WRITING ON THE ETHER: Comparative Literature


By

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles

Table of Contents

  1. Comparative Literature: Which End Is Up?
  2. Compare This: ‘Shadow of Oblivion’
  3. Now Compare This: ‘Fairytale Ending’
  4. The Riches of Amazonia: Comparing the Headlines
  5. Social Media: Something Comparatively Dumb
  6. Social Media: Something Comparatively Promising
  7. Craft: Beside Himself
  8. Craft: Social Media Contrasts
  9. Books: Reading on the Ether
  10. Not Enough Conferences
  11. Last Gas: Comparative Influence

Comparative Literature: Which End Is Up?

Remember comparative literature? In many cases, comparatists park one language’s work next to another’s, do some analysis, write a few unreadable papers about it, collect their degrees, their awards, their tenure.

In the practical world, we may as well be double-parked in different languages when it comes to the experiences of self-publishing and traditional publishing and I mean within self-publishing and traditional pubiishing.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBookAnd as we ramp up toward the O’Reilly Media Tools of Change for Publishing group’s first-ever event for authors—Author ( R )evolution Day in New York City on February 12—we need to hunker with what’s coming in from the field.

For all the hosannas you can hear on one hand about backing the car over gatekeepers and barreling down the honeysuckle-festooned byways of 99-cents self-publishing, there are:

  • Tales of impenetrable thickets of discoverability,
  • Sleep-deprived swerves into ditches of formatting despair,
  • Absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that “good” work will succeed, and
  • Great road-choking obstacles, massive piles of crap dumped on the market by feckless writers of the genre Shirtless Men Kissing Beautiful Women, elsewhere known as erotic romance.

TOC’s Author Day—hashtagged with the oddly Australian-sounding #ARDay, mate—is devised to cut back on the scatter-shot rattle-’n’-roll of the current ride.

A bit of a map would help, wouldn’t it?

Get into our tweet-chat if you like on Friday (February 1) at 4pET / 2100 GMT with that down-under-ish #ARDay hashtag and you can find out more about the February 12 daylong intensive. There’s another tweet-chat about it a week later, on February 8, same time, same bat-hashtag.

If you’re not planning to come to New York for the event, I’m sorry you’ll have to change your plans and be there.

Because here in the 43rd year of our digital transition (has there ever been a longer January than this one was?), whatever’s out there is still terra incognita. What ARDay can  equip you for is best exploratory practices to find your way through as the empowered, entrepreneurial writer who’s supposedly going to lead the industry! the industry! to its new senses.

Don’t make me come pick you up in the Ether company station wagon.

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Compare This: ‘Shadow of Oblivion’

Nobody cares about your book but you. 

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James Calbraith

James Calbraith’s Five things I’ve learned from self-publishing has none of the eternally spotless grin of Guy Kawasaki and his new inspi-vational book with Shawn WelchAPE: How To Publish a Book.

You can hear a good audio interview with the unfailingly upbeat Kawasaki from Joel Friedlander in APE-ing Your Book with Guy Kawasaki. You’ll hear Kawasaki, for example, talk about preparing his text for publication.

I crowd-sourced APE three times. [it means Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur.] The first time, I asked five million of my closest friends to take a look at the Google docs outline of my book to see if they saw any big holes in it. The second time was when I thought I had a manuscript basically done, I asked my closest five million friends if they wanted to read the manuscript and provide copy-editing and content-editing suggestions. Of the five million people, 250 people took me up on it…Of the 250, roughly 60 percent returned the manuscript with corrections…And then right before the book went live, I asked my five million friends if they’d like to review it for their blogs or web sites. And about 1,200 people took me up on that.

Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

Not all the reviews of Kawasaki’s book are glowy with the K-grin. Occasionally, someone points out that he highlights Penelope Trunk’s flouncing-out-on-her-contract story, which left many questions and deep doubts alongside her brochure-length self-published offering on Kindle. His book presents the Trunk rant as a “slice-of-life exchange,” its veracity unquestioned.

