Tips for Book Coordinators

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Contents

Tips for Book Coordinators

Introduction

These are some things I (Gesine) have learned about coordinating books efficiently. I'm frequently getting questions from other Book Coordinators (BCs) about different aspects about coordinating, and thought I'd put them down here as a kind of a chatty/anecdotal FAQ for Book Coordinators. Please note that these are only suggestions, things that have worked for me, and ideas I've had about some things other coordinators have encountered. I'm hoping that other volunteers will contribute with their own experiences - it's a wiki, please feel free to amend, improve, update, re-write, add... :)

How to Become a Book Coordinator

I'd like to coordinate a project (book, poetry, play). How do I go about it?

Please read the related LibriVox wiki page How To Become A Book Coordinator. If you have any questions, just post them in the LibriVox forum. Please note that we really like BCs to have some forum experience, so please make sure you've been around for a while and have recorded, edited, or proof-listened sections yourself (ideally all three), and that you understand all the ins and outs of the 'production process' - how we get from a bunch of volunteers to a completed and catalogued book. Our BCs are the first interface with volunteer readers (newbies, too), and BCs need to be able to answer questions and to direct people to the right places. For some questions that have come up in one BC project or the other, take our BC Readiness Quiz. How many questions can you answer?

Setting up projects

How can I make it easy for volunteers to sign up?

Over time, a fairly standard template has developed, which is posted in the first thread of a new project. This is then used to catalogue the project as 'in progress' and provides the Magic Window feature which helps everyone keep track. The template can be taken as it is or slightly modified (though the Temporary Paragraph should always be filled out as completely as possible.) It is always updated, and contains a lot of helpful hints - links to the newbie guide, recording tips, etc. Note: the more standardised the templates are, the easier it is for newbies to understand projects - for more experienced volunteers, it takes a couple of seconds to check the appropriate places they need to check, without having to read through everything. How to Update the MW explains all about how to keep the Magic Window.

I'm BCing a book that has no chapters, just continuous text, and can't get readers interested!

Consider doing these three things:

  • Make it easy for people to preview and read the sections. The solution that seems to work best (though it's the most work for the BC) is to create separate text files for each of the sections. Save them to a server (if you don't have server space, ask in the 'Need Help? Got Questions?' forum for suggestions for online host sites) and put the links to them in your first post. It avoids a lot of confusion and is really easy for readers. It works even better if you put the LibriVox intro and outro in each of these text files, that way volunteers can just open up the file and read straight off it. GoogleDocs is another good way of sharing files if you don't have your own webspace.
  • Next to each section (in the Notes field in the BC admin), put the approximate reading time, or the number of words to be read or some such thing. Also include a sentence to explain what the word count means above the Magic Window - e.g. "I have indicated the word count of each section in the Notes field; forum discussions have shown that people read on average 130-190 words per minute." - It will help potential readers to make a quick decision whether they can fit in the recording or not.
  • Make the sections as short as you can, or have at least some shorter sections to get the project moving.
  • Keep in mind that it's a lot of work to change the number of sections in retrospect, so divide them up properly before you start the project or shortly after. Once sections have been recorded, it can become very messy otherwise.

Is there any software that can help me calculate the word counts?

Yes! See this wiki page on Word Count.

Using GoogleDocs to display the text and instructions for each section

With Googledocs, it's easy to set up a webpage for each section of your project.

  • Go to http://docs.google.com/ and create an account, if you haven't already done so.
  • Create a new Document, and copy into it the text of your first chapter, of course using the online public-domain text for your project as the source. If the source text has fixed line breaks (i.e. the lines break part-way across the page), it might be a good idea to use a program like TextWrangler to remove the line breaks before pasting the text onto the GoogleDocs page. It's easier on the eye, and will use less paper if any of your readers print the text for recording.
  • In the File menu in the top-left corner, there is a word count tool. About 7,500 words per section is a good rule-of-thumb, as a maximum; if the chapter is longer than that, it's best to split it into two or more sections. Find a suitable point in the narrative to split the text. Copy the text below that point into a new GoogleDocs page.
  • Now you have your text for the first section, add the appropriate LibriVox introduction above the text, and the closing words below the text.
  • After the closing words, add the exact ID3 tags and filename the reader should use for this section.
  • You can set the title of the page to something appropriate: Book Title - Chapter number etc. In the 'File' pull-down menu, select Rename... and enter there the title of the page.
  • Finally, publish the page using the (surprise surprise) Publish button in the top-right corner. The URL for the page will be displayed.
  • Copy the URL into the notes field in the database entry for this section of your project. It's a good idea to include the word count, to help readers choose a section. For example:- <a href="[the URL for your page]">Link to Text</a>. 3,900 words.
  • Follow these steps for each section of your project.
  • In Googledocs, you can set up a folder for the project, and keep there all the pages you set up for it.

