Jean Hannah Edelstein on the Guardian blog reports on an initiative by HarperCollins to help new writers avoid the slush-pile.
Instead of posting an unsolicited manuscript which may just be filed in the bin, writers can now post up to 10,000 words on the Authonomy website ("social network for writers and book-lovers alike") which will be judged by readers. The extracts that attract most interest will be considered for publication. (The Authonomy blog is here.)
Edelstein seems cautiously optimistic about what the site might achieve for writers, but worries that it :
... may end up being a nice polite way for the publishers to say that they're not accepting unsolicited submissions anymore. If the launch goes well, I'd wager that anyone asking about submissions will be directed to hit the site, keeping editors' (and editorial assistants') desks clear for them to get on with the books agents have sent them, the ones they are genuinely interested in.I must add here that when I interviewed publisher David Davidar a few months ago, he said that he was very positive about such initiatives since he felt that they really would help the best writers get noticed.
As Edelstein points out, this isn't the first time a social network for writers has been launched. Other are YouWriteOn (funded by the Arts Council) and The Frontlist.
But getting discovered isn't the only benefit of such sites. My friend Saras, now writing really good fiction and getting it published, says that the feedback she received from other subscribers to YouWriteOn has made an enormous difference to her writing. Hopefully she'll swing by this blog in a while and tell us more about her experiences.
Another site, Booksie, comes very highly recommended by Phil in the comments to this post and looks well worth checking out.