12 Minutes Ago: How to Use the Internet for the Good of Your Book and Other Subjective Publishing Obsessions
Despite the Internet, or Books I Have Been Pawing at in Physical Reality Despite the Distracting Siren Call of the Internet
You can read this first section of this month’s column as a script for a book-highlight reel. OK?
I attended the launch for Giller-longlisted My Life Among the Apes (Cormorant, 2012) by Cary Fagan, an author whose name I first recall seeing in the pages of the Word Literary Calendar all those years ago. Reading the book on the subway ride home, I got caught up in the Toronto-centric story with its desperate, vulnerable and, at times, intimate re-telling of someone’s early minglings with our fair city.
My first week living here, I drove into Toronto, crashing at my fiend Aaron’s place. Aaron and I go back to high school, but Aaron has a serious girlfriend now, who is eight years older and has a kid, and Aaron let me know in an embarrassed, throat-clearing way that it wasn’t really convenient to have me around. I understand that of course, and I’m totally cool about it, so the next Saturday I stayed at Walt’s. — “Shit Box” (pg.15)
In April I attended the launch for a slew of new poetry titles by Anansi. That night I met a Degrassi (1980s) starlet who bought me a drink and was charming. Later I talked to the Who is That? of Canadian Poetry and enjoyed small talk with the bespectacled and tight-jeaned crowd. (The Degrassi starlet was most impressed to meet Dennis Lee, which is saying something I think, I mean to say, that is cool.)
I have been reading Chaser (Anansi, 2012) by Erin Knight. Usually I get frustrated by poems that deal with the act of writing or mention composition or words like “verb” or “noun,” though I am guilty, or was at one point in time, of writing these types of poems. However, I liked the contrary nature and pared-down tone of Knight’s poetry, especially in the piece below.
The manuscript is corrupted at this point.
This story cannot be identified. However,
see diary. August 21, 1913, the remark:
He bears me out like a friend. After a silence
of over three months, unusually pale
crossed out. Leaf containing this page begins
ments so truly. Between these lines
about one hundred persons. Paris, 1911.
— “Everything To Be Burned Unread” (pg. 22)
The End of the Internet is on Hiatus
The entire book-publishing world exists on the Internet. Yes, real life exists for books in bookstores, bars and conferences. These book-related moments (buying books, chatting and readings) take place in physical reality, and book fans and writers themselves visit these places on a weekly basis, but in all honesty, everything else in publishing, for better or for worse, goes down in cyber space. How does this disproportionate concentration of effort in one medium affect our ability to achieve success in the actual book event itself? We return from a launch we have spent dozens of hours online preparing for, only to return to our computers for the next stage in the saga of literary promotion. Does the Internet equate to legitimacy? Can you separate good and email, legitimate and falsified publishing properties? (Read: scams, cash-grabbing contests, or vanity presses?) Will your poetry be taken hostage online, never allowed to grow and appear in the pages of magazines such as Descant, subTerrain or Canadian Literature? Christian Bök reads at The End of the Internet:
Re-issued, Re-packed, Re-packed, Re-posted, Re-runs = Ratings?
For an example of a singular output getting repositioned elsewhere online to similar but new readers, we can look at the recent attention rob mclennan’s blog has received from the Poetry Foundation’s blog, Harriet:
While mclennan’s Q&A style is a steady resource for anyone wanting to know the behind-the-scenes details involving the latest micro-press publisher or published poetry collection in North America, the online attention paid to his Twitter piece is a prime example of free quality exposure for his Internet poetry real estate. However, not attached to any book (but who knows, by the time this piece is published mclennan may have already inked a deal for a Twitter poetry collection), the re-serving of the piece got people noticing it. New readers discovered his output, and a discussion on the intent of his Twitter work was created. Are we publishing work online because we can? And do we want to take up this new space? Is it because it doesn’t really cost anything but time? How did people exist in publishing in the mid-1980s? What did they do between readings and book launches and issues of Quill & Quire?
Back to the Future: When The Word Met Future Bakery
Back in the late 1990s and into the 2000s, there was a newspaper called The Word, which was published by Insomniac Press. It was available at most cafes and bookstores in the downtown area: I always found copies at Future Bakery. The monthly six- or eight-page newspaper contained reviews, interviews and, most important, a centerfold calendar of all things Toronto Literature. I could only imagine the 2012 version of this periodical. It would be teeming with double-hit launch dates, triple-booked poetry events at either end of the city and and workshops. Which of course is a good thing; it’s just remarkable to see how the promotional aspect of publishing has changed in under a decade.
After a recent Facebook post by a YA author friend of mine who posed a question about characters and sequels, I was quickly aware that the Internet and publishing is this weed or flower or harvest that is always toiling away, a sort of new nature that we help pollinate and manicure. Within minutes after posting my friend received countless posts and comments. This was free feedback from an already tested network of like-minded creative thinkers who were online and ready to publicly weigh in on my friend’s comment. Not only would the comments possibly help my friend with with his dilemma, the comments offered encouragement and opened up larger discussions.
Water-Cooler-Fresh Book News and the Antique Road Show
The main drawing power of the Internet in the book-publishing sector is the power of endorsement. If Canada’s Most Powerful Living Author and
As usual, at a recent family function I was called upon to explain where potential readers can find online book reviews. (Had I my microrecorder with me, the lecture would be embedded here in MP3 glory.)
The Information Super Highway Takes Its Toll on Humanity
The continuous way we put dialogue about books onto the Internet — for what I suppose is the better of the book industry — can be a seemingly dystopic pursuit. While it shows a passion for books, it does seem at times to be an overkill. Where does it all go? End up? Archives? I mean, I know where it goes but, where does that energy of books go? Does it get recycled and re-incarnated for the next discussion about ebooks and Skype readings? You can redecorate the Internet all you want with new articles on fonts and book-printing technological advances, but the textual psychic traffic of an interview with a given poet from 2003 or 2006 about their fourth book of poetry still floats in the cosmos like a giant unkempt satellite. You can find terrible author photos, bad reviews, bad poetry and rambling interviews online more easily than you can find an author’s most prestigious moments. Yet, some poet’s garbage-nightmare online moment is another person’s treasure: what if a student is studying this very poet and this very poet’s third book of poetry and needs insight and context into its creation, and the Internet is the only place on earth with this shrapnel of data? The Internet is a lying cheat, but also a convincing testimony. If it is used in the right way, with attractive allures for the book-loving market, an author, publisher or magazine can profit from it.
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