The Sharing of the Crowd

Harnessing the sharing of the crowd will often take you further than you think, and it is almost always the best place to start. We have barely begun to explore what kinds of amazing things a crowd can do. There must be two million different ways to crowdfund an idea, or to crowdorganize it, or to crowdmake it. There must be a million more new ways to share unexpected things in unexpected ways.

In the next three decades the greatest wealth – and more interesting cultural innovations – lie in this direction. The largest, fastest growing, most profitable companies in 2050 will be companies that will have figured out how to harness aspects of sharing that are invisible and un appreciated today. Anything that can be shared – thoughts, emotions, money, health, time – will be shared in the right conditions, with the right benefits. Anything that can be shared can be shared better, faster, easier, longer, and in a million more ways than we currently realize. At the point in our history, sharing something that has not been shared before, or in a new way, is the surest way to increase its value.

– from “The Inevitable” By Kevin Kelly

Sample Chapters in a Book Proposal

– by Angela Scheff

When putting together a nonfiction proposal, it’s important to have sample writing, but not your entire manuscript–unless specifically requested [see here for the reason]. So how many chapters should you include?
A good rule to follow is to include the introduction along with chapter one and two. That said, there are often reasons to deviate from this.

I often guide authors to submit a good sampling of what their actual manuscript will look like. For example, if you spend the first section discussing history or research in your manuscript, then also include another chapter or two from the middle of your manuscript so agents/editors can evaluate your writing from your other sections as your tone and subject matter will be different.
If your chapters are on the shorter side, you may want to include more so agents/editors can view more of your writing instead of just a few pages.

A few things to keep in mind:

• Your proposal as a whole (including sample chapters) should not be more than 50 pages or you run the risk of the entire thing not being reviewed.

• Your sample chapters should showcase your book, so pick the introduction (your proposal overview introduces the book to the agents/editors; your introduction introduces it to your readers) as well as the ones that best represent your concept and writing.

• Your sample chapters should be long enough for authors/editors to experience your writing. If you’re unsure and your proposal is under 50 pages, include another chapter.

• Have a few additional chapters completed that are not included in your proposal in case you receive a request for more.

• While you don’t have to have your entire manuscript written yet, you must know how your book will be laid out [see here for why].
Bonus tip: have your proposal reviewed by a few peers before you formally submit to an agent. Do they want to read more? It’s important to lay out your book so reviewers understand the entire concept and then leave them wanting more.

Accessing vs. Possessing

A reporter for TechCrunch recently observed, “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provide, owns no real esate. Something interesting is happening.”

Indeed, digital media exhibits a similar absence. Netflix, the world’s largest video hub, allows me to watch a movie without owning it. Spotify, the largest music streaming company, lets me listen to whatever music I want without owning any of it. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited enables me to read any book in its 800,000 volume library without owning books, and PlayStation Now lets me play games without purchasing them. Every day I own less of what I use.

Possession is not as important as it once was. Accessing is more important that ever.

– from “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly

Interview with a Book Publicist: Shanon Stowe

– by Jana Burson

I thought it would be interesting to interview an expert in the field of book publicity. I asked my long-time friend and colleague Shanon Stowe if she would be willing to be interviewed and she graciously accepted. Shanon is co-founder and president of the book division of Icon Media Group. She has 17 years of experience in book publishing and has launched more than 50 New York Times bestselling books. Shanon formerly served as Director of Publicity for Hachette Book Group, Publicist for Thomas Nelson, Inc., and also co-owned PS Media Relations.

Shanon, you’ve been doing book publicity for quite a few years now. What would you say are some of the biggest differences in publicity today from when you started 17 years ago?

Books and authors are two of my very favorite things! I’m fortunate to have worked in the book publishing industry doing publicity for my entire career. Many things have changed over the years, but the first thing that comes to mind are the types of media coverage opportunities.

Back when I first started, opportunities seemed unlimited–we had everything from a huge variety of daily radio and TV talk shows to countless daily newspapers and a plethora of magazines to choose from. Writers and editors were aplenty and you could always find a book editor who was likely to care about your project.

As the digital age has grown, we’ve seen a huge shift in all forms of communication and gone are the days of every newspaper having a book editor and countless radio and TV opportunities to choose from.  But we’ve quickly seen a rise in other forms of media including social media platforms, podcasts, blogs and online news sites. Initially it felt like all the good opportunities were gone, but in reality, we have more now than ever before. We just have to be more creative and open-minded about new media and digital opportunities.

What are some of the greatest challenges to having what you consider to be a successful publicity campaign for a book launch?

