I’ve read with great interest all the thoughtful posts about the “death” of the blog. I truly miss the blogging days of the internet, when that was where the focus was, before the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social networks. But I don’t want to get all nostalgic about it, because I’m also excited by all the new platforms that are emerging, and the different approaches to publishing and sharing that those platforms have put in motion.

My trajectory for the digital platform began when creating a website meant coding up pages in html and hosting them on a server.

Soon, blogging platforms gained prominence — Blogger, Moveable Type, Typepad, and WordPress. I went with Typepad, and eventually, all-in on WordPress. My focus on blogging kept me a little distant, at first, from Facebook and then Twitter, and I distinctly recall dismissing Twitter out-of-hand as something that was useless and lame and would never last. (I like to recall that I had this sentiment, so as to avoid such dismissive, extraordinarily erroneous rushes-to-judgement in the future, at least when it comes to online social networks).

Very early on, Flickr was a part of my platform, and I can look back now and realize that the photo-sharing site could have been THE social network. Being able to add a person as a contact or friend, the use of tags, the ability to embed photos on other sites, as well as submit photos into groups based on all manner of subject matter — all of these things are the foundational elements of how we connect, publish, and share on the web to this day.

Eventually, though, I jumped on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagons. Tumblr came a little later, followed by Instagram. There have been many others along the way, but either they never quite caught on, or I just realized they weren’t for me and opted not to dig in and fully engage. Lately, I’ve been using Medium quite a bit. In fact, the impetus for writing this very piece was so that I could post it up on my Medium profile.

Most, if not all, of my online publishing activity happens on the various social platforms. And that makes sense — publishing into a social space allows access to dashboards, tagging structures, and engagement tools. In terms of a personal website, or “blog,” I’m better served by having a static hub where I can roadmap, in a very simple, straightforward way, where my online activity is happening. A blog just doesn’t really make much sense anymore.

And yet, I still can’t quite let go of the idea of the blog — or rather, my blog. I still haven’t added that final post to it, the one that says, “Hey, I’m not really posting here anymore — you can find me here, here, and here.”

I don’t want to hit publish on that.

Not that it really matters if I do. The fact is, no one is reading that blog anymore. Posting that final notice is all on me, just wanting to be current on my platform, making sure to connect all the dots in a way that makes sense to anyone landing on the various pages. A good webmaster always keeps his or her platform up-to-date. Still, I resist posting up that message, even though I know, deep down, that I should.

In the end, though, it’s up to me. That’s my blog. I can do what I want with it. Such is the beauty and the power of the blog — all that creative publishing possibility, free of ads (unless you want them there) and pivots and unilateral design overhauls. I think that’s why I’m having such a hard time turning off the lights and calling it a day.

I know — in addition to posting this up on Medium, I’ll also publish it as a blog post. Yes indeed, my blog — now updated and current, for a short period of time, anyway — is not dead yet!

For those who make, edit, and market books in the emerging digital era.

For the past year, I’ve been teaching a course entitled “Digital Strategies in the Book Industry.” This class provides an overview of the massive changes going on in book publishing right now, where everything is a challenge, but also, an opportunity. To truly provide some real world insights, I focus in on new digital products — case studies on how they are made and how they are marketed. Words like “ecosystem,” “enhanced ebook,” “leveraged,” “platform,” and “digital skillset” are used frequently — to the point where I even warn the students that they will get sick of hearing them. In a recent class, one of the students spoke up and asked something along the lines of: “I get the components of the digital skillset, but how exactly are they leveraged.”

Such a good question. Such a great use of the word “leveraged,” even though it was probably the fifteenth time the word had been spoken during that particular class. It got to the heart of what the class was all about. So I wrote up a response, to delve into the concept of the “Digital Skillset,” how it allows one to meet the new challenges of delivering new products and get the word out about new projects in the emerging digital era of book publishing.

First, the skills in the “digital skillset”:

— Basic HTML

— Working within a CMS (content management system, like WordPress)

— Posting/sharing on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. — they’re all very different). Not just how to post, but how to post the right content in the right platform at the right time so that it will be not only seen, but read, commented upon, and shared.

— A comprehensive and forward-thinking understanding of what different devices, formats, and platforms can and cannot do.

— Building and leveraging digital assets (headlines to essays to slideshows to animated gifs to videos to audio files) to utilize/publish through various platforms.

— Creating wireframes — this is an early step in building out a website or advanced digital product. Reveals the scope, and sets the path for structure, functionality and usability.

— Video editing (iMovie, FinalCut)

— Audio editing (Audacity, just one example — lots of audio editing programs available)

— Photo editing (Photoshop)

— Presenting / Sharing your in-progress and completed work effectively, so your team/co-workers/boss know what you are doing, how it was done, what you have accomplished, and how it succeeded (or failed).

Creativity

The functional skills can only take you so far — you need to write, cut, build and deliver meaningful content and content platforms that understand different mediums, audiences, and the fast pace of the digital space. Tumblr is very different than Twitter. Facebook is not a website. How best to use limited resources, finite digital assets, for editorial, marketing, publicity, product pages, etc. — you’ve got to get very creative.

