EXTRA ETHER: A Good Day for the (R)evolution

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I’ve hugged my technologist extremely closely and well.

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Kate Pullinger

“Digital fiction” author Kate Pullinger of London, near the end of the day, embraced the subtle, central heart of Tuesday’s inaugural Author (R)evolution Day program at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference (TOC) installed this week at the Marriott on Broadway.

In almost every element of the contemporary writer’s condition, there are options, so many options, too many options. But tech’s tough-lovely drive is behind them. This choice-choked scenario that energizes some writers but paralyzes many more is derived from the digital dynamic sweeping the creative core of an exhausted industry.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook

The Author (R)evolution Day room was packed at many points during the day, attendees of the day’s adjacent  TOC workshops dropping by to see some of the program.

It’s apt, then, that tech- TOC has been the producing body to step up to a challenge I issued on the Ether last year. I wanted to see the authors in, basically—I wanted one or more of our major-conference producing bodies to provide an industry-class event in which the creative corps (and core) of this business could hear from top-level practitioners, observers, analysts, with a view to pounding out a serious way forward.

I saw publishers, CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, COOs mixing with innovators, startup chieftains, researchers, analysts…and no authors, no one who creates the fundamental element of publishing for all the rest, the stories.

After Tuesday’s event, I want to say thank you to Joe Wikert, Kat Meyer, their co-chair Kristen McLean — and to Tim O’Reilly, himself, who came to “#ARDay,” sat with us, watched and listened. O’Reilly is an organization that has stopped to turn and look at a pressing issue so richly associated with the upheaval and promise of a new publishing landscape. They’ve not only looked at it, but they’ve addressed it with a first outing that was, as promised, no tips-‘n’-tricks writers’ confab of the usual needlepoint-lessons variety.

Here are several important ways in which Author (R)evolution Day has arrived as an authors’ conference for entrepreneurial creative professionals:

  • It leverages the new centricity of authorial energy in the business. Joe Wikert, in his opening remarks Tuesday: “The pendulum of power over the years has shifted to authors.”
  • “Entrepreneurial” is the key, not self- or traditional publishing. The program accommodates the breadth of response we now must welcome: Kristen McLean made the point during the  morning session that Author (R)evolution Day (ARD) is agnostic on the question of self-publishing vs. traditional for authors. She noted recent statistics that indicate potential success for what we’ve called “hybrids” for some time now, writers who both self- and traditionally publish. And she anchored the ARD initiative firmly in the realm of what’s “entrepreneurial.” ARD is developed to address entrepreneurial authors and their needs.
  • Amazon is in the room. I was particularly glad to see Libby Johnson McKee, Amazon’s North American Director for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and CreateSpace. I’ve seen McKee in writer’s conference settings before. (Seattle’s leadership is engaged in the writing community, something I can’t honestly say about many other major publishers’ executives. Might be something to learn there.) We’ve already seen conferences this year with no Amazon presence. Nothing could be a bigger mistake. The largest player needs to be among us, know us, and let us know it. And in the warm, gracious humor of someone like McKee, a formidable edifice starts to look human in a hurry.

Meyer asked us at day’s end to help pinpoint areas in which we’d learned things. There were easily identifiable themes resonating all day in various sessions.

  • Conversation and engagement, reader-to-writer and writer-to-reader
  • Advocacy
  • Community
  • Strategy
  • Discoverability
  • Distribution
  • Self-direction

Authors, including Pullinger, Cory Doctorow, Mark Jeffrey, Scott Andrew James, and Amanda Havard of Immersedition, were on hand, as were writing counselors and program leaders including Eve Bridburg of Grub Street, who outlined the “logic model” she’s using with career-building authors in Boston.

Literary agent Jason Allen Ashlock—whose Movable Type Management has created the new Rogue Reader author collective—told the room with a wry smile that an author working alone in the business today may not be adept at what’s needed, “no matter how many times you’ve read Guy Kawasaki’s book.”  The agent as a rapidly evolving “radical advocate,” he said, is the only such support equipped to stay with authors for the long term of the changes ahead.

For the first time in my conference-coverage experience, a session on metadata for authors was included, with one of the country’s leaders in the field of identifiers, Laura Dawson of Bowker. One study, she said, has shown that simply adding a book image could increase reader interest in a book by more than 260 percent. The importance of good data, and of monitoring your data, she explained, cannot be overstated.

“Without this information, you’re leaving readers with a lot of questions,” Dawson said. “Or no questions, which is worse.”

Note: Bowker has announced a new partnership with with New York’s Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL) to form the new Bowker eBook Conversion Service for authors. I have a story for it at Publishing PerspectivesBowker Intro’s 1-Stop ISBN Ebook Conversion Service.

