Writing

Twitter And Creativity: The IMF Dublin Diary

One of the reasons I like Twitter is that people can use it to create personas and characters. Sometimes these are fake accounts of real characters or faux profiles mocking celebrities and sometimes they are the imagined accounts of fictional characters like the example below:

What happens far less, but something I believe will begin to happen more (and has been part of several projects I’ve seen), is original or newly created fictional characters inhabiting social and web spaces. Penguin used Twitter and blogs to tell Slice, one of the stories in their We Tell Stories experiment.

Which brings me to the IMF Dublin Diary a twitter and blog creation of another Twitterer and blogger, The Mire. That word creation is the important word, because this is creation, it is art in the true (if un-stuffy) sense. The imagined thoughts of the IMF’s (not) pointman in Dublin, it is rich satire and high comedy (though dark given its content) and what is more it uses the medium very well.

You could argue that all it does is take an old idea and transfer it to a new medium and while that’s true, I think it does it very well. The execution is precise and measured, the tone feels right and the reflections on Irish society, ministers and civil servants have, at least for those of us living through what are strange and interesting times, a ring of truth, along with a splash of whimsy and a sprinkle of insanity.

Quick Link | Tall tales from history: Are historians best placed to write historical fiction? – Features, Books – The Independent

Really love this line, but it’s a pretty good article all told!

The trick is to minimize those liberties, and to make sure that when you’re writing about historical figures you “stay true to the spirit of that person”. This was the advice given to me by the late and great George Macdonald Fraser, author of the Flashman novels, whom I interviewed shortly before his death in 2008.

He claimed to have broken this rule only twice – with Otto von Bismarck, the architect of German unification, and Nicholas Ignatieff, a Russian adventurer and spy – and felt justified in doing so because the former “was a swine” and the latter “a pretty hard man” if not an arch-villain. A made-up protagonist, of course, gives the author the greatest licence, but even he or she must not stretch credulity too far.

via Tall tales from history: Are historians best placed to write historical fiction? – Features, Books – The Independent.

Quick Link | Resurrecting Teresa Deevy’s Lost Irish Voice – NYTimes.com

Great piece in the NYT about an unheralded female Irish playwright:

IN the first half of the 1930s Teresa Deevy, a deaf writer from a small city in the southeast of Ireland, was one of the most prolific and acclaimed female playwrights in the world. She was “the most important dramatist writing for the Irish theater,” her fellow playwright Lennox Robinson wrote in The Dublin Magazine. Her most famous drama, “Katie Roche” (1936), a complex portrait of a lower-class servant with dreams of grandeur, inspired the critic St. John Ervine to write in the London newspaper The Observer, “Miss Deevy may be a genius.”

Then Deevy all but disappeared. The Abbey Theater in Dublin, which had produced six of her plays in seven years, started rejecting her work, and her prolific output slowed down considerably. Today she is rarely mentioned in theater courses; it’s difficult to find her plays. “Katie Roche” is occasionally produced, but her other works remain unpublished and ignored.

via Resurrecting Teresa Deevy’s Lost Irish Voice – NYTimes.com.

(HT fmacconghail)

Quick Link | The Burger Lab: The Ins-n-Outs of an In-N-Out Double-Double, Animal-Style | A Hamburger Today

One of my favourite US Food sites, Serious Eats, has a sub section dedicated to burgers. It makes for pretty compelling reading if you, like me, happen to love burgers though eat them considerably less than you THINK about eating them.

Today’s post is a classic of the type and worth linking to for that alone:

Needless to say, he jumped at the excuse to hit In-N-Out. $120 in overnight delivery fees later, the UPS man showed up at my door at 9:30 the next morning, golden package in hand.** Inside were two regular Double-Doubles, two Animal Style Double-Doubles, two plain cooked beef patties, two packets of Spread, and one large chunk of dry ice to freak out Dumpling with.

I knew that the flavor of a frozen-then-thawed burger could never compare to the freshness of the original, but nevertheless I felt compelled to resurrect them—not a minor feat in and of itself!

After a totally failed attempt at reheating one whole, I realized that the best way is to separate it into individual components, and reheat each individually, tossing the veg and replacing them with fresh ones. Within the hour, I had my lunch of Zombie In-N-Out burgers:

via The Burger Lab: The Ins-n-Outs of an In-N-Out Double-Double, Animal-Style | A Hamburger Today.

An Irish Ebook Survey

Over on Irish Publishing News, I’ve begun a survey on Irish attitudes and thoughts about ebooks, ereaders and digital reading generally. You can take it on Irish Publishing News or on a completely separate page.

Getting to Digital

Beastly goings on
There have been a few pretty big moves in the last few days towards what seem (At least to me) sensible models for getting digital and quickly. The first is Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast‘s deal with Perseus Press that the NYT featured yesterday:

Ms. Brown said that Beast Books would select authors from The Daily Beast’s cadre of writers, most of whom are paid freelancers, to write books with quick turnarounds. She said she planned to publish three to five books in the first year.

