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“It Has to Be about What You Stand For, and Who You Are”

posted December 23, 2010

Posted by Erin Brown in authors books marketing publishing social media

Jane Friedman (of the blog There Are No Rules) had a much-tweeted-about post last week titled “When (or Why) Social Media Fails to Sell Books.” Ironically, I clicked the link in the same spirit as the naysayers Friedman so often contends with—those who are hungry for some confirmation that this Facebook/Twitter stuff is just an unfortunate fad (like the infernal skinny jeans: surely this will pass in another season or two). But, of course, Friedman is not heralding the coming end of social media. Rather, she is pointing out the flawed logic in expecting social media to justify itself with direct sales figures or in rejecting social media after you tweet out a few links to reviews of your book . . . and the big sales bump doesn’t come.

Friedman’s not the first person to remind us that self-promotion—or “building a platform”—in the digital age is a nuanced and long-term project, a leap-of-faith investment, whose dividends are hard to quantify. But she hits the nail on the head nonetheless. Be creative, she is is saying. Participate. Bring something of immediate value to the table, and (this is critical) be willing to give it away.

Most importantly, it has to be about more than selling books—or whatever your goal might be. It has to be about what you stand for, and who you are.

Self-promotion, with integrity. Is that it? Coincidentally, this is the title of a great piece in Publishing Perspectives about Stephen Elliot and the interesting and innovative ways he has generated a following, both as founding editor of the online magazine The Rumpus and as author of The Adderall Diaries. With his house-to-house reading tour, his weekly personal e-mail to 5,000 subscribers, a self-designed iPad app for his book, and other outside-the-box initiatives, Elliot seems to exemplify much of what Friedman is talking about.

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A New Twist on Public Poetry

posted September 14, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in marketing poetry

Flux Film 001 | Morse from Proper Medium on Vimeo.

Artist John Morse has come up with a clever way of spreading haiku around Atlanta. His project, dubbed “Roadside Haiku,” uses bandit signs, those not very attractive, cheap white plastic corrugated advertisement signs that are ubiquitous in metropolitan areas. In keeping with the general aesthetic of bandit signs, Morse uses large black lettering, and the poems begin with catch phrases commonly found on bandit signs.

Morse has written 10 haiku, each printed on 50 signs for a total of 500 scattered across Atlanta. Here are some examples:

In the comfort of your home!
Read to your children.

Feel Happier! Healthier!
Dump your bigotry.

You can also check out the signs on Morse’s Facebook page.

For more information on the project, visit Flux Projects or see this article from the Guardian.

Where We Live Online

posted October 26, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in social media trends

In the last couple of years, Facebook has eclipsed MySpace as the world’s most popular social networking site. Facebook now has 95 million active users, compared with only about 65 million on MySpace.

What’s more interesting than these numbers is the way that users of the sites appear to break down along demographic lines. In an NPR story that aired on 10/21, students at an elite private high school in San Francisco explained that Facebook is “safer and more high class” than MySpace, which is “trashy.”

Another group of San Francisco teenagers—the mostly Latino, mostly lower-income students in an art class at a community gallery called Southern Exposure—had a different take on the difference between the two sites. As 19-year-old Diego Luna put it,

“I have friends who are white . . . They are my white people friends and they are mostly on Facebook. That’s why I use Facebook. My brown people are on MySpace.”


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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 Power of Twitter

posted April 5, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in technology

Many businesses are turning toward social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to increase visibility. I think it’s a great way to provide a public “face” and to open the doors to interactive communication. Our business, Thomas Riggs & Company, operates in a virtual office, and we are scattered across the globe. Since we all live in different cities, it’s good for us to find ways to feel more connected with others. Services such as Twitter will not only help us form a community but also introduce our company to the online world.

So we’re planning to use Twitter to make announcements about upcoming books and events and to get to know our Twitter friends better. It should be a lot of fun, so please join in and follow us at