New Think? Not So Much

March 15th, 2009 · 65 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Nutshell analysis of the “New Think for Old Publishers” panel at South by Southwest 2009: there was a not a single new think in the room.

Let me be clear. Absolutely clear. Not one word spoken in that session, either from the panelists or from the audience, was new or innovative.

(This is ironic given the fact that Penguin UK/Six to Start won two awards for the brilliant We Tell Stories project later that night. Congratulations to everyone involved, with a special shout-out to Jeremy Ettinghausen!)

Let’s back up. The panel — fronting a room of about 300 people — was supposed to be about how “…participatory culture and the online world interact with good olde [sic] book publishing”. The printed material suggests that we were supposed to learn what is going right and wrong in publishing…to learn how books and blogs can work.

Setting aside the very 2005 nature of this notion, the panel came nowhere near achieving these goals. At the very end of the web description of the panel, it says that audience members are invited to speak up on this topic.

If you’re going to hold a session called “New Think for Old Publishers”, you gotta come with some new thinking. Either that or tell the audience that it’s a research session…and the audience is supposed to bring the new thinking. Good idea, needed better execution. Nobody read the panel description to mean “we want the audience to tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it”.

Especially considering the number of people in the room who charge good money for their consulting services. We’re actually attending the conference to hear words of wisdom from the panelists, not the other way around. I missed Gary V for this show because I so wanted hear about publishing success.

We knew we were in for a bumpy ride when the panel responded to the audience question about the hashtag — a Twitter notation that helps aggregate related comments — with befuddlement before hastily assembling a response. This tells me that most of the panel hasn’t been attending other SXSW sessions. The backchannel conversation is here. I won’t pull punches: it was brutal.

As the panelists expounded upon their lofty roles in the world of publishing — and I’m sorry to say that it sounded as if they worked on a mountain high, whether intended or not — they seemed oblivious to fact that they were speaking to a room filled with publishers. It was as if we didn’t understand the rigors the job.

Approximately 25% of the people in that audience read a book a week. Amazing, considering the reading habits of the public at large, and I think it’s indicative of the fact that we wanted this panel to rock. We get a lot of information from online sources. But from the panel, we received subtle put-downs: the idea that blurbs from nearly-defunct newspapers have more credibility (with whom?) than well-read blogs, the notion that we didn’t get the curation function you provide.

(Aside: I suspect many of the audience were there just to see/hear Clay Shirky, and his comments about long-form writing, online culture, search versus serendipity, and the tension between selling and sharing — within the first five minutes of the panel — set the stage for a very different panel than the one we witnessed. If only…)

(Second aside: Did the publishing people on the panel realize how many attendees were part of the competition, and not in the traditional manner? Just curious, because if you’re going to show your underbelly, is it smart to do in front of the sharks?)

Then the conversation was flipped: the publishing people on stage said, essentially, tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it. You have 300 people who give up an hour of their lives to hear the cool things the traditional publishing business is doing…and you can ask them to consult on your business?

It was a bit of a surprise, I imagine, to encounter that level of audience hostility: they want us to tell them how to fix their business? And the comments, including mine — a simple plea to stop forcing your customers to become pirates by getting over the format/DRM war — were generally met with nods rather than engagement. If Clay Shirky hadn’t rebounded by mentioning that Thomas Nelson had recently done this, I would have felt like I was speaking into a black hole.

Let me be clear. Absolutely clear. Not one word spoken in that session, either from the panelists or from the audience, was new or innovative. The panel, well, we’ve all heard job descriptions before. The audience? That was one very long line of people saying the same things we’ve been saying to the publishing industry for ten years. And yet the publishing people treated our comments as if they were items to be added to a list.

A list that will be filed in a drawer along with other conference ephemera.

I talked about selling books not formats. Kevin Smokler of Booktour.com asked the same simple question he’s been asking for a long time. He wants an efficient way to get your author tour data into his system so that the readers who have signed up to get notifications about signings in their area get those notifications. That is all. He wants to help you, but you’re not helping yourselves.

Another person asked you to stop suing writers of fanfic and maybe work with them. Others wanted more engagement from you, more outreach, more information. One author noted you publish 3500 books a week…how does her book even begin to stand a chance in the market? And more and more and more.

