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Graphic Novels Need Marketing Lurve Too!

Oh time, you do have some major frequent flier miles, do you not?

Seems like only yesterday I was at ABA’S Winter Institute, but in fact, it was last month. In the whirlwind of activity that is the publishing conference circuit of late, I have fallen behind on posting my posties. And, that’s a shame – because I have some good stuff for you guys.

To go back a bit – last month I was privileged to take part in Wi5 in San Jose. It was awesome. A really grand group of indie booksellers gathered together to tackle the challenges and opportunities of book selling in the 21st century. I have a few overall reflections on the event that I will share posthaste (no, I will – I will), but first  I wanted to share something that came out of Wi5, but is not necessarily related to Wi5. It’s about graphic novels.

Graphic novels have been consistently increasing in popularity for years. Break out successes such as Persepolis, Watchmen, and Stitches have continued to put the graphic novel in front of mainstream audiences (in other words, they’re not just for comic stores anymore).  But, publishers don’t seem to have caught on to this. And, that’s what this post is about. Yes, this post originated due to a panel on the subject of Graphic Novels at Wi5, but the subject itself goes beyond Wi5 to a bigger issue of the need for publishers to work with their valued intermediaries (such as indie book sellers, librarians, etc) to help get the right books to the right readers.

At this point, I will shut my pie-hole and let some indie book sellers take it from here. Enjoy:

Dan Kusunoki (on left) from Skylight Books

Dan Kusunoki from Skylight Books: My name is Dan Kusunoki. I am the assistant manager and Graphic novel/ Manga monger at Skylight Books.  I was part of the Graphic Novel panel moderated by John Shableski of Diamond Comics.

The Winter Institute was an eye opening experience for me because of one main thing:

The realization that publishers carry graphic novels but don’t market them.

The need for them is clear. The panel had a full house with booksellers coming to me and Gina from Malaprops afterward asking a myriad of questions that just one panel could not cover.  I was even giving side meetings with booksellers during the author reception and couldn’t get a copy of The Passage (Darn it!) but I was happy to see so many wanting to sell graphic novels.

However, during the rep “speed dating” session, It dawned on me that none of the reps were pushing any graphic novels. So as an experiment, I asked a simple question: ” Does your Publisher carry any graphic novels?”

Have you read the graphic novel version of the book of the movie, yet?

One actually said that there is a graphic novel adaptation of a book called “SHUTTER ISLAND” ?!?
Here is a potential crossover sale with the novel when the movie comes out, AND NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT IT!

Oh sure, they’ll mention Stephanie Meyer’s manga in passing, but what about already existing titles that publishers either are sitting on  because they don’t know how to market them or, don’t realize they have them…

Graphic novels have been around for over 20 years and manga since World War II… And yet the courtship between graphic novels and booksellers is happening right now.

Graphic novel readers are a voracious and literary lot that are loyal to booksellers who curate and carry them.

Comics publishers still work on an ever changing collectors market and rarely backlist while Book publishers rely on backlist heavily.

This is a perfect opportunity for both publishers to reinvigorate not only the book seller market but also the ever shifting collectors comics market… These two parallel tracks  need to finally converge… A sort of symbiosis of sorts. Lets make it easier for booksellers to sell your graphic novels!!!

We need more panels for not only booksellers, but for reps as well as publishers so that we can be on the same page and make a helluva lotta money on these funny books. They will not go away. They are a fast growing market.

It’s time to really take graphic novels seriously–before the pulse ends.

If anyone has any questions on how to sell, market and curate graphic novels in their store, feel free to email me, or my partner in crime, Darren Clavadetscher, and we will be happy to help you out. The more we spread the word the better off Booksellers will be.

Thank you for your time.

Now can someone send me a galley of The Passage?

Emily Pullen from Skylight Books:

Emily Pullen from Skylight Books

Here is my 2cents (rather than Dan’s $2) worth:

Booksellers have clearly expressed an interest in Graphic Novels — every panel that the ABA has planned on the topic has been a huge success. And clearly booksellers are interested because they’ve recognized the ravenous consumer desire for graphic novels. My sense is that general trade publishers have also recognized this desire, but they aren’t putting their marketing dollars behind it and I can’t imagine why.

Maybe it has to do with the relatively recent invasion of graphic novels into general bookstores. Maybe publishers are limiting their perception of graphic novels as something that can “capture reluctant young readers” — something that is “for the kids.” Maybe it has to do with the fact that we as a culture are still learning how to talk about graphics — I sense that many publishers look at it as a format, and we really need to be looking at it as a medium unto itself.

