Seen Reading’s Missed Connections

I’ve started a project called Will It Stick? To learn more about it, and past/present contenders for my first $1,000,000, read this introductory post.

To recap, each round of Will It Stick? gives me SIX posts to draft out an idea. At the end of six posts, we sit back and ask, Will It Stick? A “No” results in me archiving the idea for future consideration. A “Yes” results in me putting the idea into more serious development, here, or elsewhere with a partner.

Some ideas will present themselves all but fully-formed, only to reveal a shocking omission that presents an insurmountable challenge. (Defeatist.)

Other ideas will appear as a stream-of-consciousness ramble, out of which one tiny element will reveal itself as the answer to all our hopes and dreams. (Optimist.)

Most ideas will flatline until revived, possibly by someone other than me. (Frustrated Optimist.)

The Idea: Seen Reading’s Missed Connections

The first candidate in this inaugural round of Will It Stick? is something I’d like to call “Seen Reading’s Missed Connections,” something that combines two things that turn my crank as both Voyeur and Madam: an online tally of what people are reading and where + flirty excuses to talk to people about the books they’re reading.

If you’re familiar with the idea of the “Missed Connection,” born in the back pages of free weekly newspapers around the world, the premise is simple. It looks something like this.

You. Ezra’s Pound. Sitting on patio. Red scarf. Me. On bike. Asked where I could find the nearest ATM.

But what if the same message included a few more details?

You. Ezra’s Pound. Sitting on patio. Red scarf. Reading The Juliet Stories by Carrie Snyder. Me. On bike. Asked where I could find the nearest ATM. (Love Snyder’s short stories. Have you read Hair Hat?)

The Rough Draft:

Create an online hub where visitors can create a profile (to include reading interests) and post their sightings/missed connections. If someone responds, they get an alert. They can also opt to let others contact them based on their reading interests. Conversations begin. Maybe a book club is formed. Maybe a few crazy kids find love in the stacks. Publishers have a new way to track how and when their books are being read. (Less creepy data-mining than happy, useful encounters.) An author learns their book was “seen,” and it makes their day.

The Challenges/Opportunities:

How to organize the site?
What does it look like?
Is it a cheap and cheerful Craig’s List-like interface?
How to make it global?
How to moderate the site?
How to monetize the site?
Should publishers and booksellers be allowed to play? If so, how?

That’s where the idea starts. I have five more posts before we ask . . . Will It Stick?

Chirp in with your thoughts!

Next post: Branding. Once an image is attached to an idea, how much does it influence your opinion? I’ll toss up some pictures to see which ones draw you in, and which ones send you running for the hills.

Will It Stick?

Here are some my favourite, famous/infamous past Will It Stick? projects.

#djbookmadam

DJ Book Madam started out as nothing more than a desire to keep my fellow publishing cohorts company every Friday morning during the summer season by streaming thematic playlists each Friday morning. I posted the channel to Twitter and Facebook, and soon others jumped on the bandwagon to request songs using the hashtag #djbookmadam. Before long, the average “show” ran anywhere from 1-2 hours.

Frequency: weekly
Lifetime: many months
Interest level: high
Niche group: music lovers
Biggest challenge: maintenance (only so many hours in the day)

If Pets Had Author Photos

I like to take pictures of my cat. On occasion, he strikes a pose as if sitting for an author photo, something about the way he cocks his head or places his paws. Other times, it was something about the lighting or scene that might remind me of The Obscured Ageless Author Photo, or The “I Was Up Too Late at an Appearance but Promised to Sit for an Interview with a Local Newspaper” Photo. Or, The Hands Under Chin Author Photo. Or, The Only Author Photo Said Author Will Ever, Ever, Ever Use because It Can’t Get Any Better Than This Photo.

Frequency: one-time batch post of six images
Lifetime: one-time batch post of six images
Interest level: very high
Niche group: animal lovers
Biggest challenge: new contributors

Writers Reading Recipes

Food writing is a craft unto itself. Food is a craft unto itself. Recipes can read like poetry. Writers like to characterize text. Add ‘em up, and you have Writers Reading Recipes. The results were charming, hilarious and always mouth-watering.

Contributors to Writers Reading Recipes included:

Brian Francis
Kristen Den Hartog
Alison Pick
Trevor Cole
Iain Reid
Teri Vlassopoulos
Sarah Leavitt
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
Kim Moritsugu
Darcie Friesen Hossack

Frequency: weekly
Lifetime: six weeks
Interest level: very high
Niche group: foodies and writers
Biggest challenge: new contributors

Reliable Experts

Reliable Experts was a short-lived but deeply-loved short essay series in which authors talked about topics they’d unwittingly become experts in as the result of having done research for a book. It was up to the reader to determine if the information was factually reliable or otherwise. It stemmed from an interview I saw when Matt Damon appeared on The Oprah Winfrey show around the premiere of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Oprah congratulated Damon on transforming himself into an accomplished pianist for the film, to which he responded that he’d only learned one piece of music for a scene.

Contributions to Reliable Experts included:

Claire Cameron on line painting (The Line Painter)
Carolyn Black on disavowing expertise (The Odious Child)
Julie Booker on gummy bear sex (Up, Up, Up)

Frequency: weekly
Lifetime: three weeks
Interest level: medium
Niche group: armchair academics
Biggest challenge: new contributors