We barely got started, and time didn’t allow all of us to speak. You gave us an hour to answer a question you’ve been spending over a decade on?

It just gets worse. At the after-party, one panelist told me that “this is all new to us”. Give. Me. A. Break. It’s only new for those of you who’ve been pretending change is something you get from a dollar bill. Now you’re wondering how to interact with blogs? Now you’re learning that there’s an entire conference devoted to change in the industry?

I’m so sorry, but it must be said. The future of publishing is already happening. People are doing it and they’re doing it really well. If you’re still worried about engaging bloggers, you are worrying about the wrong thing. And if you really want to know how to engage in new thinking, it would be awesome if you started by acknowledging and addressing the issues we’ve been raising in the past.

(Aside three: Might as well address the blogger question. It’s quite simple. Find the bloggers big and small in your various genres, develop a relationship with them, understand their tastes, like, dislikes, deadlines, lead time, preferred method of communication, preferred formats for books [remember, they are publishers too and have many of the same issues you have]. Treat the bloggers with respect — you need them more than they need you. And note, the publishers who are already doing this well are leaps and bounds ahead of you.)

Here is Kirk Biglione’s take on the panel: Traditional Publishers Crash and Burn at SXSW. And another here.

Updated Monday a.m. to fix typos and add a third aside.

File Under: The Future of Publishing

65 responses so far ↓

  • Joanna Penn // Mar 15, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    This is a brilliant post! a scathing attack on a system that seems to be broken and they don’t realise that the rest of us have moved on!

    Trad publishing thinks we are still sitting here waiting for that big advance, but savvy authors are off making it happen! We are blogging, publishing on Amazon ourselves with POD, getting our books on Amazon and Kindle, tweeting to promote, making viral videos and podcasting our work.
    Authors are reinventing themselves and trad publishing needs to keep up!
    Thanks Kassia!

  • PJ // Mar 15, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Although I agree with your article there is at least one publisher who is trying, as I discovered recently. Harper Collins’ Authonomy site is a definite step in the right direction.

    I would hope that we’ll see more efforts like this soon.

  • bowerbird // Mar 16, 2009 at 12:38 am

    now you know how i feel.

    i come to this blog regularly
    — because you’re one of those
    “people who charge good money”
    for your consulting services
    — and yet i learn _nothing_.

    you’ve wasted not just one hour
    of my time, but hours and hours.

    all for _nothing_ at all.

    and the circle of back-scratchers
    scratches your back with links,
    and you scratch their back back,
    and yet i learn _nothing_…

    now you know how i feel…

    -bowerbird

  • Kirk // Mar 16, 2009 at 6:41 am

    Bowerbird, you’re free to move on. No one is forcing you to be here.

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 16, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Thanks for the comments, and I’d like to state for the record that there are publishers out there who are fighting the good fight and truly innovating in this new market. A few: Thomas Nelson, Samhain Publishing, Harlequin. And others. This might be what made this panel so disheartening. Well that and the gross misread of the audience.

  • Angela James // Mar 16, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Thanks for the shout out re: Samhain, Kassia. I have to say, I have mad, mad props for the people in Harlequin’s digital dept.

  • Bella Stander // Mar 16, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Absolutely brilliant! I’m quoting Aside 3 (with link, of course) in my blog as instruction to authors seeking to promote their books.

    Brava Kassia!

  • Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: loudpoet / Building and Curating Your Community, Part I // Mar 16, 2009 at 8:01 am

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  • Mark // Mar 16, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Thanks Kassia. I appreciate the first hand reporting. Your analysis had me wondering if the “this is all new to us” comment at the after party spoke more to the accountability of the publishers more than anything else. Publishers rarely have to answer to their audience. And as you point out, publishing itself isn’t that special anymore.

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 16, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Good question, Mark. After some back and forth with gentleman, we mutually spun it to be about talking to readers, but I think, in this case, it was a broader “this is all new”. Perhaps one key task for publishers in the next year is to do more educating of non-marketing personnel about how the online world works. I think it would help all levels understand the world beyond their specific jobs. I do not believe the panelists, except Deb Schwartz, the moderator — who wasn’t in a good position to monitor the back channel at that time — understand the way information flows online.

