December 2007

Diablo CodyFuture Perfect Publishinghas often reported on blog to book stories.   But none is as unusual as that of Diablo Cody.  Diablo Cody, a pen name for Brook Busey-Hunt, graduated with a degree in media studies from the University of Iowa and, accoding to an article in Wikipedia, started her career quietly enough proofreading ad copy for Minneapolis radio stations.  Her first blog was Darling Girl, which detailed her daily experiences and interactions.  On a whim, she took up stripping and later switched to being as a phone sex operator.  Her blogging would, like her career, later become a notch more risque with the advent of Pussy Ranch

candy girl book coverAt the age of 24, Cody published the memoir Candy Girl: A Year in The Life of an Unlikely Stripper.  Prior to publication, Cody’s blog writing had attracted the attention of Mason Novick (“Red Eye”) who thought she had a fresh voice and wondered if she would consider writing a movie.  As related in a Seattle Times article, he called her and suggested she write a screenplay.  Cody, flattered by Novick’s confidence in her, obliged and wrote Juno, the story of a pregnant teen, who with the support of her loving but eccentric family, decides to have the baby and give it to an infertile couple.  Jason Reitman (“Thank you for Smoking”) directed the film.  Now she is head writer for Steven Spielberg’s new TV series The United States of Tara set to debut on Showtime in 2008, she’s got more movies in the works, and last month the Hollywood Film Festival gave her the Hollywood Breakthrough Screenwriter of the Year Award.  Whew!  (Her breathless ascent to Hollywood writer Nirvana is chronicled in a recent Wired article, Diablo Cody’s Tips for Blogging Your Way to Hollywood Success.)

juno movie posterCody’s writing certainly provokes reactions on both sides of the spectrum.  But as the LA Times noted, her voice is authentic and refreshing:

In a town that shells out millions of dollars for screenplays so practiced that they read as though the human element has all but been squelched, hers is an authentic voice, alternately sardonic, wide-eyed, hilarious and sad.

“I’ve always gotten a large ration of negative reactions to positive in my writing,” she says. “For some reason, it tends to provoke reactions on the extreme ends of the spectrum. I hate the idea that I’m some sort of self-invented Gatsby-type figure who clawed her way to the top. I have done nothing of the sort. I’m Forrest Gump. I feel like I’m superimposed in all these scenarios. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here.”

Cody is certainly a refreshing conundrum, an unexpected mishmash and a self-declared “radical feminist” who’s routinely received angry e-mails from readers who believe that’s she a female chauvinist, complicit with the porn industry. Her memoir “Candy Girl” is certainly not for the fainthearted, full of the up-close-and-personal details of what it’s like to strip and entertain depraved customers.  Her book combines Diane Arbus prurience with a wacky sense of humor and Midwestern do-it-yourselfness; it landed her as David Letterman’s one-and-only “Book Club 2006 pick” and a jaunty appearance on the show, where she declared herself the “Margaret Mead of sex.”

Want to get a sense of the author?  Check out her appearance on the David Letteran show

Just as publishers are beginning to explore the blogosphere for commercial grade writing talent, look for Hollywood to follow suit.  But what is compelling and interesting about Diablo Cody’s work is not that she went from blog to book or from blog script; but rather that she went from life to both of the above. 

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robot writerWe knew it had to happen sooner or later.  Computers writing books.  A recent article in BusinesWeek highlighted the exploits of Philip Parker, who has patented a process for using computer software to write books automatically.  According to his web page, Parker is a Chaired Professor of Management Science at INSEAD, a French business school.  The article claims that to date, Parker has written 300,000 books this way.  The works are non-fiction and tend to be highly specific.  His software searches databases for information on a specific topic and then populates a template.  He is as circumspect about his sales as he is about the details of the process. 

Could this be the end game for the long tail of book publishing?  Perhaps not in general, but his use of technology shows that software automation could someday play a bigger role in very formulaic or highly structured genres.  Imagine HAL, the demented computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, writing romance novels. 

cloud computingGoogle servers, which are at the heart of web search engines, have been a boon for book marketers wanting to get the word out about their titles, or for authors doing research.  But now, Google is exploring a new kind of computing, “cloud computing,” which allows hundreds or thousands of computers to tackle large problems.  These computers are linked by algorithms similar to those the company uses to manage the millions of daily search requests.  In a sense, it is industrial computing.  Other companies with large server famrs – Yahoo!, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon – are also exploring this new form big utility computing power for sale.  This approach to computing essentially frees the user from Moore’s Law for single processors. 

