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

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Artwork from Old Books

I am a sucker for the artwork in old books. By old I mean pre-1900.

Look at the images on this site.

Peter Morgan notified me of it. The site is maintained by a Canadian and includes over 1,140 images scanned from more than 90 different old books.

There’s an RSS feed and an ATOM feed. Happy days.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More Feedback on BEC Writers to Readers Conference

On Tuesday I posted on the BookExpo Canada Writers to Readers Conference. Since that time Kate S. has offered her comments (see UPDATE in original post), and Siobhan Long, the marketing manager at Raincoast Books has allowed me to post her notes. I’ve summarize for length but here’s the overview.

Siobhan’s Notes (the editor’s cut)
“All the speakers stressed how important all of this is [understanding online marketing], and how you really have to listen to and invest in the people who know about this stuff ... There were 235 people in attendance for the talk (and a previous Humber seminar got 63 ppl) ... they were publishers, booksellers and authors ... a mix of people who agreed with the speakers and those who remained very reticent to embrace or accept technology.

Michael Cader, www.publishersmarketplace and Publishers Lunch e-newsletter

Your passion and knowledge needs to get off the TI’s and out of our internal databases ... we need to share all this info with readers. Don’t just keep cutting and pasting the same catalogue copy ... unlock the good stuff! Your site should aggregate ALL the info and passion (etc.) you have or know about concerning your books.

Don’t base your website on a paper model (i.e., reproduce your printed catalogue online): you should be looking at how the online world works, not using the model of your books or how you publish books.

The web is the best place for book publishers b/c, by it’s nature,  it attracts readers; plus, the web is where we do everything now… don’t let books be absent or underpresented from this realm. Use the web to sell the core of what you do, not individual products.

Michael Tamblyn, BookNet Canada

His main point was that there’s more than one way to measure a “bestseller”—i.e., a poetry bestseller VS a fiction bestseller. People want more targeted types of bestseller lists.

Typical weekly sales: 50% non-fiction, 30% fiction, 20% juvenile

The top 200 books sold in Canada = 20% of book sales (i.e., bestsellers)
The next top 5,000 books sold in Canada = 40% of book sales
The next top 95,000 books sold in Canada = 40% of book sales (i.e., the longtail)

Kevin Smokler, founder of The Virtual Book Tour and author of Bookmark Now

Branding is the creation of an immediate emotional association with a book or author. Be like Apple, not Windows: create a sense of trust and belonging.

Branding is not top-down, you can’t tell ppl what to read ... YOU need to be the locus of where people ENGAGE and CONVERSE about a book or author.

Provide a place for readers to share their enthusiam. Don’t just sell a book and then ignore your readers; they want to engage with you afterwards. We’re in the business of ideas, content and lifestyle—not just books. Books are just the beginning of what we’re selling.

“This is a great book” is NOT a brand. Strong branding: trust, engagement, efficiency, cross-platform (i.e,. provides MANY points of enagagement, or on-ramps to a book (like trailers for a movie, or food samples at the grocery store).

Who should be doing all this work?
- IT people
- Online marketing Dept
- Create a “director of reader relations” position if you can
- Interns & local techies
- Invest in sending your employees to Web 2.0 professional development: confernces like SXSW etc on new trends in online & tech.

Other site to know about:
http://www.Freeconferencecall.com  (use it to connect authors to book clubs)

NEW site: MySpace Books http://collect.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=books

“Reclaiming Readers” panel discussion

On Amazon: 54% of sales were longtail (according to Amazon)
At Indies: 70-80% of sales were longtail (according to a bookseller who compared BookNet data to data from some big indies)

NEW site: Rabble Booklounge just launched (reviews, store, event listings, podcasts, book club):

Advice for publishers from Judy Rebick from rabble.ca: “Invest in people who understand the web ... and listen to them. Move faster, be open, be more creative. Don’t hold on to your old ways.”

Advice for publishers from Albert Lai from bubbleshare.com:  Authors should have blogs, they shouldn’t wait for their publishers to do this.

Follow youth trends and online trends. But don’t just do something new just b/c it’s new.

