An alert reader sent me this link: AuthorForSale.com.
Gosh, I thought. Are authors so desperate these days that they’re selling their favors online? Could it be a patronage thing–authors in search of sugar daddies to finance their careers? Or perhaps you can buy an author to walk your dog or clean your house. Heaven knows they probably aren’t cleaning their own, what with deadlines and all.
As you have no doubt guessed, AuthorForSale is none of those things. It’s yet another brand new iteration of an old idea: the manuscript display website. These websites, which have been around in various forms since the late 1990’s, promise to match writers with agents and publishers, enabling all parties to bypass the slush pile. AuthorForSale describes the process (somewhat opaquely) thus:
Simply put, the author of an unpublished proposal, creative idea or manuscript, creates a Showcase that is tightly profiled in line with a matrix guideline intended to package their offering in a manner likely to suit a prospective publisher’s strategic requirements in discovering a business interest in the intellectual property for sale.
How does it work? I can’t resist another quote:
Upon gaining subscribed, validated membership access to the site, both the Author & Publisher/Agent, will be able to view a Genre Matrix as detailed below, under which there are listed categories, subject-matter fields, or word length options etc intended to add refinement to tightly catalogue and code the author’s work or creative intention, as will ultimately be featured in their unique Author’s Showcase.
The Author’s Showcase displays a generic, yet comprehensive Proposal Template that will identify either a proposed literary project, a work-in-progress being undertaken or indicate a completed manuscript formatted and edited to go. And since both parties will be following the same cataloguing route path in refining their search or profiling interests, they’ll eventually meet at the most tightly aligned junction: an author’s talent and intellectual property showcased on display in a precise format.
What this boils down to is that member authors create a profile of their work, including such basic descriptive categories as genre, target audience, and word count. Publishers and agents can search the resulting database, narrowing or widening their search according to their needs and interests. If they’re interested in a property, they can contact the author directly.
As I mentioned above, manuscript display websites have been around since the last century. The early ones were similar to AuthorForSale: categorized, searchable databases of literary properties. The more recent ones add more features: a ranking system, a social media component, peer critiques. But have they ever provided authors with a true alternative route to publication? No. There have been some isolated success stories, but for the most part, display sites merely shift the location of the slush pile, and agents and editors haven’t yet manifested a preference for display sites over their own overflowing inboxes.
So AuthorForSale, which bills itself as “The original web-based showcase for authors where publishers find the next Best Seller,” offers a service that’s neither very original, nor very serviceable. These reasons alone would probably ensure its eventual demise. In its current form, however, it won’t need to look to outside factors. Most display websites/online slush piles are free, or keep fees under $100. If there are fees, they’re charged to writers, not to the publishing professionals who participate. AuthorForSale dares to be different. For a year’s membership, authors must hand over US$225 (act fast, and you’ll get a 25% discount). Publishers and agents must pay…wait for it…US$5,600.
Um, yeah. Good luck with that. Authors, unfortunately, can easily be persuaded to part with their money, but somehow I don’t think that publishers and agents will be lining up to pay thousands of dollars for access to what they’re already drowning in for free.
AuthorForSale is the brainchild of Australian author and businessman Allen H. Munro, whose publishing credits include publishing service Trafford and fee-charging publisher Morgan James. I see nothing to suggest that AuthorForSale is ill-intentioned–but it is woefully ill-conceived.