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

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Publishing News Roundup

It was a rather busy week in publishing news:

Rebecca Godfrey took home the second annual British Columbia Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. The award was presented last Friday afternoon for her book Under the Bridge: The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk (HarperCollins Canada). The $25,000 award was presented by the British Columbia Achievement Foundation at a Vancouver luncheon attended by writers, publishers, members of the literary community, and Premier Gordon Campbell.
More on Rebecca Godfrey and the BC Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

The Scotsman reported on Monday, 29 May, that the world’s first audio-only novel is being launched this week, aimed at iPod and MP3 users. Brian Luff’s Sex on Legs is a sci-fi thriller. The novel is published by Audible.

Lost novel has found its way to bestseller lists. The Book Standard reports that Bad Twin sold 5,000 copies in its debut week putting it at 98 on the Nielsen BookScan chart.

Salon.com has a story on ex-nun Karen Armstrong. It’s Da Vinci Code time. As an ex-nun, Armstrong’s writings resonate with people who’ve fallen out with organized religion. Armstrong argues that sacred texts yield profound insights if we read them as myth and poetry.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Tap Talk at the VPL

Heather Cornell, Jeni LeGon, William Orlowski

I just attended Tap Talk at the Vancouver Public Library. It was an hour presentation on three Canadian tap dance legends: Heather Cornell, Dr Jeni LeGon and William Orlowski. The fantastic thing is that all three are still alive. I hate when we only honour people after they’ve passed.

Heather Cornell was born in Canada and went on to train in New York and start Manhattan Tap. She is a phenomenal dancer and I admire her because she works to be a member of the band rather than a solo artist with a back up band. We saw several video clips of her choreography and I’m astounded by the sounds that people can make with their feet and hands.

Dr Jeni LeGon is one of my favourite tap dancers, and she lives in Vancouver. She is the epitome of cheery. I love talking to Jeni and hearing her stories about dancing with the Count Basie band and with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Jeni is cute now but my word was she ever a beauty. If you haven’t seen it, rent Hooray for Love to see Bojangles dancing and singing with Miss Jeni.

William is a true Canadian, born in Canada, trained in Canada and stayed in Canada to co-found the National Tap Dance Company. He’s renowned for bringing narrative to tap dancing. We watched a video clip of a tap/theatre performance about two spat-prone lovers having a telephone conversation. The whole conversation is in tap.

Tomorrow is the big show, Tap To It, at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. 2 pm or 7 pm. Tickets at Ticketmaster. It will be a tap ball for sure.

In other tap dance news, my friend Carmelle, who is a great Vancouver tapper, had a baby girl on Tap Dance Day, the 25th. And Brock Jellison, whose tap show 77 Minutes I previously blogged about, will be performing on June 1 at the SYNC.

the SYNC @ Nettwerk - Vancouver

June, 1 2006 at 77 MINUTES Featuring NEW Unreleased Music by BROCK JELLISON LIVE @ the SYNC
1648 West 2nd Ave, Vancouver, V6J 4R3
Cost: $10.00

77 Minutes imagines a desperate vision of a possible future where a despotic government imposes extreme censorship on individual expression. Join us at the SYNC @ Nettwerk to be a part of a special encore musical concert from the theatre/dance production. Tickets can be purchased at the SYNC on tues-sat 10am-4pm. Please email questions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

That’s all for now. Snap your fingers. Keep a beat. Think about tap dancing.

The Value of Reader Programs

Sometime back in January I wrote about the book Daniel Isn’t Talking by Marti Leimbach.

I enjoyed the book and it has been fun watching it appear on store shelves and to see it reviewed, such as last weekend in the Globe and Mail.

I enjoy programs like M&S’s 100 Reader’s Club and Harper Collins’ First Look because they raise the profile of certain titles in my mind. I might have missed or ignored Daniel Isn’t Talking but instead it is like a beacon for me. I see it on bookstands and tell people what a great book it is, I read the reviews and then blog about it. I even read Marti’s blog. I find the insights into her life and her own son’s autism experiences fascinating—sometimes sad but there are moments of triumph that are great to hear about.

