So you think you’ve got a community? (Three uplifting social success stories – Part 1)

So you think you’ve got a community, huh?

How much does your community care about you?

To what extent does your community get off on the idea of working together to realise a dream?

Would this community of yours rally round and propel your book to #1 on Amazon on a given day?

Machine of Death has that kind of community.

Machine of Death has a community.

It has a community because its originators have been producing good, original content and engaging with its audience consistently over time

It also has a community because it had a great idea.

And it invited people to be part of that idea.

The idea is explained in more detail on the Machine of Death website, but here’s a brief outline.

The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. It didn’t give you the date and it didn’t give you the specifics. It just spat out a sliver of paper on which were printed, in careful block letters, the words DROWNED or CANCER or OLD AGE or CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. It let people know how they were going to die.

The real darkness and intrigue of the idea comes from the vagueness of the predictions. If you’re going to die by being BURIED ALIVE, you might think it’s safe to go skydiving. But what if you land in a gravel pit….?

Having had this idea the people behind it, best known for an online dinosaur based comic, engaged their community to collaborate on writing an anthology of short stories based on the simple premise of knowing in advance (vaguely) the manner of one’s death.

They received 700 entries and eventually whittled these down to 30 favourites. The title of each corresponded to the text on a piece of paper from the machine and they ranged from FRIENDLY FIRE to PRISON KNIFE FIGHT, from VEGETABLES to FLAMING MARSHMALLOW.

With the high concept idea and the content sorted, the project then hit a wall.

The traditional publishing world was not in the market for an anthology, even though many people liked the concept and the writing.

Over two years of banging heads against brick walls led to a lot of frustration, an in-depth knowledge of the publishing industry and, finally, another great idea.

They worked out that to become the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon on a given day only requires you to sell hundreds, rather than thousands, of books.

So, once again, they sought to mobilise their community.

Not just to buy the book.

But to all buy it on the same day.

That day being October 26, 2010.

Machine of Death day was promoted as a Facebook event.

And, to cut a long story short, they did it.

And, as if that weren’t enough, they then go and further prove just how much they “get” this whole social thing by making the whole book available as a free to download pdf.

Why are we doing this? Aren’t we worried about hurting our book sales?

In a word: no. You have proven that time and again you are willing to pay for content that you find valuable. You have shown that you are driven to share material that you fall in love with. And we are committed to ensuring that you can experience our work whether you can afford to buy a book or not; whether you live in a country that Amazon ships to or not; whether you have space in your life for a stack of paper or not.

I haven’t read the book.

But these guys deserve my custom and I’m going to buy rather than download. Look out for the review.


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  2. Pingback: So you think you’ve got a community? (Three uplifting social success stories – Part 2) « Sawdust

  3. Pingback: So you think you’ve got a community? (Three uplifting social success stories – Part 3) « Sawdust

  4. Pingback: Machine of Death – short story collection edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo & David Malki « Sawdust

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