Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Open sourcing the world of publishing

What is one of the greater challenges of aspiring authors? You give the best you have and put together a synopsis or even a manuscript and send it to a publisher. Then you wait. And you wait. And you wait some more. After a while you might get a letter stating “Sorry, but we are not going to use this.” Now, considering the tons of suggestions the average publisher receives in the mailbox, no one is going to expect a detailed explanation on the why of the rejection. But… how many prospective great novelists stopped because of this simple rejection? We don’t know.

Today I was interviewed by Barbara, an editorial assistant with a dutch publisher. She is doing research on how to improve communication between the publisher and writers. She created a post in a writers’ forum and I expressed my interest in participating in the research. It turned out that I was one of the few non-fiction writers. Most of the others were busy with fiction.

She was well-prepared and we could cover a lot of ground in the space of a little more than over an hour. During the interview a new idea developed in my mind. The editors with the publisher must have an enormous wealth of knowledge build up over years and years of experience and in-house training. For them it has become second nature to recognize the wheat from the chaff. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to periodically bring together the best of the rejected and train them with the institutional knowledge? The idea enthused Barbara. Why not bring together the 100 best rejected aspiring authors for a day? Not to discuss their manuscripts or synopsis, but to discuss the main fallacies based on real life, day to day examples. Let an editor explain how he or she judges a new synopsis. Ask a literary critic on how he/she determines the value of a debut work. Explain the market forces.

But, perhaps more importantly, you can create a new community of people, writers who are on their way up and mold them, maybe only a few, into succesful writers that have something to be grateful for. Let’s say the publisher does this once every three months. You can reach 400 people in this way and it only cost four days a year. The benefits would far outweigh the costs. As a publisher you will have put yourself into a unique position. One unknown in the world of publishing. You are open sourcing the vast storehouse of knowledge that you posses in order to help create more works of great art.

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