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Friday, April 5, 2013

The Big Round Table

Following upon the heels of my ideas, this "Big Round Table" publisher has developed a KICKSTARTER campaign to rase money and start a web site. Marketplace Report

We seemed to have set off a bit of a journalistic firestorm yesterday by calling into question the sanctity of the editor’s role as sole arbiter of taste, especially in the new digital order in which we work, and read.
Twitter lit up with angry, and then angrier accusations that we were advocating “crowd-sourcing” that most sacred of roles, and, taking that logic a perilous step further, that without editors in the pilot’s seat, all manner of bad things would befall the state of stories. And writers, too!

The Big Roundtable is a storefront for longform journalism—pieces from 5,000 to 40,000 words—and a lab studying what and how readers read. The storefront will launch at the beginning of September 2013.
Stories that need to be told
It is both an incubator and a launch pad: within the safe confines of a walled-off, password-protected site, the BRT becomes a place where writers can get feedback and gain an audience for their stories. Stories will be published in the Big Roundtable's store.

Nothing makes writers so happy as being read, being paid, and being in the company of other writers.


The problem with publishing

There are writers with big, true-life stories to tell. There are readers who might want to see them. These two groups of people too often never meet. For centuries standing between them was a gatekeeper—an agent, an editor, a publisher—who decided what people would want to read based on little more than the gatekeeper’s gut, a hunch, an instinct, a feeling. This meant that too many writers were left without readers. And too many readers left having never been told a story that might have mattered. But now anyone can be a writer. And readers have so many stories to choose from. When people have too many choices, however, they often choose nothing at all. We at The Big Roundtable want to fix that. We want to be a bridge that connects writers and readers and we want to do it in a way that seems as old as story telling itself: by sharing stories, a friend at a time.

How the Big Roundtable works

The Big Roundtable is looking for stories that need to be told. We are an authors’ cooperative through which writers of nonfiction stories too long for most magazines, and too short for most publishers, can find their readers. 
Every week we post a new, original nonfiction novella on our website. We send word of that story to our mailing list, asking people to open the link, take a look at the preview of that story and, if they like it and want to continue reading, to buy it, with the knowledge that the writer will get a dollar for every story sold. If the story moves them, excites them, if they love the story, we ask them to share it, via email with three friends.
Why only three? 
And why through email? 
Think about how you choose what you read, and how often you make that choice because a friend, someone you know and who knows you, says, You have to read this.
We will, of course, disseminate word of our stories through social media. But the core of our mission is to replicate that moment in which stories get shared, again and again and again.
We will be offering subscriptions, in return for which we will offer not only stories but access to Big Roundtable and author events.
What sets us apart is something that is core to our mission: we want to study how people find, read, fall in love with a share stories. Our aim to become the research lab of the longform revival, to gather data that will at long last illuminate what happens when one friend feels compelled to share a story with another.
And, most importantly, we want to share that data, to make it part of an ongoing conversation among writers, editors and readers.

Where do the stories come from?

The Big Roundtable invites writers to submit finished pieces to theBRTable@gmail.com. But rather than have an editor or maybe two decide on a story’s worth, we instead present the first 1000 words of that story to a small group of our members and ask them to read—not as editors, or writers, or journalists, but as readers. If any of them finds the story so compelling that they want to share it, we send that same passage to another small group of readers, to see if the story is indeed capturing an audience. 
If it does, only then—only after those readers have expressed their excitement—do we set about fine-tuning, iterating, editing the story so that, in collaboration with the author, we can make it as memorable and compelling as it can be. And when those stories are ready, we make them available for sale, with the guarantee that the author will get a dollar for every story told.

Why are you doing this?

There is a revolution taking place in journalism. With it have come possibilities for writers who despaired of ever finding a way to make a living at their craft. 
Writers are now freed from the constraints of convention in telling their stories and from the commercial needs of editors and publishers, who determine what tales get told.
That, in turn, means a new era of creativity for authors of narrative nonfiction—new writers, new stories, new audiences waiting for a friend to say, Here’s a story you’ll want to read.
The Big Roundtable is more than a digital publishing platform; it is a movement, one that we believe can expand the possibilities for writers, and readers.

Where will the money go?

Your generous donations will go toward helping fund the first six months of content for the Big Roundtable. We're planning to launch our project, and publish our first story, in the end of August 2013.

Who we are

We are a team that combines different skills and levels of experience, seasoned and young journalists, an engineer and an entrepreneur: Michael ShapiroMike HoytAnna HiattRashmi RamanAnna Codrea-Rado.

Risks and challengesLearn about accountability on Kickstarter

The risk is that a community does not coalesce around our project. But we have spent months testing the idea with a group of 50, to see how we can best create a cooperative that will work together to preview stories. We've built a prototype website, testing its functionality and ease of use. And we have also begun using various tools to test how people read and share.

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