Friday, October 10, 2008

Victoria Strauss -- BookRix: Another Brand New Idea That Isn't

A few days ago, I got a spam--er, a targeted media announcement from a company called BookRix. Founded in Germany and launched last week in the USA, BookRix joins a growing number of writing-related social media websites--EditRed, ABCTales, Booksie, GoodReads, and HarperCollins's slush pile experiment, Authonomy, to name just a few.

Using a proprietary platform called ViewRix, BookRix lets aspiring authors upload their stories or manuscripts, format them into "web books" (these look more or less like scans of printed books, and mimic the turning of pages), share them with the BookRix community, and get feedback from other members. Books can also be shared with friends and family, or embedded on blogs or other social networking websites. In addition to members' writing, BookRix's library includes public domain works (Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott), presumably in a bid to attract readers as well as authors. If you hover your cursor over a book, you can see how many times it has been "read" (i.e., how many times someone has clicked on the cover image).

BookRix claims that it's "the first book community where anyone can place their own books, short stories, poems etc. to be promoted on the web," which makes me wonder how much time its staff have spent on the Internet lately. It is also, either naively or deceptively, promoting itself as a way for aspiring writers to launch their careers in a viral manner, a la YouTube. According to its press release, "The traditional publishing world can be challenging to break into and BookRix.com offers aspiring authors a platform to promote themselves and help them begin a career in writing...BookRix.com gives writers the same possibilities that musicians found on MySpace photographers discovered on Flickr and online video creators found on YouTube."

Writers, do I need to elaborate--again--on why posting your writing online at a manuscript display or peer critique website is unlikely to help you build a platform? Sites like BookRix are very attractive to writers--but not so much to readers, who don't particularly want to wade through a mass of unvetted manuscripts in search of something good to read. The likelihood that you'll be "discovered" as a result of uploading your book to BookRix is miniscule. A few hundred clicks on your "web book" does not an audience make. Agents and editors will not be impressed.

BookRix's Terms and Conditions, which appear to have been poorly translated from the original German, are somewhat challenging to decipher. For instance, this--

"Contents which are uploaded, revised and/or published by Users on BookRix are not and do not become Contents of the Provider. Moreover, the Provider does not adopt Contents as its own which have been uploaded, revised and/or published by Users. The preceding sentences also apply in case Contents are formatted as an electronic book by means of the web-application which is available on BookRix. The preceding sentences also apply with respect to communication between Users and comments which Users make with respect to Contents."

--which I take to mean that BookRix does not claim users' copyrights, either for content uploaded to the site or for comments made on the site. Overall, though, the Terms and Conditions don't look too bad. Users do need to be aware of Clause 23, which obliges them to pay $500 (I'm assuming it's $500; the amount is given but the currency isn't defined) "for any conduct constituting a wilful or negligent breach of any of the prohibitions set out in section 22 of these GTC above" and of Clause 25, which entitles BookRix to place targeted ads based on users' personal data on their profile and book pages. But there don't seem to be any major "gotchas" lurking in the fine print.

BookRix is free. As with other writing-related social media sites, writers might enjoy the community and benefit from the comments they receive. But if you choose to use a site like this, do it for fun or for feedback. Don't do it in the expectation that it will give you a toehold on a writing career.

22 comments:

Lehcarjt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lehcarjt said...

I'd argue that GoodReads isn't a 'writing-related social media website', but rather a reader-related.

I have a number of real life friends that I keep up with there. Other than me, none of them are writers. In fact, I've never seen a self-pubbed book even come up. For us, it's all about seeing what everyone else is reading and looking for good books (already pubbed) to buy/check-out for ourselves.

Victoria Strauss said...

Ack! You're absolutely right. My bad for sloppy revision. I'd intended to delete GoodReads and substitute Scribophile, but forgot to do so before publishing my post.

Kody Boye said...

Yeah, I definitely agree you have to watch out when using these sites. I joined Scribophile to try and get extra critique on the story. as a novella that featured gay characters, I wasn't too sure about it.

I got:

'This is too long.'

'They shouldn't be gay.'

'I think this and this and this is wrong.' (from people who couldn't even complete a sentence.)

etc.

I learned my lesson; don't put your writing up on websites you don't know about. I immedaitely removed my writing after the first few critiques, because I was so disgusted that writers who couldn't even spell or write complete sentences were saying MY work was bad.

So, yeah; keep up the great work, Victoria. I pop in on this blog from time to time to see what's up and what to avoid. You guys do a great thing by warning other unwary writers. : )

~ Kody Boye

Kody Boye said...

