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What Readers Do
GD Deckard
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 10:09 AM

Your E-Book Is Reading You
29 Jun 12 Wall Street Journal

Nearly 18,000 Kindle readers have highlighted the same line in Suzanne Collins's "Hunger Games" trilogy: "Because sometimes things happen to people and they're not equipped to deal with them."

Kobo  recently found that most readers who started George R.R. Martin's fantasy novel "A Dance With Dragons" finished the book, and spent an average of 20 hours reading it, a relatively fast read for a 1,040-page novel.

In "Parish Mail," Kira Snyder's young adult mystery series set in New Orleans, readers can decide whether the teenage protagonist solves crimes by using magic or by teaming up with a police detective's cute teenage son.

Readers of "Great Escapes," an erotic romance series co-written by Linda Wisdom and Lynda K. Scott, can customize the hero's appearance and the intensity of the love scenes. A recent report from Coliloquy showed that the ideal hero for "Great Escapes" readers is tall with black hair and green eyes, a rugged, burly build and a moderately but not overly hairy chest.

Coliloquy's digital books, which are available on Kindle, Nook and Android e-readers, have a "choose-your-own-adventure"-style format, allowing readers to customize characters and plot lines. The company's engineers aggregate and pool the data gleaned from readers' selections and send it to the authors, who can adjust story lines in their next books to reflect popular choices.

WoW, who'da thunk it? In hindsight though, we should have seen this coming. The hard part now is, how can I see this data and how should I use it in my next book?

Mimi Speike
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 11:01 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016

Frankly, GD, I wouldn't want to hand over that much power. I'm in the driver's seat, and I mean to stay there.

I agree with what Steve Jobs had to say (more or less, this is from memory): Screw focus groups. The consumer doesn't know what he wants until I give it to him.

Yeah, yeah, this attitude is one of the reasons why I'll never be published. Que sera, sera. (Can anyone tell me how to make thise doo-dads over the a?)

GD Deckard
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 11:18 AM
@Mimi - I agree with your opinion, but, this info did not come from focus groups. The ebook reader itself, Kindle, Nook, etc, sent it directly to the ebook seller. We can now know what readers actually do when reading a book.
You're right though, I think: A new creative book can change the reader's reaction. This may be a what came first question, "The reader or the book?"
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 1:50 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

If I wanted to pick my own character traits and how a story turns out, I would play a Bethesda game. I read to see how adept the writer is at giving me a good story and good characters. It's my story, you can't change that.

On the other hand, I lost the power cord to my Kindle, so I'm back to paper despite the app on my phone. (I will be reading Mike Underwood's book once my pre-order gets sent to me.) So, I don't have to worry about my electronic device reading me. It's still a tad creepy. I wonder how many people have read 1984.
Angela Martello
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 9:11 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394

Um, thanks for this, GD. Now I'm going to get an all-over creepy feeling every time I fire up my Kindle.

Currently reading "real" books at the moment. . .

I'm not surprised, though, that this type of "user activity" is being tracked by our e-readers and shared. My mother has an almost paranoid need to shred every piece of junk mail that's delivered to her house. She said she doesn't want anyone getting her name and address. I told her that her information is easily obtainable and that it's probably sitting in numerous databases accessible for free via the web. Anyone who thinks he/she isn't being tracked or "archived" somehow by all our electronic devices is sadly mistaken.

Carl E Reed
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 10:47 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608

I see this as a valid sub-genre of commercial publishing, albeit one that sounds very gimmicky and stunt-driven, eh? "Choose Your Own (Erotic) Adventure".

What's next? Text your physical build, hair and eye color to the publisher and get written into the text as the heroic protagonist of the book?

At this point I'm thinking this sounds more like a "game" than "literature". Mind you, I love gaming, but I never confuse the two . . .

PS. Jesus, I just had a nightmare glimpse of the future! You go over to a friend's house and look at their books and discover . . . it's them--THEM!--starring as the protagonist in every book on the shelf. Harold Goldstein, Maude Flemish or Mimsy Yakovich: barbarian, secret agent, sorcerer. As you, of course, star as the lead character in all of your publisher-customized books . . .


LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 11:47 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

Carl, that is whole new level of self-absorbed. Considering the amount of time writers put into characterization, they would have to be written as pretty flat so you can substitute anyone in there just for logistic purposes. It's quite sad really.

