Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Money for Reviews

Dear Rejecter,

Having recently completed my YA novel and believing it to be original, inventive, yadda yadda, I'll be sending my query letters out to potential agents soon. My question to you is: We Book's Page to Fame, good idea or not?

https://www.webook.com/poll/raters.aspx

The premise: for $9.95 a writer puts up the first page of their novel. It's then anonymously rated by other writers participating in the program. If the page is rated highly enough, it passes to the next level where the next few pages are put up and rated, and so on. At each level, the novel page or pages will be rated by at least one literary agent, and, if the novel "wins," the writer will receive exposure, potential offers of representation and whatever other good things may follow.

Good idea or not?

In general, I am against authors spending money. Aside from that whole "money flows to the author" principle, we live in an age where pretty much everything that a potential author could possibly want is online and free. Sure, if you want to develop your craft, it might not be a bad idea to take a course or buy a book on craft that's well-reviewed, and a grammar book wouldn't hurt, but really, save your money. Even if you get published, the money won't be rolling in anyway. $9.95 will probably cover all of the stamps for your queries and SASEs and partials if the agencies don't accept email queries, but especially when you send a requested manuscript.

As to the program itself, I've never heard of it, so that may say something about the exposure you'll be getting. Agents don't regularly kill time on the web looking at the work of unpublished authors. As for feedback, is it from other unpublished authors? How good is that, anyway?

If anyone knows more about the program, post it in the comments.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a published author. (It's the internets, Rejecter, so anybody can play.) I visited the site, and rated 3 openings, the maximum I was allowed to rate without joining. I gave the bottom rating to all three. None were publishable. Taking out half of the words would have vastly improved them all IMHO. But, here's the thing: there was no way for me to say that. Therefore the writers learned nothing from me.

My ratings, by the way, were lower than the average rating given to each manuscript, the site told me. This sort of information is useless. Writing cannot be reduced to a numeric quantity.

I had no idea writers *paid* to have their stuff on the site. What a rip. Join a good critique group instead.

As for the literary agent rating you at each level-- oy. In the first place, anybody can say they're an agent. In the second place, since everybody's vote seems to be given the same weight, and there's no way to explain the numeric rating you've given, how will you know an agent has rated you and what good will it do you?

I wouldn't be surprised if people get to the next level by having their friends rate up their story, rendering the system even more useless.

The Rejecter said...

Thanks for the info, Anon 4:58.

Doug Pardee said...

Ray Rhamey's site, Flogging the Quill, provides an opportunity to get a quick and free review of your first page from Ray, along with polls and comments from other readers.

It is only the first page, although Ray does read all of Chapter 1 and occasionally provides some rough feedback on that.

Hey, it's $9.95 cheaper than WeBook, and you get more detailed feedback, even if it's just page 1.

A note, though: there is a strong (and fairly explicit) leaning toward strong openings with action and interesting story questions. Literary openings that meander around with beautiful word-pictures or deep introspective musings aren't going to score well there.

Also, I don't pull my punches in the comments I leave there, and some of the other readers don't, either. You can expect to hear what some people really think of your first page, and why, but for most first pages their thoughts tend to be negative.

Brigid Kemmerer said...

I belonged to WeBook for a short while, back before I had an agent. It's no worse than posting work on Absolute Write or the dozen other websites out there for writers to get feedback.

This "first page" feature wasn't available then, but I've dropped by a few times to rate a couple first pages here and there. I probably would have done it. It's cheap enough that it feels harmless, but at the same time, I do agree with your point that people could spend that money on a good writing book. From what I can tell, that's the only money you're ever asked to spend.

I think writers are desperate to get a leg up any way they can, and this is just another business model set up to capitalize on that.

Maria said...

Slightly related topic. On a forum someone recently posted asking for book recommendations from independent authors (self-published). Being a site with a lot of us readers and writers, I posted my very favorites. They were all GEMS--really excellent books.

Turns out, the poster was from a site that did reviews -- for a hefty fee. All the great authors I recommended (as well as every other author recommended by other readers) got an email (solicitation) to submit for a review.

The letter was 'glowing' and mentioned how the book had been highly recommended and then invited the author to check out the terms.

Holy Batman. Now paid reviewers can't even sort through the available "slush." They want the cream recommended to them so they can go make money off the authors...

Hmph.

Jess Anastasi said...

I joined webook when it first appeared on the web a few years ago, but it didn't cost anything back then! It was meant to be like American Idol, except for writers. I didn't really believe all the hype and didn't like the fine print in the terms and conditions - from memory anything you post on there belongs to webook forever and ever and ever, so if you put something up there and then manage to get a publishing contract later on, there might be some rights issues. I wonder how many aspiring authors on there bothered reading that bit and don't realize they've in effect, given away their work.
I spent four years studying a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing, so though I'm not published yet, I know a thing or two about what I'm doing. I read a few posted pages and it left me feeling like this site was just pumping up the hopes and dreams of people who either aren't good enough to get published or are too inexperienced to yet know how the industry works. Though I've heard stories here and there about authors being 'found' by agents on webook, I'd take them with a grain of salt.
And I'm with you, rejecter, I certainly wouldn't be paying out any money unless it was with a credited critique service who had ties to an orginization like RWA.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering my question. I spent a little time on the site reading some excerpts other writers had submitted and kind of came to the same conclusion myself. I'm really not sure I want someone rating my work when their own writing is pretty subpar.

Anonymous said...

Do not spend this money. Go to Absolute Write (free), register (free), and check out the show-your-work forum. Post some of your work (free). People will critique your work (for free).

Writers, published and not, and real editors and agents belong to this website and give real advice.

Anonymous said...

I have actually participated in Page to Fame, although I signed up when the price was much lower. It in no way replaces a critique group, but it does give you an idea of where your work stands against the other stuff that is out there. I used it as a gauge as to whether or not I was actually ready to start the query process. After the first round of judging, my piece was one of the top ten in ratings. That was the confidence I needed to start seeking representation. While I haven't received an offer as of yet, I've had more interest and positive feedback than I was expecting with my first novel.

Another thing I like about Page to Fame is that it gives you a small glimpse into the slush pile. After rating about 10 of those, my eyes start glazing over. I don't think I could pick out something worth my time after reading page after page of crap all day long. I have a greater appreciation for what lit agencies have to go through on a daily basis!

And, to clear a few things up, I'm not sure if you can link to a specific piece or not. It's supposed to put them up at random, so it's not really possible to pad the vote. Also, when the agent critiques your work, you get a message letting you know what the agent's rating is and, in some cases, a line or two of feedback. Of course, they keep the identity of the agents secret, so I would recommend not taking that part too seriously.

fivecats said...

why not go over to Nathan Bransford's Forums site (http://forums.nathanbransford.com) and go to All Things Feedback >> Excerpts and try it for free?

Anonymous said...

Think about it. If the feedback comes from other unpublished authors in the program, it's basically just a popularity contest. If you can drag in enough of an audience to vote for you, you don't actually need the program. Save your money for the query postage.

Georgia McBride said...

Unpubished writers read and buy books--lots of them. Therefore I would not discount their opinion when it comes to what works or does not. Many belong to crit groups and can add tremendous value to the work of other unpublised writers and published writers alike. To state or believe otherwise is quite misguided.

Anonymous said...

Great advice.

Tifa Lockhart said...

I think the writers are desperate to get a leg up the way they can.

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