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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Monique Likes To ...

Silly game over on the Facebook.

Type your name in quotations with the words “likes to” in Google and post the top 10 things.

“Monique likes to” results:

Monique Likes to Get Her Exercise.
Monique likes a workout that brings her pulse to around 140 BPM for a good 8 minutes.

This is sooooo not true.

Monique likes to let kids know how much fun math and science can be.

Yay, right.

Besides the ability to make friends and family feel right at home, Monique likes to entertain with a salute to her French heritage.

That means we drink wine.

Monique likes to go into a power walk as soon as my seat touches the saddle when I get on.

Sweet Jesus, I don’t want to know more about this one.

Monique likes to break free from the ordinary in her expression but also goes back into the more realistic look.

Indeed. Have you seen my avatar?

In her spare time, Monique likes to paint, has a keen interest in real estate and loves spending time with her best friend Tom.

I hope Tom doesn’t mention this to James.

Monique likes to be different. But it sure is hard to be different when you go to a school where all the students have to wear uniforms.

True enough.

Monique likes to create an easy-going atmosphere in her classes, focussing on awareness of breath and an understanding of the essence of a posture.

Sounds like me.

Monique likes to set up her classroom so students are free to take materials and work independently without constantly asking “Where are the scissors?”

Precisely why I never have any scissors. Damn Monique.

Monique likes to mention the first members who signed up because she was one of them.

I’m sure a spazz.

And here’s the first image that shows up for “Monique Likes To”
Maybe the most fitting find. It’s the cover of a book.

Thanks Sio.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mini BookExpo for Bloggers

Couldn’t attend Book Expo Canada this year?

If you’re a blogger, check out Mini Book Expo to claim it (an advance reading copy), read it and blog it.

There are 53 books ready to go this year, and another 11 Advance Reader’ Copies.

If you’re a publisher and you want to participate by donating some books or ARCs, contact Alexa:
lex [at] cheapeatstoronto [dot] com

I noticed that the paperback for Rob’s book, which I enjoyed, is available:
Monique’s review of Before I Wake by Robert J. Wiersema

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Nature of Author Interviews

Author Sid Tafler contacted me earlier this week to ask if I’d be interested in checking out his video. At first glance, it looks like a book trailer, which is exactly what I’m interested in at the moment. For those of you following my conversation with publicity Dan Wagstaff, we’ve been on about the usefulness of book trailers.

Well, have a look at what Sid’s done. I love it.

The book is for real, and there’s more info about the book at NetBC.com.

Us and Them is a memoir, a personal and family story about how people in Canada divide themselves into groups—French or English, Protestant or Catholic, Jew or Muslim, native or non-native, etc., and how this syndrome has changed over the years.

I asked Sid what the video was all about:

Sid said:

The video started as a plan to promote the book, but when I wrote it, I got caught up with the idea of the author interview and all the groans I’d heard over the years about the author tour and how some broadcast interviewers know nothing about the book or the author.

In my own case, I was interviewed on radio after the book was launched last year and a minute before the interview began I asked the host “Did you read the book?” and he said “No, but I like the cover.”

To me, this is hilarious and indicative of the nature of author interviews. It’s not really about the author reaching readers, it’s about the author generating good sound clips that can be reused.

Mark Haddon has posted a similar comment of discontent and disillusionment about author interviews on the Random House Insiders’ blog:

The Joy of Publicity by Mark Haddon

The biggest mistake is to think that interviews are a service provided to writers so that they can communicate with readers. The function of interviews is to provide good copy (and most editors will think nothing of ditching interviews if writers have failed to say anything interesting).


The irony is that interviews are a rubbish way of communicating actual information to readers. I sometimes think it would be more efficient to write them individual letters, put them into bottles and hurl them into the sea. I must have answered the question, ‘How much research did you do for Curious Incident?’ [5] at least 500 times, and journalists still ask it on a regular basis.

Overall, I like Sid’s video. It’s funny. It reminds me of the mock interviews on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. I’d love to see a series of these videos promoting books, but I think it also needs to be clear that these are real books. I had to clarify Us and Them was a published book. My suggestion would be to post a final frame telling viewers where to get book information and a link to the website. Other than that, I had a good laugh and I now know a lot about this book—I was curious enough to go and find out. That is what a good book trailer should do.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Adobe Releases New eBooks Software Program

Via Morgan News

Adobe has released a new e-book software program: Adobe Digital Editions 1.0.

