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What would you tell this young, anxious student about the future of journalism?
Over at MediaShift, a New York University undergraduate journalism student Alana Taylor (studying, coincidentally, where I teach) wrote a critical essay about the online aspects of her education. Her essay was custom-built to stir up controversy (and boy, did it ever), but we should all check it out:
"[The professor] informs us that people actually get paid to blog. That they make a living off of this. For me this was very much a “duh” moment and I thought that it would be for the rest of the students as well. They should be fully aware at this point that blogging has become a very serious form of journalism. Furthermore, they should be aware that it is the one journalistic venture that requires little or no ladder-climbing."
Honestly, .0000001 percent of all writers actually support themselves completely online, and I am frank with all my students about that fact--and I give them suggestions about ways to cobble together more online experience with web writing, citizen journalism tools, and webby-videos.
Young writers are seeking answers to questions that won't be answered for another 50 years until after all the dust from digital publishing has settled. In the meantime, what's your advice to young writers? Chime in, and I'll collect the answers in a post this week.
Investigative journalists are ignoring information goldmines on the web--literally millions of government databases go unexamined by the press every year.
Over at Idea Lab, programmer and journalist Ryan Mark is exploring how a new generation of journalists are figuring out how to explore web-based public records. Check out this list of pioneers:
"The folks at Everyblock deal with these problems on a regular basis. Everyblock, along with other interested organizations have put together the 8 Principles of Open Government Data. Organizations like the Sunlight Foundation, and programs such as Sunshine Week are trying to bring more attention to government transparency, and doing it in a web-friendly way."
If you want more examples of inspiring database investigation, check out how Wired magazine spent six months checking 120 million MySpace-users against public sex offender registries. They found 700 matches in the long, innovative detective job. Crime bloggers like Steve Huff have been doing similar research for years.
Over at the Sunlight Foundation, they are experimenting with new ways for citizen-journalists to help sift through awe-inspiring piles of information. Jay Rosen has written a great essay about this project.
What will you be reading this winter? I know what I'm reading already...
Roberto Bolaño's huge novel 2666 is finally coming out in English--all 1,000+ pages of it. It meditates on fictional version of a series of unsolved murders in Mexico, a mystery that has always made me shiver.
Check out Three Percent's excellent post on the novel, with some insider facts about the release: "In a very real way, 2666 may be the “Big Book” of BEA 2008 that I claimed didn’t exist in my last post. Jeff said the response has been overwhelming and that they gave out 400 copies (!) of the galley at the book fair. I know print runs smaller than that . . ."
If you are looking for more, Scott Esposito from Coversational Reading has a sweet interview with the translator of Bolaño's most recently translated novel, The Savage Detectives. That book was easily One of the Top Five Novels I Read Last Year.
What if books had more than one ending? How could you create enough characters to sustain that kind of plot?
If you are looking for ways to make an interactive book--online or on paper--you can learn a lot from novelist Heather McElhatton. Her book, Pretty Little Mistakes scored a big hit last year.
Instead of writing a single narrative, her book let readers decide what sort of choices the character made. In an exclusive interview on The Publishing Spot, she explained how she created a rainbow of characters: "I go out and look at living people. I take pictures of people with my camera phone, just because I like their nose, and want to describe it. I cruise people's vacation blogs and online Flickr accounts, just to pirate, kidnap and liberate single details."
In addition, she also told us how to:
How To Support Your Book Online
and How To Revise Your Novel
and How To Survive Long Enough To Write Your First Book
and How To Write for Radio
By this time next week, retired Gawker writer Emily Gould's long essay "Exposed" will have been batted around every literary blog in the neighborhood. Her writing about blogging has already stirred up six-hundred readers.
No matter what you think about the whole over-blogged debate, you should read it. It's an intimate look at how the writing world works nowadays, and the prose is pretty addictive.
When you are finished reading, you should turn off your computer-screen.
We've spent all week writing about writing, and then we spent more time reading comments written about writing about writing. None of it will fill your writing note-book. Go find something beautiful in the real world. Write about that.
If you need some writing therapy, check out this YouTube clip over at Elegant Variation. It's novelist John Berger introducing his book about art--Ways of Seeing. Around the six-minute mark, Berger looks at a gorgeous painting in a Renaissance chapel. He reminds us to slow down and think about the cosmic frame that used to surround these works of art--an amazing lesson for our over-blogged imaginations.
