So you’re a struggling indie author. In addition to being the guy who has to write the damned books, you’re also the poor schmo who has to come up with the titles, the blurbs, the tag lines… Everything! Hopefully you’re wise enough to leave the cover to an experienced designer, but you’re still the head honcho, and in the end, even that decision winds up back on your desk, because you still have to decide whether the one you paid for is any good.
No matter how you come at it, marketing books is a constant guessing game on a hundred fronts, and if you’re like most independent authors, you’re still not even sure you’re the man for the writing job, let alone the marketing. (Women, however, are much more self-aware than men, and they already know exactly where their limits are. :-) How on earth can you even begin to get a handle on it all?
The bottom line is that, today, the only way to find out whether your marketing stuff works is to wait until you’ve launched the damned book and then go look at your Amazon sales report to see if you’ve knocked it out of the park or shot yourself in the foot.
Well now there’s a way to get valuable feedback on all that, from piles of readers, for free. Today I am happy to announce the beta release of Page Fight!—the game that lets readers help authors be more awesome, while having fun and keeping score.
This project started a couple of years ago when I created an experimental web site called “Fantasy Title Fights.” It was a simple idea that presented visitors with pairs of book titles and all they had to do was pick their preference. I built it to test a theory about titles in fantasy novels, but what I got back was an overwhelming response to the premise itself. In the few days the site was active, over 12,000 title battles were fought by eager visitors. And those were all titles I’d generated at random.
From this tsunami of interest, an idea was born. What if we could develop this into a full-fledged game, in which reader-visitors judged head-to-head battles between all kinds of marketing content? Titles, tag lines, blurbs… Even covers. It sounded great, but it was a non-trivial project, so I left it on the back burner, bubbling away.
Fast forward now to January of this year, when Cliff Hall, a developer and long-time follower of my ImmerseOrDie Reports, contacted me to see if I had any ideas for an app that would be of use to indie authors. When I told him about the title fight experiment, he fell in love with the idea, and jumped in with both feet. Now here we are, ready to unleash the tsunami. All hail Cliff Hall and the game he’s created that we hope will be a revolution for indie authors everywhere.
The value, however, is not limited to authors. In face there’s a real benefit for readers, too. Page Fight! allows fans of (almost) any genre to get the inside scoop on books that are coming soon, and even go behind the curtain to help shape their direction. Beyond being a blast to play, Page Fight! works as a discovery tool too. Instead of scanning page after page of eye-glazing Amazon listings, looking for something that grabs your attention, now that attention grabbing can happen as a by-product of playing an engaging game, where the only qualifications you need are an opinion and a willingness to make snap judgements, and who doesn’t have that? Additionally, since some of the books in the system have already been published, if you see a book that really intrigues you that is already available, we display a handy link that will take you straight to the book page. How’s that for closing the loop on discovery?
The Game Play
Once you’ve signed up (either with your email address or via social media login) you’re ready to play. Go to the arena and select a genre and the game will prepare a ten-bout tourney for you to judge. In each bout, the game will present you with a pair of titles to compare. All you have to do is click the thumbs-up button on the contender that appeals to you more. Then the game whisks those contenders away and presents you with a new pair, repeating the process until you’ve judged all the bouts in the tourney.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, and have judged a few tourneys, you’ll earn badges that unlock new experiences. Maybe you’d like to judge tag lines instead of titles? Or blurbs? Perhaps you’d like to compare candidates in melees of 3 or 4 candidates at a time instead of just 2? And of course, for the persistent player, you can eventually unlock the big daddy: cover battles.
The more you play, the more options for refinement open up, letting you focus on viewing—and judging—the aspects of books that interest you most. But don’t worry, those badges don’t take long to earn. Before you know it, you’ll even unlock the badge that lets you play as an author, and post your own books.
With author powers enabled, you’ll obviously want to post all your books and book ideas right away, but there’s a catch. In order to make sure that there are always enough readers in the system (especially in the early days) you’ll have to keep playing as a reader as well, to unlock more author content tokens. So the more you play, the more value you get. This ensures that no matter how many authors are in the system, there is never a lack of judges for the content. And in case you’re wondering, authors cannot judge their own books, so in that sense, every author really is just a reader when looking at other peoples’ books.
In addition to posting books and playing the game, author players also get access to summary reports of how each of the different elements of their books are performing in the arena, so you can quickly see which versions are playing best among your target audience. This allows you to retire the ones that aren’t working, and focus the feedback on the ones that do, even adding new variants to help you further refine your marketing plans.
Meanwhile, stats are not just for authors. Readers get stats too, earning points for the number of tourneys judged as well as for the consistency of their judging. To help combat users who just thump away randomly on the mouse button in order to game the leaderboard, we keep track of how consistent you are when ranking the same pairs of candidates. So the random jackhammer players can’t make any headway. Only the people actually responding to the content will climb the board. In addition to just earning bragging rights, we also plan to add more tangible rewards for high-scoring users, like free ebooks, and maybe even the ability to register as a beta reader for the book concepts you really like. (And we’ll be consulting those high-scorers for their input as we plan that reward system, so there’s value in getting to the top of the leaderboard even now.)
One thing is clear. Whether you’re a reader or an author, we think you’re going to love Page Fight!
We’re launching today to let the world get in on the action as early as possible. Yes, we’re still in beta, but everything I’ve described here is up and running. The game plays well in any browser, whether it’s on a desktop, tablet, or phone, and smartphone apps are planned, but we want to spend time refining the experience and game play elements now, before we start building out to other platforms. We also have a bunch of new features and abilities in the planning stages, but to some degree, how we attack those will be dictated by the response we get now from early players. So it’s important that if you find problems anywhere in the system, please let us know. You’ll see a Contact link at the bottom of the game page. Just drop a note there and it’ll come straight into planning central.
We’ll make regular reports about how things are going and what our advancing plans are, but for right now, we need more players. So jump on in and let us know what you think. What are you waiting for?
Oh. The link? Well that’s the easy part. It’s page-fight.com. Now get in there and fight!