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Posts Tagged ‘queer books’

I often hear people say they hate to read on screen. And after spending hours each day trolling the web – squinting at my backlit screen until my eyes feel like hot, dry marbles rolling around in their sockets – I start to hate my computer too. Yet I have to acknowledge that without it, I would hardly know what to read for work or pleasure (er, aside from the many books I own but haven’t read, that is). And now, Twitter has made reading online even more exciting, absorbing and efficient.

Yes, Twitter. Many publishing people say they are avoiding it, because they already spend more time on the computer than they want to. But when it comes to gathering book news – and engaging with smart insiders across the industry, as well as general readers – there are a few good reasons to consider it not only a labor-saving device, but even as a unique and powerful tool.

Twitter as Information Filter: #amazonfail

Case in point: yesterday, I had only half an hour in the morning to check my e-mail and the top publishing news. Three e-mails from friends sent to me to:

1.       Jacket Copy, a blog at the Los Angeles Times, which reported author Michael R. Probst‘s claim that Amazon.com had a new policy to remove books with “adult” content from the site’s bestseller rankings (meaning that books were significantly less visible on the site and could only be found by an exact title search). Yet many of the affected books were hardly pornographic, such as the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, as well as James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and Ellen DeGeneres’s: A Biography.

2.       An online petition demanding that Amazon reverse the policy, which appeared to affect queer books disproportionately. (A later statement from Amazon did not address the putative policy issue,  claiming instead that there had been “cataloging error” affecting 57,310 books and not just queer authors.)

3.       A link to the Twitter discussion on this topic, #amazonfail, which has surpassed the discussions about Easter and Jesus on the popular microblogging site. That discussion immediately led me to breaking news stories that other readers said were the best they’d read, and pithy observations by publishing insiders, sassy queer commentators and smart bloggers I’d never heard of before. It also gave me an ongoing reference point for real-time updates and commentary.

The Twitter Difference

Before Twitter, when I relied on e-mail alone, I’d have spent 15 minutes reading one article on the day’s big story, signing a petition and emailing a few friends about the issue, and would probably have left it at that.

But with Twitter, and another spare 15 minutes or so, I was not only able to find and read a well-curated handful of breaking news stories quickly, but also to absorb insights from scores of knowledgeable people and share my thoughts with them directly – and even to bookmark those whom I’d like to actively engage in building community around queer books going forward. 

Now, you might well ask if I needed to spend a half hour on a Monday morning reading up on this story and discussing it with others. This time, the answer is yes, because I report on the intersection of publishing and new media, and am also committed to building community around queer books. (In other cases, like when I spent half an hour engaging the Twitterverse about my nephew’s architectural dessert jellies, the answer is not so much.) 

But here’s my main point: the Twitter difference is connecting with a spontaneous, engaged community that cares about what I care about, and is thinking about it at the exact same time as me — and sometimes even making big news while doing it.  And it’s a community I can remain in touch with, simply by choosing to follow the smartest and best commentators in the Twitterverse.

So, even though it may not help with eyestrain, I find Twitter indispensible to my job – which is, of course, following the readers.

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It’s a new day in the book world, shaped by digitization, online distribution and social media, not to mention POD, DRM and whatever new tools have emerged since we began writing this post. Yup, things are changing, but we believe some very basic things will always remain:
 
1. People who love making books will keep making books
2. People who love reading and discussing books will keep reading and discussing them.
 
In “Follow the Reader,” we’ll introduce you to the best and brightest people who live and breathe books (and the “content previously known as books”). From book reviewers, bloggers and radio producers to booksellers and librarians to authors, marketers and sales reps –we’ll seek out professional readers and report on trends in what they’re reading and thinking about, to help you get to know them, what they do and where our common interests lie.
 
We’ll also share our thoughts on all the changes that are taking place, let you in on a little gossip, or possibly rant and rave about books we are loving or hating. Pretty much anything is possible.
 
But we promise to put those who love making books and those who love reading books front and center on our little blog. Because, when all is said and done, it’s book people who make the bookish world go round.
And who are we, you may be asking? (Assuming you’ve read this far.) Why, we are your hostesses on Follow the Reader: Charlotte Abbott and Kat Meyer — and if you want to know even more about little old us, well, read on, friends.
 
Charlotte and Kat – An Introduction via Instant Messaging:
 
Kat Meyer: Dear Charlotte, As we set off on this bookish journey together, I feel like I need to know you better. I know that you are a very cool chick who has been an editor at Publishers Weekly and has edited for big fancy publishing companies, but who are you really? How did you get here? Did you always know you were destined to work in books?
 
Charlotte Abbott: Dear Kat, I was always a reader — I’ve had a bookcase next to my bed as long as I can remember. By age 13, I burned to be a writer, though I mostly wrote embarrassing Anne Frank-inspired journal, and poetry that my teachers encouraged and the New Yorker rejected.
 