Adobe Digital Editions is available as a free download for Microsoft Windows and Apple systems. And according to the Adobe press release, it already has some industry support.

From Morgan News:

Digital Editions also offers its own support for PDF and XML-based publications. That means it’s already compatible with quite a few existing publications. It also supports Flash, which would allow authors to imbed audio and video. Finally, you would be able to set up bookmarks, do highlighting and make text notes in the publication.

The other interesting component of this is that Adobe’s InDesign CS3 is expected to include an export feature to create the ebooks. Bang zoom. The ebook race is off again.

Check out the freebies available.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Book Review: The Line Painter by Claire Cameron

I came across Claire Cameron’s The Line Painter in the HarperCollins Canada Facebook group.

See Facebook is good for something other than finding your elementary school detention partner.

The Line Painter is not a book I would typically pick up. It looks like a thriller. I suppose the quote from Andrew Pyper on the front should have been the clue that it was more literary than it looks. But I judge by the cover.

Anyway, The Line Painter is about dippy-canoe Carrie running away from home. Seems I only read books about run-aways these days. Carrie is an adult running away. Her boyfriend has been killing in an accident. The accident happens moments after they have a huge fight. She’s a little torn by what’s happened and feels lost in her world.

Carrie is unhappy to start with. She doesn’t know where her relationship is going, she doesn’t know where she’s going. Life is hard, confusing, and really not rewarding.

The road trip is meant to take her mind off her sucky life. The problem is the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and the knight in shining armour is a psycho-looking guy who’s painting the highway lines at 20 km per hour. This rescue vehicle is less than flashy, although it does have flashy lights.

The thing that killed me about this book is the suspense. I kept waiting for the line painter to do her in. There are a couple of bears and other shady characters who I thought might get her too, but I really had my money on the crazy, alcoholic line painter.

I’m not going to tell you if I won that bet because I don’t want to ruin your life.

If you’re looking for a fast summer read, and something to make you feel a little creepy-crawlie, pick up Claire Cameron’s The Line Painter.

Book Review: Runnerland by John Burns

Mural in ProgressMural in progress ... do not tag. Taker

This public surface, reserved for Taker, could be a scene in John Burn’ new novel Runnerland

Runnerland is about Peter, aka Runner. He’s an amateur artist. A kid living on the streets. And he’s running from life.

In particular he’s running from his former life, that of typical teenager whose living the middle-class lifestyle. The thing that drives Peter away from home is his father’s death and the discovery that he’s adopted. These two life altering moments result in a bus trip across Canada, the initiation into a street group (kind of a gang but that’s never explicit).

The thing that I like about Peter’s story was that it was believable. Believable enough for someone who doesn’t live on the street and who’s never run away. I like that he doesn’t follow the path of drugs. But he gets messed up in his own way. I feel that Peter is lost, but I also feel like he’s smart enough to survive.

I hope Taker is too.

See more about Runnerland by John Burns.

Marketing for Self-Published Authors

Bruce Batchelor, former publisher and CEO of Trafford Publishing in Victoria, is giving a workshop at SFU on July 19.  It’s aimed at self-published authors. The copy looks like it’s for people considering self-publishing, but self-published authors will definitely benefit from the afternoon session, which is focused on marketing.

July 19
Thursday 9 am–5 pm
Fee $225 CDN (all course materials provided)

Registration is required asap. So if you’re interested, here’s the link:

The afternoon is devoted to marketing and distribution, since getting a book into print is only the start. Participants will use the ‘multiple long tails’ concept and the templates in Bruce Batchelor’s new Book Marketing De-Mystified to create the optimal marketing strategy for their indie book.

Bruce Batchelor is a celebrated entrepreneur who invented on-demand publishing, helping over 10,000 authors see their books in print through Victoria-based Trafford Publishing, where he was publisher and CEO for 11 years. He is a best-selling author and presenter at writer’s conferences. He is editor-in-chief and publisher at Agio Publishing House. He is an expert on book marketing, and consults to publishing companies internationally.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Elastic Path

Ecommerce platforms for online retailers. Unbeknownst to Darren, I’ve been looking for ecommerce options. Today he posted a link to Elastic Path and some crazy videos they’ve produced to remind people that online shopping needs to be as easy as offline shopping. You can say that again.

Thanks Darren for the timely post.

