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Monday, May 12, 2008

Guest Post: All About WEbook

I'm pleased to introduce a guest post today from Melissa Jones, Content Manager of and author of the WEbook blog.

For those who don't know, WEbook is a community writing, editing and publishing project. It aims to use the power of the internet to bring writers together and get them to pool their talents in collaborative writing ventures.

I'm convinced that projects such as WEbook are going to become very big indeed in the years ahead, as new ways of working together creatively with the aid of the net are explored and developed. WEbook offers any writer the opportunity to get involved and see for themselves how online collaboration can work in practice. But perhaps I'd better move aside and let Melissa explain more...

WEbook: The People's Publisher - by Melissa Jones

It's no secret that the traditional publishing industry is - how can I put this? - a bit behind the times.

Every year, a handful of editors select a handful of books and, through massive marketing and PR, attempt to turn them into blockbusters. How they decide which books to promote heavily is largely guess-work; as William Strachan, editor in chief at Carroll & Graf Publishers said in a 2007 New York Times article, "Nobody has the key." That same article points out that, while publishers use the internet to market to their readers, "information rarely flows the other way - from readers back to the editors."

Enter, the people's publisher. Founded by Itai Kohavi, author of two novels and a children's book, WEbook is based on a radically different model, bringing together the best elements of social networking, crowd-sourcing, and web technology to change the way books are written and published. At WEbook, essentially, the readers are the editors.

So what can you do at WEbook?

  • Read and Review. WEbook has hundreds of active projects, including collections of articles on everything from the first year of teaching to the first sexual experience. Find a project you're interested in, and read and give feedback to others' work.
  • Write. Contribute a new story, poem, or article to an existing project. Or, if you have a book idea of your own, start a new project. You'll be able to decide whether you want to write your book by yourself, get feedback from other WEbookers, or invite your friends to contribute.
  • Connect. Project forums allow you to brainstorm about your ideas, solicit research or other assistance, or just chat about writing. You can also connect with other writers on the site-wide forums, and by joining a group.
  • Get Published. When a book is completed, it can be submitted for publication. WEbook isn't about choices made by one or two folks behind their desks. Instead, the entire WEbook community votes on which books are worthy. WEbook will consider the highest-rated books for publication, and authors get a 50% share of profits from book sales.

While community votes will ultimately determine what goes to press, we're particularly excited about a few projects that are creating a lot of buzz, both on and off the site. Ex-Pat Journal chronicles the adventures of WEbookers in Thailand, Korea, Costa Rica, France, Cambodia, Nigeria, and - wait for it - Canada. 101 Things Every Man Should Know How to Do is the ultimate guide to guydom, covering cooking a steak to fighting a bear. And Nano Stories challenges writers to create a dramatic arc in 500 words or less.

For a low-pressure entry point to the site, try Haiku Life Stories or The Writing Salon. If you feel like settling in for a good read, you'll be pleased to find quite a few brave souls writing novels on WEbook. I recommend checking out The Open, a tale of vengeance and golf; A Case of Judgment, which puts a modern spin on a classic horror tale; and In the Wake of the Enchantress, a historical novel set in the early days of World War I.

WEbook recently published its first book, Pandora, a romantic thriller written by 34 writers, editors, and other contributors - including me! (once you buy the book, flip to chapters 17 and 26 to read my contribution). If you want to check out the first few chapters for free you can read them here or text the word "webook" to phone number 41411 on your mobile and read them on your very own web-enabled phone. WEbook launched to the public in mid-April. Since then, the number of active projects has grown at a feverish pace, with more new work added every day.

We'll be opening our first voting cycle in the coming months. For now, drop by the site to read, give feedback, and write, and to connect with a fast-growing network of like-minded folks out to revolutionize the publishing world.

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