I’m pleased to say that Ted of YWO did get back to me quickly with an answer to my query on the 5000 deal, and I’m not the only one who’s been raising questions on the site. In brief, it seems like this is pretty much a ploy by YWO to increase its membership and its profile generally, and , to be fair, YWO always did intend to offer a self-publishing platform. Ted doesn’t answer the question of ‘why self-publish’ but strictly speaking I don’t suppose he has to. I think there are times when self-publishing makes sense, but right now I’m with another YWO member sho says,
‘I’d love my novel to be published, but what kind of feeling would it give me if I could only say that the sole reason it was published is because I answered an e-mail quickly and could drum up £40? I’d like to think it got published because it was good.’
For my question and Ted’s full answer, please read on.
Just curious to know more about this deal which (despite being a member) I missed completely until alerted by various blogs. Now I’m wondering why it’s being offered and how it ties in with YWO/Arts Council ideals. The Top 10 is something for members to aspire to – we have to earn a place through good reviews and (presumably) writing we have worked to improve. Giving a POD offer to the first 5000 (regardless of ratings?) doesn’t seem to back this up. If we take up the offer, is it any different to doing P.O.D. off our own bat?
Please enlighten me if I have misunderstood the deal.
Good questions. There’s quite a few different aims. One is trying to give added opportunity to those writers that, as you mention, have worked hard at their writing on YouWriteOn and been rated highly by their peers and, in many cases, the site’s literary professionals. Achieving real success through ‘alternative’ print on demand (POD) is very hard, achieving success through mainstream publishing success is harder still. It can happen with POD though, like with Bufflehead Sisters two book deal with Penguin. We had tried agents for this novel, but without success, so it was an alternative that proved successful after Patti’s hard working developing her story. It adds additional opportunity. Writers success through POD may be large, medium, small, or none, but there is the opportunity to explore and find out what it will be. For example, Barry Nugent getting his POD book Fallen Heroes into several Waterstones including Europes largest bookstore, and doing signings, or David Milnes reaching readers on a Neil Diamond website with his novel The Ghost of Neil Diamond. POD can be a reality check for a writer, it can also add extra interest, fun, and allow writing to reach readers they may not have previously reached.
There is also the other side, as you comment, that the offer being open to all goes against the central premise of the site, which is based on chart merit through peer and professional feedback and hard work by writers refining and developing work. What we have found though is that by offering publishing to ‘5,000’ instead of, for example, the top 20 each month, is that we have reached a lot further by opening it up to everyone who wishes to apply. This has led to a lot of new people joining, who may not have heard about the site and we hope they may benefit from a feedback avenue they may previously not have considered. So opening this to everyone enables us to work with the central premise of the site and encourage more people to get feedback to develop stories. Some may, some may not.
I think what makes us different, practically, is that we will aim at more marketable prices, as POD can be overpriced. For example, we are selling Bufflehead Sisters, 300 pages, at £6.49. We also recently undercut the largest POD operation by offering a writer a better retail price for his book than they offering the writer, and the writer opted to print with us. So practically speaking, this is a retail operation, we are aware we are ‘in competition’ with others and will look at what we can do better than them, or where they are doing better than us.
We also have something different in that we have a lot of leading agent and publisher affiliates who work with us. This doesn’t mean that they will look any closer at a story just because it is published with us, they won’t, a story’s individual merit will always be the most important point. But we will be able to explore different ways to offer things that other POD operators can’t through this and our system, for example, through monitoring sales made which, along with site peer and professional feedback for some stories, may add to helping to make the case for some writers when referring stories to affiliated literary professionals. Also, for example, on a practical level writers will be able to add a link from their story excerpt here to their completed novels for sale to interested readers.
There are many additional things we can do through the system, as it stands and with other new ideas we plan to introduce. This is what we hope will make us different, and we will continue to be very active in exploring and introducing features that aren’t available elsewhere.