Blogging

YOU are a publisher

That’s right YOU.

It bears repeating because at times I fear people have missed the reality that If you have a Blogger or a WordPress.com blog, if you Tweet, Tumbl or Flikr YOU are a publisher.

That carries enormous implications as Guy Gonzales points out in a Tweeted response to me:
GuyleCharlesTweet

What you do about it is up to you, and it doesn’t guarantee success but it IS a fact.
That is why the tagline of this blog is:

It’s that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.

It’s a line from a rather excellent article in Fast Company by Tom Peters. The article is called The Brand Called You and it’s about branding. It is deeply relevant to this discussion. You should read it.

Eoin
Publisher
Eoin Purcell’s Blog

Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 19/10/2009

The Frankfurt Cleared The Air Edition

Richard Eoin Nash’s post on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog is all kinds of excellent:

Not only, it turns out, are the readers of the world looking to buy our content if we can deliver it to them digitally, but the world’s leading hardware companies are looking to help us. Along with Sony, iRex, TXTR, and other dedicated reading device manufacturers exhibiting, presenting, and working the floor, two Apple executives were traversing the halls of the Fair to let publishers know all the opportunities that await them on that platform. (Let it be said: that platform, right now, is the iPhone. Not any other rumored device. Apple has not been in private discussions about a larger device and reports that they have are a hoax. But Apple does believe in the opportunity for the publishing industry’s content, contrary to the occasional snarky comment from Jobs.) Apple is working to improve the Books section of the App store to make it more browsable, and they are trying to help publishers find the right developers to work with.

You should take the time to read all the contributions from Richard and his fellow Book Fair Bloggers, they provide a nice slice of the fair.

Brian O’Leary has put the slides for his trouble causing presentation on piracy up on Slideshare, when you read through, you’ll find it hard to find the controversy and wonder just how tightly poised those knee-jerk reactions are.

The news of Google’s Google Editions, which first came to light back in June has been formed up by more recent news. Like this AP story:

Tom Turvey, head of Google Book Search’s publisher partnership program, said the price per book would be set by their publishers and would start with between 400,000 to 600,000 books in the first half of 2010.
“It will be a browser-based access,” Turvey said Thursday at the 61st Frankfurt Book Fair. “The way the e-book market will evolve is by accessing the book from anywhere, from an access point of view and also from a geographical point of view.”
The books bought from Google, and its partners, would be accessible on any gadget that has a Web browser, including smartphones, netbooks and personal computers and laptops. A book would be accessible offline after the first time it was accessed.

Of course as you would expect it is platform neutral (if web based/cloud based is neutral), omnipresent and smart. Anyone who thinks that devices are the future is living in the past.

There is a whole load of other stuff on the margins, but in terms of signal, I think this is it!
Eoin

Innovative Book Publishing Models: Hol Art Books

Museum Legs, by Amy Whitaker

Museum Legs, by Amy Whitaker

Team publishing
I’ve written about Hol Art Books once or twice before but I neglected to mention them when they issued their first books and I wanted to address that. Hol Art is based on a remarkably simple to outline and yet difficult to get right system called team publishing. They have a nice guide to how it operates on their website:

Team Publishing
In a departure from traditional publishing, we bring authors and publishing professionals together online to collaboratively identify, evaluate, and develop our titles. The processs is open to everyone.

• You and your team select, edit, design, and promote the book.

• We print, distribute, and market it in our seasonal list of titles.

• And everyone–the author, the team, and Hol–gets paid a percentage of the book’s sales, for as long as it sells.

Hol Art lets you start a project, join a project and general become the life blood of a venture. It is actually fairly genius.

Why this is smart
I’ve discussed before why self-publishing is attractive for both authors at the top of the publishing ladder and at the bottom too. That is because as the costs of the actual physical publishing process (editing, design, printing a book) drop relative to the less tangible (to the author) costs (distribution, marketing, acquiring attention and successfully promoting and selling a book) the role that publisher play that is of use to the author SEEMS to become less valuable. I stress seems because publishers who are wise will look at what they do well and concentrate their resources on doing that.

Many houses now have few if any in house editors and work almost completely with freelancers. This tends to work for both parties, reducing payroll costs for publishers and enabling better balance for those freelancers. Quite a few houses have outsourced design in the same way and few small or medium publisher have ever handled distribution themselves anyway.

What I like about Hol Art Books is that they have taken that kind of thinking and applied it sensibly to their own chosen niche. Art books tend to be more expensive to print so they pay that cost, marketing tends to be more niche focused so recruiting a publicist to each team is very sensible. And, to top it all off, they are totally and scarily open and honest, just read this piece about the money side of affairs if you doubt me!

Hol Art have a nice, new and (I think) viable model. It will be interesting to see if this can be adapted for other niches. I suspect there is room for it. The type of model might sit very well with the discussion from Publishing Perspective last week (MJ Rose & Robert Miller).

Going with the flow
Interestingly too, it goes towards the ideas about how the work force will be reshaped in the coming decades. Ideas I first encountered in Nine Shift but remarkably read today again on the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog.