And here are the wacky videos:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Better Books: Part 7

Welcome to the penultimate Better Books post.

Raincoast publicist Dan Wagstaff and I are having an on-going discussion about books and technology, which will no doubt continue tomorrow at BookExpo Canada, publishing’s annual trade show.

Here is our question for this week:

With the shrinking space for media coverage of books is the best way to market now through making a splash with innovative marketing campaigns?

How can that be done cost effectively with the small budgets allotted to marketing and publicity?

Dan says:

Innovative marketing campaigns are very short term to me. Yes you need to be innovative –- you always need to be innovative –- but the words “innovative marketing campaign” are just like publishing shorthand for cheap, flashy and ineffective. 

Take something like the Craig Davidson The Fighter boxing match. I am probably the only person in publishing who didn’t think it was a brilliant idea (it is nominated for a CBA award by the way). To me it was just something that publishing types (and their friends) thought was cool. It got TONS of column inches in TO but the book has only done ok. Penguin might tell you it’s done more ok than it would’ve done without the punch-up and they’d probably be right –- it’s just that the numbers are so pitifully small it’s hard to work up the will to live, let alone get excited about it.

For those of you who don’t know, Craig Davidson engaged in a punching match with another author to promote his book The Fighter. Craig is a regular guy. The pre-match featured Craig’s publicist in the ring. Another regular guy. It was quite the spectacle and got a lot of press for Penguin and the book. So much attention that I think it was effective for that reason. As a publicity stunt it tapped into the “Fight Club”  culture at the time, it did something that was totally different than a couple of cocktails and some light jazz.

In regards to not selling books, we’ll that is the ultimate financial goal, but telling stories is the true goal. The Fighter boxing match certainly gave the publishing industry new stories to tell about itself, which in turn were told in the media to readers.

Only measuring sales as the return on investment for any marketing plan is misguided. That’s why I think we need to start measuring campaigns in terms of good content, user participation, engagement, and a viral effect.

I think Dan would agree with me on that.

Dan says,

To be effective of course you need to be innovative, but, as I suggested earlier, it is also about getting the basics right –- being smart, knowing your market and getting your numbers right, mailing out galleys to book review editors EARLY (getting galleys in the first place in some cases!), making sure you follow up, working with the media, getting the books in store on time, making sure the bookstores are complying with co-op. PUBLISHING BETTER BOOKS.  THEN worrying about innovative marketing.

We’ve talked about this a few times now [Monique and Dan] and I think the Japanese car industry, notably Toyota, is a really interesting model for publishing. There was a great article in the New York Times a couple of months discussing Toyota’s big innovation. It wasn’t innovating inside the cars themselves, fiddling with the extras, it was revolutionizing how cars were made in the first place. The manufacturing innovations enabled Toyota to produce an affordable quality product, whilst being flexible to consumer demand. I would say there is a certain amount the book industry could learn from that!

Second question for this week:

Book trailers and more visually stimulating multi-media marketing:
Does this detract from the actual product for sale or is it an effective way to entice the potential reader to purchase the book?

Dan says:
I don’t know who watches “book trailers” and the ones I have seen have been universally bad. In the same way books are not music, they are not movies either. Trailers aren’t a particularly cost effective way of advertising given you have to create them from scratch and they’re not really advertising your product in the same way as movie trailers advertise movies.

I mean if you have the right title and you can do something interesting that looks professional, great –- do it.

A more cost effective option is probably author interview videos or podcasts …

Honestly though, I’m more interested in user-driven content –- getting the readers to make movies about the book etc. 

BookShorts is one example of the book trailers Dan is talking about. I’ve seen a couple and I think the ones that are short are better than the longer movie-trail style shorts. Maybe that’s personal preference. I don’t mind investing a minute or two watching a video clip. I’d rather watch an ad about books than one about socks or toothpaste.

I agree though, the stuff that readers and fans create is always much more interesting in the long run than the stuff that marketing companies produce. It’s more genuine at least. The catch-22 is that fans can be spurred on to create their own ads or videos when the corporate-produced ones are really bad or when they are really good. We need either excellent models to follow or horrible moulds to break.

I’m tired of the questions about tight budgets though. If you want to sell your stuff, people need to know that it’s available to buy. This is the basic concept of sales and marketing. If you are producing stuff and not spending any money on getting it into stores or into the hands of reviewers (paper, radio, tv, internet) or advertising well to consumers, are you surprised that your book sales are down?

