words about words

When doing research for your book (and I’m talking strictly about fiction), you basically have three choices: Do it yourself, outsource it or crowdsource it. Crowdsourcing is putting a question to a crowd and collecting the answers. It’s best for single questions and not subject matter braindumps. I have solved many technical issues in my books through asking questions on Facebook. Your mileage may vary on tech help because 95% of my contacts are nerds. I have gotten answers on phone hacking, on aviation, and on computer viruses. My Facebook friends have named strip clubs and grunge bands for me, and my Twitter followers have provided many character names. Example: Me: I need a name for a semi-douchey marketing guy. Answer: Josh.


Crowdsourcing has many advantages and “free” is a good one, but here are the three most important:

  1. It’s quick. Pretty much instantaneous.
  2. If you do it in a place like Facebook (as opposed to Twitter) where everyone can see the answers, you’re basically getting a peer review—a perfect way to make sure your information is valid.
  3. You’re engaging potential readers. When I asked my Facebook friends to help think of names for a strip club that caters to software geeks I got over a hundred replies. And every one of those friends that commented or just read the hilarious suggestions came away with two things: they knew my next book had a strip club (intriguing, right?) and they felt like part of the process. I used three of the suggested club names in Pwned (The Power Strip, G-String Theory, and Pole Position) and credited the folks who suggested them in the book’s acknowledgements.

The hidden bonus benefit is that you have a good excuse to screw around on social media instead of write. Shhhh….

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