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Extreme Tweeting

posted September 1, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling books publishing

twitter wit

Photo courtesy of Gawker

If reading 140-word tweets all day is not enough for you, how about a book filled with the cream of the Twitter crop? Well, you’d be in luck, as HarperCollins recently published the book Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters or Less. Editor/compiler Nick Douglas reportedly received a $50,000 advance for the collection. And those who originally penned the tweets that appear in the book? They receive a free copy.

Contributors have also been encouraged to promote the book and were sent an “online buzz kit” from the publisher, complete with graphical ads they can post on their blogs, Facebook pages, or basically anywhere online. HarperCollins has also called on contributors to tweet about the book and to “get your mom, grandma, cousins, favorite barista and high school band teacher to buy one.” In addition, the publisher is sponsoring a video contest to promote the book. The winner will win an iPod Touch.

So what do you think of this marketing campaign? Is it brilliant or presumptuous? The contributors don’t receive royalties, so they have nothing to gain by the book’s success except bragging rights. Are you planning to buy the book?

For more on the Twitter Wit promotion, see this article from Gawker.

The Atmosphere of Entertainment

posted July 9, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in Bookselling independent trends

In the scramble to reinvent bookselling, video advertising is emerging as an industry unto itself. A New York Times essay from January explains that it all began in 2002 when an aspiring romance novelist named Sheila English founded Circle of Seven (COS) Productions, a social media marketing service for books, authors, and publishers. The companywhich has trademarked the terms “Book Trailer” and “Book Teaser”specializes in “creat[ing] an atmosphere that says ‘Books are entertainment.’”

COS has experienced exponential growth since 2006 (12 projects that year, according to the Times; 140 in 2008).  Their services are tailored to a wide range of budgets, from the bargain basement “Cover Story” (the only image is your book cover) for $300, to the “Platinum Teaser” (special titling, effects, photoshop scenes) for $2,500.  (To shoot an author interview, or a full blown trailer with a script and live actors, call for a quote.)  For a taste of the drama and intrigue that COS can create in a 36-second “Level 2 Mini Teaser” ($1,500), check out what they’ve done with Baited (2006), a romance novel by Crystal Green.  (Or for a more literary interpretation of the book video, see what Harper Collins did for Rivka Galchen’s critically acclaimed Atmospheric Disturbances [2008].)

Meanwhile, many authors on shoestring budgets are embracing the guerrilla marketing spirit, posting homemade book videos on YouTube, MySpace, their own websites, and elsewhere online. 

And why not bookstores? Green Apple Books of San Francisco, one of the best-loved independents in the Bay Area, is creating an atmosphere all its own with videos to promote its Book-of-the-Month recommendations. Created “in the lo-fi style” by SF-based French Press Films, these videos feature scruffy-looking but enthusiastic staff members hamming it up in testimonials, “dramatizations,” and “reenactments” related to the featured book. Can videos like these drive foot traffic to Green Apple or increase sales?  Green Apple Commercial #1:  Book of the Month!  (in which staff bolster their endorsement of David Benioff’s City of Thieves with a money-back guarantee) has been viewed nearly 1,200 times since it was posted in June 2008although the only comment it has inspired (or provoked) is “dorks!”  Still, the videos have some infectious appeal, and they’re getting more sophisticated.  Their latest effort, Green Apple Commercial #7:  Conquest of the Useless!, shot “on location” with bookseller Stephen Sparks doing his best Werner Herzog,  is my favorite:

HarperStudio, OR Books, and Colin Robinson

posted June 3, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in books publishing

Several blogs, including HarperStudio’s The 26th Story, recently covered the launch of OR Books, an independent publisher devoted to digital printing, ebooks, and online selling. Headed by two well-established editors, John Oakes and Colin Robinson, OR Books shares a lot in common with HarperStudio. Both imprints embrace new technology and new ways to attract readers. In this video, found on The 26th Story, Oakes and Robinson chat about the rapidly changing book business and how OR Books plans to be different.

Unfortunately it took a bit of bad luck to make this new press possible. Robinson, formerly with Verso and New Press, accepted a job as senior editor with Scribner in 2006, but when the financial crisis hit last year, he and 34 others were laid off. In the London Review of Books Robinson explains why he lost his job, despite being a highly respected editor with a long track record, and provides an impressive summary of what’s wrong with publishing today. After discussing issues from deep discounts to the Robinson Patman Act of 1936, he says,

Perhaps the problem has to do with more than just the way in which words are transmitted. People bowl alone, shop online, abandon cinemas for DVDs, and chat to each other electronically rather than go to a bar. In an increasingly self-centred society a premium is placed on being heard rather than listening, being seen rather than watching, and on being read rather than reading.

We wish OR Books good luck in finding a new and better system for publishing.

HarperStudio: The New, Open-Book Strategy

posted May 26, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in publishing technology

Are publishers too reclusive? Do they hide in their offices, refusing contact with the outside world? That’s the verdict of Carolyn Pitts, vice president at HarperCollins. In an article published in the online magazine Book Business, she argues that publishing companies need to become less anonymous and adopt “authentic, personalized, continuous engagement” with readers, reflecting the model of social media on the Internet. “There are no wallflowers,” she says, “at this digital dance.”

One bright spot noted by Pitts is HarperCollins’s own HarperStudio, a new, experimental imprint intended to address structural problems, including high advances, afflicting the publishing industry. As part of its marketing strategy, it gives Flip cameras to authors so they can create online videos for readers. Another attempt to communicate with readers is the HarperStudio blog, The 26th Story, written by the imprint’s staff. Recent posts discuss crowdsourcing for books (a collective brainstorming process for writing text), the use of public domain classics (such as Edith Wharton) for magazines, and the latest in Twitterature. HarperStudio seems to be directly addressing Pitts’s warning: “Anyone choosing reclusivity or anonymity over engagement chooses irrelevance.”

Here’s a video from the HarperStudio website of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who signed a ten-book deal with HarperCollins under the HarperStudio imprint.