Oh, also, I whipped up a little logo for the blog. It's simple, but if I could get a place to send it to, it'd be great.

Or, just go here: http://i195.photobucket.com/albums/z118/Kody_Boye/WRITERBEWARELOGO.png

I sized it in mind for the blog, but if it's too big, tell me. : )

~ Kody

PS: I figured you guys needed something to make the blog the 'writer beware' blog. And, plus, I wanted something to put on my website to link to you all. : ) I'll get it up on my site within the next few days.

Anonymous said...

i agree: the idea is not really new. the first mover in germany is called xinxii - to find on www.xinxii.com. i've found some english docs there, but the platform is still in german. i'm waiting and waiting and waiting for the english version to come (you can keep 70% of the revenue).

Kristi Holl said...

Aside from how I feel about these websites as a writer, I can't imagine (as a reader) wading through unpublished stuff looking for something good to read. I was in the public library and Barnes and Noble over the weekend, anguishing again ("so many good books, so little time!"), that I can't imagine hunting through unpublished mss. for something to read.
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid blog

BuffySquirrel said...

I have seen self-published books on GoodReads--a site which I love!--but they are in an overwhelmed minority.

But if you don't like to see your to-read list and your wishlist growing exponentially, AVOID!

Emma Larkins said...

Great site! Just came across it, I'll have to stop by often. Definitely don't try and get 'discovered' through one of these sites, but they can be good for critique. Some sites have a higher quality of critiques than others. I've actually had good experiences with Scribophile

S William said...

Let me guess...they allow others to comment on your writing, and 200 people swarm you with love and links to their books?

Armand K. said...

At least, unlike many other sites offering similar (dis)services, BookRix doesn't want any rights on the "Content".
One odd detail is the obligation of the user to report any loss of data and to make backups ... but I'd dismiss that as pretty irrelevant. Another one, potentially harmful for users' privacy, is the Clause 6.3 (The Provider has the right to disclose and pass on the personal data requested from the User in the course of registration to Third Parties if there are indications that the User offends, defames or otherwise violates rights of such Third Parties). But I don't think they'd simply give out personal data to anyone who feels offended--European laws are very strict about privacy.
Oh, in Clause 23 the currency is the euro (I guess the font you're using in the browser doesn't have the symbol); EUR 500 is roughly $650-700.

Best wishes,
Armand K.

Victoria Strauss said...

I just got another email from BookRix:

...I wanted to put BookRix on your radar. BookRix...is a beta social network and social media tool for writers, authors, poets, publishers, manga artist [sic], and comic book artists alike...

The traditional publishing world can be extremely challenging to navigate, and BookRix offers aspiring authors social media tools at the tip of their fingers for creating, sharing and getting feedback. Authors can create their own profiles, communicate with other writers, and collaborate to improve their work.

Recently launched in the U.S. with a new landing page, BookRix co-founder Gunnar Siewert is encouraging the online communities, beta testers, tech bloggers, analysts, traditional authors and writers to give feed back [sic] on the “in testing stage” beta social site...


I suspect they don't Google themselves, because I'm thinking that if they did, they might take me off their mailing list...currently, this blog post is the fourth entry on a Google search for BookRix.

william2233 said...

Well I'm a member myself and I like book rix. It might or might not help get me out as a children author but, then again I belong to over 23 net working sites.

www.williamsawyers.com

I guess I could get out more by signing these comments.
Happy Holidays Too All.

Alex Cabal said...

My name's Alex, and I help run Scribophile. For some reason I just stumbled across this post, even though it's a few months old. Thought I'd leave a few thoughts.

Firstly, sorry you had a bad experience, Kody. We have many really great critiquers at Scribophile, and I find myself constantly amazed by the amount of effort and thought they put into their feedback. We work hard to attract the really serious writers out there who try their best to give quality feedback (not just "good job!" or "it sux rite it again"). But there's always a few bad apples in every community, and perhaps you got the misfortune of getting critiqued by a few. For that I apologize.

It looks like you opened an account just as we were getting started-- I think that if you come back and give us another shot, you'll find that we've grown and developed into something much better. If you somehow see this comment and would like to try us again, get in touch with me via my Scribophile profile and I'll set you up with a free premium account, on us.

Secondly, to reply to the post more directly: we aren't a "publishing" platform per se, and never claim to be. We're primarily a community that provides feedback for works in progress, as opposed to a portfolio site to display your finished work. You can use our social media capabilities to network with like-minded writers, but I'd say that using our site as some sort of platform to expand your general readership or to launch your public career will probably not work very well. That's not what our focus is-- we're a site for writers, not for readers.

