A new form of self-publishing: manuscript sharing sites

Self-publishing takes many forms, but most people think of the print-on-demand (POD) version of self-publishing first. They look to Lulu, BookSurge, CreateSpace, Blurb, or a similar service that permits writers to upload their manuscripts to a website that provides template formatting, sells ISBNs, and has an online storefront through which the books can be sold or sometimes, if the author prefers, downloaded as an ebook at no charge. When someone orders and pays online for a bound book, a single copy is printed by the publishing service in response to the demand and shipped directly to the customer. Authors can order their own books from the service in bulk and fulfill orders from customers, but doing so isn’t always economically feasible. POD self-publishing services on the Web have been successful because there is relatively little up-front cost to the author. However, it doesn’t take long to discover the downside of self-publishing: the author takes full responsibility for marketing and advertising.

For writers who simply want to share their creations with readers at no cost to either party, the Web is the place. Some writers quickly discover how to put up websites, others launch blogs, quite a large number gather in forums online, and now a new hybrid is emerging as a place for them to post their manuscripts. As far as I can tell, there’s no commonly recognized name for these sites. For the moment, I’ll refer to them as manuscript sharing sites or online slushpiles. They are sources of free ebooks as well as social networks. Anyone willing to experiment and unconcerned about giving work away for free might be intrigued.

Part of me cringes when I think of manuscript sharing sites as forms of crowdsourcing. Another part senses the beginning of a transformation in the way some intrepid readers search for new and entertaining authors. It’s fascinating to observe as these self-published ebook sites multiply, evolve, and attract either criticism or acclaim. If you’re watching or exploring them too, what do you think?

Authonomy

Author Salon [Added on February 15, 2012]

Book Country [Added on April 26, 2011]

BookieJar [Added on July 10, 2010]

BookRix

CompletelyNovel

FanFiction.Net [Added on June 2, 2010]

FanStory [Added on July 25, 2012]

Feedbooks

FictionPress.com [Added on April 20, 2009]

Figment [Added on June 2, 2010]

inkpop (managed by Figment) [Added on February 16, 2010]

Issuu

iwritereadrate.com (ebooks are also sold on this site) [Added on March 17, 2011]

Jottify [Added on February 17, 2015]

JukePop [Added on October 23, 2014]

Lebrary [Added on July 1, 2010]

Liboo [Added on September 24, 2012]

Mam Talent [Added on September 16, 2013]

Movellas.com [Added on July 11, 2012]

Myebook (ebooks are also sold on this site)

obooko [Added on February 11, 2010]

PostPoems [Added on February 22, 2017]

Re.ad [Added on June 18, 2014]

Recanto das Letras [Added on July 7, 2013]

Red Lemonade (utilizing the Cursor platform) [Added on May 9, 2011]

Scribd (ebooks are also sold on this site)

Scribophile

Share Your Book [Added on April 24, 2013]

Smashwords (ebooks are also sold on this site)

Storiad [Added on July 28, 2011]

Sweek [Added on March 23, 2017]

Swoon Reads [Added on September 30, 2013]

Tablo [Added on July 31, 2014]

Taylz [Added on August 29, 2015]

Textnovel (cellphone novels)

TheWriteDeal> [Added on November 8, 2011]

vook.tv (still in private beta, so I’m not sure yet what it is)

Wattpad

Widbook [Added on February 18, 2015]

Write On by Kindle [Added on October 2, 2014]

WritersCafe.org [Added on April 20, 2009]

Writing.com (WDC) [Added on July 16, 2012]

YUDU

I’ve certainly overlooked sites similar to these, although I deliberately omitted a variation that’s more of an online manuscript critique group. Feel free to clue me in, if you’ve found a site you like that’s not listed.

[Added on June 18, 2010:] In its Digital Writer Spotlight, the GalleyCat blog features nominated authors who are members of manuscript sharing sites.

[Added on May 17, 2014:] In “Posting your work for online crits?” Literary agent Janet Reid encourages writers to find critique partners who are more skilled than the novices found on a particular manuscript sharing site.

3 Replies to “A new form of self-publishing: manuscript sharing sites”

  1. Manuscript-sharing sites are not without value, but seem substitutes for more constructive face-to-face workshopping available in most communities. Outside of professional editing, virtually all of the best criticisms of my work, and advice I’ve received about writing in general, have come from small writing groups and workshops, in classes or groups facilitated by a university, library, or some writing-oriented organization. But even in those settings, the balance of latent talent and developed skill must be somewhat uneven among the writers for the sake of improvement.

    I’ve visited some of the ms.-sharing sites on this list, and a few others–Fictionpress.com, Writerscafe.org, and Authorsden.com come to mind–and while, like I said, there can be value in them, I think the other avenues (professional editing and physical workshops) provide more benefit for only a slight increase in initiative.

  2. I appreciate getting your perspective, Peter. Not long ago, I asked an author to give me his take on a particular manuscript sharing site, and he told me there seemed to be too much backscratching. I’m cynical enough to think writers trade endorsements of their work in every medium in the known universe. (laughing) Consequently, the praise seems less reliable than the criticism.

    At the BookEnds blog, agent Jessica Faust prompted writers to comment on “Agentfail Right Here.” One of the frequent responses was that agents sometimes fail to provide constructive criticism after they read and reject full manuscripts. I feel obligated to provide feedback to prospective clients if I’ve read their manuscripts and don’t think their work merits representation. However, when I’m honest about what didn’t stand up to scrutiny, I can count on occasional backlash, which I believe is the opposite of backscratching. At times, I’m tempted to overreact by switching to meaningless, placating form rejection letters. How do workshop instructors and writing group members avoid the inclination to pull their punches?

    Another point of interest to me is that writing instructors need not be good writers to excel at teaching the craft. Likewise, critique group members should be mindful that valid criticism can come from unlikely sources.

    Manuscript sharing sites, because they make authors’ work available to readers who are not compelled to evaluate it or comment, might easily gauge reader reaction and potential sales simply by tabulating the number of page views. Of course, like YouTube, the manuscript sharing sites will be abused by spammers, and their ranking systems will be gamed.

    I’ll take a look at Fictionpress.com and Writerscafe.org. I confess to being mystified by the Authors Den. It’s such a closed community that I can’t determine easily whether it’s more than just a marketing service for self-published authors.

  3. I agree completely re: backscratching. I suppose I should’ve qualified my earlier statement by saying that I’ve also received the most useless, mindlessly ingratiating evaluations face-to-face. And, to recommend the internet, in person one must grit one’s teeth and thank the giver for such sagacious insights about one’s work.

    In any medium, you will receive good and bad readings (I mean in terms of critical quality), and encounter good and bad agents, just as you’ll encounter good and bad police officers and senators. What writers (or any creative person) must remember is that most of their time ought to at first be spent creating and revising, and I worry that, as you hinted, many manuscript-sharing sites are popularity contests with skewed results. (Observe what’s happened/is happening with Authonomy, et al.) Maybe it won’t affect hardier souls, but I do think it can be a distraction at a time when writers are particularly vulnerable to distraction. (‘It’s done, isn’t it?’)

    This isn’t to say that one should not use them, or that supportive communities do not exist online or offline: of course you ought to, and they do exist. But when you have a finished manuscript in hand–or, at least, when I do–my first instinct is to go to people I know have at least some experience.

    So–my God, am I saying that writers should use discernment about the places they go for critiques and to mind other channels for manuscript-readings? I think I am. How cliché.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s