I appreciate that I’m not bombarded with books in these programs. I pick the Harper Collins’ books I want to read, and M&S selects a few titles a year that they want large groups of people to read: in fact on Friday I recommended David Bergen’s The Time in Between, which is the first book I read in the M&S club (May 2005 post).

These books stick with me.

As a book reader I love these programs. As a book marketer, I wonder how publishers measure the programs’ value?

I suspect publishers want to see sales lift for the titles in the programs. What I imagine, though, is that sales are not easily correlated to reader program activity. I fear is that publishers will abandon these programs because they perceive the program as a lot of work for very little pay off—pay off being measured only in sales.

So what are the costs? Here’s my imaginary scenario.

By my estimate there’s the cost of the advance reading copy, which could be anywhere from $3-7. Let’s use $5 for this example. Plus the shipping, let’s say $5 per title. Then there’s the admin stuff—staff to oversee the program, mail out the packages, post reviews, etc.—not a wild guess entirely but let’s say it takes one person 8 hours per month to manage the program and we pay them $15/hr. And, we’ll release 4 different titles a year to approximately 100 people each time.

Each title costs $5 + $5 shipping = $10 x 100 people x 4 times per year = $4000
Plus admin costs of $120/month x 12 months = $1440

Total cost to run our imaginary program would be $5440 per year.

Is that a lot?

If a new paperback costs retail $24.95 and we give the bookstore a 50% discount, then we earn $12.48 per title, but we have to pay for the printing, production and overhead costs, plus royalties to the author. Let’s guess our further costs are 50% of that so we earn $6.23 per book. We’d have to sell 873 copies of the book just to cover the cost of our reader program. That’s breakeven, no profits. Then considering the typical volume for a paperback in its first year—3,000-10,000 copies—you can see my fears about “is it worth it?”

It’s hard to guess at the real costs, revenues and profits so I’m open to corrections on the above math.

Regardless, I’d like to argue against only measuring the success of the program by book sales.

I believe that if the publisher can cover the costs of the program then the true value is in the branding of the reader program and the authors involved. Remember the books in these programs stick with me. I have recommended the titles to at least 10 friends. Every book buying survey I’ve ever read shows that book readers are more likely to buy a book recommended by a peer than because of an advertisement in the newspaper. So $5400 could buy a publisher one or two small newspaper ads or 100 people talking about a book they loved and the publisher’s reader program. For $5400, the publisher gets increased recognition of an author name, awareness of the book on store shelves, in reviews and interviews, and recognition of the publisher name.

Brian Quinn in his Thursday newsletter on sales strategies, “Selling the Sizzle” (MediaPost Publications), uses the metaphor of fajitas in a Mexican restaurant. He opens with “Have you ever been to a Mexican restaurant when patrons at the table next to you receive their sizzlin’ fajitas?” You can hear the sound. All eyes in the restaurant turn to check out the “crackling, smoking plate of spicy delights.”

Reader Programs to me are the sizzle in the publishing industry. The right kind of sizzle can mean sales but the huge payoff for the publisher is in brand awareness—increasing their portion of the market’s attention for their targetted books.

With an integrated marketing campaign—single message to multi-channels (book readers, reviewers, booksellers, teachers, librarians)—a publisher can significantly enhance overall brand awareness and relationships with key members of the book-buying population.

I think there is incredible value in the branding opportunities for authors and publishers. What do you think?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Celebrate Tap Dance Day

Hey yesterday was National Tap Dance Day and tomorrow is the start of the Tap Day events here in Vancouver.

Tap Talk: Legends of Canadian Tap Dance
Co-hosted by the West Coast Tap Dance Collective and the Arts and History Division of the Vancouver Central Library.

This hour-long presentation on Canadian Tap Dance includes lecture, video and live performance. It highlights the careers of 3 legends in Canadian tap dance: Heather Cornell, William Orlowski and Dr. Jeni LeGon.

