SFU’s Master of Publishing program has famously positioned itself as a leader in the discussion on the future of the publishing industry. With current and future digital publishing trends always on the minds of MPub grads, it was now my responsibility to see how the discussion sounded outside the walls of Harbour Centre at BookNet Canada’s annual eBook Craft and Tech Forum conferences. I wanted to know, for example, how real-world professionals felt about proposed digital workflows. What were some skepticisms around new production technologies? Were publishers ready to disrupt or to maintain the industry?
There was no shortage of answers to any of these questions, and I tried to parse through twenty hours of mind-bending speeches from the industry’s most notable innovators, diviners, and disruptors. Here are four things I learned.
What would happen if we made eBooks that didn’t suck?
Headline: Publishing industry divorces Microsoft Word
Every publishing house still uses Microsoft Word, but people like Colleen Cunningham attempt to envision a workflow devoid of this old world technology. Similar to the new ideas around eBook development, it makes sense to replace singular desktop publishers with a centralized CMS as the main input platform. I realized, though, that it isn’t simply a matter of system upgrades, but an entire overhaul of current production workflows from the author and editor through to the production team. Tagging for metadata would need to be integrated into the workflow as early as in the editing stages. Are editors willing to take on additional responsibility in tagging content?
Ebookcalypse finds zombies reading more than ever
Skeptics have been prophesying the death of the book for years, but Kevin Ashton wanted to remind us that we are living in the golden age of book buying and global literacy. Every time there is a development in technology, there’s an increase in literacy. In fact, Kevin suggested, with literacy rates firmly on the rise, print production may not be a sustainable enterprise: ten billion readers multiplied by two books per year is approximately nineteen million trees and potentially the annihilation of the rain forest as we know it. But all jokes aside, there is nothing apocalyptic about the state of the industry; we’re just adapting to higher demand.
Why, suddenly, is everyone an expert in content development?
Actually, in spite of every corporation producing an in-house magazine and every CEO producing a best-selling book, it remains (according to Brian O’Leary) that publishers are still the experts in content development. While marketing divisions have whole-heartedly appropriated the term “content marketing,” their three main obstacles in content development are the same solutions that publishers provide every day: producing engaging content, producing content consistently, and producing a variety of content. So why aren’t publishers leading trends in content marketing?! The fact that we aren’t seems crazy to me. 24symbols, Oyster, and Scribd all offer ways for publishers to think about content marketing in terms of in-house marketing strategies and new streams of corporate publishing. It seems like publishers have been content marketers for years; we just haven’t known it.
SFU’s Master of Publishing program often employs leading industry experts to guest speak in lectures. In this way, grads get networking opportunities, as well as the latest professional insight, and, sometimes, industry gossip. I’m sure, for guests, it’s also interesting to see publishing grads in their natural habitat: computer screens illuminated in front of them, frantically taking notes, extending the question period by 5, no 10, no 20 minutes. In spite of two semesters of innumerable guest lecturers, I still felt uneasy attending the prolific, annual Tech Forum and eBook Craft conferences, which mimicked the same classroom atmosphere.
I found myself surrounded by notable industry experts in their own professional environment: mingling, laughing, catching up, exchanging ideas. I felt like I had infiltrated the inner circle. What next: quietly blend in or blatantly be known? To my own embarrassment, I chose the latter. (I really had nothing to lose.)
My mission to crash BookNet’s annual conference was to sufficiently rep’ MPub amongst all these east coasters, make friends everywhere, and win ALL the prizes. I made my own shoddy promotional poster with the beautiful faces of our entire cohort so that they could come along for the ride, and I proceeded to take the picture of each person I met holding the poster.
Artie Moffa, from Yellow Buick Review, single-handedly took on new typesetting solutions for poetry eBooks, instead of using hand-me-down html and css that was originally designed for prose. It wasn’t easy: there was virtually no information on typesetting poetry. Artie now advocates open-source software, which he feels can help publishers communicate through the uncertain, digital changes that the industry is facing.
Rebecca Springer, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is the editor for digital cookbooks–possibly the most complex eBooks that are available. She said that complex eBook layouts don’t need to be made in an app as long as you’re abiding by best-practices of navigation, linking, typography, and imagery.
Laura Brady, of Brady Type, had some strong opinions on fixed layout (FXL). While she admitted that FXL has its place in fixed genres, like graphic heavy children’s books, manga, and graphic novels, its use in other genres is not cost effective, efficient, or accessible.