Watch the video here: “Behind its image is God. Before it, believers close their eyes, the don’t need to go on looking at it. They know it marks the place of meaning.”
Quick! What's the most popular thing on Google right now?
It literaly takes five seconds to figure that out. Just visit Google Trends, and you can see that the most popular topics are: fantasia on american idol and jill nicolin and mcdonalds free chicken. If you click on the individual links, Google supplies a series of blog posts and news articles that will help contextualize those surreal bits of web history.
This is crucial intelligence for most writers and journalists. You can blog about topics that everybody is thinking about, you can research what people were thinking about at a particular moment in time, and you can find boat-loads of new ideas for stories.
Bookninja just pointed us towards the L.A. Times, where the Web Scout blog turned that metric into a full-blown detective story--trying to figure out why a T.S. Eliot poem became the most popular search term for a few minutes in May. The writer sums it all up here, pointing at the mysterious new measure of popularity that can launch a thousand article:
"Whereas popularity lists on other sites, like YouTube, MySpace, or cnn.com—are occupied by site-specific stories or video clips that people have already looked at, Google’s most-searched is by definition a list of what people do not yet know enough about. And that gives rise to this strange new kind of popularity mystery, where even if somewhere, for some reason, something has caught on, it can be difficult to figure out why."
What does your writing website look like?
Is it like my personal site, with lo-fi graphics and quick, dirty template? Or is it like Tony D'Souza's with a quiet theme, nice pictures and lots of content?
Today, The Book Publicity Blog is exploring some of the more avant-garde author websites out there, talking about cheaper ways to make your site look better.
Check out this link-filled post:
"Wednesday evening Rebecca Skloot posted about Sloane Crosley’s website for her new book on the NBCC blog Critical Mass. This morning, the Ad Man wrote up Toby Barlow’s site for his new book on M. J. Rose’s blog Buzz, Balls & Hype. They couldn’t look more different (Barlow’s is heavy on flash, Crosley’s has a more basic vibe) yet both are equally cool and creative."
If you are looking for some more website building advice, check out my video interview with journalist Jeff Gordinier about his DIY book promotion.
Need a break? My impending vacation next week coincidentally coincided with a New York Times article about overworked writers and the health problems they face.
Personally, my day has been stretched thinner and thinner by blogging--but it gives me the chance to do fun, new stuff like this web video. As I stumbled towards the vacation finish line this weekend, I have to confess I sympathized with the suffering writers and obsessed over this slashdot thread where various professionals debated the economics of freelance blogging.
The blog-baiting story has already been commented on by nearly every single journalism blog on the Internets, but it has spawned some great quotes. Case in point, novelist John Scalzi on the life of an unprofitable blogger: "I like not having to intellectually humiliate myself online for page views. When I intellectually humiliate myself online, it’s for the pure pleasure of it."
Then, this morning, Portfolio's Jeff Bercovici woke me up with this quote. What do you think? Are web-based writers whiners or victims? I am about to go on vacation, so I disqualify myself from having any fair opinion. Dig it:
"It's that type of insularity that might lead a newspaper reporter, say, to accept at face value claims by a few fellow writers that their occupation is a singularly demanding one in a world of doctors, soldiers, air-traffic controllers, special-ed teachers and millions upon millions of sleep-deprived, time-stressed desk jockeys whose plight, alas, goes unlamented on the front page of the most widely-circulated edition of the world's most important newspaper."
Here at The Publishing Spot, we won't judge you by your books. You can read whatever you want--from pulp fiction to deconstructed literary fiction to comic books--and we won't make fun of you.
I will alert you to situations where somebody might be judging your bookshelf. Jeff reminded me of a couple New York Times articles that you must read.
(one of my favorite writing-world reporters right now)
Don't let your next literary date sneak attack in the bookshelf battles. Save the college-epiphany books for the first-year anniversary:
"Judy Heiblum, a literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, shudders at the memory of some attempted date-talk about Robert Pirsig’s 1974 cult classic 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,' beloved of searching young men. 'When a guy tells me it changed his life, I wish he’d saved us both the embarrassment,' Heiblum said, adding that 'life-changing experiences' are a 'tedious conversational topic at best.'"
