Transparent Publishing & Community-Driven Narratives – Guest Post by Brett Henley

I have a guest post today from a writer who is trying something very different indeed.

Most authors are loathe to share their work while it is in progress for the simple reason that the first draft is often quite different from the polished, finished work.

We often go through multiple drafts, get trusted readers to give their opinions, revise again, get them to read it again, revise further, work on it some more, and then submit it to an editor. Only after the editor’s suggestions have been navigated, and the manuscript has been proofed thoroughly, do we then allow the public to see it.

Even with all that intensive vetting and honing, we always feel nervous about how readers will view the work.

However, one writer is sharing his book as he is writing it. His name is Brett Henley, and I invited him along to explain why. Here’s Brett:

***

Content exclusivity – the bastard child of rejection – the aged influence that’s held writers in a vice grip for years, convinced that our best work is to be hoarded until the curtain parts and a publisher deems us worthy of sharing for mass consumption.

I’m advocating something entirely different, namely for writers to take this prolific beast of a writing process by the balls and share unfinished and unpolished work.

Why?

Because I believe that a community driven narrative, one that encourages authors to share their work WHILE writing a manuscript, could deeply strengthen a story and build a platform for independent success.

The DNA of a community publishing project

So what the hell am I talking about when I say “community-driven” narrative?

Let me break it down to the ideal scenario:

  1. Author releases raw excerpts from daily/weekly writing jaunts using an online vehicle (blog, twitter, FB, tumblr, podcast, etc.)
  2. Author cringes as community offers constructive feedback, both positive and not so.
  3. Author builds strong emotional connection with the community by sharing story and back story, but also by openly sharing the writing process itself, struggles and all.
  4. Author provides incubator for conversation by empowering community with tools that facilitate open sharing and contribution (being specific on where to share, how to share, tools for community-contributed content, etc.)
  5. Community becomes deeply invested in the process, helping new readers acclimate to the experience and becoming your most influential advocates within their own networks (hand them a flag and stand back as they wave it).
  6. Rinse and repeat.

In theory, this publishing model offers increased reader or audience control over the narrative experience, dubbing the “community” co-captain to the content creator.

There is a very real and raw sort of quality to the entire journey that provides a deeper sense of authenticity and a more personal connection with the writer.

If we’re talking ideal model, this would also lead to a stronger audience investment in the story’s success.

Not an expert, but a student

I started this journey with the simple intention of writing a novel. In the 11 months since inception, change has provided constant companionship. This process is still relatively naked to me, as much a “work-in-progress” as the book itself.

i am convicted is the story of the American prison system, in all it’s tentacled and antiquated glory, told from the perspective of a former prisoner who’s found redemption.

It’s consuming, too large at times to simply carve into page and poof, out pops a newborn word baby.

It started morphing and evolving almost immediately. During interviews, I was often distracted by the insertion of new ideas. There were moving images, songs, speaking tours, readings, educational curriculum, podcasts and a host of stuff constantly knifing its way in.

Wheels spun, neuroses at full force. I was hiding and hoarding at the same time I was sharing, a half-ass effort at involving a community in the process, too scripted to be real.

Then the comments came, the encouragement to let go of that last fingertip’s length of grip on the reigns. It still comes back now and again, that gentle tug to regain grip and run into hiding.

The community generally saves me from myself with comments like:

“The mixing will be interesting. As we see bits and pieces, they’re all in one or the other voice, so I’m curious how it will read all together.”

This comment prevented me from diving too deep into an idea to have the narration switch between 1st present and 3rd past in each chapter … it was okay in theory, not in application.

“I challenged my 4302 fb friends to join. Let me know whether they did or didn’t. I know there are many who just jawjack”

When traffic is slow and reactions are sparse – it’s comments like the above that help me crawl out of bed each day and keep fighting.

I originally intended this experiment to include only posting chapters excerpts as they’re written, as well as few photos and videos that would provide more in-depth context.

Now, I’m sharing my routines, my struggles, behind-the-scenes interviews and occasionally advice on managing the novel writing process, as well as full chapters as they’re completed.

I’m literally able to test drive concepts and get feedback before I settle on a definitive direction. Ultimately, the decision is still up to me, but to have an objective opinion that may clue me in on potentially debilitating choices is priceless.

There are more of us

I met a fellow writer during the 140 Conference NYC last June who had already tackled the concept of transparent publishing head on – what she lovingly refers to as “anti-stealth storytelling.”