Details: Saturday, May 27 at 3:00 in the Alice McKay room, Vancouver Central Library—350 W. Georgia.

Sunday: TAP TO IT
4th Annual Tap Dance Day Celebration
Vancouver East Cultural Centre, 1895 Venables Street, Vancouver, BC

This year’s celebration will honour the contributions of Canadian tap legend William Orlowski.

Sunday, May 28, 2006, 2 pm show ($19) and 7 pm show + gala ($24).

Tickets can be purchase through Ticketmaster.

Tappity tap.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Going to BookExpo Canada? Register for the Friday Session

I’m not going to BookExpo Canada this year and I’m seriously disappointed because there is a full-day session on Friday, June 9 on online book promotion. If you are attended BookExpo, please attend this session and report back.

You have to register before May 26! That’s really soon.

Here’s what you need to know:

Friday, June 9
Writers to Readers: Linking the Content Creators to the End Users
Cost is $40 for BPC Writer Associations’ Members, $100 for everyone else.

Link to BookExpo Canada website.

What is this day’s session about?
Publishing experts from across North America will give you the goods on what you (a member of the publishing industry) need to think about and act on:

- How can we (publishers and authors and librarians and teachers) find or reclaim the readership for books in a crowded and competitive market?
- What are the new marketing technologies that actually work for our business (as opposed to the music business or the film business)?
- How can we address the “Napsterization” of the cultural industries (should we protect a dying business model and revenue stream or rethink the way creators are paid for their work)?

Who’s speaking?
Michael Cader, founder and publisher of PublishersMarketplace.com, the land of awesome news about the industry, is speaking on repurposing content for new readers and is on a number of panel discussions during the day.

Michael Tamblyn, president and CEO of BookNet Canada, the folks who have finally made point of sales data and tracking available in Canada, is speaking on measuring a real bestseller. What’s in the data.

Kevin Smokler, author and founder of the Virtual Book Tour, and a very cool guy, is speaking on the “Brand” New Writers & Their Marketing Partners ... not exactly sure what this is but I suspect it’s about branding authors or building your brand as an author and who to hitch your cart to in regards to marketing and publicity partnerships. Kevin is also on a number of panels including
Advanced Website Marketing and Blogging with Michael Cader and Carol Fitzgerald—superstar, co-founder and president of The Book Report Network, one of my favourite online book destinations.

Other Panel Presentations and Discussions

Who Owns Information & Who Gets to Distribute It?

Readers Clubs and Strategies to Bridge the Writer/Reader Gap (Atwood’s got her long pen, book clubs and authors have their web cams)

Reclaiming Readers: Finding the Missing Links

I haven’t mentioned everyone but you can go here for official speaker bios.

You only have until May 26 to register. Get there, do it.

Register Now

Abebooks Celebrates 10 Years

Victoria-based Abebooks is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

It recently bought a share in LibraryThing.com as a birthday present to itself.

LibraryThing.com is a pretty cool project. It pulls bibliographic data from Amazon.com and other sources and lets users attach comments, tags, ratings and reviews to the books they catalogue in their virtual library.

According to Quill and Quire, Abebooks “is looking to integrate LibraryThing’s user statistics and features into its own site – creating, say, Amazon-style customer recommendations.” It will be interesting to see how the adoption stage of this project goes. I currently use Amazon’s Listmania to make my book recommendations and share booklists. I use Amazon.ca because it has Canadian source information and pricing so I likely won’t gravitate to LibraryThing.com, unless of course the service just rocks.

In other Abebooks news, they are running a contest to visit 10 booksellers around the world. There are smaller prizes too. Utne is the contest sponsor. You have to collect a bookmark with an instant entry code from a participating bookseller.

Here’s the contest goods. It runs until July 15.

Monday, May 22, 2006

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

Alexander McCall Smith’s latest edition to the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is perhaps the best yet. I finished reading it this morning.

