Technology is changing so fast and nowhere is that more evident than what has been happening the last few years in the book publishing industry. Indie authors have led the pack in the industry for embracing technology and using it as a means to enhance storytelling and engage with their readers.
When I heard about WeJIT, I had to find out more about it. Never has eBook technology allowed consumer participation to be a permanent part of a book like this new technology has and JD Messinger, author of 11 Days in May as well as Richard Lang, the CEO of the company told me all about it.
Jeff: First of all, what in the world is WeJIT?
Richard: WeJIT is a portable collaboration that allows “we” to come together anywhere that’s online, around any topic. The first real difference is that it’s not a destination site like Facebook or Twitter. It’s a little bit like Twitter on steroids, I guess. Instead of there being a community first and then a subset of that community becomes interested in a topic, it’s the other way around. There’s a topic first, and then people who have an interest in that topic come together on what is essentially a 1-page website dedicated just to that topic. So, it would be a little bit like the WeJIT is like a dance where people who are interested in that dance can come in the door, and then if they want to invite other people to the dance they can do that, or if they want to take the dance itself and duplicate it in other locations, they can do that. But no matter where people come in the door, they’re in the same dance – and in this case, the dance is a collaboration of multiple individuals that all contribute to a common purpose.
JD: When I was the Ernst & Young CEO in South East Asia the 90s, we helped design and implement some of the first website e-commerce applications. Back then, Asia was doing things that were 10 years ahead of what was done in the United States, and one of the strategies that we quickly gelled on in our innovation center in Cambridge was that there were 4 things you needed to master in the digital world. They are content, context, channels and connections. What Richard is talking about is context. What a lot of people do when they build a technology platform is they build the channels and connections and populate it with content without a contextual framework. Then they try to blast it and get people to come, hoping that…you know, it’s kind of like the Field of Dreams – if I build it, they will come. What Richard is saying, and I agree 100%, is that it’s the other way around. We’re taking the contextual issues from 11 Days in May–who am I, why am I here—and saying that the “we”—is more important. We with a capital W. So the WeJit put’s the ‘content’ in ‘context’ and connects people through channels, which is the model for explosive growth because it’s the contextual issue that everyone is trying to address.
Jeff: Let’s talk a little bit about your book and how you got involved with WeJIT and how it was implemented and integrated into your own book.
JD: Sure. I call this story The “We” with a capital W – because the WeJIT and 11 Days are both seeking to create a dialog not only between authors and readers, and readers and readers, but it’s much bigger than that. It’s a dialog in America, and this is what brought Richard and I together is that we both wished to solve our collective challenges – our social challenges, our personal challenges – and in order to do that, you have to go deep inside and ask yourself some very simple but important questions. I was tickled with Stephen Covey’s endorsement because he said that 11 Days in May is helping people to learn to trust in themselves and begin to change our world. My personal drivers were to understand how can I climb the corporate ladder, become a CEO, have three beautiful kids and a loving wife, and then have a terrible accident where I break my neck, and as I’m lying in bed, realize I’m not happy? Why am I not happy? I thought I did everything that I was supposed to do. What I realized is that I was suffering – and, of course, I was in pain and it was a very different thing – but I realized that I was confused and conflicted by a bunch of outdated and faulty programs that have been instilled in my mind from society that who I am is what I do and that whatever I can buy, sell or hold is what it’s all about, and that’s not true. What I came to accept and believe is that the Holy Grail is not something you can buy, sell or hold contrary to whatever Wall Street or Madison Avenue has to say. The Holy Grails is something we feel; and that thing that binds us, that makes us wonderful, happy people is this amazing thing we call love. It’s relationships, and the source of all pain and suffering in relationships comes from confusion within ourselves where our mind and ego say go north and our soul, or heart, is going south. That’s when we get ripped in half.
Jeff: Richard, what’s the difference between WeJIT and just having an author link to maybe a blog of theirs where people can comment?
