Fantasy league publishing got serious this semester with 4 teams competing for bragging rights.
From the beginning RAW Content led the pack with defensive title selections and print runs. Pubfight rookie Monique Sherrett of Mind over Matter Media (M/M) got a late start but swept to second place Nov 16 and held strong against the rest of the pack but was unable to gain on the runaway sales of RAW Content.
RAW’s $900,000 victory over M/M was a clear victory. Superstar and veteran Pubfighter Paulina said “show me the money!”
Vortext Press and Corbeau Press, both grossing under $1M, surrended, citing challenges getting into the game. “Our top titles just didn’t do it for us this season,” said Vortext Press in post-game analysis.
To be sure, RAW benefited from an unusually weak bid auction and game-play schedule, but their win is still a remarkable accomplishment in a fantasy publishing league where initial printruns and ongoing inventory management can make a considerable difference. Vortext’s staff deserve plenty of credit for publishing the right titles, at the right time, with the right print runs.
It probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that at some point in time, each and every one of us has thought, “I should write a book”. Maybe it comes from a place of creativity, or from a deep-seated desire to share your ideas with the world, or even a dying wish to leave a legacy through written word.
Whatever the case, the reality is that not every book idea comes to fruition. So before you set off on your quest to become the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, you might want to run your idea by a few experts.
That is exactly what happened Saturday, Nov 8 at Canzine West 2014′s 1-2 Punch Book Pitch session. Hopeful authors stood up in front of an audience of peers and a panel of experts and pitched their book ideas. Through panel feedback the authors gained helpful insights to help them achieve their publishing dreams.
The audience heard pitches from multiple authors on books ranging from a political science fiction novel, to a graphic novel on the topic of environmental awareness, to a non-fiction exploration of entrepreneurship’s growing role in modern society. While each book received specific feedback there were many comments and points made that can be applied to every book pitch.
Here is a list of the top 5 tips for pitching a book:
Don’t get caught up in the details.
Your protagonist happens to have a tattoo of Tinkerbelle on his right bicep; he’s allergic to dogs and drinks 5 cups of coffee every day. Are any of these details relevant to the story? If the answer is no, then don’t mention them during the pitch. Stick to the main points of your book giving a high-level overview of its narrative. Offer hooks and suspenseful or intriguing details to leave your audience wanting to know more.
Be clear about what kind of book it is.
Is it fiction or non-fiction? A memoir? A thriller? A children’s book? Stating the format and genre of the book clearly and concisely in the opening of your pitch helps your audience get into the right mindset for your book and will help your ideas come across more clearly.
Practice makes perfect.
You never know when your 30 seconds in an elevator with a publisher might come along, so you’ll want to be prepared. Practise your pitch over and over again, in front of friends and family, fellow writers and anyone in the industry who you can get to listen. The more you practice, the easier it will become, so when you do bump into that editor or publisher you can wow them in 30 seconds flat.
You’re trying to sell your idea here, so cut out words like “kind of”, “maybe”, “sort of”, and “almost” whenever possible. You want to paint as clear a picture as possible for your audience, and saying, “It’s kind of a romance but also sort of science fiction” is nowhere near as clear as “It’s a sci-fi romance”.
Be prepared to answer tough questions.
Book pitches might seem like a one-sided conversation, but really they’re not. If you capture the interest of an editor or publisher, they’ll likely have some tough questions for you about the book, your background and platform as an author, any previous books you’ve published. Be prepared to answer these questions confidently, they could make or break your book’s chances of being published
Canzine, presented by Broken Pencil, is underway at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts in downtown Vancouver today from 1-7pm. As a celebration of zines, their makers, and the ideas they give life to, the festival has drawn makers from all over the Pacific Northwest. This is the story of Portland-based zinemaker Jillian Barthold’s story as told in her own words.
I actually just moved to the Pacific Northwest from Chicago, and I was researching zine fests that were over here and I saw Canzine. I was like, “Well I’ve never been to Canada.” I love to travel so I thought I might as well go.