The number one component of a successful publicity campaign is a willing, able and eager participant. The engagement of an author is vital to the success of the campaign. Believe it or not, some authors are just not interested in promoting their book. Others are only interested in promoting it with “major outlets.” And others cancel their media interviews a few hours before going on air, or simply don’t show up … which is even worse. This behavior sends a message to the media outlet and the publicist about just how seriously the author takes promoting their book and how little they value another person’s time and investment in their message. This kind of behavior also hurts the publicists’ credibility and relationship with their media contact.

Another major challenge is the competition for coverage created by the sheer volume of books being published. Estimates are that anywhere from 600,000 to 1 million books are published in the United States each year, with at least half of them being self-published. And they all want to be on the TODAY Show. Can you imagine a producer or writer wading through their email, voicemail and regular mail from all the publicists pitching these books? Having a well-connected publicist is key!

What would you say are your primary responsibilities when your firm is hired for a book publicity campaign?

My first responsibility is to know my media contacts, understand their wants and needs, and to serve them well. If I don’t get that right, I cannot be an asset to my clients. My primary responsibility to my client is to invest in their project and help craft the best messaging and pitch for positioning to media. Once the messaging is right, our sole focus is pitching and pitching and more pitching. Bottom line: we’re paid to garner as much impactful coverage as possible for the book and author.

What, in your experience, are some of the biggest misnomers about book publicity?

  • It’s easy.According to CareerCast, a PR professional has the 6th most stressful job in America, falling just after military, firefighter, and airline pilot! Enough said.
  • Media responses/bookings are in the hands of the publicist.Nothing is more frustrating for your publicist than a media outlet that isn’t interested in or is unresponsive to a pitch. A publicist wants to land as much coverage as possible for their client, but it takes time. Sometimes it takes a really long time. I recently landed a major show for a well-known author that was 5 years in the making. Seriously, I pitched the producer on this piece for 5 YEARS! In the end it was all about timing–the media outlet’s timing. It’s also worth noting that after the piece was taped, it took 5 more months to make it on the air.
  • My book failed and it’s the publicist’s fault. I’ve heard it all: the publicist didn’t do their job, wasn’t good at their job, didn’t pitch me/the book correctly, didn’t make any follow up calls, doesn’t have the best contacts, etc. At some point you have to realize that sometimes a topic doesn’t resonate, or the timing isn’t right, or that the media contact just flat out does not care. Berating the publicist about whether or not they called a producer two more times or over the exact wording they used in their pitch is not helpful. If your publicist has a proven track record of success, I promise, it’s not them.

You’ve worked with some of the most well known authors in the business, as well as with first-time authors and everyone in between. What advice would you give to an author who’s just secured their first book deal and will be working with a book publicity team in the coming months?

First of all, congratulations! Being published is an honor and the professionals inside and outside the publishing house who are helping you carry your message to the world are a treasure. A few things to remember about the publicist you encounter:

  • Your publicist is excited about you and your message.
  • Be nice to your publicist. Your publicist is the person on the front lines representing you and your message to media. Send them flowers. Or chocolates. Or jewelry. Just kidding … kind of.
  • Ask questions and be open to honest feedback. Ask your publicist about her media goals for your book and for her honest opinion about media possibilities. Be willing to hear it: your publicist is talking to media on a regular basis and has her finger on the pulse of what will and won’t work.
  • Be flexible and available. When your publicist asks you to do an interview or write an article on the fly, try to accommodate. Be willing to move heaven and earth to promote your book. Not only will it show your investment, but it also motivates your publicist to work harder for you.

 

The Universal Book

So what happens when all the books in the world become a single liquid fabric of interconnected words and ideas? Four things:

First, works on the margins of popularity will find a small audience larger than the near zero audience they usually have now. It becomes easier to discover that labor-of-love masterpiece on the vegan diets of southern Indian priests. Far out in the long tail of the distribution curve – that extended place of low to no sales where most of the books in the world live – digital interlinking will lift the readership of almost any title, no matter how esoteric.

Second, the universal library will deepen our grasp of history, as every original document in the course of civilization is scanned and cross-linked. That includes all the yellowing newspapers, unused telephone books, dusty county files, and old ledgers now moldering in basements. More of the past will be linked to today, increasing understanding today and appreciation of the past.

Third, the universal networked library of all books will cultivate a new sense of authority. If you can truly incorporate all texts – past and present in all languages – on a particular subject, then you can have a clearer sense of what we as a civilization, a species, do and don’t know. The empty white spaces of our collective ignorance are highlighted, while the golden peaks of our knowledge are drawn with completeness. This degree of authority is only rarely achieved in scholarship today, but it will become routine.