Michelle Rae Anderson’s The Miracle in July is essentially an online memoir, launched in July of 2009 as a sort of genre-bending experiment – part Web serial, part interactive storytelling experience, part awesome.

She published one chapter per week over a 12 month-ish period, posting the entire manuscript to her site before self-publishing the first draft as an author-signed, 300+ page book. Each chapter of the digital serial is chock full of embedded media, from photos and videos to interactive maps related to the story.

She and I have talked often about “redefining” the model for authors, less in how we publish finished work (which writers like David, Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, etc. are doing quite well on the indie side) and more in how we write AND how we build an audience for our work.

There are more of us out there that are releasing work as we create, some even quite commercially successful (see Machine Man by Max Berry for best example, who Michelle turned me on to).

I’m nowhere near the first to advocate a transparent writing process … and I can promise you that I certainly won’t be the last.

to be worthy of recognition – a final word to the wise

I doubt you’ll find legacy pubs who’ll advocate for transparent publishing (they have a hard enough time with indies going it alone). I imagine most would argue that writers absolutely NEED a publisher’s marketing repertoire to have a prayer and hope for success; most would also argue that a writers work should remain carefully hidden until we follow steps 1-1,011 to spit-shine our manuscripts for the literary conveyor belt.

I imagine publishers would also be afraid of this level of author transparency, simply because it further dilutes their control.

But this post isn’t about launching into another anti-legacy diatribe. It’s about writers taking control of the entire process through positive, open and beautiful movement.

So … if I can part a single, simple truth from my tiny window with a view, it’s this:

Don’t wait for the publishing world to catch up, and don’t rely on aged metholodologies for success.

Kick the doors down before they can be opened.

About Brett Henley

Brett is the author of i am convicted, a work-in-progress novel using a blog to transparently tell the story of Andy Dixon, an ex-felon who spent nearly three decades in the Tennessee prison system. You can join the conversation at i am convicted, Twitter and Facebook.

Brett is also working on two additional “in utero” pieces to be self-published in 2012 – a children’s book about the dangers of chasing perfection and a novella for the Kindle about a telepathic mustache …

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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57 Responses to Transparent Publishing & Community-Driven Narratives – Guest Post by Brett Henley

  1. “But this post isn’t about launching into another anti-legacy diatribe.”

    Then why include those parts in your post? 🙂

    • Brett Henley says:

      Because, unfortunately, they’re crucial to the argument for transparent publishing. Trying to walk that line … a fine one indeed.

      Don’t think that the indie writer in general is in a place where we can avoid talking about traditional … it’s the primary benchmark that we have.

      • You weaken your argument, in my opinion, when it boils down to: “The MAN would hate this, so stick it to the MAN!” If you want to write in public and have your readers tell you how you’re doing, that’s fine. It’s great that the Internet allows writers to experiment with whatever ideas they come up with. But the whole “publishers are trying to keep us down!” nonsense is just silly. 🙂

    • Brett Henley says:

      I’m actually advocating that writers leap off the rejection circus and take proactive, positive movement into account – so this isn’t a “damn the man, viva la revolution” approach IMO.

      In essence, this on us to take action, i.e. empowerment, not stick it to the man.

      • I totally understand the desire to build up a readership, but I guess I’m old fashioned in the sense that I believe you write with the “door closed.” 🙂 But if this method works for you, and you end up with a book you’re proud of AND readers who want to tell their friends about it, that’s pretty cool. The experiment might work, or it might not, but that’s part of the fun, right?

      • Brett Henley says:

        Yes on all points Brian, and I think it’s essential for writer to find their comfort zone.

        For me, it’s being uncomfortable that works best.

  2. JJ Toner says:

    Crazy idea. Sorry, but I see no merit in this at all.

    • Yeah, I feel the same way. This sounds like the Hollywood way of doing things. The writer get dozens (or hundreds) of notes from a committee of people who “know better” than you what the story should be. And then, after the film is shot and edited, test audiences tell the studio what they liked and what they didn’t — and sometimes things are then reshot to fit the notes from the test audience, even if it completely destroys the movie.

      I think I’d rather just see what Brett can do all on his own without the help!

      • Jaye says:

        Here’s the thing, Brian, NO writer can actually do it all on his own without help. Throughout my career I’ve had critique groups, workshops, editors and a writing buddy. The completely isolated writer ends up talking to himself, unable to hear the noise outside his own head.

