The Story Mint: a new e-publishing model

New Kiwi digital publisher The Story Mint has released its first title, Tokyo Curry by Simon Angelo (who previously published a non-fiction book, Click and Grow Rich).

the story mint publishing online service for writersOfficially launched in April 2012, The Story Mint treads the line between the traditional publishing model and the e-publishing world by providing writers with the opportunity to be published following a process of assessment and interaction with readers and other writers.

It's an online service that encompasses a membership forum, an editorial blog, an analytical tool for budding writers and opportunities to read and contribute to online serials. Registered members can purchase online editorial assistance to develop and refine their draft manuscript before publishing the completed work.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of The Story Mint is Earnest, the analytical tool (the name is inspired by Ernest Hemingway, despite the spelling) whose algorithms analyse pieces of writing and assesses them against the work of great authors throughout history. 

The Story Mint has been developed and tested by entrepreneur Suraya Dewing in association with Sparks Interactive. It has hundreds of members across 15-odd countries and was developed with a mix of private investment and the Ministry of Science and Innovation’s Tech NZ Capability Funding.

A communications specialist and resident of Massey University’s business incubator, ecentre, she set about creating The Story Mint after poor health forced an early retirement.

“My dream was to make money from writing but I saw how little writers made in this country and decided I couldn’t live with that…..but the other thing was I couldn’t master the craft.”

Armed with an Honours degree in English literature and a Master of Creative Writing, she quickly found that getting published was getting harder and harder, and decided to take matters into her own hands.

“My dream was to create a pathway to publication for writers struggling to get their work acknowledged,” she says. “The Story Mint fulfills that dream by giving writers a way to develop their storytelling craft with the ultimate goal of our e-publishing their work.

"Along the way I discovered a way to make it easier for them to identify how to make their writing strong without having to pay large sums of money to get assessments done. The automated process, we call Earnest, is not a replacement for feedback from real people but a conduit to a range of feedback services we offer, including comments from readers. Readers are, after all the writer’s market.”

An Earnest assessment

Dewing was looking for a better method of giving feedback to writers by using a combination of computerised analysis, personalised feedback from readers and established writers.

“As I worked with the computerised analysis I began to notice an interesting pattern. The writing style tended to have varying percentages of different types of words, depending on the genre.

“For example, literary work tended to have a greater number of words describing character, events and landscape while other novels classified as chick lit, romance, detective tended toward using more words describing action."

The algorithms used by Earnest that separate out different types of writing were developed by Dr Barry McDonald and his team at the Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences at Massey University.

“The result was that different genres fell into different co-ordinates within a computer’s spectrum analysis,” says Dewing.

“The same genre clustered within one part of the spectrum. For example, detective novels could be found clustered in one area, romance in another.

“We have now analysed hundreds of pieces of writing representative of classic, award winning and best-selling authors across all genres and from the mid 19th century.

“Aspiring writers can have their writing efforts compared with this database in order to understand and develop their style as they want.

“Earnest speeds up the process for them. They get feedback that assesses their work against data from great writers of history. This feedback and comparison is designed to help them to become better writers. We offer personalised assessments also as we see these as being essential as well.”

Suraya said the analytical resource will continue to grow in Earnest’s memory banks as more material is submitted.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).