By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
From February 13, 2013
Part of my series of columns on publishing, Writing on the Ether, appearing Thursdays at the invitation of Jane Friedman at JaneFriedman.com
I’ve hugged my technologist extremely closely and well.
“Digital fiction” author Kate Pullinger of London, near the end of the day, embraced the subtle, central heart of Tuesday’s inaugural Author ( R )evolution Day program at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference (TOC) installed this week at the Marriott on Broadway.
In almost every element of the contemporary writer’s condition, there are options, so many options, too many options. But tech’s tough-lovely drive is behind them. This choice-choked scenario that energizes some writers but paralyzes many more is derived from the digital dynamic sweeping the creative core of an exhausted industry.
It’s apt, then, that tech- TOC has been the producing body to step up to a challenge I issued on the Ether last year. I wanted to see the authors in, basically—I wanted one or more of our major-conference producing bodies to provide an industry-class event in which the creative corps (and core) of this business could hear from top-level practitioners, observers, analysts, with a view to pounding out a serious way forward.
I saw publishers, CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, COOs mixing with innovators, startup chieftains, researchers, analysts…and no authors, no one who creates the fundamental element of publishing for all the rest, the stories.
After Tuesday’s event, I want to say thank you to Joe Wikert, Kat Meyer, their co-chair Kristen McLean — and to Tim O’Reilly, himself, who came to “#ARDay,” sat with us, watched and listened. O’Reilly is an organization that has stopped to turn and look at a pressing issue so richly associated with the upheaval and promise of a new publishing landscape. They’ve not only looked at it, but they’ve addressed it with a first outing that was, as promised, no tips-‘n’-tricks writers’ confab of the usual needlepoint-lessons variety.
Here are several important ways in which Author ( R )evolution Day has arrived as an authors’ conference for entrepreneurial creative http://janefriedman.com/wp-admin/upload.phpprofessionals:
It leverages the new centricity of authorial energy in the business. Joe Wikert, in his opening remarks Tuesday: “The pendulum of power over the years has shifted to authors.”
“Entrepreneurial” is the key, not self- or traditional publishing. The program accommodates the breadth of response we now must welcome: Kristen McLean made the point during the morning session that Author ( R )evolution Day (ARD) is agnostic on the question of self-publishing vs. traditional for authors. She noted recent statistics that indicate potential success for what we’ve called “hybrids” for some time now, writers who both self- and traditionally publish. And she anchored the ARD initiative firmly in the realm of what’s “entrepreneurial.” ARD is developed to address entrepreneurial authors and their needs.
Amazon is in the room. I was particularly glad to see Libby Johnson McKee, Amazon’s North American Director for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and CreateSpace. I’ve seen McKee in writer’s conference settings before. (Seattle’s leadership is engaged in the writing community, something I can’t honestly say about many other major publishers’ executives. Might be something to learn there.) We’ve already seen conferences this year with no Amazon presence. Nothing could be a bigger mistake. The largest player needs to be among us, know us, and let us know it. And in the warm, gracious humor of someone like McKee, a formidable edifice starts to look human in a hurry.
Conversation and engagement, reader-to-writer and writer-to-reader
Authors, including Pullinger, Cory Doctorow, Mark Jeffrey, Scott Andrew James, and Amanda Havard of Immersedition, were on hand, as were writing counselors and program leaders including Eve Bridburg of Grub Street, who outlined the “logic model” she’s using with career-building authors in Boston.
Literary agent Jason Allen Ashlock—whose Movable Type Management has created the new Rogue Reader author collective—told the room with a wry smile that an author working alone in the business today may not be adept at what’s needed, “no matter how many times you’ve read Guy Kawasaki’s book.” The agent as a rapidly evolving “radical advocate,” he said, is the only such support equipped to stay with authors for the long term of the changes ahead.
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