And then here is Calbraith writing about the freelancers a self-publishing author may hire for money to do what Kawasaki asks his “five million friends” to do for swell-ness:

Modern self-publishing means that you’re at the mercy of the freelancers. All good freelancers are busy – and very good freelancers are very busy. No matter how much you will pay them, they are likely to forget about your book if you don’t pester them continuously.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles Calbraith brings up other points of his self-publishing experience under headings including “KDP Select Brings Sales, But No Respect”:

A common psychological rule that a free product is not a respected product. A customer is much more likely to trash something they haven’t made an effort to obtain, and vice-versa: if they’ve spent money on something, they will try to rationalize the spending by any means possible. It was one of the hardest lessons to take, and one the effects of which I’m still reeling from.

Under “Nothing Matters More Than Amazon’s Algorithms”:

The only thing that mattered was whether Amazon wanted my book to sell or not. The mysterious, almost god-like in their omnipotence, algorithms of Amazon were able to raise my novels to dizzying heights and then cast them back into the shadow of oblivion virtually overnight, and nothing I tried (or didn’t try) to do had the slightest impact on what was going on.

 

Under “The Stigma Is No More – But Neither Is the Handicap”:

All books are now held to the same professional standards, but also, sadly, means that experiments in publishing are not as welcome as they may have been before. The reader expects a real, “normal” book, with a beginning and an end, no matter whether it costs $.99 or $9.99.

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Shawn Welch

And, maybe what our friend Kawasaki needs to hear—I do like Guy and Shawn, they’ve handled my skepticism with real professionalism and grace—is this from Calbraith in his Quora post. It gets at that five-million friends business in a compelling, important way that the vast majority of authors will encounter. His point is subtitled “There Are Very Few Successful People – And Even Fewer Who Know Why”:

The Internet is filled with people giving good advice to anyone who asks. Almost none of it is useful. In case of publishing, it’s mostly easily repeatable tripe about nothing, sold in increasingly attractive package (videos, infographics) which can be summed up as “do lots of obvious stuff”. (Yes, we all have our FB pages, our blogs, our Goodreads accounts, our professional covers and proofread manuscripts. Now what?) And it’s almost never backed up by actual success – because genuine success is a rare and elusive beast.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles And:

Judging by my author’s rank fluctuations on Amazon, I can tell there are less than 200 “successful” authors in my genre – and by that I mean writers who can make a decent income out of their sales. And that’s including everyone who’s ever published a book – out of tens of thousands. Even fewer of them decide to write about their success.

There are real gaps here. Big, big gaps between the can-do advice (and book sales) of the Kawasakis of the industry right now and the struggles and bafflement of the Calbraiths.

One of the reasons I like the Author ( R )evolution Day program is that it’s a gathering of experts in realms of trial-and-error. These are not stone-tablet tossers.

And that’s the best that can honestly be offered at this point. We don’t know enough yet to understand how success finds one author and not another. We know only about practices that can place entrepreneurial drive into focused channels of good potential. Calbraith is more right than many right now would like to admit:

Why do some books sell better than others? Why are some artists effortlessly popular, while others toil for years in obscurity? It’s a secret as old as art and commerce, and no shouty infographic will solve it for you.

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Now Compare This: ‘Fairytale Ending’

My traditional publishing helped me to gain critical acclaim, win awards, gave me my first bestseller, and is still a wonderful way to reach my readers who enjoy finding my print books in stores. The downside of traditional publishing and the reason why I first began self-publishing is that it’s impossible to get books out as fast as readers want them.

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C.J. Lyons

Those lines are early in a long and highly worthwhile Q&A that Jane Friedman, VQR digital editor and host of the Ether, has done with author C.J. Lyons, a “hybrid” who both self- and traditionally publishes.

The former pediatric emergency room physician writes what she calls “thrillers with heart,” which means thriller-romance. Her comments to Friedman are in Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing: Enjoy the Best of Both Worlds.