Participate in the longtail through dialogue online. Look beyond the book itself.

———- end of Siobhan’s notes———-

Thank you Siobhan for these incredible notes and for letting them be shared.

Do you have notes to share? Did you attend BEC 2006? Were you a speaker?

Add to the conversation. Post your thoughts in the comments.

The Georgia Straight Starts a Blog

John Burns at Vancouver’s Georgia Straight—my favourite free weekly newspaper—has started a quasi blog on http://www.straight.com/section.cfm?id=407

At the moment you have to submit comments via email and there’s no RSS, but it’s coming soon.

In the meantime, John has quite a witty repertoire going on over there. Check it out. I’ve learned about an unfortunate instance of cottaging. (quiet giggle)

Views blog: http://www.straight.com/section.cfm?id=407
News blog: http://www.straight.com/section.cfm?id=406

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Feedback on BookExpo Canada’s Writers to Readers Conference

On May 24 I put out a desperate plea to anyone attending the BEC Writers to Readers conference at BEC to please, please, report back.

Well here are some reports:

From Kiley Turner on the Work Industries blog:
“Conferences can be among the dullest events out there. But once in a while, a conference comes together in a way that is truly exciting—reinforcing ideas you might have been contemplating, jumpstarting thoughts that were percolating, and introducing new ideas that stimulate your whole outlook. I attended such a conference earlier this month in Toronto. It was called Writers to Readers: Linking the Content Creators to the End Users, and it was organized by Humber’s School of Creative & Performing Arts.”

Kiley talks about not being a techie but finding inspiration nonetheless in the presenters’ words of wisdom. Her rough notes are also posted.
Check out the Work Industries posting.

From John Maxwell on the SFU Thinkubator website:
“In Toronto Friday (June 9) I attended the above-titled conference day [Writers to Readers], which was more interestingly subtitled “Linking the Content Creators to the End Users”—particularly provocative wording for an audience of book industry people. The day was evidently run and set up by Don Sedgwick and Shawn Bradley; if anyone can talk to book people, it’s them.”

John points out that for a tech audience Michael Cader and Kevin Smokler didn’t add anything new to the ongoing conversation, however, for a publishing audience of several hundred people, it seemed like the book industry might finally be taking the web seriously.
Check out the Thinkubator posting.

Did you attend? Were you a speaker? Do you have notes to add to the conversation?

Post them here in the comments.



From Kate’s Book Blog:
Check out Kate’s Book Blog and her 2-part post on the conference.

Part 1: highlights and lowlights, “Guest speaker Kevin Smokler’s assertion that the book is only the beginning was very much the party line throughout the day.”

Part 2: Small press spotlight focuses on the sessions on branding. “There was a lot of talk at the BookExpo Canada Conference about the branding of books and the branding of authors. But there appeared to be general agreement among the various panellists that, at this point in time, the branding of publishers is a dead end.”

Kate goes on to comment that this may be true for large, mainstream publishers, but that there may still be an opportunity for small presses.

I couldn’t agree more. I think book publishers are similar to film production companies. It’s as likely that a book buyer can tell you the publisher of the last book they read as it is for a movie goer to tell you the film company that produced the last movie they saw. (I know the film addicts will pick apart my comparison, but I’m talking in general terms here.)

There are exceptions, of course. People will go to see a Pixar film because it’s Pixar and there’s a built in expectation. I think if publishers can find one element of their company to build as a brand, then they’re doing a good job.

In promotion of small/indie presses, Kate is starting a new feature on her blog called “Small Press Spotlight.” Once per month she’ll profile a different small/indie press. I think that’s an awesome idea. Again here’s the link to Kate’s Book Blog.

From Siobhan’s personal notes
“All the speakers stressed how important all of this is [understanding online marketing], and how you really have to listen to and invest in the people who know about this stuff ... There were 235 people in attendance for the talk (and a previous Humber seminar got 63 ppl) ... they were publishers, booksellers and authors —a mix of people who agreed with the speakers and those who remained very reticent to embrace or accept technology.

Like Kate, Siobhan has some really sound opinions about the speakers that she heard at BEC. Her session notes are incredibly detailed and offer a further perspective on the day’s events.

