Book Camp Toronto 2010: The Lowdown on the Publishing Event of the Year!

Last Saturday I attended the second annual BookCamp Toronto. For you folks not familiar with the concept, it's an all day conference open to publishers, authors, booksellers, media and the merely curious. Anyone can propose a session (and lead one) and discussion is favored over lecture. It's one part meeting of the minds and one part, hey let's see what we all look like IRL (in real life)!
So how was the beast? Alright. I think I picked the wrong sessions. I skipped the Kobo sesison because (pardon my French) I thought it would be a giant Kobo BJ but I totally forgot that Michael Tamblyn is an amazing speaker (and serves wine in the AM!). And then I didn't go to see Ingrid Paulson's session on design because I was trying to wear my publicist hat but hey, I really like design! Word to the wise, don't pick your sessions based on topic, pick them based on the session leaders/speakers! So without further ado, here's what I learned. Comment away if you agree/disagree or if you think I was a total bonehead for skipping the amazing session you attended.

7 am: It's Saturday. It's Saturday! Tra-la-la it's Saturday! It's get up for BookCamp? *cue contempt for sleeping better half*

8:30am: Hey now I'm watching Constantine. He's like Neo, but not as cool. Man, those demons are super lo-fi. I'll make another cup of coffee.

9:30am: Yeah, I'm officially late.

10:30am: Literary Publications: the Grassroots

(Led by Stuart Woods of Quill and Quire and Clelia Scala of Open Book Toronto)

Is there money to be made from expanding online? Stuart mentioned that many people know Quill through their blog, which is unusual since it's lowest on their priority list. Quill also has a paywall and this seems to have worked well for niche media such as themselves (another example is the Wall Street Journal). Woods wondered if small literary mags could get revenue from online paid content but idea seems to be that money isn't going to be made from subscriptions, it will always be government funding that will support these hyper niche publications. Indeed, Open Book Toronto (which we're told is expanding to include content from the rest of the province) is funded entirely by government sources. There was also talk of selling apps - McSweeney's charges $5 for a six month subscription and apparently the app is very well done. Web content is always a good supplement between issues, it just won't make a ton of cash.

Conclusion: I didn't feel like much came out of this session other than online is not going to be the savior of literary print publications. But since I'm tired of the web being seen as the savior of everything (marketing campaigns, careers, a boring Tuesday night) reaching that conclusion was still A-OK.

11:30am Writing, Editing and Distribution Is For Everyone
Led by Wattpad CEO Allen Lau

Wattpad is a website where you can post and read stories online for free. Advertising supports the site. They get over 10 million visitors and have over 40,000 documents uploaded per month. Wattpad has never (!) spent any marketing dollars as the authors promote their own work and thus drive traffic to the site. *salivates*

80% of visitors are female and 80% of that are under 25. Translation: tons o' vampire fic, fan fic, romance and erotica. Wattpad also lets you insert videos, art etc. in your online story. There is no DRM but copy and paste has been disabled. Lau mentioned that this model is not going to replace traditional publishing but that it will supplement and support it.

Conclusion: There was a mass exodus from this session about a quarter of the way through. It stank of brand promotion but it turned out to be fairly decent, if only to discover why I keep getting emails about this company at work.

2pm CBC Canada Reads
Led by Jen Knoch (KIRBC), Rosie Fernandez (CBC), Kimberly Walsh (CBC), Kerry Clare (Pickle Me This) and Steven Beattie (That Shakespearean Rag)

Back patting! CBC thanked the bloggers who participated for curating information and increasing participation and the bloggers praised the Ceeb for encouraging the nation to read. There was some discussion of whether the reality show-like format took away from the books or drew people into the discussion. The consensus was that it encouraged people to buy and read all five books as the format made them want to champion their favorite. The fact is that Canada Reads builds community in a way no other literary competition in Canada has managed to achieve (GG and Gillers included) and that is due to the fact that the audience is in on the selection process.

There was also talk of a need for (online) follow up programming so that the winning book can be further dicussed and debated. The idea was floated of putting ordinary people on the show (not musicians/D list celebrities) but radio needs personality, not relatability so much. August interjected, Steven Beattie demurred which made me think...

Conclusion: Is August Bourre the new Steven Beattie? Also, someone whispered to me that the Ceeb hijacked this session. The idea added a nice dramatic touch to my day. Thing is, though, that Canada Reads is the Ceeb's so I completely understand that they feel protective of it. [Edit: see Hugh's comment on how this session shaped up below.]