So I'd say that this post is pretty spot-on: beware of sites that claim to be a one-stop writing career destination, as the signal to noise ratio on such sites will almost certainly drown out your own work and leave you disappointed. That's why we chose to focus Scribophile on just great critiquing, and nothing else: because that way you know exactly what to expect when you join and participate.

Great post!

Tony Cook said...

Hi there - I'm the editor at ABCtales and we make no claim that you will 'be discovered' by writing with us. What will happen is that you will improve - and if you get to the stage where you are good enough to get published then writing your novel, chapter by chapter, on ABCtales will help to improve it - so long as you take note of the good suggestions you will get.

Joe Dunthorne, Drew Gummerson, John Osborne, Tim Clare and Richard Aronowitz-Mercer are all recently published ABCtalers and they will all tell you that being on the site has helped them along the way. It isn't the whole answer but it can be part of it - as can a number of other good writing sites.

It may interest some of the 'readers' as opposed to 'writers' on this blog that we get four times as many visitors who come to read as we do to post writing. Our peak traffic occurs between noon and one and four and six in the afternoon on weekdays. That's bored person in the office reading a quick short story or poem before clocking off!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your analysis. I got this e mail and was suspicious of the garbled information.

Blogger said...

Well, a couple of years later, BookRix has stood the test of time (by internet standards, that is). I just signed on as Social Media Director for them, and having done a market analysis, yes, you're right, of course, that there are many places for people to share their work. Yes, I also agree that the site looked like it was translated from German. A lot of that has been addressed and we're continuing to address it more, now that we have a dedicated staff for the English site.

I invite you come take another visit. Our last big writing contest had a $1,000 1st place and awards for the top 5, and there were some great stories in there. Between the various active groups and the site-wide contests, there's pretty much almost always a contest going on.

Is BookRix, on its own, going to make you famous or get you published? Of course not. Can it be a good part of your mix to get feedback on your work and reach new fans? Absolutely.

We do have a new feature that allows publishers to set up profiles on the site and promote their authors, as well, and we have several publishers signed on to do so.

I hope you and anyone else who reads this will recognize that this review is a couple of years old, and we're a (funded) startup -- things move pretty quickly. We're also very open to feedback. So please stop by for another look if you haven't been to BookRix lately.

Blogger said...

Oh...forgot to mention...we're currently running a superheroes writing contest -- might be of interest to all you sci-fi writers. 1st prize is a $100 Amazon gift certificate.

Patrick Sean Lee said...

Anonymous stated that the writing in the contests is a disgrace to the English language. Notice I used the word "the" between "to" and "English. Why am I laughing at this inane comment? I recently won second place in a contest that was independently judged. My writing is certainly not a disgrace; I've long ago mastered the fundamentals. Further, I can say without reservation that many, many writers who are members of this site are more than accomplished at their craft. Remember, it is free to anyone. Many first-timers join and create books. Keep your eye on this site. It's the best, and it's growing.
Regarding your comment about Ayelet. Shame on you.

Patrick Sean Lee said...

Further...
No talent at Bookrix? Take a moment and read this entry into a contest.
http://www.bookrix.com/_title-en-s-g-ricketts-34

Judge for yourself.

It's true that many young writers come to the site begging for reads and accolades so that they can "get published." I smile at these kids. Those of us who have been around writing for a while know that very few, if any, agents or publishers will come flocking to the site. We know the very difficult route one must take to build a reputation in the industry. We still love Bookrix.

shane said...

I just joined Bookrix a month ago and I absolutely love it. It's not perfect, the viewing window is a pain and the need for so huge a font face is puzzling, but all in all - it's a fantastic site. Those who are annoyed at the proliferation of short, unedited or even childlike writings (which are mostly written by children!) have a stick shoved up somewhere. Self important asses. It's easy enough to navigate and sort through the less skilled and amateur writing. And as I search for something to read I often stop and find myself reading some shaky, chopped up attempt by a 12 year old and leaving an encouraging comment or two. It's called being a decent human being. I recommend it. It's good for the soul.. if you have one.

My book, Believing Magic, is up to 18 hearts and I couldn't be more excited. And call me a fool, or whatever insult you prefer, but I hope a publisher does find me on Bookrix. Stranger things have happened.

Shane Shelton said...

a follow up.. its the end of March now and I've had almost two hundred people read my book, and a good number who finished the entire series. I still love the site. Enjoy the feedback I get from those who have enjoyed my books and also I enjoy reading and encouraging others who have posted theirs.
And no, I have not been contacted by a tide of wood be agents or publishers, but getting positive feedback from happy readers is fantastic.
still there on Bookrix, still very happy w the site.