This summer a man named Henry Reyenga pitched to me an idea about an original way of doing fiction acquisitions. He described an American Idol-style system in which "the people" got to vote and discuss and ultimately decide which book I published.
It was beyond radical, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Now, just four months later, I'm putting the idea into a state of play.
Marcher Lord Select is scheduled to run from November through January, with winners being announced on January 31.
There are two main arms of the experiment: the one that will result in the winner being published and the "premise contest" that will result in the winners receiving priority acquisitions reading by me.
The heart of Marcher Lord Select is the full manuscript contest. (But no, you won't have to read lots of full manuscripts to participate!)
The first phase of this portion of the contest will have you voting on the "front matter" of more than 30 novels: the premise, back cover copy/blurb, and 1-page synopsis. That phase will cut the number of entrants in half.
Subsequent rounds will have you reading the first 500 words of each book, the first 30 pages, and (in the last round of three finalists) the first 60 pages.
The winning entry will be published in the Spring 2010 list from Marcher Lord Press.
I really hope you catch the vision for this. How cool for you to be able to help dictate in a substantive way what book a publishing company produces next.
The other portion of Marcher Lord Select is what I'm calling the premise contest. You will vote to narrow a list of entrants from nearly 50 down to three. You'll vote first on just the book's 20-word premise, then on the back cover copy, then on the synopsis, and last (for the 10 finalists), the first 500 words. The three winners will win the prize of having me read their full manuscripts at my earliest opportunity.
A few participants have voiced the concern that this could end up being nothing more than a popularity contest, that the most outgoing author or the author with the most FaceBook friends will win, and someone with perhaps superior writing skills will not. To some, it feels like high school all over again!
I have taken some steps to minimize this, but the best way to make sure this doesn't happen is if I have a large voter base. Yes, one author might bring in 25 friends, but if my voter base is over 1,000 strong, it won't sway the vote.
So you see how much I need you to participate!
Please come on out to The Anomaly forums, where all the fun will take place. And if you'd like to read (and possibly forward or post) the press release, I've included it below.
Thank you, and let's see if this experiment might really work!