I won't judge, and neither will our special guest journalist Jeff Gordinier (check out our interview about interviewing).
What's more, if you are looking for some free entertainment this evening, he's reading at the Tribecca Barnes and Noble at 7 p.m.--feel free to discuss any pop culture book you want with his fans.
What happens to a writer's brain in a cubicle?
That's the question Joshua Ferris answers in his National Book Award nominated novel, Then We Came to the End. Over the course of that wonderful book, he plays with narration, dayjob fantasies and the lives of creative people working in cubicles in Chicago.
If you haven't read the book, you need to do two different things. First, watch this video interview I did with National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie and NBA finalist Joshua Ferris--find out first-hand how two writers escaped the dayjob grind.
Then, stop by the excellent literary blog The Elegant Variation and win yourself a signed copy of the book. Check it out:
"we are offering not one, not two but three signed copies of Then We Came to the End. As ever, as always, drop us a line, subject line "GET ME ON THE FERRIS WHEEL" (sorry, Joshua) or, for select L.A. residents "HERE'S MY TRULY EXCELLENT REASON FOR NOT BEING IN SANTA MONICA TONIGHT." We'll take all comers until precisely 7 p.m. PST."
Yesterday at the Hudson Valley Writers' Center, I pondered the future of web journalism with Michelle Kung from Huffington Post, Justin Fox from Time, Troy Patterson from Slate and Jeff Gordinier from Details. We sat there with some of the brightest writers in New York, debating for an hour and a half--but nobody knew exactly what to do next.
I learned a valuable lesson at the National Book Awards last week, shooting Bloggers on the Balcony about the motley crew of web writers running around the National Book Awards last week and making another video interview with finalists Kathleen Duey and Sara Zarr.
As you can see from my work, I'm no expert. But I did the work, and I came back with a story nobody else had. Over the next few weeks I'll be unloading more footage of famous writers telling stories about their worst jobs--one night of video work will keep me in new content for weeks.
This is your moment. This is the time when fledgling writers can grab a videocamera, blog software, and a laptop. Go make some content. This confusion in the industry can help you find your audience and the stories you want to tell. Nobody will stop you. Just start reporting...
Nobody actually visits blogs anymore. We read them on RSS Readers instead.
On a panel discussion at Hudson Valley Writers' Center this weekend, a couple different people asked me about RSS feeds and blog subscriptions.
Just in case you need it, I'm going to give you an introduction to RSS feeds and subscription services on this blog.
If you click the orange RSS button on the right hand side of the page (or click this Subscribe link right now), then you read my blog using Google Reader or other blog aggregator. As my network explains: "By clicking on this button (), you will be subscribing to this content for free ... An aggregator is some service ... that receives the content you have requested and displays it in some personalized format. So each time a new entry is published, a copy of that article will be sent automatically, at no cost, to the aggregator that you have chosen. This free subscription is a result of RSS, which stands fro Really Simply Syndication."
If that sounds too complicated, look in the upper right hand corner of this blog, there is a very special option, "Enter e-mail below to subscribe." Sign up today and receive two free writing posts a day, delivered personally by a computer program from me to you. No spam, no distractions, just posts.
Don't waste anymore time clicking on my site. Don't waste anymore time clicking on anybody's blog. Subscribe and let the blog send you posts instead. If your personal blog lacks any of these features, you need to add them--you could be missing out on readers.
A little journalism lesson for you.
When you make a mistake, you need to admit it as straightforwardly as possible. The New Republic announced today it will no longer stand behind the reporting of a soldier in Iraq.
They admitted that American soldier Scott Thomas Beauchamp probably fudged some of his writings for the magazine, without taking hardly any responsibility for some crucial mistakes.
In 2004, public editor Daniel Okrent chastised the New York Times for a similar correction, calling the pseudo-apology "rowback." Dig it:
"[J]ournalism educator Melvin Mencher describes a rowback as 'a story that attempts to correct a previous story without indicating that the prior story had been in error or without taking responsibility for the error.' A less charitable definition might read, 'a way that a newspaper can cover its butt without admitting it was ever exposed.'"
As you can see by the 404 angry comments from readers at TNR, the webby world doesn't take rowback lightly. In addition, 23 blogs have already posted about the disaster. I especially liked Andrew Sullivan's take, a level-headed look at why it might have happened.
