Category Archives: Publishing

A few links about reading, publishing, timeliness, & poems about dogs

Emotional intelligence, improvement of

For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

But psychologists and other experts said the new study was powerful because it suggested a direct effect — quantifiable by measuring how many right and wrong answers people got on the tests — from reading literature for only a few minutes.

Does Reading Literary Fiction Make You a Better Person?

(Same story from Publishing Perspectives.) At the end of this article is a link to participate in the study. You don’t have to read any literature, just look at pictures of eyes and determine an emotion. But they do ask you how much fiction vs. nonfiction you’ve read in the past year. (Just so you know, I got 31 out of 36 correct. I think that’s pretty good. But then, I read literary fiction.)

Publishing: Traditional vs. Self (Before we die this will cease to be a story)

Is Publishing Still Broken? The Surprising Year In Books

Self-publishing is a huge and disruptive force in the publishing industry, but contrary to popular belief, it’s largely benefiting publishers.

Bowker Data Offers Surprising Insight into Traditional and Self-Publishing

First, more publishers than ever before signed authors who had previously self-published their books, a far cry from the days only a few years ago when choosing to self-publish was an all-or-nothing choice.

Just in case you were thinking about making a magazine app

Why tablet magazines are a failure

8 apps a day. (Average number of apps opened by mobile users each day. Out of an average number of 41 apps on the device.)

Manners, improvement of

On going over your time

Just don’t do it.

Marketing & Design & Creativity

From today’s Very Short List (@VSL), “the delightful email that shares cultural gems from a different curator each day.” Today’s curators were David Kelley, founder of IDEO and Stanford’s, and Tom Kelley, IDEO partner and bestselling author. One link was to an article titled “Mermaids & pirates take the fear out of hospital scans” about the redesign of MRI scanners.

“I mean, some of the most effective insights we got came from kneeling down and looking at rooms from the height of a child.”

Good news on the one hand, except if you think that this insight is coming after the fact, it’s a little depressing that these machines and the experience for little children wasn’t considered beforehand. Oh well. Better late than never, right?

Curating this edition of VSL was also a good marketing venture for @kelleybros, whose book, Creative Confidence, publishes next week.


Mary Oliver’s ‘Dog Songs’ Finds Poetry in Friends

Hey, I’m a dog owner.

Some links about self-publishing, an Amazon protest, long walks, and a boat-like bike

These next three items are thanks to @EditorialHell who puts together a newsletter from Berrett-Kohler Publishers called BK Communiqué.

And he’ll help support your local indie bookstore. And he’s just one town over from me.

Self-Publishing Could Become a $52 Billion Business: Report

Unremarkable men walk 40 miles for no particular reason

“It’s not anti-charity; it’s pro-friends, pro doing-anything-you-feel-like-doing.”

Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh
This just sounds like a good story. Any time someone helps others tell their own stories, it’s good for all of us.

Just plain weird. Discovered this story while reading blog of author Anne Elizabeth Moore.

Making iOS 7 more readable
For those of us over 50.

If you’re a bike commuter and there’s a body of water between home and work.


Aquatic bicycle

Picture taken from SBK website.

(A few) links about books, bookstores, & self-publishing


Continuing with the Banned Books theme of the week:

[Not your usual list of banned books]
Five Banned Books That You Should Read (That You Probably Haven’t)


What do bookstores supply that Amazon and other online retailers can’t? Personalized advice from a live person. And community. Events. People getting together with other people to talk about books. A place to hear authors speak and to meet their dogs. (I heard Theron Humphrey, author/photographer of Maddie on Things, speak at my local independent bookstore, The Brookline Booksmith. It’s a book of pictures of his coon hound Maddie standing on things all over the United States. He spoke about his adventures and what got him started and all the while Maddie the dog was wandering around and among the attendees. Very sweet. And personal. And something that just is not going to happen online.

The indie bookstore resurgence


Man recovering from an accident finds himself bored and writes a book for his grandchildren. I include the link because I think the important part of this little tale of success is that the book was written for specific people. The author knew his audience and he wrote it for them. It just turns out that what might interest his grandchildren probably interests a lot of other kids that age. But he knew precisely who he was writing for. That’s key.

