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Archive for September, 2009:

Twitter and the New Art of Self-Promotion

posted September 30, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in social media trends

I’ve been doing some reconnaissance reading about Twitter—why people use it and what they perceive its value to be. I am interested in what seems like an inherent paradox: Twitter is so widely and gleefully embraced as a tool for self-promotion (boost your audience, boost your sales, build your personal brand), and yet the prevailing wisdom on how to be an effective and popular Twitterer always seems to warn against being too . . . self-promotional.

The truth is, your followers want more than reminders about your upcoming public appearances and links to your glowing publicity (or merchandising tie-ins). In other words, they don’t just want to consume your product, they want to be connected to you. It seems they want what London-based blogger Leisa Reichelt calls Ambient Intimacy:

Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible [. . .] Twitter tells me when [the people I follow are] hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight.

Who cares? Who wants this level of detail? Isn’t this all just annoying noise? There are certainly many people who think this, but they tend to be not so noisy themselves [. . .] There are a lot of us, though, who find great value in this ongoing noise. It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances.

Knowing these details creates intimacy [. . .] It’s not so much about meaning, it’s just about being in touch.

In keeping with this idea that the most appealing and satisfying Twitterers are those who offer their followers some form of genuine two-way engagement, plus thoughts, ideas, and content that are not directly related to the Twitterer’s personal gain, check out this Mashable mega list:

Literary Tweets: 100+ of the Best Authors on Twitter

*As a side note, it’s great to see that two of the general fiction authors mentioned are not-so-distant graduates of the MFA program here in Missoula, Montana.

Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Story of a Marriage (2008), The Confessions of Max Tivoli (2004), The Path of Minor Planets (2001), and How It Was for Me (2000):


Amanda Eyre Ward, author of  Love Stories in This Town (2009), Forgive Me (2007), How to Be Lost (2005), and Sleep Toward Heaven (2004):




Publishing Prophet of the Week: Richard Nash

posted September 29, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in books publishing social media trends

Humans seem to be attracted to visions of great change, whether social, religious, or economic, especially during periods of instability. Publishing is not immune. With people reading fewer books and spending more time on the Internet, and with paper books, long the preferred container of long narratives, beginning to give ground to ebooks, there is a lot of speculation about what is going to happen to publishing.

Among the most interesting publishing visionaries today is Richard Nash, formerly editorial director of Soft Skull Press. Nash is one of many people who think traditional publishing is broken and needs to be replaced by the new tools and social habits of the twenty-first century. In Nash’s view publishing has to stop selling books as objects (wholly opposite to the current fetish of the object in literary publishing) and consider a different way to get writers and readers together, especially on the Internet.

Nash outlines that different way in a recent Publishers Weekly article. According to Nash, except for the 500 best-selling books, which will be published on the Hollywood blockbuster model, the future of publishing will be based on niche social communities. Reflecting this vision, Nash is starting a new publishing venture, Cursor, which will contain a “portfolio” of online membership communities to which people can subscribe. The first two will be Red Lemonade, a “pop-lit-alt-cult operation,” and charmQuark, a “sci-fi/fantasy community.” Nash explains these communities in Publishers Weekly.

Each community will have a publishing imprint, which will make money from authors’ books, sold as digital downloads, conventional print and limited artisanal editions—and will offer authors all the benefits of a digital platform: faster time to market, faster accounting cycles, faster payments to authors. But the greatest opportunity is in the community itself. Each will have tiers of membership, including paid memberships that will offer exclusive access to tools and services, such as rich text editors for members to upload their own writing, peer-to-peer writing groups, recommendation engines, access to established authors online and in person, and editorial or marketing assistance. Members can get both peer-based feedback and professional feedback.

Nash is looking for investors, so we’ll have to wait a while to see Cursor in action.

