Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Is FictionDB still relevant?

This is a question I've asked myself since reading a discussion of bibliographic databases on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not supposed to be an advertisement for websites but many people still try to add their own site and then defend its relevance when challenged. This particular discussion dealt with the sites that are really only a repackaging of an ISBN catalog. There are quite a few of these sites around and they don't have any of the depth of FictionDB. No advanced search capability, incomplete backlists, little series or sub-genre information. You get the picture.

Because I tend to be something of a control freak, I put together an analysis of all the sites similar to FictionDB, listing their strengths and weaknesses. Bang for your buck, FictionDB still came out on top. Many of the free sites have strengths in one area, but are lacking in so many others that I had to mark them down overall. You're probably thinking I'm just saying this because I run FictionDB and you're partially correct. However, the reason is this: If I really did find a site better than FictionDB, I would do everything in my power to improve a FictionDB weakness whether it was a technical feature or content.

I spend a lot of time surfing the internet for tidbits of information to add to FictionDB. I think the value of FictionDB is in the compilation of a huge amount of information in one place. Not too many people want to spend hours sifting through Google searches looking for that one piece of information on a book. I even came across a post by a website designer for authors that stated you should always visit the author's website because that site will always have the best information. I beg to differ! If that were really the case, we'd be out of business tomorrow :) Some authors do a really great job of providing information on their books but most don't. Their interest is in selling their most recent book, not in giving information about books that are out-of-print. And what about all the authors who don't even have websites? I'm still amazed at the number of top-selling authors who don't have a web presence outside a blurb on their publisher's site.

So what is the real result of all this introspection and paralysis by analysis? Enhancements and more content, of course!

Starting next month, FictionDB will no longer be just a genre fiction site, it will be a complete fiction site. We're in the process of adding close to 100,000 general fiction titles. In a recent blog, I discussed my reasons for adding young adult content and the same reasons hold true for general fiction. Many of you have asked for more general fiction on the site and we're finally responding.

This is going to be a slow process though. Right now, the books selected for addition are only from the big publishing houses -- bestsellers, etc. An offshoot of this addition will be a new search feature -- searching by publishing group. The big houses change imprints at the drop of a hat. What was Avon last week could be Eos this week. Now you'll be able to search by HarperCollins and you'll find the book whether its Avon or Eos :) There are going to be other small enhancements too, but I'll wait to tell you about them until they're close to being launched.

So in the end, while we believe the site is still relevant, you won't find us trying to get FictionDB into Wikipedia. At FictionDB we're taking the high road on blatant self-promotion -- we don't use link farms, web rings, or any other shady means of promotion. We believe that the site stands on its own merits and our subscribers do a great job of promoting the site for us.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Celebrate Romance in Kansas City

I just returned from the 10th annual Celebrate Romance conference in Kansas City. For those of you unfamiliar with the event, it is for readers to discuss the genre. Authors do attend but they are encouraged to participate as readers. Most of the other romance conferences really focus on writing (RT and RWA), but this one is all about reading, which is why I love attending. I have no interest in a writing career as can be demonstrated by this blog :)

I am always amazed at the number of bright, articulate women who are passionate about romance novels. I have never been accused of being well-spoken, so I didn't speak up much, but many of these women are and their thoughts on the genre were really interesting. One of the biggest suggestions for readers was to write to publishers and editors. Personally, I'm happy with the variety of books available to me, but if you aren't, let the publishers know. According to the author attendees of CR, other than buying new books, writing directly is the best way to get a different type of book on the shelf.

CR is a fun, well-run event thanks to the hard work of its organizers. Attending an out-of-town conference is not inexpensive, but getting the chance to meet people that you've known online for years is a real treat. If CR ever comes to a town near you, I highly recommend it.

Getting away for a long weekend gave me the chance to do things I don't normally get to do. I read lots of books, watched lots of junk TV, and ate at lots of nice restaurants. Combine that with chatting with other readers and you have a near perfect weekend!