Daily Routine of a Book Coordinator

How often should I check my project thread(s)?

Easy answer: as often as you can. Most BCs check in once a day or even more often. If you can spend that amount of time, that's great because it means that you'll catch any activity in your thread(s) straight away. If not, try to get to it at least every couple of days, or ask your MC (Meta Coordinator) or another volunteer to help you watch over it. It's usually all right for more experienced volunteers not to receive a reply message straight away, but for newbies it's always nice if they get feedback fairly quickly so they understand the system. Don't rely too much on the thread reminder emails; sometimes they don't work. If you haven't got a reminder in a couple of days, it's a good idea to check the forum.

What is the best way to manage a BC project once I've posted it?

The best way is to find what works for you - this may take some experimenting. I can tell you how I'm doing it, and perhaps others will add their own workflows here, then we can all pick and choose.

Gesine's BC workflow

(Updated May 2010)

The Magic Window
Generally, the work of a BC centers around updating the Magic Window. I like projects best where I can see at a glance exactly which sections are still available, how long ago the assigned ones have been claimed, what has been PL'd and what hasn't, which sections need editing, and which are ready to catalogue. I find that the easiest way to achieve this is to make the Magic Window entries very consistent, so I make sure always to use the same format for the Notes field changes, for instance. How to Update the MW explains exactly how BCs should update the Magic Window.

I also try to record everything I do in the Magic Window, in forum posts. For example, when someone didn't submit a section in time, I like to post "I'm putting section xx back in the pool, claimed by yy on [claim date]." This is because once a reader is deleted from the Magic Window, there's no getting that information back, and if the reader later asks me about the section, I can look in the forum thread about what happened to it.

A couple of other points:
Answering questions
I answer process-related questions in the thread. When it comes to recording questions, I usually refer readers to the Help Wanted forum (unless I know a definitive answer), simply because many volunteers will see the question there and the answers/solutions will be better. Same for editing questions and other general things. There are tons of volunteers with much more expertise than I have, so I 'delegate.' Don't think that just because you're a BC, you have to know everything. Everyone has their strengths. Note: if the question is from a newbie who may not be so familiar with the forum, I often post the question in the relevant forum myself, then post a reply in my project thread that links to the question thread, and ask that the reader checks that thread for answers.

Newbies
Sometimes newbies get over-enthusiastic and claim too much. If I see that, I usually write a gently worded, encouraging PM that asks them to first do a couple of sections and then claim more later if they still like to read more.

Many newbies don't read the instructions in the first post of the project properly, or they forget when they post. I usually post a standard response to newbies' first claims, see the template below. It's important that they get directed to the right places quickly (test recording, etc), before they start recording in earnest.

How long to wait for sections
We now have a note in the BC template that states sections have to be submitted within 2 months of the claim date or by the target completion date, whichever comes first. I tend to be fairly ruthless about enforcing that rule, unless I know a reader very well, or unless I've heard from the reader. I look through my BC projects regularly to see which sections are beyond the 2-month rule, and then I post about it in the thread and delete the reader's section from the Magic Window (make sure you delete the claim date in the Notes field, too!). Reasons: 1) It keeps the Magic Window, and thus the project, up to date. 2) It encourages 'serious' readers to submit in a timely manner (thus contributing to getting the project catalogued quickly). 3) It frees up the section for readers who are interested in it. -- If a reader requests an extension, I record the agreed extension date in the Notes field next to the original claim date.

