“Agile Board,” Improve It/Flickr , under CC-License.

WritingAgile Publishing Model

If you haven’t realized by now, I am a self-publishing author. That means I think I’ve got good ideas and decent talent to spend hundreds of hours writing books. I currently prefer to be primarily involved throughout the creating, publishing and distributing cycles. Pragmatic Bookshelf uses what Sourcebook calls the Agile Publishing Model for producing its non-fiction technical books. Publisher’s Weekly recently asked whether the publishing industry was read for agile. I think it is, but would it work in Fiction?

My first exposure to the Agile Publishing Model was Pragmatic Bookshelf’s The RSpec Book by David Chelimsky, et al., which discusses Behavior Driven Development. As the book was being written, the community (i.e., those who bought the book) were able to have some input on the content. This input included errata and a forum. At first blush, this might not be as effective in novel writing.

The Agile Publishing Model is a fast-to-market publishing model, which allows for interactive development with authors. Slide 19 of a Slideshare on APM has the heading “Creation + Interaction + Collaboration = Completed Book.” This is not too dissimilar from the traditional model. The key difference is involvement of the reader. The Agile Publishing Framework drives toward the reader and author having a conversation, a quasi-partnership in the author-led content creation process. I think this model might work with novel writing if one views the reader as editor.

Pragmatic Bookshelf involves the reader as soon as there’s something to read, and develops from there. Fiction might involve readers after the first draft, or preferably after the first rewrite. Readers could offer errata and comment on problems in the book the author might miss. Thanks to epublishing, this benefit can extend beyond the initial publication, errata can be addressed and pushed to readers past and future.

My novel Scintilla was published Fall 2011. I’m still receiving primary readership from my acquaintance-base. I’ve received positive feedback about the story (for the most part) but not so positive feedback on the editing. After three re-writes and friends helping copy-edit, the work is still riddled with errors. Perhaps the Agile Publishing Model might help? I’ve been told Eragon was initially created under a similar approach.

The question is whether the author is a mooch for asking his readers to help? It enables passionate reader involvement, perhaps a positive comment in acknowledgments. An author might offer the book for less, as a way of showing appreciation, or by giving that reader a later novel gratis.

Agile Publishing is still not fully understood. Its role in non-fiction is beginning to be understood. Its role in fiction is still to be understood. I’m willing to give it a go.

What would it take for you as a reader to contribute to a fiction novel? As a writer, what would it take for you to include your readers?

© 2012 Ben Wilson. All Rights Reserved