I posted an trimmed down version of the notes in a separate blog post found here.

Again, if you have thoughts to share, please do so here.

Bubble Battle This Sunday

All of you Vancouverites should go to this! There will be one in Montreal and one in Toronto too.

After all, who doesn’t love blowing bubbles? I, in fact, blow bubbles to relieve stress. It is very difficult to be grumpy when you’re blowing bubbles.

Bubble Battle Vancouver

Meet on the south side.
Rain or shine.

For more info, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Check out the Flickr tag: “bubblebattle”

Monday, June 26, 2006

SFU New Media Workshop Cancelled for 2006

I say this with great sadness: the SFU New Media workshop is cancelled for this summer.

The ultimate challenge was that not enough participants were registered before the cut-off date. Sad but true.

I’m disappointed the program is not going ahead because the participants registered seemed very keen on the program and the content available. That said, I’m sure SFU will plan for another new media workshop, or that the awesome speakers will ultimately self-organize and offer something even better than what was planned for this summer.

If you were interested in the SFU new media workshop then stay tuned to the speakers’ blogs. Most of the speakers blog regularly and post about the conferences they’re attending and when they’re speaking. I also suggest watching http://www.upcoming.org for event listings.

In the meantime, let me brag about those wonderful speakers. In alphabetical order:

Haig Armen was a key force behind concept, strategic and design development for CBC Radio 3. He earned 13 international awards. His new-media company, HaigMedia has developed logos, ads, promotional items, and CD covers for clients that include Warner Music, BMW, and Chanel.
Monique says: talking to Haig about design and social media is definitely worthwhile. Watch for his future speaking gigs at SFU.

Darren Barefoot has spent the last decade working for software companies in Canada and Europe. As head geek at Capulet, he manages online marketing and technical writing projects. He applies his background as a technologist and technical communicator to provide accurate technical collateral and online presence for Capulet’s clients. Before starting Capulet, he spent two years in Dublin, Ireland, as a technology evangelist for Cape Clear Software. Previously, Barefoot was manager of technical communication at MPS, and has consulted for EA Sports, Radical Entertainment, and sundry start-ups in Canada and Ireland. He maintains a personal weblog at www.darrenbarefoot.com.
Monique says: Darren is also the guy behind the Northern Voice blogging conference. Aside from James, Darren’s blog was the first I ever read.

Alexandre Brabant is the founder of Vancouver eMarketing 101, www.emarketing101.net. Before starting Vancouver eMarketing 101, he worked as an eBusiness Marketing Manager for Resort Reservations Network (part of the Intrawest Group). He was able to test his eMarketing “recipe” with sites such as http://www.whistler-blackcomb.com, http://www.tremblant.com, http://www.vancouver.com, and twelve other sites in the travel industry.
Monique says: Alex is the most enthusiastic person I know, his lectures on search keep me captivated and then desperate to log into my Adwords account.

Avi Bryant is the co-founder of Smallthought Systems Inc., a Vancouver startup focused on web-based collaboration tools. He is best known in the open source Squeak Smalltalk community, where he devotes himself to making it faster and easier for developers to build web applications. With Smallthought, he hopes to enable less technical users to do the same thing. Avi is one of the principal developers of DabbleDB, a revolutionary web-based data management application.
Monique says: DabbleDB is revolutionary. I had a beta password and loved creating databases on the fly. A definite must-try for 2006.

Susannah Gardner is the co-founder and creative director of Hop Studios Internet Consultants, a web design company specializing in custom web solutions for content publishers. She is also a freelance writer and author; her latest books include Buzz Marketing With Blogs for Dummies and BitTorrent for Dummies. From 1997 to 2003, she was an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California School for Communication. She can be found at www.buzzmarketingwithblogs.com and www.hopstudios.com. She keeps a personal blog at www.unfavorablepink.com.
Monique says: Susie’s design work on the Candy Blog had me wishing for gum drops, and Buzz Marketing with Blogs is a fantastic resource.

