LitMatch: Research Literary Agents and Track Submissions

Monday, November 9, 2009

Launch Postponed Until Wednesday

Hi everyone,

Due to a few issues that have cropped up during the transfer process (the server configuration issue I mentioned in a previous post and some quirks of the import process), I've had to push the AuthorAdvance launch back until Wednesday.

It wasn't an easy decision, but the extra time is necessary, and will result in a better site in the long run. I appreciate everyone's patience, and look forward to welcoming you all to the new site on Wednesday!

Christopher Hawkins

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Site Migration Update

I had a rare free moment as a batch of submissions are being uploaded to the new site, so I decided to use it to update everyone on the status of the data migration.

In short, the process is going well. Users and Titles have been converted and imported successfully. Submissions are underway, and should be completed late tomorrow. We've also made some changes to the fonts and artwork, and will continue to make tweaks right up to the launch date.

I also won a major argument with my hosting provider about some server errors that were affecting the site's reliability. After four days of back and forth with various technicians, the issue has finally been resolved! Unfortunately, the reliability issues have set the import process back by about a day, but I built extra time into the process for unforeseen complications, so we're still on track to launch on the 9th.

That's all for now. I'll try to post another update before the end of the week. Thanks to all of you for your patience with this process. Good things are on the way!

Christopher Hawkins

Monday, November 2, 2009

Site Migration Begins!

The migration of LitMatch to the new AuthorAdvance website has begun! In order to perform the migration, LitMatch will be offline for a period of about one week. Once the data is converted and moved over, the new site will be brought online.

This is a busy and exciting time for me, but I realize that it can be a frustrating time as well for longtime users who have come to depend on LitMatch for research and tracking. I appreciate everyone's patience as we work through this process. I also think you'll be pleased with the results.

See you on the other side!

Christopher Hawkins

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AuthorAdvance Launch Schedule Announcement!

We are pleased to announce the launch date for AuthorAdvance, the next generation social network and submission tracking system for writers of all interests and experience levels.

AuthorAdvance Logo

AuthorAdvance will launch on Monday, November 9th.

In preparation for the launch, LitMatch will be closed in order to perform user and data migration starting on Monday, November 2nd. The migration process is expected to take about a week to complete, at which point, LitMatch will be replaced by the new AuthorAdvance site.

So, why close the site, and why a week?

The process of migrating data from the old site to the new one is a time- and resource- intensive process, involving a significant amount of data conversion in order to fit existing submissions into the new, upgraded tracking system. We've set an extremely low tolerance for error, and in order to make sure that nothing is missed, we need to halt data entry on LitMatch until the migration is complete. We've also built in extra time for testing in order to make sure that when the new site opens, users can hit the ground running with a minimum of interruption.

During this time, our blog at will still be operational, and we'll be posting information there, as well as sending update emails to keep everyone apprised of our progress.

I'm excited to share the new site with all of you. I think you're going to like what we have in store.


Christopher Hawkins

Monday, October 26, 2009

Preview #12 - Putting It All Together, Part II

In my last preview, I wrote about how you can use AuthorAdvance to accentuate the good. But what happens when you need to bring attention to the bad? The open nature of AuthorAdvance's listings might make it a tempting target to those who wish to unfair advantage of budding talent, but we've put safeguards in place to make it easy for the talent to fight back.

Scenario #2: The Scammer
A seemingly legitimate agent posts a listing for himself on the site. Kyle sees the listing and decides to send the agent his manuscript. Within a week, he's pleased to read that he's been accepted, but when acceptance comes with a request for an up-front payment, it sets off some warning bells.

So, Kyle posts a question on the Forum to see if this request is common practice, and finds out that it is not. Several other users join the discussion, and one relates a story about her own experience with the agent--an experience that ended in lost money and broken promises. They decide to post warnings on the listing, along with notes about their experiences. After a few warnings, a message appears at the top of the agent's listing, urging users to use caution when dealing with the agent.

Some time goes by, the discussion deepens, and more warnings appear on the agent's profile. Now, a sterner warning appears at the top of the agent's listing, along with several related blogs and forum posts, making it unlikely that anyone viewing the listing will be taken in by the scammer again.

Scenario #3: The Wrongly Accused
Just as there are some people out there looking to take advantage, there are also users who might jump the gun, even with the best of intentions, and post warnings against perfectly legitimate agents. Charlotte is just such an agent. A few warnings have appeared on her profile and she's not sure why. She's new to the business, but she operates her business according to AAR guidelines, and never charges fees.

