Display Sites – The Future Ahead?

There seems to be a developing hoopla in the past month about what are broadly defined as ‘Display Sites’ for self-published and unpublished authors. There is nothing new about these sites in regards to the basic premise of a specific on line place where writers can load up their work and display it to be read by others. Whether that site is an author’s own webpage, blogsite, social networking site or self-publisher’s ‘bookstore’ window – the same benefits, motivations and reasoning (broadly speaking) can be applied to them all. The author wants recognition, feedback, increased sales if the book is printed and available, and the chance to become more successful and significantly ‘independent’ of what the author sees as the ‘forces’ limiting them.
Phew, that took a while to pull together without feeling I was disenfranchising someone or missing the point of ‘Display Sites’. It remains a broad term and with the proliferation of such sites, borders on becoming a dysfunctional term. There are two sites recently which have come under particular scrunity, IndieReader and the recently launched Publetariat Vault. I am constantly asked on POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing to look closely at these sites/services and comment and review them. I have deliberately chosen not too – not because I do not feel they have something to offer—rather more because few of them are proven and have been round long enough to evaluate their benefit. When I review author solution services like Lulu, iUniverse, Blurb, Createspace, AuthorHouse, Mill City Press or however, I at least have a barometer, a tested template of experience of authors over the past twenty years to build an expectation and marker of standard performance of a service to guide me. This cannot be said of Display Sites because they remain at an infant stage, many still defining what they are, and more importantly, the use authors, readers and publishers of any kind can place upon them.
Rather than take examples of ‘Display Sites’ and fire critical analysis at them, it would be easier to define what a good ‘Display Site’ is and the elements which define it.

1. Free listing for an author’s work initially
2. Filtering of submitted work for basic editing and comprehensibility (done by site editors)
3. Implemented fee for work after filtering – nominal (say $10 per year, per work submitted)
4. Review and categorisation of work by general visitors/readers or site editor
5. Beta forum and rewrite/reload facility
6. Site editor recommendation and ‘top chart’ for site
7. Forwarding/review or ‘top chart’ for subscribed publishers
8. Contract & Advisory facility for acquired works
9. Acquired authors social network facilitated on site
10. Bookstore offering publisher discounts/promotions/exclusive bookclub editions

Now, let me explain how our ideal ‘display site’ works.

1. Self explanatory – no author pays to subscribe and load their work to the site initially
2. Basic typo/spelling/grammatical editing is done by a site editor. If a work does not come up to scratch it is rejected and deleted from the site for resubmission/load-up
3. A small annual fee is applied per work for authors passing the initial faze
4. The work is exposed to general readers/subscribers to the site. (subscription free)
5. Site readers critique and ‘work’ with suggestions on rewrites in the Beta forum
6. Site editors monitor the beta forum and select work for review and top of the pile
7. Selected works forwarded to subscribing publishers
8. Legal and contractual advice and support provided to authors
9. Site host official blog, tours, networks of published authors
10. Bookstore should be acquired author and driven with promotions, audio readings, interviews etc

If we study the model above – what we arrive at is more of an on line Literary Agency/Display Site. This is what I am driving at and where ‘Display Site’ evolution should aspire to. The benefits to literary agents and publishers alike are enormous. The potential is endless. Combine like-minded agencies or publishers together who share a general philosophy/tastes for books. We could eradicate paper submissions to publishers and agents and demonstrate more clearly the suitability of book submissions to authors, defined by the ‘Display Sites’ social network. Publishers would continue to acquire their own submissions through literary agents but ultimately have no unsolicited slush piles.

The publishing world would be a better place and more accessible without the submission burdens publishers now face.
For me, Authonomy offers the best example of this with their link up with HarperCollins, but this is change and power to the ten!
Your thoughts…

As an interesting tangent on this general issue, Zoe Winters has written about author sites and networking on her website:

“There are many sites out there, both regular social networking sites and sites meant for authors to promote themselves and their work. General sites would include Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. Author Specific sites would include: Author’s Den, Red Room, Nothing Binding, BookBuzzr. There are many more, but I can’t possibly list them all. In addition to that there is the marketing power of Amazon itself. Where you can have an author page and blog as well as participate in many forums on the site itself.”

You can read her full article here.

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