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

Monday, March 16, 2009

SXSW: No Think for Old Publishers

New Think for Old Publishers panel at SXSW drew a lot of frustration from the crowd of book lovers and supporters.

The official description of the session was:

This is not a discussion of whether ebooks are killing treebooks, or whether it’s possible to get cozy with an Amazon Kindle. It’s about how participatory culture and the online world interact with good olde book publishing.Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, Deborah Schultz, and fellow panelists will share with the audience a variety of perspectives on what’s going right and what’s going wrong in publishing, assess success of recent forays into marketing digitally, digital publishing, and what books and blogs have to gain from one another. Penguin Group (USA), which houses some 40 plus imprints and publishes an extremely broad variety of physical and digital products everything from William Gibson’s first ebook in the 90’s to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food to Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels (the source for HBO’s True Blood) is deeply involved in exploring ways that old and new media might better collaborate. Audience members are invited to speak up about what they think book publishers could/should be doing to better provide relevant information and content to blogs, websites, and online communities. Come tell old media what you want and how you want it.

Clay Shirky ITP
John Fagan   Mktg Dir,  Penguin Group (USA)
Deborah Schultz   Founder/Chief Catalyst,  deborahschultz.com
Peter Miller   Dir of Publicity,  Bloomsbury USA
Ivan Held   Pres GP Putnam’s Sons,  Penguin Group (USA)

They certainly told publishers what they think. The summation was “you suck at this is the biggest way possible.”

I think it’s unfair to attack the folks on that panel but as representatives of the industry they do have to go back to their houses and understand that they need to convey, not that bloggers are an unruly bunch, but that publishers need to get off their asses and get involved with social media. Enough is enough.

BookSquare says
If you’re going to hold a session called “New Think for Old Publishers”, you gotta come with some new thinking. Either that or tell the audience that it’s a research session…and the audience is supposed to bring the new thinking. Good idea, needed better execution. Nobody read the panel description to mean “we want the audience to tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it”.


The publishing people on stage said, essentially, tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it. You have 300 people who give up an hour of their lives to hear the cool things the traditional publishing business is doing…and you can ask them to consult on your business?

Watch a video of the panel here.

Other links to conversation about this panel:
Medialoper has a fairly neutral assessment of what unfolded.

Twitter stream of comments on this panel #sxswbp

Monique’s summary
What went wrong is this:
* Publishers have not listened to the crowd for a long time.
* The crowd is restless.
* Publishers wring their hands about the web.
* The crowd offers options publishers don’t like.
* Publishers weep into their hands.
* The crowd wants to help and offers other suggestions.
* Publishers act like deer in headlights.
* The crowd plows down publishers and reinvents the industry without them.

What this panel really came down to is that the wisdom of the crowds is not being tapped. The crowd is now sick and tired of trying to help people who won’t help themselves.

Hold me to this: I’m going to organize a panel in Vancouver. We’re going to create a model for publishing and marketing books. We’re going to move forward as an industry. Leaders will be identified. Roles will be assigned. If you’re not open to totally change everything you’re doing, then you are not ready for this revolution. Don’t come.

Who’s in?


Peter Miller Glibness. “Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Tips from a panelist who barely survived” in Publishers Weekly.
Read the article.

Michael Tamblyn of BookNet Canada on 6 Things That Revolutionize Publishing

I’ll help organize and make it work.


I seem to spend half my life defending publishers and so it’s really depressing that New Think for Old Publishers was such an embarrassing debacle… I would love to believe that the people from publishing at SXSW were not representative, but I’m beginning to think that they are. Anyway, they certainly don’t represent me. So yes, I’m in.


I’m with you!! I’m looking forward to your session here on the 26th.

I’m trying to keep up with all the posts!

Hope you’re having fun.

I’m in. Let me know when & where!

Ok, Dan from Biblioasis is also in. Who else?

Sean via Facebook is also in.

I’m in Monique.  Glad that you’re taking in the glory of sxsw.  Contact me when you’re ready for organizing the Vancouver Next Wave.

