Tips for Book Coordinators

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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.

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 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.

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 your MC and s/he will find you space) 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 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 - 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.

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

See this wiki page [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 experimentating. 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

1. I tend to be fairly anal about following these steps. If I don't, I get into a mess very quickly (because I coordinate several projects), and then it takes me much longer to sort things out.

2. Check thread for posts.

1.
If there is a question, answer it.
b. If someone is claiming a chapter, steps 3.-4.
c. If someone is posting a completed chapter, step 5.
d. If someone is posting an update, step 6.
e. If someone is not posting anything after claiming post, step 7.
f. If someone is returning a chapter, step 8.

3. Open the admin for the project and add the reader to the relevant section(s). I also like to note the date when it was claimed in the Notes field. If I don't know the reader, click 'Readers' Catalog Info' in the admin to see if the reader is already listed

4. Post a reply to inform reader that I've reserved the section for him/her. If the reader is not listed with a catalogue name, ask him/her for it. If the reader has only a couple of posts, urge them to send a one-minute test recording to check sound quality (if they are new to recording).

5. If someone is posting a completed chapter: Download chapter. Listen at least to beginning and end, through headphones, to see if it's all there, if intro/outro are correct, that sound quality/reading is ok (if any of these aren't OK, PM or post reader). Check that meta tags are correct; otherwise fix them (if completely wrong, PM reader and refer to ID3 tag wiki page, for future reference). Follow steps 3.-4. but mark chapter(s) complete and thank reader. If I don't yet have it, ask reader for catalogue name.

6. A reader is posting an update. If it's to inform me of a new target date for completion, I note it in the Notes field, then reply to thank the reader. If it's a message to return the chapter, step 8.

7. If the target completion date is coming up and I haven't heard from a reader, I PM them. I note the date in the non-public Notes field in the admin so I remember. If they haven't opened the PM (i.e. if the PM is still in my Outbox, rather than my Sentbox), I try emailing them, again noting the date in the spreadsheet. If I still don't hear, I PM and email again (noting it in the admin). If I still don't hear, I PM and email the last time, giving them a deadline by which they need to respond. If they don't I return the section to the pool, following step 8. (Update: I usually only remind three times for 'difficult projects.' Normally I PM all readers with outstanding sections 7-10 days prior to target completion date (even if, for whatever reason, I need to extend that date) and ask them to post an update in the thread. I also inform them that if I haven't heard to them by the original target completion date, I'll open the chapter again for new readers.

8. If a reader returns a section to the pool, I delete their name from the admin for this section, and post a message in the thread saying the chapter is 'free' once more.

Gesine's post and PM templates=

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 these will be of some help to new BCs.

Post to newbies with 1-3 posts who have claimed a section Thank you; I have signed you up for [section number].

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, you may want to send a sample recording of a minute or so, to make sure the sound quality etc is all right - often things can be improved at the outset that are difficult to fix later.

PM to readers with outstanding sections, 7-10 days before target completion date *** To all readers with outstanding chapters ***

The target completion date for this project ([date]) is drawing near and I'd like to know how everyone is getting on with their chapters. Will you be able to send them in before [date]? Are you busier than expected, and would rather return them?

Either way, would you please post a quick update message in the forum thread here: [project URL]

Please note that if I don't hear from you by [target completion date], I'll look for another reader for your chapter(s).

Proof-listening template (code for pasting into a forum post)

COPY BELOW THIS LINE

[color=indigo][size=18][b]Title by Author[/b][/size][/color]
[list][*]If you're new to proof-listening, please read [url=http://librivox.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=724][b]this FAQ[/b][/url]
[*][b]Standard proof-listening[/b] only, please: long pauses, serious stumbles, repeats, anything else that sounds as though it should have been edited out. Please also note any background noise, or whether amplification is needed.
[*][b]Text[/b]: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/71
[*][b]File lengths[/b]: Between 10 and 50 minutes. Check file sizes [url=http://librivox.gesine.org/coordination/quixote/][b]here[/b][/url]. One MB is roughly one minute of playing time. OR: check the Notes field in the magic box for file durations.
[*][b]Note[/b]: This is an administrative thread, which will be deleted when the project is catalogued. If you have more permanent comments, please post in the project thread, [url=http://librivox.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5908][b]here[/b][/url].[/list]
[readers=xxxx]
[size=8][url=http://librivox.org/sandpit/librivox_catalog/readers.php?ProjectID=xxxx&tableview=1]Admin link[/url][/size]

COPY ABOVE THIS LINE

My project is almost complete. What should I do?

You may want to post it as an IP project in the Listeners Wanted thread. 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
  • it is proof-listened
  • you have all readers' names/URLs for the catalogue

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 understand 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. 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 responsibilies. 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. 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. :)

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. If you are very close to completion, you could make a mention in the Jamboree thread at the end of the month, and see if you get any bites. There are now also sticky threads in each recording forum to advertise for help in finishing the last couple of chapters. You could also record a short advert for the Weekly Podcast. 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 emails/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?

Contact the reader. If you've tried a couple of times and cannot get a response, consider setting a deadline by which the reader has to respond, otherwise you'll put the chapter back to the pool. This happens quite a bit; don't get upset about it.

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.

Fix it. Then PM the reader and point to the WhatIsID3 page on the LibriVox wiki, which explains all about them. Ask the reader to be more careful 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.