Marketing

You have to know how to not only pull levers, but build and grow the levers. How do you not only tell people about things, but get them to share it? You need to actually engage people. Great, they clicked on a link. Now what? You have to think through and deliver the narrative of the experience.

Essentially: Build, run, and grow websites, social media channels, and newsletters.

Project Management

Knowing how to take an idea to finished project/product in the digital space. This can be a website, an enhanced ebook, a digital campaign, an app.

This is about how you effectively leverage your functional and creative digital skills, and those of your team/co-workers/agency, to plan out, execute, and — on deadline—deliver a result that can serve your current and long-term needs.

Communication Skills

You have to have the hands on knowledge so you can explain, and the salesmanship/political skills to navigate the somewhat behind the times upper management levels of an organization that has not truly embraced digital. And once you get the greenlight, you have to use those same skills to make sure your project gets the organization’s full-court support.

You will have to both explain and sell your project to all levels of the organization. It’s a challenge, and also an opportunity. On the one hand, you may not have a position in which you can even make your case to the decision-makers. And yet, if you are savvy and push the sell, you can become more visible and be seen as a go-to person on future/forward-thinking/innovative projects and products. All while not-stepping on any toes. A challenge, to say the least.

Working Fast

The digital space moves very fast. A better digital skillset allows you to keep up, get things done faster. One issue here is sometimes people who have no digital skillset at all have no comprehension of how long something actually takes — they may think you are taking too long! That’s where your communication skills come in.

Seeing the Big Picture and Understanding the Evolving Landscape

The digital skillset, especially right now, allows you to have an insight into how things might play out — no one knows for sure, but by actually being on the ground floor, so to speak, understanding the nuance of the different ways in which products, sites, and social media channels work (and work together), you will have a foundation from which to not only make judgements, but develop new and innovative programs and products — you’ll have a keener sense of what might work around the corner, places that others aren’t even thinking to look.

Yes, the digital era has beset the book industry with countless challenges, but with every challenge, there is opportunity. They go hand in hand. The short of it is, we need new ideas. The good ones will come from people who have a strong digital skillset.

Of course it started with a hashtag — #AbramsDigitalDay. What better way to get everyone on the same page about our goal for a day in which we brought our local Abrams Books’ authors together to discuss best practices for their digital platforms.

The “day” was actually only about five-and-a-half-hours, because there’s nothing I hate more than all-day sessions. That’s one of the benefits of being the organizer — you can make decisions like that.

Since our allotted time for #AbramsDigitalDay was rather compact, we had to make a point of not overwhelming our authors with too much information, which is something that can happen really easily when you are attempting to provide strategies for the rather broad concept of an author digital platform. And so that became a key theme of the day — to not get overwhelmed. And I wasn’t just speaking to the packed schedule — I was talking about all the various website options and social media profiles and to-do list items that inherently come with an idealized version of an author digital platform.

This was the message: Do not get overwhelmed. Establish a hub, start with one social media profile, and build from there. Know about your options, take time to study the established platforms and keep abreast of new options that regularly pop up, but take it one step at a time. Along the way, you will establish what you like, develop your authentic voice, and find that those next steps will come naturally. I also made a point of saying that you may need just ONE social media profile. You do not necessarily have to be on every single platform.

Of course the main events for the day were the excellent speakers we brought in to make presentations:

Dan Blank of We Grow Media came in and did an insightful presentation on developing an authentic voice with their website and social media profiles. He wrote an extremely thoughtful summary of the day, which I really encourage you to read.

Rachel Fershleiser, Literary Community Organizer at Tumblr, showcased all the cool stuff going on with Tumblr, focusing in on how the blogging platform works, and how authors can use it to connect to the thriving community and interaction that goes on the tumblrverse.

And Ami Greko, Book Marketing Strategist at Goodreads, came in to discuss opportunities for authors at Goodreads, chief among them to make sure to take advantage of their status as authors by converting their member profiles into author profiles (noting that an author profile provides access to additional features, things like the ability to post videos).

I was also able to sneak in various tips and best practices for running a website, as well as for the major social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, throughout the day.

But overall, I was most excited about the fact that our authors got to meet each other IRL. (I’ll make the same assurance here as I made at the event: I’m not about to get carried away with the use of digital acronyms). We had a range of authors — children’s book authors, cookbook authors, YA novelists, authors of design books. Some were established, others are going to be published for the first time in 2014. I believe that relationships forged in face to face gatherings are the key to building a strong, long-lasting digital platform, one that can grow and be truly meaningful. Even if all the nuance of the various digital strategies we went over didn’t hold, or never got put into practice, the day would still be extremely worthwhile, just by knowing those connections were made based upon meeting in person and learning together.

