Frequently asked questions

General
Content
Content Rules
Searching and Tagging
Analytics
Data and Privacy
My Account





General


What is MacGuffin?

MacGuffin is a self-publishing platform for fiction, essays and poetry in both text and audio form. It’s free to use, and anyone can upload their work to it. It’s also built to be really searchable, to help you discover, share and curate content.

Can I publish my own stuff on MacGuffin?

Yes, so long as:

1) You hold the copyright to the work (for example, it’s an entirely original work written by you), or the work has been licensed by the creator under a Creative Commons licence (and publishing it on MacGuffin does not violate the terms of that specific licence), or the work is in the public domain because (for example) the copyright term has expired.
2) You haven’t exclusively granted the copyright or licensed the work to anyone else.
3) The work complies with our Content Rules.
4) You upload the text and an audio recording in mp3 format.

MacGuffin mentions ‘stories’ a lot. Can I publish other stuff on MacGuffin?

Yes! We use the term ‘story’ and ‘stories’ to cover a multitude of forms. You can use MacGuffin to publish fiction, non-fiction, autobiography, novels, poetry, essays, and blog posts. In fact, pretty much anything that has both a text and audio version, and that otherwise meets our Content Rules.

I’ve written a story, but I don’t have an audio recording. Can I still publish it on MacGuffin?

No – you need to upload both the text and an audio recording in mp3 format.

How do I search for stories on MacGuffin?

All stories on MacGuffin are tagged (with words describing the story’s genre, theme, length, etc.). Try typing a popular tag like ‘crime’ into the search bar. Once you begin typing, we’ll provide autocomplete suggestions (tip - if it autocompletes, that means there’s a story on MacGuffin with that tag). Then click the magnifying glass ‘search’ icon at the right hand side of the search bar. The search will return results tagged with the ‘crime’ tag.

Now leave the ‘crime’ tag in the search bar, and type ‘15minuteread’ beside it. Click the ‘search’ icon again. That will bring content with the tags ‘crime’ and ‘15minuteread’, to the top of the search results. You can do this with multiple tags.

For more information, see our Searching and Tagging FAQs

What’s the point of tagging?

MacGuffin aims to solve a discoverability problem: readers want to find writing that chimes with their particular interests, tastes, moods and circumstances; writers want to find a readership that gets their work. Matching them up is the tricky part. That’s what tagging aims to do.

Readers curate content by adding hashtags to other people’s work, grouping it into genres (e.g. #spec-fic), memes (e.g. #sundaysonnets), personal reading lists (e.g. #clairesmithsskafkaesquereads); or simply adding tags to describe the content (#bears #porridge #woods #dangerousblondes). A writer can use multiple tags to target work at readers with specific interests (e.g. #post-colonial #apocalyptic #antarctic) and a writing group can use a tag to share work-in-progress (e.g. #leedsuniwritersyear3).

Using tags to describe content is a blunt tool if only a few readers participate. But when a whole community tags, this accrues into a detailed and searchable list of attributes, and as more content is uploaded and tagged, readers will be able to find stuff using ever-more specific search terms.

For more information, see our Searching and Tagging FAQs

Can I search for work by author name?

Yes.

Can I search for work by story title?

Yes.

Why doesn’t MacGuffin let people comment on stories, as well as rating and tagging them?

Something about the comments sections of content-hosting sites seems to encourage people to be mean to each other. We want MacGuffin to be nurturing and supportive; a place where writers spend longer on their sonnets than their snark. So, no comments. No wasted time seething about someone’s criticism, or composing your riposte. Rate it, tag it, move on. Be happy.

Do I get paid for publishing my work on MacGuffin?

No. Authors aren’t paid for publishing their work on MacGuffin (except for some ‘lead content’ that we may occasionally commission from writers).

Does MacGuffin cost anything to use?

No, MacGuffin’s free to use (though be aware, if you’re using MacGuffin on a mobile phone, that your mobile service provider may apply data charges for streaming and downloading).

