How I Handle Information Overload
by Jessica Tribble
Recent research has suggested that the Internet and our constant access to information have drastically reduced our productivity and our ability to stay focused. But as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Matt Richtel noted, “Just as food nourishes us and we need it for life, so too in the 21st century and the modern age, we need technology. You cannot survive without the communication tools; the productivity tools are essential.”
The book-publishing world is notoriously resistant to technology. We’ve been skeptical of e-readers. We still produce a product that is largely consumed as ink on paper. But I find that my ability to function in the publishing world has been drastically improved by the availability of technology.
Every morning, I sit down at my computer, I check my email, and I start plowing through the news. I use a blog aggregator or reader (specifically, I use Google Reader). This allows me to subscribe to a variety of blogs and sites that frequently update their content. The content is then streamed into my feed, where I can quickly browse through headlines and then click for more information.
Making My Virtual Rounds
First, it’s the general news. I check CNN.com, Slashdot.com, the AP wire, the New York Times, NPR.org, and my hometown paper, the Arizona Republic. It’s surprising how much book-related news creeps into the headlines: a new-book announcement, discussion of something being banned in certain states, a general reflection on e-readers, and more.
Having gotten my brain moving, I start reading through a category I call “Publishing and Book-Related Blogs.” This includes the book sections of national newspapers (they have their own feeds), and The Scholarly Kitchen, Pimp My Novel, The Rap Sheet, and The Rejectionist.
Those are some of my favorites, but I follow dozens. And I can do that because I don’t read every post from start to finish. Instead, I browse headlines, look for information that might be useful to me or to my authors, and try to get a feel for the world in motion.
Next come our authors’ blogs. I follow each of our authors. I want to know what is going on in their worlds. How is the news about e-readers affecting how they think? What are they worried about or considering as they work on their next novels? With whom are they talking and sharing ideas? What are they reading?
I use all this information as I move forward onto Twitter (follow me @jtribble and follow ABPA news @AZBookPub). I know that Twitter is a hard sell to many people. It seems just a jumble of individuals discussing what they ate for lunch and lamenting the cancellation of their favorite TV shows.
But Twitter is the new water cooler—only better. It’s the place where I can share the news I’ve been reading with others who want to know. Most important, it’s the place that I can go for ideas and feedback with instant results.
Unlike the water cooler, Twitter allows me to talk to and hear about ideas from some of the brightest minds in our industry (and in other industries). I can learn what interested Sourcebooks founder Dominique Raccah (@draccah) at the latest conference for independent publishers. I can learn what Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media (@timoreilly), thinks about the latest e-reader devices hitting the market. And I can follow the real-time headlines from Publishers Weekly (@PublishersWkly). I then retweet ideas that I found interesting and useful, making them available to my followers and authors via Twitter and also via Facebook.
What’s amazing is that all of this takes only 30 minutes of my morning. Thirty minutes of my day for being informed. Thirty minutes for getting new ideas and new information. (What is the best way to distribute e-books? How can we monetize author blogs?) Thirty minutes for fresh perspectives on our authors, on design, on sales. If I’m feeling stuck later in the day, I spend just a few more minutes checking back, and it’s almost always well worth the time.
Jessica Tribble is associate publisher at Poisoned Pen Press, an independent publisher of mystery fiction since 1997. She is also the president of the Arizona Book Publishing Association. She and her many books reside in the Phoenix metropolitan area.