Abrams Books and Tumblr Poetry Bomb Event

Culminating a month long celebration of poetry at our Poetry Bomb Tumblr during National Poetry Month, Abrams Books and Tumblr presented this fantastic live poetry event at Housing Works Bookstore in NYC on April 30, 2013. Featured readers included both emerging and established poets: Paul Muldoon, Leigh Stein, Melissa Broder, Cathy Park Hong, Kevin Grijalva, and Faith Hahn.

Leigh Stein

Kevin Grijalva

Melissa Broder

Faith Hahn

Cathy Park Hong

Paul Muldoon

Some Initial Thoughts on the Kindle Serials Program

I was very excited to hear about the new Kindle Serials program that Amazon announced last month. Amazon has a way of carving out new marketplaces for digital content, and though serials are nothing new, the Kindle Serials program brings some new life to the form.

Here are just a few initial thoughts:

The new program got lots of attention during and just after the Amazon press conference on September 6, but one thing that I haven’t seen written up is the very low price point — at least with the serials that the program launched with, you pay just $1.99 upfront and you get ALL installments of the serial novel delivered as they come available. I realize this is an introductory price, but if you start out low, it’s tough to then attempt to set a higher price standard later on. Naturally, people respond positively to lower pricing, and go negative if prices start to climb.

And the very low-price point, again, while great for customers, is going to make it difficult to develop a true serials business. The percentages just aren’t going to make much sense. I get the low pricing for the short-form (Kindle Singles), but this is installment-based short-form writing that adds up to a long-form piece. It makes sense to price it closer to a full-length work.

Paying up front for all installments makes it much easier for consumers — they don’t have to remember to come back when new installments become available, as they will just get delivered to the purchaser’s device, slotted right into the serialized ebook. But it takes away the option of incremental payments for each new chapter. There’s no revenue incentive to keep a serial going — for the writer or publisher. It actually makes sense to wrap it up fairly quickly. That’s too bad because part of the fun of the serial form is to draw out the experience.

Another aspect that has come up with the Kindle Serials program is that writers of serials can interact with and take into account fan reactions, comments and suggestions as they work their way through the writing process. Amazon has said they will use the forums on the product pages to encourage this. The problem is Amazon’s forums are pretty lacking in terms of true online community. More likely, writers will be able to leverage their own online platform — most likely Twitter and Facebook — to foster this kind of writer/reader interaction.

Perhaps most of all, Amazon’s full circle ecosystem for publishing and delivering digital content direct to consumers gives it clear advantages. Technically, publishing a serial is pretty easy — you can do it on a website, in a stand-alone app, in a print magazine — but being able to seamlessly deliver content to a device that millions of people are already buying and reading content on is very clearly one of the most effective ways to establish a viable serial program.

All this being said, it’s fantastic to see these new pockets in the marketplace for digital content opening up. Readers obviously benefit from the options, and writers have new ways to present and publish content.

Brooklyn Book Festival 2012

Beautiful day, great panels, huge crowd, books everywhere. Big cheers for an awesome Brooklyn Book Festival.

“Characters on Characters” panel featuring Dennis Lehane, Edwidge Danticat, and Walter Mosley. By far my favorite panel comment came from Dennis Lehane, talking about the “literary fiction” he is absolutely not interested in: “I don’t care about a middle-aged professor having an affair with his student written by a middle-aged professor having an affair with his student.”

“The Sex Panel: Taboo in Pictures,” moderated Heidi MacDonald, featuring Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Leela Corman, Molly Crabapple, and Bob Fingerman.

Fantastic panel (“1st over 40”) moderated by Alexander Chee featuring writers who broke through after 40: Carin Clevidence, Jacqueline Jones LaMon, and Julia Glass.

There was always a flurry of activity at the Greenlight Bookstore booth.

Brooklyn Book Festival 2012 Schedule of Events Is Now Posted

And wow, what an incredible line-up. The festival is on Sunday, September 23, from 10 am to 6 pm, but there are events going on all week. The events before and after the actual festival are considered “Bookend” events. In short: there are a week’s worth of awesome literary events in Brooklyn, starting Monday, Sept. 17. The point: set aside some time right now to review all your options and begin planning out your own personal Brooklyn Book Festival schedule.

Here are some key links that will help you discover all your options and get the latest festival updates:
— Brooklyn Book Festival’s website, Facebook and Twitter (the hashtag for the festival is #BKBF).
Bookends Schedule
Festival Schedule

And here are a couple of links to specific events that I think are definitely worth checking out:
— Tumblr, Electric Literature, The New Inquiry, & LA Review of Books Opening Night Party for Brooklyn Book Festival Bookends on Monday, Sept. 17.
Bookend Events at powerHouse Arena on Sept. 19, 20, and 21.

Packed House at powerHouse Arena for Julia Child’s 100th Birthday Celebration

Over 300 people showed up celebrate the #JC100 @powerHouseArena on August 15, 2012. It may have been thundering and raining right around the 7 pm start time, but that didn’t keep people away. Alyssa Shelasky did a great job handling the MC duties, and our four speakers — Tamar Adler (author of An Everlasting Meal), Dave Crofton (One Girl Cookies), Matt Lewis (Baked), and Deb Perelman (SmittenKitchen.com) — gave wonderful, inspiring tributes to Julia Child.

I’ve storified the evening’s tweets, which probably tell the story best.

Here are some pictures from the event:

Alyssa Shelasky opens the program.

Tamar Adler.

Dave Crofton of One Girl Cookies.

Matt Lewis of Baked.

Deb Perelman of SmittenKitchen.com.

More photos can be found here and here and here.