Some of the important points to pick up about what Lyons is doing include her close work with an agent-manager, who helps her decide which route—self-publishing or traditional—to go with each project. And she mentions Dominique Raccah’s company, Sourcebooks, here:

Since my success with self-published e-books has increased my profile with publishers and given me a well-documented track record of sales, they now come to us and invite us to partner with them on projects, which is refreshing. Given that one person can only write so fast, we’ve turned down several offers, but are always eager to discuss mutually beneficial partnerships with publishers of any size. In fact, my new YA thrillers are being published via Sourcebooks because their marketing plan to reach this new-to-me audience was so outstanding.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles In one of her best sequences, Lyons maps out the financial structure of a $50,000 contract offer vs. a self-publishing plan on the same book, to illustrate how an author may do better in self-publishing but at a slower rate of return. And yet, nothing is hard-and-fast. Lyons walks through some ballpark figures, then cautions you to remember what traditional gives you that self- doesn’t:

Even if it takes you a year or two to earn back the equivalent of the NYC offer, you get to keep building your profits. And with each new book you release, sales of the first will increase….[But] remember there are still benefits to publishing with a traditional publisher. You need to look at more than just the money; focus on where partnering with this publisher on this project fits your overall business plan.

You do learn how Lyons’ financial arrangement with her agent works:

She takes her money from the deals she negotiates: foreign rights, audio, TV/film, other subrights. And thanks to her, my self-published books have earned far more from those subrights deals than they would have if we had taken any of those earlier traditional offers.

 

As Calbraith in the section above lamented, getting strong editorial support can be difficult, Lyons concedes. But, sounding more Kawasaki than Calbraith, she also talks about “several professional editors,” “multi-published, award-winning authors” in a critique group, and a “street team,” all reading, critiquing, and/or editing.

And I’d just add—without the slightest disrespect meant to Lyons for the superb success she’s had with almost 20 novels—remember that much of her work lies within striking distance of one or another romance genre. Happily, there’s not a lot of Shirtless Men Kissing Beautiful Women cover-art signaling the soft-porn glut smothering the market these days. But she’s a highly regarded writer in a highly popular sector, more power to her. Just keep it in mind.

There’s more from Lyons for writers at NoRulesJustWRITE.com.

Do strive to publish a professional product. Remember your competition: NYT bestsellers. Never give readers a reason to think you’re second-class.

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https://twitter.com/DanKrokos/status/296403648353820672#

 

The Riches of Amazonia: Comparing the Headlines

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Dan Blank, We Grow Media, Build Your Author PlatformNow, you take Amazon’s Q4 earnings report this week. Please. The basic story is that Amazon’s fiscal condition is half-empty and it’s half-full and its investors’ smiles match its logo.

Seattle slugged it Amazon.com Announces Fourth Quarter Sales up 22% to $21.27 Billion

Let’s indulge in a little comparative headline-gazing on the subject—so hot of button. You may learn a lot less about Amazon this way than you can about the person writing it up, and/or about that person’s medium.

(Media is still a plural word. One medium. Two media.)

 

First, just the facts, ma’am. Courtesy of MarketWatch, a report from Rex Crum:

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, the Seattle-based company said it earned $97 million, or 21 cents a share, on revenue of $21.27 billion, compared with a profit of $177 million, or 38 cents, on $17.43 billion in sales in the final three months of 2011. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had, on average, been looking for Amazon to earn 28 cents a share on revenue of $22.26 billion.

However, Amazon’s operational earnings, considered a leading indicator of the company’s business performance, showed significant improvement, rising to $405 million from $260 million in the year-earlier quarter. And gross margin also stood out, widening to 24.1% from 20.7%.

Okay, good. So now, let’s look now at that business publication’s headline and lead, followed by selected heads and leads from the industry! the industry! 

And, by the way, I’m not going to tell you what to think.

 

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Rex Crum

MarketWatch: Amazon gains big with operations in focus (Rex Crum)

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Despite reporting weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter sales and earnings, Amazon.com Inc.’s shares climbed near record-high levels Wednesday as investors and analysts keyed in on the online retailer’s profit margins. 