Earlier a couple of really young girls came by, and they liked something so I just gave it to them. Their mom was saying, Zine culture is really important because you should get paid for your artwork but also be willing to give it away. She was like now you have to make something and give forward to someone else. I think that’s a really important thing for us to do as humans.
I used to make zines when I was little, but I didn’t know they were zines obviously. I would just draw and then staple things together because I liked books and magazines.
There is a really big zine community in Chicago, which is where I went to college. So I got into it there.
Pity Party, Micheal Heck—his work is really awesome. I think we have very similar styles and when I see him do something awesome I want to do something similar but different.
I do a lot of illustrative stuff….I’m not always drawn to the long writing.
I really love the folding and the cutting and the putting together of it. I find it therapeutic to make something from start to finish.
There’s Still Time to Make It to Canzine West
Saturday November 8, 2014, 1-7pm
Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
149 West Hastings St.
Admission: $5 (includes the latest issue of Broken Pencil magazine)
Canzine 2014: Festival of zine culture and independent arts is Saturday, November 8th, 1-7 pm, at Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 West Hastings St. Vancouver. brokenpencil.com/canzine
1) Meet some cool people
With over 200 zinemakers, comic book artists and small presses represented, the Giant Zine and Small Press Fair is the place to talk to a variety of artists and writers from around the world about DIY. The booths will be open from 1-7 pm, so you have plenty of time to chat with local zinesters. If you need a break, check out cartoonist Mimi Pond at 4 pm.
A writer for The Simpsons with over three decades of cartooning under her belt, Mimi Pond has a lot of wisdom to share. Her new book and New York Times bestseller, Over Easy, is a memoir-ish account of working as a dishwasher in coke-addled, disco era Oakland. It has been called, “As funny and warm-hearted as a memoir about a bunch of punks, drug dealers, hippies, and art school dropouts screwing in the 1970s can get.” Stop by for a chat with a comic industry legend.
2) Improve your craft
Mimeograph machine on the fritz? Stop by the panel “From Print to Pixel: Zines as Political Tools in the Digital Age” at 2 pm. Three zine makers and bloggers—Melissa Fong, Ho Tam and fiona fruitfly—talk about what it means to go digital, and how the medium they choose affects the message they try to convey.
Or relax into the Radical Reading Series at 5 pm with Leanne Prain and Meredith Quartermain. Leanne Prain writes about textiles, yarnbombing, and art. Meredith Quartermain writes fiction about Canadian issues. Both are represented by independent presses, and will read from their newest books.
3) Be humiliated in public
Think you have the next great book lurking inside you? Save yourself hours in front of a word processor and find out if you can get it published. The 1-2 Punch Book Pitch at 3pm is like Dragon’s Den for books. You have two minutes to present your book idea to a panel of judges. If they like it, you can win bragging rights, a Broken Pencil Prize Pack worth $200, plus the chance to submit your manuscript. If they don’t like it, they’ll rip your inner muse to shreds in front of a live audience.
4) Pick up awesome stuff
Your $5 ticket does more than get you the latest issue of Broken Pencil magazine and admission to all the fun events. It also gives you access to the best pop-up zine distro in Vancouver. Get hot-off-the-presses chapbooks, hand-illustrated posters, unique buttons, stickers, and more. Here’s what $10 got one shopper at Canzine Toronto:
Don’t Miss Canzine West
Saturday November 8, 2014, 1-7pm
Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
149 West Hastings St.
Admission: $5 (includes the latest issue of Broken Pencil magazine)
For more info, see the Website or follow the fun on social media.
Juan Pablo Alperin (BMath, MA) is a multidisciplinary scholar with over eight years of experience in online scholarly publishing. He recently joined the Publishing@SFU faculty, teaching “Technology and the Evolving Forms of Publishing” (PUB 802), “Technology and the Evolving Book” (PUB 401), and Publication of Self in Everyday Life (Pub 101). He is a collaborator on the Public Knowledge Project at Simon Fraser University and kindly agreed to the below interview.
Hometown: La Plata, Argentina
Research interests: Scholarly communications, social media metrics (altmetrics), Latin America, publishing technologies
Technology and the Evolving Forms of Publishing (PUB 802)
Publishing@SFU: This is your first semester at SFU, briefly tell us your career path? Where did you start? How did you get here?
