WRITING ON THE ETHER: Authors Have Their Day

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. Tick-TOC: Authors Have Their Day
  2. And There’s ‘Big TOC,’ Too
  3. Bookish, Yes, but Is It Readerish?
  4. Craft: The Art of the Sample
  5. Downstream of the Data
  6. Books: Reading on the Ether
  7. Conference Dome
  8. Last Gas: The Missing Number

Tick-TOC: Authors Have Their Day

You find yourself in the Publishing Workshop. Time to do some…authoring.

So what’s on the bench? Fine woods laid out for you. Spruce. Cedars. Rosewood. Your favorite stains. Finger planes. You’re getting going with a beautiful fret-slotting saw. Do you know this tool? No, but you’re learning as you go, working hard to make…something, anything, as quickly as possible.

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, TheFutureBookBecause if you build it, they will…if you build what?

Never mind. Must make content. Must sand-edit it. Must hand-sell it. Make it free. Make it $9.99. Make it now. Make it again. Make it fast.

But what is it? What was it? What was it you meant to make? Who was it you meant to be? Why was it you wanted to make or be those things?

 

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Joe Wikert

On Tuesday (February 12), we may just see a subtle awakening in New York. 

Author (R)evolution Day is something I’m proud to be a part of. I want to commend O’Reilly Media’s Joe Wikert and Kat Meyer and their co-chair from the sponsoring Bookigee and WriterCube, Kristen McLean for putting this event together.

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Kat Meyer

I came out of Digital Book World and Tools of Change last year, writing about my frustration that such industry-class events for authors were nowhere to be seen.

O’Reilly stepped up to the challenge and has created just that. We owe them our thanks.This event, at Times Square’s Marriott Marquis, is loaded with prime personalities and it’s designed with depth and insight.

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Kristen McLean

Here is a chance to stop for a day, surrounded by key thinkers and practitioners in various parts of the business—from Cory Doctorow and Laura Dawson to Jason Allen Ashlock, Amazon’s Libby Johnson McKee, and Kate Pullinger—and to ask ourselves what is this digitally empowered author to whom the central role in publishing has fallen?

And “fallen” is the right verb. No Bastille was stormed, Defarge. Digital brought down the walls for us.

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Cory Doctorow

So now what do we do?

Many blogsters want you to think they know what’s going on. And the more cock-sure they sound, the more you need to avoid them. 

Thankfully, Author (R)evolution Day is no standard tips-‘n’-tricks confab. I got what I asked for: #ARDay, as we’re hashtagging it, is an exploration. We need to hear each other’s presentations. Because we all are struggling to wake up, for God’s sake, from a hundred-year slumber. What are we here to make?

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Laura Dawson

For a day, I’m willing to suspend too much worry about the reader. The reader will be fine if we get our collective crap together.

This is not about pitchfork-waving “indie”-fanatics and 99-cents genre throwaways, after all—not even the big houses’ mightiest best-sellers accept their contracts the way they once did. Their agents are not only helping established authors to self-publish, but they’re self-publishing their own books.

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Libby Johnson McKee

Stop with me there. Let’s do that one again:

  • Agent Rachelle Gardner (as a blogger, one of the most aggressive de-mystifiers of the business for authors) is self-publishing her own work. She’s placing work all the time with publishers. But she chose to self-publish herself. Think about that.
  • An author who was in a Writer’s Digest webinar I taught in November, wrote to me this week, agonizing over whether to “self-publish or try to find an agent.” I explained to her that it’s not either/or: authors with agents are self-publishing with the help of those agents. 
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Jason Allen Ashlock

The older jig is up. (And as if we needed proof, there’s Bookish. More on that later in today’s column.)

And yet what we see is authors—many of them achingly green about what they’re walking into—trying to…make something. Half the international writing community is yelling, “Write more! Just keep writing!” The other half is shouting, “Platform more! Find your audience!”

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Kate Pullinger

Somewhere between print and ebooks, this sudden, jagged empowerment of writers has driven everybody straight into that workshop without a chance to sort out what they might be and do in this new construct. Surrounded by tools and materials, everybody flails.

“I want to write books” is not a career strategy.

That’s why I’m really pleased that after Doctorow gets us all into four-part harmony on La Marseillaise in his much anticipated keynote, “Welcome to the (R)evolution” at 9:10aET / 1410 GMT, I’ll be doing an onstage conversation at 9:30aET with Eve Bridburg“The Author Blueprint for Success.”