Now imagine a few years hence when cloud computing has the kinks worked out and sports an affordable entry price point for aspiring authors.  Turn your high strength algorithms loose on an information rich environment and you might produce some interesting reads.  Our ability to imagine what we could do with such tools may be our only limiting factor.

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book vid lit iconSheila Clover-EnglishBook Vid Lit

by Sheila Clover-English

Sheila Clover English, the CEO of Circle of Seven Productions, has been a pioneer
in book video production, marketing and distribution for authors and publishers

Broadcast Advertising:  The Pros & Cons

There’s something good to be said for different marketing endeavors. Companies spend millions of dollars every year for television broadcast advertising. Why? Because broadcast advertising on television takes their ads into the homes of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. The shear number of potential viewers makes television advertising desirable.

broadcastYou can do national advertising to get in the great number of viewers, so you can go regionally or even locally to be more target specific. There are choices in how you utilize television advertising. You just need to know what your market can bear, who your target audience is and what your budget can get you.

Television advertising has historically been the king player of advertising and where most advertisers spent the majority of their promotional dollars. It is still an effective way to advertise, but advertising has evolved, so the rules of yester-year don’t necessarily apply now.

TiVo and DVRs are the downfall of television advertising as it once was. Commercials were presented to viewers and unless you left the room, you were subjected to them.  Not anymore. Now you can fast forward through those pesky commercials and many people do just that.

Only advertisers with large budgets could afford to pay for television media spots and have their commercials play on TV. Even now, national commercials are very cost prohibitive unless you have a huge marketing budget.

You have no way of knowing how many of those potential viewers actually viewed your commercial whether you played it nationally, regionally or locally. If sales spiked in a region in which your commercial played one could contribute that increase in sales to the television campaign. But, national commercials are harder to pinpoint ROI. Most companies paying the big bucks for a national television campaign are also putting ads in magazines, newspapers, online ads and radio. So, which of these elements is causing an increase (if any) in sales? How do you know that you’re getting what you paid for?

Broadband Advertising:  The Pros & Cons

Utilizing the internet to advertise a product or service has taken a large chunk of marketing dollars. As more and more people turn to the internet for entertainment and information advertisers follow.

There are two main ways to advertise on the internet. There’s direct advertising in which you create a commercial, banner or static ad and pay for placement of that ad. Then there is indirect advertising where viral videos are king, but you can also use blogs, online groups/clubs, social networks and even user-generated news sites. You need to know ahead of time which, direct or indirect advertising, that you want to use for a campaign.

Once you determine what kind of advertising you’ll do, you need your creative and a plan. Where will you distribute your creative? How will you track its effectiveness?

You can track the effectiveness of either a direct or indirect campaign. If you’re paying for placement of an ad you should be given a stats report from whoever you placed the ad with. For example, when I place an ad with USA Today online, they follow up by telling me how many people clicked on the ad. Since the ad is sent out via email I’m told how many people actually opened the email. So, whether or not someone clicked on the ad, I know how many eyes saw it. For indirect ad placement on social sites or with viral video you can see how many people engaged with your ad. If your ad was a blog, you can see how many people read it or commented on it. If it is a viral video you can see how many people watched it, commented on it or shared it.

Another good thing about indirect online advertising is that it is around longer than other types of advertising. So, if your product or service has any time constraints then indirect advertising may not be for you. But, if you have a book coming out that will be on the shelves for a while then indirect advertising is great! Compared to a print ad that will gone in a month or even a day, your online ad will be around for a year or more on whatever social sites you put it on.

There still seems to be a learning curve in how to best utilize broadband for advertising. Privacy issues are now at the forefront of the news as MySpace offers to place ads on MySpace pages according to what that MySpace users watches, blogs about or highlights on their MySpace page. MySpace is accumulating data about how users are using their MySpace site and offering advertising placement according to that usage. The internet has been historically a place where people can come and search for what they want, say what they want and do what they want without worrying about privacy issues.

When ads are put on social sites the company placing the ad there can’t be assured that their ad won’t be placed next to an undesirable video, something that might go against their brand.

People on social sites lie about their demographic information. So you can’t use demographic information to target specific markets, you must use other methods to ferret out what these users really want. MySpace can monitor behaviors of viewers instead of giving out demographic information. Amazon does the same thing in monitoring behaviors and then sending ads to viewers according to what they last purchased, searched for or clicked on.

