This article written by Molly Barton got me thinking. Her argument — crowdsourced feedback as a means to mainstream success — smells a lot like a mashup of beta testing and startup incubation to me.
Ms. Barton suggests that old-fashioned campfire storytelling led to rapid innovation and improvement on storytelling as a whole. Can we not replicate that environment with today’s social media structure, she asks? Can we not take advantage of the “internet crowd” to garner feedback and develop an early fanbase?
That’s exactly the modus operandi of today’s Silicon Valley lean startup. An entrepreneur creates a product based on an idea. She presents that product to a subset of beta testers. She modifies her product (and idea) until she gains traction, often with a niche target audience. She pitches her product to investors by showing said traction. Finally, she funds her business and explodes onto the scene.
Let’s change the words: An author writes an innovative story. He shows that story to a crowd of reviewers on the web. Based on feedback, he adjusts his story. He then takes his revised story to publishers, and shows them his base of satisfied customers. He publishes his story and explodes onto the scene.
Take the analogy a bit further. Authors and entrepreneurs both need to market the hell out of their product, often in creative ways, and often to niche target markets. We need to create a network of contacts who can help us push our product to the limit. Often, we must hire intermediaries — agents or bankers — who help us reach that next step. Lastly, we need to keep innovating — more stories, product upgrades — lest the market forget we exist.
Ms. Barton makes one additional argument: that crowdsourcing can lead to story innovation. In other words, traditional publishers are afraid to publish “new,” unproven story types. But what if an author approaches a publisher with 10,000 fans in tow? Suddenly, that sci-fi-space-dragon-western-transgender-romance looks much more publishable!
Isn’t that what startups do to innovate? Think outside of the box, create a product that opens eyes and generates buzz, which buzz in turn leads to funding?
The bottom line: we, as authors, owe constant improvement to ourselves and to our readers. Why not use today’s social web environment — one that allows for successful crowdsourcing — as a great tool not only to improve our craft, but also to innovate our craft?
Thanks to Ms. Barton and Mashable. The link is here.