The beauty of the deal though is that they making digital first publications:

Beast Books, that will focus on publishing timely titles by Daily Beast writers — first as e-books, and then as paperbacks on a much shorter schedule than traditional books.

I rather hope this works, it certainly sounds like a good news story if it does. The model seems sensible, it capitalises on the eyeballs the Daily Beast is dragging and as The Big Money puts it in a sensible and thoughtful paragraph:

The good news is that this is exactly what digital publishing needs to fuel its growth: a product ideally suited to a new technology. Brown’s entry into the field validates the idea of writing specifically for the Kindle and its competitors, a huge vote of confidence in the tools. The less-great news is that for all of Brown’s talent for attention-getting, the Daily Beast may not have the right content to drive sales. Which just might be the point of the whole deal—with Brown using the book deal as a back door to better content.

Disney Digital

Disney Digital


Disney’s gamble
There have been some negative comments about Disney’s newly launched program that provides online access to 500. As the NYT (again) puts it:

In what it bills as an industry-defining moment — though rivals are sure to be skeptical about that — Disney Publishing plans to introduce a new subscription-based Web site. For $79.95 a year, families can access electronic replicas of hundreds of Disney books, from “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” to “Hannah Montana: Crush-tastic!”

DisneyDigitalBooks.com, which is aimed at children ages 3 to 12, is organized by reading level. In the “look and listen” section for beginning readers, the books will be read aloud by voice actors to accompanying music (with each word highlighted on the screen as it is spoken). Another area is dedicated to children who read on their own. Find an unfamiliar word? Click on it and a voice says it aloud. Chapter books for teenagers and trivia features round out the service.

I like this idea because it is heading more towards the type of product that can win the battle for attention and hold its own against numerous distractions. What is more, a site like this (and being a site is crucial) has a certain seamless quality, it fits into the web rather than standing aside from it in a “connected” device. It will simply be a rich content website that you happen to pay for! That is important! that, I believe, is the future.

Both these moves are taking big publishing digital very rapidly. This is a space to watch!
Eoin

Branding & Publishing

The things that get you thinking
I’ll be speaking during the Pech Chang session at TOC Frankfurt in October. I’m going first and frankly, I’m terrified. Even so I’m looking forward to it. It feels like an opportunity to talk about some of the forces shaping the future of publishing and books.

I mention it because one of the things I will be talking about is Branding and why, in a nichified world, it will become increasingly important. This has been an absolutely huge meme online in the last few days and it’s worth sharing some of those thoughts here.

Mike Shatzkin, as ever, was there ahead of me and many others, with an interesting piece on his blog. He focused on the reason why publishers need to understand brand:

In the next 20 years or so, the brands that will dominate for a very long time will be created.

Why?

Because the organization and delivery of stuff — including information — is being realigned into verticals; that is: subjects. The requirements of physical delivery required aggregation across interests that the Internet does not. So enduring horizontal brands of content like newspapers or book publishers but also outside content, among retailers, for example, that thrived across interest groups will find themselves challenged by new brands that are narrower and deeper. Being narrower and deeper permits a much more involved engagement with the audience. It strengthens the brand.

Read the rest of the article, it makes complete sense, echoes much of what I think and places the conversation in context from a publishers perspective.

Then Seth Godin spoke at a small event organised by the DPG in New York and touched off a firestorm! And for reasons I cannot quite get a handle on. The video’s don’t seem too radical to me, but you be the judge:

And Eugene G. Schwartz’s blog about the talk over at Personanondata make me think that the ony issue is that some people haven’t seen the truth, that the digitisation of reading, makes publishers largely irrelevant unless they react adapt and change.

Patrick over at the Vroman’s blog has a wonderful post that nicely sums up some of the arguments of Stein, alludes to some of and suggests some positive views too. The subsequent discussion is worth reading as well.

What this all comes down to of course is that as Don Linn noted in the tweet below, business models are all very well, but profitable business models are hard to find.

Profit is good!

Profit is good!

Bob Miller, in this video from Ron Hogan, says pretty much what Don and Seth are saying but from the finance side of the fence.

Changing a brand and making it matter will not be THE panacea, publishers will still shrink and they may well not survive as large companies. If they do, they will publish books (as Richard Eoin Nash has said and wouldn’t you know it, I cannot find the link, but here is a general one for Richard) like movies are currently produced.

That is because the internet and digital media enables the removal of every single point in the value chain except author and consumer. In this model the only scale that needs large capital (and furthermore justifies the application of capital with large rewards) is when you need to market to everyone, brand will enable you to connect with niche reader and writers at as granular a level as you can building something that is worthwhile to readers, so worthwhile that they give you money. Of course, who YOU are may not be a publisher.

Working on letters and notes, thoughts and ideas, trying to avoid too many down thoughts!
Eoin