From marketing and discovery discussions with Author Day co-sponsor (thank you) Publishers Weekly’s Cevin Bryarman and Kobo’s Mark Lefevbre to community and audience-creation debate with Wattpad’s Allen Lau and distribution points from Net Minds’ Tim Sanders, the tone and pitch of the day was rooted in responsibility—the author’s responsibility to educate him- and herself, to learn to flex long-unused business muscles by understanding the business and tackling deficiencies.

| | |

Last year, I left Digital Book World (DBW) and TOC frustrated because authors were all but invisible in these great annual high-end state-of-publishing productions. It felt scandalous to me that as a journalist I could hear from publishing executives, analysts, commentators speaking to each other…as if the authors weren’t on the need-to-know list about a market smoky with confusion and wholly dependent on the creative essential produced by the absent authors.

This year, as TOC “proper” goes forward Wednesday and Thursday, the picture has changed, thanks to O’Reilly Media’s first-class response to that appeal, complete with a daylong free video stream of the events provided for authors who couldn’t be with us.

Thanks to TOC’s Shirley Bailes, I can tell you that the presentation slides made available by ARD speakers are being posted on this page, and many are available now, including those I put together for my onstage interview with Bridburg.

You see what I mean about TOC being a class act.

The bar hasn’t been raised, it’s been set, and for the first time. TOC’s program is singular in its scope and fully up to the crisp standard of the production capability we know as its trademark in international conference events in publishing.

This Author (R)evolution was a good Day for writers. I look forward to many more.


Images: Porter Anderson

Posted in Writing on the Ether.

Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He's The Bookseller's (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He's a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he's a regular contributor of "Provocations in Publishing" with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal's SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair's Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.

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27 Comments on "EXTRA ETHER: A Good Day for the (R)evolution"

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Since Amazon was in the room, I would be curious to know the reaction, if any, about Amazon’s new patent for “used” digital files.

Porter Anderson


Hi, and thanks for the good question. Alas, we didn’t have a chance to get into the patent on the “used digital content” issue, although this was a heavily debated theme at a TOC Executive Roundtable on Monday — not so much the Amazon patent but the work of ReDigi as a marketplace for such content. Our focus in the panel on which Libby McKee joined us was the author’s choices in production and distribution services.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Our regular Writing on the Ether runs here at JaneFriedman.com each Thursday, do join us!


CJ Lyons
I watched the livestream (brilliant idea! Thank you TOC!) and while the speakers were dynamic and engaging, 99% of what they covered was a great overview of “what” authors (pursuing any route to career success) needed to know but definitely lacking in the “how” to do it. We know what we need–if we don’t, there are hundreds of places to find it, including here on this blog–what we’re lacking is the specifics. For instance, metadata–I’ve been trying to do my own and talking to my NYC publishers on how to do that better for years, so I was excited to… Read more »

“only to learn once again what it is and why it’s important but not HOW to do it better”

CJ, I think that’s because it’s a learning curve for everyone. The how-to do it better is still in the making because no one really knows. Humble two cents.

CJ Lyons

Exactly why that’s the conversation that needs to be happening, ME. Like Bob, I’ve been a “hybrid” since 2010 and have successfully managed my career with both NYC and self-publishing as well as forming strategic partnerships with several small to medium presses…in fact, I think “strategic partnerships” is the key word that we’ll be hearing a lot of this year…but people need to understand how to make those decisions. There’s no one right way, but without information we’re all just winging it.

Porter Anderson
@cjlyons:disqus Hi, CJ, And my apologies for taking so long to respond. I’ve had the heaviest week of the year in terms of conference coverage (both in New York and London), and didn’t want to give your qualms short shrift with a too-fast response. I do understand your concern about Author (R)evolution Day seeming at times to focus on a fairly basic level of authorial issues and needs. But I think it’s important to remember that this was an unprecedented conference given by organizers who are new to staging events for authors. It’s important not only to welcome and praise… Read more »
CJ Lyons
Hi again, Porter! I’m sorry if you thought I felt the Author [R]evolution day wasn’t worthwhile—that wasn’t my intent. Rather, I wanted “more, please!” from the speakers. As you know, I’ve been a long time advocate of the author as CEO of You, Inc…ever since my first NYC publisher abandoned my debut novel because of cover art issues beyond my control. Yes, there are still authors who prefer to isolate themselves inside a snowball globe labeled “artist” with no connection to the outside world…I doubt they will ever be TOC’s target audience. The talks at the inaugural Author [R]evolution were… Read more »
Doug Lance

And the authors who don’t understand that they need to be entrepreurial-minded don’t matter.