Wordsley man who wrote a book for his grandchildren lands publishing deal

Not a book recommendation, since I haven’t read it, but it does sound kind of amusing:

Of course I thought all reading was a cure for something, but these women have been running a “bibliotherapy” business. Specific books for specific illnesses.  Who knew?

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You

One man’s guide to printing his self-published book

CreateSpace, Lightning Source, Lulu—Where Should YOU Self Publish Your Book: The Ultimate Resource

flickr photo credit: Okanagan College Library

Links about books, publishing, self-publishing, marketing, video, & photography

High Brow

Excavated Site in Denmark May Be The Royal Hall From ‘Beowulf’
Reminds that it may be time to re-read Beowulf. Last time I did that I was a freshman in college. Also happen to have a copy of the verse translation by Seamus Heaney (R.I.P.) sitting here on my bookshelf. (Though one of the commenters at Amazon thinks that the translation by Frederick Rebsamen is superior to Heaney’s.)


Self-Publishing An E-Book? Here Are 4 Ways To Leave Amazon’s 30% Tax Behind

Self-Publishing A Legal Casebook: An Ebook Success Story

(As evidenced by the two different versions of e-book/ebook above, Forbes copy editors may want to look into standardizing the spelling of that pesky word.)

Still banning books?

North Carolina school board bans “Invisible Man”
(from @DavePell’s NextDraft newsletter 9/20/13)

Still reminding us that books are banned

Did you know it is banned books week?

How banned books week is being observed in my neck of the woods:

Read-Out for Banned Books Week


Video provides payday for publishers
(thanks to @jwikert for the link)

Proof of what Joe describes is happening at the New York Times, where one of the video features is called Op-Docs. One of the recent videos there is:

56 Ways of Saying I Don’t Remember

Louie C.K. on Conan about cell phones
There’s actually a great line in here about letting yourself getting completely sad, embracing it, crying, in order to produce the “happiness antibodies” that will make you completely happy. But screwing around with the phone rather than just sitting there “being human” gets in the way of complete sadness, therefore getting in the way of complete happiness. Brilliant in a way.
(thanks to @DavePell’s NextDraft)


This Guy Turns OCD Hoarding into Amazing Photos
(thanks @Dooce)


New Album “Sparks” Announced
Another musician doing some interesting stuff on the marketing front.


Spam comment at this blog:
Now I am going to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming yet again to read more news.

Links about books, publishing, marketing, photography, and Brookline, MA

First Jonathan Franzen published an article about Karl Kraus, “an Austrian satirist and a central figure in fin-de-siecle Vienna’s famously rich life of the mind” that veered into an attack on our current lives, technology, Twitter users, and, among other things. Jonathan Franzen: what’s wrong with the modern world

Then Jennifer Weiner, called out as one of those “yakkers and braggers,” responded with: What Jonathan Franzen Misunderstands About Me

And then Porter Anderson weighed in with this summation and compilation of many of the different voices that joined the discussion. Writing on the Ether: What’s Wrong With Franzen

While on the subject of books, this from Publishing Perspectives. Leah Price, professor of English at Harvard University, answers the question, “what is  a book?” What Exactly is a Book, Anyway?
Quote: “This is one reason that UNESCO defined ‘book’ in 1964 as ‘a non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages, …made available to the public’… [I guess meaning that a 48-page document cannot be a book.]

But maybe books are just too long:

The big short—why Amazon’s Kindle Singles are the future

But then again, Tom Junod writes an article for Esquire titled: “The Dominance of Looooooong In the Age of Short.” (While theoretically about long-form written pieces, this article seems to be speaking more to our TV- and movie-watching habits.) [Thanks to Dave Pell's NextDraft newsletter]

And speaking of new ways to tell a story, the New York Times publishes an illustrated article: Tomato Can Blues

Making it easier than ever to grab Tweet-able text from articles. Quote me: How digital publishing is getting straight to the source

Two words to guide you in your Tweeting:
A Super Simple 2-Word Social Media Strategy: Be Useful  [from]
[thanks @jimstorer]

And if you should find yourself speechless, head over here: Fill the Silence

Ah, Brookline:
The turkey tenace temporarily at bay, Brookline mobilizes to fight creeping Allstonization

Though my photo here is at odds with the headline above:

Wild turkeys, Brookline, MA

Ah, Brookline (II):
Man Arrested for Using Leaf Blower in Brookline

(Since it’s after September 15, I’m guessing these guys were leaf blowing before 9 a.m. on Yom Kippur. That’s a no-no.)

