Day: July 19, 2006

The heat & thinking

Summer in the city
The last few days in Ireland have been stunning. Temperatures have been in the late 20s and early 30s. Degrees Celsius that is!

It has not helped me make sense of the enormous mountain of reading I have been doing. So much is percolating through my brain right now that it is hard to grasp a single idea, sit down and formulate exactly what I think about it and then write a blog post on it which is why my posting schedule has been erratic.

The Submissions Problem
One massive idea has been rolling back and forward however and it involves commissioning and submissions. Terry Whalin in his excellent blog has recently written some posts about why and how he rejects submissions and how unoriginal/pushy they are:

It’s something else to consider the next time you are going to fire off an email and check on the status of your proposal which the editor has under consideration. Are you giving it the extra push which moves it from consideration into the rejection pile?

The key thought I have had in the last few weeks is how publisher-centric this process is. It seems to me that there must be a better way for the submissions process to work. A way in which rather than authors and their agents being at the mercy of such things as editor annoyance, intern slapdash (I am not dissing Interns it just seems that often they get the chore of slush-pile reading) and publisher tardiness. If you read Miss Snark you will see more of the type of comments that Terry is making. And I should make it clear I am no rebuking Terry. Our own system is much the same (though as a non-fiction house we get less speculative submissions which is a blessing).

What is the solution?
It is surely a mark of an industry that is so set in its ways that this unfair, unjust and really remarkably inefficient system has persisted for so long.
Is there a better, more open way to resolve the issue? Can we develop a quicker and more user-friendly response system? I have one idea.

Is Digg a good model?
Do you think a Digg-like system of ranking would work? Consider that a moment. People submit proposals in a basic form that contains common elements. This would get around the problem of authors with no idea submitting confusing and misleading proposals. They could give an idea of what stage of development the book was at, completed manuscript, concept or halfway between. They might provide links to other content and chapter ideas, they could highlight the other books in the field, the rival authors and the type of sales and promotion experience they have or are willing to engage in to sell the book. In fact any of the material that a normal proposal should contain.

Readers would then vote on the concept. lots of votes would promote the concept to the top of the list. Agents and publishers could peruse at will and pick from this list. It might not even act as the main source but as a check when reading the paper submission that will inevitably be sent to publishers. It might act as a reinforcing device for good projects and ideas, it might not.

The fact is it could flop completely. I just don’t know but it is an innovative way to address the problem. I’d love to hear more and get your feedback on ideas you have to change the system. I’d also like to hear if you are happy with it. Send comments and e-mails as always to eoinpurcellsblogATgmail.com.

Happy Sunny Days
Eoin