Can publishers ride the wisdom of the crowds to the bestseller lists? One YA imprint is trying.
The New York Times profiles Swoon Reads, a teen-romance experiment by Macmillan. Anybody can submit a manuscript to the imprint's website, and then 10,000 members can review and rate it. ("This is like 'X Factor' or 'American Idol' meets publishing," one exec insisted.) The really promising stuff gets acquired—six novels so far, each with a $15,000 advance. Among them: A Little Something Different, about a pair of college students, which has an initial print run of 100,000 copies. That's a lot!
Finding shit that's actually going to sell is, of course, the eternal struggle of the publishing business. Traditionally, editors have relied on some combo of comp titles and gut instinct. But technology has shaken things up. Fifty Shades of Grey and After are partly examples of the Internet operating as the ultimate slush-pile reader, and partly word-of-mouth success stories. These distributed platforms allow publishers to farm out the work of finding the gems, and then the hype gals are built right into the process.