Avoid rowback at all costs, especially these days when blogs are calling for blood. Admit your mistakes, and try not to stay defensive in your apology. Here's Sullivan's take:
"it seems to me that the obvious motive behind the Beauchamp piece was to get some vivid first-person war-reporting in the magazine, to convey what it's actually like to be a soldier. They picked the wrong soldier; and they were too defensive in trying to figure out what happened (which is still unclear to me); and they should never have assigned his wife as his fact-checker."
When will people start treating the most talented bloggers like real literary figures?
The journal n+1 has a smart look at the rise of the website Gawker, giving each of the founding authors a critique that would make any literature professor proud. It's a valuable lesson on the evolution of webby style of bloggers like Choire Sicha:
"Like a Method gossip, Sicha had a natural fluency in spin and slipped almost lyrically into the voices of the subjects he intended to critique. When he felt that these subjects, out of restraint or lack of imagination, hadn’t pushed their blurbs far enough, Sicha obligingly did it for them ... At times his insults and his humor, in the language he imitated, were so subtly placed that they could be missed completely."
Still, not everybody can be as mean as they are. Myself included. Dan Blank has an interesting article about a kinder, gentler model for web writing, the enthusiasm-driven approach.
He uses stereo equipment writers as his model, showing how amateurs and experts share the stage in this bustling web community. Check it out:
"Never lose site of the key elements that the audience is passionate about. To build community, start small and focus on the one item that gets people excited. For all the time I spend with my stereo “hobby,” it is still all about the music." (Thanks, Chris Webb)
Tired of linking to other people's work? Find your own scoop!
Over at the Huffington Post, White House Watch journalist Dan Froomkin just linked to a goldmine for citizen reporters to explore over the next few months. Congress has begun posting reams and reams of Oversight Committee transcripts, giving journalists of all stripes a peek into the controversies that group hears every day. Here's a list of transcripts.
The kicker is that most overworked print journalists don't have time to comb through this gigantic archive. As Froomkin writes: "The legendary Washington Post investigative reporter (and fellow Nieman Watchdog blogger) Morton Mintz once told me some of his best stories came from sitting all the way through congressional hearings that other reporters had already left." This is a great chance for citizen journalists to find a scoop buried in congressional testimony.
If you're looking for more political inspiration, check out the Sunlight Foundation. They released a web application that allowed a web community to perform an act of community journalism, sifting through the financial records of 435 legislators in a few days.
It's a great project, generating some cool data about how online communities work. Check it out here.
The novel opens when a body falls from the sky. Now, you can help the writers figure out what happens next...
I'm serious. Over at the blog for the novel Flight Paths, you can actually write your way into the the book. The idea began with Kate Pullinger, a web writing pioneer and novelist. I've dug her digital work for years. She's joined by Chris Joseph, another digital author. Both teach at the Institute of Creative Technologies at De Montfort University.
The book will allow readers and writers to interact online and in real life, sharing stories, videos, and images on the website. You can actually particiapate as they write a new networked novel. My head is already buzzing with short short video ideas that I want to share.
If you are unconvinced, this Wired Magazine article takes a closer look at the evolution of the networked book: "From the complete expressive freedom of "A Million Penguins" to the careful scripting of "These Wicked Games", each crowd created concrete works, though vastly different in length, content, salability, and final format. What I have learned is that it would be possible to crowdsource a novel, but I think it would have to be done in a more controlled way than we did," said Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher for the U.K.'s Penguin Books."
Last year I attempted a networked story on this site, but never managed to muster the support I needed. Read Writing War Stories For Children here.
So, Ed Champion is closing up shop--taking some of my favorite links and commentary along with him. But I'm not worried...
I've worked with Ed in the past. He can't sit still. He can't focus on just one boring old project. I predict he'll be back in less than a month with a crazy project, a new job, or at least a manic list of links that piled up over the holidays.
Friends like Ed (on or off the Internet) are the best thing a writer can have. Your RSS reader should be loaded with manic thinkers who keep your head stocked with new ideas.
Case in point: For my daily dose of innovation, I was blown away by Jeff Jarvis' essay about the photography storytelling experiment of Jonathan Harris (the photographer pictured above). It's called The Whale Hunt.