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Eve Bridburg

Bridburg and I are going to spend 30 minutes getting everybody off the ceiling by going over some of the discoveries she and her Launch Lab authors at Grub Street in Boston have made. I’m not going to steal her thunder here. But I’ll tell you that what makes this work so intriguing is that we’re talking architecture, of a kind—a structure, an approach in which the author takes command of her or his own power and determines what to do with it first.

Instead of making the best lute he can in that nightmarish workshop and madly trying to hawk it in a glutted marketplace, he takes stock of who he is, what he wanted to do in the first place, where various strengths lie, where others need shoring up. Authors aren’t used to being able to call the shots. Which means they aren’t accustomed to figuring out what shots to call.

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Rob Eagar

For the next iteration of her Launch Lab in the fall, Bridburg says she’s chucking half the prepared content she’d put together for the first round. Because when a group of 15 carefully selected, actively producing authors came together, they found that, most of all, they needed to focus on the logic—don’t let go of that word—the logic they now can selectively bring to their goals and careers.

Logic. I hear a line from Mac Wellman, the “language-poet” playwright:

I was in my right mind once. It seems so long ago.

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Scott James

Bridburg and her associates are working on regaining the author’s mind, if you will, and developing the plan that gets skipped over by so many in the rush to…make something.

From the “Author Blueprint” laid out on that workshop table by Bridburg’s logic-driven work, we then turn at 10aET / 1500 GMT to the similarly rational work of Rob Eagar in marketing approaches that start with what the readers are looking for.

And at 10:30aET, literary agent Jason Allen Ashlock of Movable Type Management describes “Radical Advocacy,” the recent rise of specifically entrepreneurial agents who can help guide and support authors as managers in the logic of their careers with much more reach and partnership than the old model made possible.

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Jacob Lewis

After a break, we go into a panel at 11aET on “Community-Driven Publishing,” about authors’ response and leverage of reader communities with Figment’s Jacob Lewis, Pubslush’s Amanda Barbara, the Red Hat Project’s Scott James, Glossi’s Mark Jeffrey, and Wattpad’s Allen Lau.

Attorney Dana Newman has “An Intellectual Property (IP) and Copyright Primer” at 11:50aET. And then McLean moderates two panels, one on production and distribution services, and the other on strategies for marketing and discovery

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Mark Jeffrey

The first panel, at 1:30pET / 1830 GMT, fields Leanpub’s Peter Armstrong; Argo Navis’ Sabrina McCarthy; Amazon’s North American KDP and CreateSpace director Libby Johnson McKee; and Net Minds’ Tim Sanders.

The second panel, at 2:20pET, features Cevin Bryerman, vice president of the co-sponsoring Publishers Weekly; Immersedition’s Amanda Havard; Penguin’s Elizabeth Keenan; Kobo’s Mark Lefebvre; and NetGalley’s Tarah Theoret.

 

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Mark Lefebvre

Bowker’s Laura Dawson focuses on metadata for authors in “Embracing Data” at 3:30pET / 2030 GMT; Kate Pullinger of Bath Spa University takes on the logical extensions of transmedia in “Way Beyond the Book” at 4pET, and Wikert, Meyer, and McLean wrap the day at 4:30pET.

The day promises to be one of the most spirited and targeted exchanges yet on the peculiar power of the post-digital author.

See the conferences section below for information on this Friday’s third of three tweet-chats at 4pET / 2100 GMT.

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Dana Newman

As of this writing, there’s still time to get in, some seats are left. If you can be in New York on Tuesday, move quickly to register. And by all means avail yourself of the really generous price break O’Reilly is offering: discount/promotional code AFFILIATEPA will take $350 off the cost of the day, dropping it to $295, a pretty incredible price for such a gathering. It would be grand to have you there.

If you can’t be with us on-site, follow the #ARDay hashtag.

And one way to review tweets from a session you miss is to check the Epilogger account tracking both Author (R)evolution Day and TOC, itself (hashtag #TOCcon).

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And There’s ‘Big TOC,’ Too

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We’re told that TOC will again live-stream the keynote addresses on its site, Some key events I’m looking forward to:

As mentioned earlier this week in Ether for Authors at Publishing Perspectives, Tim O’Reilly’s opening address, “Some Reasons for Optimism.”

 

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Brian David Johnson

Henry Jenkins’ conversation with Intel futurist Brian David Johnson and Cory Doctorow.

