Like Sugar on a Sidewalk

I’m still in the process of digesting Jordan Dane’s excellent tutorial on using Twitter as a publicity tool and raising one’s profile. I recently witnessed the end result of how all of this — Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook, oh my — works, and it was a sight to behold, believe me.
My daughter is a huge fan of the British boy band One Direction. If you are older than fifteen, you may not have heard of them, but the band is huge: they sold out their 2012 tour in around an hour, and they weren’t playing coffeehouses venues, nor were the ticket prices of the “one dollar and a can of food” variety, either. 1D, as they are affectionately known to their fans, skipped Columbus, Ohio this year (they’ll visit during their 2013 tour, which, btw, is also sold out) so we obtained tickets to the Charlotte, NC performance and tacked it on to the back end of a family vacation. The Family Hartlaub stayed at a Hyatt next to the venue, so that daughter and mom could easily walk to the concert without the assistance of their slovenly father and husband. I also thought that there was a chance that the band might obtain lodging at the same hotel; alas, such was not to be. But, but.
On the afternoon before the evening’s performance someone posted a photo at Tumblr and Twitter purporting to show one of the 1D lads in the lobby of a Charlotte hotel with yellow walls. I started googling and was able to narrow the locale down to four hotels in the immediate area, including the Charlotte Omni, just up the street. We headed out about 3:00 PM and started walking up the street when two jet black buses pulled up in front of the Omni. My daughter yelled, “IT’S THEIR TOUR BUS!” and went running up the street, tweeting madly as she ran. In seconds, and I mean seconds, what had been a quiet and relatively deserted intersection in uptown Charlotte became a mob scene of screaming teenage girls. It was as if someone had dropped sugar on a sidewalk in the summer: every ant in the vicinity immediately gets the message. I know, I know, John Gilstrap gets that reaction everywhere he goes, but still. It was unreal, and all because my daughter, and no doubt, a few others, sent the word out to all of their sister fans that 1D was in the Omni and would be exiting shortly. They eventually did, and it was tumultuous.
But wait, there’s more. My daughter posted one of the two thousand or so pictures which she took during the 1D concert and posted it to her Tumblr account. Someone blogged about it, and someone else tweeted about it, and by day’s end her picture had five thousand hits. The count has been increasing exponentially since then.
Your results may vary. I would love to see an author (in addition to the aforementioned John Gilstrap) get such a result from their fan base (“Jordan D. just wlked out 2 get hr mail! LOL!”). We don’t live in a world where authors are subjected to that sort of mob adulation for the most part, and more is the pity; but in these days where more and more authors are going it alone, it is certainly an effective way to get the word out about anything.  I’m going to spend the rest of this weekend working my way through Jordan’s directions; if you’re at all interested in using this tweeting tool as a means of self-promotion, you will want to do the same.
A postscript to the trip: in the middle of all of the chaos outside of the Omni my wife found an sD data card on the sidewalk. I loaded it up, hoping for…well, never mind what I was hoping for. What it contained were what appear to be vacation photos of a trip to Mexico and involving two families. The pictures were taken in December 2011; the families look like they might be linked by two sisters; and I would love to get this card back to the rightful owner. I have already posted this on several sites designed for reuniting lost cameras and such with their owners, and thought I would try this as well. If you’re reading this, and you know of someone who has been on vacation six months ago or so and lost their photos of the trip, send them my way @josephhartlaub or josephhartlaubatgmaildotcom.  I might be able to make them happy.

Without Borders

Just in case you tuned in earlier and saw this post appear and disappear on Friday, we had a PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Computer) incident where this offering was posted prematurely. Sorry about the confusion, for which I am totally responsible.

I have been watching the slow motion train wreck, otherwise known as the Borders bankruptcy, for over a year now, knowing that it was coming but hoping that it would not. It came this week and it is, not to mince words, a disaster, at least for the short term.

I am aware that the wiser among us say that other bookstores in the areas of the shuttered Borders will pick up the slack, and no doubt they will, to a greater and lesser extent. My immediate concern is for the good folks who worked at the closed stores, and who now join the ever-growing number of people looking for employment. Of longer range concern, however, is the amount of debt owed to publishers large and small, and by extension to authors. I have no idea whether the parent companies of the publishing houses that we deal with are large enough to absorb some of the losses I am hearing about, or even if they are inclined to do so. What I am worried about in the intermediate term, however, is the future of the printed, bound book. I thoroughly enjoy my Kindle, and I have managed to own it for almost one year without breaking it. But I haven’t given up books. I’m kind of like the guy in the (more-or-less) committed relationship who also has a friendship with privileges, and who isn’t sure who fills which need. I really don’t want to have to make the decision any time soon. But the Borders situation creates a giant bump in the road of physical commerce. There are a number of questions hanging out there. Will publishers ship new product to the remaining Borders stores? What happens to physical product in warehouses? Or to product remaining in the closed stores after this weekend’s G.O.B. sales in the stores which are closing? Someone will answer all of these questions fairly quickly, but the shift is going to be a pain in someone’s rear end. In any event, I am sure that someone in an office in midtown Manhattan has floated the idea to their underlings that if all books were e-books, no one would have to worry about all of this. The book isn’t printed and delivered until it’s ordered and paid for, so no inventory. Great, right?

Sure. In some ways. But I don’t think most of us are ready to give up books or the stores where we buy them. Which is why I am asking you to join me, and to ask others to join you, in a demonstration of faith: buy a new book, a physical book, from a brick and mortar establishment dedicated to that purpose, each month for the next twelve months. Many of us already do this, but many of us use libraries, and many of us borrow from friends. Nothing wrong with that, and bless you for reading. But I am asking you to move the budget around a bit, bite the bullet, and buy a book. At worst you’ll have several Christmas gifts to give by the time December comes. I am going to visit the wonderful and indispensable Foul Play Books in Westerville, Ohio for this month’s purchase, and maybe for all of the rest of them each month as well. If you like the bigger stores, go for it. If enough of us do this, the publishers may decide that its worth it to stay in the game, even if they have to move that god-awful inventory around. But please do it. Let’s counter that ripple effect, before someone gets a not-so-bright idea.


A get well soon to John Miller, whose operation on his hand is not preventing him from writing.