KM: that’s the kind of thing that can scar a child for life — being rejected by the NY’r. I never kept a journal. but i had tons o’books.
 
CA: I couldn’t figure out why the New Yorker would seek me out just to make a point of rejecting me, until my mom confessed to secretly submitting my stuff. What got you into books?

KM:
well, i’m not saying it was destiny, but a psychic once told my sister that she saw me “surrounded by books.”  when i was in jr. high. I went on a trip to San Diego, drove by the Harcourt (at the time HBJ) building & told my parents, “I’m gonna work there someday” and i did. my 1st job out of college was as an Editorial Prod Coord for Harcourt. It wasn’t quite as glamorous as I’d imagined it.
 
CA: Was this for adult trade, kids or textbooks?

KM: u will cry. it was for academic journals. “Gynecological Oncology” & the Journal of Math, etc.

CA: Did you like it, or were you plotting escape?
 
KM: i think it was a test. the publishing gods wanted 2 see just how serious i was about publishing. and, of course, i plotted escape. ended up back in Tucson working for an educ. publisher who was promptly bought out by Harcourt & shut down. That job was fun while it lasted. i was a production assistant. i got to source toys & stuff for the kits. lots of cute little plastic animals from Hong Kong. After that, i went into marketing…U of A Press! Mktg Assistant/ Exhibits Manager.
CA: So that’s how you wound up in publishing in Arizona? You must really have really wanted to be there – it’s not like the jobs are as plentiful as the cactuses.
 
KM: Surprisingly, there are a nice handful of publishers out here. And I’ve worked 4 most of them. but, i lucked out by getting a job at UofA Press back in the day. Kathryn Conrad (@azKat) was my mentor/partner in crime. taught me tons about book mktg & the wonderful world of acad. presses. and YOU – u have worked the pub side AND the review side. you’re a multi-tasker!
 
CA: When I was an assistant editor at HarperCollins, we published a brilliant book that got zero review attention, probably because its argument was unorthodox and the author wasn’t hugely well known.  That’s when I realized that reviewers are just as important as publishers in getting new voices heard. So when I was ready to make a change, writing about books was a logical choice. What kept you hooked on publishing, as you navigated the maze?
 
KM: i got hooked by a few things. 1: the people r overall the coolest group of kids ever. all publishers i’ve ever worked for have had really great people working 4 them – and being in marketing, I got to know sales reps and booksellers and reviewers too (also cool peeps). like a big happy crazy family. that sense of kinship is hard to find in most professions. and of course – the books! lots of free books! it almost makes up for the lack of monetary compensation, and i lurvs being in marketing b/c i get to work closely w/ the authors who r always very interesting. even when an author is mean or crazy, they r always interesting.

CA: Yup. Publishing is my tribe too. I’ve grown up in this industry, my partner and many of my close friends are in it. I’m committed to it’s highest ideals and love/hate its resistance to change with the same ardor I feel about some of my own family members. What excites you as a reader?

KM: well – i go through stages with reading. I get hooked on a genre or subject and read everything i can about it. then i take a break & read whatever is popular at the moment, then start a new book “obsession.”
 
CA: What’s your all-time fave genre?
 
KM: i love biographies. and history. but i never keep facts straight after I’ve read something, so I have to keep my books around so I can revisit them often. also LOVE scary ghosty type books. how about you?
  
CA: I love memoir and bios too, especially about women writers and firebrands.  I primarily worked on nonfiction at HarperCollins and Avon Books, and as a PW book review editor. But my shelves are very eclectic. Behind me are the queer books I’m reviewing right now for the Advocate magazine, and poetry and photography books. And next to my desk are stacks of books on adoption, politics, nature, and business that I need to clear more space for. What’s around your desk? 

KM: OMG. we r totally the odd couple. (further evidence that i SO need a maid). right now i have lots of social media and mktg books, along with some popular fiction: Little Brother, 2666, the Graveyard Book.

CA: And that brings us to our mission for this blog. You know I want to help build a stronger sense of community among book reviewers, bloggers, booksellers and librarians as everyone starts to converge on the web. I’d really like to find help foster a broad conversation about new voices and idea s among people who love reading prepub galleys.
 
KM: me 2! i luv the idea that we’ll be shining a light on all the different people/processes that go into making the bookish community tick. I think a lot of people who are outside the industry have no idea that there are so many different people doing so many different things to make books a reality; and I very much want to get conversations going about new books and authors as well.

CA: What will you say here that you wouldn’t say on your own blog, the Bookish Dilettante, or when you write for Teleread?

KM: hmm. “follow the reader” is 4 and about the readers — talking 2 publishing peeps & book industry pros w/ the goal of giving readers some insight into the community and getting a dialogue/conversation going between publishers and professional reviewers AND the greater community of readers. that’s really key to what we’ll be trying to do.
CA: You know I’m down for that.

KM: well, as they say, the best laid plans…and all that. we’ll see what happens, but it’s going to be fun and I’m psyched to be doing this w/ u!

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