If it’s free, the customer is the product, right?

Not in this case. We have no commercial partners and will never sell your data to anyone. The user-data we collect is primarily to help writers understand how their work is being shared, and how to reach more writers (and for interested readers to see what’s trending). This data is publicly available for anyone to view via the analytics panel. Please see our Data and Privacy Policy for more details.


How does MacGuffin make money?

It doesn’t. MacGuffin is a non-profit research and development project funded by a grant from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.

Who’s behind MacGuffin?

MacGuffin is a collaboration between Comma Press (a non-profit, independent publisher based in Manchester, UK), fffunction (a UX design company based in Bristol), and the Manchester Metropolitan University.


Content

I’ve written a story, but I don’t have an audio recording. Can I still publish it on MacGuffin?

No – you need to upload both the text and an audio recording in mp3 format.

What’s the best way to record my reading?

We’ve got lots of tips on recording, with links to further resources, on our Audio Help pages.

Can I upload a recording of someone else reading my work for me?

Yes, absolutely. We suggest you credit them as follows:
Name the reader in the description of the story (e.g. ‘Read by Ben Smith’).
Tag the story with #read_by[nameofreader] (e.g. ‘#read_by:ben_smith’)
When recording the audio, ask the reader to introduce the story in this format:
‘(Story Title) by (Name of Author), read by (Name of Reader)’.

Can MacGuffin help me find someone to read my work for me?

Our forum has pages where writers can ask for volunteer readers.

Should I read out the title of the story at the beginning of my audio recording?

Yes. We suggest that audio readings should begin in one of the following formats:

For stories read by the author: ‘(Story Title) by (Name of Author)’.
For stories read by the another reader: ‘(Story Title) by (Name of Author), read by (Name of Reader)’.
For translated stories read by the translator: ‘(Story Title) by (Name of Author), translated by (Name of Translator)’.
For translated stories read by another reader: ‘(Story Title) by (Name of Author), translated by (Name of Translator), read by (Name of Reader)’.

MacGuffin mentions ‘stories’ a lot. Can I publish other stuff on MacGuffin?

Yes! We use the term ‘story’ and ‘stories’ to cover a multitude of forms. You can use MacGuffin to publish fiction, non-fiction, autobiography, novels, poetry, essays, and blog posts. In fact, pretty much anything that has both a text and audio version, and that otherwise meets our Content Rules.

How come I can’t choose the typeface of my story?

We want to offer a degree of consistency of reading experience, partly because it helps people with visual disabilities and reading disabilities make better use of accessibility tools.

The audio of my story is longer than 30 minutes. Can I upload it to MacGuffin?

Yes. You’ll need to split the story into 2 parts, and upload each part as though it were a separate story. The easiest way to do this is to split the audio file first, and save it down as two separate files. Then split the text file in the same place (e.g. at the same sentence you split the audio file). Upload the first text file and the first audio file as ‘Story Title Example - part 1’. Then upload the second text file and the second audio file as ‘Story Title Example - part 2’. Bingo!

I’ve written a novel. Can I publish it on MacGuffin?

Yes. You’ll need to upload it as a series of chapters shorter than 30 minutes (audio length). We suggest naming each file accordingly, e.g. ‘War and Peace - chapter 1’, War and Peace - chapter 2’, etc., and tagging each uploaded chapter as ‘chapter1’, ‘chapter2’, etc.

One of my novel chapters is more than 30 minutes long. What should I do?

Split it into 2 parts and upload them separately, e.g. ‘My Novel - Chapter 5 - part 1’ and ‘My Novel - Chapter 5 - part 2’.

I’ve translated someone else’s work from another language. Can I publish it on MacGuffin?

Yes, so long as you have written permission from the original rights-holder (usually the author or publisher in the original language), and it conforms to our other Content Rules.