Steve Kellas is a Vancouver web writer and creative consultant. His varied background in music, psychology, marketing, and multimedia gives him a natural writing style and a unique creative approach. Kellas is currently working for a local technology company and hopes to one day finish the next great Canadian novel.
Monique says: He also teaches a course out at UBC Continuing Studies.

Kris Krug has been publishing online since 1998.
Monique says: He is prolific and an amazing photographer, although he always gets my bad side. I think KK is known by everyone in the Lower Mainland—in fact there’s a conspiracy theory that he has a twin, no man can be in so many places. Krug is most often found at www.KrisKrug.com and with the folks at Bryght.

Robert Ouimet has been a professional broadcaster since 1971 when, at the age of 15, he started work as a disc jockey at CKDM Dauphin Manitoba. He’s an award winning journalist, with a professional career that spans 30 years, four provinces and 3 continents. While working at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the early-90’s, Robert saw the possibilities of what we now call convergence. He was a pioneer in melding broadcasting with audience interactivity on the Internet. His involvement with the Internet in the early 90’s lead to pioneering work both within the CBC and in Internet broadcasting. His show RealTime made Internet history when it became the first interactive program heard live around the world. He later went on to create CBC Radio 3, CBC first converged media group, and winner of over 30 international awards, including 3 Webby awards, the Oscar’s of the Internet.
Monique says: Robert is also the voice on the Raincoast podcasts and the producer. I think he does a fine job. Have a listen. Robert also organized last year’s SFU new media program with his business partner Emma, check out the presentations they posted on their company site, At Large Media.

Robert Scales founded Raincity Studios, a more than superb new media firm (my words) that is focused on web marketing, web 2.0 development, and web design in 2003. Robert can be found also at www.robertscales.org.
Monique says: Robert co-produced a series of workshops on blogs and social networking tools at the Banff New Media Institute, and I was the winner of the Blogs n Dogs contest, which meant I got to attend the December workshop. Raincity has a special place in my heart. 

James Sherrett’s first internet job was as a writer for a financial information website. That cued his interest (and sometimes infatuation) in the web. Since that first job James has played a number of different roles at companies involved in travel, social networking, finance, software and e-commerce, all focusing on the intersection of culture, commerce, people and technology. In the fall of 2003 Turnstone published James’ first novel, Up in Ontario. He built a blog to support that novel, www.upinontario.com. In 2006, James started his own company Work Industries, www.iworkindustries.com.
Monique says: James is my partner in crime, chaos and life in general. I think he’s more than great.

Travis F. Smith is the owner of Hop Studios, a web design and development company. He has been building content-rich, elegant websites since 1994, when he was deputy editorial director and one of the creators of the Los Angeles Times website. He’s also a professional speaker on such topics as blogging, subscription-based revenue models, and online journalism. He has been the editor of variety.com and a lecturer at the University of Southern California.
Monique says: Travis was also instrumental in setting up this blog—I owe him and Susie many, many thanks.

Paul Sullivan was the western editor of the Globe and Mail, and managing editor of The Vancouver Sun before launching Sullivan Media in 1998. He has also been a senior TV network news producer, the host of CBC-Vancouver’s morning radio show, founding editor of West Magazine and an executive for Telemedia, one of Canada’s largest magazine companies. Still a working journalist, he writes a weekly column on business in the west for Globe Investorgold. Sullivan Media works with a wide array of corporate and organizational clients across North America to create effective communications plans and products.
Monique says: Paul’s regular course on Getting the Money to Flow will be held in early 2007 at SFU.

Weston Triemstra has been landscaping new media since 1993. Currently, he is a software developer at Sxip Identity where he builds the user interface of sxore, an identity and reputation system for blog authors, readers, and commentators. Previously, he has worked with Ericsson, GTE, IBM, Microsoft, Real Networks, Blast Radius, Adbusters, Adcritic, and the CBC. Career highlights include two Gemini nominations, a Science and Technology Emmy nomination, coding the launch of the bcyellowpages.com, building a streaming video kiosk in Amsterdam, and co-creating CBC’s late-night, cross-platform venture ZeD.
Monique says: I was really looking forward to Weston’s talk on digital identity. I can’t stand remembering all my current passwords. I need to sxip through that garbage.