Colleen Cunningham, from F+W, a content and eCommerce company, developed a new digital-first workflow for her team based on a centralized content management system. She suggested that metadata tagging be integrated into the editor’s responsibilities because they are closest to the content.
Joshua Tallent, from Firebrand Technologies, voiced his frustrations on image formatting in eBook development. “Every reading system seems to handle images differently, and getting them to consistently show up on the same page with a caption is essentially impossible.” So, are we any closer to one eBook standard to rule them all? Him and Colleen hashed it out, but I’m not sure they came to a resolution…
Joanna Karaplis (former MPub) and her BookNet people shared some data on their services, most of which I didn’t understand having never used their services before. But, man, they sure know how to throw a party!
With the success of my mission–to represent MPub, meet new people, and win a whole bunch of sweet prizes–I would like to conclude with some Tech Forum wisdom from the prophetic Brian O’Leary: “Those who do not risk, cannot win.”
There are several interesting literary initiatives popping up this Spring. Here’s some that have come across our radar recently.
New partnership marks Vancouver’s literary locations
“Literary Landmarks – a partnership between the Vancouver Public Library, B.C. BookWorld, the VPL Foundation, and Dr. Yosef Wosk – recognizes physical locations with connections to the city’s authors and books.”
There are 26 inaugural Literary Landmarks from a wide range of authors, such as Wayson Choy, Joy Kogawa, Evelyn Lau, W.P. Kinsella, Daphne Marlatt, Lee Maracle, George Woodcock, and Ethel Wilson. Each location includes an informational plaque mounted on a lamppost.
Call for submissions: CWILL BC seeks stories and illustrations for Reading Lights
The Vancouver Public Library is also working on another similar initiative with the Children’s Writers & Illustrators of BC (CWILL BC)—Reading Lights.
“Excerpts of stories or poems with associated illustrations from published children’s literature will be featured on permanent plaques and placed on lamp posts in Vancouver. These “Reading Lights” will provide spontaneous encounters with BC books for children and their caregivers near parks, playgrounds, schools, and libraries. They are intended to spark an interest in stories and reading, while celebrating the work of BC authors and illustrators.”
As the Publishing Liaison Librarian not only do I answer questions from people in Publishing, but also from other SFU students and the general public. The most popular Publishing question I’m asked would be:
“How many copies of [Book X] were sold?”
Quite a few people think this is a nice, straightforward question. Alas, The Big Book of All the Book Sales is a myth. To the surprise of no-one in Publishing, the first line of enquiry is to contact the actual publisher of the book. This can be through the Publisher’s website, found either with a quick Web search or through a listing such as BNC’s Catalist or Northern Lights. There is also searching Books in Print (BIP) in the Publisher section, which is is no longer at SFU but is available at local public or academic libraries.
Of course, publishers don’t have to reveal information about their book sale numbers, or in fact even respond to questions if they don’t want to. Many people just give up on the question by this point (often because it was an idle question in the first place), but for those who really want to know and are willing to some digging, here are some search suggestions.
For a recent book, there might be article articles about it in Quill & Quire or Publishers Weekly. For Quill and Quire, the SFU community can search CBCA Complete with a search such as: pub(quill and quire) AND [Book X]. For Publishers Weekly, the SFU community can search Business Source Complete with a search on the Subject: “Book title X (Book)”, e.g. HARRY Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book). This approach usually works if the book is a bestseller. A related search path is to find ads for the book in magazines such as Quill & Quire, Publishers Weekly or New York Times Book Review. Again, if a book is a bestseller the publisher will often boast of the number of copies sold in ads.
For an older book, perhaps someone else has done the legwork and has mentioned it in a biography of the author or criticism of the book. Otherwise, there is again asking the publisher, if still in existence, or possibly the checking archives of the publisher, such as through SFU’s Canadian Publishers’ Records. This should be left to people interested in undertaking painstaking research.
Finally, in a related search, there is finding information on when the book was on bestseller lists. On the PUB 371 course page there are some resources on publisher information, including bestseller lists. (Note: Since BNC Research is one the of listed resources I’ll mention that, yes, BookNet Canada and Nielsen BookScan do track sales for publishers and bookstore, but alas, these data are not revealed to the public or academic researchers. That would make it too easy…)
An upcoming conference about the the social and environmental impacts of natural resource extraction will culminate with a poetry reading featuring poets Judith Goldman, Mark Nowak and Jonathan Skinner.
The event is Sunday March 29, 7:00 pm in Room 1900, SFU Harbour Centre.