I really look forward to putting together more digital days for authors. Yes, authors should be spending their time writing books and essays and articles. But they should also be spending time on their digital platforms, which isn’t just about marketing books. Digital platforms are creative spaces, and provide meaningful ways to connect with readers, friends, teachers, librarians, fellow writers, colleagues in the publishing and arts industries, and more. The more creative the platform, the more engaging this experience is for all involved.

Brooklyn Bridge at Dusk
November 10, 2013

Stillness in Fall
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
November 16, 2013

I had a great time participating in Dan Blank’s #GetRead conference and getting to share ideas focusing in on The Meaningful Book Launch.

First of all, congratulations to Dan Blank for putting together such a great online conference. Great speakers and panels, and a very engaged audience asking great questions and sharing useful information in the chat sidebar and on twitter.

I thought I’d post some of the ideas and insights I shared during my session on book launches, which included Miriam Parker and was moderated by Ron Hogan.

I tried to keep my focus on the book launch — the date for which your book comes out. It was great to have this panel moderated by Ron, because he was actually instrumental in helping along a launch party I threw back in 2007 for my Working For The Man book. He was running GalleyCat at the time, and was able to arrange it so that MediaBistro sponsored the launch party. It was a successful one!

So here were the main points I was trying to get across during The Meaningful Book Launch session:

— The launch date — the day your book officially publishes — serves as a definitive marker for when everything that you need to have done is set and ready to roll. Let that date, off in the distance, help diminish any propensity you might have to procrastinate on things like getting your digital platform in order, reaching out to contacts, writing your letters and media releases, not to mention blog posts and guest blog posts and all the rest of it. You want to have all that in order and moving at full steam ahead by the time your launch date arrives.

— If you haven’t finished your book yet, of course, focus on that, and not all the things you need to get done for the launch (of the book that isn’t even finished yet!)

— If you are still working on your book, that doesn’t mean you won’t have ideas for your book launch campaign — create a file folder (physical or digital) to place all these ideas when they come to you — places to throw a party, people you want to invite, possible co-sponsors, etc. — and open up and start organizing all those ideas once your book is done and it’s time to commence the planning of your book launch campaign.

— A party on your launch date is a go-to idea. And the publication of your book certainly does deserve one. Just keep in mind that a party is a heavy-duty commitment in terms of your time and resources. You want to make sure you are able to balance all of your efforts, because a party should just be one component of your launch plan. The short of it: Don’t let the party planning take up all your focus and energy.

— Know your contact lists well and have them organized — know exactly how you are going to reach out to your readers, family members, co-workers, colleagues and more. Each requires different messaging. Some people you can ask things of, others, you just want to share the fact that your book is out. It takes time to cultivate these lists and calibrate the messaging. Do it well before the day your book comes out.

— Be prepared for the world to be perfectly normal on your launch day. Don’t get depressed if a ticker tape parade hasn’t been arranged in your honor. The fact is, there won’t be one. Most of what happens that day will be because you made it happen.

— While it is true that you should think of a long term strategy for promoting your book, your launch day is especially significant for media and review opportunities. Books came out the week before your launch, and books will come out the week after. And so on and so forth. Media and bloggers pay attention to publication dates, and want their stories and reviews to appear before, on, or very close to that date. Make sure you take this into account, sending out review copies and pitches, not to mention the painstaking follow-up efforts, well before your book launch.

— Be absolutely sure to set aside time to thank people — those who are congratulating you on social media and via email, as well as all those people who helped you make the launch day possible in the first place.

Launch = Logistics was a visual I held up towards the end of the session. It’s all about knowing which levers to pull and when, which requires planning, so my main advice is to work hard to make that plan a solid one, so that when it comes time to execute, you are prepared and everything runs smoothly (or smooth enough so that when the inevitble surprises come up, you will have no problem whatsoever dealing with the unexpected). If your are stressed out and feeling like you aren’t going to get done what you need to get done, that you are rushing around and missing out on opportunities — you’ll be feeling bad, about yourself, and about your book. And that’s unacceptable!

— Because perhaps the most important thing to remember is that your book launch is cause to celebrate. If you’ve done it right — if you planned things out well in advance, you should be able to find the time to savor all that you have accomplished, hopefully with all of the people who mean the most to you.

— So, last piece of advice, remember to put that good bottle of champagne in the fridge, so that it’s properly chilled and ready to pop!

Thyra Heder reads from her children’s book Fraidyzoo at PowerHouse Arena in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

Underground Loft Opera is the new club scene in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

I wish my pictures had turned out better. The opera — The Marriage of Figaro — was amazing, thrilling, and hilarious, and the loft space in Gowanus is fantastic. Great to see the F train streaking across the night sky through the windows while the performers fill the spacious, filled-to-capacity loft with music and song.

Sign up for the Loft Opera mailing list or “Like” the “>Loft Opera Facebook page to find out about upcoming shows. The performance we saw got a well-deserved standing ovation — definitely worth checking out.

Prospect Park
Brooklyn, NY
November 3, 2013

From The Baking Bean at the Smorgasburg in Dumbo. Wow. Delicious. Perfect for the season.