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Jeremy Greenfield

Digital Book WorldAmazon Loses More Money, Investors Cheer (Jeremy Greenfield)

Amazon posted its fourth-quarter and full-year results late yesterday: $21 billion in revenue for the quarter and $61 billion for the year.

Pretty astounding numbers. Also astounding: With all those billions running through it, the world’s largest ebook seller didn’t manage to keep much of it – it lost $39 million on the year.

Laura Hazard Owen

GigaOM: Bezos: With ebook sales up 70% in 2012, Amazon has hit “transition” it expected (Laura Hazard Owen)

Amazon announced fourth-quarter earnings slightly below investor expectations Tuesday afternoon — but operating income, widely viewed by investors as an important measure of the company’s overall health, rose, driving shares up in after-hours trading.

And a follow-up commentary from Owen: , with a longer lead.

Nobody can predict the future, but Amazon thinks that when it comes to ebooks the writing is on the wall.

“We’re now seeing the transition we’ve been expecting,” CEO Jeff Bezos said in the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report, released Tuesday. “After five years, ebooks is a multi-billion dollar category for us and growing fast – up approximately 70 percent last year. In contrast, our physical book sales experienced the lowest December growth rate in our 17 years as a book seller, up just five percent.”

That’s impressive growth, but as the ebook transition moves forward, Amazon should worry that Kindle is not going to be the device leading the revolution. Apple and iPad will cut into its growth.

 

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Howard Lindzon

TechCrunch: Why Did $AAPL Stock Go Down After Beating Earnings Estimates And $AMZN Stock Go Up After Missing? (@howardlindzon)

The moves in different directions for Amazon and Apple have been about expectations and guidance. Wall Street has higher expectations for Apple and ‘different’ expectations for Amazon. Wall Street wants Apple’s ‘gross margins’ to grow. They don’t expect Amazon’s ‘profits’ to grow. It sounds silly, but if Apple has reported lower profits and a huge gross margin increase the stock might have shot up. If Amazon had reported record profits today on decreasing margins, Wall Street might have panicked.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook

LIsa Campbell

The Bookseller (subscription): Amazon reports record sales growth (Lisa Campbell)

Amazon saw record sales growth of 22% to $21bn (£13bn) over the Christmas period, with the company’s founder hailing e-books as a “multi-billion dollar category” which grew by 70% last year.

However sales of physical books saw their lowest growth rate in 17 years through the channel (5%).

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Jason Boog

Galleycat: eBooks Now Multi-Billion Dollar Category for Amazon (Jason Boog)

Amazon reported today that net sales increased 22 percent to $21.27 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012. The release also noted that eBooks are now a “multi-billion dollar category” for the company…According to CNBC, Wall Street analysts had predicted $22.26 billion in revenue for the quarter. At the same time, Amazon’s net income was down 45 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, falling to $0.21 per diluted share from $0.38 from the same period last year.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, FoylesPublishers Lunch (subscription): Amazon’s Slim Profit Gets Smaller Still; Bezos Confirms eBooks A “Multi-Billion Dollar Category” (Michael Cader)

So in a market where Amazon has been trading at all-time highs and investors want to believe, shares rose more than 6 percent in early trading Wednesday, more than gaining back what they had lost the day before. For those who don’t want to believe, Amazon’s total sales for the quarter were about the same as Apple’s gross margin for the same period, $21.06 billion (which yielded operating income of $17.62 billion). In   a similar vein, analyst Benedict Evans noted in a tweet that excluding charges, since its birth Amazon has had cumulative sales of $245.5 billion, yielding net income of $1.9 billion (or less than eight-tenths of one percent).

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Social Media: Something Comparatively Dumb

When people use their (or someone else’s) childhood pictures as their avatars, it’s not cute, entertaining, funny, endearing, authentic, nor—and this is most important—informative. It’s just tedious.

Would you walk around town with a picture of yourself at age five stuck on your face?

No?

Then why are you walking around the biggest city in history with a picture of yourself at age five stuck on your face?

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Social Media: Something Comparatively Promising

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles

Shea Bennett

On Twitter—which Shea Bennett reports GlobalWebIndex calls The Fastest-Growing Social Network In 2012—”the way that people are using Twitter – we’ll call them the active, active users – has shifted.”

