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Is More Crowdsourced Editing Coming to Books?

Writers are experimenting with crowdsourced editing, and it might just help your book above the throng.

Writers are seeking editing assistance from the open internet, a practice that might just be enough to lift their books above the throng. (Photo: Mike Krzeszak, Creative Commons)

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

In today’s feature story, “Reflections on Becoming a (Self) Publisher,” writer Nick Ruffilo notes his “surprise” at “the value [he] found in the editing process,” noting, “With good marketing, you can sell content, but good content is easier to sell and will help sustain sales.”

Walter Isaacson is crowdsourcing the editing of some entries for his new book.

Walter Isaacson is crowdsourcing the editing of some entries for his new book.

Publishers will tell you that good editing is a hallmark of having a superior publishing experience. And today self-publishers are  seeking out their own freelance editors in the pursuit of a more professional product.

Today, Walter Isaacson, who is best known for his biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs, is trying a different tact: he’s crowdsourcing the editing for several entries for his new encyclopedic history of innovators. You can find one entry on LiveJournal, one on Scribd, and three on Medium. Isaacson told Bloomberg BusinessWeek he sees it as a return to the “original intention” of the internet, which was collaboration.

Unlike Wikipedia, he isn’t allowing for direct editing, but has solicited “comments, notes and corrections.” Isaacson says he’s received hundreds of substantive posts and thousands of early readers.

In addition to being practical for building the books, it’s a wonderful audience-building/PR exercise.

Is this a process that could only apply to encyclopedic content, much like Wikipedia? Could it also work for academic texts, STM texts, narrative nonfiction? How about fiction? And are we likely to see more of it in the future?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted January 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s great if he’s planning on sharing his profits with those people and doesn’t mind if they use his writing in their own work (which is how open source works, right?).

    In all seriousness, as a professional writer and editor, I think crowdsourcing editing is not only risky for the quality of your end product, but it also undermines a business that some of us take seriously. The editor part of me is appalled that you would allow that many cooks into your kitchen. And the writer in me wonders how you can possibly develop a good rapport with a bunch of anonymous editors.

    • Posted January 20, 2014 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      Suzanne, if I understood what he did, he didn’t allow actual editing.

  2. Vicki Braun
    Posted January 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Actually, this is a similar model — albeit on a larger scale — that many indie authors use, at least in many fiction genres: ‘beta readers.’ As with any editing input, an indie writer is free to incorporate/ignore those comments.

  3. Posted February 1, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I can’t imagine this working for Fiction, too subjective
    and people would have too many different opinions
    about how the writing should be.

    • Posted February 13, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      True, though it could still be used for the basics: spelling, grammar and punctuation.

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