        Nowadays, there are many paths that lead to connections between writers and readers. I applaud anyone who tries something new, unusual, strange, bold or even crazy. Who knows? Maybe it will work.

      • hey Jaye! Critique groups, workshops, editors, and a writing buddy are a little different than posting each chapter and asking random people on the Internet to tell you what you’re doing right and wrong. 🙂 Were you showing those people each chapter as you wrote and changing the story based on their feedback? Maybe that works for you, and good for you if it does, but I think a writer should have their own idea of what the story is supposed to be.

      • Also, your comment is kind of funny considering the first sentence of the current post on your blog! 🙂

      • Brett Henley says:

        Brian,

        Constructive feedback, IMO, is not asking a community what you’re doing right or wrong … it’s testing what might resonate with potential readers. This is not a writer’s group approach, by any stretch of the imagination.

        I respect the difference in opinion, but you’re taking a pretty hard line/black and white approach to the message.

        I fully admit that this experiment is not for every writer, but the idea of building a platform by involving an audience early in the process strikes me as the antithesis to the Hollywood approach.

        As far as comments below regarding output – it’s a WIP, so a chunk of it is sourced and written, just not released yet. I’m simply involving readers in the process of creation to hopefully build community involvement, and subsequently, investment in the story as an iterative process.

        Why I love the world of indie writing and the opportunities it represents … different strokes for different folks.

        Thanks for stopping in, and for your passionate responses.

    • No merit for you, or no merit for anyone?

      I admit that this approach is not for me, but I do find it intriguing. It’s not unusual for writers to workshop novels in quasi-public arenas. Writers do that in MFAs and in other workshop scenarios. This is a lot more public, but it could be viewed as an extension of that approach (which works well for some).

      Seth Godin talks a lot about the potential to involve readers in the very act of creation, and that if you do they could become huge champions of your work (which is what we all need to get word-of-mouth moving). This is one way of attempting that. Crowdfunding could be viewed – in one sense – as another.

      What I find exciting and liberating about digital self-publishing is that it affords writers the opportunity to try whatever they can dream up. Before, doing something like this would have encumbered your rights to the point where the book was unsalable to a publisher unless you generated a phenomenal amount of public interest. But if you are publishing yourself, that doesn’t matter so much.

      With digital publishing we are seeing the return of the short story, the rebirth of the novella, shorter novels, longer novels, serialized fiction, writers working in teams – and I’m sure there is lots more left-field stuff we don’t hear about so much. Some of that stuff probably won’t work, but that’s the nature of experimentation.

      • Red Tash says:

        I’ve been tweeting “Notable Nanos” this month while working on my project, as part of Nanowrimo. A few folks have retweeted them, so I know they’re amusing at least a few people. I hope that’ll translate into success for the book, but we’ll see. I figure I’m losing nothing by (if nothing else) showing off a few clever one-liners. That’s what people go to twitter for, anyway.

        Maybe the retweets are only validation for me, as a writer, but even so, I’m happy with that.

      • Red, I think that’s an excellent use of Twitter to promote yourself and your work.

      • Brett Henley says:

        You absolutely nailed it Dave. I think Seth’s thought process, while uncomfortable and foreign for most writers, is a good benchmark for what I’m try to do.

        Not saying I can copycat, or want to copycat, his approach. Failure is an essential part of the writing process, and being afraid to experiment because of the presence of failure, is not an option for me.

  3. Jaye says:

    I think this is a fabulous experiment. Compare it to a singer or a band performing in a small, live venue, able to get immediate feedback. The especially brave performer sings before tough crowds. Most of all, they do it a lot, honing their skills night after night.

    Bravo, Brett.

    • Brett Henley says:

      Thank you Jaye, it’s a WIP in every sense, so time will tell.

      I think you’re analogy is spot on. One point though – I’m not necessarily asking for feedback that will tell me “how” to write … it’s more to facilitate the creative process as something open to the reader to participate in.

      I think that needs to be clear on my part. Creative control still lies in my lap, ultimately. This is about sharing the process to hopefully encourage community (those that resonate) to contribute and advocate as well.

  4. E Hunter says:

    It’s a totally different model, and one that I can see merit in, but it would very much depend on the story I wanted to tell. Something that was more journalistic in nature, a memoir type or personal journey type of story, I would, perhaps, consider doing something like this. For my current series, the appeal of the story lies very much in the “otherworldly” aspect, which needs a fully developed universe the reader can fall into. For a story like that to work the way I want it to, the book has to be completely actualized, so this would not work.

