Wednesday, 1 October 2014

German Virus Slingers

Lovers of German words might take kindly to Virenschleuder, which denotes a kind of Typhoid Mary for computer viruses, literally a "virus catapult", people who merrily wend their way through the electronic world infecting others with all they pick up. I have no idea whether there's a word for this in English because I only know the term from the publishing world. The Virenschleuderpreis, you see, is an award for people and projects that spread the word about books online.

They've just announced their shortlists in three categories: strategy, idea and personality. I don't think you can win it exactly by being a nice person, but I do find the third section most interesting. This may be because I'm a bit funny about marketing, although I realize it makes sense. So the other categories include things like the gorgeous Tumblr from the Lessing & Kompanie bookshop and lots of things with new-fangled names like "content management", "OS" and "crowd-funded". Whereas the "most infectious personality" category, while perhaps inadvisably named – can you catch personality? – is a list of movers and shakers. OK, the list was drawn up by people sending in nominations followed by an online vote, so at this stage it's a popularity contest. But from this point on, the award has judges to pick the best online book-promoting person. And the judges are mainly women. Yes.

I'm a little bit troubled by the language in which the "personalities" are presented, because it's rather celebratory and not entirely cliché-free. But it's no great surprise that an award for PR would be couched in self-congratulatory marketing terms. What's interesting is the range of roles these "personalities" play: a writer who set up a publishing house to publish himself (and others), a writer who made it bigger with the aid of her fan community, e-publishers, self-publishers, an established publisher who finds a lot of time for the internet, a blogger, a bookseller, a writer who took an Afghan boy into her home so he could have an operation on his heart in Hamburg.

There's an awards ceremony at the Frankfurt Book Fair (where else?) but I think the reward for the winners is the huge amount of publicity generated by a prize for publicity, rather than financial. And they say you should go along for the networking opportunities and for the DJ, who also happens to run a promotion agency. I don't think I will, to be honest, because I don't feel overly comfortable with the PR side of publishing. But I'll be interested to find out who wins.

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