Target completion date
I try to update this shortly after it's run out, if the project isn't very near completion by then. Like putting sections back in the pool, it ensures the project is up to date, and communicates clearly what is expected of all volunteers.

PLing and editing
If at all possible, I try to get a DPL. If not, I post in the Listeners Wanted forum. It's a bit slower, but still usually works (remember to toggle the thread title there between 'Listeners Wanted' and 'Listeners Found' whenever you have sections coming in). The very best way to avoid hassle with a section is a) to have it PL'd quickly (when the reader is still around) and b) have it edited straight away, if necessary. The latter is esp. true when some re-recording is required in the PL notes, or when there is missing text or incorrect intro/outro. If it's just a couple of stumbles, it's not so urgent, as they can be cut out by a volunteer editor even if the reader has disappeared. But generally, I try to PM readers whenever the PL notes come back with a comment. I just ask the reader to look at the comment and if they can edit. If they can't, for whatever reason, I find them an editor. I also make sure that the PL note is okay - sometimes esp. newbie PLers note down too much, or not the right sort of thing.

Gesine's post and PM templates

(Updated May 2010)

I find that I post the same things over and over again. It may not be the most personal approach, but in the interest of efficiency, I have created a text file with 'standard responses' that I use. This, along with the new admin system, has considerably cut down my time spent BCing - meaning I have time to record more! - Perhaps this will be of some help to new BCs.

Post to newbies with 1-3 posts who have claimed a section (amend if they've posted the catalogue name):
Welcome to LibriVox! Thanks, I've signed you up for section XXXX. Please read the first post of this thread carefully.

Please let me know under which name or pseudonym you'd like to appear in the LibriVox catalogue. We can also link to a personal web site/blog.

Also, if this is your first recording, we ask that you send in a 1-minute test recording. This is not an audition, it's just to make sure the sound quality and the recording settings are all right - often things can be improved at the outset that are difficult to fix later. Please go to 1-Minute Test to find out what to record for your 1-minute test, and how to upload the recording. In the LibriVox Uploader, please select 'tests - tests' from the MC drop-down, and then post your test recording in the Listeners Wanted forum, rather than in this thread - you'll get feedback more quickly there.

Kmerline's Shepherding Tips

See Kmerline's 'Shepherding' Tips.

Collections of FAQs

My project is almost complete. What should I do?

You may want to post it as an IP project in the Listeners Wanted thread (if you still need PL to be done). Contact your MC to discuss further steps. - Please remember that part of your role as BC is to hand over the project in good shape - that means you should be reasonably sure that

  • all files are complete, have correct intros and outros, sufficient silence at the end, are loud enough, have the correct bit rate and sample rate.
  • all meta data is correct and consistent (Note: with the new catalogue validation system, it's fairly easy for your MC to update tags in bulk with a few clicks, so don't worry too much about that - however, the Title field in the Magic Window has to be filled in consistently for this to work)
  • it is proof-listened
  • all edits have been carried out
  • you have all readers' names/URLs for the catalogue (you can check this in the BC admin)

If you do all that, cataloguing will be very quick and your MC will love you! :)

Workload

I'm already coordinating one project. Should I take on another? What's the "limit?"

We have an informal rule of thumb: new BCs should limit themselves to two ongoing projects (as BC). Once a BC has a few completed projects under their belts, and understands the process, they can expand to more, as they wish (within reason!). Beyond that, it really depends entirely on your time. Before taking on another project, consider the following points:

  • If the new project took as much time to coordinate as my existing one, would you have time for it?
  • Can you foresee any other commitments that may mean that you have less time?
  • How much work is the new project going to take? For example, is it a project that will likely attract newbies (means more questions), will it require lots of discussion in the thread (like plays), does it have lots of chapters (lots of responses and management), etc.
  • Will it be difficult to set up (e.g. do you have to divide it into sections)?
  • Will you have time for all stages of the project?

Personally, I don't think there's much difference between coordinating one or two, three projects. It's a little bit more work, but once a routine develops, checking the threads, signing people up etc is fairly quick. I'd advise against too many projects, though. I went a bit crazy at one time - there were so many projects I wanted to do, I took on a few others, and suddenly I had 13 BC projects. That was too much for me, and looking back I found that 8 is about a comfortable level for me. For others, it will be different. A lot depends on the types of project, and how they develop (the latter is fairly unpredictable).

