Pondering the future of publishing, in San Jose


I spent the past few days in San Jose at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference , a techie-meets-publishing idea extravaganza.

My dear friend, Sarah Milstein, is one of the conference chairs, and she and Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, opened the event with an amusing romp through publishing innovations from the beginning of recorded time. (Sumerian tablets were nifty, but not too portable.) One of the highlights of their talk was a hysterical video called “Medieval Tech Support,” which has been making its way around publishing offices for some time.

If you haven’t seen it, watch it here.

The video captures the tone of the conference perfectly: new technology has always been a little scary for users; over time, we adapt and see its value.

I got a chance to speak with Wired editor and “Long Tail” author Chris Anderson in a panel about how publishers and authors can be better partners on book promotion. Some of the subjects we hit upon included:

  • how to reconcile what might appear to be the misaligned interests of publishers and authors (e.g. Chris’s interest is promoting the Chris Anderson brand, which now includes earning income from speaking as well as from selling books, whereas his publisher might be primarily focused on selling books.) Upon further discussion, it became clear that these interests might not be misaligned.
  • techniques for partnering and sharing innovative ideas with other authors and in the greater publishing community (what I am starting to call “Author School”).
  • the need for all writers to become adept at self-promotion (for which we were properly challenged when an audience member questioned the wisdom of applying this same standard to fiction writers.)

It was a provocative discussion, the kind that left me with as many questions as answers.

Chris also talked about his latest slash, Booktour.com, a site he’s founded along with Adam Goldstein (who I coincidentally profiled in my book way back when Adam was a mere high school student/author/software developer) and Kevin Smokler (author/founder of Virtual Book Tour) where authors can list their upcoming events and potential audience members can search for events in their areas. Booktour would have been a godsend for me these past few months, but I plan to use it going forward for all my events. If you’re an author doing events, get there pronto. The site is still in Beta mode. I believe the official launch is next week.

Below is a small writeup about the panel on Mediabistro’s GalleyCat:

Tools of Change: Chris Anderson Will Take Your Call

Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson teamed up with NYT online career columnist Marci Alboher for a Tools of Change panel on getting more out of marketing with authors, and opened with a whammy: “All authors are underserved by the book industry,” he said of current marketing and publicity efforts. For the next half hour or so, the two discussed ways to change that situation, including building up an author’s “word-of-mouth in the permalink world” and giving authors the tools to become their own best marketers. “We need to destigmatize small success,” Anderson said, referrign to the disappointment some writers still feel when their book gets mentioned on a blog rather than in a newspaper’s book review section. And we need to look to the long term; “if an author is the best expert I can find for a topic in my column,” Alboher said, “I don’t care if the book’s three years old.”

In response to a query from the audience, Anderson made a bold promise, which he said when I introduced myself afterwards I can pass on to you: He’s willing to do a free conference call with any publisher who wants to discuss these marketing issues and bring their authors into the conversation. “As long as I don’t have to get on a plane,” he quipped.

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Denver wrap-up


I’ve just spent a few days in Denver, where I’m happy to report that the low humidity does wonders for those of us prone to the hair frizzies. In other news, Denver was also home to a some very slash-receptive audiences and even a spot on local tv, so that’s always nice.

Here’s the link to my appearance on the Denver morning news.
http://www.9news.com/life/programming/shows/mornings/article.aspx?storyid=71943
(I’m told this will expire in 30 days so please watch soon!)

On Wednesday, Carol Ross, a career coach who specializes in Boundary Crossers, interviewed me for the Northwestern University Alumni Club. Carol’s work is very innovative and she has an excellent blog worth a visit. And last night, I organized a salon called “The Secret Lives of Writers” through the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, which is hosting a great two-week LitFest. If you’re anywhere near Denver and interested in writing, get yourself over to the Lighthouse site and sign up for some workshops and panels. More information on that here.

The New York Law Journal covered my book today in this article, “Lawyers Find Bliss in Pursuing Alternate Careers” (not sure if the registration will let you in, but if it doesn’t, I’ll see if I can post it to my website.) This is shaping up to a pretty perfect Friday! I’m now turning off the computer and getting ready for a walk in Washington park with my old friend Jen before hopping on the plane.

** Carol Ross also blogged about her interview with me. You can read it here.

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Why I left the law — short answer


I recently got a two-part question from a second year law student in Florida. Taking a page from Jeremy Blachman, one of may favorite bloggers, who likes to post his answers to such questions on his blog, I’m going to start to do the same whenever it makes sense. I’ve started to get a lot of questions from readers, and I’m guessing that if one person has a question, might have a similar one. Plus, it will share more of my back-story, something I want to do in this blog. And it should give readers an idea of how I feel about the questions I get.

