Friday, April 30, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Social Media, or How To Not Be a Dork Under Your Own Name

BookEnds, LLC had a post about using social media this week that was, as usual, well-thought out and interesting, but it's the discussion in the comments I found particularly great. And it provoked the following blog post wherein I try to find the line between having fun on the internet--and not shooting yourself in the foot for having had fun on the internet.

What Happens on Google Stays on Google...and That's a Problem


I think we all realize you can embarrass yourself on the internet. Badly. What not as many people realize is you often can't delete the evidence as completely as you think.

If Google's web crawlers have been by to index a particular webpage, they store a copy of that page as backup, and any person who knows how to use Google Cache can look at the backup.

Which means if you just deleted or put a privacy lock on some embarrassing entry on your blog or LiveJournal, the backup still exists and is completely accessible.

The moral of the story is: What happens on Google stays on Google. If the web crawlers have seen it, you are no longer in control of it.

And this says nothing of drama-hounds who screen-capture things that look controversial, or archives like the Wayback Machine that seek to preserve our online cultural artifacts.

The internet is more than just a public place; it's a public place that other people can show up to retro-actively. Don't assume that just because only three people read your blog today, only three people ever will. If one of those three people links to your post in the right forum, ten thousand people could show up tomorrow to have a peek at what you said.

But...When Did We Forget Our Dreams?


The post at BookEnds discussed the idea that authors need to be careful about their online image. You don't want to offend people, and you also don't want to bore them with endless stories about your cat.

But I'm really of two minds about this. On one hand, I heartily agree with the sentiment behind this XKCD comic, which is in disagreement with what Jessica at BookEnds said:



As writers, we should not censor ourselves. We are here to SPEAK. We are here to communicate what is in our heads, not to stifle ourselves for fear of losing someone's esteem or losing money. We're supposed to be courageous and loud-mouthed, and as artists, we're ALLOWED to have personality.

But on the other hand, I have seen many, many people make themselves look like idiots on the internet, and I have managed that trick personally faaaaaar too many times. I understand what Jessica at BookEnds is worried about, and I believe the answer to our problem is...

Practice Safe Freakishness.


If you've got online hobbies, engage in them freely and fearlessly--enjoy the heck out of yourself. The awesome thing about the internet is you can easily find people just as gloriously weird as you, so go ahead and do so! Live your life, and not in fear.

Just do so under a pseudonym. The world can always use another steelravynn777, amirite?

Keep your hobby-life strictly separate from your real name and your 'real' online life. Create a different email account; create a separate blog. Never include any correct personal information when you sign up for an online journal you intend to use for your hobby, and minimize the amount of information such websites show publicly in your profile.

This won't necessarily protect your identity from a determined internet sleuth; some people are malicious, and some of them are extremely smart with computers. However, if you refrain from really ticking people off with your internet shenanigans, you're not likely to run afoul of such a person. (No guarantees, however; see above comment about maliciousness.)

I personally feel no guilt about this sort of stealthiness. I have a right to be a weirdo, and I also have a right to determine who knows that. For example, it isn't my boss's business what I do in my spare time, so I am perfectly comfortable safe-guarding that information from him.

My final thoughts have to do with the matter of your 'real' internet presence--i.e. the one you do want associated with your professional name.

Remember That You're At Work


If you're trying to build an online presence to serve a business interest--such as building your brand if you're an author, a literary agent, or a small business owner--then you need to remember that when you post, you're at work.

And at work, you behave professionally and you keep your mind on the job.

So what is your job? This needs some defining.

I'll first reiterate a distinction I've made on the blog before because I think it ties into this discussion:

Anyone can write, and what they write is valid art and valid expression.

However, if you're seeking publication for your writing, then you need to realize you are writing for other people. It's not enough for you to enjoy what you've written; the book is not publishable unless hundreds, or thousands, of complete strangers will enjoy it too.

So how does this relate to the discussion here? Like so:

If you're using social media to build your business interests, it's not enough for you to be entertained by what you say. What you're aiming for--what your 'job' is--is to convince hundreds, or thousands, of complete strangers that you have engaging, interesting or funny things to say.

If you're a non-fiction author, your job is 'educator'.