What is the average time of a project?

It really depends. The project I know of which took longest so far is The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. Long chapters, an abundance of difficult Greek names, and generally not easy to read, it took about 12 months to complete. I think we've had some long books that were recorded in several volumes (War and Peace, etc) that took longer than that. Also, dramatic readings and plays take very long, often years, because of all the editing and coordination required. The shortest book I think might have been Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland, which took about a week to do collaboratively. (Mar 2007 update: The infamous 'King Lear in a week' project also famously managed this.)

I'm coordinating a project but can't look after it any more - what should I do?

First step is to contact your MC. If you are only temporarily too busy, it's likely that your MC will help out by taking over your thread until you're ready to resume responsibilities. If something more drastic has happened and you have to drop out of the project completely, please also contact your MC. If you can, please don't wait until things have already deteriorated. The sooner your MC knows, the sooner s/he can help you deal with the situation. - If the original BC cannot continue, we will try to find a replacement BC (if the original BC can help in this quest, even better). If none can be found immediately, the project thread may be put on hold until another BC volunteers.

How to attract and keep readers

How can I make sure that my project will be popular?

You can't really. The ways of projects are mysterious. We've had quite popular novels which had hardly any takers for a while, and we had really obscure books which filled up incredibly quickly. The only thing that usually works is children's classics. A lot of volunteers are interested in recording children's books, and they often have nice short chapters, and the language is not that challenging. They are also popular with newbies. The first collaborative version of Alice in Wonderland, for example, was fully subscribed in less than 6 hours, I believe. - If you can find a niche that hasn't been done before, that's often popular. At one point someone started a cookbook project and it found readers very quickly. - If you are concerned about readers, one good way of gauging interest for a prospective project is posting it as a suggestion in the Book Suggestions forum.

I put up a project, but I cannot find readers!

You will. Eventually, everything gets done, although some things take a long time. Sometimes it only takes one volunteer to take an interest, and suddenly a project will kick off. Be patient, don't force it, read some sections yourself while you wait. It'll happen. If you get desperate, you can 'headhunt' readers - you may know some other volunteers, perhaps admire their recordings (or their productivity). Drop them a PM and pitch them. I think, though, that this should be done sparingly, otherwise a whole other recruitment project will develop behind the scenes... I sometimes use personal contacts when I want to fill one or two remaining chapter to move a project along. Sometimes I get lucky. - It is, of course, completely legitimate to headhunt readers if you want them for special parts - if you think their voice/reading style/accent or whatever is especially suited to some book, or part of a book.

My project is in Readers Found, but now a third of my readers have dropped out - what should I do?

This is not uncommon. If there are too many orphaned chapters, it might be best to ask your MC to move the project back to Readers Wanted, where it will get more exposure than in the Orphaned chapters thread. Just take a deep breath and start again. It's frustrating, but it'll all work out in the end - it'll just take a little longer. :) Make sure you set a new target completion date.

How can I stop readers from dropping out?

You can't, and you shouldn't. Always remember that LibriVox is a completely volunteer-run project. Unpredictable things happen, lives get busy, and people's commitments suddenly change. Often, volunteers might not even have time to inform BCs that they have to drop a chapter, or they might get so swamped that they just forget about it. [Random thought from Cori: Readers may concentrate on other projects if they have unanswered questions in the forum, or via PM. Try to keep on top of communications, and that's the best you can do.] [Random thought from Hugh: give your readers as much love as you can. Answer their questions, encourage them if they post samples, express concerns, make them feel comfortable, give them gentle reminders, but an easy out if they can't do the recording.]

May I 'bump' my project when it's at the bottom of the page?

This was discussed in the forum at one point. I think the conclusion was that it's generally frowned upon. The easiest way to get your project to the top is to claim, or record, a section yourself and post about it. But don't worry too much; eventually someone will remember it and post again. Note also, some conscientious readers will start at the bottom of the forum and claim chapters to help the 'mouldie-oldies' move on too. Each to their own. :-?

How can I promote my BC project on the forum?

Some BCs include a note in their sigs. There are now also sticky threads in each recording forum to advertise for help in finishing the last couple of chapters.

