Book Camp #book2, February 13, 2011

Well, that was a workout! So electrified was I that all my hair stood up on end like the Bride of Frankenstein. (Yes, I know, it already kind of did…)

Off I went to New York on February 13 to be a keynote speaker of O’Reilly’s #toccon book-tools publishing conference. (Speaking about the author as primary source, a sort of small anchovy that en masse fuels whales – e.g. publishing companies — or a sort of dead moose on which more than 30 other life forms draw for nourishment… How many have made a living, so far, on Dead Shakespeare? You cannot count the ways.) (Arcane reference to E.B. Browning.)

But first I went to the premises of Open Sky on 18th Street for a pre-conference industry think-tank at which many bright souls were either holding forth or taking it all in. Publishers, bloggers, e-biz book folks, hopefuls, mopefuls – all sectors were represented, though not many elderly authors such as Self.

Yes, “publishing” (the transferring of stuff from one brain to another by means other than direct vocal contact or the Tube method, as in Young Frankenstein) – publishing, I say – and this is not a world-shaking new insight – yes, publishing, I repeat in Dickensian mode –that method of brain-creation transference that has, since Gutenberg, been using the paper “book” as the mass-transference tool – this “publishing” is in turmoil. And it was said turmoil that was the subject of many a discussion at #book2.

What about blogging, tweeting, and social networking in all its forms? Should authors be expected to do these things to promote their books, and what if they don’t want to? (See for instance Codrescu’s “Soapbox” in PW of January 31, included in our TOC kit, in which he poxes on all their houses.)

What about e-books and the purloining of content therefrom? Are paper books really in trouble, or is it just bookstores who are staring down the throat of Fenris? (Arcane reference to Norse mythology.) Can we credit a comparison between musicians – downloads have cut into the record biz, but just do a lot of concerts, like Lady Gaga? (I’d say not. Which writers would you pay to take off most of their clothes, paint themselves yellow, and cavort about curvaceously with a giant egg? Please do not answer this question. There is such a thing as over-sharing.)

All in all #book2 was livelier than a gaggle of fleas on the Hunger Artist (arcane reference to Franz Kafka), and indeed hunger was at the basis of most of my eldritch questions – all very well, said I, but who pays the artist to keep the poor thing in cheese sandwiches? Or at least enough of them so s/he can get on with the writing thing.

I did try not to say such things as “In the old days, we…” and, “Before e-books and Amazon, we used to…” or, “My generation invented the…” or, “People have been wrestling with that one for at least 1,000 years.” Yes, I did say them a bit. But the young were kindly, and gave me some grapes and cheese, so, being a Fox by nature, and fond of both, (arcane reference to Aesop’s Fables) I had a fine old time. Yes, cheap date, I know; but that is increasingly the problem, for authors: primary food sources are cheap dates.

Curious encounters of the #book2 kind:

Book Blogs: Ann Kingman Bethanne Kelly Melissa Klug and Laura Brown Callie Miller : mentioned by several Also mentioned Ron Hogan – one of the first : blog about publishing One of the guys was there, but which one? Toby Carroll! Combines music and books and much else. He was definitely there and known to all, but I didn’t get a card, and where is the name on the website? David Gutowsky! Smart Bitches, Trashy Books – reviews romance novels. One certifiably smart person was there – whether a bitch or not was unclear at that moment, but she seemed very nice to me. The O’Reilly’s blog.

Many mentioned Bookblogger Appreciation Week.

Also there was , which does e-serialization. mentioned as an aid to online stuff., readers read books out loud, sometimes well, a publishing platform

Amanda Katz, “bibliophile” column in the Boston Globe:

Old friend Philip Turner, Book Productions

And Michel Vrana, Book Designer, at

And more.

The death of the book has been greatly exaggerated.


Filed under 1, YOTF Tour Blog

20 responses to “Book Camp #book2, February 13, 2011

  1. Margaret, thanks for mentioning my blog. I meant to say hello to you yesterday, your writing has long entertained me.

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  3. For what it’s worth, I was the Vol.1-er at Book^2 Camp yesterday.

  4. Margaret, it was such a pleasure to have you with us! Thanks for this generous and enthusiastic account, and for being more organized than any of the rest of us in providing these links. For those trying to track down the Bibliophiles columns, note that my website contains a sneaky “L” between Amanda and Katz ( Best regards to all the Book Campers.

