So, I know I just chatted about this site earlier in the week, mostly due to the fact that it has marked my newest novel, The Long Chron, as being this week’s Staff Pick. It’s pretty exciting, and the site gets higher marks for being on the few out there who have recognized my genius…or…you know, been aware of it 😉
Understandably, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on the site this week. In between checking to see if the number of people who have started reading the book has gone up, I’ve been actually looking around the site itself, trying to get an idea of what the whole point of this new offering from Internet Mega-Giant Amazon.com is all about…
And I have to admit that I have absolutely no clue.
Well, I shouldn’t say I have no clue…I have ideas, but they’re all unsupported by anything other than my over-active imagination.
The site is pretty solid, although still in the beta stage and lacking some features that many would consider rather important (like notifications when someone responds to you on a forum thread). But it’s core concept is solid.
Perhaps I should back up, for those of you unaware. WriteOn is basically a collaborative writing site. Although, unlike sites like webook (which, last I heard, was being rebuilt by users after the parent company shut it down) where people are actually working on the book together, giving them something of a co-authorship of the books in question, this site from Amazon is more like an internet writing group, where people can upload their books and request feedback, editing advice, or whatever. The actual description of the site is a bit more openended than that, stating that authors may want to invite readers to see their process, watch as a book goes from first draft to final…from my personal experiences on that front…people don’t generally want to read first drafts, at least not from unknown authors. So, I’m ignoring that piece for the time being, although perhaps it will bring in some readers at some point if Amazon can convince some of its more infamous authors to put their early work on there. (I personally have the habit of getting rather embarrassed if anyone reads my first drafts…they’re usually quite frightening)
On the concept of being a writer’s group, where writers and readers can give advice on what they think is working about a particular piece, as well as what’s not working, this has been one of the better experiences I’ve had on such sites thus far (even ignoring the whole Staff Pick thing). The site’s admins seem to be going through and actually looking at books, from looking at how many of them have popped up leaving their own advice for writers (not on mine thus far, but I’m not complaining). And the rest of the crowd seems optimistic, generally offering useful criticism instead of just empty platitudes, or spiteful oneupmanship.
This might be due to the fact that the site is still new, still technically in beta, and hasn’t gotten the darker parts of the writing world (read: the unhappy unpublished) involved yet. I like to think it’s due, in great part, to the very optimistic staff of the site, each of which appearing to have posted their own work (most of it short stories, possibly written for one of their community writing events) and asking for feedback on themselves.
Folks familiar with authonomy.com might come onto this site and see it as being almost an exact replica. In many ways, that’s true…but, again with one major difference (there are a lot of smaller differences that really make it a truly different place, but ultimately unimportant for my point here), there’s no game to be played (at least not yet…read on for further thoughts on this). Although WriteOn does track how many people read your books, how many people like your book and/or the specific chapters within, as well as how many people mark your book to be followed (meaning they get updates on all the changed you make to the thing), there doesn’t seem to be any ulterior motive to this outside of being able to see that things are happening with your book. On authonomy, the purpose was to win. If you got the most likes and followers (backers was the term on there), you’d get put on the editor’s desk which meant that someone who worked for Harper Collins (possibly the janitor) would read your book (or at least the first page) and give you a review, possibly meaning that your book would be selected for publication. Yeah, you heard that right…win the game, you might get your book published! Needless to say, the site became a bit ruthless at times, and filled with people spamming each other in the hopes that they could be the next big winner (of whom, I don’t believe I’ve yet to see any actually achieve publication through HC).
It’s quite a bit more different from similar competitor Wattpad, which seems more focused on short stories and, honestly, fan fiction written by teens. My time on that site was pretty minimal though, so I can’t really speak toward it much.
WriteOn, at least at this point, seems to be a place where authors can truly get together and try to help each other out, prop each other up, and really try to help each other become better authors. This is helped by a direct influence from the staff, who have writing prompts for the weekend, regular featured authors, as well as Feedback Fridays, where it’s cool to ask and give feedback and receive unmentioned brownie points with the crowd in general.
It’s actually a pretty refreshing group of authors, considering how bitter authors who have spent ages trying to get published tend to be *whistling to act non-bitter*.
But I can’t help to wonder what the endgame here is for Amazon…What’s being offered here isn’t really (at this point) a money making venture for the company. Sure, it might help their giant horde of self-published authors actually make their books more readable, which, in turn, might make their giant self-published library more marketable to readers (especially those on Kindle Unlimited), but that seems to be a bit of a stretch in their imagination. At this point, it seems as though time and energy is being put into a venture that seems to be purely humanitarian in nature…a social media platform for authors (that is actually missing some very basic concepts of social media, such as direct messaging). They aren’t even currently monetizing it with sidebar ads or anything, which is pretty crazy considering every other site owned by Amazon ever.
I mean…this thing is clean right now. I’ve never seen a site from a major company so devoid of advertisements.
The easy answer to the question of why would Amazon put something like this together would be that they (like HC does with authonomy…although they appear to have fallen away from the idea) have thoughts about using this site to identify books they want to highlight once they hit the Kindle store, whether it’s through direct publication by Amazon, or just a recognition of the book when it is self-published.
Those of us who have already reached a status of “staff pick” may even hope that this is a consideration by the good people of Amazon…*further annoying whistling*
But honestly, dollar signs aside, I fear that this is the case. The pieces that are most broken or non-existent on the site are the pieces that would be most important to building connections, things like the forum notifications and direct messages, or even searching for users. The pieces that are well in place are the “ranking” system (not currently used for ranking, but obvious to see how that would come into play) and the ability to read books comfortably on any device…as well as providing feedback on the books.
In other words, the pieces most in place, are the pieces required for finding quality books.
In other words, if one were to make grand assumptions (as I’m prone to do), this site was developed with that concept in mind, meaning, at some point, authors may come to the realization that if they play the game hard enough, they could, possibly, get published.
And authors are terrible terrible people when they begin to believe they’ve found a shortcut to getting published. Believe me.
I hope I’m wrong (outside of the fact that, you know, I’ve already been assisted in moving toward the top of the pile), because I really think this site could serve a great service to authors, especially those working on their first novels. And I believe that the community aspect of it can really help folks who are just looking for emotional support while dealing with the terrors of publishing (self or traditional).
Obviously, time will tell… and perhaps even if I’m right about the ultimate intentions of the site, they’ll find a way to keep things positive like it is right now. The terrific staff is definitely a step in the right direction…these other similar sites don’t seem to have much for an involved staff at all, quickly making the entire thing feel like a wasteland of angered rejection. Just a regular smile in an author’s direction could go a long way toward making everything look a bit more filled with sunshine.
Kind of a lame Friday post, I realize, but I’ve been on the site for a week now and realized that I’m really digging the vibes there so far, and I’ve barely even scratched the surface of getting directly involved.
Speaking of which…if you’re wanting to check it out, whether you’re a reader or a writer, I can get you a code to get you in. I’d be interested to know what readers think of the site, as there’s definitely been a lot of work put into making sure it’s user-friendly for readers.
Have fun out there!