A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Penguin—Not Just Good Booking

I am dead impressed with the Britons at Penguin UK. Twice this year I have been wowed by their book marketing campaigns.

It is easy to bemoan the less than creative tactics North American companies use to market books, and then not do anything about it. So I’ve been mulling over the state of affairs in an attempt to generate creative ideas with action items.

One of my reflections is that publishers treat reading as this serious thing that will somehow improve your life and that’s why you should do it. This line of thought in teen marketing particularly sucks. Publishers talk about making reading cool, but I don’t think we actually get around to making it really cool.

So what’s cool and how do you find it?

I think the book publishing industry does a lot of inward looking vs. outward looking. Forget what that other publisher is doing, what are the cool recording studios doing, what’s Apple doing, what are cell phone companies doing? Why not look at industries with high competition. Seems to me that in hugely competitive markets, the creative departments and ad agencies are really driven to create clever and unique campaigns. Is the lack of exciting, memorable book ad campaigns partly due to a lack of competition? I think so.

I don’t know what kind of rabbits I can pull out of my hat in terms of book campaigns, but I’m setting my sights on Penguin UK.

A couple of months ago Penguin launch “Are you good booking”. The site was set up to promote the male counterpart to chick lit, but it wasn’t just about books the boys would like. It was about what books you should have on the coffee table or be able to discuss with a date. What books would make you good booking in the eyes of a lady love who loves reading. Jocks and books, the ladies’ man and books. Sex it up.

The campaign was clever. There were polls and puns and lots of sex talk. I vaguely recall a list with books that had great sex scenes. I can’t find the original screen shots I took, but the site does still have Good Booking Monthly selections and the cheekiness is carried through in some of the copy. For example, “Hornby Days are Here Again.” Can’t you hear the ladies cooing, “oh Nick.”

So that was number 1. Number 2 is Penguin Remixed. Hear Penguin. Sample Penguin. Remix Penguin.

I know some of you cool kids already know about this, but I’m gob-smacked by this most awesome use of spoken words. I’ve been to other sites with audio readings by the author. Those are lovely, but really author readings are better live and the audio clips don’t normally make it anywhere interesting—like passed around to your friends and saved in your playlist. Enter Penguin.

Penguin has taken 30 of the “best spoken word samples from some of the greatest books of all time and the finest actors around.” Read here: Penguin has published many of the greatest books of all time, many being Penguin Classics—you remember the orange spine, the penguin logo ... anyway they have posted the media samples for us to play with and they are cool. Not just wouldn’t it be nice if the kids thought books were cool, but truly pass-on-to-your-friends cool. Try these samples on for size. There’s a contest too to submit personal entries. Books, music, online contests: I like it.

Check out Penguin Remixed but make sure you have an intervention plan in place. This site is addictive.

Have you seen any great campaigns lately for books? Or that could be modified for books? I’m on the lookout.

By the way, Geist magazine has a cool Haiku Night in Canada video and a Listening Room.

Belinda Stronach, the Queen and BC Elections

What an interesting, bombshell of a day for Canadian politics. Belinda Stronach just announced that she has crossed the floor to the Liberals. I guess it’s like BC’s referendum for the STV, single-transferrable vote. You make your first pick and if that doesn’t work, you can vote for your second preferred party. The press conference was less exciting than the TV show Crossing Over with John Edward, but there were still some laughs and pale faces, the essence of good reality TV.

And the Queen arrives today, so should the government lose the budget vote despite Crossing Over with Belinda Stronach, the Queen will be on hand to dissolve parliament. Nifty twist to the itinerary. (CBC says Clarkson would still do the job, but it looks like it could be an interesting week in politics nonetheless.) And if the federal political mess isn’t enough, today is BC Elections day.

Bill Mountain gets my vote. He’s not on the ballot but he was by far the most tenacious solicitor of my vote.

UPDATE: CBC reported May 18 that the referendum result on electoral reform was 57% Yes and 43% no. In order to go ahead with STV, the Yes side needed 60% of all ballots cast as well as a majority in 60% of the ridings. So the political parties are saying it is a strong enough Yes that they’ll keep looking at it. I suppose that means if the collective memory of the citizens is strong enough and the pestering continues, so will the “looking at it”.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Urban Tribe Rituals

Yesterday I went to “Eh”-merica to participate in one of that nation’s favourite favorite pastimes—Baseball. There was even a Grand Slam! Sport events are definitely a window to the past. The painted faces, the random yet choreographed dancing, the emotional rollercoaster of success and defeat. The street meat. Urban tribal rituals.

