April 11th, 2013

How To Cut Through The Book Clutter-BookFinders!

I love the book publishing industry these days. With the advent of easy self-publishing and e-books, there are infinitely more choices out there than ever before.

I hate the book publishing industry these days. With the advent of easy self-publishing and e-books, there are infinitely more choices--well, you know the rest.

It has gotten much easier to be published these days. Result: There are far more awful, atrocious books out there than ever before. I believe that there are also far more well-written books out there, books that meet my tastes more exactly than the ones the big New York publishers discovered back in the old regime. The problem is finding those books. The answer is a kind of crowd-sourcing that I haven't seen tried yet.

Several companies have tried American-Idol-style crowd-sourcing schemes to find gems in their slushpile. Gather tried it with their "First Chapters" contests. Authonomy has the same kind of setup on an ongoing basis. None of them have worked particularly well because they attract mostly aspiring authors and their friends, and success comes not from having a good book but having time and skill at working the social networking of the crowd-sourcing sites--not necessarily skills that translate into the larger book market.

What might actually work? Crowd-sourcing at the on-line bookstore level. A large percentage of the old slushpile is now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com as self-pubs. I know that there are gems among those books because I've found a few. A kind of crowd-sourcing might help us find the rest. How would that work? Sort of like Amazon's Associates program, but with some refinements. Amazon's Associates program gives people a percentage of the proceeds from Amazon sales that originate from a link on the person's website. What if Amazon or B&N.com or some of the big independent online stores took that a couple of steps further: Allow people to set themselves up as "BookFinders" with a shelf of what they consider the hottest science fiction or mystery or Romance titles. BookFinders would get a percent of sales originating from their shelves. They would compete against each other for slots in the "Top Ten Science Fiction BookFinders (for the month, for the year, eventually for the last five years, maybe)."

Top BookFinders might get a cash or percentage bonus on a monthly or annual basis as an incentive to maintain their high ranking. Ability to spot unknown authors with potential before everyone else does would be the key to staying near the top of the BookFinders rating for your category, which in turn would feed on itself, as readers preferentially looked at the top-rated lists. Other BookFinders might find niches for themselves, so that people would go to them for say little-known space operas or time-travel romances involving the 1500s.

BookFinding would be a dream job for avid readers, and would help the rest of us cut through the clutter to find the good stuff that is out there. The only way I can think of to make it work involves one or more of the major online bookstore chains (or maybe a coalition of independents) latching onto the idea.

What do you think? Would it work? Is anybody doing something like this?  I would dearly love to be BookFinding for a part of my income.