Fourth and finally, the full, complete universal library of all works becomes more than just a better searchable library. It becomes a platform for cultural life, in some ways returning book knowledge to the core. Right now, if you mash up Google Maps and monster.com, you get maps of where jobs are located by salary. In the same way, it is easy to see that, in the great networked library, everything that has ever been written about, for example, Trafalgar Square in London could be visible while one stands in Trafalgar Square via a wearable screen like Google Glass. In the same way, every object, event, or location on earth would “know” everything that has ever been written about it in any book, in any language, at any time. From this deep structuring of knowledge comes a new culture of participation. You would be interacting – with your whole body – with the universal book.

– from ”The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly

“Platform is not a stepping stone. It is the finish line.”

That’s a powerful-and powerfully counterintuitive-way to think about your work. And the reason more people don’t think in this manner is because they are afraid. They’re afraid of carving their own path and finding nothing at the end of it. They’re overly concerned with the vanity and status consciousness of fans who are comfortable in the traditional system. They want the validation that comes (supposedly) from being given a deal or signed to a contract by an established institution – whether that’s a publisher, a studio, an agency, a gallery, or a Fortune 100. Many of us are afraid, to borrow James Altucher’s phrase, “to choose ourselves.”

The great Stoic Marcus Aurelius once admonished himself to be a “boxer, not a fencer.” A fencer, he said, has to bend down to pick up his weapon. A boxer’s weapon is a part of him – “all he has to do is clench his fist.” In developing a platform, we eschew the promotional apparatus that must be rebuilt and picked up anew with each and every launch. Instead, we choose to bind ourselves to an audience, to become one with that audience, and to become one with our weapon.

– from “Perennial Seller” by Ryan Holiday

Who Are You Aiming For?

In the raw, conceptual phase, it was essential that you had some idea who you were making your work for – an unaimed arrow rarely hits a target.

The intended audience is the final blank in “This is a ____________ that does ________ for _________.”

I’ve asked a lot of people that question over the years, and the list of wrong answers would fill volumes. A few particularly egregious ones are common:

• “Everyone”
• “You know, smart people”
• “The kind of people who read Malcolm Gladwell”
• “Myself”

The problem with those answers is not just that they are vague (“smart people”) or ridiculous (“myself”), it’s that such audiences don’t exist. There is no convention where Malcolm Gladwell fans get together. They don’t all read the same website. Just as every politician has to create his or her own coalition in order to win, no creator can magically inherit the audience of another. Whatever you’re making is not for “everyone” either – not even the Bible is for everyone. For yourself? I know you’re not going to be satisfied selling just one copy.

At least those answers are plainly wrong. The most common response is even more alarming. It’s the creator who answers the audience question with:
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought much about it.”

If you haven’t thought about who you are trying to reach, then what have you thought about? Presumably you have some vision of people purchasing or using this thing you’ve spent all your time making. How could you not know who they are? It’s not going to happen by accident.

– from “Perennial Seller” by Ryan Holiday

How Do I Query a Literary Agent?

– by Christopher Ferebee

 

“How do I query an agent?” is a common question I hear from prospective authors. It is one of the easiest to find the answer to and, to the frustration of many agents, something most authors completely ignore.

query is simply a request to a prospective agent to consider you and your work for representation. It universally entails a single-paged letter and often includes a proposal for your work. Beyond that, the specific agent or agency you are sending your request to often, but not always, has additional information they would like you to submit as well. For an example of this, you can review our Submissions page.

How you craft a query letter is pretty straightforward and a simple Google search of “how to query an agent” will lead you to a multitude of examples. Some of the best, in our opinion, are herehere and here.

Your proposal, likewise, will follow an almost universally agreed upon format. The reason for this is that the majority of publishers your potential agent will work with all require the same information for purposes of considering a project for their publishing program. Hence, regardless of your agent, they will be required to submit the same basic information for the publishers to consider your work, and will require the same from you. Again, this has been covered in a multitude of places, both for free (herehere and here), as well as through highly valuable and worthwhile paid guides (here and here).

The absolute quickest and surest way to entice an agent to reject your query is to ignore the basic guidelines of a good query and proposal, or to ignore the agent or agency’s specific guidelines as laid out on their website. A recent query to our agency involved a hard-copy mailing (even though our submission guidelines clearly indicate that only submissions through our email process will be considered) of a completed manuscript (even though our submission guidelines clearly indicate what to provide, and a completed manuscript is not on the list). The author did include a query letter, wherein they stated that “submitting a small segment of [the manuscript] via e-mail would not provide a proper exposition of its thematic presentation.”