I’m a translator, uploading my translation of an author’s story. Where do I put my name?

We suggest translators are credited as follows:
The name of the translator is included in the description of the story (e.g. ‘Translated by Ben Smith’).
The story is tagged with the translator name (e.g. ‘#translated_by:ben_smith’)
When recording the audio, introduce the story in this format:
‘(Story Title) by (Name of Author), translated by (Name of Translator)’.

Is there any DRM (Digital Rights Management) on MacGuffin?

No. It may be possible for people to save, record or otherwise copy the text or audio of your story, just as if you had published it as a blog post or a podcast.

I’ve written a blog post. Can I upload an mp3 of me reading it to MacGuffin, along with the text?

Yes, as long as you own the copyright, and the blog post conforms to our other Content Rules.

Can I include use sound effects in my audio?

Go for it, so long as the sound effects aren’t subject to copyright, and conform to our other Content Rules.

Can I include a link in my story advising readers where they can buy my book?

Yes, by all means. There's a field for it on the story upload page. Remember to also mention it in the audio recording.

Please note that the promotion of third party goods or services will be considered as spam. When this is reported to us, we’ll investigate it and take steps to prevent it, which may include issuing a warning, or in serious and/or persistent cases, closing the offending account.

What counts as Spamming on MacGuffin?

Spamming is when someone adds content, descriptions or tags that promote third party goods or services (not a book you've written; that's fine). When this is reported to us, we’ll investigate it and take steps to prevent it. This may include issuing a warning, or in serious and/or persistent cases, closing the offending account.

NB. We do not consider it spamming for an author to include brief information (at the end of a story or chapter) advising readers where their books can be purchased.

Copyright and works in the public domain

Who owns the copyright of work published on MacGuffin?

Authors can choose the kind of copyright they'd like to apply to the work they publish on MacGuffin. This might be 'All Rights Reserved', or one of a number of Creative Commons copyright licences that grant permission for other people to copy and/or share and/or modify the work for various purposes, depending on the licence. MacGuffin makes no claim to the copyright of work published on the MacGuffin platform.

How do I know if a work is in the public domain?

When a work is said to be in the public domain, that means it has never been subject to copyright, or the copyright term has expired. The length of a copyright term depends on several factors (including where in the world the work in question was published). You must check the copyright status of the specific work you wish to publish, and keep a record of the evidence, in case your right to publish the work is challenged. We can’t advise what is in the public domain in different world territories, but for a list of books in the public domain in the US, check the Project Gutenberg website.


Searching and Tagging

How do I find content on MacGuffin?

By searching tags (key words) that other people have given to stories.


Do I need to use a hashtag icon (#) when I’m searching?

Nope, just type a word.

What kind of tags do people use?

You can tag anything you like, so long as you don’t breach the Tagging Rules, but here are some typical types of tag:

Genre (e.g. ‘crime’)
Form (e.g. ‘shortstory’)
Theme (e.g. ‘nautical’)
Content (e.g. ‘porridge’)
Meme (e.g. ‘sundaysonnets’)
Personal reading list (e.g. ‘abishawshistoricalfiction’)
Group reading list (e.g. ‘leedsuniwritingyear4’)

Can I search multiple tags at once?

Yes! It’s a good way of finding really specific stuff. For example, use the tags ‘crime’ and ‘10minuteread’ to find a crime story that’s 10 minutes long.


What’s with the colons in some tags?

Colons denote a subcategory. ‘historical:tudor’ denotes historical fiction set in the Tudor period.


How come some tags are outlined in black, and some tags are outlined in blue?

Tags outlined in black were added by the author of that story. Tags outlined in blue were added by a reader.


Does MacGuffin only search tags?

No, MacGuffin also searches the title, description and text of all content, but tags get greater ‘weighting’ in searches.


What does it mean if I type a word into the search bar and there’s no auto-complete suggestion?

