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

Monday, July 30, 2007

Better Books: Grand Finale

Better Books is a conversation in multiple parts between me and Raincoast publicist Dan Wagstaff.

* 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.
* Part 7. Innovation.

It’s been a struggle to close up this series because both Dan and I feel that we have too much to say yet lack the words to say it. In the end, Dan finds the perfect words.

Here’s Dan:

We have covered so much ground that it is difficult to come to wrap this up succinctly isn’t it? And the issues surrounding technology are constantly changing (who knew book trailers were going to rise from the dead?)…

I guess the problem with these questions is that they only look at part of the picture, focusing on issues of delivery and marketing, on the assumption that we already publish books people want to buy (if only they knew it!).

But what if we’re publishing too many books that people don’t actually want? Then the whole problem looks a little different, and digitisation and better marketing can only help so much.

Perhaps this is the issue facing the music industry too? Could the downloading issue actually be a sideshow? I guess blaming customers is easier than improving your product…

In any case, there’s no use in thinking about any of these issues in isolation. We need to think about them holistically. Just as hyping crap e-books isn’t going to work, producing unknown masterpieces that no-one can buy isn’t going to cut it either. We need to look at the whole process. How we can publish smarter, AND improve our marketing and delivery? Certainly, technology can help us with this, but ultimately it is only a tool.

Thank you for following the Better Book series.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Book Review: A Crooked Kind of Perfect

Zoe Elias dreams of playing the piano.

The piano is a beautiful instrument. Elegant. Dignified.
With the piano, you could play Carnegie Hall.
People wear ball gowns and tuxedos to hear the piano.

Instead of buying her a piano, Zoe’s dad gets conned in by the Perfectone salesman and brings home an organ instead of a piano.

I play the organ.
A wood-grained, vinyl-seated, wheeze-bag organ.
The Perfectone D-60.

The organ isn’t Zoe’s only problem. Wheeler Diggs has started following her home from school. He’s become a fan of her dad’s baking. Mr. Elias, having troubles with the outside world, prefers to stay in the safety of his home, acquiring Living Room University certificates. So far he has 26 framed diplomas for courses such as “Roger, Wilco, Over and Cash! Learn to Fly Like the Pros” and “Rolling in Dough: Earn a Dolla’ Baking Challah”.

With dad and Wheeler in the kitchen baking cookies, Zoe is left alone to master the Perfectone D-60, in preparation for the Perform-O-Rama.

When you play piano, you don’t go to Perform-O-Ramas. You give recitals.
A recital is a dignified affair.
There are candelabras at a recital.
People site in velvet chairs and sip champagne and look over the program. There are always programs at a recital.
At a recital, you play Mozart and Beethoven and Strauss and Bach.
You do not play Hits of the Seventies.

Zoe is too funny for words, my words any way, Linda Urban has managed to perfect capture the sense of hilarity in all of her words.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban is perfect for readers 8-12, but I say Zoe’s perfect for anyone with a sense of humour and a recollection of the Perfectone organ. If you’re from the Prairies, you’ll know what I’m talking about for sure, boom-pa cha-ka, boom-pa cha-ka.

Zoe in A Crooked Kind of Perfect is the next Little Miss Sunshine.

Book Review: She Dreams in Red

Author photo of Alexis Kienlen, poetI’ve been reading Alexis Kienlen’s LiveJournal blog for several years now, and I was excited when she announced that her book of poetry had been accepted for publication by Frontenac House. Having worked for a book publisher I know how difficult the acquisition stage is, how much work goes into deciding whether a book is the right fit or not, and here was a wonderful example of someone I knew making it through that process—a process, which at times, can be as hard as writing the book in the first place.

Maybe Alexis will re-tell the story in the comments about what that process was like and how excited she was to hear that her book was going to be published.

I was determined to blog about her book, and because Alexis is my friend, I wanted to do a good job. Instead I procrastinated and now She Dreams in Red is published and several people have reviewed it and I’m still working out the best way to talk about it.

I don’t know why I try to make thing harder than they need to be. She Dreams in Red is a beautiful book of poems.

In university I never understood poetry, and I still feel nervous about it. But I have found poets whose work I enjoy, Dennis Cooley in particular. Alexis’ poems are as inviting and as evocative.