    It is a very interesting concept, though, and I love the idea of interactive story platforms! Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Brett Henley says:

      I think you hit the nail – and I’m very much writing a personal journey/memoir type, which makes the process of sharing openly a little less frightening, and a little more crucial.

      I would still advocate for transparency in fiction, as it’s something I’ve toyed with doing in the past. Obviously, serials have threads of this approach and have so long before we arrived on scene.

      I think Machine Man by Max Barry (as I mentioned) is one solid example of fiction that can be released as written, and still live as a compelling, final piece.

      Thanks for stopping by and contributing, always good to have varying viewpoints on the writing process.

  5. Here’s the other thing that’s nagging at me.

    In Brett’s post he says, “I started this journey with the simple intention of writing a novel. In the 11 months since inception, change has provided constant companionship.”

    On his website, the latest post is “chapter 2 of i am convicted.”

    Is that all that has been written? I really do get the whole “wanting to connect with readers” deal, but sometimes a writer needs to sit down and… write. Lots of people like to TALK about “being a writer,” but to actually be one, you just need sit down and write. It doesn’t matter if you write a bestseller or something that’s trashy or something that only you’ll ever love, you just actually need to write.

    I think too many people these days put the cart before the horse with their work. “OMG, I have to build a huge readership so someday, when I finish my novel, it’ll sell lots of copies!”

    Just my two cents, of course. I try to support all writers, and I love experimentation, but this idea just seems like the wrong way of going about your work. But I wish the very best for Brett. Maybe this way of writing his books WILL make him the next Joe Konrath.

    • Brett Henley says:

      Brian,

      All of your points on being vs. saying you’re a writer, I agree with. I think you and I are more on the same page than you might think.

      Let me make this crystal clear:

      I’m not advocating, suggesting or asking writers to interrupt their writing process, to forget that output on a consistent basis is crucial. I’m simply adding a layer to this process. In fact, I write every day, rain or shine.

      The latest post is Chapter 2, and there is a 3rd and 4th chapter coming soon after, so I wouldn’t assume that writing isn’t happening.

      If you’re benchmarking “all that has been written” based off a cursory glance, I think we’re missing a lot of context from the process. Don’t know if you’ve written a biography or memoir before, but it’s definitely a much different beast than fiction.

      We’re moving … life can just slow things down a little bit sometimes.

      Thanks again for all of your insights.

      Would love to hear more about what you’re currently working on and how you’re experiences have shaped your approach so far.

      • Well, I’m sure I’ll get a better understanding of how it’s going since I subscribed for updates via Feedburner. 😉 Can’t way to see how things go for you. I *am* intrigued, even if my comments may not convey that. Sometimes I think it’s just good to poke and prod an idea to see what it’s made of, if that makes sense. While this approach of writing/promoting may not work for me, I can see the Godin-esque nature of it and why it COULD work for someone who embraced it like you have.

        As for “life can just slow things down a little bit sometimes,” I understand that all too well. I sold my first short story when I was 14, wrote a novel when I was 15, and thought I’d be writing a book a year for the rest of my life. Turns out, I’m not that kind of writer. The novel length ideas are few and far between for me. That’s part of the reason I love this new age of digital publishing. Short stories and novellas are suddenly cool again.

        By the way, I would have subscribed to your blog if your entire post had been this sentence: “I’m writing a novella for the Kindle about a telepathic mustache…” 😉

      • Yeah, I wanna read about that moustache. Sold already!

      • Brett Henley says:

        Thanks for subscribing Brian – Should be an interesting ride.

        And yes, the mustache story is going to be quite interesting. That one will be an exercise in laughing my ass off through the entire process. Lots of random to be had.

        But hey, gotta poke and prod that box whenever possible, right?

  6. I use a high degree of transparency with most of my writing and have found it very helpful. I agree that it builds reader interest and loyalty. If a reader has been with you since day one, they’re more likely to stick with you until success. There have been times when I’ve shelved a project only to have someone pop in and say ‘hey, why did you stop? that was just getting good.’ Then I give the project a new look and get back to work.

    Ultimately, however, my writing is indeed mine and I have the final say on which direction the project takes.

    I think that utilizing transparency also helps any fellow writers that follow each other. We get new ideas from seeing what other writers have done. A lot of times I get my questions answered just by another author doing the same thing and then sharing their experience.

