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"A new space for writers to share, read and sell"
September 16, 2011 4:52 AM   Subscribe

Jottify is "a new space for writers to share, read and sell".

It's a relaunch of eNovella, and seems to have generated a lot of interest already (thanks in no small part to Stephen Fry). It promises to connect writers with each other, encouraging them to share criticism and "plug" their own and each others' work (using a currency system known as "Ink Pots"). There's also e-book integration, though that part of the site has yet to launch.

It's still early days, but looks promising. (And no, it has nothing to do with Spotify).
posted by Acey (36 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I might have to give this a try.

I'm currently writing a story about a gastroenterologist who is caught between reality and the dream world. I call it "Intussusception".
posted by Renoroc at 5:00 AM on September 16, 2011


"plug" their own and each others' work

Gentlemen, I give you... e-logrolling.
posted by Trurl at 5:56 AM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know that traditional publishing has a lot of problems, but every variation I've seen on this self-publishing idea seems to miss the very real step of having a qualified editor work with the material. This, unfortunately, results in a lot of poor-quality work being sold.
posted by xingcat at 6:16 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This, unfortunately, results in a lot of poor-quality work being sold.

Same as it ever was (he said, doing the chop-chop-chop bit on his forearm).

I think if you can get someone to buy your work, bully for you. If someone doesn't appreciate the quality of the work, I'm sure they can find something to spend their money on that someone else would find insipid and amateurish.
posted by Mooski at 6:23 AM on September 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm working on an almost entirely different-in-execution project right now, but one that centres a lot on writing and critiquing as its core. I've also participated in a lot of similar projects in the past, from Andrew Burt's SF/Fantasy-focused Critters to the short-lived but fantastic American Zoetrope online writers' group.

The challenge is always finding a way to balance solid, substantiative criticism with writing input: Critters has an elegant system where you have to submit a certain number of critiques before you can submit a story to their queue. The Zoetrope group had -- something similar, I think, but it's been a while and my memory is a bit dim on the subject.

Jottify seems well-organized, and is frankly beautiful in its design. I love the interface and the structure. But I'm a bit worried, as I read through these stories, that it's going to fall afoul of the same problem that a lot of online writerly clustering projects seem to have: everyone wants their work critiqued, in depth and with attention to detail, but the number of "writers" to the number of "editors" always seems to eventually skew to a whacked-out ratio where lots of people want their work read, but they're all too busy producing work to read others' efforts.

I'm'a sign up for it -- again, it's beautiful, and I'd like to see how it works in terms of my own project -- but I'm immediately curious about how they plan to handle the input-to-criticism issue.
posted by Shepherd at 6:27 AM on September 16, 2011


You know, I used to be more skeptical, but a friend of mine wrote and self-published through a service like this and he's making enough that if he puts out a couple more books, he'll be entirely self-sufficient. And he's not a very good writer and he's a terrible editor. But it's working for him and a couple other people I know are getting into it. I'm just wondering if the role of editor is going to be analogous to writers on scripted TV shows that everyone thought was indispensable until the networks realized we'd watch morons yelling at each other and no writers had to be involved.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:20 AM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that if there is a big market of wannabe writers who want people to read their stories and a shortage of people to read them, that there should be money available for good readers and editors.

It doesn't even necessarily have to be exploitative like it's been in the past, as long as everyone is up front about what's being done.
posted by empath at 7:38 AM on September 16, 2011


Ghostride the Whip:

"I'm just wondering if the role of editor is going to be analogous to writers on scripted TV shows that everyone thought was indispensable until the networks realized we'd watch morons yelling at each other and no writers had to be involved."

Yes, if all you wish to do is watch yelling morons.

There are some writers who do largely do not need editors. Their numbers are smaller than the number of writers who think they don't need an editor. There's also a separate population of writers who could be excellent writers, if they had a good editor, but without one will not reach that potential.

Likewise there will be people happy to read something poorly edited because they can get it more cheaply, or whatever. There will also be an audience for well-edited, well put-together writing, just as many of the excellent scripted shows have migrated to premium pay channels.
posted by jscalzi at 7:39 AM on September 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, I'm going to grad school right now to learn how to be a good editor. I believe, and hope, that there will be work for me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:48 AM on September 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been thinking about getting involved in something like this, and I was even thinking I would be willing to do a lot of editing in my spare time at work.