The poems are divided into the following sections: Chinese Cafe, Indonesia, Mongolia, Tibet, and Love and Lust.

Each time I pick up the book, I find a new favourite. I’ve been reading the poems in chronological order because I feel there is a greater story that the collection is telling, at the same time, every time I wander by my book stack, I pick it up and randomly flip to a new poem. It’s a great way to discover this book, and I’m very glad that Alexis has published a book of poems because it gives me an entry back into the world of poetry.

If you haven’t picked up a book of poetry in a while, I suggest She Dreams in Red. It’s good to re-discover this writing form and I guarantee you’ll find something that grips your imagination in this collection.

You can purchase a copy from Frontenac House by emailing the editor or by visiting one of the stores listed. I say, get on it though, poetry runs are often small so if you want a copy, now is the time. I found the fastest, non-procrastinating way was to email the editor and send in a cheque. Old school, I know. But we’re talking about poetry. In some ways I think it demands a handwritten note. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blogging for Beginners

Wow, this workshop is cheap and going to be really good for beginner bloggers. Get on it. There’s only 8 spots.

What: Blogging for Beginners: from zero to Technorati in 7 hours
When: 9:30am-4:30 pm, Saturday, July 28th, 2007
Where: Tradeworks Training Society, 2nd floor, 87 East Pender Street at Columbia, Vancouver
Why: Get your blog up and running in one day:
strictly limited to no more than 8 students, this course covers blog basics like:

  • what a blog can and can’t do for you
  • doing business on blogs/advertising and Adsense
  • podcasting, video, audio, and text posts
  • basic copyright law and accepted practices
  • blog promotion
  • joining the blogosphere at large
  • solving basic technical problems, where to find help
  • what to say when you have nothing to say/what to say when you have far too much to say.

Who: raincoaster media ltd, in partnership with Tradeworks Training Society.

Contact lorraine.murphy at gmail dot com for more information
How(much)? $100 tuition for the full day
Pre-register to reserve your space: email lorraine.murphy at gmail dot com or phone 778-235-0592

Blogging is the most powerful self-publishing tool ever invented; not only is it free and accessible, but it’s easy. Let Vancouver blogger and entrepreneur Lorraine Murphy teach you the skills to start up, maintain and promote your own blog. Whether you’re interested in blogs for self-expression, showcasing your professional expertise, personal journaling, keeping in touch with family, making new friends, sharing poems, or even publishing a book, this intensive one-day course will get you up and running.

With class size limited to 8, this will be a day of personalized, hands-on learning. During the class you will create your own blog, tweak the design, publish your first post, add a YouTube video, and even some music. Then you’ll learn how to let Google and Technorati and other search engines know you exist, and begin to take part in the blogging community as a whole, including where to turn when you need help. We’ll wrap up with a lesson on effective and values-driven blog promotion practices and netiquette. You will leave with a functional, optimized blog and all the skills you need to take it as high in the blogosphere as you want to go. See you on Technorati!

Bio: Lorraine Murphy is a Vancouver blogger, writer, and editor. She has been blogging for many years, both professionally and personally, and her flagship blog, http://www.raincoaster.com

, is ranked in the top 16,000 blogs in the world. She also maintains The Shebeen Club Blog   for the literary group of the same name, and running through rain , for students of her course Blogging to Personal Growth. Ms Murphy is the author of Terminal City: Vancouver’s Missing Women and a former Small Business Columnist at Business in Vancouver newspaper and Occupational Pursuit magazine. As one of the cornerstone volunteers in the Wordpress.com

  technical help forums, she has long experience helping beginning bloggers develop fluency and achievement online.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter Party at VanDusen Garden

For those of you who’ve asked for details about the Harry Potter Party at VanDusen Garden. Here they are.

We arrived and lined up along with thousands of other wizards along 37th. The line was huge. At one point some muggle or another with a megaphone started telling people he had the words of the next Harry Potter book. Did we want to hear it. The resounding answer was no. Go peddle madness elsewhere.

At 11 pm, the doors to the garden opened and the line was ushered through. We passed all sorts of secret wizard police dressed in traffic-directing gear. The path into the clearing was lit with orange twinkle lights. When we arrived at the end of the path we were met with the sight of thousands already gathered in the garden’s centre. There were little white tents around the outside of the circle. Each tent was numbered and decorated as a Ministry of Magic door.