The Publishing Startup Showcase with 10 firms. This year it’s not such a Parade of the  Cutesy Corporate Names as in the past, too. (I’m forgiving Speakaboos because its gently jiggling icons and mouthy green dinosaur are for kids, apparently. Never having been a kid, myself, I must take others’ word for this.)

Douglas Rushkoff’s “Present Shock” address. Yes, he of Cyberia, Media Virus, Program or Be Programmed, and the upcoming (March 21) Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now.

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Douglas Rushkoff

Rushkoff is followed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, who’s going to give us the (not so) Obvious Corporation’s understanding of why his new platform Medium is happy in a session called, Obviously, Medium.

Then Williams and Rushkoff are to have a “fireside chat” (I’ll be watching for the fire) about “about the future of the Web, and the implications for authors, readers, and the publishing industry.”

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Erin Kissane

Erin Kissane’s double-session panel, “When Tech Becomes Part of the Story,” is on how “technology is influencing art and authoring,” and features Todd Boss of Motionpoems; Louis-Jacques Darveau of The Alpine Review; Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn of The Silent History; and Kate Pullinger of Bath Spa University.

Alexandra Gillespie’s “The Once and Future Book” is based on her studies of medieval book production, which is what it seems as if some people in the biz are holding onto.

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Maria Popova

And Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings session, titled, modestly enough, Maria Popova.

So much more. If you’re deciding you want to register now, good, go for it. As with the Author Day program, discount code AFFILIATEPA will give you $350 off any package you choose.

 

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Bookish, Yes, but Is It Readerish?

Two years in the making. And it’s barely a topic of conversation two days later.

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 Two years late. And the two years in question have been very expensive in terms of Amazon’s unparalleled ascendancy and Goodreads’ creation of a formidable beachhead.

In fact, we’d been waiting so long for the site to show up that one might be forgiven for forgetting it has a cutesy name. We’ve said it so much now, it’s an accepted feature of the lexicon. Like “weapons of mass destruction.”

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As Michael Cader led his nicely headlined Publishers Lunch writeup, Ish No More; Bookish.com Is Live:

After years of development, three CEOs, eight figures of funding and the challenges of operating a start-up joint venture after the founding partners negotiated settlements with the Department of Justice over alleged collusion, Bookish.com officially launched to the public on Monday evening. (As HBG ceo David Young told the AP, “We received clearance for Bookish, but every time any of us talk about something we have to conform to the DOJ rules.”)

Bookish was intended—and this is my saying of it, not the site’s—as a major publishers’ answer to Amazon. As traditional lines of distribution have collapsed, the idea of publishers getting good at going directly to their “new” customers, the readers rather than the retailers, seemed to be embodied in the long-stalled advent of Bookish.

It was to be, in short, a way forward.

Clearly, however, its nighttime roll-out Monday evening has left many folks disappointed and quickly critical.

 

Maybe too quickly. After all, even Netflix’s pretty-smart recommendations don’t occur through divine inspiration. Nor can those endlessly vaunted hand-sellers at bookstores look at you and guess exactly what you want to read. Magical creatures though they seem to be in the hindsight of an industry out on a limb, they, too, need a few hints as to what on Earth you might like.

Laura Hazard Owen

At paidContent, Laura Hazard Owen tells me she’s impressed with Bookish’s algorithm auteur, Karen Sun, who speaks of “deep, introspective” data. Sounds so soothing, no?

In , Owen writes:

Online book discovery is a huge problem for publishers, and Bookish tackles it with a recommendation algorithm that lets users input up to four titles to find what to read next.

“We’re very much a technology company,” Karen Sun, an MIT grad (and book blogger) who is heading the company’s recommendation engine, told me. “This is probably the largest venture in the book space, in terms of data.”

Sun explained that while Amazon and Goodreads primarily deliver book recommendations based on “collaborative filtering”…Bookish doesn’t have that user or purchase data yet. Instead, it relies on “deep, introspective” data: “Recommendations are based on the books and understanding of the books.”