Dan is a guru — I’m a relatively new convert. But, too, I can’t imagine why publishers wouldn’t be pushing these books more with the independent bookstore market.

-Emily Pullen
Ordering Manager
Skylight Books

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This Friday, January 29, Gretchen Rubin, author of  the memoir The Happiness Project and the popular blog by the same name, joins host Charlotte Abbott for our weekly #FollowReader chat from 4-5pm ET.

The Happiness Project book was an instant New York Times bestseller earlier this month. The blog has appeared on Slate as well as the Huffington Post and other sites – and more than 33,000 people have signed up for the monthly newsletter. 

Gretchen Rubin has published four books and written three unpublished novels— now safely locked in a drawer, she says. She began her career as a lawyer – starting as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal and clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor – before becoming a full-time writer.

Among the topics we’ll explore on Friday: 

  • How Gretchen developed her blog while writing her book, and was picked up as a featured blogger by Slate and the Huffington Post, while also using Twitter to drive traffic to her blog
  • How she differentiated her blog from her book, and convinced even her most loyal weekly readers that her memoir would be fresh and rewarding enough to buy in hardcover
  • How she lay the groundwork for her national book tour by engaging her blog readers, and other factors that helped her memoir become an instant New York Times bestseller

Here’s a taste of what Gretchen has to say about planning her book tour:

“When I asked my readers whether they would come see me if I came to their town, I figured I’d just get a few responses, but I was curious to see what people would say.

But the response was fabulous! Last time I checked, 700 people had replied to my question! I was dumbfounded – and thrilled by the enthusiasm, as you can imagine.

Of those 700, a lot of replies came from towns that would be hard to add to a tour – Anchorage, Alaska say – and a surprising number of people responded from overseas. It was great to have this new way to get a feel for my readership, and I could see interesting “hot spots.” For example, I was struck by the number of people who responded from Philadelphia, but then I remembered that the Univ. of Pennsylvania offers a program for Masters in Applied Positivity Psychology, so maybe that has something to do with it.

To join the #followreader conversation, here’s what to do:  

  1. On Friday, January 25, just before 4pm ET,  log in to Twitter or whatever interface you prefer. (We recommend Tweetchat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.)
  2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
  3. I’ll start by asking Gretchen Rubin (@gretchenrubin) a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
  4. To post a comment to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet you write. 

 If you can’t join the discussion, watch this space next week for a recap of the highlights.  

Have a topic you wish we would cover? Please feel free to suggest topics for upcoming #followreader chats below.   Happiness Project Book trailer  

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11/27/09 #followreader – (the rogue edition )
topic: Author Events
guest: Russ Marshalek (also see his blog here, as well as his work with @bsandusky and @lucyswope: QBAH2

For Transcript of conversation, just click here!

So, yesterday’s #followreader chat was a REALLY, really great conversation. We weren’t planning on having #followreader this week, due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but Russ Marshalek (@RussMarshalek), BethAnne Patrick (@thebookmaven), and Michele Filgate (@readandbreathe) kind of pushed it into existence. And thank goodness for that.

I know. I always say #followreader was great. But yesterday’s #followreader really was great – authors (@urrealism and others), publishers (@draccah, @SusanMpls, and others); lots of book bloggers and booksellers (@readandbreathe, @changinghands, etc.) and muchos library folks were all actively taking part in the discussion and the hour flew by.

The overall consensus (sort of to my surprise) was not only are author in-store events popular with tweeps from every sector of the book community, but people have lots of incredible ideas on how to make author events successful for everyone involved.

I’ve archived the conversation here, and in spite of it being one very long conversation, I highly recommend that authors, publishers, librarians, and booksellers read through all of it, because there were some really great ideas suggested, as well as some tips on what does NOT work for author events, and even some really juicy gossip from booksellers and former booksellers about celebrity author events.