    The current changes in publishing method and ideology have turned authorship into one big exciting and frustrating experiment.

    That’s what makes being a writer so much fun.

    • Brett Henley says:

      “Ultimately, however, my writing is indeed mine and I have the final say on which direction the project takes.”

      Yep … but you can still experiment (as you are) with how you approach the first iterations. The final product is always, and should always, be up to writer.

      Thanks for sharing Nathan.

  7. Catana says:

    I’ve done something like this with two of my novels, and am thinking about perhaps doing it with a third. I posted as I wrote, with spell checking and some light editing, and invited critiques from readers. I did not invite input aimed at making significant plot changes, but we discussed, online, some of the suggestions and why they would or wouldn’t work. I can’t see dragging such a project out over a year or more, though, because unless readers are heavily involved in it, they’ll lose patience and drop out, eventually. I’m also not crazy about the idea of a book belonging to and being created by a community, but that’s just me. I know what I intend to write, and I appreciate those who are interested in following along and offering input. The reward, for those whose comments made a significant different in how the novel was revised, was a free copy when I published.

    There are many degrees of transparency, and each writer is going to do things differently, but I’m already aware of many published authors who serialize their novels before publication. What will vary is the condition of the novel–first draft or more polished–and how much input the author wants, if any. But all serve to establish a coterie of readers, which is all to the good.

    As a last comment–I didn’t see anything in the post that I would consider an anti-trad rant. If you’re going to describe something new, it helps to place it in a context. That’s what Brett did.

    • Brett Henley says:

      Thanks Catana,

      Agree that there is a pretty wide spectrum of what most would consider “transparent.”

      Getting away from this story as just being a physical thing, the idea is that story itself lives among the community. A lot of the feedback I get is aimed at the details in Andy’s story, asking for context and the like.

      It’s in its infancy at this stage, so evolution will inevitably happen.

      This process, for me, is not about giving control over a book to the community … it’s sharing in the process of storytelling itself.

  8. elorithryn says:

    In a sence, you could say I started doing that three years ago, on a collaborative writing website. Sure it wasn’t the rought draft but the third edit, but because of the feed back from readers and thier clamore for more, I’m currently editing the third book. To me it’s more about validating that yes, I have something that others will enjoy and so I ought to get it into a bigger pool of fish for more to enjoy.

    Oh and those readers have had some influence on my work, be it names, personalities, or who got to kill the bad guys (well the it was taken into account, but the charcters got to play their parts as they wanted to. They don’t always listen to me.)

    Oh and this story takes place in another world, similar to our medieval one, but still different. One of the things about having outside readers at the start is I find out early on when I need to explain something better becuase they didn’t get it the first time. :}

    I’ve also discovered that they love my ‘out takes’ some of which are completely deleted scenes, and others of which are just from some one elses perspective. Becuase of their comments there, I’m thinking about using a dual voice for the ‘final’ book.

    But I think it is true, this works better for some than others. :}

    (I’ve been blogging some of my current NaNo exceprts)

    • Brett Henley says:

      Interesting, sounds to me like you’ve found some balance in the process. Love that you’re open to readers input on character and some level of plot development (albeit, not for everyone).

      I think the spirit of what you and I are doing is very much in the same wheelhouse. Best of luck, hopefully your final version will come together the way you envisioned.

      Thanks!

      • elorithryn says:

        Actually I’d venture to say the story is coming out way MORE than I invisioned!

        And mainly it’s the characters driving this thing. They take and leave what they want and enjoy talking to the readers. Sounds crazy? Well perhaps it is… but these readers are also writers, so they understand. :}

      • Brett Henley says:

        Doesn’t sound crazy at all.

        Being out on a limb is frightening at times, but in the end this is your story and your vision – whether it succeeds or not.

        Here’s hoping for the former.

  9. Hi Brett,

    I have a question: What are your plans for publishing all this when you are done?

    Dave

    • Brett Henley says:

      Hey Dave,

      For publishing, I’m focused on two e-book versions, one on Kindle Direct. The other, I’d like to publish as an interactive e-pub with embedded content (photos, links to relevant content on the blog, etc.) – this is something I’m working out the kinks on as we speak, but chapter interviews with the subjects of the story is one example. This would live at the end of each chapter, obviously.

      A third, potential element would be trade PB and hardcover versions, but this to be honest depends on several factors, namely funding resources.