Richard: Normally, if you went to an author’s blog, you’ve got to go to that blog before you can participate in a comment stream, okay? And you can be part of a discussion wherever that blog is located. But there’s something very unique about accessing a discussion inside of the e-book through a WeJIT, and one of those things is that for the first time in history a reader gets to be part of the permanent record that is the book, for generations. In other words, if I’m reading JD’s book and I’m interested in a question that he raises – and I’m just a reader – I can click on the WeJIT, I can go in, I can maybe vote on something that he’s collecting data on and certainly I can add my point of view, and once I do that my point of view is going to be there for a reader who buys that book 20 years from now. I’m incorporated as part of the content that is that book. If I just went to JD’s blog, that blog might be long gone in 20 years, but the book is still going to be there along with my input, so it makes the readers an inherent living part of the conversations that are going on inside the book. It helps make the book a living, breathing entity as opposed to a static piece of content, which is what books have been for generations.
Jeff: And if someone says something inappropriate, the author is able to easily erase that comment or whatnot?
Richard: Oh absolutely, yes. The author is in complete control of the content, but it’s an invitation to have responsible and powerful dialog, because the only people that are in that dialog are consciously opting-in. They are not getting hit with some spam where somebody’s trying to get them to go join a community and have some effect; they’re already in the book. They’ve already bought it, or they’re receiving a WeJIT – a reader is inviting them into the book’s discussion. So, here is the other way that this can manifest: Let’s say that I’m a reader of JD’s book and I click on one of the highlighted links, a question that he raises in the book, and I’m very interested in that and I vote and I leave some comments, and then I think, “You know, my church group would be really interested in this comment about angels,” so now, from inside the book, all I do is click on the Facebook icon to share this WeJIT on my Facebook page for my church and I post it on the wall, and now 5000 people that go to my church can simply click on that link and all of a sudden they’re in the same conversation in side that WeJIT. Now once they’re in it, they go, “Wow, what a great conversation. What great points. I’m adding my points,” and, “Oh, this book, I don’t have it yet – 11 Days in May – what a great book.” So, they just click on the image of the book cover inside the WeJIT and all of a sudden they’re buying the book on Amazon or on iBooks or elsewhere. So, it’s a way for the author to make the number of people that constitute “we” increase exponentially, because as readers tell other readers and invite others into the conversation… the hook, as it were, is the individual question that’s being addressed in a WeJIT, but ultimately what happens is that more and more people are introduced to the book itself, and once that happens then the process can just expands exponentially.
Jeff: JD, what kind of feedback are you generally getting from fans about the experience?
JD: I think one of the reviewers said it best is that, “This book is so unique. Everyone who reads it is going to have a different experience and perspective because it’s provocative and it’s helping you think about how you think,” and so the feedback is that the WeJIT tool is expanding the way they thought of the questions.
Jeff: Now, if I’m an author and I’m excited about WeJIT – what does this cost me? How do I implement this in my own book?
Richard: Well, right now I think the best strategy would be to write to JD, who will be able to direct the inquiry to an agent that we both share that is responsible for introducing the WeJIT technology inside of the world of e-publishing, e-books in particular, and we’ll direct that to a company called Waterfront Digital Press. Really, we’re hoping that deployment will be driven by demand, so the more demand there is by authors we’ll be able to deploy the WeJIT technology within e-books everywhere, all over the world.
JD: We’re changing publishing industry doctrine here. I had this book and I wrote it in eleven days, and I felt it needed to get out. Although I had several good agents, they all said, “Okay, you make this tiny percent. We’ll give you this tiny advance, and maybe we’ll get your book out there in 12 to 18 months.” Being a creative entrepreneur, I said, “No, I’m going to do it a different way,” and I found Bill Gladstone. Bill launched Waterside Digital Press, and Richard’s company, Democrasoft, launched the WeJIT and Vook (eBook producer) built the platform that produced and distributed the e-book in all reader formats. It’s a linear innovation, meaning it’s a combination of not just content but channel partners and connections that all came together. For example, we embedded my radio shows, then art and music, and then Bill brought in his publishing industry distributors for the traditional print (Perseus Book Group) and then he brought in Vook for the e-book and Richard’s company, Democrasoft, for the WeJIT.
Jeff: If we want to read 11 Days in May, where can we get it?
JD: You can get it on Vook.com for any reader, and of course you can buy it on Amazon for the Kindle and Apple store/iTunes store for iPad or Barnes and Noble for the Nook. The hardback can be ordered in any bookstore or you can buy it online through any of the major retailers.