping in every time there was a product related to a presentation, even when some of the products were ones I want to try.

6) Mobile is everywhere, even in emerging markets. The coverage is only growing. So who needs ebook readers?

7) And the most important point: It’s all about the customer–know them, meet them, talk to them, engage them, give them all the information you can, give them their choice of devices and formats, add value for them. Then maybe you can publish what they will pay to read.

How has the Internet changed the way you think?

Via Kevin Kelly’s blog, I found this thought-provoking group of essays answering the question “How has the Internet changed the way you think?”

Today, I don’t have time to read all 172 responses published on Edge, though I am tempted to try fitting it between manuscripts and loads of dirty dishes. In aggregate, the essays make a 132,000-word document. This should count as an ebook I can review on Goodreads. Maybe I’ll put it into the system.

From my cursory Saturday afternoon reading, here are two stand-out quotes:

From Kevin Kelly,

The whole ball of connections — including all its books, all its pages, all its tweets, all its movies, all its games, all its posts, all its streams — is like one vast global book (or movie, etc.), and we are only beginning to learn how to read it.

Knowing that this large thing is there, and that I am in constant communication with it, has changed how I think.

From Clay Shirky,

It is our misfortune to live through the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race, a misfortune because surplus always breaks more things than scarcity. Scarcity means valuable things become more valuable, a conceptually easy change to integrate. Surplus, on the other hand, means previously valuable things stop being valuable, which freaks people out….

As we know from arXiv.org, the 20th century model of publishing is inadequate to the kind of sharing possible today….

The beneficiaries of the system where making things public was a privileged activity, whether academics or politicians, reporters or doctors, will complain about the way the new abundance of public thought upends the old order, but those complaints are like keening at a wake; the change they fear is already in the past. The real action is elsewhere….

We could [use the Internet as] the communicative backbone of real intellectual and civic change, but to do this will require more than technology. It will require that we adopt norms of open sharing and participation, fit to a world where publishing has become the new literacy.

Finding 1000 True Fans

The conversation surrounding The Millions’ interview with a book pirate is fascinating.

Within the civil and well-written discussion, someone linked to The Technium, a blog by Kevin Kelly, and his post about gathering (and nurturing) 1000 True Fans. He posits that an artist can make a living wage if they cultivate a small but dedicated fan base and have direct interaction with their customers.

Later, in a follow-up post, he provides some of the monetary information he received from artists attempting this method. The results were not really a living wage.

However, both of his posts were written in 2008, and dovetail nicely with that other 2008 classic Here Comes Everybody. Now, since it’s 2010(!), and mobile and Web technologies are even more a part of everyone’s lives, surely there is someone making a living wage off their work through direct fandom.

The two examples of cultivating fandom that I can think of (Coelho and Doctorow) are also dependent on the old media systems as a launching pad and support structure. I’m betting there are some self-published or digital-only authors who have nailed this formula for supporting their work.

Jaron Lanier, a musician featured in Kelly’s post, has been looking for musicians who fit the following criteria:

The musician’s career is not a legacy of the old system (such as Radiohead). The musician has not merely gotten a lot of exposure, but is earning a living wage. I’ll define a living wage as a predictable income sufficient to raise a child. Finally, most of the musician’s income derives from sources that would still be robust in an “open” world that is highly friendly to massive, unregulated file sharing. These include live performances, paid ads on the musician’s website, merchandising, and paid downloads (like iTunes), but does not include label contracts, movie soundtrack placement, and other revenue streams that rely on old, declining media.

If you know of any authors who fit Jaron Lanier’s definitions (or if you are one), leave a comment! Let us know how it’s done.

I think I heart pirates

Today I followed Twitter more closely than I usually do because of
Digital Book World day 2, the Apple iPad unveiling and then the RWA announcement about the changes to their rules concerning eligible publishers.

Now, I’m coming down from a publishing buzz, and gathering some of the links I found while reading today.