The question was: What prompted you to leave the law after 10 years? I inquire because I am a 2L and would appreciate some candid insight into what I can expect from a career in law. Thank you in advance for your response.

Here’s what I wrote:

What you can expect from a career in the law is an awfully big question and the answer is completely different if you end up working for the A.C.L.U., a small law firm in Iowa, a big firm in L.A., or the federal trade commission in DC. That question is a bit like asking what you can expect from a career in business.

If you tell me a bit more about what you want to do in the law or the kinds of opportunities you’re choosing between, I might be able to shed more light.

As to why I left the law, that’s also not a short answer kind of question. But here are a few reasons.

1. I ended up doing very specialized work that I wasn’t passionate about and after some searching around didn’t feel like there was another practice area that jazzed me enough to try to figure out how to move in that direction.

2. At the same time, I was becoming increasingly drawn to writing. I was reading a lot, taking classes, and the urge to get published was really nagging at me.

When you combine #1 and #2 it was a bit like feeling like your marriage is starting to fracture and then noticing that rather conveniently you were starting to find yourself attracted to an available and willing partner.

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Summer Classes in Iowa, with a literary Rock Star!


I was considering limiting the number of times a week I use the Heymarci Blog to promote a friend’s new book, new class/workshop/product, or overall fabulousness. But it’s my blog and that’s one of the beauties of being able to make the rules. So as long as my friends continue to do exceptional things, you’re going to hear about them.

In that vein, here’s the latest offering from one of my exceptional friends, Faith Adiele, whose award-winning memoir Meeting Faith, an account on her experience becoming a Buddhist nun in Thailand, should be on everyone’s summer reading list.

Faith is teaching a few workshops in Iowa this summer and it’s a chance to study with a real star.

For more about Faith, visit her site. Faith is also a regular contributor to O Magazine (you can read her most recent O story on her site.)

What We Talk About When We Talk About Food: Food Writing Weekend Workshop, July 14–15

Politics & Poetics: Writing Yourself Into/Onto The World One-Week Workshop, July 15–20

Travel Tales: Making The Foreign Familiar & The Familiar Foreign

One-Week Workshop, July 22–27

TO REGISTER, AND GET MORE INFORMATION,
VISIT THE IOWA SUMMER WRITING FESTIVAL SITE.

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Penelope Trunk’s new book


As I was promoting my book, I approached lots of writers I admired. Sometimes I wanted them to think of me as the expert on slash careers. Sometimes I was looking for advice about how to make that move from journalist to author. In other cases I hoped the writer would say some kind words about about my book in the form of a review, a blog entry, a blurb. Because I limited myself to writers I admired, I was sincere every time I wrote which made this process enjoyable rather than daunting.

Penelope Trunk was one of those writers I approached. I had heard of her, and read her Climb column in the Boston Globe; but after a reference in the Wall Street Journal to her blog, The Brazen Careerist, I started reading the blog, which developed into a daily habit. When I ultimately choose to write to her, I didn’t really know what I wanted to happen. I just wanted to meet her. I wrote on a day when something she posted on her blog had pretty much flattened me. I couldn’t get any work done after reading the post, and I was affected by how she took took a horribly difficult moment in her life as a parent and turned it into a brilliant piece of advice. Penelope immediately wrote back and we struck up both a friendship and a professional relationship that was one of the gifts of writing my book. (In the end, she did say some kind words about my book, and that was a bonus.)

Well, now Penelope’s book The Brazen Careerist is out and it is as smart, unpredictable and bold as she is. Perhaps the best praise I can give her book is that it has completely raised the bar for the rest of us who write about careers. Every time I think about my next article, column or blog post, I now think, “Penelope has probably already said something original, brilliant, and smart on this.” Then I run to her blog and realize that she has. So I have to try harder. And she’s the first person who will tell me this.

Thanks for the kick in the butt Penelope! And since we all need a kick in the butt, I encourage you to buy the book.

Since you’ll all ask me, here is the post that made me write to Penelope.

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Take a Class, Tweak Your Career – (NYTimes.com)

When I left the law to pursue freelance writing, I debated going for a masters degree in journalism. But then I took a few adult education classes and realized that for my goals, it wasn’t necessary to go back to grad school. It also didn’t make much sense to me to invest tens of thousands of dollars for a career where I’d be earning substantially less than my salary as a lawyer. I’m now a huge fan of these kinds of classes. This week, my online column for the New York Times, Shifting Careers, is about why these classes are often all you need for a dramatic career shift.