Here are some highlights from yesterday’s chat:

Publishers are cutting back on author tours

lindseylochner @KatMeyer events only worthwhile (for pubs) if author can really help promote & get creative (stay w/friends, different/special events, etc)

booksliesalibis @KatMeyer Yes, and it’s been difficult to get pubs to send many authors off the beaten path, smaller cities anyway. #followreader


People don’t like events that are just about the author reading from and/or signing their books

People want want to attend author events that offer more: Q+A’s with author; themed events; bookstores teaming up w/ another organization or company for event, e.g.: cook’s warehouse + wordsmiths events.

hmccormack @KatMeyer @rpgaddicted Librarian in @SmartBitches Q&A (http://bit.ly/7wPVlN ): “Reading prob most boring thing auth can offer” #followreader

@inkwellHQ RT @LitChat: Create impression of author event not-to-be-missed w/ exclusivity in promo. People love thinking they’re special. #followreader -1:26 PM Nov 27th, 2009

Regarding marketing  for in-store author events:

@qbah2: @KatMeyer you need to FIND the fan base for WHOEVER your author or subject is. #followreader

ChrisKubica @KatMeyer I did an event @ a Borders/Milwaukee. They hadn’t promo’d at all. Did reading for sea of empty chairs and my wife. #followreader

bloodbathbeyond @KatMeyer Part of why I gave up on my local book blog was because only one store would tell me what events they were planning. #followreader about 4 hours ago from web

readandbreathe @KatMeyer Marketing needs to move beyond traditional means; social networking is now a must for events #followreader


Author events need to be about building, adding value to relationships – not just about immediate sales

Sales are a big goal behind author events, but bigger goal should be building relationships: between readers and authors; between readers and bookstore; and betweeen author and bookstore. A successful event brings all parties closer together, and will hopefully result in sales and return visits by author and by readers (word of mouth too).

trishheylady @KatMeyer I heard @pioneerwoman lets ppl talk 2her, say what they want 2 say, & shows personal intrst.Ppl even more loyal now. #followreader

Bright Ideas:

Where possible, if libraries can work with indie/local booksellers in putting on events, it can be a win/win for everyone.
shayera @KatMeyer You have to be careful about selling in a library though. There are lots of rules about how to do it. #followreader

booksliesalibis @KatMeyer But others can, and this may continue to change as budgets get tighter. #followreader

rj_anderson @KatMeyer Skype appearances esp. good for those of us not in the US or whose main fanbase is overseas (both true of me!) #followreader

And that is just a small sampling of what was discussed. Again, you can read the archived chat in its entirety here.

Thanks again, everyone. During this time of giving thanks, those of us at Follow the Reader, want all of you to know how incredibly thankful we are to be a part of the bookish community, both online and in real life.

luv,

Kat

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Robert Rosenwald of Poisoned Pen Press

Robert Rosenwald of Poisoned Pen Press

Here at Follow the Reader, we’re always excited about events and tools that bring authors, publishers, readers, and other bookish types together to talk books. So, when a month or so ago, I stumbled across the website for Poisoned Pen’s Web Con, I was muy intrigued.

Taking place this Saturday, October 24, 2009  PPWebCon is described as the world’s first major virtual mystery and crime convention bringing authors and readers together online from all over the world. Pretty cool, eh? And, if anyone can deliver the goods on such a cool premise, it’s the folks at Poisoned Pen.

I sent a few questions to Robert Rosenwald, who kindly (and promptly) returned some answers. So, for those who want to know more about what is likely the coolest (and premiere) virtual event for mystery lovers EVER, please read on!

KM:  Where’d the idea for WebCon come from?

RR: It came from several places at once:

  • It’s something that had been riding around in the back of my head for a while.
  • One of our authors, Mary Reed, suggested that Poisoned Pen Press authors might want to have an online conference.
  • Janice Hally, the con’s web mistress, goaded us on.
  • Several PPP authors jumped on the bandwagon.

KM: Who is the target audience, or attendee, for WebCon?

RR: Mystery readers and writers, and people who’d like to be mystery writers.

KM: What authors will be presenting at WebCon? What has their reaction been to the idea of a virtual conference?

RR: Too many to name. Our Guest of Honor is Dana Stabenow, International Guest of Honor is Lee Child. Laurie R. King will be interviewing Lee Child and Kate Miciak, Editorial Director of Bantam Dell at Random House Publishing Group (and another Guest of Honor). The reaction has been very positive. Many are a little bewildered and confused by what technology they need to master but people are really looking forward to it.

KM:  What’s the feedback so far from prospective attendees?

RR: Very strong. Some have expressed amazement at the concept.

KM: Authors will have a chance to pitch to editors – how will this work in a virtual setting, and what editors will be present? Any agents?

RR: We’ll have four Poisoned Pen Press editors available including our senior editor, Barbara G. Peters. Each will handle five pitches. Writers will submit a synopsis and the first 30 pages of a manuscript electronically to the editor assigned to them (assignment shall be done by random draw). The editor will spend about ten minutes talking with the writer about their reactions to what was submitted and issues with the written materials they’ve looked at. This will be done one on one using Skype.