If you're a novelist, your job is 'entertainer'.

There is overlap between the two, and a lot of room for fuzzy definitions, but that's the core of it. When you log in to create a post under your professional name, you should be striving to either interest or entertain people.

People who are not you! Who may not even be like you. And that's the tricky issue, because if you've been engaging in online hobbies, you're very used to creating posts that are mostly for your own entertainment. Those kinds of posts usually entertain others too, but they can also be self-indulgent.

And I think that's the distinction Jessica at BookEnds is trying to get across to her readers. It's self-indulgent to go off on a political rant; it's self-indulgent to natter about how cute your cat is. Those kinds of posts are not aimed at entertaining or educating others, so they shouldn't show up under your professional name. Put those posts on your hobby-blog, not your professional blog.

One very interesting point discussed in the comments of the BookEnds post is how much personality a writer should let seep into their posts. The answer is: exactly as much or as little as you want, provided you are entertaining people.

You can have hilarious mom stories like Ello provides, and you can have wistful dreaming-out-loud like I'm Not Hannah.

The acid test is whether you think other people will enjoy or appreciate them. It's not enough for the post to merely be something you really want to say--not on your professional blog, at least--it has to also be something other people are interested in hearing.

~~~~~~~

Did your last post survive the acid test? Do you agree or disagree with the distinctions I've made? Where do you think the line between private and professional should lie, and how much of your personality are you comfortable splashing out there for the world to see?

What things would you never talk about on the internet? What sorts of things are out there already that you wish weren't? Do you worry about what your kids have put out there?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ouch.

So, I no longer have a literary agent.

I half-way knew when I sent her my latest novel there was strong chance my agent wouldn't want to represent it. This book is very dark and quite a departure from the one she signed me with. Thus, the news last night was a disappointment, but not a shock.

My experience of working with Eleanor Wood has been nothing but positive. I highly recommend anyone who writes science fiction or fantasy to query her; she's a lovely woman--warm, professional and dedicated--and a responsive agent. Any time I had a question, she always got back to me promptly. Her comments on my work were both supportive and incisive, and I valued her feedback.

Plus, she found an editor at Tor (I mean, like, Tor. Tor! Squee!) who wanted to make an offer on my first novel. If the economy hadn't tanked at an inopportune moment, I probably would have been able to celebrate publication this year. You can't ask for better than that.

So I'm a little sad now, but still hopeful. If I did it once, I can do it again, and I am nothing if not bull-headed. This is a setback only.

Plus, as these photos show, there are bigger problems a person could have. I've got a wonderful life, and I'm thankful even to have a shot at getting published--the luxury to strive for more than just the necessities of life is a great gift.

But dang--does this mean I have to write another query letter?!?

Thanks to Writtenwyrdd for the link to volcano photos! Aren't they gorgeous?


Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Thursday, April 22, 2010

PARTY--er, I mean-- CONTEST AT ERIC'S PLACE!

I don't know how I managed to over look this, but blogging-buddy Eric is running a seriously-awesome contest with a seriously-awesome prize--a critique of your first ten pages or of your query letter by Elana Johnson or a copy of Ms. Johnson's book, From The Query To The Call.

Free stuff or a critique? I don't even know how the winner will decide. Now that you know what we're clamouring for, what exactly is the nature of the contest? I'll let Eric himself tell you:
You can relate a funny story involving a real celebration or you can make up something completely fictional. It can be short or long, any genre. If you don't want to put it into the comments section, email it to me at estallsworth@comcast.net. Just make sure you put in a comment mentioning that you did that. I will then randomly select a winner.