I still think there are things that Hol Art could add to the model, and maybe they might work better as part of a larger entity (even a museum or university) rather than a solo enterprise, but you have to admire what the founder Greg Albers has created.

Enjoying exploring the work of Molly Crabapple, great stuff!
Eoin

Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 15/09/2009

Just under a month to TOC Frankfurt & the Frankfurt Book Fair. If you twitter, search using the following hash tag and youy’ll see lots of people are talking about it #fbf09. There’ll be a TweetUp (Which I’ll miss, but there you go) at the fair this year and I’d nearly put money on a European publisher acquiring something Twitter related for their list, though I’ll wait and see!

There have been a few interesting stories bouncing around the web the last few days on writing and publishing and where we are at with them. The Bookseller has a feature on how the downturn is affecting Author Pay, David & Charles have made a radical decision to realign themselves along a vertical basis, the result is layoffs in the short term but something else in the medium to longer term. In the same week I stumbled across this fine article about GeoCities and online communities in the American Prospect, lessons we should note and think about as we embrace the idea of verticals. Speaking of Verticals, Filedby.com was chosen by CUP to expand an author promotion platform in which they use some of Filedby’s premium features to help authors develop an online presence.

Digital publishers (and aspirants) everywhere were saddened by the news that Quartet Press has been disbanded after running into a string of problems too insurmountable to continue. The site carries the message, but Mike Shatzkin and Kassia Krozser (in two [1,2] excellent articles) carried on some detailed discussion and analysis. I’m not happy about this outcome for the founders, but I’m sure we will see more from them soon.

And then there was Dan Brown and his latest book the Lost Symbol which is variously being hailed as the ruin of us all (DJ Taylor in the Independent) or something of a saviour (Jeffery A. Trachtenberg in the the Wall Street Journal). Amazon and Waterstones have been selling it at half price for about three months, and don’t they look like genuis’ now that The Book Depository and the Multiples have launched a massive price offensive?

And in sad news, it’s bottoms up to Keith Floyd who died today, the video above shows him at his somewhat slowed down more mellow best. For a decent interview of recent origin, try this Daily Mail article!
Eoin

Crowdsourcing a cookbook: food52

Eoin Purcell

Cooking Light (Explored) by Flickr user Steve Wampler

Cooking Light (Explored) by Flickr user Steve Wampler

This is a nice idea
You now there must be something funky going on when Techcrunch reports on a new crowdsource cookbook initiative. Even if it is from Amanda Hesser (Wikipedia & Twitter) and Merrill Stubbs (Twitter), two pretty well connected folk. The site is called Food52 and right now it’s just a landing page and a sign up*:

The site and the book will appeal to anyone who ever wanted to write their own cookbook but never had the time. But it won’t be a free-for-all. Hesser and Stubbs will make editorial decisions with give-and-take from the site’s members. To guide the community, every week two themes will be presented which will act as a call for recipes. This week’s themes (they are really assignments) are “Your Best Grilled Pork Recipe” and “Your Best Watermelon Recipe.” Anyone can submit their favorite recipes, along with photos or videos. Then Hesser and Stubbs select the most promising ones, test them, and choose the best two for each theme. They present these back to the Food52 members, who get to vote which one will make it into the cookbook.

“There is a huge tradition of community cookbooks, but none of them are user vetted,” says Hesser. Users can take part in creating the cookbook by submitting their own recipes and helping to edit the submissions through comments, ratings, and votes. (Recipes can be flagged if someone tries to pass one off as their own that is actually from another cookbook). Anybody who submits a recipe selected as one of the two finalist recipes each week will get a free copy of the book along with cookware tailored to their recipe.

The iterative process should bring hardcore foodies and fans of the authors coming back every week. By the end of the 52 weeks, Hesser and Stubbs will not only have the recipes for their cookbook, but also a built-in and built-up audience already sold on the book. It won’t be just a cookbook, it will be an artifact of their participation.

But it’s still in beta
I’m not keen on announcements and PR in advance of a website opening to the general populace. When will people stop doing that, wouldn’t a page of text explaining the site be better, especially when there is so much information already out there? Maybe a picture of the authors, a short bio, some links and scary concept but given that it’s a video site, maybe a video? I mean seriously! Still even a google search reveals some more juicy morsels.

Serious Eats (my current favourite foodie site) for instance offers is links to a tour of the kitchen and videos from food52 on vimeo:

But what really caught our eye today is that Hesser and Stubbs seem to have quietly started uploading to a Vimeo account, which is full of what appear to be test videos—along with a couple great nuggets: an introduction to the Food 52 concept, and a video tour of Amanda Hesser’s envy-inducing kitchen—complete with the now-customary refrigerator-baring.

The entire project has a nice sense of buzz about it in the publishing world too, coming as it does with a book published by super-hip Harper Studio.