Mediabistro All-Twitter’s Bennett, in Planning Events, Watching TV And Chatting About Products – How Do We Use Twitter? writes:

The days of sharing what you had for breakfast or other kinds of “pointless babble” are, it would seem, increasingly a thing of the past, with the most popular activities on Twitter now including behaviour such as organising events, tweeting whilst watching TV shows or movies, and posting positive comments about brands or their products. And for mobile Twitter users, tweeting about products they have purchased or services they have used is their number-one activity.

Good.

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Craft: Beside Himself

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The screen was supposed to be limitless, a portal to another dimension. A magical mirror in which truly anything could appear: words, pictures, movies, sound. And yet novels have merely traded one container for another, with stories trapped inside.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles

Jeff Gomez

The emphasis on that is mine. And it’s not just interesting that this is being said. It’s also interesting who’s saying it.

The novel has helped foster publishing’s success since it was invented by Cervantes over 400 years ago, and yet readers—more than a decade into the arrival of ebooks—are experiencing stories on a screen in much the same way they do on the page.

Attendees of one or both StoryWorld Conferences in California (2011 and 2012, from F+W Media) will know exactly what Jeff Gomez is saying. But no, it’s not that Jeff Gomez from Starlight Runner.

This is @ThatJeffGomez. And he’s Vice-President of Online Consumer Sales and Marketing at Penguin Group USA. Perhaps not the first fellow you’d expect to chide the business for its lagging development in transmedia and the way we read.

However, Gomez has a vested interest: Beside Myself. And that’s what he’s on about in his post at Publishing Perspectives, The Publisher’s Anxiety at the Electronic Book.

My own contribution to this discussion is the recently released iPad app, Beside MyselfBeside Myself is an interactive novel that allows the reader to choose their own order, shuffle the novel’s contents, arrange them like an iTunes playlist, or follow one narrator around at a time (and, if they do, they receive an ending specific to that narrator). There are also live links in the novel to fake websites, fully functioning email addresses to the characters (and to me), along with interactive menus, original photographs and music, integration with Facebook and Twitter, and more.

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Not surprisingly, some of Gomez’s discussion of the problem includes a disclosure: “In the past ten years I’ve worked for two of the Big Six publishers in New York, and continue to do so.”

And he gives publishers some credit, if not outright props, for effort: “It’s not that publishers aren’t trying; there have been numerous examples of enhanced ebooks and apps.”

But, as he says—and as we always realize is the battle each year at Alison Norrington’s Storyworld:

The problem is that almost all of the “extras” are being added after the fact; the digital enhancements are trying to turbo charge what is otherwise a standard story. This is why the enhancements sometimes feel perfunctory. The situation is akin to colorizing a digital movie; there’s nothing inherently wrong with the original black and white film.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, FoylesAnd, hey, he is sitting in a publisher’s office, after all: Gomez is putting the onus on authors:

What needs to happen is that writers should think digitally from the very beginning, envisioning the novel as something with technology as part of its DNA and not as a distant cousin.

Okay. I’ve never said anything but that authors need to think beyond the box/book from the get-go.

But I’m not going to let the publishers off the hook. They could encourage, enable, and enrich such processes, pay for some research, train some authors to think this way, create the environment in which such projects could be introduced and developed.

Don’t everybody step up at once.

And here comes Gomez with the right thinking, too. (He’s a good witch, not a bad witch,  somebody call off the self-pub pitchforkers):

I also think the literary establishment needs to embrace digital storytelling. It’s gotten so used to, and comfortable with, the old touchstones and references that it seems unwilling to look elsewhere for inspiration. An article in the New York Times praised several recent novels for being influenced by James Joyce’s 1922 book Ulysses. And while these are fine novels — each worthy of the attention of the Times — and Joyce is an important and lasting touchstone, I think we need to expand our literary horizons.

Yes and yes and yes. Read Gomez’s piece. And don’t say “gamification,” we’re past that.

See what you think. Levitate a little, damn it.

