Our goal was to create a thought-leading book on social technologies by using social technologies, specifically crowdsourcing.
We are aware that some authors have crowdsourced an element or two of their books, but to our knowledge we are the first to crowdsource a book project in its entirety.Working through this project, we found that crowdsourcing enabled us to create a book that was richer in content and insight than a book produced by a single author or an editor working with a group of pre-selected contributors. Not only that, but we were able to produce this book more quickly and more economically than if we had followed the standard publishing procedures. Our crowdsourcing experience with every phase of the publishing process proved to be a good example of how a company can successfully use enterprise social technologies and redefine something like book creation and marketing.
In brief, here’s how our crowdsource publishing process worked.
Scott originally came up with the idea of writing a book that would memorialize his views on how organizations could implement a holistic social tech strategy. With that thought in mind, he began toying with the idea of having the crowd help write the book, but not in the way that other people have used the crowd. Instead of just announcing the subject and then having random people write on a wiki, he wanted to control the general message and coordinate the topics so that his philosophies came through. He also wanted the crowd to provide interesting case studies he was not familiar with, and to add their personal experiences and knowledge to his framework. With this in mind, we decided to figure out how to crowdsource every step of the publishing process just to see how we could completely change the current model.
The decision to crowdsource the cover design was simple because this is a common thing that is being done on creative sites. Nothing hard about that.
For the content, we decided to heavily outline the chapters, then narrow the possible crowd by picking three potential writers for each chapter, have them write the full chapter and submit it, and we would pick the best. We have no idea if anyone has used this model before, we just believed it would help us create a stellar book, and we are really pleased with how it worked out.
The final decision was to figure out a way to crowdsource the publicity. This is the magic ingredient because we have not seen this done for a book, and we believe we will get a great return on investment. At first, we thought we would just offer bounties for getting us the traditional kinds of exposure – an interview with Oprah, David Letterman, or Jay Leno. We figured if we offered enough money someone in the crowd would find a way to get the bounty. Then we rethought it because we were pretty sure Oprah, David, and Jay have better things to do than have Scott on their shows to was speak about social tech. That led us to the list of bounties we provide later in this section.
We plan to see if we can also have the book converted to the various eBook formats through crowdsourcing as well. If you want to see how that went, you will have to check out our Web site because we will continue to update this story with the crowdsourcing results that happen after they publishing date.
We are going to use the traditional publishing model of selling the book through retail locations, and using traditional distribution methods because there is still lots of value there, and many people that still want a paper book in their hands. Plus, Scott figures it is hard for him to sign electronic copies for people that want a special message written inside.
We intend to do more books this way, and have already thought of some topics that would best be written by the crowd, for the crowd. It is clear to us that there is a unique value proposition in having the crowd compete to write chapters, and working from a coordinated outline to produce a book. It is fast to produce, has high quality content, and provides a unique texture to the book.
Let’s move on to the detailed story of how each stage went for us…