Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In and Out of Print

In and Out of Print: The New World of Books
Mechanics' Institute
Wednesday, 29 June, 2010 6:00pm

PhotobucketLast evening the Mechanics' Institute hosted a panel discussion in which 4 Bay Area writers talked about the disparate routes each took to getting a book published. The event was aimed at writers & focused on the how to get the attention of publishers & readers. The panel was smartly moderated by Constance Hale. Laura Fraser represented the traditional model, submitting a proposal & then receiving an advance in order to write full time, though she admits that it is no longer so easy or profitable to go this route. Matt Stewart distributed his novel via twitter & then used this stunt to garner articles in the New York Times & TechCrunch, which then brought him to the attention of publishers. Lisa Alpine, an entrepreneur by profession, goes the self-publishing route, "because I don't want to wait around for approval." Ransom Stephens put his novel up on scribd, where it was one of the top ten downloads for weeks. All the authors use social media & do most of their publicity themselves. The basic message was that, besides writing the best book you can, you need to do a lot of self-promoting. They also emphasized the need to hire a professional editor, since most publishers no longer offer this service.

The panelists were all very forthcoming about outlays of time & money required for their books. There was little mention of digital books, Kindles or iPads, & each author was clearly proud to have a physical book to sell. I was thankful that no one seemed to think that the Web was a bad thing or a threat in any way. At the end of the event, Mr. Stephens, who is also a particle physicist, told me how in the early 90s he was one of the 1st Americans to get on the World Wide Web, using a browser client written by Tim Berners-Lee himself.

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