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Craft: Social Media Contrasts

We have had three  epiphanies over the last eight months as we piloted some advanced (and not so advanced) thinking.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles Lisa Buchan, in Three Epiphanies About Social Media Marketing for Books at Publishing Perspectives, is writing from the viewpoint of her work with Vangelizer, a startup based on the idea of using QR codes in books to develop and monitor its discoverability.

(1) First, “word-of-mouth” energy is highest when people are reading a book or immediately after reading it…What we found after testing is that many print book readers and ebook readers are quite willing to scan QR codes on books with their mobile phones.

(2) Our breakthrough was born from our own frustration — we were doing so much research on social media for books we kept stumbling over books we were dying to read ourselves — but very rarely could we find how to buy them! …The key principle here is: “Make it easy for people to buy your book once you generate interest.” As a bare minimum, you should have a link embedded in every tweet and post that takes people to a mobile-optimized site with a range of global buying options.

(3) Our third breakthrough came when we realized how quickly everything that gets posted drops off the social media radar. No matter how popular your tweet or post, no one will find it again after the first “flush” because everything gets drowned in the sea of noise…The key principle here is: “Make your book discoverable on social media” — the gap is that the networks don’t make it easy…we suggest you get your books and reviews onto Goodreads, which is the closest thing to a persistent, discoverable social network for books today.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles In terms of what Vangelizer is doing, I can’t vouch for the work. I’m not familiar with this company. But I do find these three “epiphanies” interesting, along with Buchan’s interest in “pull” rather than “push” marketing.

In my view, she makes one mistake. She writes:

Libraries and bookstores are the last bastion of physical presence for books, and the online retailers would have us believe we should toss them out as archaic and irrelevant.

Now, I’m as capable as the next person of missing something. So I’d appreciate it if Buchan would supply me with the incident in which an online retailer has dared say so stupid a thing as that “we should toss (libraries) out as archaic and irrelevant.”

I don’t believe an online retailer has said this. And I do believe that this is the kind of reckless rabble-rousing palaver you expect among upstart (as opposed to startup) companies a bit too eager to make their marks. This, regrettably, makes me less inclined than I might have been to find out more about Vangelizer.

Not that QR codes seem to have found much traction in the States where I operate. Vangelizer is based in New Zealand, and the uptake on them there might be more robust.

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Books: Reading on the Ether

As each week, the books you see below have been referenced recently in Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, or in my tweets.

I’m bringing them together in one spot each week, to help you recall and locate them, not as an endorsement. And we lead our list weekly with our Writing on the Ether Sponsors, in gratitude for their support.

 


Writing on the Ether Sponsors


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Not Enough Conferences

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This week, the Author (R)evolution Day (#ARDay) conference-within-a-conference—produced by O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change team and Bookigee’s Kristen McLean—offers the second of three tweet chats.

Each is at 4pET / 1pPT / 2100 GMT on Friday, and features speakers lined up for the conference. The hashtag to follow is #ARDay.

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Kristen McLean

This week’s topic — Friday, February 1 — is Author Skills for the New Publishing Reality, and includes hosts Kat Meyer and Kristen McLean and me, along with my fellow Author ( R )evolution Day speakers:

There are still some seats left in the February 12 Author Day program in New York City, and you’re welcome to use discount code AFFILIATEPA to save $350 on registration (for Author (R)evolution Day and/or any other TOC package). 

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As usual, please let me know of conferences you’d like me to consider listing though my contact page. And for more about these, see my site’s page on publishing conferences.
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The 14th Annual Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators is set for February 1-3 in New York.

“This year’s conference features two jam-packed days of inspiration and the latest on what’s happening in the field of children’s literature from top editors, agents, art directors, authors, and illustrators. Make sure you look at the detailed description of each workshop on the Schedule before you select your breakouts.”

 

February 12 New York City at the Marriott Marquis New York in Times Square. A first-ever author-dedicated daylong conference from the O’Reilly Media Tools of Change team, led by Joe Wikert, Kat Meyer, and Kristen McLean.

