Saskatoon author Jefferson Smith tests books on a treadmill

For two years, fantasy writer Jefferson Smith has been putting self-published books to the test with his Immerse or Die challenge.

It can take less than 40 minutes for the Saskatoon author to lose interest in a book

Jefferson Smith is challenging self-published authors to write books that keep him immersed while on his treadmill. (Jefferson Smith/CreativityHacker)

A Saskatoon author is using his treadmill desk to help him separate the good reads from the bad.

For two years, fantasy writer Jefferson Smith has been putting self-published books to the test with his Immerse or Die challenge.

"There's an awful lot of self-published authors who don't spend a lot of time on their production once they are finished their book," said Smith, a self-published author himself.

"So their books end up looking pretty low rent and, as a result, the entire community of self-published authors suffer from that stigma."

Jefferson Smith has been a fantasy writer for four years. (Jefferson Smith/CreavityHacker)

Smith says large scale publishing companies rarely take risks on new story concepts, and indie books are a chance for authors to explore new ideas.

He wanted to spotlight the authors that took their time to craft an engaging story and give feedback to authors that need to keep fine-tuning their novels.

"If you can't immerse the reader in your book, your book is going to die," said Smith.

Indie authors across the globe submit their work to Smith through his website. Every morning, he gets on his treadmill, opens one of the submitted books, and sets a timer.

Smith reads the book while walking, trying to stay in engaged in the story for 40 minutes. Anything that breaks his immersion, like bad grammar or continuity errors, gets a strike. 

After three strikes, he stops the timer, closes the book and posts an article on his website outlying what went wrong.

"I thought people would be offended by the process but most beginning authors are starving for honest and specific critical feedback," said Smith.

"If I make it through the 40 minutes, they get good publicity out of it, and if I don't make it through it, they get creditable feedback that can help make their books better."

Smith says its also been a great way for him to take a break from talking about his own writing and to get a bit of exercise.

This book could only keep Jefferson Smith's attention for three and half minutes. (Jefferson Smith/CreativityHacker)

He reviewed 205 books last year, with only 20 books surviving the full 40 minutes. After giving the surviving books a full read, Smith found seven stood out.

He invited the authors to do a StoryBundle with him, where their books were released together in a collection online, on a pay-what-you-want basis.

Smith will also be publishing a short story anthology with the same authors.

"Everybody gets exposure. [It's] a great way for me to help further put a spotlight on the books that do well on my treadmill," said Smith.