Reading, Writing & Favoriting: The Power Of Tapping Into Crowdsourced Content
- February 3rd, 2011
- 3 Comments
It’s no secret that we here at Ypulse are big fans of the boom happening in teen writing communities online. Like zines, lit mags, and fiction forums that came before, it’s exciting to see a new wave of platforms for young artistic types that enable creative development, mentorship, and an empowering taste of microfame.
As more YA publishing folks pay attention to these spaces and the powerful network of influencers who populate them, the more visible the impact of the trends, critiques, and innovations bubbling up there. For aspiring authors/editors this means more opportunities to get a glimpse (and a voice) in the publishing world. For publishers it means translating that online enthusiasm into offline engagement.
While many efforts are still in the early experimental phase, this week HarperCollins made a notable stride forward announcing the acquisition of Leigh Fallon’s Carrier of the Mark, the first project to go from crowd favorite on the publisher’s teen lit community inkpop to published novel.
To learn more about maintaining a direct channel between readers and industry professionals, crowdsourcing talent (note the very cool developments around covers and designers discovered on Deviant Art), and the brave new digital age of publishing I checked in with Becki Heller of the inkpop team and asked a few questions. Here’s what she had to say:
Ypulse: How was the inkpop platform built or tweaked to accommodate the needs of an interactive community of readers and writers? Could you describe the dynamic between members?
Becki Heller: When inkpop.com was built last year, HarperCollins wanted to create a more social book site experience. That was impetus for inkpop. Over the year HarperCollins has really seen the power of this site. It’s allowing us to really see what teens want to read and to give them their chance to express themselves. We’re taking our motto, “Your World, Your Books,” seriously.
Along with searching for more manuscripts from our inkpop community, we’re also working on developing more outlets where they can just get their ideas in front of editors here. We realize that writing a full novel is difficult and not something that every teen can do every day. We also realize that they are full of great ideas and we want to empower our members to share those ideas with us, so that instead of editors in a room creating books that they think teens will like, teens will really be helping to create the books they want to read.
We are currently in the process of redeveloping our site, so that we can offer more outlets for more types of writers. We’re going to have areas where they can submit story ideas and plot outlines. We’re going to work with them on developing story ideas from the ground up. In essence we are really putting users in the driver seat.
YP: When I spoke to Diane Naughton last January she described some of the original features driven by community members (Inkpopper of the week, Achievements). Are there any new and notable features from community members? What lessons have you and the Harper team learned from those innovations?
BH: There was a ton we’ve learned from our users and we are working hard to develop a new site that really integrates all of their ideas. Aside from just writers we have artists and creative individuals on our site. So in the coming months we’re working on expanding to incorporate more of their talents. There is a lot that goes into making a book besides just stories.
One of those is covers. There have been covers—and designers—for HarperCollins books that were discovered on sites like DeviantArt. So we’re working to develop a section to really focus on show casing the talents of artists. We want to foster the next generation of designers and really bring their innovative work into the spotlight as well.
YP: Why was The Carrier of the Mark chosen out of all other “Top Five” picks? What was the reaction like from the community?
BH: The Carrier of the Mark showed exceptional promise when it was first uploaded to the site. That is only part of the story though. Writing takes a lot of rewriting. So the editor who first reviewed the manuscript really needed to see if this particular author had the ability to take creative input. When the author, Leigh Fallon, started revisions on her work, HarperCollins was absolutely sold. Her final work is fantastic and inkpoppers who read the original manuscript as well as new readers to the book are going to be floored when it comes out in September.
The community has been so supportive and really excited. We’re planning on featuring Leigh every month until The Carrier of the Mark is published and will have her talking to the other inkpoppers about the publishing process. The community members are always asking us questions about the publishing process, but it’s so intricate (and sometimes tedious) that we don’t always have the best answers. Following someone from their community as she goes through the experience of being published is such a hands on experience, that the community has just been flocking to Leigh to speak with her about the experience.
YP: What has been the most challenging aspect of building this new model? The most rewarding?
BH: It’s great because this is really the first site from a publisher putting the users in the driver’s seat. We’re pioneers here, which is an exciting position to be in. It’s trying to explain exactly what we’re doing for the users at all times. At first they thought we were just going to take their ideas and we had to assure them that that wasn’t the goal of the site. They weren’t sure we were always listening, but publishing is such a long process it’s also hard to explain that books don’t come out in a month. Now that we’re showing some results, our members are really getting excited and people in the advertising and commercial product community are taking notice. We want to change the way people think about creating books. That we can and should be listening to our consumers in every way possible. The digital age has given us the capability to do that and it is a huge advantage over previous generations. It’s just getting everyone in and showing them that we want to hear from them that is the continuing challenge.