Multimedia, Transmedia, Mobile Media

North Beach's main street transformed by a film crew
North Beach’s main street transformed by a film crew

Living in San Francisco has always had its Disneyland side, in that the border between reality and fantasy is fuzzier here than in most places.  For anyone who smugly supposes this makes San Franciscans fluffy-headed and inconsequential — wake up!  The rest of the world is not only hot on our trail, but moving here to position their own betas and start-ups at the epicenter of our latest revolution.

This time it’s not peaceniks and rock-&-rollers storming the barricades, but creative ambitious techies.  At last night’s Transmedia meetup we were introduced to fiverun, which integrates online with bricks-&-mortar shopping; Ignite Video, which lets anyone with an iPhone shoot, edit, and storyboard a commercial video; and Mobzili, where a storyteller can build a visual and verbal presentation into an app sold on iTunes.  Also mooted were Snapchat (for sharing short-lived photos), Vine (for sharing short videos), Madefire (animated graphic novels), TangoSource (software development), Global Film Ventures (good business practices for filmmakers), and of course Boom-Books (multimedia e-books and paperbacks, as well as Mystery, Romance, & International Intrigue).

If this revolution will not be televised, it’s because (Transmedia moderator Beth Rogozinski noted) TV is rapidly being plowed under by mobile, i.e. smartphones and tablets.  As of 2012, there were 6,835,000,000 mobile subscribers on our planet.  That’s 90% of the world’s population.

So, if you’re going to San Francisco, forget the flowers in your hair.  Bring your mobile device and join the revolution!

The Cuckoo’s Calling: Put on Your Platform Shoes!

cuckooscalling“JK Rowling Unmasked as Author of Acclaimed Detective Novel!” crowed the Daily Telegraph on July 22.  “Writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, the Harry Potter creator wrote a 450-page crime novel called The Cuckoo’s Calling.  The book is billed as a “classic crime novel”, written in the style of PD James and Ruth Rendell…”

So — instant hit, right?

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith sold a total of around 1500 copies between its publication in April and its unmasking in July.  In contrast, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Galbraith AKA JK Rowling skyrocketed to #1 on Amazon and has more than 1500 reviews so far.

Agent and Author Nathan Bransford remarked (as I quoted previously) that this shows even Rowling can write a good book that sinks with hardly a ripple.  Book Designer Joel Friedlander further noted that the takeaway lesson is: PLATFORM!  An author without media visibility is like a tree falling in a forest with no one to hear it.platformshoes

Some of us are bemused by the 21st-century trope that a book sells because its author is well known — reversing the longtime assumption that an author becomes well-known because her/his books appeal, i.e., sell, to readers.  Platform evangelists go further: A website isn’t enough; your author platform must include a blog, posted regularly (weekly? daily?) to promote yourself and thereby your books.  Your blog must include a way to recruit subscribers: a sign-up widget, plus some incentive to join, such as a free book.  Next step: market your blog!

Peter Brantley remarked some time ago that what’s changed about publishing in this new century is that the big decisions are no longer made by literary people — authors and editors — but by techies, at mega-companies such as Amazon and Google.  Put it all together and you have a publishing industry which undercuts writers whose greatest strength is writing, and boosts those whose greatest strength is marketing.

What kind of literary landscape does this shift in slant produce?  Is the word “literary” even applicable to today’s book world?  One author I know regards his book as his business card, handed out more often than sold (and shelved or tossed more often than read) — an upscale credential for his real work as a consultant.

kobo1A bright spot on the horizon from my POV is the fairly new, and burgeoning, alliance between Canadian online e-book/e-reader giant Kobo and the ABA (American Booksellers’ Association).  A reader who creates an online account with Kobo by way of his or her favorite local bookstore’s website can then buy books from that store through Kobo.  This program isn’t exactly the belated Good Fairy at Sleeping Beauty’s christening, but it may be a deus ex machina of sorts — life support for the long-time alliance among publishers, bookshops, readers, and writers.

I’m currently investigating how small independent publishers may be able to create a synergistic niche in this emerging ecosystem.  Have you discovered one yet?  Let me know!





Navigating the Thrilling and/or Treacherous Amazon

Random House first edition (1967) of the Marshall McLuhan classic.Sometimes you have to wonder if existing laws are making justice impossible.  Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which enabled (and arguably encouraged) George Zimmerman to murder Trayvon Martin without criminal penalty, is this week’s most dramatic example.  In the book world, we have the DOJ’s successful prosecution of Apple for price-fixing.

What did Apple do?  Conspired with the half-dozen largest book publishers (who reached separate out-of-court settlements) to stop Amazon from undercutting their e-book sales by setting its own prices under $10.  Amazon currently holds a boa-constrictor monopoly in e-book publishing; but since it’s a single corporation (for purposes of this case), it can fix prices legally.  No conspiracy involved, so no threat to consumers, right?