Author Launches 'Blook' Craze
Ex-CEO Turned Blogger Publishes his Internet Murder Mystery as a ‘Blook’hackoff.com is a murder mystery set in the Internet bubble (and subsequent rubble), written by Tom Evslin, founder and CEO of NASDQ-listed ITXC, a bubble-era company. Evslin wrote hackoff.com based on his own experiences during the dot-com boom and bust, injecting it with the euphoria and despair of CEOs and hackers alike as their company’s stocks soared and crashed. Although the book is fiction, it may well be the most accurate inside account of those turbulent times.
The story unfolds as fictional CEO Larry Lazard, who served time in prison for hacking through bank security systems and liberating credit card numbers, takes his company, hackoff.com, public and its stock price soars and collapses. Following a hostile takeover attempt, Lazard is found dead in his office. Sex, power, money, farce and tragedy mix in boardrooms and bedrooms, the parties of the World Economic Forum and the smoky stairways of the World Trade Center.
Author Evslin, long known as one of the people who “made the Internet the Internet” is also credited with popularizing the concept of a “blook,” a book first published on a blog. Online serialization of hackoff.com both in blook form and as a podcast began in September of 2005. It was a “must read” both at Wall Street firms and among the founders and employees of bubble-era companies and their investors.
“Lots of folks got killed by the Internet bubble, but nothing like this,” says Andy Kessler, author of The End of Medicine, Running Money and Wall Street Meat. Tom Evslin provides a ringside seat to the fast paced battles and intrigue when entrepreneurs cross Wall Street. Like a chart of NASDAQ, it's a wild ride.”
We spoke with Evslin about his blog, his “blook,” and how both are affecting the future of publishing.
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IP: What is a blook, and how is it related to a blog?
TE: According to Wikipedia, one definition of a blook is “book serialized on a blog site.” Wikipedia gives me credit for popularizing this type of blook with hackoff.com which was serialized free online before being released as a traditional hardcover.
Another type of blook is a book which grows out of a blog but is more than just a reprise of the blog posts. Both John Battelle’s The Search and Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail fit this definition.
What does it take to be a good blogger, and what makes a good blook?
The most important thing about both a good blog and a good blook is good writing. People read what they enjoy reading and avoid the boring, pompous, or pedantic. A good blogger, like any author, knows the audience he or she is writing for. If a blook is a novel as hackoff.com is, than it has to have good plot, good characters, and all the things you expect in a novel no matter what form it’s published or distributed in. hackoff.com the blook and hackoff.com the book are both meant as entertainments (as are the free hackoff.com podcasts). Of course, the story draws on the ringside seat I had inside the Internet bubble as CEO of a company that went public in 1999, where I saw its stock soar and swoon, and fought off lawsuits and hostile takeover attempts. Those were interesting times.
How are blogging and blooking affecting the way books are written and published?
In many ways, blogs provide an avenue around traditional gatekeepers. We’ve all heard of news stories which originated as blog posts and germinated there before breaking their way into traditional media.
Book critics are very traditional gatekeepers as are the book publishers themselves. Books that are NOT published by the mainstream publishers are NOT, as you know, reviewed by the mainstream reviewers. But bloggers write about what interests them. A book can attract attention either by being a blog first (a blook) or by being written about bloggers.
More and more non-fiction like The Search and The Long Tail is written first as a blog both because the research is aided by having the ideas appear online open to comment from the beginning and to help marketing.
The fact that Amazon.com will carry any published title makes it possible for an independent publisher to have books readily available and to keep them available. They don’t get tossed off that shelf space. Although I used traditional offset for hackoff.com, print-on-demand (POD) technology does make it possible to publish with a small initial outlay and still be able to meet market demand as it develops.
So, the publishing world is being changed by the combination of blogs as a platform for books, blogs as an alternative to traditional reviews, the endless shelves of online retailers, and print-on-demand technology.
How does marketing a blook differ from "normal" marketing and promotion?
It depends on the blook, of course. In general, though, a much heavier part of the marketing and promotion for a blook is done on the web than through traditional book marketing channels.
For hackoff.com, web promotion is primary and every thing else secondary – even now that the hardcover is out and selling.
The initial buzz for a blook grows online – often through posts about the book from other bloggers. Again, this is an opportunity for independents who can’t get scheduled into the biggest book stores or traditional book promotional events.
What do you predict book publishing and marketing will be like five years from now?
Book publishing is going through the same kind of revolution as the music industry has and the television/video industry is about to. The power of the middleman is being eroded. There will still be hits; but, in general, they’ll be smaller and be a smaller percentage of sales.
Independent publishers, some of them just created for a single author, will account for a greater percentage of total sales than they do today. Readers will demand that books be available both offline and online and usually in podcast form as well. Authors and publishers who give their readers choice will flourish (as long as their books are good in the eyes of a significant audience). There will be many more niche opportunities. Titles will be able to hang on until their audience finds them rather than dying quickly if they don’t become immediate hits.
More choice for readers. More avenues for books and authors to become known.
Much more often, the text of the book will be given away to seed the market. This is possible with blooks because there is no significant incremental cost to the publisher or author for an additional download. There are some lost sales, of course, but these have to be weighed against what it would have cost to get that much publicity otherwise.
But it’s still not nirvana. There will always be better ways to earn a living than writing books. Authors will still be people who write because they have a story to tell or a point to make.
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hackoff.com: An Historic Murder Mystery set in the Internet Bubble and Rubble
by Tom Evslin
Order from 800CEORead.com
Tom Evslin was CEO of VoIP pioneer ITXC Corp at the height of the Internet bubble where he conceived, launched, and ran AT&T’s first ISP, AT&T WorldNet Service. WorldNet popularized all-you-can-eat flat rate monthly pricing for Internet access and forced the rest of the industry, including AOL and MSN, to follow suit.