Peter Jurmu, Internet marketing maestro at Creative Byline, introduced himself in 2008 after I blogged about online manuscript submission services. Later, thanks to Peter, I had the opportunity to meet his employer, Brad MacLean, at BookExpo America. Both men impressed me with their candor, sincerity, and resourcefulness.
Creative Byline has been rather quietly tackling the slushpile for a growing list of book publishers. Writers pay a nominal fee for each manuscript submitted to the service, and a reviewer ensures that the written work meets the site’s quality standards. Publishers subscribe to Creative Byline to gain access to a manuscript database that has been filtered, is searchable by keywords, and includes the submitting authors’ biographical information.
I had a few questions, and Peter was happy to answer them.
Peter Jurmu, Creative Byline
When Robin invited me to guest blog, she expressed an interest in how Creative Byline addresses the traditional concerns about “agencies” that charge fees for any aspect of their services before they sell a manuscript. She surmised (correctly) that people simply don’t think of Creative Byline as an agency. I’d like to elaborate on what Creative Byline is and our plans for what’s next in this changing industry.
Our focus has always been connecting writers with editors at reputable publishers. When writers upload and submit via Creative Byline, they receive feedback from our first readers on whether and how well their manuscripts meet general editorial standards. Writers are on their own to revise, but one unanimous opinion among members we’ve surveyed is that our first readers’ approval increases writers’ credibility among editors.
When writers receive that approval for submission to an editor via Creative Byline, they also receive a list of editors appropriate to their manuscripts. (A master list of editors at our publishing clients is also searchable.) While writers and/or editors frequently update us on the progress of a given ms, we only make the connection between the two parties—we don’t monitor communication.
The technology presently changing publishing makes our role as conveyer-not-advocate possible and creates an environment in which writers can find editors who want a particular kind of manuscript now. Whereas the mode of submission for many trade publishers remains hard copy, we also provide a way for writers to electronically submit mss, and editors to receive these submissions, without any of the time-waste or tedium associated with printing, mailing, storing, and lugging around manuscripts.
Since the needs of writers and editors continue to change, we asked our members how we can better serve them. Two new features sprang directly from these conversations and will debut this summer.
First, writers will be able to choose the feedback they receive from our first readers. Writers will have the option of, for example, submitting larger portions of their manuscripts to our first readers for feedback. Second, writers will be able to include samples of self-published and journalistic work (online and off) to provide the editors who see their work a more complete overview of their capabilities and experience. Since our service already helps writers gain visibility among editors, these additional work samples will flesh out a profile into something nearer a professional portfolio.
Creative Byline has for the past eighteen months been carving out its niche as a company that simplifies the submission process. Changing the way books are acquired and published is a natural part of this evolving market, and new tech and methods such as ours can and do focus communications between all parties with interests in publishing a manuscript.
Peter Jurmu will begin Emerson College’s MFA program in fall 2009. He has interned at Creative Byline since August 2008, when Brad MacLean saved him from turning the crank on a chain ferry in Saugatuck, Michigan. Follow Peter @lemnisk on Twitter.