My path to become a professor in publishing was a meandering one. I did an undergraduate in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, a six month stint teaching and working in high schools across Uganda. Upon returning from Uganda, almost by chance, I ended up doing a Masters in Geography (also at Waterloo), where I worked on a Geographic Information System (GIS) for helping education planners in Peru.
Ready to leave academia and being a professional career, I came across an opportunity that allowed me to develop innovative technologies in a non-corporate setting. I accepted a position as the sole software engineer in a medical journal based out of a research centre in Toronto. The journal was a pioneer in Open Access, powered by the Open Source software Open Journal Systems, and it gave me the opportunity to be creative with software solutions to publishing problems.
After a year of living in Toronto, I returned to my native Argentina and worked as a researcher and systems developer for the makers of Open Journal Systems, the Public Knowledge Project. As I focused more on the research aspect of my work, I started a doctoral program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, which lead me to being a professor here at SFU!
Publishing@SFU: If you were going to design a program to be “Juan Pablo”, what courses would be in this program?
These five courses would probably be a good first semester in the “Juan Pablo” program.
Introduction to Scholarly Publishing: To understand most of what I do it is essential to understand the basics of how we communicate and disseminate research.
Open Knowledge: I am a strong advocate for Open Access and Open Source, and with these “Open” models comes a culture of openness that drives much of the knowledge ecosystem around academia. You can actually already take this course, as a MOOC, offered jointly be SFU, Stanford, UBC, and KNUST.
Global Higher Education: The reason I am motivated to work on scholarly communications is because I feel that strengthening research culture can have a positive impact of systems of higher education around the world that, in turn, can have positive impacts on all sorts of social and economic development. Research is only one output from a system of higher education and anybody wanting to be me would need to have that broader contextual understanding.
Data Analysis and scripting with Python: I love the Python programming language and I find it useful for all sorts of tasks. From Web Scraping, to data analysis, to small automation tasks on your machine. Its useful for programmers and non-programmers alike! I do all my bibliometrics and altmetrics analyses with Python.
Bibliometrics and Altmetrics: I do a lot of analysis of the production, reach, and impact of research. This involves traditional bibliometrics (coauthorships, citation networks, etc.) and more recently altmetrics (social media metrics).
Greatest professional achievement: I am proud of how I managed to gain a broad understanding of scholarly publishing in Latin America in a very short time.
Most marked characteristic of your teaching style: This might be my brutal honesty. I have high expectations of students and make it clear to them when they are not rising to the challenge. I do my best to do this in an encouraging way, but you have to ask the students how often I succeed.
Qualities you most appreciate in students: This is a little cliché, but I like students to be self-motivated. While I see it as my job to inspire students to care about the subject matter, I appreciate and thrive on their own motivations for learning. I do not like it when students are simply “Doing School”.
Alternative career: I have always had the dream of setting up a small hotel in the Patagonia or somewhere else beautifully isolated. My wife would take care of greeting the guests and making sure they were comfortable, and I would make them delicious sandwiches and espressos.
Lesson to live by: Do not be afraid to say what you think or ask for what you want.
Juan Pablo is an instructor in Publishing Studies, with research interests in new media technologies and scholarly publishing, and he leads several research and development projects aimed at improving the quality, impact, and reach of scholarly publishing in Latin America.
His expertise include editorial workflow management, indexing, XML production, software development, scholarly communications, Web technologies, and social media metrics. He complements his professional experiences in publishing with a background in Computer Science (University of Waterloo) and Education (Stanford University).
Page Two, a literary agency with a twist, celebrates its first anniversary. Run by publishing veterans (and MPub alumni) Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White, Page Two represents authors seeking traditional publishing contracts but also atypical authors who are looking for innovative paths to publishing.
Jesse and Trena have 30 years of combined experience in the book publishing industry, and they worked together on the management team at D&M Publishers Inc., which at the time was Canada’s leading independent book publisher. Their personal career paths have instilled in them a commitment to high-quality editing, design and production, areas where the traditional publishing industry has excelled, and they bring that professionalism to all their projects.