Randomly!?! Kids, we don't even have to be good at this to win! WHOO-HOO! Contest deadline is April 30th, so lick your pencils and get scribbling!


Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Are You Feeling It Too?

The single most valuable new thing I learned at SiWC 2009 was that the way to make your readers care about your story is to ensure your characters care.

Human beings feel empathy; we care about what others are going through. Thus, to hook your reader by their heart, your characters need to care deeply about the events of the story. Their emotional investment invites a similar investment from the reader.

Here's an example:
Liz is an untreated haemophiliac who is trapped in a cabin due to a blizzard. She gets a paper-cut. She decides not to panic. She binds the wound tightly, then remains still and calm while she waits out the blizzard.
Alternately:
Liz is an untreated haemophiliac who is trapped in a cabin due to a blizzard. She gets a paper-cut. As she watches the blood ooze out, horror makes her scalp prickle. She begins to shake, and then to cry with fear. Her mind scurries, trying to think of a way for her to get to civilization now, so this can be dealt with.
A story starting with the second scenario would be more likely to hang onto its readers, not because Liz has become a more likable protagonist (she hasn't) but because she cares deeply about what has happened. Her panic, if not her plight, is something the reader can empathize with.

I have a tendency to not sink my reader into my characters' heads deeply enough, and so I worry about whether I'm effectively showing how much my characters care about what's happening to them. I don't know if this tendency is due to me being hard-wired for visual stimuli (the way I think about scenes is very cinematic) or that I'm taking the "show, don't tell" principle too far. Rather than exploring what a character is feeling, I often try to show it with their physical reactions. You can see that in my example above.

That's not necessarily wrong or right. On one hand leg o' the chicken, the strength of books is that you can dive right into a character and know exactly what's going on in their head and heart. That doesn't happen quite so directly in any other art form.

On the other hand feathery shank, however, saying what someone is thinking or feeling is 'telling', and thus boring. If you're going to do it, you need to do it well.

Orson Scott Card does it superbly in his book The Crystal City. He made me positively loathe the villain simply by dumping me into the villain's head for a while and letting me see how the guy thought. Guy Gavriel Kay did it just as effectively in Sailing to Sarantium with a brilliant chariot race scene. At the beginning of the scene, you've never met these people before. By the end, you're on the edge of your seat because you know how deeply each of the characters cares about the race--only one of them is really in danger of losing his dreams, but all of them are in an emotional frenzy, and you can't help but be swept up in it.

So to get your reader to care about the story, make certain the characters care about it--and deeply--and that they are seen to care.

The tricky question is how to accomplish this.

In both Mr. Card and Mr. Kay's aforementioned books, the technique was to get deep into the characters' points-of-view. The audience was reading the character's thoughts exactly as they occurred to the character himself. There was no extra layer of analysis on the part of the author; the reader was getting an undiluted chance to mind-read these fictional people.

In contrast, my technique of describing how a character physically reacts keeps the reader completely out of that character's head--and yet, I can still communicate what the character is feeling and how much they care about the situation. It's not wrong, but it's also not necessarily the best way to do this. I should probably treat it as one tool in the toolbox, and work on acquiring other tools also.

My personal belief regarding putting the reader inside the character's head is that the deeper into the point-of-view you go, the more you are "showing". This is a strength, in my opinion. The text should read like a transcript of the character's thoughts, and the writer's art goes into making sure those thoughts communicate the character's emotions too.

The more the text reads like a description of what the character is thinking--i.e. the shallower into the point-of-view the writer takes the reader--the more the writer is "telling". I find this ineffective, but when your chosen point-of-view isn't first-person, it's often necessary.

