About The Books: 2009 Review of the Year

With a sharp change in emphasis from the Soc Med focus of 2008, this year has been all about the books – not only finishing my own (and throwing it out to the ether to see where it landed), but helping sell other people’s.

In his post on signings, Jim C Hines argues the case for such events being a waste of time – low turn-out, poor sales, bored staff – and yes, we’ve had our tumbleweed moments. I’d be lying through my teeth if I denied knowledge of how that feels.


As Borders glubs finally below the surface, it’s the industry’s responsibility to keep book sales afloat – and that means (for my part) taking the ‘bored-bloke-with-Sharpie’ signing and kicking some life into it.

Cue Dave Devereux’s ‘Eagle Rising’ signing last January – publishers, authors, marketeers, bloggers and retailer all joining forces to rip up the rulebook and defy the ‘why bother’ trend – the event was massive and the subsequent publicity for all was off the scale. Suddenly they were – quite literally – all the rage. As we said at the time, ‘everybody wins’.

In April, another first – asking China Miéville to read, live, from The City & The City; Joe Abercrombie came in a month later for a similar event.

Forbidden Planet is a hub – it’s a brand that Makes Shit Happen. I can’t claim that every signing has been a screaming-teen success – but if you make the effort, this stuff snowballs.

And that’s where the Soc Med gubbins learned last year comes back into its own.

During 2009, membership of Twitter has increased by well over 1000%; business identities now form 40% of FaceBook pages. In a struggling climate, success is all about communication, about visibility and Customer Service – and these are the tools we now take up.

Whether your signing is a success or not, that’s only the investiture of petrol money and a sandwich. The point is that those signed books, that Soc Med coverage, that interview, that blog post – they’re all about public visibility. I’m better Mister Hines had more people read that post than turned up at the signing in question.

In order to turn Soc Med’s now well-oiled wheels, you need the event – the trigger, the spark, the gimmick, the kick-start for the momentum to roll. Hubspot have a lovely piece on Dominos – one Brand that’s made it happen.

This year has been all about re-invention – about the personal re-invention of my own random scribblings… and about completely re-visualising the traditional concept of ‘signing’.

And with the economic climate as it is and the industry under so much pressure, that re-invention has a name.

2009 is less ‘So.Me’ – and more ‘So.Everyone’.

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