There’s an App for That

posted September 28, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in technology

McSweeney's iPhone app

McSweeney's iPhone app

Leave it to the clever folks at McSweeney’s to find a playful way to make a mark in the e-publishing realm. They made an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch! Small Chair will offer an exclusive weekly selection of McSweeney’s material to subscribers. The content will pull from all divisions of McSweeney’s empire, including the Quarterly, the Believer, Wholphin, and so on, and will include not only stories and articles but also music, video, and art. Subscribers will also receive daily missives from McSweeney’s Internet Tendency as well as news and announcements.

The six-month subscription costs $5.99, which works out to just under a buck a month. That’s quite a bargain, though Gawker has not wasted any time in making fun of McSweeney’s. Gawker announced the new app in a post entitled “Everything Annoying in the Universe in One iPhone App.” Even though I am a fan of McSweeney’s, I have to confess that the Gawker title and associated article made me laugh. It seems there is no love lost between McSweeney’s and Gawker (or at least the author of the Gawker article). The final two sentences of the article sum up the author’s feelings: “How much do we have to pay to make sure no McSweeney’s ever gets on our iPhone? Is There An App For That?”

Faber Poetry Typographical Covers

posted September 25, 2009

Posted by Anne Healey in book design


Oswald woodssassoon2lairdlarkingreenlawheaney beowulfde la maremackinnon-jc


I love these Faber and Faber Poetry books, designed by Justus Oehler of Pentagram. This series uses color so beautifully, setting up the rule of three colors (one for the background, one for the title, and one for the author) and then playing with the way the colors complement or contrast with each other. The color combinations vary from vibrant contrasts—like lavender and yellow on greenish blue—to three shades of purple. The size of the text depends on what fits on the page. So Lachlan Mackinnon is never going to have big text, but Alice Oswald can. They also have a tactile feel, being printed on textured, uncoated paper.

And then they break the rule slightly for this one, befitting the wonderfully weird title:




I was collecting some images of these myself and admiring the way they look next to each other, and then I discovered that Faber Books has put together a Flickr set of them! Check it out.

This is also a clever tie-in: get a Faber Poetry poem-a-week widget for your blog or Facebook profile here: I just added it to my Facebook profile.



And there’s yet another tie-in: mugs and playing cards. For when you need to buy a gift for the poetry reader in your life, I guess. You could buy them an actual book, but who knows what they already own, right? Or perhaps you’re looking for a present for someone who is generally literary but might be bummed out if you just gave them a book. It’s too bad they had to pick the three most recognizable names (Eliot, Plath, Heaney—the fourth was clearly chosen because it mentions cocoa). I might have actually bought a mug that said “Ooga-Booga” or “Hare Soup.” I would definitely wear a T-shirt bearing the title “Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid.”

The Greenleaf Way

posted September 21, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in publishing trends uncategorized


Storm clouds remain heavy over New York publishing, but the sun is shining in Austin, Texas, where Greenleaf Book Group is turning the industry’s traditional business model on its head: instead of counting on a few blockbuster titles to compensate for insufficient sales across much of their catalog, the company expects each title to earn its keep. Greenleaf offers no advances and requires authors to cover their own production costs. In exchange for assuming this risk, authors retain the rights to their work and receive a substantially bigger cut of the royalty on each copy sold. If a book sells well, the author wins; if it doesn’t, he or she absorbs the loss but is free to walk out the door.

Not just a glorified vanity press, Greenleaf has built a strong brand identity by accepting only about 3 percent of the submissions it receives. The lucky (and apparently promising) few benefit from Greenleaf’s reputedly excellent marketing and distribution services, selling on average between 3,000 and 5,000 copies in their first year. According to a profile in the September 7 issue of Forbes Magazine, the ten-year-old company saw revenues increase by 37 percent to $8.1 million in 2008 and is on course to exceed $9 million this year.

Check out the article to read how it all began in 1997, when founder Clint Greenleaf (then a rookie at Deloitte and Touche) decided to put out his own 30-page grooming handbook, Attention to Detail: A Gentlemen’s Guide to Appearance, to prove to his friends that writing a book is—well, just not that hard.

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