Thursday, June 14, 2012

Are The Books Already On Fire?

Ray Bradbury, Freedom-Fighter, Dead At 91. That was the headline across America last week. But there is more to the story than just the death of a man or of a writer.

If you were to define a life, what would you say about the person that cuts to describing his or her very essence? In the case of a writer, it is his work that no doubt is highlighted, and in the case of the prolific science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, one easily notes his signature work, Fahrenheit 451.

Ray died Tuesday, June 5, coincidentally the opening day of the annual book publishing summit known as Book Expo America.

Before his death he ordered a tombstone that simply declared “Author of Fahrenheit 451.” How appropriate. I think that is a perfect eulogy. For writers, we want our works to live beyond the grave, because it will mean we will have mattered and been remembered. But even more importantly, it would mean that our words, ideas, and ideals will influence new generations.

Ray, who also wrote scripts for TV’s The Twilight Zone, and hundreds of other books and short stories, feared a repressive future in which books would be destroyed. He once told the Wall Street Journal, “I wasn’t trying to predict the future; I was trying to prevent it.”

Fahrenheit was a cautious tale, published six decades ago (1953) and made into a movie in 1966. He warned of a fascist future, where education is dumbed down, citizens lazily watch giant flat-screen TVs, and books are outlawed. The title of the book derives from the temperature at which paper (books) catches fire and burns: 451 degrees Fahreneheit.

I never read the cult classic but maybe one day I will. I certainly agree with its message. Books are burning slowly today, not because of government censorship or book bans, but because too many people are not reading books. One industry study says some 100 million Americans did not buy a single book last year. And of the books purchased or borrowed, how many offer a deep exchange of ideas and thoughts? And how many books inspire action – or greater thoughts and conversations? How many books even matter?

The flame is lit. Time will tell if we are left with great books and no readers -- or with readers searching for great books.

Interview With WaveCloud Co-Founder Bill Van Orsdel

1.      What is WaveCloud? Right now, a new e-book store.  We aspire to be the place where readers and authors build conversations around books.  We also want to offer Authors tools that help them overcome their number one obstacle: Obscurity.

2.      How do you compare with the online retail giant --Amazon? Compared to Amazon, we are smaller. We don’t have relationships with as many publishers, and our per-transaction costs are higher.  Compared to Amazon, we are trying to create a “curated” book store, we are focusing on innovative discovery tools for Authors and Readers alike, and we are trying to add value to the e-book discovery/consumption/communication experience

3.      What is the future for digital content? We believe that Reading, as an entertainment or self-improvement activity, is competing with other, experience-rich entertainment options.  As an industry, we need to innovate and take back the “share-of-eyeball” that movies, video games, and music have taken from us.  The digital format of books may be the best innovation for Reading that we have available for that struggle.

4.      What do you recommend an ebook publisher do to market its books online? I’m not sure a “publisher” can do a good job of marketing its books online.  Aside from Tor, Sourcebooks, or O’Reilly, I’m not aware of any of the publishers working to push an imprint as a “brand”.  I think that Authors should market themselves (or their Pen Name) as a brand, as part of the effort to promote their books online.  I’ve seen good campaigns using “lite” social media like Facebook, and seen better campaigns using deeper social media like blogs.  The critical first step for an Author is to understand and create a hook for their book.  I think most Authors skip this step, and move right into the social media spam mode.

5.      What advice do you have for authors looking to build their platform? Identify and Understand their target Readers.  Go where those Readers are and establish a presence. Start a sampling campaign.  Wattpad is a good place (for fiction). Research possible Review outlets on the web.  Be prepared to reach out to them with a credible message and “free” ARC strategy.

6.      What do you love about being a part of the publishing industry? The pace of change.      Helping Authors achieve their dreams. Innovating new ways to connect authors and readers, for the betterment of both.   

Have You Seen This Past Week’s Posts?

You Can Use Crowdfunding On Your Next Book -- Turn Your Idea Into A Business

What The Bestseller List Sales Numbers Reveal

How Promoters, Authors & Publishers Get Others to Say YES

How To Get Others To Share Your Links – And Go Viral

The Appeal & Necessity Of Fiction

Don’t Make Me Like You!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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