Last week, The New Yorker published “A Book Is a Start-Up: Lessons from Leanpub, NetMinds, and Other Publishing Hustlers.”
Basically, the article contends that the e-publishing phenomenon is changing the author/reader relationship–but not in the way we often hear (the “cutting out the middleman publishers” way, that is). No, this article cites several new-wave publishers who want the reader to be able to directly interact with the writer as the writing is happening.
The idea is that a writer should let readers–with all their interests, editing abilities, and potential future buying power–get involved from day one. No more should the writer complete his first draft “behind closed doors” (as Stephen King suggests); no, let the reader get all up in your biz-nas, because it’s good for business.
“We believe a writer is not necessarily a writer,” Sanders, the Net Minds C.E.O., said. “They are content containers.” At the Net Minds website, freelancers can sign up as writers or ghostwriters, as well as editors, copyreaders, designers, and publicists. The writer, then, arrives with a thought, for manufacture. The mechanics of book start-ups suggest an assembly line at times…
Good for you, I guess, if that appeals to you, but I think it is dead wrong. I am more than just a “container,” thankyouverymuch. Crowd-sourcing has produced some great things–look at Wikipedia, for example!–but it also creates a lot of horrible things–look at Wikipedia, for example! I mean, you only need to glance at Yahoo!Answers to get a sense that a whole lotta people don’t have sufficient grasp of the English language to reliably call others out on their mistakes.
Maybe special-interest books like business guides can be crowdsourced in that way (the business/marketing books for industry that I’ve read are all pretty much interchangeable anyway), but I think this kind of writing/editing fusion is pure snake oil. It can’t be good.
I’ll be with Mr. King, writing privately with the door closed, thanks.