ImmerseOrDie: What’s Next?

Next200As I mentioned last week, I took a few days off to ruminate about where things should go from here. There were a number of issues beginning to chafe at me, and this was my chance to give them serious consideration without the daily distraction of having to get another report done. Thanks for your patience during the brief hiatus, but I’m back now, and here’s what I came up with. I’ll begin with the list of those “chafes” that I mentioned.

The Problems

Issue #1: Too many reports are coming out with the same old problems. This isn’t the fault of the authors, or even of the reviewer. It’s just a consequence of reviewing material that is weighted strongly toward the less-experienced end of the author spectrum and inexperienced authors tend to make the same kinds of mistakes. But regardless of the reason, the result is that we’re no longer learning new things often enough. While it wasn’t part of my original ambition, one of the unexpected benefits that emerged from IOD was that we were regularly stumbling over new kinds of immersion busters to discuss and to learn from. Anybody who has been following along for any amount of time has learned along with me about echoing headwords, galloping “I” disease, pointless prologues, proper-noun poisoning, parallel aside clauses, and any number of other issues that can cause reader bounce. That isn’t to say that there aren’t more busters out there waiting to be discovered, but the burden-to-benefit ratio is beginning to climb, and we’re having to read (or write) too many reports of same-old-same-old between successive new learning opportunities.

Issue #2: I started IOD as a way of getting myself back in shape. Well, guess what? It worked. I’ve lost some weight and my energy is up, but now I’ve hit a plateau. To continue this health journey, I need more demanding exercise, but with an hour every day already devoted to IOD, I don’t have time to resume my interest in team sports, which needs to be my next step. And I can’t increase the intensity of my treadmill time because I’m already doing as strenuous a walk as I can manage without interfering with my ability to stay focused on reading a book.

Issue #3: The submission rate has fallen. In the very beginning, I was reading books that I found listed for free on the BookBub or Fussy Librarian recommender newsletters. Then as word spread, I switched over to primarily doing books that had been submitted by their authors. But in the last three months, that stream of author submissions has trickled to a near stand-still, so I’ve switched back to the recommenders for new candidates. This isn’t a problem in itself, but the lack of submissions suggests to me that either authors are terrified of IOD, or else the audience has stopped growing and we’re not reaching new authors who have work to contribute. While I appreciate that many authors are intimidated, that didn’t seem to stop a regular contingent from throwing their book into the ring earlier, so I suspect it’s more about audience stagnation than intimidation.

Issue #4: I’ve reviewed 155 books since the last overview article, but I never seem to have the time to do a proper analysis and a new summary article.

The New Plan

So, taking these issues into consideration, I’ve come up with a plan that I think will get everything on track so that I can do the next 200 reports without loosing my audience or killing myself with boredom in the process.

Change #1: It has been my experience that the books I’ve taken from the newsletter feeds has, as a class, performed much more poorly than those that were submitted by the authors. This is probably because of the self-selection factor. Some of the really inexperienced authors out there are probably aware that their work is not yet ready for a grueling examination, and so they don’t submit. So from now on, I will put my focus on reviewing books that are submitted by the authors. I’ll still be reading from the freebie stream, but I will only be going to the trouble of posting a report for the books that survive for longer than ten minutes or that bring some new issue to the discussion.

Change #2: Since I’m now going to be looking elsewhere to meet my core exercise requirements, I will be free to read IOD books on a more flexible schedule. Consequently, I’m going to scale back my reporting frequency. Instead of posting four new reports each week, I’m going to aim for at least one high quality report per week, and no more than two. I may allow that to climb to three, if the submission rate goes back up and my backlog grows, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to find at least one comment-worthy book each and every week.

Change #3: Every author-submitted book will receive a treadmill report, but the reports that I deem not especially new or interesting will be sent privately rather than posted on the site. These will be fairly short, simply citing the time and the three WTFs that tripped me up, and then referring to previous reports that discussed those issues in greater detail.

Change #4: In an effort to foster more submissions, I’m relaxing several of the restrictions that I’d had in place previously. It might take me a day or two to get the submission page updated, but as of now, I will accept books that have a $0 price point, so long as the majority of books by that author are not freebies. I will also be accepting books from the middle of series, in addition to the stand-alone and series-starter books that I already accept. But be warned, a mid-series book will be read as though I have no knowledge of the books that came before it.

Change #5: I will be working more diligently to expand the ImmerseOrDie audience. I’ve been so busy with my three upcoming launch events lately that I’ve simply gotten out of the habit of spreading the word. Well, that’s going to change this week, starting on Wednesday, when the IOD StoryBundle collection goes live. I’ll be following that in a week or two with a reinvigorated awareness campaign. But in the meantime, if anybody wants to help with outreach, the most effective thing I’ve found so far is to find new social media beachheads where I can talk about the reports and maybe even post regular or occasional examples. So if anybody knows of a good group, forum, or community where I could drop by and share the word, please let me know.

Change #6: During last week’s hiatus, I completed a data collection sweep, gathering the stats from the first 200 reviews to serve as raw material for a new meta-analysis article. More importantly, I also changed my report writing process to automate the collection of that data for all reports written in the future. So I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to get a new summary report done in the next week or two. (It would be sooner, but I have a pile of launch events coming up that are also demanding my time.)

And that’s it. A new game plan that I’m hoping will get us from here to report #400. But it only works if the audience buys into it. So what do you think? Have I missed anything? Do you see any problems with the plan? It’s not too late to tweak it, but you’d better say something now, before I get locked in.

The IOD StoryBundle is now available
200 IOD postings—Time for a brief pause

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.