Lastly, a link to the New York Times photo blog, a series of hometown photos taken by teenagers.

Some more thoughts on the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference

A continuation of people and things discovered at the O’Reilly TOC conference in NYC, February 13-15, 2012.

Valla Vakili, CEO of Small Demons  @smalldemons

The title of Valla’s talk was “Exaggerations and Perversions,” a phrase he borrowed from William James‘ book, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature. James writes, “…it always leads to a better understanding of a thing’s significance to consider its exaggerations and perversions its equivalents and substitutes and nearest relatives elsewhere.”

Valla and his team have created what they call the “Storyverse,” where they bring all the details of fictional worlds to the real world. People, places, things. As they say at their site:

A place where details touch, overlap and lead you further. To new music to listen to. New movies to watch. Places to visit. People to know. And of course, new books to read. Getting started is simple. Just choose a book. See where it takes you.

This all seems very interesting. What does that character eat, drink. Where does she go? What other characters in other books end up in those same places? This can lead to an endless number of connections between an endless number of fictional characters. Readers have a passion, an obsession, for characters. I think of my own experience of reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises in college and always wanting to open a bottle of wine and drink along with the characters. The worry is that collecting all this information about these characters and connecting them to shopping opportunities will lead to a world where writers write with product placement in mind. Of course that’s already occurred a couple of times. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime go obsess in that fictional world.

Good blog, too.

Eric Ries: entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup. @ericries

His mantra: Build. Measure. Learn. His blog: StartupLessonsLearned

His provocative statement: if he were running a big publishing house he’d put together a group of 5-10 people whose sole job was to find manuscripts in the slush pile and turn them into bestsellers. Methodically. He doesn’t believe bestsellers happen by accident. Build. Measure. Learn. Test content with friends and their friends. Test different covers online. (He photoshopped different colored book covers into bookstore display shelves and asked people to tell him which one “popped” for them. [the blue one]) Test, test, test.

He took “pre-orders” for his book even before he had written the book. Charged people $30 even though he didn’t know what the publisher would charge. But put together 10,000 pre-orders before book was published. Kind of thing that gives everyone in the process a warm fuzzy feeling.

Len Vlahos (Book Industry Study Group) and Kelly Gallagher (RR Bowker) spoke on “Consumer Attitudes Toward Ebook Reading.” (And I was glad they used “toward” and not “towards.”)

Lots of stats:

E-book take-up flattened in 2011. Fiction is where the action is with e-books. When will other genres catch up? What does role of technology play in adoption.

And then this: heard from presenters more than once at this conference: “We tend to forget the reader.” (And people wonder why publishers are so terrified? Don’t forget your customers! Any first-day business-school student will tell you that.)

E-book buyer was originally male oriented but it is women with higher educations, higher income, homes. Perhaps women were waiting for the technology to shake out and settle down. Or is it just that women really are the readers and maybe it looked like men were readers because they were first to adopt the e-readers, but perhaps they were more interested in the technology than what you could read with it?

Fourteen percent of folks with an e-reader still haven’t purchased an e-book. What prevents people from buying e-books?

  1. More comfortable with print.
  2. Difficult to share with others.
  3. Inability to resell books.

Power buyers are social people. Power buyers need ability to share what they’re reading. While they buy 25 percent of physical books, they drive 50 percent of sales and value in the marketplace.

It seems that after two years of owning an e-reader, people to tend buy fewer books. In fact, there’s a slight increase in the number of physical books bought at the time. Technology backlash?

Erin McKean, CEO of   @emckean

Everything is context. Wordnik is a large large dictionary. It connects words to other words. Words don’t have meaning without context.