  • Mike Cane // Mar 16, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Sheesh. Really, did you expect anything else?!

    No, I’m not trying to slap you down. But the evidence is clear that one of several things must happen:

    1) Someone in Parent Corporate must wake up and fire the existing structure

    2) The existing structure must all drop dead

    3) eBook sales from outside the existing structure must kill the existing structure

    We are dealing with an entrenched corporate structure ruled by lawyering. Socialness cannot happen under that rubric.

  • Elizabeth Burton // Mar 16, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Seems like one problem was that, even though the premise was to have traditional publishers address the changes they aren’t dealing well with, it would have behooved the programming people to have at least one of the NEW publishers on the panel. Not a self-published author but someone from one of the new, digitally based publishers that utilizes inventory-free printing and ebooks on a regular basis.

    But sadly, I’m not surprised to hear how this turned out. The traditional publishing industry, not excepting the booksellers, is fossilized in a business model developed more than 80 years ago, and they’re like T. Rex two days after the asteroid hit–aware something has gone wrong but totally incapable of grasping that the mammals are about to take over.

  • Monique // Mar 16, 2009 at 9:54 am

    I left the publishing industry for this very ineptitude. Thank you for standing up and sounding eloquent. I was simply enraged.

  • Baby Got Books » Books by Southwest (or “more news from nowhere”) // Mar 16, 2009 at 10:14 am

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  • Anna Lewis // Mar 16, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Really appreciate the report.
    Having spent nearly a year now learning about the publishing industry and meeting publishers whilst building on online book community, I’ve often felt a fair bit of frustration at the newness of ‘new thinking’ within the industry. There are always exceptions, but it really is no wonder that Amazon is heading the digital charge rather than the publishers doing it themselves.

    I support the idea of educating non-marketing personnel. The way publishers are structured often puts the employees into silos that don’t communicate well with each other, let alone the readers.

    At CompletelyNovel, like BookTour, we are also trying to help publishers help themselves, but it can be surprisingly difficult!

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  • Richard Nash // Mar 16, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Thanks, Kassia. I hope, 360 days from now, at SXSW2010 to be able to have at least the prototype of a publishing infrastructure that can begin to accomplish all of the above, and more besides (link and hopefully house fanfic next door to the inspiration fic, for example).

    Minor observation PJ: Authonomy is astroturf, unfortunately.

    Macro observation: Peter Miller (The Bloomsbury Publicity Dir.) is a great guy, really committed to book publicity. The failure represented there is deeply systemic, the individuals to be held accountable are safely ensconced at home…

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 16, 2009 at 11:52 am

    I am counting on it being less that 360 days. I think there are many cool things going on in publishing, and, wow, the people I’ve met have so many ideas. This is why I have faith.

    I thought Yen’s post was great because she hit a key element: the presenters, who are all committed to their work, weren’t able to adapt quickly enough to the audience. Had they been positioned to be more nimble or better clued in to the audience and culture, I hope it would have been a different outcome.

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 16, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Mike, I did have higher hopes. I’ve seen some cool innovation by various pubs, and wanted this to be a starting point for the SXSW panel. I think this goaded non-attendees into thinking about how they can represent.

  • Mark Coker // Mar 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Great post, Kassia. Sounds like there was some interesting deer-in-the-headlights action taking place. Wish I was there.

  • ed // Mar 16, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    The sustained resistance that I see among the publishing crowd to blogs, podcasts, ebooks, and other present online realities continues to astonish me to some extent. And yet I’m not entirely amazed at what transpired at this panel. These people continue to go out of their way to make our job difficult, when it’s just so simple to accommodate these needs, and they likewise have the hubris to nod their heads while refusing to listen. This do this even as their revenue droops. And I simply don’t know what the hell it’s going to take to persuade these knuckleheads that “new media” is no longer new.

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Mark — I do wish you were here, and I wish I’d thought to add you to my earlier comment about publishers doing cool things. Consider this an official shout-out: Smashwords is among those publishers doing cool things!

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Ed, I think that was the most incredible thing about Kevin Smokler’s comments. He’s trying to, as he said, cheerlead, yet he’s getting a lot of resistance. I think you, like me, would have jumped up to comment. Probably you would have been more eloquent. I like the “new media is no longer new” tag line. It’s appropriate on so many levels.

