I’m back in New York–I only had two days to spend at AWP–and I thought I’d quickly wrap up what I saw. The AWP bookfair is where indie and university presses (and some larger publishers like Norton, and New Directions) go to sell lots of books to 8,000 creative writing types who are madly book-hungry. A lot of that was happening. Bookstores may be closing, but people still want books, they still want to handle them, and they still come to AWP and leave with a tote bag (or three) full of the next season’s reading. Publishers, editors and publicists turned into booksellers for AWP, handselling their wares. (At my own book signing, at my publisher BOA Editions’ booth, I’m proud to say I sold 12 copies of my book by being generally loud, coaxing every passer-by, and promising a free drawing with every book bought–my favorite was a giraffe requested by a sweet young woman, which I rendered horribly.)
That said, e-books are on small publishers minds in a big way. Many small publishers of prose and poetry have a few books in the digital marketplace, but everyone at the conference seemed to sense that they all have to dive in with as many titles as possible soon. I’ll be learning more about Bookmobile’s Ampersand app in the coming months, and I look forward to talking to publishers about their hopes for and fears about it. We’ll see. It sounds like most folks are interested in signing on, but it’s not the only solution they’re looking for.
I haven’t said much about all the panels and readings that have happened and will happened at AWP, mostly because I only had time to attend the one I was part of, a reading by an interview with the winner of last year’s Pulitzer and NBCC award in poetry, Rae Armantrout (I conducted the onstage interview after she read), but lots of amazing writers are on the bill, including Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri and many, many, many wonderful poets. And Poetry & Prose, the official conference bookseller, is in the back of each room to sell the readers’ books.
I’ll be having follow-up conversations with lots of publishers in the coming weeks, as well as a more detailed wrap-up in monday’s PW Daily, so stay tuned.
Coffee House Press demonstrates the Ampersand app
I caught up with Don Leeper and Nicole Baxter of Bookmobile and got a close up look at a prototype of the Ampersand app running on an iPad. Leeper, the president of Bookmobile, said they came to AWP to meet with publishers and that the app itself would launch in the summer.
Basically, Ampersand wraps the publishers’ PDF files of books in Bookmobile’s software. The presentation is very nice: the e-book looks exactly like the print book. Of course, because the files are PDFs, the text isn’t reflowable. Books can be viewed in portrait or landscape; you can pinch and zoom to move in or out. On an iPad this works great, as the iPad screen is at least as big as most print book pages. On an iPhone (and Leeper wasn’t yet able to say whether the finished app would be available for both iPhone and iPad), the text is pretty small, though in landscape it’s readable.
Leeper said Bookmobile is still refining the app and working out the pricing and business agreements, and that the next step will be to offer terms to publishers and start signing them on. There will be no fee to sell a book through the app, just a percentage of the purchase price. Apple’s 30% cut of in-app purchases will have to be figured in as well.
E-books will be sold both through Apple’s in-app purchase system and through an online storefront, which Leeper said will not only feature the books, but the authors and presses through various kinds of editorial content.
The jury is still out as to whether PDFs are the best way to present liniated poetry or whether EPub can be effectively coded to preserve line breaks when text reflows. Certainly this app represents a huge opportunity for indie presses and poetry publishers to get their content into the digital marketplace. I’ll be following the development of the app and the deals with publishers over the coming months.
The big buzz on the AWP bookfair floor is the Ampersand app from Bookmobile. It’s being billed as “The Poetry App,” but it’s actually more than that and has some big implications—and presents some big problems—for indie publishers and small literary magazines.
Ampersand is an iOS app that’s been developed to handle the digital formatting of poetry, preserving line breaks and other page arrangements in a reflowable digital presentation. For many indie publishers, for whom poetry is a pillar of their list, this app is a possible gateway into digital books.
I spoke to folks from Graywolf and Copper Canyon presses, both of which expressed enthusiasm for the app, though it sounds like no one is quite at the contract-signing stage yet. Coffee House press, as you can see in the picture below, in which the press’s publicist shows me the company iPad running Ampersand, was one of the pilot partners. They gave Bookmobile their toughest book, and I must say it looks pretty damn good.
Will he regret this tattoo someday? No way.
The Rumpus is here in the person of managing editor Isaac Fitzgerald, the man behind, well, making the Web’s most omnivorous culture site happen every day. Right now, he’s manning a table at AWP, selling Rumpus mugs, encouraging passers-by to join one or all of the Rumpus‘s various book clubs, and showing off his fresh Rumpus tattoo, which he got especially for this event.
If there was any lingering fear that Richard Nash’s much-hyped and speculated about publishing venture was a myth, let this post dispel it once and for all. Cursor is at AWP, with a table and a galley on display for Zazen by Vanessa Veselka.
YA writer, poet, and nonfiction writer Laurel Snyder is manning the table, which features a laptop tapped into the Cursor/ Red Lemonade imprint Website. She’s busily spreading the word about what Cursor is in Nash’s stead. He as, apparently, working in Europe.
Note the hilarious warning label on the galley, depicted below, which reads, “Advance Reader Copy. Not for sale, but do please redistribute when done–we’d be thrilled if you did. And if you need the money, go ahead and sell it, we understand.”
I’m here, in Washington D.C., for the 2011 AWP conference. Most folks seem to have gotten here despite the snow–last night I bumped into plenty of folks from publishers from across the US who had spend the day setting up their booths for the bookfair. The first day of the conference is just about to start. I plan to spend it talking to folks, asking about their upcoming lists, and prodding indies to find out when we can expect digital editions of their titles. I’m also hoping to talk to someone from BookMobile about their new poetry-digitization tool to get a sense of who’s signing on and what the implications might be for the indie and university press publishers that do most of America’s poetry. Check back throughout the day for updates.
Despite the snow, the literary world is descending on Washington D.C. this week for the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference (AWP), and PWxyz will be there to cover new developments at the conference between Thursday, 2/3 and Sunday, 2/6–that’s tomorrow!
Alongside panels on topics ranging from how to get your manuscript published to writing from every region under the sun, the main feature of AWP is the massive bookfair, where almost every micro, small, medium, indie and university press comes to sell its wares and meet readers.
I’ll be on the floor, talking to publishers–like Coffee House, Copper Canyon, McSweeney’s and many others–about their e-book plans, how their business is going, what new books are in the pipeline, and anything else I can think of. If you’re going to be at the conference, make sure to say hello.