Monday, June 1, 2015

Current Events on the Local Book Scene

BooksImageJW01There’s a lot going on in the world of books at this time that will affect writers everywhere, including the Adirondack region. BookExpo America and BookCon, held at the Javits Center in New York City, ended on May 31, the same day that regional book awards were presented at Blue Mountain Lake by the Adirondack Center for Writing. On June 6–7, the ACW’s annual Publishing Conference is being held in Lake Placid. From 2:45 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, my partner, Jill Jones, and I will be serving on the self-publishing panel, along with Jamie Sheffield and Gary VanRiper. The hope is to offer useful advice on things that have worked for each of us, thus helping others to avoid pitfalls and use resources wisely.

At BookExpo, self-publishing was represented in the past, principally by companies who were profiting from thousands of writers who were encouraged to jump right in and become successful authors. It was a great business plan for the companies because, whether an author became successful or not, those firms still earned solid profits by providing services, while knowing full well the overwhelming majority of clients would sell only a few copies each.

It took time for aspiring authors to realize how predominant failure was—producing a book was one thing, but promoting and selling that book was unfamiliar and daunting territory. As self-published authors came to this realization, a pullback was obvious. Who wants to keep dumping money into something with poor results?

In time, the large self-publishing companies had no choice but to address those issues, which is why the major conferences now feature talks and discussions on how authors can promote and publicize their work. It’s about time! Unlike the lottery, which at least reveals the huge odds against winning any substantial amount, the major self-publishers encouraged writers to live the dream by investing in their own book, while avoiding mention of the truth— that without promotional, marketing, and sales abilities, each author’s odds for success were lottery-like. The companies are now directly addressing those concerns because they’ll otherwise lose business.

At BookExpo, this outreach came through uPublishU, citing “technology and increased acceptance” of self-publishing as the reasons behind the expanded offerings (a day’s worth). “Increased acceptance” is code for becoming too successful to ignore. The focus is on digital publishing, which has huge potential in certain genres.

As I’ve said here several times while it was developing, the e-book revolution was overstated. It consumed a tremendous chunk of the market in a very short time, but doesn’t lend itself well to presenting carefully designed books, or to rendering images, captions, and the types of photographs we see in many Adirondack titles. In general, they’re still basically text machines with some valuable uses (the ability to increase text size for those with weakening vision is a huge plus).

But until affordable, user-friendly technology addresses those and other issues, e-book success will be largely confined to romance novels, science fiction, and the like, which has been the case for the past several years. Wearing blinders when discussing the future of e-books doesn’t dismiss the reality that physical books still heavily dominate the market.

Regionally, the ACW has been ahead of the curve with their regional conference, continuing this year with advice from professionals on marketing your work, building a platform, and finding an agent, plus a panel of self-published authors who will share ideas that have worked for them and might work for others.

Kudos to Nathalie Thill, ACW’s executive director, and all those who helped piece together both the awards event and the conference. The region is fortunate to have an organization supporting the literary community in so many ways. See you at the conference!

Photo by John Warren.

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Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 22 books and more than 200 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.

His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. Another title, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, was a regional best-seller for four years running.

With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004, which has published 83 titles to date. They also offer editing/proofreading services, web design, and a range of PowerPoint presentations based on Gooley's books.

Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publishers Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.


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