penguin enlists amazon reviewers to sift fiction slush pile 10.01.2007, 11:53 AM
posted by ben vershbow
In an interesting mashup of online social filtering and old-fashioned publishing, Penguin, Amazon and Hewlett Packard have joined forces to present a new online literary contest, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. From the NY Times:
From today through Nov. 5, contestants from 20 countries can submit unpublished manuscripts of English-language novels to Amazon, which will assign a small group of its top-rated online reviewers to evaluate 5,000-word excerpts and narrow the field to 1,000. The full manuscripts of those semifinalists will be submitted to Publishers Weekly, which will assign reviewers to each. Amazon will post the reviews, along with excerpts, online, where customers can make comments. Using those comments and the magazine's reviews, Penguin will winnow the field to 100 finalists who will get two readings by Penguin editors. When a final 10 manuscripts are selected, a panel including Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the current nonfiction paperback best seller "Eat, Pray, Love," and John Freeman, the president of the National Book Critics Circle, will read and post comments on the novels at Amazon. Readers can then vote on the winner, who will receive a publishing contract and a $25,000 advance from Penguin.
bowerbird on October 1, 2007 1:11 PM:
this is another attempt to impose the idea that
"quality" is an objective, hierarchical "fact".
you might despise a book that i find brilliant.
i might toss the book that becomes your favorite.
the publishers _want_ a world where there are
only a few "good" books, which they can control.
because that'd make their job much, much easier.
but the future will give us millions of books
-- truth be told, the present already has --
and collaborative filtering that's tailored to
each person's _individual_ tastes will pull out
each of our _personal_ needles from the haystack,
the ones the publishers didn't want because
they couldn't market them to a broad audience.
oh sure, there will be popular favorites, yes.
but we won't need a _contest_ to find those...
or publishers. and authors _certainly_ won't
need to hand over 90% of the proceeds either...
so you can chalk this up to cluelessness...
bowerbird on October 1, 2007 1:25 PM:
ok, so immediately after writing that,
i go and read fake steve, and find this:
yeah, that's kind of the idea.
except a book -- a text-file and maybe
some graphic-files too -- is easy enough
to distribute yourself even without itunes.
it's not as if i'm saying "who needs a publisher?"
the truth is that _no_one_ will need a publisher,
not in the future. but heck, if you can _get_ one,
one who'll give you a big advance and not mess
with your artistic integrity, why not accept it?
but if you're like the vast majority of authors,
especially future authors, who cannot get one,
are you gonna just lay down and die? heck no!
that's what authors did in the past. but they
didn't have the magic of the internet, did they?
no sir. you will decide to distribute your book
_by_yourself_, even if you can't get paid for it,
because you simply want your story to be heard.
and when millions and millions of authors are
doing that, with a collaborative filtering system
that matches them up with their specific niche,
that surplus of free reading material is gonna
swamp the offerings of the publishing houses...
heck, all by themselves, blogs have cut into
people's reading time so much that book-sales
_have_ to be suffering as a result...