The concept behind a manuscript display site is simple: provide writers with a forum in which to display their work, in the hopes that an editor or agent will come browsing and discover a literary gem hiding among the HTML. Over the years plenty of these sites have come and gone so that now, new versions are often referred to as a YADS: “yet another display site”.
Some display sites are just that: no frills, no extras, just a shop-window for manuscripts. Others have writers’ message-boards attached; some have review systems coupled with complicating rating systems. Authonomy comes to us courtesy of HarperCollins, and offers a manuscript display site, comment facility and message-board; while YouWriteOn offers vanity publishing in conjunction with Legend Press, which has put many people off what might otherwise be an excellent peer review facility.
These sites all have a couple of things in common.
The standard of writing on such sites ranges from good to poor, with that latter end making up the vast majority of the work on show. And despite what you might read online, I’ve only heard of a single book being published as a result of a browsing editor or agent spotting it in these electronic slush-piles: apart from that one title, the successes that have happened have all come about because the writers involved submitted their work in the usual way.
If you want to find out more about the history of manuscript display sites, then go to this post at Writer Beware's blog and make sure you read all the comments that have been made: there’s a fabulous discussion attached to it.