Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

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Paul here -

I know I shouldn't do this. I know that OpenBook is an a quiet oasis on the prurient, trash-clogged net; that it should be reserved for high-minded discussions about semi-colons and the passive voice, but I kinda want to talk a bit about Facebook.

Now, before I get too far with this, you should know I'm a recovering Luddite (who still occasionally re-lapses when things get to be too much). Until just over a year ago, I didn't even have a bloody cell phone. And when my brother, then at Queen's University, spent the better part of his Christmas vacation ignoring his grandmother and looking at photos of undergrads on some hoaky-looking social networking site, I mocked him relentlessly.

But I came round. It started with the cell phone, and soon after, I was on Facebook, looking at people's very private photos, running into old friends from junior school I never really needed to see again, and getting incessant invitations to join inane groups for those obsessed with the "Ghostwriter" PBS show from the 90s. At the beginning, I was shocked, but gradually, I came round, especially when it ultimately came time to market Kickstart.

I know, I know. I'm not meant to talk about marketing, but I can't help it. It's the mindset we're in at the moment. Alex left for Regina this afternoon, and the remainder of the month will be devoted to shaking hands and kissing babies and whatever else is required.

We haven't done the tour thing before (just as we haven't done the book writing thing in a more general way), so when it came to marketing, we sought to use any and all avenues available to us, one of which what this surreal online walled garden called Facebook. Our friends were on it. They could read (some of them, at least). So presumably they had friends who could read as well. Hmmmmm. It had the makings of either a monstrous waste of time or a major boon.

Since we were all wasting too much time on Facebook anyway, we decided it might be worthwhile. And it has been.

It all started with our launch. People told us not to throw one, but we did anyway. Then we opened it up to the world. We put fliers up in Starbuckses and left them in libraries. Then we did the same inside Facebook. Over 400 people came to the launch. Even we could never have expected that.

Now, as we gear up for the tour, and plan to set sail for places where we have far fewer relatives, neighbours, team mates, and friends who owe us for playing wingman back in university, we're turning to Facebook yet again. We've created a Page for Kickstart and we're using it to invite people to our various in-store appearances. So far so good.

Where does it go from here? Who knows? People in the know seem to think Facebook will soon be little more than a historical anecdote, that we'll all go off and find something better, more intimate, less public and open to stalking. That remains to be seen. It's true that people are beginning to lose interest, as the novelty wears off and they find there's little to 'do' on Facebook. But perhaps there's an area authors and content creators can explore as well.

Toronto big-brain Don Tapscott is about to publish his sequel to Growing Up Digital (this one's called Grown Up Digital) with the help of a Facebook Group. Each week for the last while, his researcher has given the members of the book's Facebook Group a question to answer and a monetary incentive to be smart and quotable. I could have won $50 bucks if I'd responded to the argument that the NetGen (Tapscott's term) is the dumbest in memory. Problem was I was too dumb to even generate a decent response.

I could go on, but obviously there's loads of content being generated and distributed through Facebook (just look at what author Michael Winter did with his recent novel The Architects Are Here), and this is only the beginning of what social networks can do to help authors. Kickstart will continue using Facebook for as long as she lasts.

Send us any and all fun ideas for how to use it to both generate and market our books.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

Alexander Herman, Paul Matthews and Andrew Feindel

Alexander Herman, Paul Matthews and Andrew Feindel are the authors of Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started (Dundurn Press, 2008). Kickstart profiles over 30 prominent Canadians who explain how they started their careers.

Go to Alexander Herman, Paul Matthews and Andrew Feindel ’s Author Page