The Lady Detective, Precious Ramotswe, is as charming as Alexander McCall Smith, who I once had the pleasure of meeting.

The series is often described as Miss Marpole in Botswana. It’s a good comparison, however, in Miss Marpole I recall the story being more about the mystery. In the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency the mystery is often secondary to the tales of Mma Ramotswe, her husband, her assistant, and the many secondary characters. It the mysteries of human nature that I find so charmingly related in this series.

As I mentioned, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies—the latest edition in the series—was the best yet. The first book was a great set up, books two and three were also great, then I felt like there was a mid-series lull. I decided to read In the Company of Cheerful Ladies because I still love the characters. It was definitely worth the read.

For more on the series and to read the first chapter of In the Company of Cheerful Ladies check out Amazon.ca.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Da Vinci: the Book, the Movie, the Quest

Google has sponsored some crazy Da Vinci Code Quest.

Basically over 24 days, people solved a puzzle a day in order to win prizes. The first 10,000 participants to finish all 24 puzzles won a cryptex, which leads a further puzzle this weekend and untold fame and fortune for the winner. The fortune part at least is pretty clear, here’s the prize page.

Well today I found out a friend of a friend received his cryptex:


I’m much more interested in Da Vinci now. I want him to win the grand contest. Also it is another example of a cool and crazy cross-media promotion for what started as a book.

I actually like The Da Vinci Code. I thought Dan Brown was a crappy writer of dialogue and that the characters were stereotypes, however, it was a fun, fast-paced read. I learned a little about art and art history, I had to think a little about religion and about the authoritative voice in storytelling. I liked it. If you’re a snobby literary fiction reader, you too can like it. Think of the book as an academic thesis on art and religion written as a genre novel. In this particular case, over analyzing it does make it better.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Google Books Starts a Blog

The guys and gals of Google Book Search now have a blog:


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lost in Television

Last week I was chatting with Lex about the tv show Lost. She’s just started watching the series and is now a bit of a fan. I’m also a fan, however, I have never seen a full episode. I did see the “Making of” special that was on last year and fell in love with the idea of the show. Now I’m really intrigued.

I read in Quill and Quire that Hyperion has published a novel by one of the characters on the show. It is a posthumous publication written by Oceanic Flight 815 casualty Gary Troup.

“Bad Twin, a tale about a set of twins - one bad, obviously - out to get Daddy’s bucks, was found in manuscript form by the Lost characters on the hit ABC program. Viggo-esque man-hunk Josh ‘Sawyer’ Holloway is reading it on the show, according to a Guardian article, and is ‘anxious to finish it.’”

Just to clarify, this is a fictional work written by a fictional character who is dead in a fictional tv show—the book is a real physical object published by a real company. Nice blurring of lines between fact and fiction.

Intriguing? I think so especially from a marketing point of view.

There are a huge number of Lost fans who are looking for clues to the show. Lots of fan sites and speculation. Now there is a book. Cool cross-promo.

Here’s the link to the book on Amazon.ca.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Emily Carr Grad Exhibition


On Friday I went to a preview of the Emily Carr Graduation Exhibition 2006. I only saw part of the show so I’d like to go back. I posted some photos on Flickr.com but I must say I wasn’t paying much attention to the artistic nature of my photos.

Things I like the most:
1. Walking sticks. There were all sorts of coloured walking sticks. You could select your stick and use it all around the exhibition. Some had little wheels on the bottom.
2. The Girl in the Moon. There was a huge wall with a purple background and a yellow circle. It looked like a moon to me. There was a yellow ladder and the artist was wearing a purple dress and painting little purple and yellow creatures on the wall.
3. The animations. There were a couple of short animated films that I loved. Tree for Two by Joel Furtado was the winner of the Electronic Arts Reveal 06 Canadian 3D animation showdown. It think his film was shorter than the title of the award he won. I was a fan of A Hamster Tail by Andrea Shimizu. The characters reminded me of the Moomins, which apparently no one in North America has heard of.

