Saturday, October 7, 2017

Bookmatcher: A Trial Release

(Skip the explanation and go straight to the submit page. Or the find a book page)

A few months ago I was on the search for a new book. Call me picky but I knew what I wanted: sci-fi or fantasy with engaging characters, stunning prose, thrilling adventure, commercial success, recent publication, and written by someone I'd never before read. I'm an aspiring author of speculative fiction; I wanted a book I would both enjoy and one that could teach me about the modern market. 

enter your indie book in the database
With so many thousands (millions) of books, how can we hope
to find the perfect one?
The Search Begins

There are so many books in the world; how was I to uncover this elusive title? I started where any normal person would for such a search, the largest book marketplace in the world: Amazon.

The immensity of those virtual shelves, however, are more than a little overwhelming. Their algorithms present only what they want you to see, a tantalizingly lurid oil slick obscuring everything underneath. The only way to puncture this superficial barrier was to tap a specific title into the search bar, but how was I supposed to do that since I didn't yet know what that title was?

On to Phase Two...

Moving on, I ventured onto Wikipedia pages listing former award winners, particularly the Hugo and Nebula. I've read and enjoyed several Hugo winners in the past (The Goblet of Fire, American GodsThe Yiddish Policemen's Union, and The Windup Girl to name a few). These are the most prestigious awards in speculative fiction, after all, and my wildest dreams sometimes include me clutching the trophy for both, one in each hand. Certainly any Hugo-winning novel possess something valuable for a wannabe author like me, but deciphering which of these candidates might be my perfect match required a surprising amount of research. What was the book's premise? How was it received critically? Was it successful (amazing how many major award winning novels find lukewarm reception from a commercial audience.) What did the 5-star reviewers on Amazon like? What did the 1-stars reviews dislike?

Beyond that, did I really want to limit my search only to award-wining novels? There were absolute mountains of great novels that the benevolent committees of these awards had overlooked. With all the great indie works out there, I wasn't even sure I wanted to go with a book by a major publisher for that matter, much less one that had already earned such recognition. Such an approach seemed to ignore what could prove an astonishingly vast selection of potential suitors for my attention. My find-a-new-book project had turned from a simple exercise into an hours-long debacle. Surely there was a better way.

Already, the possibility I might have the power to create this better way was already turning over in my head. But the idea needed further evolution.

The Plight of Today's Indie Author

Making friends on Twitter with fellow wannabe novelists has been illuminating on multiple levels. The sheer number of hopefuls contending to become one of a few hundred (or even just a few dozen) successful breakout authors each year was staggering and admittedly discouraging. The gold rush of self-publishing allowed so many of us to achieve our dreams of becoming published authors (even if only in name) but the ease of this new industry also created a mountain range of novels in which all who venture this route must clamber to the summit of or risk being buried beneath. And though I have found several great books by indie and small press authors, the vast majority of them (I hate to say) fall painfully short.

This volume of noise makes promoting a new book like trying to shout to above the crowd at an NFL stadium. A few might hear you, most won't care and are probably annoyed you're distracting them from the real action anyway. Even if what you have to say is brilliant, the most likely result is that your voice will drown in the audio matrix of thousands of others much like you. Yet some of these books are brilliant, innovative, entertaining and able to forge an indelible mark on that part of my brain that employs fiction as a vehicle to absorb and interpret this crazy life in this crazy world.

What I dreamed of was a way for these great books to find the readers looking for just such a story. Maybe the problem with modern indie book marketing is that its focus is too obtuse. These authors need a way to zero in on their perfect reader.

I wanted to contribute to a solution. My first idea: use my voice. I unveiled a series of blog interviews of good independent/small press writers whose books I read and deemed worthy of promotion. Unfortunately, however, my voice is not very powerful, and my blog not popular enough for true clout.

Every Inspiration Has its Eureka! Moment

I was lounging in a hammock beside an Alaskan creek with the stunning beauty of the natural world unfolding all around me (such moments have often proved lucrative for great inspiration) when an idea appeared from the vaporous ether. A searchable database where authors could enter highly specific information about their book and readers could, in turn, use the database to find the exact book they were looking for. Like E-harmony for bibliophiles, maybe the database would cultivate that perfect literary chemistry.

I just want to create a tool that helps
indie/small press authors find their
target audience
Returning to civilization, I was anxious to get to work, but alas my new idea collided with a fresh problem: I'm no web guru and I had no budget to hire one. I possess limited skills with html and a forkful of experience tinkering with several personal websites. It occurred to me that making this database a reality required a skillset I simply didn't possess.

After months of scouring the shady corners of the internet (of which there are a shocking many) in search of the easiest way to bring this vision to life, I concluded I was likely going to have to learn to write code. It wouldn't be easy, I figured. But also I pride myself on the ability to work through most things, given enough motivation. I launched into the first in what I assumed was going to be many how-to tutorials. Almost instantly, however, the vehicle carrying me towards this dream hit the quagmire. My eyes went crossed before I'd even made it through page one.

I might as well be faced with the task of learning Chinese.

Bookmatcher is Born

Eventually, however, I stumbled onto what seemed to be a workable solution, of which I have presented a trial version here in the hopes of obtaining feedback. I've named it the Bookmatcher, a working title as I have been absolutely hampered by the fact that every available domain I liked was already taken, often by "squatters" who haven't even turned these potential URLs into a functioning website. They just own the rights and sit on them for nothing. Even some of my less-optimal ideas were striking out (seriously, go eat a gopher whoever owns and

Anyway, for now, I've created a prototype database for Fantasy fiction, though I hope in the future to extend it to almost every genre available. Of course, should the idea prove viable I will move it off my author blog and onto its own sparkling website with some clever, functioning domain.

I Need Your Help

This is the point where I solicit feedback. How well did the prototype work? What categories/options are missing that should be included? Is this even something you would consider using? What are the things I haven't thought of? What should this thing be called?

Obviously this web application is in a state akin to a novel rough draft, and I don't expect anyone will find it perfect. Maybe it's a foolhardy idea anyway and not worth anyone's time or effort. Right now I am simply attempting a trial run to gauge interest and efficiency and gather a little feedback. I appreciate any and all help.

So without further ado, please feel free to upload your book into the Bookmatcher or search the existing database. I uploaded a few of my favorite fantasy novels just to give the database a little ballast. I welcome feedback of all sorts.

Thank you so much and happy writing/publishing/reading!


Thank you for supporting the development of this potential web application for writers and readers. If you enjoyed the idea and want to be kept up to date on its progress, or you simply want to read more blog posts by me, consider signing up for my mailing list. When not dreaming of ways to facilitate books and literature, I write about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions 


  1. Okay, Brian. I submitted my two fantasy series and then after a wait (24 hours) tried a search. None of my books came up, but what really caught my eye was the questions asked of the author are not those asked of the reader. As I am not a programmer, I will not venture into tech talk, but as a writer and as a former legislator, it seems to me that unless the input is equal on both sides there is going to be a mixup in the results.

    1. I'm not sure what the problem is. Your book comes up fine on a search for me. I'm also not sure what you mean about the questions, they are generated from the same fields. I did change them a bit yesterday, partially in response to feedback from people such as you.

    2. When searching, my guess is that you are either being too specific and selecting fields you did not check when you added the book, or too vague which would pull up too many responses. I have it set to provide only 5 books for a search and those in random order. I don't want people to be getting hundreds or thousands of books to sift through as that defeats the original intent. If you want to review the details page on your books, try just searching for your name under the author input