Regarding Page Two’s origin says Trena, “we wanted to offer authors options and support them in publishing successfully and professionally regardless of which model they chose to publish under—whether traditional or self-publishing or some hybrid of the two. We felt deeply engaged by publishing innovation and wanted to create a new kind of publishing business model. The premise was that we wanted to be ultra-nimble, so we built a business that can be flexible as publishing continues to evolve.”
The focused, yet nimble, nature of Page Two is apparent when looking at their strategic publishing projects over the first year. Jesse and Trena act as traditional literary agents, brokering book deals between authors and publishers. They do consulting to self-publishers on everything from their book concept to distribution options and sales and marketing strategy, and often clients also hire them to assemble a team to produce their self-published books or, in the case of organizations, to help establish their publishing programs.
There’s nothing self about self-publishing and there’s little tradition in the way that authors traditionally publish these days. Trena and Jesse must draw on their diverse experience in all aspects of book publishing—editing, licensing, sales and contracts—to service their clients’ needs. The two provided the following example from the past year:
“Two of our authors had Globe and Mail bestsellers, and two, Michael Pond and Maureen Palmer, were on the B.C. bestseller list for about two months for their book, The Couch of Willingness. Two of those books were hybrid deals that we set up: the authors chose to self-publish and we brokered trade distribution deals for them with publishers. It’s that kind of arrangement that best highlights the creative ways we serve our clients. We’ve also been busy doing outreach to independent booksellers for the Association of Canadian Publishers and helping the Association of Book Publishers of B.C. with an ebook marketing project. And we just hired a talented project manager, Carra Simpson, who is also a graduate of the MPub program. Maybe our biggest success is that we’ve been really busy. There’s definitely a demand for our services.”
When asked what the year ahead brings, Jesse said, “we’re very excited to have just landed a contract with a US organization helping them establish a publishing program. We will be doing much more of this type of work — helping non-publishing organizations produce and monetize books.”
And somewhere in between their packed schedules and the end of the year, the team at Page Two plans to celebrate their first anniversary with a party to show their appreciation to the many people who have supported and worked with them over the last year. For the immediate ringing in of a new business year, this busy duo (now trio) will just have time for a toast over cocktails.
Word Vancouver—the literary festival that celebrates reading and writing‚ is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and many of Publishing@SFU’s instructors were on hand to provide free professional development sessions on a variety of literary topics.
Creating an Author Profile with Monique Sherrett
Authors today, whether self-published or contracted with a publishing house, must have solid self-promotion skills. In a digital world, authors must understand social media basics; how to build the right audience; how to work with editors, designers and publishing professionals; and how to use print, radio and other paid media.
Books get sold based on 3 things: Positioning, Author Platform and Sales
Positioning is how the book is positioned in the market. What it is about, who it is for, and why they should care.
The 7-second pitch in the book trade is the “sales handle.” Approximately 25 words that create a recognizable, and compelling, frame of reference. The sales handle often identifies the genre and audience, and includes anything noteworthy.
The sales handle is the basis of an author’s marketing. It can be used in a pitch letter to an agent or publisher, and later in outreach to reviewers and bloggers. The sales handle can act as the first sentence for the book’s description online, and be adjusted to act as the “About” blurb on social media profiles or as Tweets and Facebook Posts.
A previously published author has a sales history that is known to booksellers and helps establish how many copies the bookseller may stock. But comparable titles (people who like X, also buy Y) and competitive titles (people buy X, or they buy Y) can also be used.
If you’re in the business of being an author, then you really know your subject category: where your book is shelved, what is face-out on the shelf, what titles appear consistently across various retail channels, what titles are featured online or on special tables.
The business of being an author requires that you refine your craft but also work on building your reputation and credentials. Understanding the highly competitive retail market and researching what is successful tells you a lot about your book: whether it fills a gap in the market, continues a conversation that is ongoing, takes a controversial or insider look at the subject, etc.
Resources are limited, which means when building an author platform, you need a mix of owned media channels (your author website, email newsletter, blog), rented media channels (social media like Twitter and Facebook), earned media (publicity, reviews), and paid media (advertising).