My heartfelt thanks to the speakers. I look forward to working with them again in the future.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Anansi Boys Named Best Fantasy Novel

Locus magazine awarded Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys the Best Fantasy Novel award. The book was voted the winner by readers of the magazine, and the award was announed at a ceremony in Seattle at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, I didn’t even know such a thing existed.

Congrats to Neil Gaiman. The Toronto Star called it “remarkably funny.” I called it my favourite book of the year.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Cracker-Barrel

Yahooooo! Darren Barefoot is going to read Made to Break.

I started writing this comment on his blog, then realized that it was developing into a full blog post.

Made to Break is really great. I’m still chuckling about the fact that crackers were sold in a barrel. Cracker-barrel. Love it. Then some marketing genius figured that they could sell more crackers if they packaged them individually in boxes. Then they figured out they could put their company name on the box and say they guaranteed freshness. Very clever way to manage inventory and consumption.

But I must say Ritz crackers has taken it a bit too far. There’s a box where they individually wrap columns of crackers. The crackers all tossed together in the box taste much, much better than the crackers packaged in columns. I’m not sure why. My guess is that they are made and packaged at different factories. But whatever the reason avoid the overpacked Ritz crackers.

It’s also one small way to cut down on useless packaging that ends up in the trash heap.

Amazon To Sell Groceries?

Slashdot.org is reporting that Amazon is set to launch an online grocery store. I guess electronics and jewellery aren’t enough. Oh, wait, I think they sell books too.

According to the Slashdot article Amazon is only planning on selling nonperishables like peanut butter, potato chips and canned soup—things that could be accommodated on existing warehouse shelves.

The story is open for discussion at:

Made to Break Needs a Break

Made To Break is the best non-fiction book that I’ve read this year. At the moment I’m learning about the history of FM radio.

I was just going on and on about the book this morning with my carpool buddies. Then in a moment of thematic convergence I received an email from the author this morning.

Made to Break has gone into a second printing, which is fantastic. And two Sundays ago it was excerpted in the Toronto Star. But basically, the American media is picking up the book and writing stories about it, but not the Canadian media, which is a sad thing because the author Giles Slade is Canadian. I wonder if it’s because the book was published by an American publisher or what the deal is.

I want to help Giles because he is a friend of a friend, but mainly because this is an amazing book. I think it perfectly coincides with other media events going on right now: World Urban Forum and Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth.

Here are the reviews so far. If you were a publicist or the media hound for this book, what would you suggest to get more people buying the book and more attention in Canada.

Reviews of Made To Break:









www.wnyc.org (audio: available in MP3 or podcast format)

www.will.uiuc.edu (audio)

www.businessweek.com (audio: also available from iTunes)

www.businessweek.com (print format q & a)

www.powells.com (print format q & a)

Excerpts from Made To Break:

www.hup.harvard.edu (PDF)

Translations of op-eds:


Additional reviews:
Globe and Mail, Saturday, July 8. Reviewed by Heather Menzies, “In the throwaway culture, greed trumps need”

Women in Film

Congratulations to Katherine Dodds, who will be honoured with a Women in Film and Video Vancouver award. The award is WIFVV’s Woman of Vision Award, and she’ll receive it this week.

Katherine is really great. In my mind, she’s most famous for handling the marketing of the movie The Corporation. But she does all sorts of stuff. Her company is Good Company and they run the Hello Cool World website.

Katherine is the perfect recipient of this award. The award honours a woman who demonstrates leadership and vision in an enterprise or project that combines traditional entertainment media with the use of new digital technologies. According to the press release: “Katherine was selected for this award for her ground breaking work producing multi-media projects that use the tools of new media to connect audiences, on and offline, with social issue films.”

She did this really cool thing that got people to plan Corporation Parties. It was sort of like Tupperware parties. People come to your house, you watch the movie and then you log on to the Hello Cool World site to engage in group conversations about how to fix the world.

Katherine has a lot of exciting ideas and I’m pleased that she’s being recognized. Congratulations.

