Author Salon is a revolutionary social network site for writers who want to take a serious stab at preparing their monograph-length projects for publication in any genre. Credible people with strong ties to the New York publishing industry conceived the site and operate it. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to reveal who they are; you’ll have to trust me on this. All will be revealed eventually, but for now, given that the site is in Beta, the site’s innovator and lead investors have elected to keep their identities under wraps for good reasons.
What I can tell you about is my experience so far on the site. There are terrific writers here; many with MFAs, many without, most of them previously published in some form, and all of them are generous with their time. They have to be; the rigorous critique process requires an investment of several hours per week engaged in peer review. So far, I’ve invested around 20 hours in other people’s work and I’ve received a similar benefit. The interesting thing is that this process of looking long and hard at others’ work has forced me to think really hard about craft and I can’t help but believe this will help my own writing.
The way the process works is that members self-organize in groups of 5 to review each other’s work. Each writer takes the feedback and makes changes to her Author Salon profile accordingly, as well as to the first 50 pages of her novel or narrative non-fiction. When the writer is confident that the work can withstand the highest scrutiny-–an agent or editor—she calls for a vote. If the peers agree that the work is ready, she then petitions Author Salon staff to review it. If AS staff agree it’s the best it can be, the writer graduates to ‘marquee status’ and their profile is made available to agents and editors. If the work isn’t ready, the writer takes additional feedback and keeps developing the material.
The primary attribute required to be successful on the site is a desire to get better at what you do, no matter who you are and where your skills sit on the continuum of experience and ability. The second attribute is an open mind and a thick skin. You’ll receive critique with greater depth than the typical MFA workshop. Also, it may take a while to build a peer group that connects with you and your work.
What are the benefits to writers?
- Exposure – yes, this may be scary to some, but no one gets published if the work and the writer’s identity never leave the house.
- Build a peer community all around the world and network with professionals who care about quality work.
- Save time and money mailing out query letters and manuscripts.
- Improve and polish work for a lot less money than MFA tuition.
- Build a professional profile as a writer.
- Practice critical review skills.
- Learn about your genre and the industry.
- Develop self-editing skills.
- Bounce ideas off of people who don’t have a stake in keeping you happy so that you’ll be in the right mood when the lights go out.
- Keep up to date on the publishing industry with news and links to valuable writing sites.
These are early days and I’ll report back as I go through the process. Like anything in this world, you have to give to get. If you’re willing to invest in the AS process and have the patience to reap the rewards, then I recommend giving it a try.