Baptism by Fire: PubFighting with BNC Staffers

The First Impression

When I started my internship here at BookNet, I just nodded nervously whenever someone mentioned the infamous PubFight. As a former Ryerson Publishing student, the word had floated in and out of my consciousness for over a year. I wasn’t sure how it worked, but I knew people got excited about it. Then again, it could have easily turned out to be a poorly-hidden basement-of-a-library fight club for publishers. I was confused but intrigued.

The Prep

I gained some clarity when Sam Francis asked me to collect catalogues for PubFight’s master list. I googled my heart out; I bothered my publishing friends for catalogues; I almost broke my computer with fancy PDFs. It was good times. Seriously speaking, though, I learned a ton from this task. I gained an understanding of publishing trends for the year, house objectives and interests, and lots of insight into what people are reading and what to pay attention to in the upcoming season.

The Strategy

Auction time was fast approaching. Seeing as how I’d racked up numerous Kobo reading awards and spent an embarrassing amount of money and time at bookstores, I thought it would be a breeze to pick smashing titles for this year’s PubFight. Then my rational editorial side kicked in. There were questions to be answered: Should I pick titles I’d personally read? Should I pick titles I’d never read but that would certainly sell? Should I take a chance on new authors, or go vintage? I decided to do some research, explore SalesData, and look at the bestsellers from last year.

The Auction

When auction day came around, our boardroom was a whirl of anticipation, shameless tweeting, beer-sipping and free pizza. It was a good day to be an intern.

The auction started off innocently enough, but soon transformed into a roundtable of boasting, empty threats, side-eyes, questionable risks, self-destructive spending, and heckling. My BookNet colleagues are fierce under their tough metadata armour, it seems. By the end of it, everyone had pulled together impressive, slightly quirky lists, and I’d had a thoroughly engaging afternoon.

The Outcome

I came away with a list that combined personal preference and a mass audience scope, and both celebrated authors and up-and-comersa mixed bag of literary goodness that I called Fancy Nerd Press (taken from one of the many jests overheard during auction). There’s the new Murakami, Atwood and R.A. Salvatore in there, alongside bright young things like Maggie Stiefvater, Pittacus Lore and Larry Doyle.

The Reason (For the Season)

PubFight gives me another way to pay attention to the publishing world, get excited about new releases, attend events and launches, blog about books more often and get to know authors I don’t know. It engages and connects publishing professionals and students alike, and provides a fun overview of trends and topics that are relevant right now.

Now I’m busy figuring out print runs with the help of SalesData and advice from seasoned PubFighters, and I can’t wait for the real battle to begin.

The game goes live this week! So if you’re in one of the trade league make sure you’ve got your initial print runs in by Tuesday night.

Bring it, bookworms!