Book Camp TO 2009: The Round-Up

Book Camp TO grew organically out of the demise of Book Expo Canada. With no forum for discussion remaining, several enterprising book people got together, set up a wiki page, and managed to convince U of T to house us and BookNet to feed us.

What resulted was a gathering of publishing folk, designers, freelancers, authors and readers for six sessions to share information and ask questions. Oh and check out this Flickr page for pics, including a photo of yours truly looking very dour.

Here's what I got out of it:

1) What is a publisher?
-With an increase in online self-publishing avenues the question arises: what exactly is a publisher anymore? A couple of incised author insisted that publishers should be marketers and editing services while publishers asked that it be a collaborative process. Online allows publishers to market directly to the consumer (instead of the old business to business model) and building on an author's list when using social media enhances the process.
-Branding was discussed and it was asked whether it was worth branding a publishing house. For smaller publishing houses I think that could work (for example, Coach House has a devoted following) but for the average reader, who cares about whether it's a Random House book? I think most readers pick up books because of the author or word of mouth.
-It was mentioned that self-publishing will allow established publishers to publish less and better and I think this is right on the money.

2) Where is the review coverage now that book sections are shrinking?
-There was a lot of discussion here about whether the long review (as exists in major print newspapers) can survive online. One faction felt that online only serves bite-sized news, another felt that no critical community has yet established itself on the Internet.
-Agreement all around that our reviewer culture needs to be more critical (not crueler). The problem is that our literary community in Canada is small. This is off topic but hey, it's true.
-Someone pointed out that if you really want to read a long piece on the Net, you will. The Internet allows anyone to self-publish and that means there's more CaCa to wade through but that doesn't mean there isn't solid content available.
-I think that long form reviews can be tricky as glare from computers makes it hard to read long pieces (though not impossible).
-I wish that we'd think more about the potential of online instead of its shortcomings. The newspaper can't host video, can't link to other information, can't house comments.

3) Intersection of video game and narrative?
-Video games are being developed with extensive narrative but they tend to be linear. What can we do to involve the reader in the process? How involved can the reader be, especially in fiction, without discrediting the author?
-Will women be interested in a video game book? Consensus was that although game developers aren't doing much to cater to women, certain types of video games that stress relationship or world building such as Sims and World of Warcraft, have a female following.
-Also discussed was building commentary within a book, like having a real-time book club. This would require an e-reader with wireless access, a smart phone, or a PC, of course.
-My take: this topic is very new but advances have been made like We Tell Stories from Penguin UK. This is a good model to go from.

4) Online book communities
-This became a sort of coaching session on e-marketing. What came out of this was that authors/publishers need to focus on strategy not tactics i.e. NOT "let's get on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and 1000 other online communities and spam everyone!" but "who would be interested in this book and where do they live online?"
-Also mentioned was the fact that communities take time to build and so you, author or publisher, must respect that and take the time to integrate into that online book community. It's not 'sexy work' but it is authentic. For example, listserves apparently are a great way to reach people (OLD people maybe haha).
-Podcasting is hot (I wrote that down..what does that mean??)

5) How to be a digital marketing rockstar
-Oh man oh man I was not happy with this session. The moderator, Mitch Joel, spent too much time lecturing and I wasn't into it since this was supposed to be an unconference. Many ideas from the previous session were rehashed.
-One thing that did come out of this session was the idea that we should not be giving anything away for free. Joel has a music biz background and he said that that business can give away tracks for free because revenue can still be derived from merch or concert tickets. Whereas if you give away a book, or even part of a book, well that's all you're selling so how else are you going to make cash money? People value items becaue they have monetary value (true story) and books will be valued less if they're free. I didn't agree with this sentiment before but I do now. Authors need to be adding value by writing articles or blogs that will draw in readers, not taking away value.
-Also mentioned: the average reader does not care about publishers' websites. The focus should be on creating ties to established and up-and-coming online media and communities.

(By the sixth session I felt I was done. It was Saturday, after all, and I had a wicked craving for Booster Juice.)

Further Conversation:

Book Camp TO: the wiki page where it all started.
Torontoist: Casual set-up makes for interesting conversation.
Threepress: Too many Luddites spreading fear about digital publishing!
BookNet Canada: Check egos at the door and quiet people, speak up!
Books On The Radio: Apparently I'm in a cage match with Mitch Joel?

If you have a link, please add in the comments section.


JK said...

My two cents on bookcamp:

Probably too long for anyone to read (according to session 2), but hopefully the point form will help compensate.

Mesonto said...

Great to see a review of all the lectures I didn't go to. Thank you for the read.

Mitch Joel - Twist Image said...

I agree with your comment. I asked for a more Q&A format and posed questions to the group. I would have loved much more conversation.

I'm sorry you did not like the session. I tried to give a ton of free info on how to think differently about marketing books online. Why didn't you ask a question or help navigate it to be more conversational?

B.Kienapple said...

Thanks all for the discussion. Mitch thank you for the session, you did make many informative points, especially regarding the contentious topic of 'giving it away'. I think that many people from the previous session attended yours as well and since there was an overlap of subject, we may have been tapped out. Also, I hope there will be smaller groupings next year as the session sizes were a bit intimidating, especially to biz newbies like myself.

miette said...

I think your cryptic "Podcasting is Hot" meant "Podcasting is HOT-T-T." Thanks for attending everything I didn't!! -- Mtte.


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