Monique Sherrett has a passion for all things digital. She began her career at Raincoast Books, where she spearheaded online marketing strategies for various campaigns, most notable being Harry Potter. She founded Boxcar Marketing in 2007 and is a professor of professional practice in the Master of Publishing program.
Earlier this month, Page Two Strategies, Vancouver’s “new form agency” run by alumni Jesse Finkelstein (MPub 1999) & Trena White (MPub 2004), announced that they’d hired Carra Simpson (MPub 2007) as a new project manager who will work out of New York. Page Two’s announcement reads:
Carra Simpson has worked in trade book publishing since 2007, most recently as the publishing operations manager at Greystone Books and Douglas & McIntyre. She is also the grants administrator and project manager for the Tyee Solutions Society. Carra holds a master of publishing degree from Simon Fraser University. Currently based in Vancouver, she will be relocating to New York in October and working for us remotely from there.
Publishing@SFU can’t really claim any direct credit for this, but we are certainly proud of our alumni, and very pleased at this new alignment.
Find out what Regina, Ryan Gosling, and Bundling have to do with book publishing, and other sales and marketing tips shared by industry experts at ABPBC’s recent professional development day in this guest post from MPub Candidate Paulina Dabrowski.
On Thursday September 11th the students in the Masters of Publishing program were given the opportunity to sit in on a seminar put on by the ABPBC (The Association of Book Publishers of BC), which focused on marketing and promotional strategies for Canadian publishing.
Bruce Walsh of the recently re-branded University of Regina Press (formerly Canadian Plains Research Centre Press) gave an inspirational keynote address on how to stand out in a crowded marketplace, including pioneering the first reality tv show on publishing.
And after a collegial lunch at Steamworks, the attendees dug into the nuts and bolts of working with a sales rep and bundling eBooks.
The professional development day concluded with a roundtable discussion on the questions, frustrations and lessons learned by the members and presenters in attendance.
For those readers interested specifically in the “how-to” component of the day, here’s a recap of the session run by Kate Walker, sales rep and former owner of Ampersand, and Cheryl Fraser, VP Ampersand Inc. and manager of the gift division for the agency.
Everything you ever wanted to know about working with a sales rep but didn’t know what to ask
Kate and Cheryl have decades of experience in the industry and have worked with booksellers, librarians and specialty customers, authors and publishers. They described being a sales rep as follows, “we work with everyone in the publishing company, connecting book publishers to their customers, and customers with book publishers. Our goal is to get the books publishers acquire to the right customers in the perfect markets.”
In order to do this efficiently sales reps work hard to be good mediators. They spend most of their time communicating the right information from publishers to booksellers and back, and in order to do this they are constantly reading, and keeping updated on the book world. They need to keep track of which books are selling, which books are winning awards, and predict needs before they arrive. Kate describes sales reps as “adaptable chameleons” in that they must be responsive to the customers or book publishers’ needs.
Utilizing sales reps effectively can save publishers a lot of time and money. Sales reps have a more personal relationship with book buyers than publishers, and they use this in-depth knowledge to place books where they will sell. Sales reps create and distribute lists on “hot topics” making it easier for book buyers to see a single collection of comparable titles from multiple publishers (books by First Nations People, for example). They make it a priority to visit and build professional relationships with book buyers, creating what Kate refers to as a “bankable trust relationship”, which is a huge benefit to publishers both immediately and for future productions.
Kate and Cheryl also took the time to explain ways of creating good relationships with sales reps. Many times this relationship begins at sales conferences, when publishers present their books for the season. It’s important for publishers to be prepared and speak clearly. Reps will be asking what they know their customers will ask so they expect presenters to know intimate details such as the author’s hometown, or sales history for previous books by the author. Kate notes, however, that it’s important not to make “promises” to sales reps about acquiring information they are missing in their presentation. It’s better to come with a thorough knowledge of the book, and enthusiasm to get sales reps excited. Publishers should know the competition as well as comparable titles, and be open and honest with sales reps as to where the promotion money will be focused, as well as be transparent about any pre-arranged special sales.