Judith Goldman is the author of Vocoder (Roof, 2001), DeathStar/rico-chet (O Books, 2006), and l.b.; or, catenaries (Krupskaya, 2011). She teaches in the Poetics Program at the University at Buffalo, edits poetry features for the online academic journal Postmodern Culture, and is at work on ______ Mt. [blank mount], a project that writes through Shelley’s “Mont Blanc” in the context of past futures and future histories of ecological catastrophe.
Mark Nowak, a 2010 Guggenheim fellow, is an award-winning poet, social critic, and labor activist, whose writings include The New York Times “Editor’s Choice,” Shut Up Shut Down (2004, afterword by Amiri Baraka), and the acclaimed book on coal mining disasters in the US and China, Coal Mountain Elementary (2009), that Howard Zinn called “a stunning educational tool.” He is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Manhattanville College.
Jonathan Skinner earned a PhD in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2005. His collection of poems, Political Cactus Poems (2005), was printed by Palm Press using an ecologically responsible printing process. Skinner edited the journal ecopoetics from 2001 to 2005 and writes ecocriticism on contemporary poetry. A former Professor of Environmental Studies at Bates College, Skinner teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies and in the Writing Program at the University of Warwick.
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The State of Extraction conference is sponsored by Simon Fraser University’s Institute for the Humanities, the takes place at SFU Harbour Centre, on unceded Coast Salish Territories, March 27–29, 2015.
The State of Extraction: Corporate Imperatives, Public Knowledge, and Global Struggles conference aims to bring together indigenous leadership, academics, artists and public intellectuals from a variety of disciplines, to examine the new face of resource capitalism in Canada and its influence on the world, the (lack of) public debate, and look at models of alternative economic and social development through a series of presentations and roundtable discussions.
During June 9-12 convocation ceremonies, SFU will confer an honorary Doctor of Letterson Lorna Crozier, “an award-winning poet, essayist and professor emeritus who has authored 18 poetry books and twochildren’s books, and is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and an officer of the Order of Canada.”
Other recipients (in June and October convocations) include artist Ken Lum, humanitarian Judy Graves, and Bill Nye The Science Guy.
SFU confers honorary degrees to “distinguished individuals, in recognition of their scholarly, scientific, or artistic achievement, or in recognition of exceptional contribution to the public good through professional or philanthropic activity.”
TouchWood Editions is one of Western Canada’s leading independent book publishers, based in Victoria, BC. We publish books on food and wine, travel, and gardening, as well as titles of regional and historical interest. Our imprint, Brindle & Glass Publishing, is known for its list of quality literary fiction and non-fiction.
We are seeking an in-house editor to join our team. Ideally you are extremely detailed oriented, passionate about creative problem solving, happy to work both independently and collaboratively, and in possession of excellent communication skills.
This is a full-time position. Please send a cover letter and résumé via email to email@example.com by Friday, March 27, 2015.
Evaluating manuscripts to determine readiness for editorial process
Substantive editing, copy editing, and proofreading of book-length projects according to in-house style guides and The Chicago Manual of Style
Fact checking, securing permissions, and applying for CIP data
Creating, compiling, and maintaining style sheets for series and individual titles
Preparing design-ready manuscripts (using styles, cleaning up formatting, and tagging) and reviewing layout requirements
Reading and correcting proofs, negotiating appropriate revisions with authors, incorporating authors’ changes and comments, and ensuring consistency and accuracy throughout
Working closely with the production team to maintain a smooth and timely publication schedule
Copy editing and proofreading all sales and promotional copy (ads, event posters, catalogue copy, back cover copy, etc.)
Fielding submission queries, logging all submissions, and writing and sending out rejection letters
In-house editorial experience in the book publishing industry preferred
Experience in editing cookbooks an advantage
Undergraduate degree in arts or communications
Excellent knowledge of The Chicago Manual of Style
Proficiency with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook
Proven ability to work independently and prioritize multiple projects
Lunch Poems at SFU, presented by SFU Public Square, is a unique vibrant exchange of poetic ideas and cadence held the third Wednesday of every month, noon to 1 pm, in the Teck Gallery at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre Campus.
The Greber Writing Awards are two separate awards, one for books ($5,000) and one for magazines ($2,000) and are awarded to freelance writers of non-fiction on the topic of social justice. The Greber Awards seek writing that is “exceptionally written, well researched and demonstrates excellence of storytelling”.
Submissions for the 2015 awards are open from Monday, March 9, 2015 to Friday, June 12, 2015 at 5 PM (PST).