Communicating with readers

I'm contacting readers about their chapters and they don't even have the courtesy to get back to me!

The important thing is not to take this personally. I remember I once got a bit upset because I couldn't get any response from a number of readers in a project, despite several follow-up PMs. A week later, I suddenly heard back from one of them, and she apologised and said that a relative had suddenly contracted a disease and she's now spending night and day nursing them. It was a good reminder for me. Now when I don't hear back from people, I always imagine that something like that happened. Or perhaps their computer imploded. Stuff happens. Or maybe they thought signing up was a good idea at the time, and now they'd rather not have anything to do with it anymore. Never mind.

I have to go away and can't look after my project, what can I do?

Best thing is to contact your MC. S/he will manage it in your absence, or find someone else who can do it.

I need to contact a reader about a chapter, but s/he does not respond to my PMs.

Ask your MC for help with this.

I haven't heard from a reader for a long time, and think they have dropped out. What should I do?

Our BC template states that readers are required to submit the recordings within 2 months or before the target completion date, whichever is sooner. If you haven't received the recording within that time frame, you can just delete the reader's claim from the project. No further action is needed, though it's a good idea to do a quick post about it in the project thread.

My project is completed and catalogued. Do I need to contact the readers?

If you have the time, feel free to do so, but it's not a requirement. Completed projects get posted in the forum's Completed Projects section and the MC usually creates a last post so an orange sticky is generated to alert everyone that there is a new completed project. Some BCs contact the readers to ask them to check that the catalogue details are correct.

I have a reader who keeps PMing me with questions, and I don't have the time/patience/knowledge to reply.

Please contact your MC or other member of the LibriVox Admin Team, who will either advise you, or respond to the reader, or find a suitable volunteer to work with the reader.

My project has moved over to Readers Found. Do I need to contact my readers?

You don't need to. The URL for the thread remains the same wherever it is moved in the forum, so you won't mess up anyone's thread notification. However, it's advisable at least to PM readers with outstanding chapters that the thread has moved so they don't get confused (and courteous to PM readers with completed chapters). It's also a good opportunity to ask for an update on the recording (often some readers drop out at this stage; the chapters can then be posted in Orphaned chapters).

Receiving recordings

A reader submitted a recording I don't like / that doesn't follow LibriVox standards. What should I do?

"Not liking it" is no grounds for refusing a recording. If you don't like it, feel free to record your own version. If it doesn't follow LibriVox standards, contact the reader and ask him/her to fix the recording (e.g. intro/outro/silence missing, incorrect ID3 tags etc).

A reader submitted a recording and the ID3 tags/file name are all wrong. No need to worry so much about ID tags any more, as MCs can now easily fix them at the cataloguing stage. File names: ask your MC to fix the filename (the file does not need to be re-uploaded for that!). Contact the reader and explain about how to do it correctly next time.

A reader submitted a recording and I noticed that it has lots of mistakes (repeats etc) that weren't edited out / silence at the end missing.

Don't worry about it. Leave it to the proof-listeners and deal with it when you have proper feedback. If you are proof-listening yourself, follow the guidelines in the Listeners Wanted FAQ. If necessary, you can either ask the reader to edit the file, or edit it yourself, or find another editor (post in the Listeners and Editors Wanted forum).

A reader submitted a file with lots of sound problems.

Contact the reader to see if s/he is able to fix them. If not, edit yourself or find another editor (post in the Listeners and Editors Wanted). Work with the reader to find out if the problems could be avoided in the next recording, by changing the recording set-up. If you don't have the time/patience/know-how to do this, contact your MC - we have volunteers who delight in working with readers to improve their recordings.

A reader submitted a recording and I find the reading difficult to understand (due to accent/pronunciation/reading style).

Hold off responding to the reader. Ask your MC via PM to listen to it, to get another opinion. Try to find a solution together. Sometimes these things can be very subjective, i.e. what one person finds easy to listen to, others find difficult. Sometimes an MC will ask a couple of other admins to listen. Recordings have to be pretty bad to be rejected altogether, usually editing and/or sound-editing will improve a recording enough to 'pass' it (though the reader might like to re-record).

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