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Attention all Moms!

When I first started writing, I had an inordinate number of mentors. One of them, Tamara Loomis, was about a year ahead of me on the law-to-journalist train and I thought I would never catch up. Tamara treated me as a peer from the start, made time for all my silly questions, and inspired me by the way she quickly became a professional, and then by the ways she continued to reinvent herself — first as a legal reporter for The New York Law Journal, then as a freelancer/new mom. But now I think she’s found her calling, as a snarky, smarty pants daily columnist/blogger for Cookie Magazine, the hippest of the parenting pubs. Even if you’re not a mom, you’ll agree that First Feeding is good stuff.

So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I give you Tamara!

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Two NYC seminars taught by friends

BOOK PUBLICITY TELESMINAR with Stephanie Gunning (5/10)

Stephanie Gunning is offering a FREE teleseminar on the secrets of successful book promotion. She’ll be interviewing Brian Feinblum, of publicity firm Planned Television Arts, and they promise to spill the beans on:

* Pitches that impress radio & tv producers
* Elements of kick-ass electronic press kits
* The ooh-la-la factor in press releases
* The ins and outs (and merits) of local tours
* Easy approaches to in-print journalists

Date: Thursday, May 10
Time: 8 PM (ET), 5 PM (PT)
Cost: $0
How to register: Follow instructions at http://www.stephaniegunning.com/teleseminar
Any questions, contact Stephanie Gunning – abundantworlds@aol.com

EXTREME SUCCESS SEMINAR with Karen Salmansohn (5/21)

May 21st/Soho House.

According to Salmansohn, “You don’t need to work longer hours — just ballsier hours.” In this seminar, Salmansohn will give pointers on “how to become your balliest, most successful self” — from her empowering book, BALLSY: WAYS TO SCORE EXTREME SUCCESS.

How to register: Sign up at paypal at Salmansohn’s site — www.notsalmon.com
Location: Soho House @ 9th Avenue, between 13th/14th St.
Time: 7-8:30pm
Cost: $35 PER PERSON
Any questions contact Karen Salmansohn — info@notsalmon.com

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Outing your slashes — Let’s talk about it.

As I go around speaking about the slash way of life, one theme that repeatedly dominates the conversation is whether, when and how to reveal your various identities. Of course, with any complex question, the answer is, “It depends.” Generally I find that people are more comfortable when they can be open about their various identities. The easiest cases are when one slash fuels the other — for me, writing and coaching other writers works that way. But when slashes have the potential to clash — like when you’ve got a corporate job and you’re starting your own business on the side, it’s a more delicate dance.

I am working on a longer article on this subject and want to hear your thoughts about openness and transparency in a slash life. I’m looking for examples of when it’s been helpful and when it’s been a disaster. I’m also looking for innovative approaches to bios/websites/blogs/business cards that reveal multiple identities. Send them my way and I’ll probably blog about them.

Malcolm Gladwell, one of the most well respected journalists around, does a great job of explaining how he is both a legitimate journalist and a highly paid public speaker on his
website.

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Why write books?

Every author with a new book and every writer with an idea for a new book should read today’s New York Times story, “The Mommy Flak: Books That May Generate More Buzz Than Buyers.”

It summarizes so much of what I’ve been pondering lately. And what my author friends and I talk about as we wonder about our future as authors in a time when people don’t need to read books to get the ideas within them. The references to sales figures for some well known books made me a little queasy. (Sylvia Ann Hewlitt’s “Creating a Life” only sold 11,000 in hard copy and 2,000 in paperback!) It’s as if these authors were shown naked in the pages of the New York Times. {As for my own book sales, I like not knowing those numbers. When people ask me how the book is doing, I say it’s like weighing yourself when you’ve just started a diet. I’m still not ready to get on the scale.)

I continue to wonder.

Is the goal to write a book that will sell thousands or hundreds of thousands of copies? Or is it to write books that propel us into places where we attract new and higher profile outlets to express our ideas? Or something else altogether.

Lately when people call me to ask about their nonfiction book ideas, I ask them to think about what they want to be after their book comes out.

Do you want to get more clients?
Do you want to raise your profile as a writer?
Do you want to hit the bestseller lists?
Do you want to expose people to a new way of thinking?
Do you want to entertain and amuse people?

If you don’t know what you want to accomplish with your book, it’s awfully hard to know if you’ve succeeded.

Whenever I get a note from a reader telling me that my book validates their way of life, I feel like I’ve done what I set out to do. Still, it’s hard not to focus on the numbers.

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