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  • bowerbird // Mar 16, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    kirk said:
    > Bowerbird, you’re free
    > to move on. No one is
    > forcing you to be here.

    and i take it that no one was
    forced to attend that panel…

    but instead of “moving on”,
    you voiced your reactions…

    so now you know how the
    members of the panel felt.

    so i guess the difference is that
    you paid money to be there,
    while i learn nothing here at
    absolutely no monetary cost.
    all you waste is my time…

    -bowerbird

  • Maya Reynolds // Mar 16, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks for the summary, Kassia. I had toyed with the idea of attending SXSW–mostly for that session. You made me glad I stayed home.

  • Kirk // Mar 16, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    This works both way
    Bowerbird.
    You have nothing
    to offer,
    and yet you waste
    our time
    with comments
    that add nothing
    to the conversation.

    I’ve addressed the
    Bowerbird problem
    in other venues.
    Kassia has been far
    too nice with you
    on Booksquare.
    I’m hoping
    she comes to
    her senses
    soon.

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 16, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    bowerbird, I’ve never broken up with a commenter before, but you claim that I’m wasting your time, so maybe it’s for the the best. You don’t appreciate me, and while I agree with you, wow, you refuse to contribute to the conversation. I can handle being called stupid, having a healthy ego, but I cannot tolerate the fact that you refuse to contribute to the conversation in an adult manner.

    I think you should start your own blog and express your own opinions. You’re not wrong on some points, but you’re not able to see all perspectives on a topic. It’s a big world out there, and I hope you find someone who understands you. I hope we can still be friends.

  • Stacey Kannenberg // Mar 16, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Thanks for the memories! Oh, how the mighty have fallen, just another reason why I decided to build my own publishing house where I fought against traditional wisdom and made up my own rules! Recently, I had a top traditional house complain that our similar titles where causing extra work for their marketing department…are you kidding me…silly me looks at it as an opportunity to breathe life into their dead book!

  • Gavin Heaton // Mar 16, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    “The future of publishing is already happening. People are doing it and they’re doing it really well. If you’re still worried about engaging bloggers, you are worrying about the wrong thing. ”

    So right! This change has been under way for over 20 years … but the pace has accelerated recently. Ignorance is no longer an acceptable policy for any industry – especially publishing.

  • Contessa Isabella Vacani // Mar 17, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Ignorance is the worst of all crimes, the philosopher Lao Tse tells us.
    The traditional publishing idustry has been dying a slow death for at least two decades, as Gavin Heaton writes. The so called Big Shots are still in denial. What puzzles me is that even publishers can be dismissed without an Aye or Bye by the SHAREHOLDER/ SHAREHOLDERS. So, why don’t they do it?
    At least half of the crappy books they publish should never see the light of day.Publishers have turned into yakking zombies and editors are sooo out of the techno loop they sound like snake oil sales persons.
    Go east people. India is a great place to publish. There are literally thousands of publishers.
    I wrote a love story” Saigon Moon” between a lovely Vietcong spy posing as the hostess of a chain of girlie bars, and a journalist for the Los Angeles Times who wins the Pulitzer prize for his work in Vietnam. It is based on a true story and I knew both protagonists. I did not waste time, money and energy on any agent or publisher in the West. I went directly to a Chinese multinational publishing company which has been publishing books and news papers in East Asia for 75 years. It sold millions in Thai,Burmese, Vietnamese, Lao and Mandarin. Instead of an advance in money I asked for its equivalent in physical gold.
    Authors need to be creative about publishers. I live in Italy where people hardly read books except for a small segment that spends an inordinate amount of money on books.The publishers are usually the major share holders.
    I notice that Mondadori’s English translations of best sellers in America end up being sold at half price. Some bookstores are selling paperback editions of all Dan Baldacci books et al for 1 Euro. For my book with illustrations on Suleyman the Magnificent someone sponsored me in Dubai.
    Many authors should never attempt to write any book for the general public. everyone has a story to tell but the public may not want to read yet another book on abuse, wife beatings, banal spy thrillers, silly predictable dollar pulp romances, alien abductions etc. etc. etc.
    I have attended a couple of writers conferences in Italy. If nothing else, the people, scenery and cuisine are too divine. Many editors and agents were skunked out on the fine wines. A total waste of time and money. Conferences are dead, dead, dead. I doubt any of those big name editors /agents even bothered to look at my blog which contained two or three chapters of several of my books.
    I rang up one independent publishing company because the editor Hilary Sares was the only one who was serious about one of my hard hitting and passionate books. She had given me her private telephone number and we had spoken a couple of times about my book”Heart of Diamonds.” It seems that from one day to the next she either left or was sacked. The girl who took the call asked me to spell Riviera.Tsk! Tsk! I live in the Italian Riviera. ‘Nuff said.