  5. Ma Chere Madame Atte-woode,

    Longtyme have Ich admyred yower bookes and yower greate writinges.

    Wolde ye considere doing an interviewe, for to be poosted upon my litel blog?

    Le Vostre

  6. Pingback: Tweets that mention Book Camp #book2, February 13, 2011 | Margaret Atwood: Year of the Flood --

  7. Hi Margaret. It was great listening to your stories about hand-setting interiors and silkscreening covers, and the early days of House of Anansi.

    If you have a moment to correct my name and URL, it’s Michel Vrana and


  8. I was watching some of the #book2 talk in the twitterverse — thank you for this listing. I have a lot of sites to visit. Many, many thanks!

  9. Pingback: Book^2 Camp opens the lines of communication | Boomeroo Web Resources

  10. I enjoyed both the keynote speech and the interview very much. For an example of some of the things writers do to not only keep themselves entertained: kaffe in katmandu (a new writers’ collective); fictionaut (an established writers’ collective). I liked that you mentioned organisation of authors (other than via PEN or AWP) on your slides – it’s here and, as I know from my work with publishing companies, the publishers are just as clueless as many authors. It’s more a situation where everyone who enjoyed the pie as it was has to talk with everyone else about the way of the future pie and how it can be enjoyed tomorrow, too. Thank you.

  11. Great speech at #toccon. Have you remembered the details of the writers’ publishing group modelled on United Artists? I’m sure you will publish it here soon.

    (I think it’s just Fenrir as a name OR the Fenris wolf.)

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  13. Tunde Kirschner

    Dear Margaret Atwood,
    I have read most of your novels and fictions, but this was the first time that I had a chance to hear you talk. (Technology is wonderful, after all) I first read Cat’s eyes at the times when I lived in Canada. It was published then – how long ago that was – and all my friends were talking about that book, so I had to read it too. Being a Hungarian, living in Canada only for 2 years, I did not know you back then. But, I liked this book so much, that I started to read all your novels. And I am so happy, I had a chance to see and hear you via the Internet, sitting in my bed in Budapest, Hungary. You are wonderful, you really give your readers joy, make us think and I just love your sense of humor. We all need you badly. Please write many more new books! (my friend in Canada sends me all the new ones!) Thank you very much. Kind regards, hope one day you will come this part of the world. (it really offers a lot to see and experience) Tunde Kirschner

  14. niovilyri

    Hello from Greece, Madame Atwood! It was a marvellous speech, that about e-books and (alive and dead) authors! We watched it on facebook (through you tube) and enjoyed a lot! You yourself are a very beautiful, spiritual human being, a mere joy to look and here at! Wish you a lot of spiritfull, healthy and fertile years, from our mediterranean sunny corner!

  15. Tom

    Loved your speech.
    There’s another analogy that can be brought up: the farmer as primary source. There’s a large group making money from the individual (some only getting a day’s salary) yet providing jobs for the packer, wholesaler, marketer, restaurant, etc. And there are lots of alternatives farmers can make a living from their skills. Go large & supply a commodity, local for a farmers market, CSA, specialty resturant. Take your commodity and make something else (stoneyfield yogurt), etc.

    How many of those strategies can work for authors?

  16. As an MA student of Publishing, I enjoyed your thoughts on the industry. I think I’m an old soul. I know that digital publishing and online media is the future and I’m ready to embrace it, but if I could chose, I think it’d be nice to just publish the old-fashioned way. I love finding obscure second-hand books and first editions; I wonder how the future of print publishing will pan out.

  17. So glad to hear books are not dead. Though perhaps its days are numbered in its present format? Quite sad, really- I have a lofty ambition of one day having my own library stuffed to the gills with wonderful books in all shapes and sizes. A giant hard drive stuffed to the gills with PDF’s just doesn’t hold the same appeal…


  18. Pingback: Book^2 Camp opens the lines of communication – O’Reilly Radar | Write Your Own E-book

  19. The biology metaphor is poignant and funny. It’s true, without authors, it all falls apart. Loved the graphics. Loved your self-published works.

  20. “The death of the book has been greatly exaggerated.”
    It’s true.

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