First, one of Brian O’Leary’s tweets led me to this article about Chris Anderson’s “latest” idea. I’m almost done with Clay Shirky’s book, and I completely agree with Brian about the similarities between the two guys’ ideas. Can great minds think alike when one of them thought it two years ago?

Then, there was piracy.

Yesterday’s speech by Macmillan president Brian Napack has been making the rounds. Teleread had a summary; PW focused on it in their wrap-up. Napack’s gist seemed to be that piracy is bad. We should stop it however we can.

But there is something in me that can’t fully accept this dictate.

I keep seeing too many stories about free (pirated) books increasing sales. Take this Publishing Perspectives piece, for example. The article is mostly about Amazon’s e-book “exclusives,” but inside there is an interesting side note about The Pirate Coelho. A long clip from the article:

In his keynote speech opening the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2008, Coelho laid out his philosophy quite clearly, describing his decision to create a site, The Pirate Coelho, where he links to free pirated downloads of his books in any language he can find them online:

“Why not share the whole digital content of books for free? Contrary to what common sense tells us — and common sense is not always a good guide, otherwise publishers, booksellers and writers would probably be doing something more profitable — the more you give, the more you gain. I was lucky enough to see this happening to my books in Russia, back in 1999, where I had a very difficult beginning. Given the great distances, my books were very poorly distributed and the sales were very low. Yet, with the appearance of a pirated digital copy of The Alchemist sales took off in an amazing way. In the first year, the sales had jumped from 1,000 copies to 10,000 copies. In the second year they soared to 100,000 copies and the year after I sold a million books. To this day, I have reached the mark of over 10 million books in this territory. The Russian experience stimulated me to create a site: “The Pirate Coelho”.

“The Pirate Coelho” was there for three years, being fed by readers worldwide, and nobody in the industry noticed — because my sales were steadily growing. However, from the moment that I mentioned it at a Technology Conference at the beginning of this year, I started hearing some complaints. However, in the end, my US publishing house, HarperCollins, for example, fully understood the possibilities. So once a month during 2008, I have uploaded one of my titles, unabridged, to be read online. Instead of seeing a drop in sales, I am pleased to say that The Alchemist, one of the first titles to be made available online, by September has completed a full year on the New York Times bestselling list. This is living proof of our industry’s momentum: use the web to promote and you will see the results in the physical world.”

And then @screeny sent me this fantastic in-depth interview with a book pirate. For this guy, piracy equals passion. Not only did he scan physical books–a task I know is annoying based on the many photocopies of old books I used to have to make–he spent up to 40 freakin’ hours editing the design to be more readable. Would it be too audacious to suggest that this “pirate” is really spending numerous unpaid hours building an audience for the authors he loves?

In my head, I know piracy is a bottom-line problem, for publishers and for writers. But in my heart, I am with this guy. I can’t help comparing his urge to find and share books with the many, many ways I myself have gorged on free and cheap books. I get books from work. I share books from work with friends and colleagues. I am a heavy library patron, both Brooklyn Public and New York Public. I was once also a heavy used bookstore patron, turning in one new copy of a Brenda Joyce for four tattered copies of whatever looked good.

(The only reason I’m not such a heavy used bookstore patron today is that NYC doesn’t have the kind of stores I like–filled with romance and eager to make trades on anything I bring in. The Strand is great, but not of the same caliber as my old college haunt, Brant’s Used Books.)

Isn’t electronic piracy really just sharing, at a larger scale? And maybe the increased sharing is what’s needed now that we’re serving a larger, global market. The numbers seem big, yes, but I can’t help thinking about how many used books are sold online every year and how many books are loaned by large library systems. Does all of that sharing count as piracy, too? I’m not convinced an electronically pirated book is actually a lost sale. I’d rather consider it a widely distributed sample.

I know there are a lot of folks who disagree, and the continuing collection of data may eventually prove me wrong. I’ll be watching the debate. Let’s see if it will lead to a change of heart.

