Penguin Random House today launched My Independent Bookshop, a combination social network and e-commerce platform that hopes to benefit independent booksellers whilst providing a virtual counterpart to browsing their shelves. The site allows users to create their own ‘bookshops’, selecting 12 titles they would recommend to others and giving them space to tell other users why, hoping to capture the feeling of a personal recommendation that might be found in brick and mortar bookshops, outside of the standard Amazon algorithms. Those 12 titles can be rotated as often as desired, and the bookshop containing them can also be personalised to users’ own tastes.
Last week, 10 outstanding authors presented their novels at CompletelyNovel and LiterallyPR‘s ‘One Big Book Launch‘.
Even the tube strike didn’t stop hoards of existing fans, and curious readers attending the event which gave the independent authors the opportunity to simultaneously launch their books.
Being read to is somewhat cathartic. When we read to ourselves, we are taken on a journey, but we dictate the speed and impact of the words. When someone who has written a novel or a play reads the text, as it was meant to be communicated; as a listener you have no choice but to relax, and take in the story.
So #OBBL was inspiring. It was moving to hear authors themselves reading through their own work. I was slightly in awe of the way each author took something so close to their heart; and read it to a room full of strangers – seeing their reaction to the final version.
I’d like to go to more events like #OBBL, more events where authors get to ‘go on tour’ and get the kind of publicity that can only be achieved by an event of this scale.
I took home The Clean Collection by Sabrina Mahfouz. A collection of plays and poems that Sabrina eloquently and expertly read from at the event. Not something I would have normally picked off the shelf as I tend to read non-fiction, but I was influenced by the sheer impact of hearing the spoken word.
Well done to all the organisers. It was a great evening and there’s plenty to think about in terms of raising the profile of independent authors.
Gill Guest (56)
Gill Guest is an aspiring children’s author and sheep-keeper based in Shropshire. Previously a freelance garden journalist, her work has appeared in The Times, Telegraph and numerous glossy gardening magazines. You can find her on twitter @gillguest
Welcome to the London Book Fair. A three day assault and battery by words. It’s my first visit and I follow the wordpath snaking across the tarmac and up the Earls Court steps with some trepidation.
Duly badged, scanned and deluged with more leaflets than I can cope with, I find myself teetering on the edge of a vast shanty town of stalls bursting with books that completely fills the cavernous Earls Court space. I feel completely overwhelmed.
Where to start? What to look at? Who to talk to? I squeeze onto a white banquette next to a woman in killer heels and we beat our handouts into submission. We consult our maps and she heads off, heels clacking. Determined. Professional. Scary.
I phone a friend.
Well, actually, my daughter, who propels me firmly to my first seminar in the Children’s Hub, where I sit on a foam pillar and listen to two illustrators talk about picture books. I take careful notes then stay for another on App and Digital Development: brilliant. Encouraged, I explore the stalls, and eventually get my head round navigating the warren of similar passageways: left at Penguin, right by Switzerland, past the Hatchette book tower and over the irresistible interactive goldfish pond floor mat, creating digital ripples as I go. Virtual paddling is almost as much fun as the real thing.
I’m getting the hang of this now. I meet up with the agent who’s been reading my children’s manuscript, Annette Crossland from A for Authors, for a face-to-face session. I’m invited for networking drinks at the BIC Bar in Tech Central. There I’m told alcohol is free, but tea I will have to pay for. I crook a surprised eyebrow at my daughter and she shrugs.
“What?” she says, “This is a publishing event.”
Clearly, I still have lots to learn next year, at Olympia.
Natalie Guest (27)
Natalie Guest is Digital Content Executive at Ixxus, a tech company building digital solutions for the publishing industry. She curated the Tower Hamlets Writeidea Festival 2013 Literary Fringe, and has written for The Independent, The Sunday Times and New Statesman. You can find her on twitter @unfortunatalie
Publishing is an industry in free-fall, we’re told. Print is dead, content is king, and everyone’s a publisher now. From the thriving mess of stalls at London Book Fair, though, you could hardly be blamed for thinking that this was an industry in its prime.
But this is very much an industry in transition, still trying to get its head around what it means to be a publisher in the digital age. Nowhere is this more apparent than from the topography and semantics of the fair itself: whereas the area dedicated to technology used to be known as the “Digital Zone”, a small and zoned-off patch of earth, it’s now expanded to become “Tech Central” as more and more publishers focus their business strategy around digital. And Digital Minds, the pre-conference conference focussing on digital disruption and innovation, is now an established cornerstone of the fair.
I catch up with walking tech-hub Alastair Horne, perhaps better known by his twitter handle @pressfuturist, for his thoughts on this year’s event. He proffers a battery pack in my direction from his bag of tricks; I’ve been tweeting so much that my phone (and my fingers) are flagging.
“The conversation seems to have moved on only a little since last year,” says Horne, “Digital marketing – as seen in the session at Digital Minds – continues to outstrip digital content so far as innovation is concerned, and the mainstream remains as unaware as ever of the experiments at the edges of the industry.”
Horne’s comments about the mainstream remind me of a joke one of my colleagues told me. “How many publishers does it take to change a lightbulb?”, it runs, the answer, of course, being a bewildered “…‘Change?’” But change is here, if not yet thoroughly embraced across the entire industry. It will be interesting to see whether next year’s change of venue (from Earl’s Court to Olympia) will be one that finally ushers in an entirely new digital landscape.
If you’ve ever organised an event in London, you’ll know that the list of possibilities is endless. With publishing types travelling in from all corners, we try to keep BookMachine events as central as possible. So far, at our London events, we have congregated in edgy Soho, media-centric Fitzrovia and Islington; we’re now moving to Covent Garden, to the Adam Street Club.
There’s lots going on at Adam Street for technology-types working around the media industry. Having our events there will help us attract non-publishing-types with interest in the industry, and readers who are keen to find out more.
Below are the dates we’re hosting our next events at the club. Get them in your diary, and sign up to our mailing list to find out more about speakers, themes and other publishing-related banter.
Thursday 22nd May (Blook launch – tickets available)
Tuesday 22nd July
Tuesday 23rd September
Tuesday 18th November
Last month the first pictures emerged of Jason Segel in costume as the late, celebrated American author David Foster Wallace in the upcoming film End of the Road, based on David Lipsky’s 2010 book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, itself based around a five day road trip Lipsky took with Wallace in 1996 while interviewing him for Rolling Stone. To Wallace’s fans, at least, the photos did not bode well, and it seems Wallace’s family shares that sense of trepidation: they, along with the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust and Wallace’s publishers Little, Brown, have issued a statement outlining their objections to the film.