All told, I see good things coming from this. Having crowdsourced the content for a book published by Mercier last year, Our Grannies’ Recipes, I can guess at the problems they may encounter. Whereas Ourgranniesrecipes.com was very much a no money, seat of the pants endeavour, I like that food52 seems likely to be well funded and have the opportunity to expand the social and user content features that small investments allow.

Best of luck to them, I watch this space with interest.
Eoin

Writing4all.ie

Eoin Purcell

UPDATE: Writing4all.ie have now updated their terms and conditions and I believe that the terms i referenced in this post have been erased. I am happy to say that they have been much more specific in their language. The ownership clause now reads:

You own your User Content, not us. User Content is defined as text, pictures, video, sound and other files legally posted by you on the Site. You grant the Company and its affiliates a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free right to display your User Content (in whole or in part) on the Site or on site affiliates that bear the Writing4all name – Facebook, Twitter. You also grant each user of the Site the right to access, display, view, store and reproduce such your User Content for personal use. You represent and warrant to the Company that you have the right to grant the licenses stated above.

This is a huge improvement!
Eoin

On the face of it, Writing4all.ie seems a nice idea, a place for Irish writers to share, collaborate and build community:

Welcome Guest! You’re viewing these pages as a guest. To be able to add or comment on works please join or login. Writing4all.ie is an online writing community and resource centre for Irish writers. Share your creative writing with others and get instant feedback and constructive criticism.

Our writing resources give you all the latest news on writing courses, writing groups, book launches and workshops in your area. Read the latest news in our blog or discuss books and the world of literature in our lively forums.

Free memberships are available to all and we welcome poetry, fiction, non-fiction and drama. Members can enter our regular poetry, fiction and non-fiction competitions and contests.

Sounds very nice and indeed, if that was it I would be fine with it. But it’s not it. When you read through the site terms and conditions you find this gem (emphasis mine):

You own your User Content, not us. You grant the Company and its affiliates a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and publicly display your User Content (in whole or in part) and/or to incorporate such your User Content in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed.

What this means is that if you upload writing to the site, Original Writing, the owner of Writing4all.ie and a self-publisher company I have discussed here before, can publish that work without any need to pay you a royalty or even consulting you as far as I can tell. Those are some pretty extravagant permissions!

Most other sites will specify these permissions for the extra content you provide but not the creative writing you upload. The basic problem is that the terms makes no allowances for separating the content that you create on the site and the creative work you upload TO the site. If they made this differentiation clearer and excluded the creative content from the terms above I believe the terms would be much fairer. If you doubt that, read the definition of user content:

You are solely responsible for any activity and content (including, without limitation, data, text, information, screen names, graphics, photos, profiles, audio and video clips, and links to third-party content) that is posted under your screen names (collectively, “User Content”).

It is possible of course that this isn’t intentional and that the terms are simply sloppily drafted but there is much to be wary of here. At the very least the terms as set out need revision and extra definition, not a situation you should allow your content to get trapped in.
Eoin

Guest Post: Kate Dempsey of Emerging Writer

I asked Kate Dempsey of Emerging Writer to pen me a guest post, and here it is!

Why I blog
So why do you blog as an emerging writer? There’s a question I’ve been asked from time to time. After two years of blogging, the answers have probably changed a bit.

I have kept a diary of my writing projects, upcoming competitions and results and places open for submissions for a good few years. The competitions and submissions information came from a large number of sources: newsletters, emails, various writing websites, other blogs, radio, TV, word of mouth, and I collated it in one place for my own use. I thought this information would be useful to other writers and a blog seemed the easiest way to share it online.

Why did I choose the name Emerging Writer? I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted on some workshops and win awards in this nebulous category, it was easy to remember and I didn’t want my name directly associated. I was job hunting at the time and I didn’t want prospective employers reading about how many times I’ve had work rejected this month. Also I wanted to have a bit of freedom to be critical of establishments, books, poems and even people without them turning up at my front door wielding a hurley.

Then I did a few posts about my own writing successes and failures and, result, I got some comments. Ah heaven. People cared. I posted about writing and reading events in Ireland and started meeting people who read my blog. People who didn’t know me already. Is this fame? I posted writing tips and common errors.

I post pretty well every day now. I’ve posted on council grants and Haiku courses, Canadian magazines and photos for inspiration, literary agents and writing retreats. I always include a picture illustrating part of all of the post. Sometimes the link is tenuous and more for my own amusement than for my readers. I’m easily amused. And I’ve discovered the joys (and unexplained sudden failures) of submitting for a future dates. I use my blog myself for checking on upcoming deadlines and links to submission details.

But always in the back of my head was the idea that when my book gets finished and my agent gets it published, a blog is a great publicity vehicle for my faithful and mildly interested readers. I’m ever optimistic.

What have I learned?
People read blogs. Blogging is a form of networking, as useful in writing as in any other professions. Comments are good, positive or negative, discussions are healthy. Blogging and reading other blogs can easily eat into my precious writing time. All it takes though is discipline to stop that happening. Turn off the internet and get stuck in.

But first, I’ll just check the blogs I’m following for updates on Google Reader…