Our continuing series of dispatches from the fringes of the writing world.
An alert reader pointed me to ANovelMillion.com, a website punningly described by its owner, an Australian named Aditya Kesarcodi-Watson, as "A Novel Concept in Advertising." Here's the idea, according to the website's FAQ: "People buy words which I will host on my website. The words written by any given purchaser will be easy to differentiate by color blocks, and can also provide a direct link to that persons [sic] own website if desired. The words will also contribute to an ever growing story, not to mention a one-off fingerprint of color signifying the way this story has evolved."
No, I am not making this up. Mr. Kesarcodi-Watson wants people to pay for the privilege of putting words on his website. Cost: $1 per word, with the aim of creating a million-word story; or $1 per character, with the goal of constructing a million-character story.
No wonder the guy on the Index page looks like he just got whapped upside the head.
It's obvious what Mr. Kesarcodi-Watson gets out of this wacky scheme, or hopes to: easy money. ANovelMillion.com is the website equivalent of a chain letter. (Apparently the idea is borrowed from The Million Dollar Homepage, whose owner claims to have sold a million pixels for $1 apiece.) What word-purchasers get out of it is less apparent. What possible incentive might there be to pay to create a collaborative story, since anyone can do the exact same thing for free?
Mr. Kesarcodi-Watson is glad to 'splain. First, there's the advertising angle, since you can link your word block to your own website (here's how Mr. Kesarcodi-Watson suggests you maximize this opportunity). Second, you get to participate in a historic experiment--the first website ever to sell words! "Who knows," Mr. Kesarcodi-Watson enthuses, "the site may well become an icon of the web, another original idea that grabbed the internet." Last but certainly not least, there may be profit in it. "[T]hings going well and the books getting published, people who have written words in each story will also hold a proportional stake in future royalties. I reckon," he adds, "this is a fairly interesting aspect."
Uh, yeah. Let's say you've got $500 burning a hole in your pocket, and you buy 500 words. That works out to, let's see, .0005% of the million-word total. We're talking fractions of a cent here. You'd have to sell hundreds, if not thousands, of books just to make it up to one penny.
Oh, and even assuming that the end product isn't the equivalent of a million monkeys trying to type Shakespeare (Mr. Kesarcodi-Watson, not entirely rationally, is hopeful that it won't be), good luck trying to interest a publisher in a novel with that word count.
Depressingly, some people appear to have fallen for the scheme. As of this writing, if Mr. Kesarcodi-Watson is to be believed, he has already taken in more than $1,000.
As for the stories...well. Judge for yourself.