Be Aware of the Differences

television setsYou can’t really look at broadcast and broadband advertising in the same way.  Broadcast advertising is measured and priced by impressions, the number of people who may potentially see the commercial.  Magazines and newspapers also use this method.  Here you’re going for a greater outreach to a very diverse group of people.  You’re playing the odds. Of one million people who see this commercial, how many will buy the product or service because they saw it on TV?

If you’re looking to build brand awareness, then multiple ads throughout the year to the most people possible is the way to go.  But that’s going to cost, and generally, you get what you pay for most of the time.

Broadband is more about engagement.  How long did the user stay on your site? Did they watch the entire video? Did they comment or send it to a friend? Did they blog about it or put the video on their own site or blog? Broadband is about building and strengthening relationships where broadcast is more of building popularity through shear numbers.

Symbiotic Advertising

Can you have the best of both worlds? Absolutely!  The great thing about the growing popularity of online advertising is that it has caused the cost of broadcast advertising to go down. That and new technology that allows for digital commercials to be made broadcast quality has relieved a lot of boundaries to television advertising. For $1,500 we can get a 30 second commercial played on Lifetime, A & E and SciFi Channel about 200 times throughout the a week. Since we specialize in books we only suggest advertising that first week the book is out if you’re looking to make one of the bestseller lists. But, if you looking to brand yourself you can stretch out your advertising calendar. Again, it goes back to knowing what you want before you get started.

We always put the client’s URL on the end of their commercial. We want people to see that website address. We go for the bigger numbers (popularity) by broadcast advertising, then go for strengthening that relationship by getting those people to the web.

Grouper pic smallIt’s a well known fact that the more someone sees your commercial or the cover of your book the more likely it is that they will retain that information. People are seeing the book on television then seeing it when they log in to MySpace or visit their favorite online site. The great thing about that is that person is sitting there at their computer where they can easily impulse buy. If they see it on TV they may recall it when they walk into the bookstore and see the book in a display or on the shelf. You’re getting the best of both worlds now.

You can go a step further an include a press release online, either paid for like PR Web or TransWorld News or user-generated such as or The people looking for online news may be different from those watching TV or visiting social sites. Your broadband advertising can reach out to a lot of people who are actually looking for what you’re talking about as opposed to someone at home on the sofa who is subjected to your commercial and may or may not care about your topic.

You are always in a better position of power, or control, when people come to you. That’s the beauty of broadband advertising. They already are interested in what you have to say or show. Of course, if you can afford showing your ad to a million people through broadcast advertising, well, who wouldn’t want that?

There’s a time and a place for everything including advertising choices and opportunities. Know your product, your budget, your target audience and your desired outcome. Then, and only then, should you attempt to make your advertisement

Next time we’ll take a look at a case study that utilized both broadcast and broadband to see how that advertising campaign went.  Read more on this topic and leave your own comments.

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fear and loathingAn interesting survey sponsored by the organizers of the 2007 Frankfurt Book Fair in October provides some insights into the group mind of publishing industry professionals.  As reported in the Independent Publsher reported the survey asked respondents to identify the specific challenges and threats facing the industry and to predict emerging trends and areas of growth.  Over 1,300 professionals from 86 countries took part. Respondents were predominantly European (85 percent), with 9% from North America and all other continents represented roughly equally.

Concerns about digitization were strongest in English speaking countries, with 71 percent of North Americans, 77 percent of Australasians and 68 per cent of UK respondents rating this challenge as the most important.

Respondents rated the following as the biggest threat to the publishing industry today:

  1. Competition from other media and sources of entertainment (50 percent)
  2. Over-publishing (31 percent)
  3. Proliferation of piracy (23 percent)
  4. Illiteracy levels in both western Europe and the developing world (17 percent)

Who is actually steering the book industry today, making the decisions that make publishing successful and generate the bestsellers?  The survey finds that 37 percent felt that publishers were still key to the success of the industry. Marketing professionals, at 31 percent, were not far behind. 22 percent see the consumer as leading the demand for books — only 8 percent felt that authors drive the industry.

Finally, the industry was asked where the major areas of growth are for the industry in the coming years.