~~~~~~~

How do you show how much your characters care about what's happening to them? Do you describe their physical reactions? Do you insert the reader into the character's head? Do you use a combination of the two? Do you use other techniques entirely?

What technique do you think is most effective, and why? Do you find one of the techniques harder than the others? Do you find you tend to gravitate toward one or the other naturally?

Finally, what do you think are the pitfalls of each technique? Where and how do you think writers fail when they employ them? What can they do to improve their effectiveness at hooking the reader's emotional interest?


Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Taking Out the Garbage

This is a really thought-provoking and fantastic article by Jennifer Crusie about how a writer's work happens in his/her head, and thus you need to watch how much time you spend thinking about things that aren't on your list of priorities.

From Taking Out the Garbage:
Did you get caught up by somebody else’s indignation on the Internet, firing off e-mails of your own and fuming at the unfairness of life instead of writing about it? If that’s where you wanted your emotional and creative life to go, you’re in good shape. If it isn’t, get over whatever it was that stole your mind and get back to where you want to be.


Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thank You, Intrepid Beta-Testers! | What? Huh? Print Rights Are the New Subsidiary Rights?

First, a huge thank you to all of you who beta-tested The Book Trailer Project. As of tonight, the last of the fake books has been auto-removed, and the statistics for the trial run are available here.

Thanks especially to FairyHedgehog, who gave me lots of feedback, and Josh Vogt, who not only was game enough to create a book profile and upload it, but who also asked if there was anything diabolical I would like him to do to stress the system. I very much appreciate it, both of you!

Eurgh. But you know what this means? It means I now have to go to the (scary) next step of convincing published authors to upload their book materials to the site and then try to entice large numbers of strangers to browse for stuff there. Whoo-hoo, and OMG-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into. Certainly, if any of you know a published author who would like some extra free publicity, please direct them either here (so they can stalk me and convince themselves I'm not a psycho), or to The Book Trailer Project's home page.

Thank you in advance, if you do!

~~~~~~~

This article by J. A. Konrath is one of the most thought-provoking things I've read about e-publishing in a while--probably because he is not a convert to self-publishing, but he does have some interesting monetary facts to note and is feeling fairly conflicted about them.

The short version of the article is he put some of his early books--ones that had been rejected by major publishers--on Amazon for $1.99, and he's now making about $125 per day selling them. And this has provoked a crisis of faith in him, because he's always advised new writers to go the traditional route--get an agent, sign with a major publisher, do not self-publish. But he's making a non-trivial amount of money by essentially self-publishing.

I'm not sure what to think of this either. I do agree with him when he says:
[I]f you're a writer, and you're changing your career path based on a blog, you aren't thinking long and hard enough about this business.

I've walked the walk for a long time. Your mileage my vary. Don't give up your agent search because I'm pondering aloud about the future. Don't rush to put your stuff up on Kindle without fully understanding and weighing the potential costs vs. benefits.
(Emphasis mine.)

The reason for Mr. Konrath's reticence is he is definitely a self-publishing exception. He already has a brand, one he has spent years creating in conjunction with traditional publishing, and that is NOT something most self-published authors get. He also has the experience of traditional publishing behind him; he knows more than us newbies do about what makes an eye-catching cover or a gripping blurb, and he probably can self-edit pretty effectively at this point in his career. In short, all the legwork has been done; now he can reap the benefits.

One of my blogging-buddies, Sandra Cormier (author website here), has taken a smartly-planned and careful stab at both self-publishing and e-publishing in the past few years, and I know she's not making $125 a day doing it. That's a much more typical experience for a new author trying to go the non-traditional route. One of Mr. Konrath's commenters, Ellen Fisher (who has a pretty interesting blog, by the way), summed it up like so:
I haven't seen much crap doing well on Amazon, no matter how cheaply it's priced. But some good writers (such as Mark Terry) seem to get overlooked. Then again, there are plenty of good writers trying to break into New York who are getting overlooked too.
In other words, don't jump into this. It's not a silver bullet. If you go this route, be smart and realistic about what to expect.

But here's the idea in Mr. Konrath's article that most piqued my interest:
For me, print has officially become a subsidiary right. If I ever sign another print deal, it will be to supplement my ebook income.
Paper as the subsidiary right? That's a huge paradigm shift--and it's not one I welcome because, as I mentioned in the comments of this previous post, when you make something available only online, you're essentially denying it to the poor. It's hard for us computer junkies to wrap our brains around this, but not everyone owns a computer.

On the other hand: $125 a day before taxes. That's a persuasive argument too, because artists of all flavours tend to not be able to make a living at their art, and you can live on $125 a day. It's not a strapping income, and it comes with no health insurance, but you can live on it. That's the thing that keeps me from dismissing what he's done as Not Right For Me. He has persuasive evidence that this tactic can work.

Mr. Konrath's blog article has not changed how I'm going to conduct my writing career; I'm still dedicated to going the traditional route. However, I think it has changed how I'll view e-print rights from now on. For someone with a known brand, they apparently can be very lucrative, and being a bit more aggressive about keeping them may pay off someday.

~~~~~~~

What do you think? Would you put your trunk novels on Amazon if you were a published author? Would you do it if you were still a wannabe? What effect do you think it would have on your career?

Do you find Mr. Konrath's experience intriguing? Disturbing? I'd love to hear your thoughts about this!


Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Tetris Kill You. Kill You Dead.

This is rather awesome. "Pixels" is a short live action/animated film by Patrick Jean.



Found via Geekologie

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Monday, April 05, 2010

Don't Know Whether to Laugh or Squee

I'm beginning to accept that blogging is more my cup o' tea than Twittering. Nevertheless, this is the bloggy equivalent of a retweet.

My twitter-pal Carrie Kei Heim Binas (CKHB) was recently yoinking about with a meme called #stuffmymusesays (stuff my muse says). The idea was to tweet the caustic, demoralizing or uninspiring things your fictional muse says to you.

This is one of the interactions she had.

(By the way, @neilhimself is Neil Gaiman. Himself.)

~~~~~~~

Ooh! Ooh! Beta-testers, there is new book content on The Book Trailer Project! (Stuff I didn't create, in other words.) Please log in and check out the very funny submission from the ever-talented Pseudo Nym


Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Sunday, April 04, 2010

AI Pep Rally | Get That WIP Cracking | Thank You, Beta-Testers!

The chocolate has scrambled my brains like an Easter egg fought over by toddlers. This week's post is a random assortment of quasi-thoughts. Happy Cheap Chocolate Day, everyone! And best wishes for the holiday, if this is a religious occasion for you.

~~~~~~~

As one of the many procrastination-enabling protocols of the GLaDOS system, accessed through the Aperature Science Enrichment Centre, I've been playing Portal.

For those of you who have no idea what that last sentence meant, I just finished a computer game called Portal. Twice. Not just for the fun but also for the nifty song at the end.

And although the song is sung by a criminally-insane computer, it does have one stanza I admit to being tickled by:
But there's no sense crying over every mistake
You just keep on trying 'til you run out of cake
There's a good mantra for everyone chasing a dream, isn't it? Set-backs are to be dealt with by cake and perseverence.

And maybe not by procrastinating by playing computer games.

~~~~~~~

Speaking of procrastination, I took a short writing break after sending off my novel to my agent. My next book is outlined already, and I thought that would make it easy to just jump back into writing.

It probably would have, had I not taken the break. Because I did, however, I'm now back into procrastination mode, where some bit of my brain snivels and wants to scurry away whenever I look at the task of getting started again.

Which means the only thing to do is get back on The Koala's schedule of at least 100 words a day. Forcing that habit leads to doing more than 100 words per day, generally--but even if it doesn't, it at least leads to getting more than zero done.