KM: How is the tech end for the event being handled? Will there be video/tech people involved in more than one location?

RR: There will be relatively little live video though there will be some. There are several YouTube videos that have been created for the Webcon and I really don’t know what all else. There will be a fair amount of live audio through BlogTalkRadio.com which basically lets one stream to the web a conference call. We’ll be doing a live video from the bookstore at 9:00 am (our time – PST) in which Libby Fisher Hellmann will be moderating a panel of authors, Betty Webb, Frederick Ramsay, and Donis Casey on Building Suspense. We have a handout that will be available for download as well.

KM: Will there be an offline component to the conference?

RR: Everything will be online. There will be components that are not real time but will have been prerecorded or previously created.

KM:  Since it’s virtual, do you expect the conference to continue in a virtual setting after the conference date?

RR: We’re planning on leaving up the website at least for the next year to be available to anyone who is interested in going back through one or more of the presentations or panels. The audio and video will also be archived.

KM:  I love the idea that you’re offering a $20 book voucher for the PP bookstore with registration. What are some of the other goodies that conference goers can expect?

RR: There are some short stories, there are some audio and video clips, book trailers, recipes, a variety of things in the goody bag. I really don’t know all that has been collected.

So, if you are a mystery fan, author looking to chat with publishers and other professionals in the genre, or – like me — just really intrigued at the idea of an online/virtual bookish conference, head over to the PPWebCon site and check it out. There is no limit to the number of attendees, and 100% of profits from your $25 registration fee will be donated to public libraries.

~ Kat :)

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Rich Rennicks: Father, bookseller, gardener, writer, jack-of-many-trades

Rich Rennicks

Oh dear, lately we seem to have gotten a bit lax here at Follow the Reader. But, today we are making up for our recent lack of quantity, with a whole lotta quality in the form of a lovely chat with the Word Hoarder‘s own, Mr. Rich Rennicks.

Rich is a self-described “father, bookseller, gardener, writer, and jack-of-many-trades,” who works as bookstore liaison for Unbridled Books, and part-times it as a book seller for Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC.  As you will find out, Rich also enjoys the pleasure of a good book.

If you needed another reason to be fond of him, Rich is a huge advocate of book sellers using social media to engage with their customers, and has a fantastic post all about it over at Word Hoarder. Go check it out after you read our equally fantastic interview with him.

Kat Meyer: Through extensive research (I clicked on the “About” section at your blog), I discovered you are not native to North Carolina, but hail from Ireland with some time spent in the UK. You mention on your blog that your  library reflects your travels. Can you elaborate? Are there any titles that stand out as touchstones for particular times and locations of your life?

Rich Rennicks:

Ireland
There are several books that impacted on me for one basic reason: their authors lived (or had lived) nearby, and that brought the world of arts and letters close enough to home that I began to think I might have a part in it some day.  Brendan Behan’s memoir Borstal Boy, J.P. Donleavy’s hilarious The Ginger Man, and Francis Ledwidge’s poetry, were particularly impressive and remain so..

England
I read Pynchon, Rushdie and Eco for the first time while I lived in the UK. Any of their books could change a person’s life.

US
I read Silas House’s marvelous Clay’s Quilt on a trip to NC while I lived in Michigan. That book, with its warm and nuanced understanding of Appalachian culture, had a great deal to do with my family deciding to relocate back south after years up north. Also, Look Homeward Angel is one of my favorite books of all time — and one of the few to reduce me the tears – so, Asheville carries a certain aura and romance for me because of Thomas Wolfe.

Travels
I almost began grad work in Indian and post-colonial literature after falling under the spell of Rushdie, Roy, Mukherjee and others. My wife and I traveled throughout India in 1998, and I brought home a ton of Indian novels and some literary nonfiction. Upamanyu Chatterjee’s hilarious English, August is one of those special books for me. I’ve discovered an informal fraternity of travelers who have spent serious time on the subcontinent and have often read that book. It captures the distaste the urban, educated Indian often feels for the raw, superstitious life of rural India, which often mirrors the first impressions and feelings westerners have of the country. It’s a book I’ve bonded with a few people over, and one that is something of an antidote to the glossy, sprawling family sagas that were being published as fast as possible for a few years. English, August is no more comprehensive or representative of India’s myriad communities than those sagas, but is one of the few books I’ve found that takes a brutally and humorously honest look at what’s often romanticized.
(more…)

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OK, it’s now officially #followreader catch up week, with the third of three recaps from our weekly Twitter discussions.