 

Comments from readers on Owen’s story are indicative of the consternation with which many have greeted the publishers-strike-back site. Excerpts:

I entered “Sex at Dawn”, and it returned nothing in the same subject of evolutionary psychology…

…It would appear that authors’ names cannot be entered into the book search box, only titles. [I ran into the same issue in testing it.]…

…Entering David Potter’s The Impending Crisis did retrieve some related books but only four whereas Amazon pulled up 14 pages of related books…

…Drilling down into the recommendations, the second level pulled up The Confederate War by Gary Gallagher. Good, except the book is not available from Bookish so I checked the other buying options: Amazon and B&N both available at a discount. IndieBooks, only special order from the closest bookstore to me, some 40 miles away, iBooks brings up a link to downloading iBooks software, Kobo’s link is to their homepage, not the book, and BooksaMillion retrieved a 404 message.

 

Next: consider that five of the major publishers associated with Bookish (Hachette, Simon and Schuster and Penguin are financing partners) have been badly burned by what the Department of Justice deemed collusion among publishers. And then imagine the Big Six and some others getting together to open their own showcase and storefront.

As Owen writes in an update:

It’s a tricky balance…steering clear of DOJ, avoiding angering retailers, and still selling direct — tough combo. I realize now that [CEO Andy] Khazaei can’t have a lot of direct knowledge of it, but it does seem as if the individual publishers will now have the chance to experiment with some discounting on their own, individually.

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But get that: here’s the chief officer of Bookish—the third CEO, you’ll notice, in this troubling venture—unable to involve himself in the sales part of the operation. Can this be practical?

Other impediments:

  • No self-published material, or: How To Honk Off the Newly Empowered Authors of the World.
  • No social component for recommendations or interactivity. I agree with Owen on this, that this is a refreshing element. Speaking only for myself, not for Owen, I’m sick of social, social, social, and would rather have Sun’s algorithms struggling to sort out what I might like than trust somebody who knows me on Twitter to figure out what I’ll read. But many, many others will not like the no-social element of Bookish. If they can’t trade their cat pictures, will they come?
  • To me, the biggest miss is the lack of .mobi files. Meaning no Kindle-ready versions of books. Like it or not—and it’s safe to assume these publishers do not like it—Amazon’s Kindle family of readers and tablets is the world’s leading line of e-readers, and as we have learned (see this section of Ether for Authors), Barnes and Noble’s Nook devices appear to be mounting less than a credible retort. 

For now, the company line is that Bookish isn’t about bookselling. (How long before it’s claimed that every time Bookish sells a volume, a bookstore worker somewhere goes without lunch?). No, Bookish claims to be about book discovery.

Somehow that assertion flaps in the breeze like an ill-fitting figleaf.

 

But to that end, the site is posting some so-far unremarkable “original content”—articles which are to get some play in USA Today the Onion.

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Chad Post

None of which mollifies Chad Post at the University of Rochester-based Three Percent site. While he covers himself in apologies for his tone in Bookish: What It Isn’t [Weekly Rant #1], Post posts a blisteringly rational assault on this lame debut, well worth a read. To wit:

The fact that there’s an ad for Total Frat Move on Bookish, pretty much eliminates about 85% of its credibility. Sure, it’s there because TFM is published by one of the publishers putting up the money for this site—an issue I’m going to get into below. Putting that aside, it’s not very reassuring that a site billing itself as the “next great book discovery site” believes that writing like this is worth sharing with the general public.”

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Once again, not to make fun of corporate CEOs and shills, but Jesus fuck is it clear that the people behind Bookish have never visited Pitchfork.com. And that’s the real tragedy that’s driving my piss-offedness.

“The real tragedy,” as it takes on its darkening focus in Post’s purview is that “an editorial vision has been replaced by an algorithm.”

Why hire 20 editors to curate reviews and cultivate a reading community when you can get readers to piss away spend their time entering in gobs of information about which books they’ve read, bought, and liked, and then crunch that data and recommend that the next book they read is Hunger Games?

 

Warming my cutesy-exhausted soul, Post mentions Bookish’s “rather corporate, lame name,” and goes right to the biased heart of the matter:

Note that on the opening page of Bookish, you’ll find the tagline “We Know Books” above images of Tina Fey’s Bossypants and J.K. Rowling’sThe Casual Vacancy. “We Know Certain Books” is a much more accurate statement

Among his canniest insights into the anti-Amazonian culture of the industry, he refers to Bookish as “a place (where) corporate publishing folks can buy their books without feeling like they’re betraying their employers.”

And drawing his conclusions as questions, Post levels his most damning explication of the problems of Bookish:

The point is, why would I stop buying from Amazon (if I don’t have huge moral issues), to go to Bookish? Why would I stop updating the GoodReads account I’ve been using for years to try to recreate it on Bookish?