To echo Dan, we need to publish books that are worth reading. We need to find ways to connect readers to books and authors. And we need to be much better at doing both.

Maybe Dan and I will put up some cost-effective marketing plans next week as our final post.

Thanks for reading.

Better Books—a conversation in multiple parts:

* Introduction
Part 1. Market challenges.
* Part 2. The music industry and the book industry.
* Part 3. We go on a bit, discussing what we’ve learned.
* Part 4. Ebooks and POD.
* Part 5. POS materials.
* Part 6. Marketing plans.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Better Books: Part 6

Raincoast publicist Dan Wagstaff and I are having an on-going discussion about books and technology. Here is our question for this week:

With the more interactive nature of marketing in book publishing today, does it become more important that the individual author interact well, speak to the media, to readers? Do they need to be mediagenic?

Dan says:
When has this not been important? Charles Dickens was a performer…

The idea of “author as artist” sitting alone in a garret writing all day is just bullshit. Rightly or wrongly, it has nothing to with publishing. Grow up.

Seriously, if people want to write for the joy of writing, then I think that there are better avenues to share your work that involve less human suffering than traditional publishing (hello internet). If you want to be “published” then, yes you will have to talk to people.

More seriously, new technology and the mainstreaming of non-fiction (and the decline of fiction and poetry) have made us more aware of something that was already required: opinionated authors who can speak with authority and with charisma.

Dan is the one who doesn’t like the questions this week.

Monique says:
Not all great authors can speak well to the media, but if they are great authors, their publishers should give them some coaching.

It’s difficult to promote a book.

You have to promote the person who wrote the book and the story behind that book. That’s what’s engaging to readers, it’s not just a book. It’s an experience.

Given MySpace pages, blogs, interactive sites, does an author need to commit more time to promoting than in the past on a more traditional book tour?

Dan says:
The music industry is rediscovering the importance of artists connecting with their audience and this is done through live performance as well as MySpace. I don’t think that blogs will kill off book tours -– they go hand in hand.

Monique says:
MySpace, Facebook, blogs, these things are all means for an author to connect to his or her readers, and yes, I think they have importance and should be used. But used effectively. There’s no point forcing an author, who doesn’t want to blog, to blog. Also if you have a good author, you don’t want his or her writing style to become a blog writing style. Writing is a habit and I’m not sure that blog writing is the best of habits (that’s my personal experience).

Publisher blogs are an interesting way to introduce authors to the online space. Interview your authors on your blog. Get them to post for a week as a guest blogger. Post an audio interview with the author. Set up a Facebook group and a MySpace chat time, like HarperCollins is doing with Clare Cameron of The Line Painter. Connect to other litbloggers and get your author a guest spot.

There are creative ways to engage with readers, ones that don’t involve just setting up a blog.

The problem with the traditional book tour is that unless you’re Michael Ondaatje, you can’t get people out in mass numbers to book events—fiction events anyway. It’s really difficult to justify the cost of a tour when you can’t get the crowds and you don’t get the book sales.

I used to work as a promotions coordinator and there’s the airline travel, the hotels, the food, the posters and in-store co-op, the expedited shipment of books to the store, the promotion of the event, the coordination of publicity and other media in each city.

It’s sad but true. Authors need to realize that as fun as book tours can be, they are not great venues for selling books and their impact on readers’ discovery of new books or unknown authors is limited. The purpose of the tour used to be to get the author “out there”, in front of people. That was the means of discovery.

Today, you can handle most of that online and can attract a more appropriate audience.

Are book tours still effective vehicles for selling books and gaining author exposure when now so much can be done online or through radio and television remote hook-ups?

Dan says:
To my mind book tours have always been about building author loyalty not just about immediate sales. Perhaps they are less of a priority, but then again many media outlets still want to interview in person and not remotely, and I think readers still want to meet authors and be inspired by them.

I mean, with the best will in the world, the Longpen is the most redundant idea ever. It does nothing for readers… All future Longpen R & D money should be donated to the One Laptop Per Child project (something that might just help child literacy and create a new generation of readers who will want to buy books -– although they will probably want them digitally damn them!

I just have a story to add.

Monique says:
When JK Rowling went to early book readings, it was her and the librarian or the bookstore staff, and maybe one or two customers who happened to get trapped near the reading unexpectedly and felt too awkward to walk out on the poor woman.