  1. 44 percent of respondents identified the use of e-books
  2. 41 percent identified audiobooks, many of which are now available as downloads
  3. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, 27 percent of respondents saw books in translation (much of the business of the Frankfurt Book Fair) as a growth area.
  4. 27 percent identified educational publishing

You can view the entire survey on the Frankfurter BuchMesse site

So what should we make of all this?  The bogey men identified in the survey seem to be the usual suspects.  With the new year looming, I will make my own predictions:

  • More publishing will not undermine the market for books.  To the contrary, it will expand it into new areas.  Though the market will continue to fragment into ever finer niches and sub-niches, we will find ever more efficient ways to aggregate the fragments. 
  • e-books will continue to in sales, but like audio books, will remain a small part of the overall publishing market.
  • The printed book, far from being eclipsed bydigital media, will become a type o digital media itself – think e-paper and conductive ink – and attain a new coolness factor.
  • The hand-wringing over literacy will turn out to be misguided, much as each generation’s hand-wringing over evolving language usage patterns of younger generations. 
  • Authors will become more important than publishers and the various elements of the traditional book marketing machine.  Savvy authors will use the Internet both as a vehicle to build an audience while they develop their work, and  as a tool to generate low cost, but highly effective market buzz and book sales.
  • During the next decade or two, we will see the end (or the substantial diminshing) of physical book distribution and the end of book returns.  In combination with better analytics for selecting and managing titles, this will make book publishing a highly profitable business. 

FDRI believe the future for books and publishers is much brighter than many of our colleagues who filled out the survey in Frankfurt.  Unlike many industries, publishing is limited only by the human imagination.  As for our fears about the challenges that face us – FDR said it best; the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

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tin can networkSocial networks are the fastest growing social media sites according to recent figures from eMarketer.  As a recent article in Publishers’ Weeklypointed out, many authors and publishers are beginning to experiment with these sites as a way to add to their book sales.  Below are some simple tips for creating an effective book marketing presence on a social network.  (For a good introduction on how to get started with a social network, check out Karen Post’s article The Social Networking Guide for Newbieson 

  • Write a compelling profile
  • Point to your blog, book website or book video
  • Join and be active in networks that are in the topic space of your book
  • Establish yourself and your book as a resource
  • Solicit Amazon reviews from your “friends”

In addition to the large social network sites like MySpace and Facebook, don’t overlook LibraryThing and Shelfari.  While these two sites have smaller user populations, they are geared toward bibliophiles. 

Authors have attempted to devise many different kinds of networking techniques to get more exposure for their books.  For example, one writer describes using a “fake” event to promote his workon Facebook.   However, overt attempts at marketing can backfire – e.g. consider Sam Jordison’s account of his experience on Facebook in the Guardian.)  Key things to be aware of:

  • Make sure you can accurately target your audience on these sites
  • Don’t underestimate the time commitment
  • Be careful about violating the terms of service for these sites
  • It may be difficult to track your sales results back to specific social networking activities, unless someone (a friend)orders directly from your book website
  • Don’t expect big results – social networking should be just one component of your overall Internet marketing strategy

miss manners book coverProbably the most important thing to remember is that this is a new online space, whose rules and etiquette are still being worked out.  It’s easy to make mistakes.  So take your time, build your network and let your book sales develop at word of mouth speeds.

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blook looks icon

Blook Looks

by Cheryl Hagedorn

Cheryl Hagedorn authors Blooking Central, which examines
published books to discover what makes for a blookable blog.

In late August of this year, Steve Garfield posted at Off on a Tangent about an exciting new project called The Book of Enemy.  I’m waiting to learn if the novel ever made it into print.  Even if it failed as a blook, it attempted to pioneer something phenomenal.  Here is an excerpt from Garfield’s post:

I’m working with a friend of mine, Dave Wildman, on a project that brings blogging, and videoblogging together with his forthcoming novel, The Book of Enemy.

We’re looking for volunteers to participate in a social media art experiment. The Book of Enemy is a groundbreaking blog-novel that is happening in real time throughout the month of September. The project will culminate in a reading/performance piece at Axiom Galleryin Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA on September 28. A number of Boston artists, photographers and filmmakers are providing illustrations for the show, and we’d like to open the project up to the vlogosphere.

the germaine truthThe concept is similar to that of The Germaine Truth in that multiple individuals could simultaneously collaborate on a story.  The difference was that The Book of Enemy imposed a time limit of only 30 days.  Judging by the three blogs referenced at The Book of Enemy website, participation was light.  One of the blogs has only a single post!  On another, I struggled to see any connection to the story at all.  This leaves one blog that appears to have been written by a character in the novel, but it’s hard to tell.