~~~~~~~

Thank you to everyone who has taken a moment to beta test The Book Trailer Project, especially Fairy Hedgehog, who has give lots of feedback! I very much appreciate it, everyone.

~~~~~~~

Please pretend this squiggly-blob thing is an avant-garde Easter egg:

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Friday, April 02, 2010

Grumble, Grumble, RANT.

I just read an article (link below) and want to smack the author, but I'd have to establish a login profile with a website I don't care about in order to do that, and that fact has paused me long enough to remember that internet slap-fights really aren't worth getting into.

However, I'm still frothing, so I'll deliver the slap here. But first, a story:

I once read an interview with a Libertarian candidate running for public office. He wanted to do away with public transportation. His rationale was that buses slow down traffic and "people like their cars."

When I got over my fit of apoplexy, my reaction was, "Yeah, people who own cars like their cars--the bus isn't for them, is it?"

The bus is for those too poor to own a car. It's for college kids and the elderly and the simply unfortunate. It's also for kids too young to get a driver's licence, and for the legally blind or those with epilepsy who cannot get one.

The bus isn't for drivers. I couldn't believe the guy was either too stupid to grasp that fact, or--more likely--too selfish to see any point in setting up the world to benefit anyone other than himself. And people like that? Should never be allowed into public office.

Ahem. Now then. This article reminded me a little of that:

My Library Card Expired: Why I Am Okay With It

The writer's argument is that "people in the library business are in trouble" because nowadays we all have Google to do our research with. Or, to put it in his ungrammatical words, "Library, meet 2010 and this thing called a computer, be envious".

Yeah, people who have computers get to substitute Wikipedia for actual research, but the library isn't for them, is it? (Skipping over the fact that most libraries are pretty up-to-date with using computers for research--when did this guy last enter a library?)

The library is for college kids who can't afford a computer, and the elderly who don't know how to use one, and the simply unfortunate--many of whom need to do research in order to get a better job in order to someday be able to afford a computer.

The library is also for people who simply love to read books, but if you scan over that article, the idea of going to the library for, y'know, a novel seems a possibility well beyond the writer's event horizon. Despite the bio claiming he engages in creative writing, apparently, to this fellow, libraries only exist to help you write your middle grade research paper. No, they could not possibly be used by people simply looking to read a great book for free! Who reads books for fun? Pshaw!

So, in summary: Grrrrrr... No, the world isn't only for you.

And also: Thanks be to Blogger for giving me a way to vent that doesn't wind up turning into a flame war! (Hopefully. There's always Google Alerts to play merry with that assumption, isn't there?)


Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

I Know That You Know I Know

Yay! Scientists are looking at what happens inside people's brains when they read fiction. I will need to start hunting down journal articles immediately! I find this sort of stuff incredibly interesting.

Nathan Bransford twittered this link, but it is a New York Times article, which means if you're not speedy enough about reading it, you'll need to log in, and I think that costs money.

Next Big Thing in English: Knowing They Know That You Know

This article deals with the fascination humans feel about knowing what other people know, which might fuel our fascination with fiction. I found the following two excerpts particularly interesting.

Excerpt 0001:
Humans can comfortably keep track of three different mental states at a time, Ms. Zunshine said. For example, the proposition “Peter said that Paul believed that Mary liked chocolate” is not too hard to follow. Add a fourth level, though, and it’s suddenly more difficult. And experiments have shown that at the fifth level understanding drops off by 60 percent, Ms. Zunshine said. Modernist authors like Virginia Woolf are especially challenging because she asks readers to keep up with six different mental states, or what the scholars call levels of intentionality.

Perhaps the human facility with three levels is related to the intrigues of sexual mating, Ms. Zunshine suggested. Do I think he is attracted to her or me? Whatever the root cause, Ms. Zunshine argues, people find the interaction of three minds compelling. “If I have some ideological agenda,” she said, “I would try to construct a narrative that involved a triangularization of minds, because that is something we find particularly satisfying.”
And Excerpt 0010:
To Mr. Flesch fictional accounts help explain how altruism evolved despite our selfish genes. Fictional heroes are what he calls “altruistic punishers,” people who right wrongs even if they personally have nothing to gain. “To give us an incentive to monitor and ensure cooperation, nature endows us with a pleasing sense of outrage” at cheaters, and delight when they are punished, Mr. Flesch argues. We enjoy fiction because it is teeming with altruistic punishers: Odysseus, Don Quixote, Hamlet, Hercule Poirot.
So Excerpt 0001 notes there are limits to how many layers a reader can keep straight in their head. "She knows that he knows" and "She knows that he knows that she knows" are easy to grasp. Add another layer, as in "She knows that he knows that she knows he knows", and our brains start having difficulty.

This is a good thing for a writer to know! First, because you you usually don't want to confuse your reader, but second, because sometimes you do. If you're creating a mystery, having a character who can keep five layers of understanding straight could give you the basis for either a new Sherlock Holmes or a great master villain. And you can be sure most of your readers won't be able to guess the story's real ending.

Excerpt 0010, however, echoes something Jim Butcher said on his LiveJournal: A story is about poetic justice. Evil-doers are punished and those who do good are rewarded. (I've blogged about this before.) Fiction satisfies our evolved-in desire to create a fair society.

~~~~~~~

What are your thoughts? Do you think science can shed a light on what writers need to accomplish if they want to create compelling books, or do you think creating fiction is better served by following our instincts about what works? After all, a study can only tease out one small bit at a time of the picture our subconscious might already grasp completely--how other people's brains work.

Although I did have to ask "What are your thoughts?", didn't I? Hee! That may argue in favour of letting the scientist sort it out for us.


Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Thursday, April 01, 2010

It's ALIIIIIIIVE!!!

Okay, provided I haven't screwed something up at the eleventh hour (literally; it's nearing midnight while I'm typing this), The Book Trailer Project is ready for beta testing!