And special thanks to the following sites and blogs and people that posted announcements about the event and helped us get the word out about the celebration: powerHouse Arena (of course); Brooklyn Based; Rachel Fershleiser; Abrams; Gothamist; Time Out New York; Village Voice; New York Grub Street; Bomb; brooklynbullshit.com; The L Magazine; This Week In New York; Nifty NYC; and GalleyCat.

Julia Child’s 100th Birthday Celebration at powerHouse Arena

Super-excited about the event I’ve been working to put together to celebrate Julia Child’s centenary. The event is tomorrow tonight (Wednesday, 8/15/12) from 7 to 9 pm at powerHouse Arena in Dumbo. The line-up: Tamar Adler (author of An Everlasting Meal), Dave Crofton (One Girl Cookies), Matt Lewis (Baked), and Deb Perelman (SmittenKitchen.com). Serving as MC: Alyssa Shelasky (author of Apron Anxiety).

There’s also a bake-off, if you dare.

Full details here. Make sure to RSVP.

Here’s the awesome event poster, which was created by Tina Wang:

Martin Amis Reading from New Novel Lionel Asbo at Brooklyn Bridge Park

What an awesome place for a reading! Martin Amis read from his new novel Lionel Asbo as part of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Books Beneath the Bridge reading series. It was absolutely fantastic to hear such an amazing author read his latest work while kicking back outside with views of the East River, the Manhattan skyline, and of course, the Brooklyn Bridge.

Note that this was the last event in the reading series during summer 2012, but the park of course has ongoing programming. Most of all, I should point out that just going to the park to relax on the grass or enjoy a nice stroll along the river is a regular must-do.

Book Trailer for Charles Yu’s Sorry Please Thank You

Fantastic book trailer for the new collection of short stories from Charles Yu, Sorry Please Thank You.

To me, this is an example of great book trailer. 1) It’s not a commercial. Well, actually, it is, but it’s not a straightforward commercial for the book. 2) There are no blurbs — I’ve said this many times before: blurbs are just manufactured praise that doesn’t cut it anymore when much more useful and telling user reviews are available at any number of websites. 3) Solid quality, solid editing. 4) It’s clever — there’s an actual creatively written script. 5) It’s funny — you want to share it. That is key in developing content. Content has to be worth sharing. You don’t want it to be a dead stop. 6) And most of all, it makes you curious. You want the viewer to want to know more and feel compelled to click-thru or do a search to gather more information.

Ebook Samples Have Dramatically Improved My Reading Experience — Let’s Make Ebook Sample Functionality Even Better

Nowadays, If I hear about or come across a book that intrigues me, I don’t just buy it. I make sure to sample it first.

Not by browsing through pages in a bookstore, not by reading an excerpt online, and certainly not by flipping through those awful “browse” interfaces where I digitally “flip” pages to go from one page to the next. I simply click a button on the ebook product page and the first 1,000 words or so show up on the device of my choice. I love this feature. I’ve come to rely on it in order to decide if I really want to buy the book.

It’s this simple: If I like what I’m reading in the sample, I click the buy button at the end of it, and the whole book is instantly on my device. If I’m not won over, I delete the sample and move on to the next.

It’s about the money, of course. I don’t want to spend money on something that I might not actually want to read. But mostly it’s about time — I want to make sure I’m spending more of it reading books that I truly enjoy.

The ease in which you can get a sample on your reading device to read at your leisure, free of ads or pop-ups or clunky interfaces, is one of the best things to come about in the ebook revolution. And while it doesn’t get mentioned very often, I think it’s now a huge factor in how people make decisions about what book they’re going to buy and read next.

Yes, there has been some talk about how the ease in which the first pages of a book can be sampled means writers have to pay extra attention to making sure those opening pages are truly amazing. But writers have always had to open with their best. The lead is the lead, always has been, always will be.

What I’m interested in is what the online retailers may be able to do to improve the sample experience. This isn’t so much about technical innovation — we don’t need anything too fancy here — it’s more about increasing word counts, convenience and options for the customer.

Here are some ideas to improve the ebook sample experience:

— Automatic samples delivered to me by my favorite authors. Or an alert via email that a sample is available, as I understand it would be rather intrusive to just put something onto a person’s device, even at some earlier point in time they opted-in to this auto-delivery.

— Earlier availability of samples, well before the book’s publication date. I often hear about books well before their release date. Why should I have to wait until the book actually comes out to get a sample, which is what Kindle and NOOK do? iBookstore is the only one doing an early release of the sample, a nice competitive advantage, if you ask me. Early release of the sample should be standard. People are more than comfortable pre-ordering, which is what they will do if they read and like a sample before the ebook is actually on sale. And of course both publishers and retailers consider pre-orders a huge positive. It begs the question: why this isn’t already a standard?

— Offer “Send An Excerpt” bookmarklets, so savvier publications and publishers, and of course the authors themselves — even fans of the authors or books, can embed on their websites, thereby allowing users to just click a button and send a sample to their device of choice without having to be on an online retailer’s product page.

— More text — why stop at 1,000 words, or whatever the exact word-count limit is? The more text that’s available, the more I will be able to tell whether or not the book is something I want to read. And if I get that far along, and invest that much time in a sample, clearly I am hooked — I’m most likely going to tap to purchase.

Things I don’t want: messaging from the author or the publisher. The less the authors and publishers actually control the sample, the better. They’ll want to load it up with letters and descriptive copy and the worst of the worst, blurbs, which are nothing more than manufactured praise. Just give me the opening pages from the book, preferably as many as possible.

Overall: Samples are a huge positive for readers out there. It helps make sure what we read next will most likely be worth our while. The more ebook retailers can do to improve upon and expand this service, the better our reading experience will be. It goes without saying that the better our experience, the MORE we will read (and buy). It’s a win for all involved — retailers, publishers, writers, and most of all, readers.