The inclusion of video was supposed to differentiate The Book of the Enemyfrom most other online works of fiction.  However, there is only one video clipThe Book of the Enemywas supposed to include photographs but none are posted; yet the announcement says “A number of Boston artists, photographers and filmmakers are providing illustrations for the show.”  What’s up?  The scarcity of blogs and posts, as well as the dearth of visuals raises two questions.  First, was there an adequate audience from which to recruit participants?  And second, how was the marketing of the project handled?

I assume that Wildman’s novel must have been written and distributed to at least a handful of friends before being posted on the internet.  Attracting participants to a collaborative online novel is too difficult otherwise (unless you already have access to a large and motivated readership to begin with!)  It turns out that Mr. Wildman is the Arts Editor and chief film critic for Boston’s Weekly Dig. He had this to say about his reason for posting his novel on the web:

It’s tough getting attention for literary works. I actually got a rave review from Chuck Palahniuk, but I’ve had trouble getting agents to bite. So I’m making a spectacle out of it.

As a “social media art experiment” I’m not sure that it succeeded.  As an indicator of what the future might hold, I think it’s right on the money.

edge of paradiseAnother multimedia novel which made a splash — assisted by some healthy advertising — was Edge of Paradise by Roc Hatfield.  It includes a soundtrack as well as photographs and a slide show. I don’t know if the color photographs made it into print. I’m sure the music didn’t!  On the other hand, the music CD is available.

On the non-fiction side of things Carbondale After Blog by David More was based on the Carbondaley Dispatch blog.  More describes his blook this way:

Only the first two pages of each chapter will be printed in the paper edition, including one photograph. Also included inside the paperbound cover, a compact disc containing the complete text of every chapter, plus hundreds of color images, audio and video files and web-based content. Software needed to read Carbondale After Blog (TK3 Reader) will be included on the CD.

Both Carbondale After Blog and Edge of Paradise were solo efforts (as far as I know).  The Book of Enemy and Carbondale After Blog both include video. But it is the social, collaborative aspect of The Book of Enemy that could have made the project outstanding.

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trouble readingRecently, the findings of the National Endowment for the Arts literacy report were published and, as the Boston Globe reported, produced a prodigious amount of hand wringing from librarians, educators, parents and publishers.  The report highlighted the continuing decline of reading proficiency.  Proficiency, as the term is used in the report, is defined as being able to read the daily newspaper. 

gadget overloadThe primary reasons cited were the faltering educational system, media distractions and gadgets that change the nature of the reading experience.  Patricia S. Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), suggested the decline in reading among children could be related to the lack of available books that interest them.  Paradoxically, the AAAP reported that sales in the Children /Young Adult hardcover category year-to-date were up by 63.0 percent and the Children /Young Adult paperback category increased by 4.4 percent for the year.

Worldwide reading scores produced by the Progress in International Reading LIteracy Study showed which countries were doing well and which weren’t.  Russia, Singapore and Hong Kong scored best.  Rounding out the top 10 were Luxembourg, Italy, Hungary, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands and Flemish-speaking parts of Belgium.  The US ranked 14th, England 15th.  The study was conducted by Boston College and assessed the ability of 215,000 fourth graders to read literary and informational texts.  The worst performances came from South Africa, Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, Indonesia, Iran, Trinidad and Tobago, Macedonia, Georgia and Romania.  The study covered 40 countries in all.

old bookSo does this spell doom for book publishers?  I think not.  Books are the oldest media and are constantly evolving as the reading habits and needs of civilization evolve.  Books trump all other media for adaptability.  As an example:

  • Print on demand and web marketing made book publishing the first participative media vs. just a spectator sport
  • Books are the ultimate fragmented media, serving ever more finely delineated market niches
  • Books have been deconstructed into other forms – cell phones, e-books, audio books
  • Book have been time sliced for our convenience – delivered in parts via e-mail or available for rental like a NetFlix DVD
  • Books are becoming more visual – for example, manga and the graphic novel
  • Books have explored the social domain both online – ala LibraryThing, Shelfari and book widgets – and offline, as can be seen in the exploding popularity of book clubs

All of these bode well for books and reading.  I think it is just the transitions that make us uncomfortable, like a little turbulence on a long flight. 

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