I’m in.

Some folks in Seattle are doing a one day Journalism Startup Ideas event in mid April. Basically, techies +  business + journalists thinking up new business models and techniques.

I think a related event around publishing would be excellent.

Let’s get SFU to sponsor it as a lead up to the publishing workshop in the summer.

No earlier than May. Maybe June, close to / co-located with Open Web Vancouver

Keep me posted, and let me know what you need help with!

SUCH a cool idea, Monique. This is (indirectly) the subject of the novel I am working on right now…digital revolution is upon us. And since when have the people in power ever controlled a revolution?


I’m in too. Just back from the BNC tech forum, which was great, but had some of my own complaints - the biggest being “Stop using Twilight as an example.” There are independent Canadian publishers doing this stuff as we speak, and D&M is one of them (or trying to be, anyway - we’re trying really hard to listen to the crowd, so to speak). But we’ve also got stuff to say, so count us in too.


Oooh. This sounds good. Can I come, even if I’m a lousy quitter?

One trusts that Monique is not the Canadian female who gave me an appalling review on my last novel ... but yes, I agree, the industry is getting increasingly useless. The latest example is the reported 3 million advance to an airline pilot. I hope it is a lemon, guys ... here’s to the end of the business model, returns and remainders and all!

Of course we’re in at SFU. Let’s talk about this. It occurs to me that there’s an obvious tie-in to BookCampTO in Toronto in June, too. Some of those people were/are at sxsw too, right?

Clive: I don’t believe I’m the Canadian who gave you an appalling review.

Selina: Your experience post publishing is valuable to this process for sure!

John: Good to hear.

Everyone: If you’re keen to think about this today, read my sketchy notes on Change Your World in 50 Minutes.

I’m in too. As a young writer the publishing industry is an endlessly frustrating hurdle. Why does there need to be this type of archaic barrier between the writer and the reader? The old answer was distribution. The new answer is filtering. I don’t think the new answer is good enough. Check out http://www.pkprodxns.com/?p=78

You know I’m game for a good ol’ event planning meeting.


I’m in. We should ping Kim Werker as well - we’ve been talking about deconstructing the publishing model.

Hot dog! Lots of cool kids have jumped in the pool. I love it. Thanks Bryan too for the link. I agree, the new answer can be pushed further.

I’m in! Not changing is not an option for publishers.

Come out to the Shebeen.

Old Publishers Have New Think Coming
Gutenberg was an early adopter

The Shebeen Club
Monday, April 20, 2009
6:00pm - 9:00pm

What: Old Publishers Have New Think Coming call to arms!

When: Monday, April 20th, 6pm-9

Where: The Shebeen, behind the Irish Heather, 210 Carrall Street.

$15 cash at the door includes dinner and a drink.

And yes, it’s okay to show up without RSVPing first.

Gutenberg was an early adopter. Very few people know that.

Call to action from Monique: I’m going to organize a panel in Vancouver. We’re going to create a model for publishing and marketing books. We’re going to move forward as an industry. Leaders will be identified. Roles will be assigned. If you’re not open to totally change everything you’re doing, then you are not ready for this revolution. Don’t come.

Who’s in?

Monique Trottier is the owner of Boxcar Marketing, an internet marketing company in Vancouver, BC. As the former internet marketing manager of Raincoast Books, she spearheaded major online marketing campaigns, including online promotion of Harry Potter and the creation of the first Canadian-publisher podcast and blog. Her thoughts on marketing and technology can be followed on Twitter at “somisguided” or on her blogs at http://www.boxcarmarketing.com/blog and http://www.SoMisguided.com.

I’m in. I’m all about making more words available to more people in more ways that they’re already using. Don’t make people think your way, find how they’re doing stuff and make your story / book / theatre production / sculpture of Toscanini approachable through ways people are now using / loving / exploring / finding dates though.

Books are fun… aren’t they? Lots of the new tech is fun… doesn’t it make sense to use those together…? Maybe…?

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