You should study this mish-mash of story and text, figuring out how to make your own webby work more creative (if you like this photography work, check out 10×10, We Feel Fine, and Universe).
Ed Champion is gone, but he'll be back. In the meantime, stay tuned here for more ground-breaking storytelling like this:
"[I wanted] to experiment with a new interface for human storytelling. The photographs are presented in a framework that tells the moment-to-moment story of the whale hunt. The full sequence of images is represented as a medical heartbeat graph along the bottom edge of the screen, its magnitude at each point indicating the photographic frequency (and thus the level of excitement) at that moment in time."
In this new media universe, what does it mean to be a writer?
Is blogging writing? Is my web video monologue writing? Is an ad-libbed variety show with pre-planned guests writing?
As the Writers Guild of America strike continues, writers around the country are asking these questions. Yesterday, Ed Champion went to WGA President Michael Winship to ask what was writing and what wasn't writing on Jon Stewart's Daily Show. His answer was complex:
"Well, the rules are pretty specific about things that he can and cannot do. He cannot write questions in advance for interviews, for example. He cannot write the monologues, as I said. He cannot write any kind of sketch material for the show...But if he has a guest on the air whose book he has read and he asks questions off the top of his head, that is not struck work."
The whole strike depends on the definition of "writing." There's no standard industry price to pay a writer for a blog post, a web video, or a podcast. As these forms multiply, it's becoming harder and harder for writers to get a fair-wage for these new products.
Don't take these questions for granted. Should Jon Stewart's show be on the air without writers?
So Apple unveiled a fancy-pants new computer today. As much as I would totally dig finishing my novel on a MacBook Air, it really won't do anything except make your lap lighter. I can't say it better than Gawker.
Still, if you've got a MacBook Air, you might as well use it like Jeff VanderMeer and pay off the credit card bill: Write Your Novel in Two Months:
"In my twenties, I was known to spend six months on a single short story or novella. Factored into this time span, however, were all of the editing, publishing, nonfiction, and hours spent at a full-time job. I think you’d also have to factor in that as a writer in your twenties and, to some extent your thirties, you are still getting comfortable with your writing."
What happens when a bit of literary detective work doesn't pay off? Sarah Weinman is on the case, and she'll get 'em next time.
Finally, New Orleans journalist John McQuaid has a critical column about The Wire's newsroom setting. Yesterday I told you what the show can teach writers. McQuaid thinks it can't teach you everything. Check it out:
"David Simon seems to have taken a bunch of industry trends and put them in a blender with an admixture of his own resentment and nostalgia. And what came out, in contrast to the show's amazingly cool, disciplined eye for every other aspect of urban society, has so far been the worst possible thing for a drama, both preachy and sentimental."
Last week I wrote about the death of Andrew Olmsted, a military blogger who always caught me off guard with his ideas and images about the Iraq War. Meet Olmsted in his final, inspiring post.
Writers need to read and think about this war, and the writings of bloggers like Olmsted should be required reading.
Today, you should read this tribute to Sergeant Scott Lange Kirkpatrick written by my friend, Ian Daly. It's an essay about a slam poet, writer, and soldier who died in Iraq last year. In addition, Kirkpatrick's father blogged about the story here.
According to the story (which includes this photo of Kirkpatrick), this young writer joined the military after telling his wife, “Here I am writing and analyzing and bitching about things, and I’m not doing anything.”
Now I'm not telling everyone to enlist, but all writers need to be grappling with this conflict, not pretending like the war isn't happening. It is a real issue affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans. Don't let this complicated war stay in the margins of your writing.
I came into writing imagining I'd be churning five thousand word essays all the time. But honestly, writing is getting shorter and shorter every day.
Now, with the advent of Twitter--the mini-blog site where people keep track of the minute details of their lives--writers have to learn how to tell a story in a couple sentences--flash journalism, if you will.
Over at Smith Magazine, Larry Smith mused about a suicide letter posted on Twitter--helping me think about "microjournalism" and the art of short short writing. Today I found this essay by new media reporter Steven Clemons and this New York Times article think about the ways you can write shorter and better.
Check it out and write something short:
"Microjournalism is the latest step in the evolution of John Dickerson, who worked for years at Time magazine, and has moved from print to online articles to blog entries to text messages no longer than 140 characters, or about two sentences. 'One of the things we are supposed to do as journalists is take people where they can't go," he said in an interview. "It is much more authentic, because it really is from inside the room.'"