Friday, June 16, 2006

M&S Essential 100 Contest

As reported on Thinkubator:
To celebrate its centenary year, M&S is holding a draw to win its “Essential 100” books (over $2,000 value). For details, visit the M&S website.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Martini Madness at Mark’s Fiasco

Shake ItMy friend Scott is competing in Martini Madness at Mark’s Fiasco on Thursday, June 15.

If you live in Vancouver and like martinis, come down to Mark’s Fiasco between 8 and 10 pm. For $10 you get 3 martinis and the chance to vote on the best one. Actually I will be voting for Scott’s martini, whether it is the best or not, but you can choose to be less corrupt.

Thursday, June 15
8-10 pm
$10 at the door

Mark’s Fiasco Restaurant
2486 Bayswater St. @ Broadway

<—Vote for this guy.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Tyee Adds a Books Site

TheTyee.ca was started in November 2003 by David Beers, who’s renowned for bringing arts and culture news to British Columbians.

The Tyee is an independent alternative daily, and it’s all electronic, meaning you can subscribe to the RSS, you can receive updates via email, you can read and comment in the various forums, and you can enter cool contests.

And now, there’s books!

In addition to the usual mix of reviews, features, essays, interviews, and excerpts, the editors are promising eclectic reading lists, interactive discussions between writers and readers and daily coverage of book news from BC and beyond.

It’s exciting when new Book pages are born.

Here are the links to some of those cool contests I mentioned:

Win Tickets to Earth: the World Urban Festival

Win a Summer Reading Library! Tyee Books brings you BC publishers’ hottest recent releases.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Made to Break

The nonfiction book that I’m reading right now is worth talking about well before I’m finished.

The book is Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America by Giles Slade. The book is a history of consumerism and the factors that led American inventors and companies to deliberately create obsolence in consumer products. Ok maybe that doesn’t sound like simulating reading but it really is.

The book opens with the shocking numbers of computers and cell phones that are discarded annually. For example, “in 2005 more than 100 million cell phones were discarded in the United States.” That’s 50,000 tons of still-usable equipment. The compact design of cell phones means that it is easier to throw them away than disassemble them, recycle them, and make new ones. All those phones, added to the number of discarded PCs, then the number of TVs are equal to a toxic time bomb according to Slade. “We do not have enough landfills to store and then ignore America’s growing pile of electronic trash.”

Good heavens.

The big scary numbers in the introduction captured my attention, but the real grabbers were in the upcoming chapters on what led to today’s present toxic state, all of which are a contributing factor to the climate crisis Al Gore talks about in the movie An Inconvenient Truth.

Basically mass production is one of our great problems. In the late 19th-centry when the economy changed from man-powered to machine-driven, company bosses stayed up at night worrying about that fact that they could over produce more goods than could be readily consumed. Rather than reducing production, they came up with ways to get people to consume more.

Slade gives a brief history of crackers—once sold in a barrel and then individually packaged and “branded” with guaranteed freshness—of King Camp Gillette and his invention of disposable razors, and other crazy stories.

It’s fascinating to think about the origins of branding and packaging, how clever we were at creating repetitive demand, how we sat around dreaming up ways to encourage disposability of things—some of which I greatly appreciate like sanitary pads and tampons, bathroom tissue and bandaids but also of consumer electronics,  automobiles and clothes.

Slade talks about the anti-thrift campaigns during and after the First World War, during the Depression, and after the Second World War, and how entrenched that thinking is today. He talks about the history of the automobile and the creation of the annual model change—change for style sake vs. change for improvement. The Academy Awards make an appearance in the story as an example of a marketing strategy to encourage repetitive consumption. The movie industry’s own version of the annual model change, as was the New York Times’ establishment of the bestseller list for books.

Slade’s story involves a lot of name dropping, but I love it. He’s got the history of autos and why we started painting them different colours, the history of light bulbs, the history of crackers (the National Biscuit Company, which we know as Nabisco), and the history of the radio and why RCA was adamently against FM radio (it was seen as a direct competitor to TV, which was not yet being marketed).

Made to Break is a wild read, and I’m only a third of the way through.