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Resources for Writers

Getting to the Heart of the Story with MacGuffin

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Multi award-winning independent publisher Comma Press, have launched an innovative digital self-publishing platform for fiction and poetry.

It’s rare to see a small independent press break new ground with disruptive publishing models but MacGuffin does just that. This ‘jukebox for literature’ touches on four key issues facing publishing: audiobooks, self-publishing, content-discovery, and consumer-insight.

All content on MacGuffin is in text and audio form, so users can read the text, or stream the audio on the go, via the app (iPhone and Android).

A hash-tagging system facilitates content-discovery: anyone can add tags to anyone else’s content, helping writers to target their work at specific readerships, and readers to share writing they love by tagging it into reading lists.

The powerful open analytics show where in the world stories have been read, what tags are trending where, and the ratio of reads/listens. Crucially the platform also flags the key ‘drop-out’ points – the moments where readers have elected to quit a story or poem before the end, which has huge implications for self-editing and understanding the impact of your work.

Developed in association with writing experts and pioneering technology researchers at MMU Digital Innovation Lab and fffunction, MacGuffin is the product of specialist research and innovative technology:

Over a 10-month period, the creator of MacGuffin, Comma Press’ Digital Editor Jim Hinks, worked alongside Manchester Metropolitan University’s Dr Darren Dancey, a researcher in Computational Intelligence, to develop the system and optimize user-experience. MacGuffin was made possible by a £125,000 research grant from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, supported by Nesta, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Arts Council England (ACE), which promotes digital innovation in the arts.

Jim Hinks explains, “Publishers have always sought new ways to connect readers and writers, and that’s what MacGuffin is all about. If you’re a writer, MacGuffin offers a platform for your voice to be heard (literally) by people all over the world. If you’re a reader, it’s a fun way to discover and share new writing.

The recent explosion in amateur podcasting shows that technological barriers-to-entry have fallen away – anyone with a smartphone has a recording studio in her pocket. With increasingly better and cheaper 4G coverage, it’s easier than ever for end-users to stream audio. We think self-publishing authors are ready to take the plunge.”

The Spec:

  • MacGuffin is a website and an app for iOS and Android. Try the beta version at io. The website will go live on the 30th of June, and is best viewed on a computer, not on smartphone or tablet.
  • MacGuffin is free to use for readers and writers.
  • MacGuffin hosts fiction and poetry in text and audio form. Authors upload their text, and an mp3 reading (no specialist equipment needed – you can record on smartphone); anyone can stream audio, and toggle between the two.
  • Anyone can self-publish their work on MacGuffin, but there’s also lots of content from publishers in the UK and US.
  • Via Twitter-style hashtags any end user can tag anyone else’s work to describe the content, contribute to a meme or add it to a reading list.

Find MacGuffin here:

App Store (iOS): MacGuffin Stories

Google Play (Android): MacGuffin Stories

And here: @TheMacGuffin / macguffinblog.com

Or by clicking the links in the article above.

As The Observer says, “If MacGuffin does take off, mining this data for insights into human attention might be one of the smartest things any publisher has done in some time.”


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