The other day, I was telling my journalism class about the old radio show, I Was a Communist for the FBI. This program juiced up the adventures of Matthew Cvetic, an undercover agent who infiltrated the Communist Party headquarters in western Pennsylvania sixty years ago.
Cvetic surfaced in the early 1950's, right as the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings axed hundreds of writers and journalists for lefty sympathies. In the fallout, this bizarre FBI agent landed a book, radio, and movie deal about his exaggerated adventures.
His life story produced over 70 radio episodes, reminding us of a time when popular culture swallowed a laughable amount of dangerous stereotypes. The Internet Archive has collected the series, including my favorite: "I Can't Sleep."
In this episode, both the Russian and FBI agents bug our spy's room--everybody struggling to eavesdrop on Cvetic's sleeptalking jags. The scene where Cvetic crawls around in his communist bunk-mate's bed groping for a "toggle switch" on a bulky tape recorder is a classic moment in American paranoia.
Why do I bring this up now? History has turned Hoover and McCarthy into punchlines for their overzealous work. But at the time, they controlled the livelihoods of countless journalists and writers. How will history treat the current administration?
Last week New York Times reporter James Risen was subpoenaed to reveal his national security sources and possibly breach the confidential bond between reporter and source. It will affect how writers and journalists work for the next century.
Check it out:
"Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said the paper 'strongly supports Mr. Risen and deplores what seems to be a growing trend of government leak investigations focusing on journalists, particularly in the national security area.'"
Sure the Internet makes news faster, but it can also make your journalism better.
Over at Idea Lab, (a journalism professor and investigative reporter) just wrote a fascinating essay about how traditional tools of investigative journalism--databases, collected information and spreadsheets--can actually be shared with readers on the web.
When you are writing your next story, think of all the ways you can share your investigative work with your readers. Just last week I reported on judicial fundraising in New York state. Instead of keeping research to myself, I should have shared those fundraising calculations and spreadsheets with my readers in a spreadsheet so they could play with the numbers in their own districts.
Read this whole post, twice. It's packed with more resources:
"Taking long investigative projects written for newspapers or magazines or as TV/radio documentaries and then shoveling them online, perhaps dressed up with a little multimedia, is only jamming old media forms into a new media pipe. But understanding how to present data in an appealing way, and making that data accessible so people can mess around with it and create their own "stories," is taking advantage of what digital has to offer."
Have you written about the war?
Earlier this week I joined in Ed Champion's five-part roundtable about Nicholson Baker's new book, Human Smoke. The non-fiction work collects little scraps from historical documents, memoirs, and letters, stitching them together into a new picture of the lead-up to World War II.
The book spent a lot of time exploring contrasts between writers. On one end of the spectrum, we had Joseph Goebbels, an author who stopped writing his novel to become Hitler's horrific propaganda minister; on the other end we had the writer Christopher Isherwood begging for a non-violent solution to the conflict.
That contrast between two writers, one who failed to stop a war and another who managed to incite his countrymen to murder millions, has haunted me for weeks.
What should writers do during wartime? Should we remain apolitical? Or should we be leading the pacifist charge? The comments section awaits you. To get you started, here's what Isherwood wrote about non-violent response to Nazi aggression, a difficult, thought-provoking quote: "I am afraid I should be reduced to a chattering, enraged monkey, screaming back hate at their hate.”
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Someday, I hope, web videos about writers will be as common as webpages. For my part, I've made writing videos about Felicia Sullivan, Smith Magazine, and Janice Erlbaum. Next week, I'll have a video featuring Christopher Hitchens. No joke.
As I slowly get the hang of it (especially my problems with compression and video quality), I'm starting to wonder what's the best way to present the material.
I'm looking for your suggestions. To be honest, this isn't a reviewing site--for books, videos, or whatever else. We specialize in giving you the tools and practical advice you need to be a 21st Century writer.
Luckily, I found this insanely comprehensive review of over 50 web video sites. Surf around a little bit, especially this obsessive chart that breaks down the individual stats.
Once you have your favorite site, start practicing. Then, when you publish your book, you'll be ready for the real thing--show us your favorite real-life locations or take us on a tour of your favorite writing spot.