Touchstone, an imprint of the publishers Simon & Schuster, yesterday launched First Chapters, a competition designed to find writing talent through the internet. It is inviting unpublished authors to submit the first three chapters of a manuscript to the scrutiny of the voting public. The winner's book will be published and distributed by Touchstone and the author will enjoy a $5,000 (£2,575) cash prize.Is this the start of a new trend in publishing, do you reckon, or just a gimmick to boost sales?
The contest is being staged by a social networking website - gather.com - that does for the middle-aged what MySpace does for teens. The site has 175,000 members, mostly over the age of 35, who discuss Iraq, parenting, cooking and the like.
Under the competition rules, entrants will have until March 15 to fully complete their manuscripts. The first chapters of all submitted work will be posted on the site and members will then be able to vote for up to 14 days.
The 15 most popular entries, together with five chosen by a panel comprising two Simon & Schuster executives and Tom Gerace, the founder of gather.com, will enter two further rounds of voting. The pool will be whittled down to five before the winner is picked.
Only those of you resident in the US will be eligible to enter the contest, but you can check out the information and rules on gather.com.
(More on the story in the New York Times)