She says your content is your core. Getting people to the core of who you are is the new holy grail. How to discover books without browsing. How do you get books into venues where people aren’t necessarily looking for books? People are reading blogs. Sweet spot for context/content delivery. But reaching out to bloggers is labor intensive. What if you could make an API for your content? And then people could connect your content to communities you might not even know about.

Bob Young, CEO of, @caretakerbob

Spoke about starting a business and how hard it has become since all the colleges now have entrepreneurial programs. Asking for a show of hands, turns out about half the people in the audience are either currently working for a startup or want to start a new business.

But it turns out that most of the people in the audience also say they were A students in college, and Bob says the chances of them succeeding in an innovative business are slim. It’s the C students who start and succeed in business. If you’re an A student, you’ve by definition bought into the system, the current education system, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Tom Peters once had a slide about this very topic. So Bob says, “please don’t start a business.” Well, he doesn’t want any more competition. More on that…

But then he goes on to say that if you are going to start a business, 1) have fun, and 2) follow your customers. Advice clearly not followed by many since they say “we’ve forgotten about the reader.”

What Bob set out to do at Lulu was to build a platform where authors could sell books directly to their customers. Books that generally have small specialty markets, e.g., cookbooks. Lulu really is fulfilling what Chris Anderson called “the long tail.”

But in an echo of what Erin McKean was talking about, sharing APIs, Lulu at first saw all the other people coming in to the self-publishing realm as competitors, but then realized that since they had been one of the first ones in, they could in fact share their knowledge with all the newcomers. Which is what they do at

Seems the whole world these days is about opening up your API. Sharing, transparency, all that.

Good place to end the conference. Funny guy, Bob Young. No slides, which was nice.

Lulu blog

Complete list of speakers

Some thoughts on the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference

I attended the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference in New York City, February 13-15. (Is it odd that these folks put together a conference that falls on Valentine’s Day? Or am I just an old sentimentalist?) Someone asked for a show of hands at one point and determined that half the people there are in publishing and scared to death of what this “digital revolution” means; the other half were entrepreneurs or at least entrepreneurially minded and hoping to start some kind of digital publishing or related venture.

Some of the folks and ventures and ideas I ran into there:

Opening keynote by LeVar Burton, he of Kunta Kinte fame from the “Roots” TV miniseries. Lifelong scifi reader. His mother was an English teacher. His main point: the importance of these two words: “What if.” @levarburton

Tim Carmody: editor at Wired and Link to his about page at Google+@tcarmody

Some articles he’s written:

“Ten Reading Revolutions before E-books”

“A Bookfuturist Manifesto”

“E-Books Are Still Waiting for Their Avant-Garde”

One of his points: yes, the publishing industry is in the midst of chaos, but guess what, it has happened before and will happen again. Don’t worry. Tells us that when paper moved from being cloth-based to wood pulp-based, the abundance created was co-equal to the digital abundance now available.

Vocabulary lesson: skeuomorph: old technology reformatted to new technology.

Barbara Genco: manager of special projects at Library Journal. @BarbaraAGenco

Says library “power users” (use library more than 4X/month) buy a lot of books as well. 9,000 libraries in the U.S. (I actually thought this number seemed low. Doesn’t every small town have its own library? How many small towns in the U.S.?) 169 million Americans use a public library.

Convergence! See this article from Boston Globe about libraries hosting their own bookstores.

Matt MacInnis: CEO of Inkling  @stanine

Reinventing books and publishing. To copy content from books to ebooks is folly, he says. The future of publishing is high fidelity content—media rich, interactive content. Check out their website. I think this guy is on to something. Also, under each chair in the auditorium was an envelope with a card inside that included a code for a free copy of one of two Inkling iPad app books: Speakeasy Cocktails or Master Your DSLR Camera.

I got the camera book. It is beautiful and instructive and useful and fun. Can’t wait to learn more about my camera. Thanks, Inkling.

Mark Johnson: CEO of Zite (personalized magazine for iPhone and iPad)   @philosophygeek

He spoke about recommendations, online recommendations. Search is not useful for everything: it doesn’t help us find the interesting stuff. Clay Shirkey said: “Curation comes up when search stops working.” Amazon, Netflix, and Pandora are the three canonical recommendation-engine-driven sites. (Canonical? Really?)

