Monday, November 5, 2007

What Do You Think?

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to sit down with a couple of entrepreneurs (who are also lawyers) and discuss a website they are launching. This site is meant to get writers/authors in front of potential readers. For a $12 annual fee, you can post a couple of pieces of your work (and for more dollars, more work) so readers (and as the business owners said enthusiastically, editors and agents) will discover you.

I have a lot of issues with this venture. I can't get over the idea that the writers have to pay, but the readers can read for free. I don't mind the idea of free readers, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea of having to pay someone to read my work.

But an even bigger issue is the owners of the site duping writers into believing that posting there will get them discovered. That getting published is as simple as writing to an editor and saying, "See, 1000 people came to read my work and half of them liked it. You should publish me!" (Seriously, that's one the one guy said would happen.)

While I understand that writers get discovered in all sorts of ways and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if someone did get "found" there and I could see a website like this acting as a marketing tool for an already published piece, the men I spoke with had little understanding of the publishing business as a whole. The idea came to them because of complaints from people they know and/or work with about how their books weren't selling or getting noticed. A great idea doesn't necessarily translate into great writing. And great writing is subjective.

Most interestingly, the person doing most of the talking kept referring to publishing being an insider business, that publishing is all based on who you know, but his examples were scriptwriting. I'm not a scriptwriter, but from what I understand, that is a business where contacts can be very important. In regular publishing? Not so much so.

Writing is a lot of hard work. Just because one writes doesn't mean his/her work deserves to be published. The forementioned gentlemen disagreed with me.

What do you think? Would you pay to post your work just to get it out to the masses or in hopes of getting discovered?


Patti said...

depends...are you offering me a job?! bwhahahahah...

sorry, it's the wine.

maybe those who would pay would view it like paying for a classified ad. they pay a little upfront to get the big bucks for that nordic track that's collecting duct in the bedroom...or something like that.

by the way, i saw your nano word count...keep going! i am missing it like you can't believe.

Angela WD said...

Nope, I think that's completely backwards.

Lillie Ammann said...

I actually got involved in something similar many years ago before my first novel was published. It was one of the first of the sites (there are several now) where the author pays a fee to be listed and posts an outline/synopsis. On these sites, theoretically only legitimate editors and agents can access the writers' files, with the idea being agents and editors will come looking for new talent - as if they don't have plenty of manuscripts in their slush pile if they wanted to look at unsolicited manuscripts.

This particular site had a booth at the Romance Writers of America conference, which led me, as an aspiring writer, to believe it would be a good idea. Needless to say, I got no interest during the term of my listing. But that company is still around today, and there are others like it.

There are a couple of contests - Amazon is running one now - where readers vote on novel excerpts and the winner gets a publishing contract. There's a lot of controversy about this ... I don't recommend this type of thing to my clients. At least those contests, though, have a real publishing company offering a real contract as a prize.

What you describe - a site run by people with no knowledge of the publishing industry - is even less promising for aspiring writers. It's so easy for scammers and well-intentioned but misled people to take advantage of unpublished writers by making them believe they can realize their dreams.

The way writers realize their dreams is to keep writing, hone their craft, and learn the publishing business.