Introducing Zooty and Flappers, "The Worlds [sic] First Pre-Publisher."
What's a pre-publisher, you may ask? On the writers' conference circuit, calling yourself "pre-published" is a delicate way of saying you have no writing credits just at the moment, but intend to get some, like, really soon. That's not what Zooty and Flappers means by the term, however. From its cryptically-titled Things from the Post page:
The term Pre-Publishing, as used by Zooty and Flappers, simply means; If you have a good book, we will Publish and test it in the real world before a Standard Publishers [sic] comments [sic] to taking it on.
Beta testing for your book, in other words. Here's how it works:
If you have a good manuscript, and are unable to get published, Zooty and Flappers will publish your work as an ebook and CD. Readers will be allowed to down-load your book free, and give it a report and rating. If the rating is good, your book will be removed from the free section, and offered for sale...When your book has sold the required number, it will be sent along with a reader and sales report to agents who are AAR members in good standing.
According to the Path to Publishing page (worth reading in its entirety, but don't be drinking any liquids while you do), the "required number" is 10,000 copies.
I don't think I need to go into detail about how absurd this is--not just to anticipate those kinds of sales figures for an ebook from an obscure epublisher (for most epublishers, an ebook is a bestseller if it hits 500 copies), but to imagine that a successful agent will be impressed. Basically, Zooty is yet another attempt to game the system--another illusory shortcut to publication, like manuscript display websites, which are supposed to help you skip the slush pile, and query blaster services, which are supposed to help you skip the research. Let readers pick what's worthy of publication. Let their opinions influence publishers. A brilliant new idea--amazing no one has thought of it before!
Oh wait. They have.
Take, for instance, Worthy of Publishing, a website that claims to "revolutionize the way writers may attract publishers and gain exposure." (Note that wonderful qualifying word, may.) Writers upload their work for readers to comment on; if ratings are high, "this could attract the interest of publishers through some of our unique relationships." The service is free for writers, but publishers must hand over a 3% royalty to the site if they acquire a manuscript from it. Ludicrously, Worthy of Publishing appears to expect that publishers will be willing to pay this amount over and above the writer's royalties.
Or Digital Creation, whose mission is "to democratize publishing" (where have I heard that before?) Providing writers with "an opportunity that has never existed before in the realm of fiction publishing" (the deja vu is really killing me now), Digital Creations allows them to submit their stories for readers' critiques, and makes publishing decisions based on that feedback. The more critiques a work has, the more attention it gets. "What publishing houses have always offered," Digital Creations explains on its message board, "is credibility through a vetting process between crap and quality. At PRoF we provide that vetting through peer review; the professional opinion of fellow authors."
Or how about Slush Pile Reader? According to this article from The Book Standard, writers will submit manuscripts for reader votes and comments, "and then the site will publish those books deemed worthy of publication by the masses." Wait a sec--how about Slush Pile Reader? Its website, which went into beta testing in August, is already gone.
The man behind Zooty and Flappers is Domenic Pappalardo, whose self-published books are currently the only ones on the site. Mr. Pappalardo doesn't like critics--check out his response to a post by Jean Lauzier on the Storycrafters blog. Mr. Pappalardo dubs Ms. Lauzier a Mazzikin. Does this post make me a Mazzikin too? I don't quite fit the definition, but maybe I can be an honorary member of the club.
It is perhaps cruel to make fun of the clueless. But it's also cruel to entangle aspiring writers in a web of ignorance.