I think there is a lack of concrete how-to because 99% of people who create this type of material simply don’t know.

Porter Anderson
@douglance:disqus Hey, Doug, Apologies for the late reply, lots of travel intervening. You’re putting your finger on something that’s not always readily admitted — there really are a lot of things we don’t know yet, in terms of what works and what doesn’t. We know areas we’re particularly in the dark on, such as pricing online. In other parts of the issue, we’re truly at sea — one of the biggest, to my mind, being a way to merge the mechanics of a business mind with the requirements of a creative intelligence. Too much material, as you suggest, really includes… Read more »
Porter Anderson


Hey, CJ,

Scroll down and check below your response to ME (you initial people, I swear, lol). I’ve responded to you there. Thanks!


Roxie Munro

I attended in person…Porter has done a wonderful job in crystallizing the major points. And it is important for authors, the creative folks/the “content providers,” to be given a focus in a conference like this one. The main message, I think, is that authors must, like it or not, become entrepreneurs. The metadata info was excellent, and Pullinger’s talk was great – we need to think more about transmedia, telling a story across multiple platforms.

Porter Anderson
@roxiemunro:disqus Thanks so much for your kind words, Roxie, AND your clear thinking on this. Sounds to me as if you really made good use of your day with us, and I’m delighted you could be with us — a bit of history made as we had the first-ever such event under TOC’s auspices. You’re right about the entrepreneurial imperative. And, of course, it’s not a comfortable reality for many but, as you say, is coming into focus as an increasingly important fact of authorial life. Please keep following as the TOC initiative is developed further, and thanks again for… Read more »
Bob Mayer
There aren’t many people who have the full spectrum of experience from creating the content to actually having the content in the readers hands. I used the term “hybrid” author back in June 2011 and it was talking to a void. People were setting up camp as either an indie or a trad. The reality, the successful author is everything; but they can’t do everything by themselves. I’ve even changed the way my company works with authors. We’re not publishers. We’re partners, with the most valued person being the author. We have ten authors we’re working with now and Jennifer… Read more »
Porter Anderson


Thanks, Bob, good to have your input, as usual. Several times during the day, the point was made that there’s basically no such “independence” as “indie” suggests to many people. It’s always a collaborative effort, in other words, which seems borne out by your experience and work.

The concept of publishing both in a traditional and self-publishing format, by the way, is still “void” territory to many. Those of us focused on the digital dynamic are familiar with it and with surveys and trends, of course, but the idea still is new for many.

Thanks again,


[…] commented on Porter Anderson’s post on Jane Friedman’s blog about this and another commenter said she thought it was because we’re all just starting out […]


[…] have a separate Extra Ether for you on “#ARDay,” as we hashed it: A Good Day for the (R)evo­lu­tion. I’m really proud of that event, as I told Wikert at breakfast yesterday. Really proud, and […]

Victoria Noe
Well, Porter, I’m still processing all that I heard and learned at ARDay. Aside from the lack of Mardi Gras libations and chocolate in any form, I have few complaints. The thing that struck me throughout the day was that I never heard a tone of condescension. Frankly, I’ve heard that a lot at other conferences, when industry professionals speak to a room full of authors: that “now, dear, listen to what I’m telling you” snarky tone of voice. None of that at ARDay, and I was grateful. I didn’t feel like I was sitting at the kids’ table. I,… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@twitter-240542789:disqus Hey, Viki, Still in London on my mighty Tour des Confabs here, lol, but wanted to get back to you to say thanks for this comment — let alone for coming to Author (R)evolution day and reverting to us with such helpful insight and observations. Do have a look at CJ Lyons’ comments below and my answer to her. What’s interesting, of course, is that she felt elements of our program were too basic and she wanted more detailed approaches to issues she’s encountering. Not that I have a thing against seeing that kind of work available at Author… Read more »
Victoria Noe
Yes, obviously, the decision to keep us all together all day was deliberate, and I see the point. There were things that I already knew, a few things (tech-wise) over my head, and a few perspectives that were new, at least to me. We are all, as you reinforce in other comments, in different places in our career development. Even if you have tracks, people will decide for themselves what track they’re in. They may not be accurate in that assessment. But as I said, perhaps for the first time at a conference, I felt the presenters did not consider… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@twitter-240542789:disqus And I’m so glad you got that feeling, Viki, of not being talked down to at Author (R)evolution Day. The moment we begin to face the fact of the entrepreneurial author at the center of the industry, we have to concede that this means professionals in the house. And in any setting like an ARD conference, we must assume the attendees are those professionals — just getting oneself to the conference in New York, and/or watching the live-stream that TOC was generous enough to provide, is an act of professionalism that can help guide a writer toward his or… Read more »

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