3pm Data-geek Extravaganza! Bibliographic Metadata
Led by Julia Horel O'Brien (LitDisCo) and Meghan MacDonald (Book Net Canada)

zzzzzz. I tried to get into another session and it was full so I had to crawl back to this one. Sorry panelists, I just had no idea what was going on. Too technical for ol' B. Que mental nap for an hour.

4pm Building and Sustaining a Community of Readers Online
Led by Tan Light (Random House), Kimberly Walsh (CBC) and Meg Mathur (Indigo)

Tan discussed the need for authors to balance their use of social media (to promote their books) and their actual writing. It can be time consuming to engage with your readers on social media but if done correctly it can deepen your audience's commitment to your writing/brand. Kelly Armstrong was cited as a good example of engaging with her community (there's a fine line between engaging with a community and selling to them. Don't cross it. Relationships must always come before business). Addressing negative comments was also mentioned - if you're an author, well, don't, but if you're managing an online community make sure you do address those customer service complaints as it humanizes the process and will ultimately decrease overall negativity in your community.

Conclusion: I am all up in this business, this is my bread and butter! In dealing with the Blogger and Books Network and my own blog I have so many ideas however speaking up in large groups is the stuff of nightmares for me. Maybe I'll do a couple of "rules for social media" posts in the future?

5pm Goodbyes and then depart

Overall, BookCamp 2010 was time well spent, mostly because I got to talk to many people I wanted to meet, including the swell folks at CBC Books. I do have a few comments as to how I'd like to see BookCamp evolve but I'll leave that for tomorrow's post!

Edit: Mark's kindly listed all the online coverage at Index//MB


charlotteashley said...

I'm sorry I didn't say hi to you this weekend! I was suffering from some pretty intense shyness, and kept waiting for other people to approach me instead (*headbag*). Was sad you didn't make it to the Bedford while I was there, though - by the time there was beer involved, I was much more social. ;)

Nevertheless, it was nice to see you...

Heather said...

Sounds like an interesting event. Not so much aimed at the general reader though. As you mentioned Kelley Armstrong, I did meet her that same day, she was one of the guest authors at an event hosted in Kitchener. Turning Pages: A Literary Festival

B.Kienapple said...

It was nice to see you too! I did spy you there but the weirdness factor of being like "hey I read your blog!" is to the power of 11 (also, little known fact, I'm the shyest publicist ever!). Nevertheless, hopefully we will run into each other at YPC in the near future.

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Heather, it might be fun to do some sessions aimed at book bloggers in the future. You met Kelly Armstrong? Awesome! I really really need to read one of her books.

Hugh McGuire said...

Hi B,

Glad you made it - I keep not managing to intro myself, even though we've been at the same event a handful of times.

Just a quick clarification re: CBC/hijacking:
Someone from CBC proposed a session about "engaging readers" ... which I listed as a session about CBC Canada Reads. The Canada Reads people were justifiably confused, and asked whether they could ... join the session about them! In the end we had room to give them their own slot to talk specifically about CR. So it all worked out in the end, no hijacking! ;-)

Oh, also: Mark listed the online coverage at index.mb ... not me ;-)

August said...

Oooh, you're going to have to remind me what I said. All I really remember from the CBC session (that I said) is that I had wanted to trash Generation X publicly and that the Canada Reads site was a mess.

I'm not sure how I feel about being the new Steven Beattie. Is it like a Dread Pirate Roberts thing? (The Dread Pirate Beattie?) I'm not sure there's anything wrong with the old Steven Beattie. ;)

August said...

Also: I meant to come over and say hello, but I kept getting sidetracked, and then simply couldn't find you. Next time!

Nic Boshart said...

Ha! Kobo BJ.
And metadata is never boring! Obviously you tuned out for the part where good data is integral for strong online marketing and publicity. If people can't find your book, they can't read your book.

August: All you have to do is hate everything except Justin Bieber.

B.Kienapple said...

Hugh-Thank you for the clarification. I am terrible with idle gossip. And yes, one day we will be formally introduced.

August-I found your comments direct, refreshing and a little curmudgeonly. Usually SB cuts the crap but since you did so in this session, I am designating you as the up and coming SB.

Nic-Metadata is never going to reach my neck of the woods. I am terrified of data. Terrified. I cannot bear it. And yes, August needs to cultivate a deep love of all things Bieber to really take the crown.

Erin said...

I, too, am terrified of data. But I feel an argument can be made that someone can support and believe excellent metadata is essential for the success of, well, everything in publishing, without actually having to understand it.

Thanks for your commentary on the day, B! I love reading everyone's thoughts about what they took away from the sessions.


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