      I’m also considering expanding this into a more comprehensive storytelling project, including accompanying podcast, potential documentary and additional components that would allow us to keep the story moving after publication.

      I’m early in my “planning” process, so admittedly it’s evolving as this experiment continues.

    • Brett Henley says:

      Thanks man, really pushing for that e-book version to happen.

      Just have to figure out the best way to produce.

  10. Jaye says:

    Brain, re your comment “Also, your comment is kind of funny considering the first sentence of the current post on your blog!” (for anyone who cares, the blog in question begins: “In the interests of disclosure: I do not use any online critique sites. Never have. This post is not about the quality of the critiques given or received. That said…”)

    I wrote that because I was writing about a legal issue that can arise from using online critique sites. The blog post was not intended to discuss the merits of the critiques or any value writers might get from the sites or whether writers should use them or not. I wanted to make it clear that I had no dog in that hunt.

    That post and the one proceeding it had to do with the fact that posting one’s work online for public viewing constitutes publication and it can affect the licensing of rights to publishers.

  11. I guess it works for some people.

  12. I’ve explored a group-written book in one of my series. I am still mulling it–the time spent managing such a project and so many people would likely be a bigger job than simply writing the book myself, so I need to see a “value added” before I’d invest the time. My original intention was to use it as an open writing workshop and help people through my editing experience. But there are so many different levels of skill, ability, and craft, it could be a nightmare.

    I applaud anything new and brash. Why not?

    • Brett Henley says:

      Scott,

      The beauty is that you can pick and choose the vehicle of delivery; so if inundation is a concern, you could tweet excerpts, for example.

      I’m certain that my particular approach won’t work for every writer, but I do believe that a transparent writing process can help an author build a platform for sustainable success; it’s a matter of creating an environment where readers are invested early, however that process might look for you.

  13. Dave says:

    Dave

    Thanks for another interesting guest post. It’s VERY refreshing to step back from the hard numbers, tech logistics and, of course, all the grenades being lobbed back and forth across “the fence” and discuss an aspect of craft.

    We all know the value of feedback so in that regard I think this is a good idea and a valuable tool…for some. Such as below:

    “The mixing will be interesting. As we see bits and pieces, they’re all in one or the other voice, so I’m curious how it will read all together.”

    This comment prevented me from diving too deep into an idea to have the narration switch between 1st present and 3rd past in each chapter … it was okay in theory, not in application.

    I do this all the time, I suffer very badly from “morphing and evolving” as you said. It can generate some great stuff, new ideas, etc, but it can also waste time, frustrate and be counterproductive. Personally I adress this with thorough outlining, which is common I believe, but everyone writes differently.

    I think this would be most effective with a close group of fellow writers, preferrably familiar with your style. Across too broad a spectrum I think you would risk getting feedback overload. Another, possibly greater risk: is basing such a percentage of your work off feedback compromise your own inherrent voice?

    Just some thoughts.

    • Brett Henley says:

      Dave,

      Love your points here – all valid.

      Perspective is the most precious commodity in this process. I think the rewards outweigh the risk in my case.

      I avoid feedback overload by benchmarking every idea that comes my way, either internal or external, against the story structure. So I agree on the need for a solid outline; much of our recent traction is a direct result of revisiting the outline.

  14. Lis says:

    This the first time I’ve heard the idea from a fiction writer, but a number of my non-fiction writing friends are doing just this. Publishing the content of a book first on a blog or forum and them polishing and publishing it on Amazon. Seems like a very good idea to me, much quicker feedback than stuff around waiting for beta readers to get back to you

    • Brett Henley says:

      Hey Lis,

      Thank you!

      I am a fiction writer at heart, but this story is definitely in the creative nonfiction arena … so it’s hugging a few lines.

      You’re spot on with blog to polish to publish scenario – I have several colleagues/friends with a similar approach that had a lot of success.

  15. sgl says:

    Thank you for this post. I’d like to point out that what Brett is doing is not all that different from a community of writers who publish “webfiction” and have been writing fanfiction for years on the net in a public forum, warts and all🙂 . For those curious about this phenmonena, I suggest investigating webfictionguide.com , weblit.us, and the podcast Webfiction World ( http://www.webcastbeacon.com/category/webfiction-world/). This is a truly indie thing.. quality of stories varies considerably but it’s worth examining as a potential model for the future. (Also need to remind you that the Chinese have figured out how to monetize this kind of model and some folks are now writing serially under several major webhost umbrellas… (SEe this link http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2011-03/28/content_12236969.htm ) .

