The inaugural BookCamp Vancouver was organized by Monique Trottier of Boxcar Marketing, Nick Bouton of, Sean Cranbury of Books on the Radio, John Maxwell of SFU’s publishing program, and Morgan Cowie from BookNet Canada.


BookCamp Vancouver was an incredible experience! It took place on Friday October 16, 2009 and there was so much to absorb! I wasn’t able to make it to every event that I wanted to because there were four events going on at a time. The great thing about BookCamp is it was organized as an “unconference”; instead of having a speaker or a lecture, the person was more of a moderator or host.

Grab a cup of something warm and get comfy, this post is a long one!


After the opening remarks, I went to listen to author Tris Hussey talk about Tech Tools For Editing Workflow. First Tris spoke a little about writer’s workflow and ranted that Microsoft Word was not built for writers. He suggested several applications designed for writers to organize their thoughts: Scrivener or Ulysses for Mac or Page Four or Rough Draft for PC. The best thing about all these programs is you can usually export to Word so you can send to your editor(s).

When you have large files, Tris mentioned using a free service called DropBox to send the files back and forth. It’s better than email, FTP, or YouSendIt because it acts like a shared folder. You can open and edit a file while it’s in the DropBox and it as an “oops” feature if you messed up.

Tris stressed the need for version control — not overwriting old files and keeping track of what you send and receive. I’ve already got this under control when I export PDFs, but I really need to work on this with InDesign documents too. And the other thing that Tris couldn’t stress enough was backing up. He really wanted everyone to set up an automatic backup on their system. Some suggested tools or programs that people had were Time Machine from Apple, CrashPlan for Mac, Carbonite, Mozy, SugarSync, and SuperDuper! (which I use).

Some other community tools that the group discussed included: GoogleDocs, Google Wave, OpenOffice (instead of Microsoft Office), EndNote for bibliographies (costs money), ShortCovers through Indigo, BaseCamp for project collaboration, Writeboards for collaborative writing, and InCopy for CS4. All these programs have their own uses and strengths. I am very jealous I don’t have InCopy on my CS3 because it’s all about collaboration during editing workflow.


The next session I went to was about Digital Rights Management vs. Free Content moderated by Sean Cranbury from Books on the Radio. Sean started out by defining the terms for everyone (so we were all on the same page): Digital Rights Management (DRM) is any lock on a file that contains creative content which prevents the buyer from modifying it. Lack of DRM results in piracy or file-sharing. “Free” Content is content that you’ve paid for but are free to share.

The main concern and reason for DRM seems to be that the creators think that people are going to pirate and share the file/program/item illegally. We also discussed how a lot of people think that just because something (like a book) is digital, it doesn’t cost as much. But in terms of the prices, 40% of the profits go to the retailer, 30% to the publisher, 20% to the printer, and 10% to the writer. Just because it’s not sent to the printer, doesn’t mean that it didn’t still get edited, designed, written, etc.

Another issue we discussed was licensing issues: users want clearcut info abou what you can do with a digital file you purchase. With books, you buy the object and it’s clear that this object is now yours to do what you want with it. But with digital books, can you use it on multiple devices? How do you lend it to a friend? What if you get a new device? Can you transfer it?

The music industry was used as an example for what could happen in the DRM debate: first they rejected that it had an effect, then they got angry, then they began to sue people. We discussed how the publishing industry can learn from these mistakes, especially with the development of ebooks. We also discussed the recent uproar about George Orwell’s 1984 being yanked from e-readers. People joked that the Book Police aren’t going to come into your home and pull a book off your shelf. We also discussed how the terms “licensing” and “buying” confuse people; you can buy a book, but you only buy a license for an ebook.

Sean mentioned a survey done by O’Reilly Media and RandomHouse USA called “The Impact of P2P and Free Distribution and Book Sales”. This survey measured the impact of file sharing on book sales. Many thought people pirated/torrented immediately, but they found out that it wasn’t really until 5 months later after release that people started trying to download it. The most surprising data is that once something was leaked, the legitimate sales spiked again. Many publishers think that free distribution negatively affects book sales.

Then we had a break for lunch, sponsored by BookNet Canada and provided by Out To Lunch Catering. It was very good! Everyone milled about and chatted with each other.


After lunch I went to listen to Brendon Wilson moderate a session on The State of the Electronic Book. I already knew a lot about the technology and products available, but they had some e-readers to pass around the room which was great. There were also some statistics and views I hadn’t even considered regarding e-readers. The ebook revolution was even likened to Gutenberg and his printing press: he destroyed the role of the scribe but progressed us further than ever imagined.

Brendon gave a bit of background about e-readers: in 2007 e-ink and e-paper got cheaper and that’s when the Amazon Kindle really took off. The main difference between e-readers and laptops is that e-readers use reflective light and laptops are backlit. Even though Sony came out with the first e-reader, Amazon now controls 60% of the market. One surprising stat is that 21% of e-reader purchasers are aged 50-59. We discussed that this could be the cost of yet another device: the Sony Pocket Reader averages $200.

We then got onto the question: In a world of ebooks, are publisher still relevant?”to which there were many answers. The thought was mainly YES, but that the role and purpose of a publisher in a traditional sense was changing. We still need editors, designers, and distribution (all roles of the traditional publisher) but the “gatekeeper” role is dead. Going through a publisher is no longer the only way to get your work out there. We discussed that the role of the publisher will probably develop into more of a facilitator or curator for the written word.

