Do Twitter, Facebook and blogs drive (Australian) book sales?

July 3rd, 2009

I’m working on an article for the Australian Society of Authors’ Australian Author magazine about online reader communities, and I’m looking for writers, publishers and booksellers who use Twitter, blogs or other social networking technologies to successfully promote their books.

There was a recent Twitter conversation about this topic and a really interesting post at Publishing / new media analyst Charlotte Abbot mentions a couple of examples of Twitter / blog driven books in her analysis. But those are mostly US examples, and I’m really looking for locals.

Specifically, I’m looking for examples where people have been able to track the correlation between online activity and book sales. It’s one thing to drive traffic to a website or blog (tools like Google analytics can track this), but I’m looking for evidence from people who have been able to convert these readers / followers / subscribers into paying customers.

I know that reliable, traceable promotional activities are the pot of gold at the end of the marketing rainbow, but ideally, that’s what we’re after!

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681 Lexington Avenue - an Interview with Elizabeth Von Vogt

September 7th, 2008

681 Lexington Avenue - book cover

For me, New York City in the late 1940s has always been a place of special resonance: a city experiencing post-war boom, ex-soldiers on the GI Bill, the bomb, bebop, and the early writings of the east coast Beats.

None of them knew it at the time, but Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and others were living lives that would one day become the stuff of legend-much of it self-created. The parties, relationships, visions and philosophy of the late 40s seeped deeply into their early works:

Burroughs transmuted his 103rd street lowlife into Junkie; Kerouac’s New York appeared in The Town and the City and On the Road; and Ginsberg’s Howl, though written much later, is full of references to the period. From the start, the Beats were all about mythologising their lives in their art.

But there was one writer who came at the scene from a particularly intellectual angle. John Clellon Holmes met Jack Kerouac in 1948, and his roman à clef Go is considered one of the first Beat novels. Holmes lived with his wife, Marian, in an apartment at 681 Lexington Avenue, and his pad would be the place where he and Jack Kerouac formulated the term ‘Beat Generation’.

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Rembetika: A Night of Greek Blues - Preview

July 1st, 2008

Factory Theatre
July 5, 2008

Greek BluesRembetika is a night of music and culture at The Factory Theatre featuring some of Sydney’s most talented Greek-Australian musicians.

The show, which includes music, dance and performance, aims to recreate the experience of being in a Rembetika hangout in Athens in the 1920s.

‘Rembetika has always had an air of danger about it,’ says organiser Frank Zervas. ‘It was the music and style of the Greek urban underground - jailhouses, taverns, brothels and drug dens - performed by quasi-criminal elements and frowned upon by mainstream society.’

‘For much of its history it was banned by the government, so a lot of myths have grown up around it, and there is still a lot of misunderstanding today.’

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Bill Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors

June 30th, 2008

This is a book review I wrote for the July 2008 issue of Blue Pencil, Newsletter of the Society of Editors (NSW) Inc.

Do you need to make room on your bookshelf for yet another reference? Read on and find out.

Bill Bryson\'s Dictionary for Writers and EditorsBryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors
By Bill Bryson
Doubleday, 2008 (Revised).

Take a browse through an editor’s book collection and you’ll probably find numerous well-thumbed references: dictionaries; spelling guides; manuals of style and common usage; tomes on punctuation and grammar; thesauruses (or thesauri); writers’ guides and books of common errors.

You’re also quite likely to find books by Bill Bryson, the peripatetic American humorist who has written about everything from culture to science to the history of the English language. As a journalist, editor and writer - rather than an academic - Bryson has always had an interest in the practicalities of language.

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Film versus book - What’s the difference?

June 15th, 2008

Maybe it’s a stretch to call Iron Man a book, but there’s no doubt about Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Both are well-known written works - a comic and a masterpiece of ‘magical realism’ - which have recently been made into films.

I’ve watched a lot of adaptations this year in my reviewing for Alternative Media Group. Prince Caspian, The Painted Veil and The Mist are three others I’ve seen since February. Whenever I watch an adaptation, I always wonder about whether to treat the film as a version of the same story, or as something very different.

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Indiana Jones, or, How I Nearly Became an Archaeologist

May 21st, 2008

Walker of the MonthIn 1991, I was in year 11 at school. I’d been doing a weekly neighbourhood newspaper round for 3 years when my name was drawn as ‘deliverer of the month’. As well as giving me a small bonus, someone from the paper rang me up to ask questions, and they sent a man to take my photo.

The shot showed a skinny dark haired boy in a private school uniform and Harry Potter glasses. The clipping described me as a ‘budding archaeologist who studies Latin and enjoys playing saxophone and listening to music’. It didn’t say anything about my Spiderman comics. Maybe I forgot to tell them…

When my ‘friends’ got hold of the article, they made sure it was photocopied and distributed around the locker room at school. The humiliation of this budding archaeologist was swift and complete.

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The Book is Dead - or is it?

May 1st, 2008

This is a long book review I wrote for the May 2008 issue of Blue Pencil, Newsletter of the Society of Editors (NSW) Inc.

Sherman Young will be attending the June meeting of the Society to discuss the latest in electronic publishing. “E-books: Where the bloody hell are they?”

In the meantime, check out his blog at

The Book is Dead (Long Live the Book)
By Sherman Young
University of New South Wales Press (2007)

The Book is DeadBy Lachlan Jobbins

It’s not surprising that a senior lecturer in Media at Macquarie University should be announcing the end of the book. As a digital producer and consumer, it’s in his interest to be sounding the death-knell of one technology and signalling the rise of the next.

But Sherman Young’s fine book is not the typical op-ed rant of the techno-futurist. Nor does it pine for an idealised past when publishing was more a cultural endeavour than a business one. In 166 pages of careful argument, plus thorough notes, bibliography and index, Young takes an impassioned look at the precarious position of book culture today, and points toward a digital future.

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And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks

March 20th, 2008

William BurroughsPenguin is to publish an early collaboration between Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, according to a report in The Telegraph. And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks was written in 1945, but has never been published in full.

An excerpt was published in Word Virus: the William S. Burroughs reader in 1998. According to the introductory notes to that collection, ‘Burroughs and Kerouac alternated chapters in constructing this novel and this chapter represents Burroughs’ first attempt at conjuring the scene around him at Columbus in the 1940s.’

After the stabbing death of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr, for which both Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested as material witnesses, Kerouac began writing an account of the affair which he called “I Wish I Were You”. Read the rest of this entry »