    So as someone playing in Brett’s sandbox — what I do envy is Brett’s interaction with his readers… There are a few folks out there who really use input to shape their next update. I’m not one of them (rather, I learn what people like , characters they like, pairings they like, and think about whether some of that can be emphasized as I work on each update).

    Monetization of his model is possible, but only for the truly best at the interaction and writing ont he fly sort of skill that this model requires. Webcomics show it’s possible, but only for the 5% or so at the top of the heap. Anyways, lots of tangential thoughts in here, so my apologies. There are persons who are out there better equipped to talk about the indie webfiction writers, so if you do want to talk to more of those persons, I highly recommend looking at the podcasts at the two cohosts…

    • Brett Henley says:

      Awesome sgl … goes to show that indie is far bigger than just one medium or one approach.

      I agree that the interaction is crucial, and we definitely have a long journey ahead in thta respect. I think the key to monetization is depth, something I’m working on fleshing out as we speak.

      By depth, I mean more ways for readers to engage with a story.

      Best of luck, and thank you for sharing for your thoughts.

  16. Mark & Mark says:

    I see merit in building community and readership around a subject of common interest, using this approach. I’m uncertain about the boundary between artist and community in the creative process, though. It’ll be interesting to read about how the interactions affect the shape of “I am convicted”.

    • Brett Henley says:

      I’ll admit that I have no prediction/clue as to how this will turn out.

      But I refuse to be afraid of showing my work, and of losing control of the story.

      Won’t happen.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Brandon Sanderson did this a few years back with one of his novels. He seemed pretty positive about it and I think you can still find the original word document on his site – his reasons were very similar to yours.

    I think the idea has merit as a promotion tool over a long period of time, especially if you have other work up that readers can buy in the meantime, while you show them your stuff. This would be the most useful aspect of this process: Addition sales to other inventory.

    One thing that does worry me is that you might end up writing for a community of people with very specific interests or tastes. This could cause your book to become a bit of a niche novel with a readership that has already read it. Excerpts, as you mentioned, are the best way to go with this.

    Good luck with your venture!

    • Brett Henley says:

      Thank you Kenneth, appreciate you mentioning Brandon – I’m a big fan of what he’s accomplished with finishing one of the greatest series of fiction of our time.

      I think your comment on becoming too niche is very valid, and I’ve considered how to cut this off at the knees.

      I still haven’t determined if I’m going to release the entire first manuscript online or not. There is merit and argument from both angles, and I know many writers would think I’m ludicrous for even considering it.

      I do think there are compelling reasons for this level of transparency, and I also think you can create a win win by building a small community around a niche subject. I’m in the process of working of all this out as I go, so def a WIP in every sense of the term.

  18. Pingback: a guest post on let's get digital | i am convicted

  19. It tastes bad, and goes against the grain of what traditional learning about writing teaches. At first, there doesn’t seem anything wrong with it; it may even be a valuable tool for some writers. But the greatest danger appears to be the potential loss of a writer’s unique voice, being that it’s not so much what is said as from whose perspective and how written. The temptation to write what others want seems too easy to fall into, not only for content but also for style. Everyone gets lazy. In the end, it may be that too many cooks not only spoil the broth, but make it taste like it came from a fast-food restaurant.

    • This could be one of those things that works very differently, depending on the writer. Some of us bounce a lot of ideas off people during the genesis of a book, seek multiple opinions on tricky passages, even (gasp) post them on our blog sometimes. Others will be quite fastidious about letting NOBODY see it until it is done. One is not more valid than the other. We all probably gravitate towards what works best for us – eventually. I don’t think that it’s too much of a stretch to believe that this process could work for a certain kind of writer and produce a better book. Perhaps might suit someone who likes to work slower, to stew between scenes.

  20. Roger Panton says:

    “In theory, this publishing model offers increased reader or audience control over the narrative experience, dubbing the “community” co-captain to the content creator.”

    I just do not see how this could have worked for me in my story of “Mr Alexander”. I deliberately wrote it with a view to avoid predictable outcomes and I think I managed to achieve it in a way that surprised me at times. In the event of it being taken up by TV or full feature film, I wanted to give the director ‘licence’ in some areas by creating inconclusive outcomes in some areas not crucial to the story and its ending. Again, I am happy that I managed to achieve this also.

    Good luck to those of you who endorse the idea. Maybe the idea is just too sophisticated for me.

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