Saturday, July 23, 2011

Learning Smarts

Last weekend I attended the inaugural Indie Lit Summit in DC, sponsored by the moguls and mavens of Barrelhouse and The Lit Pub, and facilitated—with charm and efficiency—by B’s poetry editor Dan Brady. The summit is a regional thing where literary editors and publishers convene to discuss the problems and opportunities of the day; in our case, the breakout sessions we decided on were marketing, readings venues, and community building. I should stop writing “we,” though. I’m pretty sure I was the only non-publisher/editor in the room, and I tried very hard not to wade into discussions with ideas like, “Let’s all buy a beach house together and smoke opium and have barbecue party-readings!”

It was an eye-opening, full day of discussions, kicked off with a keynote from Andy Hunter of Electric Literature—and here I should confess that I have ignored EL ever since I first heard about them and that they paid writers $1000 per short story. I’m either a bolshie asshole or I think boutique short fiction is a whitefolks concern (those positions might be the same), but Hunter was pretty convincing about the commercial possibilities of new fiction + innovation. I should also remind you that I believe everything that anyone tells me at the time they are telling me it. One of the points he made was that Rick Moody’s twitter based story for Electric Literature in 2009 was a huge success, despite the immediate backlash from mainstream concerns. You can read the argument here, but the upshot was 1) the story was good, and 2) the delivery resulted in a dramatic (like 10X) increase in followers and subscriptions for EL.

By the end of the day the Indie Lit Summit came up with some very exciting ideas that I probably shouldn’t go into right now, but in general it felt like the smartest-guy-in-the-room from several rooms all ended up in the same one at once: 826DC, appropriately enough.

Several things became really clear as we attempted to build a list of reading spaces that already exist in the DC/Baltimore area:

1) There are lots of places to read. Yay!
2) If you write poetry and nonfiction. Oh.
3) Not many are bookstores. Dang.

So let’s say your debut novel is coming out in October, and your publisher is counting on your hometown events to be big draws. You may be screwed, lady.

Learning highlight: If you skip out on the last minutes of the Marketing & Publicity session to have frozen yogurt with gummi bear mix-ins with your fairy-princess costumed gosh-daughter you’ll miss out on something important about Smashwords.

1 comment:

Jason Jordan said...

Sounds like a good time. Wish I could've been there, needless to say.