There are as many different paths to publication as there are mullet hairs on Kenny Loggins's head, so why have I just been entertaining a handful these past few years? True, I've ventured out into Amazon Breakthrough Novel territory, had an agent for a time, published a short, even boldly gone where few have gone before to double final in RWA's prestigious Golden Heart Award, but still I write toward that brass ring. In my mind, I have only dared to reach for it with the time-worn, established, always-been-this-way methods. I'm a safe, bet the odds, follow the rules kind of writer. I hoard my novels, lest I reveal too much. I fear posting my words will push them firmly into the "already published" hot potato camp where agents and editors dare not tread. Funny, but in trying so hard to get them into mass publication/mass distribution hands, my stories have become completely unreachable to those whom I wish to access the most: readers.
Two recent sites I've visited have broadened my awareness of reader-centric sites where readers are not only the focus, but the decision-making force that drives the engine.
Recently, Dorchester Publishing announced an alliance with TextNovel.com. Unpublished romance writers who deliver serialized stories that capture the most subscriptions and readers are awarded a publishing contract. This feeds (1) the publishing house's desire to find a sure-thing with a built-in audience (2) our culture's increasing fascination with all things delivered in tiny, digestible, digital meals and (3) a writer's craving for feedback from those whose opinions matter most: readers. The model is hugely successful in Japan. Many mainstream novels have entered that country's collective awareness via this route.
Another site that has been around since 2006 is YouWriteOn.com. Sponsored by the Arts Council of England and watched closely by top editors at major publishing houses, writers enter into a bartering feedback system. For each installment a writer posts, she agrees to read and provide feedback on five others. This rating system sifts out the stories highest in a handful of factors such as characterization, plot, setting, etc., and titles earn coveted spots on top ten and bestseller lists. While YouWriteOn offers a self-publication route, their mission is to hook writers up with the industry's top agents and editors. So, while TextNovel is reader driven, YouWriteOn is based on peer evaluation of other writers who (1) self-published or (2) became frustrated with their inert careers.
Do these sites, then, sacrifice a novel to the altar of popularity we so wanted to leave behind in junior high, benefiting the most tech-savvy, socially-networked writers? Or does the cream really rise to the top? Do writers become attention hos like those who final in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest and the American Title contest, with nary a mention of, "nice weather we're having," than to follow it with, "vote for me, vote for me!" If we're to believe the promotion and hype on both sites, these models have led several writers to mainstream success with houses such as Putnam, Random House and Orion, an easy decision for these houses because the risk is greatly reduced. Are these viable paths to an author's ultimate goal?
There is careful. And then there are years. And years. I'm between, wondering if the hair is smoother on the other side of the mullet.
Today's earwig: Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins....ah!! (the link so it can become your earwig, too. You're welcome.)
What do you think of these serialized sites for authors to post their work?