Assuming you’re online at the time, this means there’s no content on MacGuffin tagged with that tag. You can still search that word as a ‘free text’ search. In that case, we’ll search the titles, descriptions and text of stories on MacGuffin for a match.


How come when I search for a word, I sometimes get search results of stories that aren’t tagged with that word?

This is because the word you searched for appears in the title, description or text of the stories returned in the search results.


Why should I bother tagging stories if MacGuffin’s search function searches the title, description and text of them anyway?

We think tagging is a far better way of curating content, because it harnesses the intelligence and taste of writers and readers; you get better suggestions from tags (and it’s more fun). For this reason, search results are weighted in favour of tags, rather than word occurrence.

How do I use tags to make a playlist?

This walk-through video shows you how.


Tagging Rules

What kind of tags aren’t allowed?

We don’t allow tags that are abusive, spammy, or that add unwelcome stories to other people’s reading lists or reading groups (‘barging in’). These behaviours are defined in more detail below. We reserve the right to deny service and/or the delete the account of anyone who breaks these rules, at our sole discretion.

Abusive tags

While MacGuffin readers are free to use tags to express their dislike of content, we won’t tolerate abusive tags. Examples of abusive tags are:
Tags that criticise the author, rather than the work being tagged. #thisauthorsucks would be considered an abusive tag. #thisstorysucks may be impolite, but it wouldn’t be considered abusive.
Tags that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or discriminate against people according to disability.
Tags that are libelous or defamatory.
When this is reported to us, we’ll investigate it and take steps to prevent it. This may include closing the offending account.

Spamming

Spamming is when someone adds content, descriptions or tags to MacGuffin which promote third party goods or services.
When this is reported to us, we’ll investigate it and take steps to prevent it. This may include issuing a warning, or in serious and/or persistent cases, closing the offending account.

NB. We do not consider it spamming for an author to include brief information and a link (at the end of a story or chapter) advising readers where their books can be purchased.

Barging In

‘Barging in’ is when a user tags a story to add it to someone else’s reading list (or to a group reading list) without being invited, or tags a story with a misleading tag with the intention of gaining more readers.

Some examples:
I upload a poem and tag it into someone else’s personal reading list, e.g. #clairesmithsfavouritesonnets
I upload a story and tag it into the reading list of a group I am not part, e.g. #leedsuniwritersyear3
I upload a story that has no sci-fi elements, and tag it #sf

When this is reported to us, we’ll investigate it and take steps to prevent it. This may include issuing a warning, or in serious and/or persistent cases, closing the offending account.

What isn’t Barging In?

I upload content and tag it into an appropriate meme or list for that content, e.g. I upload a sonnet and tag it #fridaysonnets
A MacGuffin user asks her social media followers for suggestions of stories under a specific hashtag, and I tag a story into that list, e.g. #clairesmithstorysuggestions
I upload a story that most readers wouldn’t consider typical sci-fi, but has some sci-fi elements, and tag it #sf

Someone’s given my story a tag I don’t like. Can I request that the tag be removed?

We may remove tags (and may warn or ban the tagger) if they’re abusive, spammy, ‘barge in’, or otherwise breach our Rules. To report a tag, go to the story in question, access the drop-down menu from read view, click 'Report Story' and fill in the form. Before reporting, please check the tag breaches our Tagging Rules.

How do I find stories on MacGuffin?

Try typing a popular tag like ‘crime’ into the search bar. Once you begin typing, we’ll provide autocomplete suggestions (tip - if it autocompletes, that means there’s a story on MacGuffin with that tag). Then click the magnifying glass ‘search’ icon at the right hand side of the search bar. The search will return results tagged with the ‘crime’ tag.

Now leave the ‘crime’ in the search bar, type ‘10minuteread’ beside it, and click the ‘search’ icon again. The search results will return content tagged ‘crime’ and ‘10minutesread’, above content tagged either ‘crime’ or ‘10minuteread’.

Can I search multiple tags at once?

