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May 21st, 2007, 10:29 AM
I’m currently completing the final assignment of my postgrad in publishing and the assignment is to create a business plan for a publishing company.

The concept I’ve come up with “you be the commissioning editor”. The idea is that authors/agents send in sample chapters and a synopsis, these are then checked by the publishing houses’ internal staff and the ones that pass this initial stage are then posted on a website which allows users to vote and add comments to the potential projects. The samples that reach, an as of yet, undecided amount of votes will then be picked up as projects to enter the publication process.

Due to my own interest in the genres, I have decided that initially at least, the website will only cater for fantasy, sci-fi and to some extent horror. The idea behind his is because the market is much more clear than in general fiction and because the website that is the front for the business will also endevour to create an online community.

Just looking to get some feedback on this idea?

May 21st, 2007, 10:59 AM
You might want to move this to the Writing Forum, Wulfa -- I'll doublecheck with staff on the issue.

There are various things you have to consider here. First of all, your publishing house would of necessity be a small press starting out, unless you are imaging you worked some kind of deal with a big house like Random House. Therefore, you can't pay your authors advances or only very small ones and you can't give them the best terms for royalties and other rights, nor will you be able to distribute your publications as widely or in sizeable numbers. Therefore, agents are not going to be submitting anything to you, as it is not in the best interests of their clients.

That leaves you with unagented authors submitting material. There are a lot of those, and many of them would be happy to have you put their material out for general critique. But you will have to have each of them sign a permission form, granting you the right to post their writing online and to have it be critiqued. The form would also have to have authors agree to risk their work being stolen or copied because it was posted on your site, which would be an issue, and not one over which you'd have much control.

You would also have to decide if your "voters" would be deciding what you publish on the basis of only a few opening chapters or the entire manuscript. If it's only the first chapters, you have a problem, because many authors may go in problematic directions or have difficulties with their writing in the later half of their stories. So your editorial staff would probably need to vet the entire manuscript before it goes to the voting process.

You might want to check out the American Idol style contest Simon and Schuster is running on an arts and entertainment discussion site. (I think it was Gather.com, but I can't remember.) It is similar to what you are proposing in smaller form. You might also want to try to talk to a small sff press or two in your area about what they've done and what they've found in doing business, and see if Baen Books, which has posted books on-line in their library, has to say about the matter.

Also, a lot of the publishers who have websites also have some discussion boards, so you could check those out, though those are for published works.

May 21st, 2007, 11:36 AM
Thanks for the feedback Kat. Feel free to move the post anywhere it needs to go.

I have taken some of this into consideration already - factors like the author signing a form detailing copyright issues etc. I had the idea that authors would need to confirm that the manuscript was complete before submission, but your idea for the entire manuscript to be checked first is a valid one.

I admit to not really having giving much thought about the royalties issue... the royalties would have to be very small. The publishing house would be very small and I am researching distribution methods at the moment.

Thanks again!

May 21st, 2007, 06:22 PM
Another problem would be that there are some publishers who dislike if the authors work has already been published - as putting it on the internet is considered publishing, so if you did this and rejected the script, they may not be able to get published elsewhere. Each publisher has a different percentage of the novel that that wouldn't mind already having been published, but you wouldn't be able to do the whole script or the author would never be able to get it done by someone else. I think this applies to something that has already been on the net as well, so even if it were deleted afterward, still got the same problem.

Hope that makes sense, I just woke up and haven't had any coffee :P