How do ebooks affect the publishers? Some of the challenges discussed included piracy, broader competition, multiple devices, but the opportunities include access to out-of-print titles, new revenue models, and new avenues of exploration.

How do ebooks affect the authors? The author can now sell books through Amazon, the booksellers are becoming publishers, you have self-published authors too. Some of the challenges are lack of support (via a publisher) and more competition in a world where anyone else could do the same things. However, there are greater opportunities to access the audience, get more than just 10% of the proceeds, and explore new formats and revenue models.

How do ebooks affect the readers? Challenges are mainly the expense: not only are you paying for a $200+ device, but then you’re paying at least $10 per book. Ebooks are also difficult to share (DRM licensing debate), and the product can be yanked away (see above Orwell discussion). But the opportunities to access new materials are nearly unlimited.


After another quick break, I went to listen to Morgan Cowie of BookNet Canada talk about New Business Models in Publishing and Bookselling. While this wasn’t my favourite session, I still learned a lot about an area of publishing which I’m unfamiliar with. Morgan discussed that the new business models are based around what your purpose is.

If your purpose is faster delivery, Morgan mentioned that the current time frame for producing a book is a year to year and a half (after the manuscript has been written). Now there are other options including print on demand, which opens new doors for backlist revitalization and out-of-print titles.

There are opportunities for convergence — one type of genre all together from different publishers (vertical) or all titles from one publisher (horizontal). Convergence with movies, video games, and other leisure activities was also mentioned.

There was also talk about Revenue: HarperStudio now has a 50/50 split between publisher and author, but there are no returns. During the revenue discussion, the price of electronic items was debated; it’s hard to price these items because we don’t know what they will garner. We also discussed monetizing through textbook rentals, Bookriff (trade titles), Syntext (fragments) and OpenRoad (backlist).

If your purpose is collaboration, there are many different ways to have content collaboration before printing. But some of the current models out there include BookOven, Whole Art Books, and Bookriff.

If you want to mix your mediums, there are digital books, webisodes for books, vooks (book movie), online interviews, book trailers. One of the main problems people had with medium aggregation was when does a book stop being a book?

If your purpose is for a pre-release or a production cycle, you can allow people to buy the manuscript and comment and help form the book. This was the part that I had the most trouble with. Sure, you may get experts having some input, but what about something creative where a group of individuals just don’t care for the ending? Sometimes these commentators can get a credit in the book too.


During our final break, everyone gathered in the auditorium to determine the final sessions. These were left open so that any unanswered questions could be addressed in another 45 minute session. I chose to attend What the FAQ? with Monique Trottier from Boxcar Marketing, Darren Barefoot, and Deanna McFadden from HarperCollins Canada. This was by far my favourite session. Not only did I learn things that are valuable in a professional setting for me, but also in a personal setting (on this blog and my other domains).

Basically Monique, Darren, and Deanna fielded questions from the audience. We started on the topic of keywords and positioning yourself (or your product) in the marketplace. GoogleKeywords was suggested to generate synonyms — if someone doesn’t know the title or author, what terms would they use to try and find it? Then you can use GoogleTrends to measure the success of specific keywords.

Someone then asked about author publicity. In terms of twitter and blogging, it was important to keep everything in the author’s authentic voice. You can also encourage the author to explore these things: You can lead a person to Twitter, but oyu can’t make them tweet. Also in terms of Twitter, pure publicity language (ie: Buy my book now!) does not work well. You need something personal behind it.

Then the purpose of websites was discussed and the need to easy navigation. The purpose for your website should drive your online marketing, for example, Firefox wants you to download their browser, so there is a Big Ass Button on the homepage. “Everyone needs a Big Ass Button” said Deanna. You need structure: a specific strategy of what you want your web marketing to do. One useful tool was P.O.S.T. — People, Objective Strategy, Tool.

We then spoke about the budgets for social media campaign, which our moderators felt you could spend as much or as little as you could afford. They suggested we try different free tools and it really depends on what you want to get out of it. If you can drum up enough publicity simply through your free online activities, maybe you don’t need print advertising or traditional marketing models.

I then asked about social media sites such as Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and other lesser-known ones. Monique basically explained that individuals submit links and other people vote on the links. They described any traffic you get from these links to be a ‘low quality’ traffic — they click just that one link and leave the site quickly. You want a higher quality of a visitor who will stick around and click other things.

This led to a discussion of Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Delicious, and Twitter. Flickr is good for sharing slideshows and ‘back stage pass’ photos. YouTube is great to host the content for you to embed. Delicious is a higher quality link-sharing tool. Facebook and Twitter are used more as talking avenues and promote a high quality of association.

The final question was about blogger outreach — how to reach your bloggers (from a publisher’s standpoint). They really stressed for less marketing and more publicity, not sending unsolicted books, not blasting out press releases, and not to mass mail your contacts. Deanna fielded this question and mentioned that she often finds a blog, reads their posts, and sends a personal note. She stressed that a pitch should be personal and have a link to the title. All these little things will demonstrate that the publisher values the relationship with the blogger.


WOW! That’s all folks! It took me forever to finish this blog post, and I am so glad I took tons of notes during BookCamp. I am so excited to participate in another unconference and hope that BookCamp Vancouver happens again next year! Now to go add this blog post to the Unconference Wiki (where the schedule and news was posted).