A Prospective Author’s Perspective on DBW 2011

J.J. MaddenBy J. J. Madden, Independent Writer / Multi-media Producer

It was reassuring to be at the second-ever Digital Book World Conference, if only to see so many others hurtling forward in the same general direction. We were all a little breathless in the brief time-out from our unexpected digital journeys.

Mine began four years ago, when I had an idea for a book. Ironically, it’s a strategy parents can use to introduce their kids thoughtfully to the online world. I started down the publishing road like everyone else back then: researching the topic, writing a manuscript, sending out proposals. I found out pretty quickly that no one wanted to print tech-related non-fiction – especially by an unknown author.

Then the ground began to shift.

I was at an American Independent Writers conference, cheerless from some face-to-face rejections, when I wandered into a session called “The Online Platform.” We were told that if a writer is going to be successful, she had better have a blog, website and Twitter account. Agents won’t even talk to you, the speaker insisted, unless you come with a posse. Sensing I had no choice (and no posse), I set out to create my digital lasso. While I was still sorting out the hashtags from the plug-ins, my husband gave me a Kindle and I saw how Amazon was squeezing book-selling like a python.

Shortly after that, I stumbled upon the Digital Book World Roundtable.

Each week I would lurk, listening in on Guy LeCharles Gonzalez and his merry band of digital pioneers. After a few months, they convinced me the writing on the wall was electronic, so I studded my manuscript with links. Then, last summer – driving between West Palm Beach and Jacksonville – I wrote a script in my head for a companion video. A few months later, as luck would have it, I was able to attend DBW 2011 to do some interviews and shooting cover footage.

DBW 2011 Conference Wrapup

Hillel Cooperman on A Story Before Bed

Wired’s Frank Rose on the Past and Future of Reading at Digital Book World 2011

The formal sessions were captivating, as was the time in between. From executives to entrepreneurs – all were happy to share their thoughts.

Inaugural Publishing Innovation Award-winner, Hillel Cooperman, showed me how his kids and his parents can read books together on the iPad, even when they’re on opposite coasts. And, author and Wired scribe Frank Rose divulged that he is “groping” toward understanding this strange, new medium (though his book is published). Vook‘s Matt Cavnar enthusiastically noted that “it’s early days. This is the Paris of the 1920s of the digital book experience.”

I returned home grateful for sipping the nectar of a blossoming industry – and encouraged as I grope my way towards the future.

J. J. Madden is an independent writer, multi-media producer, and broadcast news veteran based in Washington, D.C., who specializes in topics of health and personal sustainability. She has traversed the digital divide along with her three children, the youngest of whom would prefer she not pay any attention. J. J.’s blog about sensible living in the digital world can be found at durablehuman.com.

2 thoughts on “A Prospective Author’s Perspective on DBW 2011

  1. Caron Martinez

    Great perspective on the energy of this conference, and all the excitement about the future of digital publishing. I see a new chapter in invention/discovery today, and into the future: the reality of collaboration. JJ’s insight into this year’s conference shows collaboration in full flower as people share ideas and spur discovery — I look forward to seeing more of DBW’s leadership as digital publishing continues to evolve.

  2. Pingback: Five tips for authors about successful book publishing | The Durable Human


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