I downloaded Zite on to my iPhone and iPad. It learns what is interesting for you (for me!) from content, from social web, and from your own interactions. So far it seems a good fit and I’ve only loaded links to Delicious and Twitter. I’d recommend Zite as your own personal interest magazine.

To be continued…

Related articles

Some views on the future (present!) of publishing

Book/ebook reader

Photo by Steve Paine

Stumbled across a couple of blog posts recently that survey the current state of publishing, or at least the digital aspect of publishing. At the blog (What BookBaby is), Chris Robley sums up where he thinks the publishing world is headed in the next five years. The title of his piece also includes “or sooner.” Of course all the things he writes about are already happening somewhere, somehow. I like his first point about digital remixes and the idea of sampling different chapters/sections from different books to create your own unique book. There’s a site called ebookpie that is currently doing just that. It’s in beta (what isn’t these days?), but I’ll be curious to see what comes of that idea.

His point two comes from Todd Sattersten who predicts that in the future physical books will be what audiobooks are now. That is, because of the high cost of producing an audiobook, publishers only make them for some authors. In the future, the physical book will be seen as the “expensive” version that only elite authors will get. I’m not quite so sure about this, because the cost of a paper book is nowhere near the cost of producing an audiobook—think audio engineers, producers, studio time, etc.

On a related front (I think) there’s a post from Julien Smith (co-author with Chris Brogan of Trust Agents) called The 6 Shifts of a Kindle Dominated Marketplace, in which he posits that “This is the time we all become authors.” Why? Because there are no gatekeepers, you are your own publisher (are you going to throw your own work into the slush pile?), you can sell stuff for cheap, you can buy stuff for cheap (though I recently had the experience of buying a Kindle single from someone who is an acquaintance and, you know, it was awful; it wasn’t even worth the $2.99 I paid for it), and so almost everyone who ever wanted to write something will be writing something. Which is exciting and good and a lot of good writing that might not otherwise have made it to the world will, though there will also be tons—tons!—of crap to wade through. (In the future everyone will need their own content curator.) To say nothing of the millions of Chinese fiction authors who are soon to launch their own writing careers.

Then, on the other hand, I was talking with a guy who helps business thought leaders write their books. He thinks books still work because it collects an author’s best thinking in one place. Rather than tracking down this ebook or that .pdf or this series of blog posts, you just put all your best thoughts in an organized fashion in a book. That’s what books are good for. Whether it’s paper or digital, that doesn’t matter. Just get all the thinking organized in one place. Something to be said for that.

If you look at the people who are ringing the death knell for paper-based books, you’ll see that most of them got to be a spokesperson because they authored a big paper-based book. Big books are still the primary way to claim authority, at least in the business book world. Is this all shifting rapidly? Yes. But at this point in time and at least for a few more years, if you want to get your ideas out there and make a business of selling those ideas, you’ll still want to write a big (or fairly big) book.

Having said that, I’m still a firm believer in experimentation. I always encourage any authors I’m working with to put their ideas out there in multiple formats and ways. Anyone who is working on a book should be creating ebooks or .pdfs and giving them away at their websites and perhaps trying to sell some of them at Amazon online. Try different things. And if you’re selling things, try different prices. It’s wild west time out there. Just try stuff. Of course that then brings us back to what Julien was saying in his blog post referenced above.

Guy Kawasaki’s book promotion plan

Guy Kawasaki autographing my copy of "The...

Image by k-ideas via Flickr

Then there’s this article at Mashable from Guy Kawasaki in which he shares a dozen things he’s done to promote his latest book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.

Some folks are quick to point out that this is Guy’s tenth book and that he’s got a lot of money to spend on promotion. True. But that doesn’t mean that these things don’t also apply to someone who’s working on her first book. Some things you can’t do because of cost, some things you do at a lower level. Where Guy hires people to do things, you can try to do them on your own. If you can’t do it, well, then, perhaps for your next book. Don’t be intimidated by what you can’t do; figure out what you can and build from there.