Why, indeed? None of this means that Bookish can’t succeed on some levels, of course. But overall, this has not been an auspicious start. Whether it reflects, as Post asserts, ignorance on the parts of these major publishers, is something we can’t know with certainty, at least not yet.

What it seems likely we can say with assurance right now is, in Post’s angry words:

Real innovation is hard to find at this level.

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Craft: The Art of the Sample

Because there are so many ebooks available, readers are increasingly unforgiving if a book doesn’t fit what they are looking for. 

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J.F. Penn

And while the importance of strong opening pages has always been a major factor, writes Ether sponsor Joanna Penn—for everything from getting an agent to snagging a browsing reader in a bricks-and-mortar store—this makes an ebook’s free sample pivotal.

And to that end, Penn offers some pointers in a post, How EBook Readers Shop And The Importance Of Sampling:

Get into the meat as soon as possible. Put all the acknowledgements and extra stuff at the back, not within the sample.

During the editing process, make sure you pay particular attention to what will hook the reader.

Make sure the formatting is excellent and easy to read throughout. I have deleted samples straight away when they start with coding errors. [I have, too.]

If non-fiction, DO include the table of contents. If fiction, your chapters don’t really add anything so aren’t so necessary.

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, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBookHer last comment regarding chapters in fiction not adding anything in a sample drew some heat in comments.

But her point is sound: A nonfiction reader needs to know from a table of contents what’s covered in the course of a book—it needs to be in the sample. While a fiction reader isn’t perusing a litany of factual points but searching for an engrossing story; a table of contents means little.

And whichever you’re writing, fiction or nonfiction, that sample has to pull its weight. They’ll use it to buy your book. Or they’ll delete it.

There’s no argument on which response we prefer.

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Downstream of the Data

The middle of this month will be one of the most intensive for the industry! the industry! (which even on the best of days is nothing if not intense).

https://twitter.com/Book2Camp/status/299626328473337856

As a quick reference to when and where to watch for some coverage:

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Books: Reading on the Ether

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James Scott Bell

Of special note to regular readers of the column is the publication of a new novel (a zombie-free one, I believe) by James Scott Bell, Friend of the Ether and opening keynote speaker at Writer’s Digest Conference East in New York City on April 5.

Don’t Leave Me is out now.

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 Bell is also teaching a Boot Camp session at #WCE (the hashtag for Writer’s Digest Conference East), as am I. His is titled “Writing a Novel They Can’t Put Down.” Mine is “Public Speaking for Writers: How to Turn Your Readings into Book Sales.” And the two sessions don’t conflict: you can take both our courses. How handy.

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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Conference Dome

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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February 10 New York City Book^2Camp: “A free series of meetings in New York City and elsewhere where the brightest minds in Publishing and Technology discuss and problem-solve what the next incarnation of the book will be. We’ll meet in small groups and have collaborative, conversational meetings on everything from eReaders, eBook formatting, interesting paper book projects, digital rights management (or not), social reading, metadata, reading upside down on the moon with robot zombies and anything else we can think of.”

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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 third of three tweet chats.

It’s at 4pET / 1pPT / 2100 GMT on Friday. The hashtag to follow is #ARDay.

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Peter Armstrong

This week’s topic — Friday, February 8 — is Lean Publishing for Authors, and includes hosts Kat Meyer and Kristen McLean, along with Author ( R )evolution Day panelist Peter Armstrong of Leanpub.com.

If you miss the chat, you can review the tweets and other pre-ARDay/TOC materials on our Epilogger tracker.

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). 

 


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.”

 

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.”

 

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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.

 

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

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.)

https://twitter.com/alaindebotton/status/299330322020061184

 

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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 Bridburg’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: The Missing Number

There is a number I’d like to know, if I knew it, I think it would help me explain some things that currently seem inexplicable to some and unclear to me.

 

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

Eoin Purcell

Eoin Purcell in Dublin is looking for something specific, in In Search of the Number, something we don’t yet know.

I know the number exists because I can phrase questions to which the number is the answer…Those questions can be expressed two ways:

– The first; at what £/$/€ spend does a primarily print book reader become a primarily ebook reader?

– The second; at what number of books read does a primarily print book reader become a primarily ebook reader?

And the associated question:

- Which indicator is more reliable?—ie: is a reader more likely to shift formats because they become comfortable reading ebooks or because they have managed to spend a certain amount of money on ebooks?

