7x20x21: BEA’s Publishing Pecha Kucha

In What's the Buzz by Erin L. Cox

Molly Bloom Tattoo

By Erin L. Cox

Yesterday, the second annual “7x20x21” panel was hosted by Farrar, Straus & Giroux Online Marketing Manager Ryan Chapman and Ami (with an i) Greko, of Get Glue and The New Sleekness. The panel was a presentation in the Japanese Pecha Kucha style, giving each presenter a seven minute window to speak, while showing a backdrop of 20 slides that advance every 21 seconds.

As Chapman described it, the “presenting style is meant to keep it animated, not be masochistic.” And so it was…animated, that is. The overall theme of the panel could best be described as a plea to publishers to embrace technology because the readers have, the writers have and the love of literature is as strong as ever.

The New York Times Research and Development Lab, and Clay Shirky, professor of New Media at New York University and author of Cognitive Surplus, both focused on publishers and their “technophobia” (which Bilton defined as “an irrational fear of new technologies”), which seems to plague publishers’ decision-making processes.

Shirky claimed that publishers don’t ask big enough questions and that they should not bother with worrying “how have we always done this in the past?” but rather “what job are people trying to hire reading and writing for and how do we fill that role?”

Publishing Perspectives’ own Edward Nawotka shared how the sheer volume of books published that are set in Brooklyn might be killing the industry more than the rise of technology…though he was kidding. [EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an ongoing argument between myself and Ms. Cox, who resides in Brooklyn].

What Nawotka really wants is for publishers and teachers to inspire the next generation of passionate readers through “teaching literature backwards.” Instead of teaching readers to read like a professor by forcing an analysis classics, inspire them through reading a current and contemporary title – something that might arouse them to be passionate readers and then show the classics that may have laid the groundwork for that title.

Figment.com co-founder and former managing editor of The New Yorker, Jacob Lewis, discussed a similar way to inspire the next generation of readers and writers by using a digital platform that is a large part of their lives: the cell phone.

Lewis reminded publishers that “the Internet is as much about community as it is about distribution and commerce,” and that what Figment aims to do, to combine social media and online communities with literature, allowing those on the site and their various mobile devices to read, write, recommend and discuss writing, both professional and not. (See today’s show daily for a full profile of Figment).

The practical application of technology in storytelling was best seen in the presentations by novelist Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, and Justin Taylor and Eva Talmadge, editors of the forthcoming The Word Made Flesh.

Egan, inspired by an article about how a PowerPoint presentation on President Obama’s campaign shortcomings led to a successful strategy shift, wondered if she could use this “literary genre” to illustrate a fictional story. Using PowerPoint in her new novel, she was able to “find [the story’s] internal structure and reveal it visually.”

Taylor and Talmadge offer a different visual way to tell stories, via tattoos.

The Word Made Flesh is a collection of tattoos that they collected through a post on the internet literature magazine, HTML GIANT.

Contributors shared the stories behind their tattoos and showed the permanent impact of literature — from Kafka to Rowling — and why they were inspired to ink that particular line or image on their bodies. Shirky closed the panel by stating that “abundance breaks more things than scarcity” and that, with the influx of technology, the revolution is not in publishing, but in reading and writing.

See what the attendees thought about the panel at Twitter #7xbea.

About the Author

Erin L. Cox

Erin L. Cox has worked as Business Development Director for Publishing Perspectives. She is a Senior Associate at Rob Weisbach Creative Management, where she represents writers and handles publicity and advertising clients.