  • ed // Mar 17, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Well, I bring up the “new media” label because this is still the terminology that the publicity and the advertising people are using. Even though it has been sufficiently demonstrated after ten years of this that there is a solid backbone here. And I think we’ve reached a point — particularly in the literary blog world — where it’s been demonstrated again and again that what we do isn’t all that different from what the supposed print authorities do. Opportunities for bringing the print and online people together have been missed. And th publishers still want to categorize us as “online” or “new media.” (The film people are doing this as well, even though it has been demonstrated that bigger sites such as Cinematical have as much of a draw and an influence as newspapers.) I patiently tell these folks that a lot of people email me, telling them that a Segundo conversation often gets them to buy a book. Do these people really want to alienate the niche market who is more inclined to purchase books? This goes back to the panel you moderated at TOC, in which romance readers were being squeezed out for the same reasons. You simply cannot have a fixed notion of audience anymore. And when you do that, and you have the effrontery to then ask your audience who the “real” audience is, that strikes me as highly irresponsible, if not outright incompetent.

  • ed // Mar 17, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Further thought (after a goofy conversational tangent here with the lady): Has the time come to co-opt the “new media” term and refer to online as “not so new media” or “kinda old media?”

  • anon // Mar 17, 2009 at 6:51 am

    OK, I’ve dealt with this problem in my previous job. I was helping to bring the company up to speed, (email, blogs, podcasts, etc…etc…)–one time I made some suggestions that truly would’ve panned out & do you know what I got (in a boardroom meeting)…”This is what we pay you for?!” I was stunned & embarassed. (Though I shouldn’t have been surprised.) They would send me to seminars & then ignore what I brought back.

    Let me break it down, many (not all) traditional publishers are terrified of technology. They don’t understand it & they don’t want to, so they can’t deal with it. They refuse to believe black & white stats, reality, even what very experienced & successful people tell them face to face, & unfortunately will let their companies fail & their authors fail before changing. They don’t take advantage of their painfully slim staffs in meaningful ways because they don’t understand how any of the new technology can work for them. They operate in a world of boogeymen (Amazon & Google) that simply trounce them mercilessly & they take it because, let’s face it folks, most of them DON’T WANT TO CHANGE.

    It’s very disheartening, even mystifying why this suicidal course is so common in the industry. Really, IMHO, it would be best to get back to the old school style of publishing…some rich guy or gal with a very small staff that is publishing for quality & reach for his several talented & fully-developed authors. This WORKED. This current hyper-publishing of pushing crap out the door to try & make it on quantity instead of quality doesn’t work. It absolutely ruins all that try it. Every field used to have its formula that worked that could easily be adapted to some new technology–but they run from it screaming.

    I’m not surprised this failed—most publishers would laugh the idea of going to something like SXSW right out the door & you’d be mocked, then demoted for even suggesting it. Hell, the vast majority don’t even know what on earth SXSW is.

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  • also anon // Mar 17, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    In 1995, I worked for a little music marketing startup. They were doing out-of-box promotion for artists & record albums & labels. we loved the internet. Mozilla came out in January. We saw *web pages*.

    and we thought “wow, what if we try to sell music this way!”

    the labels who were open to the idea got stopped at legal because the attorneys had no idea what kind of license to give us. but more than that, most of them told us, “no one will ever, ever buy music like this.” Yes, it was early, but the suggestion that there might be another way to do things annoyed and frightened them.

    And, they’re still playing catchup.

    Publishing has not learned from the music industry’s mistake. And it’s not a mystery, it’s all right there for them to see.