Question: Is there some guidelines to follow when editing a piece in this type of situation? If I don't have any real editing experience or training, are there things I should be wary of?
posted by Think_Long at 7:49 AM on September 16, 2011


"I'm just wondering if the role of editor is going to be analogous to writers on scripted TV shows that everyone thought was indispensable until the networks realized we'd watch morons yelling at each other and no writers had to be involved."

Reality shows have writers, btw. Those shows in no way reflect reality and are carefully sculpted to create a coherent narrative.
posted by empath at 7:51 AM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jots down future short story titles from this thread:

Morons Yelling At Each Other
Skew to a Whacked-out Ratio
A Bit Dim on the Subject
Things I Should Be Wary Of
posted by mikepop at 7:52 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


You still retain your rights to your text, according to their TOS. So there's no compelling reason for you to publish through them, apart from convenience.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:59 AM on September 16, 2011


apart from convenience

and getting your work out there, i.e. read
posted by victors at 8:14 AM on September 16, 2011


There are some writers who do largely do not need editors. Their numbers are smaller than the number of writers who think they don't need an editor. There's also a separate population of writers who could be excellent writers, if they had a good editor, but without one will not reach that potential.

So basically there are two kinds of writers: those few who don't need an editor and the rest.

I'll wager if the few who do not need an editor do not anyway share some of their revenues with an editor there won't be enough editorial help for the rest.

My guess is that editors are going the way of record producers and some of us will miss them.
posted by three blind mice at 8:23 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, I used to be more skeptical, but a friend of mine wrote and self-published through a service like this and he's making enough that if he puts out a couple more books, he'll be entirely self-sufficient. And he's not a very good writer and he's a terrible editor. But it's working for him and a couple other people I know are getting into it. I'm just wondering if the role of editor is going to be analogous to writers on scripted TV shows that everyone thought was indispensable until the networks realized we'd watch morons yelling at each other and no writers had to be involved.

I don't know. There was a long stretch where I was beginning to get annoyed about the process of publishing and I was getting nowhere with it. This coincided with Amanda Hocking's whole thing and I was very, very tempted for a moment. I started to think, "Who needs editors?! Who needs agents?! Who needs all of these gatekeepers who keep you from readers?! I come from Hollywood and I have an MFA! That should be enough!"

And . . . then I got my agent. She's been helping me edit my book--she's one of those editorial agents I used to worry mess with your "vision" or whatever. And, hot damn, it's better. Insanely better. It has narrative tension and plot twists and cohesion and the themes are well explained. Instead of shitting on my "vision," she asks me stuff like, "What's with the Jewish themes in your book? Do you think we can examine them in a more explicit and thoughtful way?" And every time she asks me something like that, she pushes me to be a better writer.

I've looked back at my old books, the ones I thought about self publishing. The prose was fine, but they weren't books, not really. I think they might have become books with a good editor.

Trashing editors is fine if you just want a pile of words that any asshole can buy for two bucks. But I don't think that's true if you want to do something really resonant. A good editor facilitates the creative conversation and holds a writer to really high standards. That can only ever end well for a reader.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:28 AM on September 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


Oh, though I must say that I like this site more than, say, bookcountry, a publisher-owned venture that has many of the same features but seems to implicitly promise that writers MIGHT get mainstream pubbed if they crit there/publish through them (eventually; they don't have a self-pub feature yet, but it's been promised). Those communities strike me as skeevy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:34 AM on September 16, 2011


My guess is that editors are going the way of record producers and some of us will miss them.

You mean that they do 90% of the work on 90% of the top selling items?
posted by empath at 8:40 AM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some writers want to write whatever they want, and don't want to worry about things like agents and editors and representation and book tours and all the time and effort that it takes to be a mildly-successful writer these days. These writers just like writing, and some of them like to make their stuff available to people who might enjoy it and comment on it. It's writing as recreation, and there are always going to be many more hobbyists than there are people who make a living with their art. The internet is just making writing hobbyists more visible.

Some readers want to read well-edited books, in the same way that some people like well-produced movies. Some readers want to see the writer's original thoughts, warts and all.

