Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Publishers Are Scarce at SXSW

Book publishers--and agents--are scarce at SXSW’s Interactive Festival, and when they do show up, they’re not always treated with love and respect (see Booksquare's "New Think? Not So Much"), but at worst it’s a love-hate relationship between the digital crowd and the page turners. At best--and there is a bright side--it’s because this crowd (about 9,000 of them) loves books and wants publishers to do with them what digital creatives have been able to do to movies, music, comics, art, games, and many other aspects of life--enhance it in ways that makes it smarter, more intuitive, faster, more responsive.

The few publishers at SXSW include several from Penguin, which hosted an inadvertently raucous panel that pitted a group of publishers against an angry crowd of bloggers, authors, and digerati. The panel included Clay Shirky and Bloomsbury’s Peter Miller as well as the two Penguins, Ivan Held and John Fagan, who--to give them credit--chose to come to Austin because they knew they should engage with this group. In the audience were a few others, including Taunton’s Don Linn. Several more are also at SXSW, but given the amount of book talk here, it's amazing what a disconnect there is between the book talk and the book publishers present. Nate Silver, in his interview with Stephen Baker (The Numerati), mentioned Irrational Exuberance and Nixonland. Silver is also writing (okay, he admitted, still outlining) a book for, ironically, Penguin Press. A panel of teenagers assembled by Anastasia of Ypulse revealed that, despite being obsessed with iPhones, Xboxes, and MySpace/Facebook, they are readers too--Stephen King, J. D. Salinger, Watchmen, Joe Haldeman--all read as p- or e-books, depending on where they can get them fast and free.

There are also dozens of author signings, right in the middle of the trade show, where B&N has set up a ministore. Oh, and lots of authors, including Jeff Howe, Chris Rettstatt, Guy Kawasaki, Sloane Crosley--in a range of categories, from fantasy, business, marketing, to futurist, and humor books--have long lines of fans.

But the point is not just that there are books are readers here in Austin; the point is that there are creative people who are blogging, tweeting, composing, developing, and conceptualizing in a remarkable variety of areas that could both inform publishing and out of which brilliant and marketable books could emerge. Why isn’t the book world in this glorious playpen?

If you are a book publisher who's at SXSW this year, let us know in the comments.

Friday, March 13, 2009

From Production to Interaction

For those of us who are in the business of keeping abreast of industry trends, this week will rank as one of the busiest, filled with all manner of diverting events.

It started tamely enough with the American Book Producers Association's annual conference, which had actually been moved from the end of last year to March 10 in hopes of attracting a larger crowd (it did). As usual, the morning sessions were devoted to walking members through the nuts and bolts of the business, but in the afternoon, two panels brought a group of publishers and consulting types on to the stage to opine. In the first panel HarperCollins' Carolyn Pittis got a discussion on "The Internet and Electronic Publishing" going. Everyone had a story to share, including Seth Radwell, recently of Scholastic, who talked about a survey he's been involved with on converting readers to ebook buyers. It shows that the barriers to ebook purchase are cost (61%) and lack of experience with the product (57%), followed by two lesser issues personal preferences (40%) and convenience (37%), resulting in only 1% of the 55% of those aware of ebooks actually completing a purchase. However, 'Try it, you'll like it' is true -- more than a third of those who tried, bought. The digital panel was followed by a "Trends in Publishing" panel, where Bob Miller, David Steinberger, Doug Pocock and Don Weisberg shared their insights about dealing with the changing landscape (stressing focus/niche/quality) after Google's Roland Lange had attempted to turn the panel into yet another informercial for Google Book Search.

That subject was front and center on March 11 at the annual AAP meeting, which included a demo of the new Google Books Registry ( along with an interview with Google's Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond. But with Bill Clinton as the surprise speaker, it was hard to concentrate on much else. Still, John Sargent said a fond farewell to AAP CEO Pat Schroeder, but not before ribbing her for signing her name at the bottom of letters, accompanied by a smiley face. (Is it a surprise that she's retiring to Celebration, Florida?)

Now comes the interactive side of the week -- South By Southwest, where developers, social networkers, and the occasional publisher will mingle in between panels on "Online Comic Books," "Remixing the Museum Exhibition" and "SEO for Startups." Penguin is throwing a party for Clay Shirkey right after a panel on "New Think for Old Publishers," and Sourcebooks' Dominique Raccah will undoubtedly be hanging out with Taunton's Don Linn, Cookstr's Will Schwalbe and Fourth Story Media's Lisa Holton -- all old (or ex-) publishers who think very, very new.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Twitter Trends on Trend Central

Trend Central is a great site that covers up and coming people and trends in music, lifestyle, entertainment, and media. Today their topic is what's new with Twitter, including:

Twitter Branding: Want to check out how the competition is using Twitter? A new directory of tweeting brands, Twitter Tracker, compiles real-time updates from companies using the service, such as Whole Foods, JetBlue, and Starbucks.
Check out the full list here. You can also sign up to have their short trend newsletters e-mailed to you daily.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How TSTC Publishing Uses Twitter

Since our article on how book publishers should be using Twitter, some other publishers have chimed in with their own experiences. Here's Mark Long, publisher of TSTC Publishing in Texas, on how Twitter can help small companies track larger trends:

"For me, I think the best part of Twitter is being able to engage in the ongoing 'conversation' about the publishing industry . . . something I wouldn't be able to do face to face as we're based in Waco, Texas. We follow bookstores, bookstore buyers, sales reps, freelance consultants, and, of course, other publishers. It's a great way to stay in the loop of what's happening in the industry all over the country (and beyond) and not just working in a vacuum in our own office. And, it's nice to be able to drop these folks a line periodically to ask (and answer on our own end as well) questions that crop up that are pretty specific that nobody we know around here could address.

"Plus, given that I was really interested in publishing long before I began working in it, I think Twitter is a good way to get a sense of the day-to-day realities of the industry. (It's certainly not long martini lunches . . . although we do eat at On The Border pretty regularly with folks.) I was a college English teacher for about 10 years and I like Twittering in the sense that it gives our graphics and editorial interns an idea of what goes on outside of the specific work they do for us as well so there is that teaching/informing aspect to it."

Follow TSTC Publishing on Twitter at @tstcpublishing and read the company's blog here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Twitter article posted!

Thanks to all who helped us with our Twitter article. The March issue is now out, and you can read it here:

Plus, check out Chelsea Green's amazing Twitter story here--they're a great model for how a publishing company can use Twitter successfully.

We'll be continuing the Twitter discussion here on the blog--stay tuned!