#DBW–day 1

So not only did I miss what seems to have been great discussions at Digital Book World today, I have been nearly offline for the last week and a half catching up on reading for work.

Now that my deadlines have loosened their grasp just a bit, I scrolled through as many #dbw updates on Twitter as I could handle.

I was especially impressed to see Angela James’ (@angelajames) impact on the New Business panel.

amywilkins: Heehee RT @IrisBlasi Audible gasp from the audience when @angelajames said Carina’s books have no DRM–across the board. #dbwnewbiz #dbw

booksquare: RT @rilnj: RT @calreid: #dbw @angelajames No advances, 30% royalty/cover price & no DRM. R. Nash howls “you’ll be pirated!” angie: probably.

Love the gasping visual! And I’m intrigued by Angela’s response to accusations of letting in the pirates.

The DBW webinar last Thursday dealt with piracy, in a limited way (focused mostly on O’Reilly titles.) But the guest researcher, Brian O’Leary, said the initial data shows that the most pirated titles are also the titles with the most sales. Correlation? Causality? It’s unclear. (If I remember correctly, he said that the titles that were the most pirated also had 2/3s more sales than titles that were not pirated.) It seems to lazy-ol’ me that when it’s easier to buy than to steal, people will pay for the convenience, if for nothing else.

Also, aren’t publishers always giving away free reads? Like dope pushers, they know a good book will bring the addicts back for more. Samples, excerpts, advanced review copies, and libraries. Free e-books, just from anecdotal evidence, seem to do the same job. So maybe encouraging piracy is a good thing?

And then the conversation took a turn:

IrisBlasi: Discussion about ebooks getting heated. @angelajames offers to “take it outside.” #dbw #dbwnewbiz

A duel at dawn? Thunder Road? If only… It was probably more like, “Time’s up. If you want to keep chatting let’s go outside.” In any case, I can’t wait to read more about this panel from Angela and others who were there.

A few other updates stood out that were not Carina Press-related.

concentricdots: Most crucial message for publishers from #dbw today is STOP marketing products and START cultivate customers. Use the tools of change

This is where social media comes in, I suppose–but only when done right. IMO, Harper Studio’s blog is an example of the publisher getting it right. I read their blog because the posts are interesting. The blog writers, who all work at Harper Studio, cover timely topics related to publishing, media, entertainment, editing and, of course, their books. But when they do get around to writing about their books, the posts are about more than just what’s coming out and why it’s great. Instead they discuss something cool or personal that is related to their books.

Those blogs that only say “see this book/interview/author”? Ugh.

charleenbarila RT @IrisBlasi: Mindshift: Publishers are not selling the book, we’re selling the author.-@R_Nash #dbw #dbwnewbiz

Is this really a mindshift for publishers? Hmm. Isn’t that what happens with those blockbuster names like Nora Roberts, James Patterson, etc.? Harlequin folks always talk about “growing the author.” The assumption is that authors will always write more than one book, and future books will be just as good as, if not better than, the one that first caught an editor’s eye. Holding that assumption as true, an author’s audience should grow as she becomes known by more readers. Other publishers don’t think this way?

geogeller we are in the business of selling experiences, food for imagination #dbw #140conf @jeffpulver @chrisbrogan @garyvee @lizstrauss

I love this! Reading is always about the narrative experience for me, even for non-fiction. Now we readers can add to the imaginary world with other virtual experiences. Like that time when I was ten and I baked scones to go with my Philippa Carr novel–except way better.

nyefwm RT @alicepope: Sara Nelson: One of the truisms in publishing is that publishers don’t spend money promoting their backlists. #dbw

As someone who works on backlist quite a bit, I found this truism interesting. If publishers don’t spend money promoting those older titles, and authors have nearly forgotten that they wrote those books, how can editors best help get the word out? Homework for me!


DISCLAIMER

I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
my book shelf:
Stacy Boyd's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

%d bloggers like this: