May 16, 2010


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If you walk the footsteps of a stranger
you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew
--- Colors Of The Wind (sung at a spring concert earlier today)

Exploring events outside your usual path gives you new experiences and helps you grow. It’s easy. It’s often close to free. Volunteer-run events are best. There’s a different energy and passion. The focus isn’t on taking your money, though presenters benefit from the publicity. All attendees have an opportunity to make new connections.

BookCampTO started last year and I attended this year again. As you might expect, most attendees are involved with books and publishing. That’s a strange world for most of us, which is the point.

The Plight Continues

Publishing continues to undergo major changes (here are issues from 2009).

One session, The Onset Of Exhaustion, discussed how pbook (paper book) publishers must work harder in hopes of selling the same number of books. The usual process of acquiring books, editing and publishing continues. There are now new marketing requirements: websites, blogger reviews, ebooks, audiobooks, iPhone apps, Facebook and Twitter.

The overall result is better niche marketing at low cost. That’s wonderful but there’s more work overall. A publisher probably lacks the new skills and can’t outsource without cutting costs elsewhere. Authors can easily do some marketing but if they’re too successful, will they question how much value their publisher really provides?

An attendee suggested government funding for independent book stores … but not the mega chains. Unlikely for either. With the trend to tree-saving, space-saving, ebooks, how relevant will physical book stores of any size remain?

The Sad Truth

The book world may not realize that similar change is happening elsewhere too. Larger competitors. Longer hours. Outside disrupters. Shrinking margins. Maybe more regulation (e.g., the financial sector). There’s also the issue of changing consumer tastes.

If something can be done cheaper or faster, someone will find a way. As Sir Terence Matthews pointed out, that may lead to job loss. The public rarely cares enough about someone else’s plight to pay more directly or with their tax dollars. When Wal-Mart came to town, smaller businesses suffered and disappeared because consumers welcomed the wider selection and lower prices.

The biggest threat is for intermediaries like publishers. Authors will survive because they create the content. Movies require big budgets but writing doesn’t. An author only needs an inexpensive computer and an internet connection. Writers need editors and perhaps a designer and printer. Writers can outsource those components directly. Yes this takes more time but the author then retains all rights to their writing and all the royalties.


There were hour-long sessions all day (15 minute presentation + 40 minutes of interaction + 5 minutes to get to the next room). We has a choice of four or five topics at the same time.

The highlight was Making Books Into Audio with Miette. In this hands-on session, we took turns reading an HG Wells story, In The Avu Observatory. We spoke into a vintage microphone of the same type that Lenny Bruce used. Miette did the post-production to create a podcast which will soon be posted on

I picked up valuable tips to make my podcasts better. I’ll stand up while recording (once I get a microphone stand) and monitor with headphones (which creates an eerie echo).

Your Path

If you look, you’re bound to find events on a path you rarely take. How do you find them? See where your connections go. Yesterday I learn about ProductCamp from a contact on LinkedIn.

When the going gets tough, it’s tough to get going … but essential.


Podcast Episode 66 (5:08)

direct download | Internet Archive page

PS Thanks to the volunteers, sponsors and donors who make events possible --- and the attendees who make the journey worthwhile.

1 comment:

James Caldwell said...

Good article. As much as I try and keep optimistic about publishing I keep smacking my head into the points you have mentioned.