I want to go back and watch all the animations. JumpTrumpRumpBump looked really cool but I only watched the preview.

One of the things I didn’t like was that lots of the animations ripped off the circle of circles used in Bugs Bunny’s exit. Maybe that was a required element.

That’s all for now folks!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Love My Mac

Here at Work Industries we’re a Mac shop. I’ve decided that I’m part of Work Industries because Work Industries has invaded my space. We can get along. It’s ok. It’s not like a “PC-Mac” getting along, which I’ll get to in a second.

I’ve always worked on Mac. We had a Mac in my grade 2 class. I remember playing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.” Anyway, when we needed to buy a new computer in 2001, James was less than keen on buying a Mac. He was a PC guy.

The Reader’s Digest version of this story is that we bought a Mac Cube and Virtual PC (which we never used by the way).

Now the home office is kitted out with the Cube running OS Classic, Mac Mini OS X and our new baby iBook. If Apple is listening, I’m a fan. I would like an iBook in shiny black, 12”. I need portable and I want it black like the new video iPod.

What started this post is that over at Inkbase, Jason has linked to the new “Get a Mac” ads. I like all of them except the virus one. Don’t taunt the virus makers please.


Friday, May 05, 2006

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day

Find a participating store at

What’s Free Comic Book Day?
Free Comic Book Day is a single day when participating comic book shops give away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their stores.

Where was this day when I was a kid!

Remember it’s not what you read but that you read. Now go get your comic.

UPDATE: In my excitement I forgot to mention that the Canuck Librarian is the cool source of this info.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

100 Mile Diet Is Done—Book Is Coming

I posted previously about the two Vancouver folks doing the 100-Mile Diet. Well now there’s a book coming, but, in the meantime, check out the website. I love the design.


Learn about eating locally. Get started on your own “eat local” diet. Tell your stories. Find your 100 miles.

It’s a cool site.

And it’s true, you can live in places where it’s harder to eat locally. The point is to think about your food. To think about how far its travelled. The average North American meal travels at least 1,500 miles from farm to plate.

I do believe that lots of small changes can help make big change. So if you’re in Prince George or Winnipeg in the winter ... maybe chosing grapes from California is better than grapes from New Zealand. Or maybe you buy a bunch of cheap, end of harvest berries in the fall, freeze them and eat them over the winter instead of those grapes. I don’t know. You have to find what works for you.

Tap To It Vancouver

I was talking to Roland Tanglao tonight about tap dance and here’s the update on cheap and incredible tap dance in Vancouver this month according to WestCoastTapDance.com.


TAP TO IT—4th Annual Tap Dance Day Celebration
Vancouver East Cultural Centre, 1895 Venables Street, Vancouver, BC

May 28, 2006, 2 pm and 7 pm shows.

Tickets can be purchase through Ticketmaster.

Matinee, 2 pm show
$19 regular admission
$14 students & seniors

Evening, 7 pm show
$24 show & gala

*** Partial proceeds to benefit the Pacific Parkinsons Research Institute.



TAP TALK: Legends of Canadian Tap Dance

Co-hosted by the West Coast Tap Dance Collective and the Arts & History Division of the Vancouver Central Library
Description: This hour-long presentation on Canadian Tap Dance includes lecture, video and live performance. It highlights the careers of 3 legends in Canadian tap dance: Heather Cornell, William Orlowski and Dr. Jeni LeGon. Information about our local Vancouver tap scene will be shared and audience members will be treated to a live performance by Vancouver’s Urban Tap Squad.

Details: Saturday, May 27 at 3:00 in the Alice McKay room, Vancouver Central Library—350 W. Georgia.


MOVING PICTURES: Nancy Haver has illustrated a picture book featuring the career of tap dance legend Dr. Jeni LeGon.

What Tap Dancing’s All About
According to Dr. Jeni LeGon
by: Nancy Haver
32 Pages - Paperback

$28 + shipping from Tap Emporium