There were also tents for refreshments—water or Happy Planet drinks—as well as ginger cookies and lots of candies. One tent had a stage and a wizard band. There were stilt walkers and dragons and costumes and lots of umbrellas because it was raining.

At midnight we had a big countdown and then the tent doors were opened.

I know I described all this before, but here it is again, in case I missed anything the first time. And for those of you not satisfied with photos, here’s a video.

Sneak Peek: The Book of Stanley by Todd Babiak

No quite a book review.

I can’t tell you about this book yet because it’s not in the stores. But really, once it’s there, you must go get it.

Todd Babiak is my one of my favourite Canadian authors. He is satirical in a Canadian way. Not too British, not too American. Just plain Canadian funny. I’ve tried to describe this book to others as “Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets Michael Winter”. I hope that’s flattering to all involved.

I am a huge fan of The Garneau Block, Babiak’s first novel, which is now out in paperback.
Here’s my review.
Buy it on Amazon: The Garneau Block in paperback.

I was really excited to meet Todd at Book Expo Canada. And I was even more excited to open up the book.

Todd Babiak

Stanely Moss is an average man. That is until God tells him to go to Banff. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that. But the short and long of it is that Stanley goes to Banff looking for answers and finds a hell of a lot of questions.

If you want an early peak, it won’t make much sense but you can watch some LeapTV.com or watch my teaser.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Summer Book Reads from Raincoast Books

Just in the knick of time.

My pals at Raincoast have sent over a whole loop bag of summer books. I’m a fan of teen fiction—really good teen fiction that is. And now that I’m finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I’m looking for the next big book.

My reading find at the moment is A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban. I am laughing aloud reading this book. It’s hilarious. Poor Zoe has always wanted a piano. She dreams of recitals and playing Carnegie Hall. In lieu she gets a Perfectone D-60 organ and a spot at Perform-O-Rama.

Really and truly funny.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Vancouver Kidsbooks Harry Potter Party

Vancouver Kidsbooks held the best Harry Potter party. It was at Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver. Here are some photos.

Created with Paul’s flickrSLiDR.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Two and a Half Hours Left

My mother just called to find out what I’m wearing to the party tonight. We’re going to the Van Dusen Gardens to the biggest Harry Potter party in Vancouver.

I’ve gone to every single Kidsbooks party for Harry Potter. Not only do they do the best facade for their store, they do the best party.

I always want a pristine copy of the book but they put a sticker on the cover. With each book, the sticker is different so I’ve taken to collecting those, as well as the adult editions and then another kids edition, just so I have one with a clean jacket cover.

I know. It’s a bit much.

But I can’t tell you how much I’m dreading the end of this series. In many ways I’m so excited that another book is here. In other ways, I’m fairly certain that Harry’s life will end with the books. (I haven’t read any spoilers so don’t say if you know.)

I just finished book 6 an hour ago and I’m now wandering around the house demanding James help me find my lightning bolt tattoos. I have a small stack of them ... somewhere.

He’s quite patient with my Harry obsession, and I know that for the next 24 hours, he’s going to leave me alone as much as possible so that I can read the book and get it over with. I used to savour Harry. Now I devour him so that no one can spoil the end for me. I do, however, read them over and over again looking for the clues I missed the first time around.

Again, I know. It’s a book. I’m an adult.

There are people who wear spock ears. I roll my eyes at them, yet if I could just find those tattoos.

The magic of Harry Potter for me is this collective experience. Going to a bookstore with thousands of people (no exaggeration) and getting excited about a story that we all know and have been anticipating for 2 years. We’ve speculated. We’ve searched for spoilers and theories, and now this is it. It’s exciting.

How many things do we do en masse anymore? Things together, regardless of age group. How often can you be silly and excited and run around in the dark listening to wizard music and pretending you can do magic?

This is it.

My mother is attaching the sequince lightning bolt to her cloak right now.

Since Harry survey

Take my Since Harry survey.

