Sessions were held around the Harbour Centre, faciliated by people who pitched the discussions online ahead of time at the Bookcamp wiki; people voted on which would be made part of the schedule. These were not panel discussions but open to full audience participation. They focused on the Book, Print Media, and how the shift and prevalence of electronic media has changed them, particularly in the realm of money-money-money. "Paradigm shift" was thrown around a lot because, hey, buzzwords! They're snacky. People were invited to tweet about the events under Twitter's #bcvan09 hashtag.
The nice thing about having four of us there was that we could meet up in between and pitch the salient points of the sessions at each other; there were usually anywhere between two and five takeaway thoughts from each forty-five minute session.
The sessions I ended up going to:
- BookRiff Media (faciliated by Julie Morris), currently available only as a Beta version but looking to launch soon. BookRiff will give authors the opportunity to upload their work, and then allow other users to buy that work to include in a self-curated (though they shied away from the idea of curatorship) anthology book which would then be printed and sent to them. Authors would be able to upload their work in different chunks--a short story, a poem, a postcard story, a chapter, a novel, etc--and assign it value. If someone selects my story priced at five dollars, that is added to the price of the book they're making. When they pay for their book the money is paid directly to the authors, with a flat three dollars added that goes to BookRiff's costs. Content could be aggregated based on keywords, themes, particular authors, and publishers could also put up work from their back catalogue. They'll be outsourcing the printing to presses around the world to cut down on shipping costs.
- I'm a Twitter/Facestab/Tumblr nerd, so I went to "Optimal Use of Social Media for Authors and Publishers" (faciliated by Thad McIlroy), how to use social media for promotion without having to sound like a dullsville Spambot or shameless cheese. You can't approach social media as a strategy itself but as a tool to use with a strategy. Rather than linking to your latest book and demanding people buy it, create stories through your social media that sell your work, compelling them to look at it. Get involved with your readership and be part of a community. People brought up different applications which tie social media together like the "Selective Twitter" app for Facebook (which allows you to add a #fb tag to your tweets if you want them to flow over to FB) or an iPhone app called "Boxcar," which monitors social media sites and automatically alerts you for mentions of specific things (ie, yourself). Publishers in the room commented that social media can backfire with some authors by affecting how they write adversely--make sure you know what social media would work best for you.
- "Getting to Zero: Who gets Paid when Books are Free?" (faciliated by Sean Cranbury) focused on the idea of "free" as in, "I've paid for this, now I'm free to do with it as I want." Sharing eBooks and pdfs and things along those lines. How works being shared through Peer 2 Peer sites and made available freely online could be used to guide people toward the print versions for sale. People brought up the idea that with content becoming so ubiquitous online, the niche of hand-bound, specially made books-as-objects were becoming more popular, which led to the question of "How do we accentuate the bookness of this book." This was countered with the skyrocketing costs of those objects and how to add value in other ways. Someone mentioned that they felt that, while they were a "tactile book person," in a decade or two when a large group of readers has been raised on more electronic media, books are too expensive or antiquated and the technology will have developed to allow for a more sensual, elegant experience using eBook readers, the idea might simply not matter anymore.
- "Blogging as Writer's Practice" (facilitated by Lorraine Murphy) looked using blogs as a source of income, a source for possible books, a tool for ensuring daily writing, and a way of getting yourself a community for your work. A lot of it dipped into being a writer and how to manage your image online (basically, don't worry about that poetry you put on Diaryland when you were sixteen, because nobody is going to look back that far and you were sixteen! They understand). One Cool Site was given as a blog with helpful tips for blogging effectively.
- People were allowed to pitch what sessions they'd like to close with, or moderators they wanted to talk to. I ended up at one on Do-It-Yourself Publishing (facilitated by Peter Armstrong) which was pretty interesting even as it devolved into some guy reading us a bunch of his children's books (you laugh, but SHAMELESS PROMOTION is some people's meat for the day). There was a lot of talk about posting drafts online to crowdsource yourself an editorial board, allowing people to buy your first draft and then giving them all later drafts for free (particularly in technical writing), or offering your work as installments, like Dickens. I mean, I hate Dickens but he had a very useful model.
It was a really great day, an opportunity to listen to a lot of thinking about how publishing works in this Brave New World, an acknowledgment that a fear of change drives a lot of panic about the death of print, and I liked that attention was paid to idea that looking at models where the author is prioritized over the publisher, which is could be a benefit.
As far as the actual unconference's set-up, it was pretty organic. The spaces given for discussion were classrooms and not designed for open talk; they weren't workshopping circles, unfortunately. It was free and provided really good free food, which is wonderful for a starving writer. Time was devoted to the BC arts funding cuts and how we could be mobilized to do something about it. It felt like a really positive, open space to get into the grit of the topics at hand and I'm really looking forward to seeing if they do another one next year.