It was beyond entertaining. I was back in Chris Pirillo’s city (spent some time there in January at a blog conference). Seattle Mariners played the Boston Red Sox. Love Boston. I used to watch the games with a friend of mine who has the same number of game superstitions as Wade Boggs. Boggs and Clemens were my favourite players of all time. I hardly watch baseball now, but I do have an unwrapped box of baseball cards from the ‘90s, which according to the box’s advertising includes a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.

That was yesterday. Today was Czech vs. Canada—World Hockey Championship. Canada’s game, we lost. But there was beer drinking before noon, and who doesn’t love that?

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Coolest Job in the World—TLC and MuggleNet Interview J. K. Rowling

There are all sorts of cool jobs, and cool people who get to do those jobs, and today I read about a fantasy job come true.

J. K. Rowling announced today on her website that she is going to read from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at the stroke of midnight on July 16 in Edinburgh Castle. Her audience will be 70 cub reporters, fans aged 8-16.

I have no desire to be 8-16 again, however, I would love to travel to Edinburgh, go to the castle, have a reading, get a signed book from Jo, and take part in the weekend of activities. How very magical.

BUT I can live vicariously through Emerson and Melissa. Emerson of MuggleNet.com and Melissa of TLC were personally invited by Jo to interview her at her house. Emerson and Melissa are some of THE hardest working Harry Potter fans out there. They have fantastic fan sites.

Can you imagine if your favourite celebrity called your cell phone and said, hey love your site, why don’t you pop over to Edinburgh and interview me? Oh but you can’t tell anyone for 10 days.

Well that’s what happened to these two. I read Melissa’s post about what the phone call was like and then the heartbreaking silence of the next 10 days. Here’s her post on TLC.

Melissa, Emerson and Jo are going to post their conversation in three corners of the Harry Potter world, i.e., on their three fantastic sites.

How freaking exciting.

But, ok, what if you’re not a Harry Potter fan? What would be your fantasy call come true?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Remembering Bob

Last night I celebrated Bob Hunter. There was a group of friends and family and Greenpeace supporters carrying on at Bimini’s yesterday. It was a celebration of Bob Hunter, one of the founders of Greenpeace (and quite a character). Bob passed away last week and although you could feel the sorrow in the room, you could also feel the joy and love.

Many legends of Vancouver and the Greenpeace movement told stories about Bob, and almost everyone mentioned his laugh. I was most moved by family friends who talked about losing a parent and how the best thing you can do for a family member, especially a child, is to tell them stories about their parents. As I get older, I’m more and more interested in family stories, in recording them and remembering them. One of the speakers mentioned that when you reach the age your parents were when they had you, you really start to think about their life.

I remember as a little girl how I couldn’t imagine my mom being a little girl. And maybe that’s it, you have to reach their age when they met you, and suddenly things make sense, you can now imagine that age.

My friend’s kids keep teasing her about writing down some crazy sayings she has. For my friend, these aren’t crazy sayings, these are her mother’s sayings that she’s suddenly rediscovered. Her retort to her kids has been, don’t worry about writing them down, they’ll come flooding back to you when you have kids.

My heart goes out to Bob’s kids and his wife. I still think about the family members that I’ve lost and it doesn’t necessarily get easier, but the painful moments seem softer.

Monday, May 09, 2005

k-os debuts latest hit on CBC

Known for its hip side, the CBC afternoon show has an exclusive on the latest k-os tune. Apparently it was commissioned by the CBC and features the CBC orchestra. The rest of the world can hear it on Friday. But oh sweet CBC listeners. The treat is yours on Thursday.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Markets as Conversation—and when you can say shut up

A couple of months ago I started talking about The Long Tail and the Cluetrain Manifesto. Both interesting things. I particularly like the point in the Cluetrain Manifesto about markets as conversations and engaging in conversations with your customer. The end of the corporate press release, or marketing speak ... these I see as things that do need moderating.

Well, this week I observed a “conversation” that if it had been a true face to face, undoubtably someone would have said shut up, no you shut up.

Conversations are interesting things. I certainly change my tone of voice when a survey person calls. Blah blah blah, calling on behalf of ____ marketing, are you the woman of the house? The greater the sense of intrusion, the sharper my voice. But I do remember that I’m speaking to a person, not to a feeling-less building, not to a corporation.

It strikes me that email is always the worst form of communication, you can misinterpret tone. It’s so many steps removed from the face to face conversation that people will often say or phrase things in an email that they wouldn’t in person. So in the Cluetrain Manifesto when it talks about markets as conversation, and paying attention to what is being said about you or your company in print, on the web, by bloggers. It seems the “corporate” person is disadvantaged. There is an expectation about what a “corporate” person will say, or what they’ll do with your information, or how they will talk and talk forever keeping you on the phone until you eventually give in and take the damn survey. But what if you contact the company—don’t you expect a response?