Also posted on NowPublic.com

Since 1997, when J.K. Rowling published the first Harry Potter book, the Philosopher’s Stone has been compromised, the Chamber of Secrets has been re-opened, the prisoner of Azkaban has turned out to be Harry Potter’s godfather, the Goblet of Fire has become a portkey that tricks Harry Potter and brings him to Voldemort, the Order of the Phoenix have reconvened to fight the Death Eaters, the Half-Blood Prince has saved Harry at potions but has destroyed a beloved friend ... and now we’re at the Deathly Hallows. The eve where the thin veil between the muggle world and the magic world disappears.

Tonight, at midnight, is the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

For many it is the end of a 10-year saga. For early fans of the book, Harry has gone from 11 to 17. He’s had his first kiss, he’s watched friends die, he’s had to make hard choices, he’s made the strongest friendships imaginable. For fans, some have gone from having the book read to them as children to graduating high school. They too have had first kisses, fights with friends, perhaps had family or friends die, and have had to make tough choices. For others, children have grown up and left home, there have been marriages, divorces, graduations, babies, retirement, happy times and sad times.

Ten years of Harry Potter—magic, madness and Pottermania—are coming to a close.

How will you remember this time? What’s happened in your life since 1997? If you’re a fan of the books, what’s happened in your life since Harry?

Tell your story on SinceHarry.com

Or take the Since Harry survey.

Aggregated results will be posted on SinceHarry.com.

As of July 20, 2007: Early response to the survey shows that of 100 respondents:

* 86.8% had read at least one Harry Potter book
* 28.3% started reading Harry Potter in 1998
* 33% are planning to attend a midnight party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
* 74% are planning to buy the book vs. borrow it from a library or friend (11%) or not read the book at all (15%)

In response to “What’s happened in your life since 1997”, the following life events are the most common:

* 72.6% travelled
* 71.6% changed jobs
* 66.3% saw all the Harry Potter movies
* 65.3% had a death in the family or of a friend
* 59% learned to pronounce Hermione
* 57.9% have gotten excited about a book launch
* 55.8% started a blog

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Since Harry ...

Take my Since Harry survey.

It was a warm summer day in 1998 when I read my first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I was working as an intern in the catalogue department at Raincoast Books. We were struggling to get a more prominent display in our Spring catalogue for the 3 Harry Potter books.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was being published in the spring and the books were doing ok in BC. Vancouver Kidsbooks was selling them like hot cakes and begging us to print more. But the East coast and Toronto reps were unsure. The enthusiasm for the books hadn’t reached their territory.

We decided to put the book image on the front cover of the catalogue.

I was sick of hearing about Harry Potter. The UK press coverage billed J.K. Rowling as an up-and-coming writer, the kids were posting online about how awesome the books were, we were brainstorming how to help series along. I was tired of hearing about Harry Potter and never having read a chapter.

With the teen fiction I was promoting, I would read the first chapter, if it was good, I’d read the full book. If it was bad, I’d read a middle chapter, scan a couple of other pages and read the last chapter. That was my plan for Harry Potter.

My bus ride was an hour long, lots of time to decide if Harry Potter was good or bad. When I walked into Raincoast that morning, I told them that I couldn’t do any work. Harry Potter was stuck in the dungeon and I needed to see what was going to happen.

I was hooked.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone wasn’t the best writing that I’d ever read, but it was definitely fun. There was something captivating about the characters, poor Harry trapped in the cupboard under the stairs.

Since that morning in 1998 I have changed jobs at least 5 times; I’ve started my own business; I’ve joined Harry Potter fan sites, attended midnight parties and been fuelled by the excitement of so many kids (young and old) dressed up as wizards; and I’ve fallen deeper into Pottermania than I thought possible.

The friendships that I’ve gained because of the books have been deeper than I expected. This is the book series that I feel most passionate about. I hide that passion because when I worked at Raincoast I didn’t want my “outside” friends to badger me about the stories or inside-scoops they thought I might have. Now as the series comes to a close I want to celebrate the fun times that have been the last 10 years.

To that end, I’ve created a quick survey.

If you’re a Harry Potter reader, take my survey, see what kinds of experiences we’ve collectively shared during our time with the books. I’ll post the results on SinceHarry.com.

Click Here to take survey

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Alistair MacLeod Appointed to Order of Canada

imageI read in the The Windsor Star today that Alistair MacLeod has been appointed to the Order of Canada by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean.


