Monday, August 16, 2010

BOWKER'S MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSIONS SERVICE: Heroes or Vultures?


As I took my morning walk on Saturday I was stunned to see a "For Sale" sign on one of my neighbor's homes. This is a beautiful property with a swimming pool, bikes in the driveway, a waterfall and a pergola covered with trumpet vines. A big, happy-looking family has lived there since it was erected 10 years ago and I was surprised to see it up for sale. As I looked at the sign, my gaze ventured up to the roof. There, perched on the perfect rooftop, was not one, but two TURKEY VULTURES! In all my years in this neighborhood, I've never seen these morbid (but necessary) birds anywhere but in the sky or chomping on something dead and stinky by the roadside or in a field. Why did they pick that particular day to roost on that newly listed house?
Talk about a bad omen! I hope these birds don't take up residence there. It would be very bad karma for the open house tour.

The vultures remind me of the publishing news I read last week. It seems that the bibliographic company Bowker, in a thinly-veiled effort to pump up their coffers, now offers authors the ability to submit their manuscripts to publishers through the new Bowker Manuscript Submissions feature. According to Bowker's August 11 press release:

"BowkerManuscriptSubmissions.com (BMS) is an Internet-based service that enables authors to be seen by publishers and ensures publishers don't miss the next bestseller. BMS brings authors, publishers and agents together in an efficient online system, where authors present their book proposal to the leading publishers in the industry from one central location and acquisition editors apply e-tools that allow them to sort through them and zero in on the ideas they find most interesting."
Hmmm. I kind of chuckled when I read this. The idea is that agents, after they are done wading through hundreds of queries and tons of partials and manuscripts, will log on to Bowker's website and start the process all over again? Wow! That sounds like a great idea! Not.

And, if I'm interpreting this correctly, editors from leading publishing houses will do the same thing! Why should editors depend on agents to sieve through the slush-pile when the editors now have the ability to do it themselves by logging onto Bowker's "proven model?" I'm sure they will be thrilled to spend their evenings searching for the "next bestseller" on Bowker's "simple, intuitive website." (Oh, I forgot to mention that authors pay $99 for the service.)

I apologize for my sarcasm, but this just seems like a bone-headed idea to me. Am I wrong? Is Bowker really providing an innovative service to frustrated authors, publishers and agents, or are they simply like the vultures on the rooftop, sensing the desperation among these groups and cashing in on this desperation while they can? What do you think? Will you post your work on Bowker's site?


8 comments:

shonagonchan said...

This sounds suspiciously close to self-publishing, except without the "publishing" part.

Uhh yeah, let me go round up that $99 instead of getting gas and groceries this week, and throw it at absolutely nothing.

In short: Disagree! But I do think it's funny that they're called BMS. Hehe, 'cause I'm twelve. ;)

Pembroke Sinclair said...

Personally, I believe that they are trying to cash in on authors' frustrations and naivete. Like you said, what agents/publishers are going to wade through that after reading their own slush piles? Perhaps some small, independent publishers, but authors can generally contact them directly. No, I would never upload my manuscript to that site. I'd be too paraniod that they would steal it!

randine said...

Seems like a vulture to me. I would be very leery of posting anything to anyone who charges an up front fee like that.

Anonymous said...

Bad, or rather, inhumane, ideas can take hold. Bowker's "service" will make them money from writers, sure, $99 per manuscript, but only if publishers use the service. And they might. With keyword searchs, poorly paid interns could sift through submissions looking for "cook book soft porn cup cakes" or "YA vampires space travel" and save time and money. Less need for editors--money savings--less need for agents--inexperienced writers won't negotiate lucrative contracts.

Anonymous said...

Well, as a new author, I certainly won't be spending any money on this. It sounds (as others have mentioned) like self-publishing and could leave you very exposed. I will trust that my book is good enough in its own right to attract an agent and get published thank you very much Bowker's! Saffy. x

Glynis said...

Throughout my learning process of the world of writing, the one thing I do know is I do not do the paying up front. I will not throw my cash in their hat, they will have to lose out on the chance of representing me. ;0

gwilenius said...

I'm new to all this, but after researching "the process" of getting published through an agent, what you say makes complete sense. At $99 it sounds like a scam - perhaps agents so new, unknown, or desperately vulturous themselves may be gathering victims from that site. There are good free sites out there for getting peer reviews of your manuscript - personally I am a fan of www.authonomy.com!

Julie said...

I agree that this sounds like a way for this company to make money. However, as an unpublished author, I find it frustrating that a very small group of literary agents gets to decide which books are shown to publishers. I’ve been sending queries out for at least 12 years. Over that time, I’ve been struck by what a small pool of agents we have and how many of them are based out one city. I can’t count the number of times that an agent has told me that he or she likes my work but doesn’t know how to market me. I understand why they don’t want to waste time on a writer who may not sell, but I wonder why we all assume that this small group of agents has their finger on the pulse of American readers more than anyone else. It reminds me of how GMC and Chrysler keep building gas guzzlers because they think Americans want big cars. (I don’t want a big car. I want a fuel efficient car and I don’t think I’m alone, but I don’t own a car company). I think that self-publishing to Kindle and other sites will democratize the publishing world and I’ll be interested to see if it alters the kind of books that become popular in the future.