If I want to read a well-laid-out, well-edited novel that's been through the whole publishing process, I have a nearly infinite bookstore at my disposal; the web is making all sorts of books from the past and present available to me, in whatever format makes me happiest.

If I want to read the efforts of a dedicated amateur, I have a vast and growing number of sources for that too.

I can't see either of these as a bad thing. Especially since in both of these cases, if I don't like what I'm reading, I can just read something else.

Nice post, Acey.
posted by MrVisible at 8:41 AM on September 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Interesting site, though I still can't figure out how to spend my inkpots. Maybe that, like the self-publishing/selling side has yet to be implemented? It will be very interesting to see what their terms are once the selling side is open, though.

(And, if anyone is interested, I posted something here.)
posted by zylocomotion at 8:52 AM on September 16, 2011


For whatever it's worth, I'm going to grad school right now to learn how to be a good editor. I believe, and hope, that there will be work for me.

Heh, there will be plenty of work for editors (I do it now!) ... just not editing books. Good luck, though.

So basically there are two kinds of writers: those few who don't need an editor and the rest.

I don't think it's so binary. A well-edited book is just a different thing, and tight editing is much more important for certain styles.

There's no one way to be a writer and there's no one way to edit a book. There are obviously tried and true practices, but everyone works differently, and every text works differently.

What I don't understand is why is Jottify any better than a word processor (and/or pen and paper), or LiveJournal or Literotica, or Amazon, or yeah, one good reader/editor friend. I don't see how Jottify would help my writing ...

Jottify seems like a solution to a problem that doesn't exist (or maybe just duplication of existing services; or a blatant grab for free content). Got a story/novel/script/poem you want people to read? Put it on Blogspot or Tumblr or hey, your own Web site, ffs. Google will find it, and so will people, if it's any good.

There are already tons of writer communities online. I'm not sure what Jottify offers, outside of tags for "category" and "genre."
posted by mrgrimm at 9:01 AM on September 16, 2011


Some writers want to write whatever they want, and don't want to worry about things like agents and editors and representation and book tours and all the time and effort that it takes to be a mildly-successful writer these days. These writers just like writing, and some of them like to make their stuff available to people who might enjoy it and comment on it. It's writing as recreation, and there are always going to be many more hobbyists than there are people who make a living with their art. The internet is just making writing hobbyists more visible.

Yeah, but Ghostride was talking about the death of the mainstream editor. And he's not the first to do so. What I'm saying is that many of the authors who turn to self-publishing could write better books if they did so by going through mainstream channels. The problem with what Ghostride is talking about is that the general public may not know the difference between a decent edited book and a book that hasn't been edited at all, but most are willing to read better books if you put them in their hands. And reading thoughtful, well-composed books is a good thing, even if you're just reading for fun.

I've read and reviewed a small handful of good self-published books, incidentally. They've felt to me fairly indistinguishable from the unpublished manuscripts of my talented friends. But there's always a leap in quality from those manuscripts to published books. Some of it is intangible--"polish"--but some of the differences are substantial.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:06 AM on September 16, 2011


There are already tons of writer communities online. I'm not sure what Jottify offers, outside of tags for "category" and "genre."

I think the real truth is that they want to be another ebook retailer like smashwords, amazon, or b&n: "(we just take 30% of the sale, passing the remaining 70% on to you, and you set the price)."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:10 AM on September 16, 2011


Link redacted. Does their TOS seem a little...broadly worded to anyone else?
posted by zylocomotion at 9:11 AM on September 16, 2011


Yeah - smells a bit funny to me.
posted by seanyboy at 9:15 AM on September 16, 2011


"Likewise there will be people happy to read something poorly edited because they can get it more cheaply, or whatever."

You mean more cheaper.
posted by klangklangston at 9:37 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


PhoBWan, I wish that a good editor was available to everyone, I really do. I even wish that I could work with such an editor at one point; I'm sure it would be an enriching experience, and it would make my stuff much better.

It's just not possible for everyone who wants to write to go through the publishing process. And I'd rather have everyone who wants to write be able to get their stuff out there, even if it isn't edited.

Allow me to analogize. There are times when I really enjoy excellent photography, and spend hours in museum collections, marveling at the sophistication of composition, lighting, subject matter, and all the nuances that go into making a good photograph great. And there are other times when I'm moved by the raw emotion I find in found photos, the weirdness and humanity that could never be expressed in a more professional context.