Here’s the deal: All agents face an almost insurmountable “slush pile” of unsolicited author queries. We are all in this business because we love books, we love authors, and we love finding fantastic new ones. But we simply cannot read a complete manuscript from every author who might submit one, even if we wanted to. What’s more, we can’t simply submit a completed manuscript to potential publishers for acquisition. The proposal process is so well defined because it is used by everybody, agents and publishers alike. If you as a potential author cannot adequately describe your manuscript in a proposal, we can’t represent it or sell it.

So if you want to be taken seriously at the query stage, follow the agent or agency’s submission guidelines. Otherwise, you have an almost 100% chance of being completely ignored.

Screening

In ancient times culture revolved around the spoken word. The oral skills of memorization, recitation, and rhetoric instilled in oral societies a reverence for the past, the ambiguous, the ornate, and the subjective. We were People of the Word. Then, about 500 years ago, orality was overthrown by technology. Gutenberg’s 1450 invention of metallic movable type elevated writing into a central position in the culture. By the means of cheap and perfect copies, printed text became the engine of change and the foundation of stability. From printing came journalism, science, libraries, and law. Printing instilled in society a reverence for precision (of black ink on white paper), an appreciation for linear logic (in a string of sentences), a passion for objectivity (of printed fact), and an allegiance to authority (via authors), whose truth was as fixed and final as a book.

But today more than 5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. Digital display manufacturers will crank out 3.8 billion new additional screens per year. That’s nearly one new screen each year for every human on earth. We will start putting watchable screens on any flat surface. Words have migrated from wood pulp to pixels on a glass surface in a rainbowof colors as fast as our eyes can blink. Screens fill our pockets, briefcases, dashboards, living room walls, and the sides of buildings. They sit in front of us when we work – regardless of what we do. We are now People of the Screen.

This has set up the current cultural clash between People of the Book and People of the Screen. The People of the Book today are the good hardworking people who make newspapers, magazines, the doctrines of law, the offices of regulation, and the rules of finance. They live by the book, by the authority derived from authors. The foundation of this culture is ultimately housed in texts. They are all on the same page, so to speak.

But today most of us have become People of the Screen. People of the Screen tend to ignore the classic logic of books or the reverence for copies; they prefer the dynamic flux of pixels. They gravitate toward movie screens, TV screens, computer screens, iPhone screens, VR goggle screens, tablet screens, and in the near future massive Day-Glo megapixel screens plastered on every surface. Screen culture is a world of constant flux, of endless sound bites, quick cuts, and half-baked ideas. It is a flow of tweets, headlines, instagrams, casual texts, and floating first impressions. Notions don’t stand alone but are massively interlinked to everything else; truth is not delivered by authors and authorities but is assembled in real time piece by piece by the audience themselves. People of the Screen make their own content and construct their own truth. Fixed copies don’t matter as much as flowing access. Screen culture is fast, like a 30-second movie trailer, and as liquid as and open-ended as a Wikipedia page.

People of the Book favor solutions by laws, while People of the Screen favor technology as a solution to all problems. Truth is, we are in a transition, and the clash between cultures of books and screens occurs within us as individuals as well. If you are an educated modern person, you are conflicted by these two models.

– from “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly

The Four Stages of Flowing

What has happened to music, books, and movies is now happening to games, newspapers, and education. The pattern will spread to transportation, agriculture, health care. Fixities such as vehicles, land, and medicines will become flows. Tractors will become fast computers outfitted with treads, land will become a substrate for a network of sensors, and medicines will become molecular information capsules flowing from patient to doctor and back.

These are the Four Stages of Flowing:

1. Fixed. Rare. The starting norm is precious products that take much expertise to create. Each is an artisan work, complete and able to stand alone, sold in high-quality reproductions to compensate the creation.
2. Free. Ubiquitous. The first disruption is promiscuous copying of the product, duplicated so relentlessly that it becomes a commodity. Cheap, perfect copies are spent freely, dispersed anywhere there is a demand. This extravagant dissemination of copies shatters the established economics.
3. Flowing. Sharing. The second disruption is an unbundling of the product into parts, each element flowing to find its own new uses and to be remixed into new bundles. The product is now a stream of services issuing from the shared cloud. It becomes a platform for wealth and innovation.
4. Opening. Becoming. The third disruption is enabled by the previous two. Streams of powerful services and ready pieces, conveniently grabbed at little cost, enable amateurs with little expertise to create new products and brand new categories of products. The status of creation is inverted, so that the audience is now the artist. Output, selection, and quality skyrocket.

These four stages of flowing apply to all media. All genres will exhibit some fluidity.

– from “Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly

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