The next stage in an important publisher-to-sales-rep relationship is to keep the doors of communication open, and to share information about updates with the book such as pushed release dates, nominations for awards, or upcoming events. It’s also important for book publishers to have easily understandable terms of sale and distribution channels.
In planning author events, it’s important for the publisher to do their research. They have to ask themselves:
Who is this event for?
Is the author prepared and do they have the right personality for the event?
Where will the event be held; private spaces offer intimacy but public spaces open the event to potential new audiences.
It’s also important not to forget attention to detail; does the event have a microphone available, will the event need seating, does the date conflict with any holidays, will the publisher provide extras such as food and wine?
And, which channels will be used to advertise the event? Sales reps can assist with this type of planning, after all who doesn’t enjoy a good party!
Cheryl also explained the dynamics of the “gift market”. Gift books are fun and exciting, but not all books one might give as a gift are appropriate for the gift market. To give an example of the differences, below are two books by photographer Philippe Halsman.
The first is a coffee table art book, it’s large in size and is filled with Halsman’s well-known jump photography alongside accompanying text that share the stories behind the photographs. The second is a smaller, simpler book; a photo interview with Salvador Dali that is quite silly and playful, meant to share with the reader the many faces of Salvador Dali and his famous mustache. The first book, Jump Book is a great book to give as a gift, but the second book Dali’s Mustache is a book made for the gift market.
How gift books are bought by buyers differs in many ways from how other trade books are bought. Gift book buyers are really focused on the visual. They want to see the book, hold the book, place it by their cash registers and see how it looks. It’s important for gift sales reps to have physical copies of the books to bring to their customers. Authors are much less important, and the focus is all on the visual appeal of the subject matter. It’s no surprise to hear from Cheryl that her top sellers last season were books on Ryan Gosling, Cats, and Darth Vader.
The gift buyer also heavily relies on the print catalogue, which led to an interesting discussion about the use of electronic catalogues. But I’ll save that for another post.
After a short break, Mary Alice Elcock gave the final presentation before the roundtable discussions.
How to Bundle Up: Making the Most of your Bundled eBooks
Mary Alice is a MPub alumni who is VP of Marketing and Publisher Relations for BitLit. BitLit is an app that allows publishers to offer eBook editions to readers who have purchased a print copy. To quote Mary Alice, BitLit “connects readers to books, and connects publishers to readers”. BitLit’s main market are hybrid readers, ones who read both print and eBook, as research has shown more readers are beginning to fill this middle category.
Out of 120 million people who own eBooks only 4% are eBook only readers.
Their studies have shown that 48% of people would pay more for a print book if it came bundled with the eBook.
Currently less than 1% of customers have purchased both the print and eBook edition of a book, which means there is no cannibalization of sales for publishers if they decide to bundle.
BitLit bundling pricing is typically done in one of two ways. In all cases the bundling is available after point of purchase, but publishers have the choice of offering the eBook as a free add-on which is the case for about 25% of the books BitLit currently has bundled, or the eBook is offered for around 75% off the cover price.
Bundling gives publishers great opportunity to create extra net income. Mary Alice provided example pricing of a book and its net income in print, eBook, and bundling.
BitLit can currently be downloaded (for free) on Apple and Android devices. The user opens the app, takes a picture of the cover which is then recognized in BitLit’s system. To claim the book, the user takes another picture of their name written in capitals on the top of the copyright page, which BitLit uses to match with the user’s name on the credit card they provided in their sign up. Once the book is claimed, the user is given a link to their eBook if it is provided for free by the publisher, or the user is offered the eBook for the discounted price which they can then purchase. The reader can then choose to read the eBook on any of their eReading devices including Kobo, Nook, Kindle, or iPad.
For being only 2 years old (and local to Vancouver) BitLit has already made some major waves in the publishing world. There are currently 20,000 books available to bundle and many authors have fallen in love with the cross-media platform such as well-known horror writer Joe Hill (son of Stephen King).
BitLit’s next big move is a project called “Shelfie” which will save book lovers (and book hoarders if you’re like me) tons of time. Users simply take a picture of their book shelf and “Shelfie” will find all the books which are currently available to bundle, so there is no need to search titles one by one!