By Lee Foster
When people ask me, “Lee, why do you love the Bay Area of California so much?” I reach for the easy answers first. The beauty of the landscape, from Point Reyes to Yosemite, can sustain me aesthetically for a lifetime. The climate, especially the salubrious cool climate of my native Berkeley, with its dry and sunny summer period, is an ongoing joy. The care with which citizens commit themselves to maintaining this Northern California environment in some acceptably pristine manner, for all the citizens, is a marvel to observe. Yet, these facile explanations of mine miss the main attraction of the greater San Francisco region.
That main attraction is the human creativity so apparent here, with its positive global implications. This creativity can be seen in the development of more efficient solar cells, or nano technology, or biological innovations. Almost everyone on Earth can benefit from the Search capacity in Google or the app presentations at Apple. The restlessness of innovators in the Bay Area, with its beneficial implications for our 6.8 billion earthly co-inhabitants, is a positive force of immense consequence.
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in an expression of this best-of-the-best Bay Area sensibility. The event was the annual Get Published! Institute of BAIPA, the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (www.baipa.org). The very existence of this organization, plus the fact that it is flourishing, is a testimony to the thickly textured creativity in the Bay Area. I go to monthly meetings of this group (besides this annual event) and benefit from the way it nurtures the vision of content creators launching their products, developing a market, and profiting from their individual efforts without any of the constraints of traditional publishing.
For the 100 people who signed up, for $99, the Get Published! Institute was a lovefest emphasizing entrepreneurial survival and opportunity in the modern publishing scene. This BAIPA event occurs each March, so for 2011 visions, keep in touch with www.baipa.org. The 2010 event was held at Dominican College in San Rafael.
My presentation was on “Apps and the Future of Publishing,” referencing my recent travel photo guide apps in the Apple iTunes App Store. They are titled San Francisco Travel Photo Guide (www.sutromedia.com/apps/sfphotoguide) and Washington DC Travel Photo Guide (http://sutromedia.com/apps/DC_Travel_Photo_Guide). This presentation was a special pleasure for me because I was able to celebrate my publishing partners at Sutro Media, who may emerge historically as major entrepreneurs at the start of the app era. They are helping to create the “travel” category in apps. These talented pioneers are Tobin Fisher and Kevin Collins, and they have brought in a capable acquisitions editor, Kim Grant, who has also developed the Boston app that is one of their best sellers.
Beyond my presentation, I and all the audience benefited from three extraordinary speakers. These are people you will want to know about if you are interested in what is happening in the modern media scene, which is in evolutionary flux. These speakers envision the prospect that the content creator may just emerge as a survivor rather than an extinct species:
-Exhibit A: Danny Snow. He’s a Harvard grad with a down-to-earth engaging sensibility. Danny is a part of The Society for New Communications Research (www.sncr.org). He is a world-class thinker, but not a pedantic person. Some insights from Danny: Ebooks are now an $80 million business annually. We have Tree Books and Ebooks. Literary reading is growing, not declining, as is commonly misrepresented. A computer screen emits light, paper reflects light. This is different. We may react differently to reflected light, both physiologically and psychologically. Here is one of Danny’s most fascinating factual comments: 5 of the 10 top selling books in Japan in 2007 were cell phone novels. He sees the mobile device, the cell phone, as the revolutionary future reading device for most communications.
I had dinner with Danny Snow on the night before the event. You would be hard pressed to find a more scintillating dinner companion, unless you happened to be in the company of Scott James, aka Kemble Scott, who also joined us, and was a major speaker at the BAIPA event.
-Exhibit B: Scott James, aka Kemble Scott for his fiction author persona, has accomplished some of the most remarkable feats in the modern media scene. If there were an Olympics for Media, he would have taken the Gold in several categories. He is also a charming newcomer in the San Francisco media scene. Follow his ventures at www.kemblescott.com.
What Scott James has done is worthy of fiction, which is his métier. The facts associated with his fiction make his story unique. Now he is a certified columnist for the New York Times, posting his “Barbary Coast” observations about San Francisco, perhaps adding a little grittiness to the gray lady because of his novelistic celebrity.
So, how did all Scott’s fame and fortune occur? His novels are SoMa (that means South of Market in the local lingo) and The Sower. Here is what is special about these novels. SoMa was the first novel launched using YouTube. The Sower is the first novel sold by the huge user-driven publisher Scribd.com.
If you ever have a glass of wine with Scott, ask him about his YouTube video on the sex cult known as the Tunnel of Love, on BART, the local transit system. It takes BART some seven minutes to cross underneath the Bay. The cult has some 6,000 members who allege that they have had sex in this underground scene. The buzz about the video launched the novel. Scott’s phone is now set to vibrate every time he gets a book sale.
-Exhibit C, the third visionary in this illuminating triumvirate of insight, David Mathison, was trapped in his airplane by weather in Philadelphia, so he missed our night-before dinner for the Get Published! Institute faculty. I indulged in my Fettucini with Seafood at Arrivederci restaurant in San Rafael, California, without his good company. He missed a good glass or two of California wine, but that was his fate. He arrived later that night, when the airplane finally liberated itself from East Coast storms, and he was able to get to the Institute the next morning for his talk.
David Mathison is the author of the independently published and seminal book, Be The Media. This may become the bible of the media-empowered individual. Follow David at www.bethemedia.com.
Mathison expounds with aphoristic insight and humor, as in the following comments. Tweeting is reporting. You are what you tweet. Stop chasing publishers, start chasing an audience. Mathison, in a parody moment, cited a potential contract with an old-line publisher who might wish to assert contractual exclusivity, “We will have all the rights to your content everywhere throughout the known universe, even on Pluto, whether it is or is not a planet.” Mathison is a hopeful guy, projecting that we live in a Renaissance, which is much broader than a Revolution.
He suggests, ironically, that we are in the midst of rebirths, not the deaths, of various media, such as: Of Radio as podcasts; Of Music as digital files, mp3 files; Of Publishing as websites; Of Television as YouTube; and Of Film as digital cameras.
He sees an explosion of global self-expression and feels that everyone should have a Facebook page. A large number of attendees at the Institute lined up to get an autographed copy of his book.
The Institute will repeat in March 2011. This one was skillfully managed by two BAIPA leaders. One is the president, Pete Masterson, who is a fount of knowledge on all matters related to publishing and is author of Book Design and Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers (www.aeonix.com). The other is the marketer for the event, Lin Lacombe, the BAIPA vice-president, who is a communications consultant and literary publicist. She led a session on marketing and public relations that was well received. Her contacts and energy brought in the speakers with their positive publishing messages.
Lin said to me, as we left the event, “Lee, this year I aimed to find speakers who are on the cutting edge of the new and progressive possibilities in publishing.”
She achieved her goal, to the benefit of all who attended.
Lee Foster offers travel writing/photography on 200 worldwide destinations at www.fostertravel.com.