Wednesday, July 07, 2010

How to Fail on the Internet Without Really Trying: AuthorForSale.com

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

An alert reader sent me this link: AuthorForSale.com.

Gosh, I thought. Are authors so desperate these days that they're selling their favors online? Could it be a patronage thing--authors in search of sugar daddies to finance their careers? Or perhaps you can buy an author to walk your dog or clean your house. Heaven knows they probably aren't cleaning their own, what with deadlines and all.

As you have no doubt guessed, AuthorForSale is none of those things. It's yet another brand new iteration of an old idea: the manuscript display website. These websites, which have been around in various forms since the late 1990's, promise to match writers with agents and publishers, enabling all parties to bypass the slush pile. AuthorForSale describes the process (somewhat opaquely) thus:

Simply put, the author of an unpublished proposal, creative idea or manuscript, creates a Showcase that is tightly profiled in line with a matrix guideline intended to package their offering in a manner likely to suit a prospective publisher's strategic requirements in discovering a business interest in the intellectual property for sale.
How does it work? I can't resist another quote:

Upon gaining subscribed, validated membership access to the site, both the Author & Publisher/Agent, will be able to view a Genre Matrix as detailed below, under which there are listed categories, subject-matter fields, or word length options etc intended to add refinement to tightly catalogue and code the author's work or creative intention, as will ultimately be featured in their unique Author's Showcase.

The Author's Showcase displays a generic, yet comprehensive Proposal Template that will identify either a proposed literary project, a work-in-progress being undertaken or indicate a completed manuscript formatted and edited to go. And since both parties will be following the same cataloguing route path in refining their search or profiling interests, they'll eventually meet at the most tightly aligned junction: an author's talent and intellectual property showcased on display in a precise format.
What this boils down to is that member authors create a profile of their work, including such basic descriptive categories as genre, target audience, and word count. Publishers and agents can search the resulting database, narrowing or widening their search according to their needs and interests. If they're interested in a property, they can contact the author directly.

As I mentioned above, manuscript display websites have been around since the last century. The early ones were similar to AuthorForSale: categorized, searchable databases of literary properties. The more recent ones add more features: a ranking system, a social media component, peer critiques. But have they ever provided authors with a true alternative route to publication? No. There have been some isolated success stories, but for the most part, display sites merely shift the location of the slush pile, and agents and editors haven't yet manifested a preference for display sites over their own overflowing inboxes.

So AuthorForSale, which bills itself as "The original web-based showcase for authors where publishers find the next Best Seller," offers a service that's neither very original, nor very serviceable. These reasons alone would probably ensure its eventual demise. In its current form, however, it won't need to look to outside factors. Most display websites/online slush piles are free, or keep fees under $100. If there are fees, they're charged to writers, not to the publishing professionals who participate. AuthorForSale dares to be different. For a year's membership, authors must hand over US$225 (act fast, and you'll  get a 25% discount). Publishers and agents must pay...wait for it...US$5,600.

Um, yeah. Good luck with that. Authors, unfortunately, can easily be persuaded to part with their money, but somehow I don't think that publishers and agents will be lining up to pay thousands of dollars for access to what they're already drowning in for free.

AuthorForSale is the brainchild of Australian author and businessman Allen H. Munro, whose publishing credits include publishing service Trafford and fee-charging publisher Morgan James. I see nothing to suggest that AuthorForSale is ill-intentioned--but it is woefully ill-conceived.

22 comments:

Julie Weathers said...

It's hard to guess intentions, but surely he can't be so stupid as to believe agents and publishers are going to pay thousands of dollars for his "service."

I would hope people realize how foolish this is, but I'm willing to be he will make money. There are just too many people who want the golden Wonka Bar and don't want to work for it.

Thank you for posting this.

Life's Beautiful Path said...

One can inform writers at workshops and conferences not to be involved in all these scams, but they will go in harms way almost every time. Another thing bloggers except anyone as their friend that will make their blog appear important. Check them out first. Porno sites can be one that love to comment on your blogs. Be careful.

GalaktioNova said...

Totally out of touch with reality. How weird.

Love your title! Thank you!

catdownunder said...

You just have to love the language they use. It could hardly be bettered by a politician trying not to answer a question!

Marian Perera said...

I like this part, from the page for publishers:

Finally, the beauty is there are no SSAE or manuscripts to manually reply to.