TOC Author ( R )evolution Day: “This one-day conference-within-a-conference from the thought leaders at Tools of Change and Publishers Weekly is designed specifically for professional authors, content creators, agents, and independent author service providers who want to move beyond “Social Media 101” to a more robust dialogue about the opportunities in today’s rapidly shifting landscape.”

Friday (February 1) at 4pET / 1pPT / 2100 GMT, join tweet-chat hosts Kat Meyer and Kristen McLean with Author ( R )evolution Day speakers Eve Bridberg, Kate Pullinger, Jason Allen Ashlock and me for a pre-conference chat about author skills in the new publishing paradigm. Use hashtag #ARDay to follow and participate in the chat. 

 

February 12-14 New York City (again at Marriot Marquis Times Square) O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change for Publishing Conference: “Every February, the publishing industry gathers at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference (TOC) to explore the forces that are transforming publishing and focus on solutions to the most critical issues facing the publishing world. TOC sells out every year—don’t miss its potent mix of fabulous people and invaluable information.” Under the direction of Joe Wikert and Kat Meyer.

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook , Foyles

February 11 and 15 London Foyles and The Bookseller Re-Imagine the Bookshop: In this invitational workshop, “Foyles has partnered with The Bookseller to invite customers and industry experts to help design a new flagship Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road for the 21st century with architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands…Participants will be asked to engage with issues such as declining physical book sales; the place of ebooks; the cultural importance of bookshops and author events; the specialist knowledge of booksellers; and how bookshops can provide customers with a place to buy books, however they decide to read them.”

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, FoylesFebruary 19-21 Indie ReCon online: “IndieReCon is a free, online conference…designed to help any writer or author who is curious about the ins and outs of indie publishing. You’ll find everything from the pros and cons of indie publishing, essential aspects in creating a high-quality book, successful online marketing, and expanding into international markets…We will feature more than 30 guests, including…Darcy Chan, CJ Lyons, Bob Mayer, Hugh Howey, M. Leighton, and Samantha Young.”

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook

 

March 6-9 Boston AWP, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs AWP last year drew 10,000 attendees to icy Chicago (it looked like 40,000 attendees when everybody’s coats were on), and, per its copy on the site this year, AWP “typically features 550 readings, lectures, panel discussions, and forums, as well as hundreds of book signings, receptions, dances, and informal gatherings.” The labyrinthine book fair is said to have featured some 600 exhibitors last year. The program is a service-organization event of campus departments, hence the many (many) readings by faculty members and a frequently less-than-industry-ready approach that worries some of us about real-world training the students may be missing.

 

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April 5-7 New York City Writer’s Digest Conference East: Author James Scott Bell, who knows the value of coffee, gives the opening keynote address this year at “one of the most popular writing and publishing conference in the U.S. Writer’s Digest Conference 2013 is coming back to New York at the Sheraton New York Hotel. Whether you are developing an interest in the craft of writing, seeking an agent or editor and publisher for your work, or a veteran hoping to keep current on the latest and best insights into reaching a broader readership, Writer’s Digest Conference is the the best event of its kind on the East Coast.”  (Note that this year’s hashtag is #WCE.)

 

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April 17 New York CitypaidContent Live: Riding the Transformation of the Media industry Brisk and bracing, last year’s paidContent Live conference was efficient, engaging, and enlightening, not least for the chance to see many of the talented journalists of Om Malik’s GigaOM/paidContent team work onstage — Laura Hazard Owen, Mathew Ingram, Jeff John Roberts (in history’s most difficult interview), Robert Andrews, Ernie Sander, et al. Among speakers listed for this year’s busy day: Jonah Peretti, Jason Pontin, Chris Mohney, Erik Martin, David Karp, Mark Johnson, Aria Haghighi, Matt Galligan, Rachel Chou, Lewis D’Vorkin, John Borthwick, Andrew Sullivan, Jon Steinberg, Alan Rusbridger, Evan Ratliff, and, of course, the two people the law says absolutely must be in every publishing conference, Dominique Raccah and Michael Tamblyn.