I find the experience of reading un-edited, unpublished writing to be similar to looking through troves of found photos. Sure, there are areas that are downright unreadable. But there are gems there that would never have survived the process of polishing.

Of course, I've also read plenty of books that went through the publishing process that were absolute, astonishing crap. Professional editors aren't always good at their jobs; the editing process doesn't improve books 100% of the time (and a Google search for "I hate my editor" is a great way to while away some time with horror stories). Publishing companies aren't always the best way for a writer to get their works out to the public.

I'm just really excited that now we have so many different ways to find things we like to read. Most of what's out there is crap, of course, but that's true with anything. The more that's out there, the more chances there are that we'll find something to love.
posted by MrVisible at 10:05 AM on September 16, 2011


"Likewise there will be people happy to read something poorly edited because they can get it more cheaply, or whatever."

You mean more cheaper.


A better edit would be "free."
posted by mrgrimm at 10:09 AM on September 16, 2011


I wonder who writes and considers it a hobby? Emily Dickenson was hardly published in her life...
I've read complaints on the internet about blogging poets, that they clutter the internet with inferior writing, but what better and quicker way to get your stuff out there? Presumably,
the interest generated would both be good feedback, and, if one is any good, perhaps lead to opportunities.
posted by eggtooth at 10:12 AM on September 16, 2011


a publisher-owned venture that has many of the same features but seems to implicitly promise that writers MIGHT get mainstream pubbed if they crit there/publish through them

Inkpop is another that does this, run by HarperCollins and targeting authors of YA lit. Leigh Fallon's Carrier of the Mark, once an Inkpop project, was voted to the top and is now being published by HC. They're pushing it pretty hard (in fact, I was sitting beside PhoBWanKenobi at Book Expo America's buzz panel in May, at which they talked it up).

I always have mixed feelings about these success stories outside the publishing norm, like Amanda Hocking, because so many hopeful writers latch onto the exception as The Next Big Wave in Publishing, or at least a safer bet than the brutal obstacle course of traditional, big 6 publishing. Having made it through myself (with much, much help from the fantastically editorial agent I share with PhoBWanKenobi), I imagine people reading the pre-pro-edited versions of my books and shudder, even though those versions landed my agent & book deal. People underestimate how valuable editors are, and how much the traditionally published books they read have transformed; and aspiring authors tend to overestimate their own editorial skill -- just ask any agent or editor about their slush pile.
posted by changeling at 10:28 AM on September 16, 2011


What do you suppose would be the best way for an editor to make themselves available to these writers? How much, I wonder, would they be willing to pay for editing?
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:34 AM on September 16, 2011


How much, I wonder, would they be willing to pay for editing?

It really, really depends on both the experience and reputation of the editor, as well as the experience and reputation of the writer. $40-60/hr is a fair price for an experienced literary editor. I think the standard estimate is about 8 pages/hr, so that's a full 40-hour work week ($1,600-$2,400) for a 320-page book.

What do you suppose would be the best way for an editor to make themselves available to these writers?

Online is probably better than a flier at the laundromat...

Editorial Freelancers Association
posted by mrgrimm at 11:03 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I enjoy writing and would want to share it with people, but sharing it with other writers would make me suspicious and I'd probably hold back on ideas I'd truly like to let fly.
posted by memoryvague at 11:08 AM on September 16, 2011


sharing it with other writers would make me suspicious and I'd probably hold back on ideas I'd truly like to let fly

Ditto, particularly if you enjoy writing speculative fiction. Sometimes I even find myself shouting at the Internet News, "Hey, I had that idea first!"
posted by mrgrimm at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2011


Interesting. Also, http://projects.metafilter.com/2373/Fictionaut
posted by muckster at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm a member of Fictionaut (hi, muckster!) and it's a lot of fun. It's a great place to get feedback and connect with other writers, readers and editors. I haven't checked out Jottify yet but I will. As for the role of editors and self-publishing, I started a small (very small) publishing company last year and put out one of my own books. Luckily I had an amazing editor and got feedback from my old agent plus input from five trusted "beta" readers (including Metafilter's own gompa). To craft a good book, it really does take a village.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:21 PM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


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