Yes, when I go to a bookstore looking for something to read, the last thing I want to do is look through books. Give me a three-hundred-character description of each author's background instead.

This aspect alone will save the industry millions in searching for literary talent.

I should think so, because if they're not choosing manuscripts, they're probably not looking for literary talent anyway.

Ulysses said...

It's always refreshing to see something that is unintentionally foolish instead of willfully malicious.

Abigail said...

I would like to say that I love scams, only because they're like trolls. :p People fall for them, feeding them and they won't go away. The best way to make them go away is to ignore them and not give them the attention (or money, in this case) that they want. Plus they love to add insult to injury.

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Darn. I was hoping to buy an author of my very own. Sigh...

:)

Rachelle said...

I have an idea for this guy. I'll sell him ALL the queries in my box for a mere $5600. Then he'll have lots of material for his website!

Teresa said...

I don't understand why everyone tries to recreate the wheel? It boggles me. There is no shortcut - write the story - query, query again, and again.
Acceptance has not changed.
I hope authors do not fall for this. It's hard work. Stop being lazy.

Robb said...

$225, or I can email dozens or hundreds for free? Hmmm. Let me think on that for a bit.

Are you familiar with Agent Inbox on Webook? If so, any comments on how serviceable it is?

Fawn Neun said...

None of this stuff works. Who has time to sift through all this nonsense? I run a tiny little free online lit journal, and even I'm too busy for that.
The "If you post it, they will come" scams never work.

Anonymous said...

This is plain stupid. Yes, it would probably be a good idea to do away with SASEs and paper altogether, but I'm not willing to pay for this "service" when I can do all of it for free myself.

Especially when I know no agent would be stupid enough to pay to read my stuff on AuthorForSale.

Michael Joshua said...

I hate to say this out loud, but it is nice to see someone thinks authors aren't the only idiots in the business. HAHAHA

Colin said...

So many fail to abide by rule #1.
"Never pay to play."

Shawn James said...

$225 to display a manuscript? Queries are free and self-publishing is about that price these days if you DIY. Heck, you can display your manuscript on a blog for free chapter by chapter if that floats your boat. Why pay some guy to do what you can do for yourself?

This guy would have made money ten years ago, but only a true novice would pay that kind of money for a manuscript display service that publishers and agents are know to avoid like the plague.

Mac said...

You are missing his other businesses running from his same PO Box :

* Carpet Cleaning
* Allergy Relief Services.

I'm going to admit that I kinda admire his entrepreneurship. Sure - the business plan is inane and can only end in tears for any author silly enough to sign up ... but he's out their throwing business plans against the wall until something sticks.

One day he'll hit on a winner !

Mac

Evidence of his other businesses:
* www.southcity.chemdry.com.au/english_contact_form.php

* www.dlook.com.au/business/89125/Allergy-Relief-Services

Anonymous said...

I can see where this is going. After a couple of months he'll try to tempt publishers with "WAS $5600, NOW 25 BUCKS". I notice that people are rushing to call it a scam. It's not a scam. He's offering a service in return for an amount that people are fully aware of before they pay. But it is a bad idea. The business community is full of bad ideas. But they're not scams.

error7zero said...

Wait a minute ...
If we can convince the Federal government to get into publishing, they'd pony up that $5600 fee.
Might even get a discount on mail delivery.

Victoria Strauss said...

Robb said,

Are you familiar with Agent Inbox on Webook? If so, any comments on how serviceable it is?

I did a blog post about Agent Inbox a while back--you should be able to find it if you search. Just to be clear, it's a submission service rather than a display site.

Agent Inbox seems like a well-run service, and the agents who've signed up to use it are very reputable--it's clear that the Webook people are careful about screening.

However, it's been running for about eight months now, and as yet there seems to be just one success story, so it doesn't look to me (so far) as if its success rate is any better than the display sites. Also, it charges a fee to authors. The fee isn't huge--but given that all these agents accept queries the ordinary way--i.e., for free--it's kinda sorta a bit like a reading fee.

The one agent I know who used it told me that the queries were better quality than her regular slush, simply because Agent Inbox forces writers to adhere to agents' guidelines.

Michael LaRocca said...

I'm for sale. Let the bidding begin.

Tara Springer said...

Wow. I certainly wouldn't pay that much!