As a member of the AuthorAdvance community, she decides to join in the conversation that's grown up around her listing. She is able to quickly address a concern about not having any professional sales by listing a few clients on her profile and referencing them in a forum post. She decides to post a few how-to articles which she then attaches to her profile. A few of her clients who are also users post glowing comments on her profile. Several non-clients attest to her professional nature and give her high marks by rating her profile. Before long, the complaints are just a distant memory.

That's it for now. I'll be back soon with some news about when we'll be launching the new site!

Christopher Hawkins

Monday, October 12, 2009

Preview #11 - Putting It All Together

So far, each of the previews I've posted here on the blog have focused on a single piece of functionality that the new AuthorAdvance site has to offer. With all the new features, it's easy to feel a little lost, and easier still to ask, "How does all this really help me?" The real power of AuthorAdvance lies, not just in the features themselves, but in the way that they all work together.

In AuthorAdvance, separate features like Listings, Blogs, Forums and Groups all connect to each other and work together to create a network, not just between users, but between users and data. To illustrate just some of the possibilities that this level of connection brings, I'll spend the next few previews walking you through some scenarios that show just how the new site can be used.

Scenario 1: A New Agency
While surfing the Internet, Alex comes across a website for a literary agency he's never heard of before. After a quick search on AuthorAdvance, he sees that it's not listed yet on the site, so he spends a minute adding basic information that he finds on the agency's website to a new agency profile. He then sends a query letter to the agency and records the submission in the tracking system.

A short time later, Katie comes across the listing on the Recent Updates page. She's never heard of the agency either, so she posts a quick note in the Forum asking other users if they have any more information about its history, whether they've made any sales to major publishing houses, and if anyone has queried them. She remembers to link the post to the agency's profile, so now anyone who views the profile will see the link to the discussion she started.

Over the next few days, more users find the listing, along with Katie's forum post. Erin fleshes out the listing, adding a new listing for the agency's owner and lead agent. Nicole finds some information about recent sales the agency has made on an industry magazine's website and adds that information to the listing and the forum discussion. Alex gets a polite rejection letter, updates his submission, and posts a favorable comment on the agency's profile. Steven, another user who queried the agency, gets a request to read his full manuscript. He blogs about the good news and links the blog post to the agency profile.

James finds out that the agency's owner is scheduled to speak at a conference that's already listed as an event in the system. He updates the conference listing, associating it with the new agency. Now the forum discussion, the blog post, and the conference are easily found from the agency's profile page.

A small network has now evolved around the agency's listing, lending depth and detail to an otherwise anonymous set of data. As time goes on, the network can grow further, using the agency's profile as a hub for collecting facts, opinions and anecdotes, all of which help a user make an informed decision about which agents to query.

And that's just one example. In my next preview, I'll take a look at the dark side of the publishing world, and how writers can use AuthorAdvance to keep each other safe from predators and scammers.

Christopher Hawkins

Monday, October 5, 2009

Preview #10 - Getting together with Groups

It's been a while since my last preview. Work on AuthorAdvance has been keeping me busy, but I'm taking advantage of a momentary lull to write a little about one of the most powerful features of the new website: Groups.

Groups are simply collections of user who have united around a specific topic or interest. But beneath this simple concept lies a robust way of interacting with other users and sharing information.

A group may be created by any registered user about nearly any topic you can think of. They can be open groups that anyone can join, or members-only groups moderated by an administrator. Each one can hold a forum, events, contests and file uploads. Users may interact with each other within the structure of the group itself, or use the private messaging function to communicate with the whole group at once. You can also easily invite other members via email.

Here's a list of just a few things that you can do with Groups:

  • An online writers' group for your home town, state/province or country
  • Critique groups to workshop your writing
  • An online home for your local writers' group or book club
  • Book-, author- and genre-related groups
  • Online poetry circles
  • Networking and employment opportunities
...and just about anything else you can think of. AuthorAdvance will launch with just a handful of groups, but since any user can create one, it won't take long until there's a group for just about every aspect of the writing world.

That's all for now. I'll post again later this week with a note about launch schedules and the steps we're taking to migrate LitMatch data to the new site. Until then, I need to get back to coding (and you need to get back to writing!)

Christopher Hawkins