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Monday, September 28, 2009

The Blogger's Kit

Austin here. There were some very good comments on Saturday's post about Asterios Polyp and the need for 3-D views of book cover designs.

In one of the comments, I mentioned that publishing companies and authors should provide a "Blogger's Kit" for each of their books. Everybody's heard of press kits, but the aim of a Blogger's Kit is spreadability--images and videos that are easy to embed, post, disseminate on the web.

The best place I can see this happening isn't on a publisher's website, but on Flickr, the photo-sharing site. Flickr, unlike a publisher's website, is a destination--a place where people hang out, favorite photos and comment. People love Flickr. They go there for inspiration. Publishers should go there to meet them.

Using Flickr is easy. You can organize your photos into collections and sets. Each photo page contains an embed code, making blogging a snap. To top it off, Flickr also allows for 90-second videos. (For an example, see Fantagraphics' account.)

A pro Flickr account costs $25 a year, but a free account should suffice for most authors. Digital cameras and camcorders are cheaper than ever.

Here's what I think a Blogger's Kit on Flickr should include:

  • author photos
  • the book cover (front and back)
  • "3-D" shots of the book in space
  • excerpt shots of the book spreads
  • a video of someone flipping through the book
Each photo or video is easily labeled, so you can put all the pertinent information: bio, plot summary, design/editorial credits, and links for purchase.

The first pass of my book isn't quite finished yet, but I've already set up a Blogger's kit for author photos, free high-resolution scans of my newspaper blackout poems suitable for print, and other press clippings. This has helped me out tremendously when I need to provide a quick resource for bloggers and journalists.

I'd love to see other authors and publishers do the same.

What do y'all think of this idea? Anything missing from The Kit?


Peter Pen said...

-- thanks for spreading this idea, Austin. does this in a combined way between flickr and his original blog.

Worth a lot of interesting inspirations - beyond great visual thinking in a simplified way.

Again, thanks for spreading the word and good luck while producing your book!


Anonymous said...

The folks at FaceOut books developed a 3D modeling system for books. Sounds geared towards publishing, too.

Austin Kleon said...

Great links, y'all. Thanks!

Mark said...

In the same vein, I like that Alex Ross set up a glossary, FAQ, and audio guide for "The Rest Is Noise".

How about a few "process"-type items from the working life before the existence of the final product? For example, at an exhibit a couple years ago I loved seeing Martin Luther King's index cards with select quotes and citations from his own reading. Or maybe field research photos that a cartoonist used to model a city. Or a simple photo of a stack of books kept handy during the writing process. Or maybe a link to the local coffee shop/library where you raced through the final draft? A lot of this is making it easier to follow-up on things in the typical "Acknowledgements" or "References" sections, making it easy for readers to follow you along. It's humanizing, makes the book into more than a lump with a barcode.

Austin Kleon said...

Mark, that is an awesome idea. The most stunning example I saw of that recently was a show at the RISD museum highlighting the making of David McCaulay's books. My math teacher used to say, "Show your work." Artists and writers have a bad habit of hiding it.

And thanks for pointing out those Ross links!

Catherine said...

I think this would be a good idea for consumers. Book publishers already are providing book sellers with virtual 3-D book shots, author photos, and even press proofs of jackets, via their catalog and press kits, but they're not available to consumers.

I think the hardest part of this would be the amount of work that would have to happen AFTER the book is printed. Right now, most places are doing virtual 3-D book shots using jps of the cover. Shooting actual books would be a huge undertaking— has anyone ever tried to photograph a super glossy book? Impossible!

Hannah Stephenson said...

I loved this post! This would be so helpful for reviewers (and media in general).

Austin Kleon said...

@Catherine I don't think the photos need to be that fancy, or necessarily all that high quality. I think if we could just see books in an everyday space and context--say, on someone's bookshelf, or on a table next to someone's lunch--we can get more of a feel of what the book is like as an object. It doesn't have to be rendered in 3-D. Just take a little snapshot.

Obviously, this requires a little bit of "letting-go" on the publisher's part. Let your book look normal. Seek out its potential settings. I'd go out on the subway and take a shot of someone reading it there.

@Storialist very glad!

Matt said...

Fantastic ideas, all. I'm going to do this with my book. I have a lot of photos of locations in the book, too, 'cause it's set in a city where I used to live, and I made a couple of research trips to remind myself what certain things looked like.

Joni Rodgers said...

I think it's a great idea. And I loved Asterios Polyp. Ordered it for my son's birthday and didn't want to let it go.

Anonymous said...

Definitely a good idea. The indie publisher I work for, Unbridled Books, already has bookseller kits available, which contain cover, author photo, bio, praise, etc., but this goes another step further.

Example of bookseller kit: (scroll down below the book cover)

We also make book trailers, animated banners and widgets available, but usually use Twitter, Facebook, etc. to disseminate them.

Very interested to learn what bloggers might need/use that booksellers would not.

Beth F said...

Great idea. Here are some other things for the kit (I just tweeted some of this): book trailer, author readings, author photo, author bio, links to author's blog or website, list of author appearances. For graphic novels or other illustration-heavy works: one or two pages that can be used to enhance a review or spotlight. Author or agent contact information for guest posts or email interviews.

Phyl said...

I really love this idea. Those of us who blog/review are always looking for things like this to make the post draw more attention.

I'd be curious if this sort of thing would be affected by Amazon's recent "We want to be the only game in town or on your website" attitude. I wonder if they'd throw a big tantrum if some bloggers used their affiliate links with different images than those on Amazon itself. I could see them doing that.

That would be the only thing I'd wonder about. I wouldn't care -- I ditched Amazon 2 weeks ago anyway, because of that. But I wonder if some bloggers would balk a little.

Austin Kleon said...

Wow, y'all. Great stuff.

Also, very happy to see a big house like Knopf taking notice of this idea, if only on their twitter feed!

Adam Norwood said...

When I worked in bookstore I wondered why the info available in the press kits / booksellers' kits wasn't made available to the public. They often offered interesting trivia and details about the book, the author, why we should care, extra artwork, posters, etc, that added more dimension to what would otherwise just be a hardback sitting on a shelf. I really like the idea of publishers venturing out into online kits with embeddable elements like you describe.

Speaking of spreadability, here's a good quote from Barbara Scala on the subject that I've seen being spread around: "It's not about getting people to come to my web site anymore. It's about getting my content; my videos, my articles, my event promotion announcements, on YOUR web site. That's what I'm paying attention to now." (From It's Not About Web Traffic Anymore, via Swiss Miss)

Pat Steer (Gaelen) said...

As a blogger, I love this idea. As an author, I'd want included some book excerpts and even author quotes about the process and the excerpts, author contact info for deeper interviews, etc. Great to see that the idea has been 'noticed.'