It was word of mouth and the online fan clubs that skyrocketed her to fame. I know Harry Potter is in a league of its own, but in the early days (books 1, 2, and 3), she was just a regular author with a bit of a fan club bubbling to the surface.

At the end of the day, I think we need to realize that there is no cookie cutter campaign. Publishers need to find the time to create promotions that suit the author and the nature of the book. Spending money on a Globe and Mail ad, or book tour, or blog is fine, but it needs to be money spent to the advantage of the author, readers or the book, not money spent because you’re obligated to throw some resources at the thing.

The better the book, the better the promotion.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Book Review: Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

The English Patient, The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife and Handwriting are the only Ondaatje books I’ve ever read. I enjoyed them. I like the lyrical nature of Ondaatje’s writing.

Divisadero  fits the bill perfectly. Ondaatje is telling two stories, a modern-day love story and a forgotten love story—I suppose both are forgotten in some ways.

The first story is Anna’s. In the 1970s in northern California, Anna lives with her sister and father on a farm. The hired hand, Cooper, is also part of the family. All three children, Anna, her sister and Coop, have lost their mothers. It’s a strange world. The mothering nature is missing. There are unspoken rules. The girls are competitive for affection. It unwinds when Coop and Anna begin a tryst that is discovered by her father. Anna runs away and keeps running from love for the rest of the story.

The second story is Lucien Segura’s. In a much earlier time in south central France, Lucien lives with his mother, and next door lives Marie-Neige. She moves there with her husband, a much older husband. Lucien and Marie-Neige grow close as they grow up. It’s the turn of the century and times are different than in 1970, yet the complications of loving someone forbidden to you are much the same.

Lucien’s story is much stronger than Anna’s. Although I enjoyed the writing of both, Lucien’s story is almost mystical. It’s more suck in my imagination than Anna’s story.

I wonder if all of Ondaatje’s love stories are ones of lost, discord and memory.

Find out more about Divisadero  by Michael Ondaatje.

UPDATE: Don mentions in the comments that Random House has a podcast featuring Michael Ondaatje and his M&S editor talking about Divisadero.

Thanks Don.

Defining Canada: An Interesting Blog by Dundurn Press

Dundurn Press is one of the few Canadian publishers who have embraced blogs and maintain one of their own. I love how insider conversations are now made accessible through blogs, mostly because I used to work in publishing and I miss having those conversations.

The Dundurn Press blog is called Defining Canada. I think it’s a good name because I believe that the stories we tell are what define us. How appropriate is that for a publisher.

Dundurn recently published the results of a small internal poll on staff attitudes to newspaper reviews vs. blog reviews. It’s an interesting story. For the most part, they felt that newspaper reviews were far more credible and had more prestige, yet they were split on which was more effective.

I recommended reading the post.

In many ways I am curious about the small war going on between newspaper reviewers and bloggers. In other ways, I don’t understand the argument. Both newspaper and blog reviews are effective but their purpose differs. We keep comparing the two and I don’t think they are comparable, and I don’t think that we should make value judgements about one over the other.

Newspapers are effective at getting a lot of people reading about the same thing on the same day. Their impact is spread thinly over that whole group, but it is a large group.

Blogs are effective at getting a targeted group of people with like interests reading about the same thing. Their impact is deeper but over a smaller group.

Blog reviews can rival newspaper reviews in terms of number of eyeballs, but it’s usually spread over a period of time—not all bloggers post about the same book on the same day, which is perhaps why their impact is considered individually rather than collectively.

Newspaper reviews on the other hand—in particular the Saturday Globe and Mail—do have a certain prestige for authors. If your book is reviewed you can tell your friends and family to buy the newspaper on that day. It’s exciting, it’s cross-Canada. It’s different than directing people to a blog. People know The Globe.

I’m going to avoid stumbling too far down this path today. My final words are “we should not have one over the other. We should have both.”

Friday, June 01, 2007

Mike Shatzkin on New Models for General Trade Publishers

Book Expo America is going on this week in New York. I wish I was there listening to the brains of the industry pontificate.

Luckily they many of them have websites and blogs.

This is a really long speech, which I’ve only had time to browse. It’s not nice webcopy with pull quotes and subheads that allow for easy scanning. I’ll try to pull out the interesting bits if I have time.

End of Trade Publishing Houses by Mike Shatzkin on May 31, 2007. Presented to the 2007 Book Expo America in New York City.