Here’s my related thought. When buying something there is the anonymous research stage, then the ok here’s my details buying stage. There isn’t a nice way to figure out what stage a person is in when they contact your company. Some things are easy. Hey you, your product sucks and I want a refund. Personalized contact and an exchange of details is pretty clear. Hey I want your newsletter. Maybe less clear.

How do you approach companies? What types of interaction are you looking for? Are there best practices listed somewhere? Every email marketing newsletter I’ve read, for example, suggests personalizing and segmenting the subscriber list. Do people find this helpful or intrusive? I wonder ...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Quotes from the Week

Did you notice that today was 05 05 05? Fifth month, fifth day, 2005 year? At 5:05 I was making wishes, mostly for the work day to end.

Over the week I have been recording quotes, which taken out of context seem even more bizarre, and some even poignant. Here are my favourites:

“I know just enough about astrology to be dangerous.”

“It’s hard to bomb a country if you’ve broken bread with its people.”

“Choose your destiny. You &*#@*^”

“Africa is the new India.”

It has been an interesting week.

ADDITION: How could I forget! The week started with “Pimping ain’t easy, but it’s easier in these.”

Monday, May 02, 2005

Sears Canada cuddles up to Amazon

Canadian Press last week reported that Sears Canada Inc. has hired the services subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc. to provide “a more robust online shopping experience” at sears.ca.

Oh the joy. What does this mean tech-wise? Will there be books?

“This is a significant business initiative with aggressive growth opportunities and other long-term benefits and is planned with a substantial return on investment,” stated Brent Hollister, president and CEO of Sears Canada. “It is important to us to incorporate web features that make sears.ca as user-friendly as today’s technology allows,” Hollister added. Sears will concentrate on its “core competencies including merchandising, marketing, fulfillment and customer service.”

Other Amazon Services clients include Target.com and NBA.com.

Now whatever happened to the talks between Zellers and Target? Have you been to a Target. They’ve got books. What are the odds of Sears adding books? Does anyone remember the book department at the Bay? Mmmm. Memories. I think I got a Zamfir record signed in book department of the Bay in 1982 or ‘83.

Single Transferable Vote

What’s the deal with this single transferable vote? Well I think it is probably the only exciting thing about the upcoming election.

The May 17 provincial election ballot in British Columbia will contain a referendum question about whether the province should switch to a new method of voting, called the single transferable vote.

The Citizens Assembly, which proposed the concept, shows how the proposed system works.

Here’s the link to the Citizensassembly.bc.ca Resource page with a flash animation on how it works.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Corporation DVD House Party

Below is an abbreviated message from THE CORPORATION Producer/Director Mark Achbar and Campaign Strategist Katherine Dodds. They’ve started a movement against corporate misrule and are encouraging people to mark May 7 as THE CORPORATION DVD House Party and live online debate.

Check out TheCorporation.com/debate for details.

There are 8 hours of extra features on the 2-DVD set. It includes a “toolkit” called “What to do?” in the Q’s & A’s section of Disc 1, and the “Topical Paradise” on Disc 2 offers a road map to the extra info on the issues, including a wide-ranging one-hour section on “Strategies For Change.” As well, there are many more weblinks listed and a DVD ROM feature that works in PCs and Macs to make those links live and clickable. —Mark Achbar

It’s party time:

If we can generate 1000 house parties across North America, and they have on average 10 people attending, then we have 10,000 people brainstorming about what we can do to effect change. If each of those 10,000 people forward the email about our campaign to 10 more, well you get the picture!

Katherine wants to create a “Framework For Action” document, leading to a campaign to reduce corporate harm. She is collecting online feedback from partygoers and is working on an online grassroots network through HelloCoolWorld.com.

MAY 7, 2005 is the day to party!


Saturday, April 30, 2005

Geeks, Glory and Gadgets

I bought a PSP this week. Mmmmmm. It is a handsome little machine. Unfortunately for me I have to give it to someone else. Regardless, portable entertainment has arrived. It is a very sweet looking package, slim, great screen, and you can play games, music and movies. Also good for photos. I fear the thing will get easily scratch, but what’s a little wear and tear. Love nips really.

If only it could offer wireless phone and internet ... I looked at the Fido Hiptop2. Blech. It looks big and ugly.

I’m waiting for the sexy little machine that will solve all my wireless work/play needs.

