I’m considering building a website.
For the past two years I’ve been transitioning into a new career as a software developer. While I’m currently seeking out jobs in this space, I figure I might as well apply what I know to an area that I have an interest in.
Reading. Or to be more precise, creating and marketing stories.
I first considered the following idea a couple of years ago and parked it, because I didn’t have the skillset. With my current downtime, I got thinking about it again. In essence:
Creating a website where authors can submit short stories which are voted for by the reader, with the hope that their entry can advance to the latter stages in a knock-out style tournament.
In my opinion, writing competitions, in their current guise, are lacking in certain respects.
- They offer little constructive feedback outside the publicized finalists. 7th place versus 107th place. Neither placed, so both are met with silence.
- The finalists are often chosen by a panel with their own bias.
- There are few, if any, opportunities to build momentum, engage the public and generate interest throughout the competition.
- There are millions of books out there. The vast majority of books – if you’re computer savvy – can be downloaded for free. Bargain basement bookstores are overflowing with titles and many, at least in my city, now politely refuse donations as they take up valuable storage space.
The relationship between reader and author is a tricky one. As authors, we desperately want you to part with your hard-earned cash. We know there are countless other authors out there vying for your attention – both alive and dead – damn you William Shakespeare! But, unless you are attached to a big publishing house with monstrous marketing budgets, or are a whiz at marketing yourself and have deep pockets, then it’s unlikely that an author will find and keep ‘sticky’ fans.
For readers, they want value. Why buy a book from an unknown author if they only see me as a customer? Why pay for something when I can go to the library and grab a Stephen King book off the shelf? Why invest my time and money?
Because there is a real person at the other end. On both ends, actually.
Sometimes that fact gets forgotten. Developing and nurturing that relationship takes time.
The website I am considering building would help facilitate that relationship. Imagine a tournament where authors from around the world – sharing the same language – are entered into a knock-out tournament, perhaps every quarter if the demand is there. It would look something like this:
- 64 author entries, e.g. Round 1 = Ireland (Aidan J. Reid) vs USA (John Smith)
- Genre/country specific tournaments, and/or change genres for each round to demonstrate versatility – Thriller Author, Summer 2021 Champion.
- Inviting fan participation. As an author, you want your fans/readers to support you. Authors could share their ‘fixture’ across their social feeds or newsletter ahead of ‘kick-off’.
- Real-time updates at half-time as votes are counted. Sample email or ‘team-talk’ that could be sent from an author facing an uphill battle with an hour before the whistle sounds. Hey guys, I’m competing in the Writer Battles – Spring 2021 edition and would really appreciate your support! I’m facing Nigeria’s Samuel Ecko. Check out my short story, ‘Braindead’ and if you like it, give it a vote!
- Similar to a real game, once the full-time whistle blows, goals/votes are counted and the victor announced. Whether a new story would need to be written for Round 2 is something I need to consider.
Coupled with this, I would create a social handle to publicise these fixtures which each author can leverage for their marketing purposes.
When I consider the pros and cons, I can’t help but think that it would be a really valuable platform for both author and reader.
- A chance to find new readers of your work
- Cash prize for winning the tournament ($100)
- Opportunity to grow your social handles (Facebook, Twitter etc)
- More engagement with your current readers
- Email addresses of those who voted for your stories throughout the tournament – readers will need to expressly agree to this in advance. Authors with mailing lists will recognise how important this is for converting casual readers to fans.
- Cool Gifts (digital badge certificate and bragging rights with your own listing on the Hall of Fame)
- Discover new authors and stories
- Influence outcomes and watch your favourite authors rise to fame!
- Fun and interactive way to show your support for an author
There would be no cost to the reader for this service. They would have access to all the stories. The only caveat is that they would need to register they email to prevent mass-voting and poll manipulation.
There would be a cost to the author. Initially it could be something in the region of $1 per entry. Multiple submissions would be permissible, but would be charged as such.
If there was enough interest, other languages could be introduced. A Spanish-only chick-lit competition? Eventually, there may even be a ‘World Cup’ competition – much like the football one – taking place every four years (ideally more frequent than that!) and it would be much more heavily publicized than the regular tournaments for maximum media exposure.
Anyway, those are some initial thoughts I had as I consider whether to invest hundreds of hours into creating this.
I would love to hear any feedback about whether you think I’m stark raving mad, or whether this has legs.