The weird thing I do when I play games where you can create every aspect of your character is that I pretty much repeat the process I do when I write. Are they a good guy who will do anything for other people, or a money grubbing mercenary? Sincere or sarcastic responses? Is humorless an option? It's fun for me, but my husband doesn't get it. He sits on the couch and suggests doing one thing while I sit there and scream, "But it's out of character!" 
GD Deckard
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 7:22 AM

Wow, Carl! LeeAnna is right on: The reader as the lead character is a whole new level of self-absorbed. & I can see the similarity with video games. Maybe, as readers play video games and read books that change to read like they want, their fantasies will merge and become their subconscious. Imagine the possibilities for mind control. Woot!

C/PM, the Control Program Monitor for North America tells his Lackey Cabinet, "The people need more humor. They're complaining about taxes again."
"NP, C/PM, the lackeys chime. We're already working on a new game to be followed by the book, an interactive movie & an audience-participation play. It's based on the reality show, 'Mark Twain Jumps a Frog.'"

My grandchildren are gonna love the fun new world.

Nicki Hill
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 10:38 AM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175

That would be a whole new level of transmedia storytelling!

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 11:41 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

Despite it being a whole new level of transmedia storytelling, I say look at movies and TV shows as an example of what happens when too many people get involved with a story. Often times, things can remain awesome do to the collaborative creative process, but not always. I used to be a Heroes fan, when it was still on TV. I followed the writers on twitter and read interviews they participated in. Many times their ideas were changed for something that made the story weak or worse in multiple ways because The Powers That Be (i.e. the network) wanted it that way even if logistics wasn't involved. It's a double edged blade. It can go well, or it can go awful.

Another issue could be psychological. I bring up the Mass Effect 3 ending for this one. Players were so used to having their decisions matter, that in the end, when they ultimately didn't, they sent death threats to the director of the game and Bioware. The developers were trying to create art, but the players didn't want that. They wanted control. 
Nicki Hill
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 11:57 AM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175

"A whole new level" doesn't necessarily mean "a whole new (good) level." 

Laura Dwyer
Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012 1:38 PM
Joined: 1/10/2012
Posts: 192

I envision this new "subgenre" as an epubbed game of telephone: the author starts the book, and then readers weigh in with their choices for character, plot, action, etc. Fun? Maybe. But what you might end up with at the end is a whole lot of nonsense. We all know. We've played the game. 
Fun and games aside, I agree with everyone in that this is a bit scary to me, considering that I obsess over my work and wouldn't take too kindly to some Mary Sue from suburbia (or Joe Schmoe from the big city-whatever) telling ME how THEY think the story should go. Pfft. I shudder when I think of my SIL being able to write in to me, the published author, to tell me she thinks the scene needs more hot wax and nipple clamps (sorry - this is a bleed-through from one of my other discussions regarding 50 Shades of Crap). *shudder* I agree with Mimi's sentiment: if I wanted others to help me write my story, well, I wouldn't bother writing it.
Pitfalls aside, maybe it would be a fun diversion for some of us... you know, when we've published multiple, NYT Bestsellers and have NOTHING but time on our hands...
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012 2:32 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

I would loath having someone tell me how a scene should be better when they don't write their own works themselves. It's like if I were to tell my boss how to correct his bowling stance when I don't bowl, and he has for years.
GD Deckard
Posted: Monday, July 23, 2012 11:00 AM

@Troy: Readers do wince when they read obviously bad grammar. Poetic license cannot excuse the grammatical errors in "The Darling Rose."
That said, I am struck by the improved writing in your new draft.

I lack the time to do a proper review, so I am using this thread you follow to tell you there is genius in your writing. Keep at it. You have the gift, the talent, to become a great writer.

Your imagery is brilliant. It left me wordless to describe it because, well, you already said it best. I look forward to reading your work as it progresses.

Posted: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 6:34 PM
LeeAnna Holt wrote:
I would loath having someone tell me how a scene should be better when they don't write their own works themselves. It's like if I were to tell my boss how to correct his bowling stance when I don't bowl, and he has for years.

Mari concurs.


Mari also wonders how she missed this thread for a year!

Posted: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 6:35 PM
GD Deckard wrote:

@Troy: Readers do wince when they read obviously bad grammar. Poetic license cannot excuse the grammatical errors in "The Darling Rose."


I've been known to throw books and refuse to finish them. Yes.


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