James sent me this peek at things to come, check out Jason Kottke’s post:

The Sony Librie.

The thing that blew me away was the Sony Librie, the first commerically available electronic ink e-book reader. Here’s a photo I took:

What you can’t see from the photo is how insanely crisp and clear the text on the “screen” is. It was book-text quality…it looked like a decal until you pushed the next button and the whole screen changed. It was *really* mind-boggling and you could instantly see how most books are going to be distributed in the very near future.

Ah, books and the future, a subject close to my heart.

I think there’s a separate post in me regarding future distribution models for books. Stay tuned, the life of the mind isn’t exactly reliable or timely. I find lately I’ve been reflecting on the book industry and where it should be going. These are fleeting moments of brilliance that have yet to make it onto paper.

Not associating myself with genius, just an interesting segway, Albert Einstein apparently felt like an underachiever.

In my case, I’m testing Newton’s theory of relative motion. A body at rest will remain at rest. I’ve noticed in my house this does not apply, “oh, are you having a nap?”

What gave it away? The pillow? The horizontal position? The closed eyes?

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Literary Tour

Last night I went on a guided literary tour with host and author Michael V. Smith. As one friend put it, “I’d follow Michael V. Smith anywhere.” The Literary Tour was part of BC’s Book and Magazine Week.

Fun and prizes were involved.

Destination 1 was Pulp Fiction. Talon Books presented bill bissett, Jamie Reid and George Bowering.

Destination 2 was Lark. Raincoast Books presented Karen X. Tulchinsky. Whitecap Books presented Julie Van Rosendaal. And apparently delectable finger foods were provided. I joined the tour a little late.

Destination 3 was Burcus’s Angels. Event Magazine presented a reading.

Destination 4. Enter Monique. Soma Coffee House. Anvil Press and Nightwood Editions presented Fiona Tinwei Lam—I liked her poems, Matt Rader—he was good too, but the music from Monsoon was rattling off the window I was sitting against and I got distracted, but his new book looks beautiful, and last was Lyle Neff whose son was in the audience. Lyle read a poem about his son’s death. He did, of course, make a joke about the darkness of his work, “there are happy poems in the book.”

Destination 5. I got my second event punch, one more and I was on my way to winning prizes. Our Town Cafe, my most favourite haunt and home of Henry’s Americano. Dance International Magazine presented a dance and a dance critic introduced the soloist. It was a modern piece that moved around the room. And I won a prize for knowing that Bournonville worked with the National Ballet of Denmark. Oh it was my good fortune to have a copy of the Spring 2005 issue on my table, with the headline “Bournonville’s Legacy—Danish Dance and Beyond.” Denmark was fed to me.

Destination 6 was in THE most interesting building, home of FRONT Magazine. There was a sign on the stairwell that said “denouement” and at one point everyone at my table upstairs passed around a sign “Climax.” I had a Lager and another chance at prizes. There was also a stack of Tylenol on my table.

It was pretty fun, essentially we followed Michael V. Smith around. He was dressed as a ringleader with pink and red knee high socks, black suit and top hat. Under the top hat was a frog.

And people think the arts are unaccessible?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Book News Round-up

Here’s a random round-up of book news:

Grumpy Old Bookman is talking about the UK publishing industry’s support or denunciation of Google Print. The comments can be extended to the North American publishing industry. Are we for or against? It depends what day it is and who’s asking. Here’s the post.

On The Tyee, Lisa Richardson comments on “The Art of Book Dropping.” In particular she talks about BookCrossing.com. Let your books wander. Read the article.

Paul Kennedy of CBC fame is quoted in John Mullan’s column in the Guardian, regarding a movement to make Leonard Cohen the next recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

“Now one of the best-known radio broadcasters on the CBC, the Canadian equivalent of the BBC, is leading a campaign to have Montréal’s own bard given this year’s Nobel prize for literature.”

Get the full meal deal, read the Guardian article or just listen to The Man, leonardcohen.com.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Pope or Potter—Joe Ratzinger vs. Jo Rowling

BBC News reported yesterday that the writings of Joseph Ratzinger had ousted Harry Potter from the German book charts.

Seems everyone’s favourite wizard was put in his place on Thursday. The German version of Amazon had three of the Pope’s books in the top spots on the charts, pushing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (coming July 16) to fourth place.

Fourth place. Outrageous! Well, outrageous really that an unpublished book has sat at #1 since its publication was announced in December.

From Regular Joe to JO. Both JOs have gone from unknown to superstar. Both JOs have a small empires. Both JOs have book deals. It is nice that someone is making money in publishing.