This discussion took place July 30, after we posted a dialogue with Random House sales reps and bloggers Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, and then invited the two of them to join our friends on Twitter in a #followreader conversation. 

Working from the premise that “the entire book business culture and tradition is up for grabs now,”  Ann and Michael proved fearless in their willingness to reassess the business and where it can go in these digital times. The result was the best kind of Twittersation – a long riff on fresh ideas with scores of improvisationalists, that turned into one of our most intense and creative #followreader conversations to date. Many thanks to Michael and especially Ann, who was able to stay for a full hour!

[NOTE: Due to technical constraints, I've reconstructed the conversation primarily from the Twitterfeeds of @annkingman and @mkindness, in addition to my own. Apologies to the many other participants in this conversation whose smart comments I was not able to retreive.]

Here are some of the highlights:

How can we keep books high on the cultural radar?

@AnnKingman: I’d love to see more salons, where people talk about book they’re reading or love, not a traditional book club

@charabbott: You could say that #followreader, #litchat, #tbc, #editorchat and #TuesBookTalk are all newfangled book salons.

@AnnKingman: I think the salon can work online and off – Twitter, blogs, Goodreads, etc. are all kind of online salons

@AnnKingman: Offline book salons are not as popular as online, but there’s potential

@charabbott: Maybe the key is creating offline parlor games with books. I once invited eight friends over on Oscar Wilde’s birthday to read one of his plays aloud.

@jnyrose: Free books are nice. But hanging out with large groups of book-obsessed people is fantastic.

Who might be the tastemakers in these emerging book salons?

@annkingman: Indie e-mail newsletters are great, and we are starting to see more indies with blogs, which thrills me.

@mkindess: There are customers who look to booksellers for recommendations, why not editors too?

@annkingman: If you read a book you love, would you want to read another acquired by that editor?

@annkingman: Last three non-brand-name books I loved were all acquired by same editor, but I didn’t know it at the time. Now I’ll read anything she buys.

@mkindness: I think readers would be interested ito hear from the editor who brought them The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

@charabbott: Yes, I watch some editors and agents, like Susan Kamil and Nicole Aragi for fiction, and Eamon Dolan for nonfiction.

@annkingman: Publisher and editor extremely important for bookstore buyers because they’ve learned who to trust. Why can’t that carry over?
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We’re almost caught up with #FollowReader conversation summaries! (go, me!). Last week’s #followreader was really fun (well, for me anyway). The topic was: “Bookish Communities, On and Offline – Where Do You Get Your Fix?” Lots of people tweeted up to let us know about their favorite face-to-face and web-based book clubs, as well as about book-centric social networking sites, libraries, bookstore events, blogs, and websites that they frequent to get their book on.

Lots of people still favor the good old fashioned in person book club. Others are fans of online book groups, and social networking sites. GoodReads and LibraryThing were both cited as great sites. Lots of people mentioned genre-specific clubs they belong to, also.

Conversation wise, the topic of whether publishers should be creating and/or controlling bookish communities was discussed at length. Many, many opinions on this one, but overall most of us don’t think publishers should have control, but it’s cool if they want to facilitate.

This week I’m especially thrilled to announce my DH has written up a program so I can capture our #followreader conversations and present the transcript in “logical” chronological order (that is, oldest to newest). In upcoming posts, we’ll perhaps present this as a link to a site where the transcript will be hosted so not to clog up the blog with tons of tweets, but even as it is, it’s pretty nifty! Enjoy.

Oh! And if you have anything to add about bookish communities – especially great resources for on-and off-line book clubs/groups, PLEASE add in the comments section here. Lots of people will be very appreciative!

Thanks!

Luv,  Kat
Transcript for #FollowReader: Bookish Communities ON- and OFF-Line. Where Do YOU Get Your Fix?

bookish community-there are lots of ways to define, it but how do you live it? what’s your favorite bookish community offline? #followreader

Posted by KatMeyer at Thu, 06 Aug 2009 20:01:12 +0000 (msg id: 3168547045)

Do you belong to a book group? Do you visit the library for your real life bookish community fix?Do you go to author signings? #followreader

Posted by KatMeyer at Thu, 06 Aug 2009 20:02:00 +0000 (msg id: 3168556501) (more…)

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