What is The Book Trailer Project? It's the code-baby I've mentioned in my last two posts; I've built a website that will show viewers either a book's cover art and blurb or its book trailer. Viewers are then asked to report in a month later and say whether they bought any of the books whose material they browsed. From that, I'll calculate statistics to see whether book trailers are better or worse at selling books than a more traditional advertisement.

But first, we have fun! If you're willing, I could use some help beta testing the site during the next week or so. I've already loaded up material for four fake books on the site, and once you've set yourself up with a login profile, you can browse that material and react to it.

You can also pretend to be an author and make up some fake books of your own. Silliness is encouraged! I'll explain how to do this in more detail later in this post.

First, here's how you get to the website. Go ahead and dive in if you don't want to wait through me explaining things; everything should be relatively self-explanatory.

The Book Trailer Project

For those of you still reading, the beta testing of the site will feature an accelerated time schedule.

Normally, a viewer is prompted say whether they bought any of the books after one month. You, however--wily beta-tester that you are--will get your prompting email one day after you browse the index. No, that doesn't give you adequate time to buy your imaginary books, but that's okay; just lie! just click buttons at random and test how things work. If you see something that seems glitchy, either leave me a comment on this post, or email me at webmaster "at" jjdebenedictis "dot" com to detail what you saw.

Likewise, if you're pretending to be an author and loading up a mock book to the site, try some kooky things and see what happens. If you get a response that seems problematic, again, please drop me a comment to let me know.

You're also welcome to suggest ways to improve the site, although given how badly I've fried my brain on this already, I only promise to implement the easy things!

How to Log In to the Site and Browse Content:

Click the following link to go to the home page, then follow the instructions to set yourself up with a login profile. After that, it's all a matter of clicking happily away at whatever strikes your fancy.

The Book Trailer Project

Once you have viewed material on the index page, and especially after you reply to say which books you "bought", you might find it interesting to go look at the site's statistics. These are what will eventually tell us how effective book trailers are at selling books.

How to Load Up a Fake Book to Amuse Us All With:

You need to set up a login profile first, but once you have one and have logged in to the site, click on the button at the top of any page that reads "Author Application". You'll be faced with a big form to fill out.

Don't panic!

You'll be asked to fill in your pen name and your book's title and genre first.

Next, you want to fill in your book trailer's URL (web address). Find a YouTube video or something similar that you think makes a good trailer for your fake book, then copy-and-paste in its address. There's space for a second trailer's URL too, but it's optional.

Okay, now you're asked for the URL of your book's cover art. Just find an amusing or appropriate image online and post the web address for it into the correct space.

The next thing is the book's blurb. This could be a piece of mock back-flap text or a made-up (and juicy!) passage from your fake book. Be creative!

The Sale Page URL comes next, which I would normally use to check the book's publisher, but you don't need that. Put any valid URL in there; I'll just ignore it when it hits the moderator queue anyway.

Next, you can put down your author website if you please. Go ahead and add your real blog or website's address, but this is an optional field.

Almost done! Now you pick a release area for your fake book, and click the "I'm Ready to Preview My Content" button. After reviewing your content, you can submit it to the moderation queue.

Once I've seen it, I'll either accept or reject your content (or I can ban you from the site, too. MWAHAHAHAHA!), and you'll be sent an email telling you whether I think your fake book is a hottie or a nottie.

If I accept it, your fake book will go up on the site's index and everyone can enjoy looking at the promotional materials you assembled for it.

The lifespan of a book in the beta version of the site is also accelerated. Normally, the author would have their materials up for six months. During this testing period, however, the fake books will only be up for one week. At the six-day point, you'll be sent an email reminding you to look at your book's statistics before they disappear. On day seven, your fake book evaporates without notice, and we all quiver with existential terror over the question of whether it was ever really there at all.

Phew!

I hope I've covered everything; now I encourage you to please pop by the site and play rough with it. Any glitches or issues you discover, please let me know of by either leaving a comment on this post or by sending an email to webmaster "at" jjdebenedictis "dot" com.

Thanks for your help, everyone! I really appreciate any assistance you are willing to give.


Author website: J.<br /><br />J. DeBenedictis

Pageloads since 01/01/2009: