Guest Post by John Ward
I missed Travis Bagwell’s initial announcement about his new website Book Brawl. It wasn’t long, however, until I started to see a veritable who’s who list of LitRPG authors like Luke Chmilenko, Stephan Morse, Apollos Thorne, Harmon Cooper, Dawn Chapman, James Hunter, and Blaise Corvin announcing that they’ve uploaded stories there. But, why?
The question bugged me. Why start a new site when there are already several other sites who are doing variations of the same thing? The site is obviously being developed by people who know how to sling code. I doubt they are doing it for free. That means someone’s footing the bill… which brings me back to my question. Why? Was it altruism? Some Machiavellian step to some unknown goal?
So, I reached out to Travis Bagwell and asked if he’d take a moment to talk to us about the new site. Travis told me that he’d be happy to discuss it. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a few questions I’d like to ask. For the sake of clarity, I’ll enumerate my questions below.
1. Why did you want to start BookBrawl?
This is pretty easy. I started out posting my work as a web serial — like a bunch of other indie authors. It’s a great way to start writing and build up a fanbase before publishing. Honestly, even if you wrote the “best book ever,” no one will ever know unless you have some initial traction and sales on Amazon.
My complaint with other sites was that it was super difficult to get any visibility and my story tended to get buried under a pile of other fictions. I mean, seriously, has anyone tried posting to Wattpad as a newbie author?
So me and a few other authors decided to make something we would want to use and try to find a way to give new authors a chance to get some visibility through weekly brawls. This is currently a voluntary submission and a weekly or bi-weekly selection process (performed by the site). Long-term, we hope to give users the ability to brawl each other at will (with voluntary acceptance, of course). We also have a bunch of other plans, but I’ll keep those close to the chest for now!
Honestly, this is a passion project for us and most of the work has been done by volunteers. For example, our current developer is a friend of mine from highschool. We’ve also had a bunch of people reach out offering to help. The general response has been super positive.
2. What are your future hopes for the site?
This sort of ties into question 1. We want to create a place for new authors to build a fanbase. Most established sites are really hard to break into as a new writer and their listing and sorting mechanisms favor established authors that already have big fanbases.
Long-term, we hope to give authors the chance to brawl other works and create a leaderboard system. This would give a new writer a way to claw their way up the ranks so to speak.
We also eventually want to give authors other avenues to promote and advertise their work — something that is sorely missing on other serial websites.
I’ll also be really clear here. This isn’t intended to be a throne to the owners’ collective works. For example, I don’t plan to put any of my books in the brawl unless we’re just desperate for a similar submission — which I certainly hope won’t be the case!
3. Can you explain the Book Brawl concept? How will the brawling aspect work?
Right now, we are planning to host a weekly or bi-weekly brawl between two similar books. This will show up on the homepage and users can vote on their favorite book. We wanted to have this be a way to give some visibility to new authors and encourage users to try out new stories. Our first brawl will probably start in a month or two and we were hoping to give away something cool for the first “winner” — perhaps free copy editing since we happen to have some good writing connections.
This brawl process is entirely voluntary. Once a user has registered and added a book, they can submit the book through their dashboard. Then we will manually choose two similar books (by genre, rating, length, etc.). There is some subjectivity here obviously, but we certainly don’t plan to pit a newbie person against a really well-known author. That would sort of defeat the purpose, after all.
In the long run, we want to expand on this model. If there is a lot of public interest, we can run multiple brawls at once on the homepage. Ultimately, we can also expand to allow users to initiate brawls against other works on their own (keeping the process voluntary) and create a separate leaderboard based on user level, win/loss, etc.
4. What type of stories are you seeking to host on the site? Flash fiction? Short Stories? Novellas? Sprawling multi-volume epics? Scribbles found on a bathroom stall door?
Honestly, we are open to any submissions. I expect we will need to expand our existing genre and tag system — it’s just a starting point and we’d love to hear what other genres/tags other readers/writers are looking for.
In the short-term, obviously a bunch of us are LitRPG/Gamelit writers, so it’ll probably be a little heavy on that content at first. I expect this could be kind of cool since LitRPG/Gamelit authors can add their serial/published works and create a real database of available titles. I’ve personally noticed that some other sites “devoted to LitRPG/Gamelit” are incomplete and not really even-handed. LitRPG.com is a good example of this.
In the meantime, we are reaching out to other writing groups to build some diversity.
5. Are all genres welcome? Hypothetically speaking, let’s say someone was sitting on a trunk novel about a mouse detective who solves crimes when not entertaining the members of her knitting circle. Would this novel— oh, let’s call it Who Cut the Cheese?— be welcome at the Book Brawl site or are you more interested in LitRPG/GameLit stories?
I guess this is basically the same question as number four. The short answer is that we aren’t closing the door to any fictions. If you have a story, feel free to post it!
Thanks to John Ward and Travis Bagwell for taking the time!