  • Paul McEnany // Mar 17, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    THANK YOU! I was at this thing to, and just sat there in disbelief as they droned on and on for 30 minutes about their jobs (that no one cared about). For the 90% of the audience there to see shirky, no wonder they were unleashed on a bit just from the pent up frustration of having to hear people we had never heard of not even make an effort to say something remotely close to “new think.” I’m curious to hear if shirky will address it.

  • Paul McEnany // Mar 17, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    And just one other thing – I’m still pissed. Hearing shirky was one of my top 3 or 4 things I wanted to catch while there, and for it to turn to that was disappointing to put it lightly.

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  • kaigou // Mar 18, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Well, that may explain the screams of frustration I heard floating up to the north end of the city, on Saturday afternoon. (And then I turned the tablesaw back on and drowned it all out.)

    I’d like to say, damn, sorry I missed that, but in this case… how about I just say: you definitely earned karmic points for having suffered through that crap.

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  • Renee Giroux // Mar 19, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Jeeze I LOVE this blog! I didn’t attend this year, cause I was worried it would be a waste of time and money. Ah well….

    Renee

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  • Robert Nagle // Apr 6, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Thanks, Kassia, I was there also and was bored by it as well. My observation is that publishing panels at SXSW have generally sucked (and I think we have been in quite a few together). So I try to avoid going to them. But at that time slot that was the best thing happening.

    The problem is that everybody has too much to say at these panels, and most of the people in the industry want to get past the hot button issues which the audience wants to focus on. Also, most of the publishing panel ideas got voted down anyway, so as a result people bring higher expectations to the panels that do make it.

    Book culture in particular don’t give any special credibility to those who work in the industry or even big name authors.

    (By the way, I did find several excellent panels about books/storytelling; one on MadMan + twitter, and the panel at comic books. Both wonderful and focused).

    One underlying problem is that book people don’t have special conferences suited to literary types. Out of the ones out there, TOC is too techy (and too $$$), Bookexpo is for people in the industry, MLA/AWP is too esoteric and academic. SXSW is probably a better mix than the others, but if I hear about one more panel on Web Design/Social Marketing/Building on an Online Community, I will go crazy. I’ve given serious thought about Breadloaf, but I don’t really want to participate in workshops; I just want to talk to other writers and hear what they are working on (and swap ideas).

    I’ve been going to SXSW for several years now, and I think now is the time for a decent Indie Publishing conference that is not merely about Book Selling or Meeting with Agents or How to Write Query Letters.

    As an aside, I wish panels could start by asking questions and making arguments rather than spending 10-15 minutes on introductions.

  • Robert Nagle // Apr 6, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Sorry, one other thought (after reading your comment on Freebird books.

    First, all this talk about twitter and how panels ignore Twitter: pfooey! Twitter is good for those trying to follow things remotely, but panelists couldn’t possibly be expected to keep up with all that back channel. Several people on other panels tried to with rotten results.

    Second, I enjoyed the looseness of core conversations in 2008. Too bad SXSW tried to turn core conversations into simply another minipanel this year (with the result that most were failures). It is a truism that Q&A tends to be more interesting than the panels themselves. I’d at least like to see that the panelists are reaching towards the same kinds of issues that audience members are reaching towards. At this particular panel, I heard too much about industry solutions –interesting perhaps–but not really identifying a future of reading.

  • Kassia Krozser // Apr 6, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Last one for the next few hours! Yep, Robert, sounds like we’ve been in many of the same panels over the years (say hi next year!). I think the problem is that the publishing panels don’t always reflect the tenor of the conference (this one would have likely been rejected if Clay Shirky hadn’t been on the bill because it just didn’t have anything special). But I do see smart things happening in books and smart people who want to get up and talk about them (or at least hold a multi-way discussion). ToC is techy, BEA is sales-oriented, writer conferences focus on publishing. A few have discussed creating something that falls between ToC/BEA/etc, but I think we’re still waiting for the right idea (though the Bookcamps that are springing up around the world are a good start).

    Oh, and I so agree on the long introductions. In my last panel, I rushed through everyone’s bio in mere minutes. Nobody was there to hear the blah, blah, blah, and it made for a better panel. SXSW is notorious for the loooong intros!

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