Yes! It’s a good way of finding really specific stuff. For example, use the tags ‘crime’ and ‘10minutelisten’ to find a crime story that’s 10 minutes long.

What’s with the colons in some tags?

Colons denote a subcategory. ‘historical:tudor’ denotes historical fiction set in the Tudor period.

Does MacGuffin only search tags?

No, MacGuffin also searches the title, description and text of all content, but tags get greater ‘weighting’ in searches.

How come when I search for a word, I sometimes get search results of stories aren’t tagged with that word?

This is because the word you searched for appears in the title, description or text of the stories returned in the search results.

Why should I bother tagging stories if MacGuffin’s search function searches the title, description and text of them anyway?

We think tagging is a far better way of curating content, because it harnesses the intelligence and taste of writers and readers; you get better suggestions from tags (and it’s more fun). For this reason, search results are weighted in favour of tags, rather than word occurrence.

What does it mean if I type a word into the search bar and there’s no auto-complete suggestion?

Assuming you’re online at the time, this means there’s no content on MacGuffin tagged with that tag. You can still search that word as a ‘free text’ search. In that case, we’ll search the titles, descriptions and text of stories on MacGuffin for a match.

I’m uploading my novel to MacGuffin chapter-by-chapter. Should I add all the tags (pertaining to the entire novel) to every chapter?

You can do, but as this is likely to be quite time-consuming, we recommend that you add all tags pertaining to the entire novel to the first chapter, then tag subsequent chapters with tags pertaining to the content of that particular chapter.


I found a story on MacGuffin that breaches the Content Rules. What should I do?

Please report the content to us for moderation.

To report a story or a tag, go to the story in question, access the drop-down menu, click 'Report Story' and fill in the form.

1) Someone has breached my copyright by passing off my paragraphs, pages or my entire text/audio as theirs!
To report a story or a tag, go to the story in question, access the drop-down menu, click 'Report Story' and fill in the form.
If you're reporting a breach of copyright, please be aware that for us to act on it, we'll need the following information:

Identification of the original copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed.
Identification of the material on MacGuffin that you claim is infringing copyright, and sufficient information to permit us to locate that material.
Your contact information, such as your address and telephone number.
A statement that you have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorised by the copyright owner.
A statement that you are authorised to act on behalf of the copyright owner.
A statement that, under penalty of perjury, the information you have provided in the notification is accurate.

2) They’ve stolen my idea!
Firstly, are you absolutely sure? Sometimes plagiarism does happen, but very, very rarely. Most similarities in plots, characters and fictional worlds are coincidental. We know this, because at MacGuffin, we have years of experience of working in print publishing, and we’ve read many unpublished submissions with remarkable similarities - all, presumably, by authors who believed they were being entirely original. Often, what an author thinks is original has been done a dozen times before, or a hundred. Sometimes several authors all latch onto a current zeitgeist, or groupthink (inspired by the a recent technological development, for example, or a news story, or all inspired by the work of another author or film), and end up writing similar stories.

In short, it’s very difficult to prove plagiarism beyond doubt, and even then, it’s almost impossible to prove intent.

Having considered all this carefully, if you still want to report someone for plagiarism, follow the reporting procedure explained above - we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Make sure you clearly identify the content in question, let us know why you think it breaches the Content Rules, and give us your email address so we can follow it up with you.

Please be aware that in many cases we will be unable to prove plagiarism and we won’t take any action.



My Account

How do I access my account details?

Click on your 'profile' icon. It's on the right-hand side of the homepage menu (the green strip along the top).

How do I change my password?

Click on the profile icon on the top right of the homepage menu, then select 'update your password' from the left-hand menu.

How do I edit tags I've given to other people's stories?

Once you've tagged your first story, 'tags' should appear as a menu item on the homepage. Click to see a list of the stories you've tagged, and the tags you've given them. You can quickly add, edit and delete tags from here.