For instance, Guy mentions how he offered a free pdf version of his first book, The Macintosh Way, to people who “Liked” him on his Facebook fan page. So, yes, being a first-time author you don’t have a pdf version of your first book to give away. But you can create a short version of the book you are working on or an outline and chapter 1 or some version of your book. (If you’re not self-publishing, check with your publisher regarding what you can and cannot share of your book content. Which raises the issue of traditional publishers and their general un-willingness to let too much content out of the bag. I won’t go into my usual rant about how misguided that “stingy” approach is.)


Self-publish or go with a big house? Not either/or anymore. Or, as you work, so shall you publish.

Four Views of a Book Press

Flickr photo by 802

Just stumbled across this rather caustic overview of the publishing industry from Mark Hurst. (It’s from 2008, so not recent.) Mark’s got a particularly cynical outlook about most (not all!) publishing houses.

He seems to be upset that the publishers aren’t risk-takers. Well, hello, until a few years ago these folks were running around with leather elbow patches on their herringbone sport coats! These folks aren’t bungee-jumpers! And Mark seems upset that these folks want a certain guarantee that a book is going to sell. Well, they are in business. They want to make money. Anyway, you could go on and on. Mark has some valid points. He does feel the publishers take too big a cut of the revenue given what they add to the process. That may or may not be true. For some folks, having the imprimatur of a big publishing house has a value above and beyond sales of books. But it does seem that he was overly disappointed by the whole experience of trying to work with publishers. It’s probably worth asking him what he expected going in. That might explain a lot of what happened. As it turns out, he self-published his book, Bit Literarcy.

I don’t entirely agree with Mark’s presumption about why you write. He says you don’t do it for the money, and that’s true in the short term, but you should look at a published book, particularly a business book, in a longer-term way. It is your calling card for a speaking and/or consulting career. We still live in a world where “author/authority” means something. Authors have authority. People are willing to pay to hear someone who knows what they’re talking about, someone with information that will help them in their personal and/or business lives.

Whatever authorship means moving forward, I suspect that the world of publishing will be a lot like the world of work. Work-wise, people no longer have one career; they won’t spend their working life at one place. In the old days, someone would get out of college, find employment at a big company and hang in there until age 65, then left with a gold watch. Hard to imagine, but it happened. Well, in a similar way, many authors found a home with a big publishing house and then stayed with them to their mutual benefit for a long time. These days you may work for a big company for a while and then go off on your own and you may go work for another big company. There’s no one way; there’s no linear route. That’s the same for publishing these days, too.

Look at David Meerman Scott, who is one of the commenters at Mark Hurst’s blogpost. (Read all the way through the comments.)  He self-published a couple books, then went to a small publisher and then went to a big publisher, Wiley. Where he is now. He says that he sold more copies in two weeks with Wiley than he did in years with his self-published titles. But in the future he may well revert to self-publishing again. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, has published all of her books with a big publishing house, but now she’s setting up a self-publishing operation called Pottermore.

All by way of saying there’s no one solution these days. You do what works best for you at any one time. The one thing that doesn’t change, though, is the marketing. That all falls on the shoulder of the author, whether she’s self-publishing or working with a traditional publisher. (This is one of the things that ticks off Mr. Hurst about the big publishers.) It’s not worth complaining about anymore. It just is. Look at this blog post from Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He lists four reasons why authors must take responsibility for their own marketing. He writes, “Yes, it is easier than ever to get a book into print, but it is more difficult than ever to sell it.”

If you’re going to self-publish, you need a following, you need people who are interested in what you have to say. That following doesn’t show up over night. I’ve heard Seth Godin say that you should give away your first book in digital form. As a way to attract an audience. If it’s good, it will spread. If it isn’t good, you’ll know soon. And that same audience is what the big publishers are looking for. Whichever way you go, you need your own audience.

Seth Godin’s advice to would-be authors. Here again, not recent, from 2006 in fact. But still relevant. Which I guess says something about how forward-thinking Seth is.

David Carnoy, a journalist at, has published a list of 25 things you need to know about self-publishing.