Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Back to the scene of the crime: publishing heads back to Austin

In case you haven't heard, it didn't go so well the last time the publishing industry headed to Austin.

The scene of the crime was SXSW Interactive.


New Think; Old Publishers; infamous hashtags (#sxswbp); snarky tweets; frustrated geeks; and another public flogging of the publishing industry.

The Casual Optimist called it a 140 character assassination. Booksquare said "there wasn't a single new think in the room." Medialoper connected "crash" with "burn" in its analysis.

Although I think the panelists were walking into a lion's den at that event, it doesn't change the fact that it produced some very negative press thanks to what many considered to be a lack of new think.

Since then, the clichés have flowed like wine at a book party. “It’s time for publishing to turn the page and embrace digital content delivery.” “Book publishers need to close the book on risky multi-million dollar advances.” Ad nauseum.

This recession has been just that—a wake-up call for numerous industries that have been avoiding change—including publishing. But now that the economy has the publishing industry’s attention, how should we respond?

Would heading back to Austin be a good start?

Many in publishing seem to think so, as a star-studded group of literary agents, editors and authors will be in attendance at the 16th annual Writers League of Texas Agents Conference the weekend of June 26-28th.

The event features provides a full schedule of panels and lectures on a variety of writing and publishing topics, including “Is It Really a Book? How to Tell if Your Big Idea Is Book Worthy” (with Gail Ross), “Publishing Insiders: How Books Are Bought and Published” and “Querial Killers: How NOT to Get an Agent” (with agent Katharine Sands, author of Making the Perfect Pitch).

Perhaps most notably, Michael Murphy, former publisher at William Morrow and founder of Max & Co. Literary Agency and Social Club (love that name), will deliver the keynote speech titled “Sitting in a Cardboard Box, Saying Vroom Vroom & Pretending It’s a Car: Book Publishing 2009.”

“For the last six to nine months, the book business has felt much closer to Revolution than Evolution. It seems that all of us in publishing are obsessively talking about the bottle rather than the wine,” says Murphy. “My talk at the conference could well add to the clutter and confusion as I try to make sense of what's going on. But I also aim to offer a glimmer of hope to any writer aspiring to be read.”

Here's betting Murphy sets the tone for an event that allows us to continue the dialogue on how our industry can evolve in a way that reflects the high level intellect, innovation, creativity and savvy of those working in it.

Those attending the WLT Agents Conference are likely to find fresh ideas, tips for polishing their manuscript, the latest publicity tactics, great networking opportunities, 100 degree heat, Shiner Bock Beer, great enchiladas and an awesome night life.

I'll be looking for some new think and will keep you updated throughout the weekend via our Twitter account and the event's hashtag (#wltcon).

Full conference press release available here.

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