 

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 May 2-5 Oxford, Mississippi Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference & Workshops Susan Cushman follows her Memphis Creative Nonfiction confab with this year’s gathering at the shrine. Among faculty members: Neil White, Leigh Feldman, Lee Gutkind, Dinty W. Moore, Beth Ann Fennelly, Bob Guccione Jr. and Lee Martin. Pre-conference workshops or just the creature itself, your choice.

 

Grub StreetMay 3-5 Boston The Muse & the Marketplace 2013 is a production of Eve Bridberg’s fast-rising non-profit Grub Street program. It’s material reads tells us that organizers plan more than “110 craft and publishing sessions led by top-notch authors, editors, agents and publicists from around the country. The Manuscript Mart, the very popular and effective one-on-one manuscript reviews with agents and editors, will also span 3 days. We expect nearly 800 writers and publishing professionals to attend, while maintaining the conference’s wonderfully intimate, ‘grubby’ energy that we love.”

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Last Gas: Comparative Influence

A recent study has found [that] Jane Austen, author of “Pride and Prejudice, “ and Sir Walter Scott, the creator of “Ivanhoe,” had the greatest effect on other authors, in terms of writing style and themes.

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Matthew L. Jockers

The University of Nebraska’s Matthew L. Jockers has been awfully busy with his research, it seems.

He based his conclusion on an analysis of 3,592 works published from 1780 to 1900. It was a lot of digging, and a computer did it.

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Steve Lohr

In Dickens, Austen, and Twain, Through a Digital Lens, Steve Lohr at the Times writes of Austen and Scott:

These two were “the literary equivalent of Homo erectus, or, if you prefer, Adam and Eve,” Matthew L. Jockers wrote in research published last year…The study, which involved statistical parsing and aggregation of thousands of novels, made other striking observations. For example, Austen’s works cluster tightly together in style and theme, while those of George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans) range more broadly, and more closely resemble the patterns of male writers. Using similar criteria, Harriet Beecher Stowe was 20 years ahead of her time, said Mr. Jockers, whose research will soon be published in a book,“Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History” (University of Illinois Press).

As much as I stomp around these days muttering about #legitlit this and #seriouswriting that, it might be assumed that Jockers’ work interests me primarily for its study of some of the greats of classical literature.

But in fact, of much more importance to us now is the application of digital discovery to such classical treasures as the texts those authors left us. The data-craft being spun for us by Jockers is exhilarating.

As he says to Lohr, “What this technology does is let you see the big picture — the context in which a writer worked — on a scale we’ve never seen before.”

 

And Lohr rightly points out that even Jockers is new to the task. These are early forays:

At this stage, this kind of digital analysis is mostly an intriguing sign that Big Data technology is steadily pushing beyond the Internet industry and scientific research into seemingly foreign fields like the social sciences and the humanities. The new tools of discovery provide a fresh look at culture, much as the microscope gave us a closer look at the subtleties of life and the telescope opened the way to faraway galaxies.

But imagine the patterns of creativity and linguistic rigor Jockers may be uncovering — the “stylometry,” or an author’s writing style, is coming under examination as “culturomics” turns its attention this way. Lohr again:

Today, Mr. Jockers describes the tools of his trade in terms familiar to an Internet software engineer — algorithms that use machine learning and network analysis techniques. His mathematical models are tailored to identify word patterns and thematic elements in written text. The number and strength of links among novels determine influence, much the way Google ranks Web sites.

 

I love it. I want to know what Jockers knows. Every time another Shirtless Men Kissing Beautiful Women piece of romantic rubbish hits Amazon, I want to be able to turn to Hardy and know what something he might have read of Scott or Austen stuck with him—and shows up in a phrase, a line, a choice of word.

The wider the gap between good work and facile nonsense gets today, the more valuable  will be such research that can explain and elucidate what’s being lost. If we know the lines of influence behind us, we might be able to recognize some of the new breakthroughs and worthier descendants in our own writings now.

Lohr:

It is this ability to collect, measure and analyze data for meaningful insights that is the promise of Big Data technology. 

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