MacLeod’s collection of short stories Lost Salt Gift of Blood is my all-time favourite collection. The stories are tight.

I also enjoyed As Birds Bring Forth the Sun, his second collection, and his novel No Great Mischief. The novel didn’t grab me as much as the short stories but as a fan of an author who publishes so rarely it was a treat nonetheless.

See all titles on Amazon.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Book Reviews from a Canadian blogger

Canadian blogger ... that’s me, Monique Trottier. Here in Vancouver. I review books.

Yah right, where and when you might ask?

Well, I’ve fallen behind recently. I like to post an individual review for each book, but I’m desperate so here’s the quick roundup.

Town House by Tish Cohen
Very funny. Jack is afraid to leave the house. Clinically. This is a novel about the madcap adventures of Jack Madigan, son of legendary rock legend Bas Madigan. It’s quirky. I really liked it. Please have a look at this book.

Falling Sideways by Tom Holt
My first science fiction read. Ok, maybe not the first but the first I remember. David Perkins is the victim of a well-orchestrated scheme to let clones and frogs control the Earth. That’s not entirely accurate but I have 3 minutes before my flight. This was a good book too. Really well written. Not sure if I’m a fan of sci-fi yet, but if it’s all like this, I’ll try it.

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill
If you pick any title in this list to investigate further, sorry no links, then pick this one. Baby is the main character. We follow her from childhood to older childhood. I truly believe that we use stories to make sense of the world. Baby tells herself pretty incredible stories to try to understand her druggie father, her missing mother, her attraction to the wrong sorts of men, the screwed up system of Child and Family Services. Heather has created a strong and confident voice in this character. As a novel it does all sorts of things right. For good or bad, it reminds me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Strange characters, a look inside those characters’ minds, great writing, a bit of soul searching and strong narrative. 5 starts for sure.

The Big Moo by Seth Godin
One-page case studies and inspirational stories from 33 experts and thought wizards. I really enjoyed this book too. It’s business but inspirational business. I think it will sit on my shelf for years to come and will be pulled off frequently. It’s one of those reads that will mean different things to you at different times. Even if you’re not self-employed, if you’re interested in company structures, organizational behaviour and big ideas, have a read.

Many, many apologies for the lack of links but I know you can all Google and Amazon. I’ll fill in the blanks later. Also no spell check so the editors in the crowd, maybe skip this post, or read lightly.

Cheers and now I’m off to Banff for a wedding.

Exit stage left. Zing!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Raincoast Announces Winner of Harry Potter Contest

Via the Raincoast Harry Potter newsletter;

Lucky Matthew Pincin is going to London to attend the launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, ” J.K. Rowling and The Moonlight Signing”.

1,700 fans will gather on the evening of Friday July 20 and will have the opportunity to meet J.K. Rowling and have their book signed at the Natural History Museum starting at one minute past midnight. The first 500 randomly selected winners will attend the midnight reading. The subsequent signing is expected to last until dawn. Every ticket holder will receive a free book from Bloomsbury Publishing, the British publisher.

I particularly like the note about why Matthew loves reading Harry Potter.

When entering the contest, Matthew explained his attraction to Harry Potter. “I love reading Harry Potter because I enjoy all his adventures and wish that I had a pet owl and could go to a school like Hogwarts.” His mother Sandra added, “Matthew and I have read the books together and I am also a big fan, so having the chance to be in London for the launch of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows is a great thrill for both of us.”

Lucky ducks!

The Raincoast newsletter also announced that over 15,000 Canadian fans between 8 and 18 entered the contest.

Holy Hogwarts!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Better Books: Gumboot Books Plays Online

Ok, I’m behind in closing out the Better Books series, but this tidbit in the Vancouver Sun this morning caught my attention.

Gumboot Books is a Vancouver publishing company who is using the web in an interesting way to market books.

Gumboot invites non-profits, charities and community groups to sign up on its website and receive 10 per cent of every sale they generate. The more buyers the groups send to the Gumboot website, the more books are sold and the more money they raise. Book buyers choose which cause will benefit.

Sounds good to me.

For more info: Gumboot Books: spREAD the word fundraising project.