Contributors and conferences: The sun never sets on The FutureBook

Image - Porter Anderson at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Image – Porter Anderson at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

We see conferences — conferencing — in many ways now. In many places. Or in no places. 

Such is digital publishing. Such is digital everything. Everywhere and nowhere. At all times and at no times. World without schedule but hardly without agenda.

And here we are, at The FutureBook, holding what is, in fact, a kind of conference, an ongoing conference, one in which new players are arriving, new voices can be heard. Yours could be among them, we hope it is.

I’m writing to you from a writers’ conference called PubSense Summit in Charleston, South Carolina. Some of the cobblestones of this city came to us from England in the pre-Revolutionary War era. And some of the issues of writing being dealt with are, surely, just as old.

But  there are new issues, of course. You see them most quickly in the sponsorship. Independent authors — for the most part, that’s who attends this confab — are courted now by “author services” start-ups. They offer fee-based book-review services, editing, cover design, self-publishing platforms, advertising, crowd-funding. Here are names as familiar as Amazon CreateSpace, Kobo, Nook, IngramSpark, ACX, and Library Journal, and names as new — and sometimes as cute as so many start-up monikers seem to be — FreeBooksy, BookFrenzy, AdBiblio, WiseInk, and more.

Cevin Bryerman of Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly, a publication undergoing change, is here to meet these authors. In a keynote address, publisher and vice-president Cevin Bryerman (pictured) mentioned that he and the recently hired Kat Meyer (also with us here in Charleston) are working on “intimate conference events of 100 or so people,” tightly focused on a single issue.

IfBookThen, coming up Friday in Milano, is a gathering of roughly that size, headed by Marco Ferrario and his team at BookRepublic.Its agenda is particularly innovative in terms of bringing us voices from outside the immediate publishing mix. I’m glad to be speaking there, myself — about (wait for it) conferences.

And like so much in Milano, the topic couldn’t be more in vogue. At the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, design curator and R&D director Paola Antonelli (who has at times called Milano home) is holding one of her salons this week on “Conferences, Conferences, Conferences.”

My question in Milano will be about the first two syllables: Confer. As much as we love our conferences in publishing, it’s awfully easy to do a lot of “-encing” without “conferring,” isn’t it? That’s what pageant wagons are for, right? Maybe there are options.

Here at The FutureBook, you may notice several voices appearing repeatedly. I’m pleased to tell you that’s no accident.

We have invited a small cohort of players in and around the industry to come to us on what I like to characterize as a “hidden calendar” — hidden because these are busy people and Porter’s waiting for my next column may not be their happiest thought.

So we’re working on a structure that promises them a bit of flexibility. We may slip and slide, gracefully if we’re lucky, on exact scheduling, but in a generally monthly rotation, we want to get the benefit of these folks’ ongoing observations and insights — mixed in at times with commentary from others. Do drop me a line when you’d like to explore writing a piece:

The FutureBook is not only the name of an annual conference, itself, of course, but is also The Bookseller’s digital-publishing community site. Eyes wide open, knuckles white on the joysticks, we’re dialing for diodes here, and we think that getting into a big room to talk about it just once a year is not enough. Think of us as a kind of hovering confab — get that drone out of your mind — the sweet murmur of digital somethings in your ear, always here when your Campari is fresh.

Dave Morris
Dave Morris

Perhaps you noted game designer, television producer, and author Dave Morris’ piece over the weekend for us about Fay Weldon’s comments and those of Anthony Trollope. “We could all do with better writing,” Morris wrote at one point. Yes, we could. “War and Peace goes down a lot smoother than a Dan Brown novel, let me tell you.” I’m only too happy to let him tell you. And then I duck as you respond.

There’s more about his experiences in a 14-month march to his new television drama series, too, in Not so much cockpit as pulpit. in that one, Morris quotes Michael Bhaskar, the head of publishing at the new digital-first Canelo, writing:

When you look at the content that works best today – Game of Thrones and a subscription to the Premier League included – what stands out are the stories that transcend medium.

And speaking of Michael Bhaskar, he’s with us, too.

Michael Bhaskar
Michael Bhaskar

In Imprints, formats, and people, Bhaskar — who is working on a new book for Little, Brown to follow to his The Content Machine about curation in the digital world — helped us with some perspective after a weekly FutureBook #FutureChat sessions on the question of what imprints mean in today’s business.

To learn more about his new venture with Iain Millar and Nick Barreto, see Bhaskar’s Canelo: a new hope from The Bookseller editor, my colleague Philip Jones.

And you’ll hear again soon here at The FutureBook from Bhaskar, his turn on that “hidden calendar” is coming up again relatively soon.

I’m delighted that Molly Barton is joining us from New York.

Molly Barton
Molly Barton

The former global digital director with Penguin, Barton built the $1.5 million community-curated publishing platform Book Country — quite controversial at the time — and revived the old brand, Penguin Specials, in order to create a new line of digital-first short fiction and nonfiction.

She now is principal with The Proper Company, acting as digital media strategist to a select group of start-ups.

You should be reading Barton’s first piece for us here quite soon.

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By Porter Ander­son

The FutureBook:  Contributors and conferences: The sun never sets on The FutureBook

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