 

As TOC-heavy as the coming days will be—and this is a good, healthy thing, not a negative—this is the sort of question we need to test against our own experience and our  that of our cohorts.

Because to some degree, the whole business right now is in that Publishing Workshop in which we found the newly empowered author at the start of the Ether today. The industry! the industry! doesn’t really know what it’s doing yet. And one of the fundamental mysteries is how and when and for what our readers flip from print to e-.

Purcell writes:

I strongly suspect that the answer to the follow-on question is that a reader shifts when they become comfortable reading which happens after X (where X is the number) ebooks read…However, there’ll be an average number of books, an average I guarantee that Amazon knows, that B&N certainly knows and that Kobo, Apple, Google and Sony know (or suspect).

Publishing PerspectivesOddly, and maybe alarmingly, Purcell sees a darkening logic in this—that word again—for the 20p ongoing promotional effort Sony has waged in the UK. (I’ve covered this recently in Ether for Authors at Publishing Perspectives.)

When you think…about 20p ebooks, which seems to have confounded and angered so much of the industry (though to me, just lacked a clear logic that I was aware of, it HAD to have a logic, even if the logic was wrong) they start to make an awful lot of sense. Once you’ve converted the print reader to ebooks (and especially if you shift them to your ecosystem) there’ll be loads of time to drive up the revenue you earn from that consumer. The lost revenue before they convert is simply customer acquisition cost.

Purcell always leaves us with a little aha, both relevatory and discomfiting.

See why the number is important to know?

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Main image: iStockphoto: Tomm L.

 

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Porter Anderson (Find him on Twitter / Find him at Google+) is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute. As a journalist, he has worked with three networks of CNN, The Village Voice, Dallas Times Herald, D Magazine, and other outlets. He contributes to Digital Book World’s Expert Publishing Blog and to Writer Unboxed, and has been posted by the United Nations to Rome (P-5, laissez-passer) for the World Food Programme. He is based in Tampa. His companion to this column, Issues on the Ether Issues on the Ether, appears on Tuesdays at PublishingPerspectives.com, and is followed by a live chat on Twitter each Wednesday, hashtagged #EtherIssue. His Porter Anderson Meets series of interviews for London's The Bookseller features a live Twitter interview each Monday hashtagged #PorterMeets, followed by a write-up in the magazine on the stands each Friday. More at PorterAndersonMedia.com.

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks, friend, for the kind mention of Don’t Leave Me. And for the section on Bookish. I was telling people a couple of years ago that this is what major publishers had to try. There’s been lag time, which is not a good thing in this race, but now here it is. As already noted, there is Amazon and Goodreads and other hubs already established, and the competition is fierce. Being late to this party, one better be dressed to the nines, and here it appears to be four-and-a-halfs. The site is also dominated by A list authors, which is going to be a point of consideration for midlist and new authors making a decision about going in with one of the bigs. Note to authors and agents: this ought to be a point of negotiation. Perhaps a Bookish footprint will replace co-op bookstore placement, only without the cost. Thus, it should be open to any author.

    If nothing else, this is a fascinating business study, based on survival, attempted innovation, and the need for speed.

    • @jamesscottbell:disqus

      Congrats again on the release of the new book, Jim, and thanks for the good comment here.

      Yeah, there’s nothing to high-five about on the Bookish story, I’m afraid — we need new ventures that succeed, not fail, after all. But “four-and-a-halfs” sounds about right in this case, I fear, and your point about the A-list authors is really cogent. Between that and the blinders when it comes to .mobi files, there clearly are stark issues here, more blatant than I’d have expected them to be.

      I do like your idea of the “Bookish footprint” as a bargaining chip. But I’d recommend authors in a strong position also hold out for the all-formats (including mobi) availability that simply has to be a part of publishing today, no matter who you love in Seattle or New York. After all, consumers can access Amazon via Bookish for purchases if they choose (or other sites). It all begins to look worse than four-and-a-halfs and really just a bit tawdry.

      Finally what this does is make it harder and harder for anyone to defend the “Bigs.” Events of this kind are too big and too telling for anyone to dart around on a quick dance of denial.

      As you say, a fascinating business study.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting, great to have you and all the best with the new book!

      -p.

  2. Pingback: O'Reilly's Tools of Change Devotes a Unique Conference Day to Authors | Publishing Digital Book Apps for Kids | Scoop.it

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