Monday, 14 September 2009

Manuscript Display Sites

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.


Dan Holloway said...

Jane, one thing I've only really discovered in the last two weeks since launching my book (I'm a sheltered little boy, you see) is the sheer number of e-fiction sites. In theory these sound like manuscript display sites, but they're not. What they are is sites that link to books already available on the Web.

Now what's interesting about these is that they are entirely non-competitive and many of them are driven by readers.

What's particularly interestng for someone like me who takes a recreational interest in the landscape of online literature, is that these sites are NOT "only as good as the works they dispaly". Rather they are decidedly "only as good as their reading community".

I have argued on a number of occasions that literary reviewing would slowly pass from the top-down methodology we see in the current media to a bottom-up one, driven by groups of very niche, very passionate, like-minded readers (NOT writers - that, for me, will always be the flaw of sites like Authnomy and Youwriteon - they're essentially little bubbles that, watever the intention, end up as writers talking to themselves with no reference to the reading public). It's where my planetary accretion metaphor was born.
May I list a couple for you to see what you make of them:

I'd be interested to see what you make of these. My take is they'll proliferate violently, 95% will fail, and you'll be left with 5% that are very strong because of their focus and passion, and provide a MUCH better means of discovering talent outsde the mainstream than the writer-dominated sites that have dominated discussion so far.

As a result, I would urge writers with a novel they wish to display that's of exceptional quality to plonk it on smashwords and send the links to these sites.

I've made some wonderful friends on Authonomy and Youwriteon, but I think I can count on the fingers of a pair of mittens how many non-writing readers I've really engaged with there - and at the end of the day THOSE are the people you need to please.

Sally Zigmond said...

Both YWO and Authonomy seem to me to be very quiet at the moment--that is, with regard to announcements or initiatives from the organisers of these sites rather than activity on their forums, about which I know little.

Dan Holloway said...

Sally, I haven't been to YWO in a while - to be honest I was somewhat disgruntled with the way the handled Book of the Year (not that it's not the best book, but the WAY they did it) - they basically waited for a deal to be done & then announced BOTY was the book that had just got a big deal so they could spin the story.

Authonomy is very quiet, you're right. Almsot everything is gearing up to the launch of Miranda's book I think. The two books they summoned in from the Editor's Desk to read the full, one back in May, the other back in AHEM February are STILL waiting to be returned!

ExpertWriter said...

Thank you for sharing the information here. I liked reading the common points among Authonomy and YouWriteOn which you have brielfly discussed. Good work!

Donna Hosie said...

Jane, have you changed the way you post an entry because for some reason your site is no longer updating on my blogroll?

Sally Zigmond said...

Nor mine. I thought it was my fault because I've been tweaking my blog but maybe not.