August 31, 2012
Self-published authors have rallied around the term “indie publishing,” some calling the traditional publishing industry elitist, outdated, and irrelevant. Meanwhile, the “elites” have packed a few punches; novelist Sue Grafton said recently, “I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall. Don’t get me started.” (She later backpedaled.)
Nayia Moysidis, an aspiring writer who graduated from Columbia, saw problems with both sides. “Only .03 percent of manuscripts submitted to publishers are published, and the average self-published book sells under 20 copies,” she says, citing her own research. Moysidis wrote a novel about the Ivy League experience during college, sent almost 100 personalized query letters to agents, and was rewarded with four form rejection letters – she was part of the 99.97 percent.
Determined to save her literary brethren from a life of rejections, Moysidis created Writer’s Bloq, a community of around a thousand writers, readers, and editors. Writers can post their work, readers can discover it, and editors can eradicate their pesky dangling modifiers and un-parallel structure. Then, the best writing (according to the community) gets published by the Collective Presse, the Writer’s Bloq publishing house. (Royalties are still being discussed.)
This model preserves what Moysidis sees as the benefits of traditional publishing: an organization to help with marketing, cover art, and editing, and a brand name that can attract readers.
“We believe in the quality of the skill set of the publishing industry,” says Moysidis. “Conventional publishers are coming in with a lot of value, and I think people forget that.”
When she interned at Simon & Schuster – where she was horrified and embarrassed to discover her manuscript in the “slush pile” – she saw firsthand the skills and knowledge that publishing houses bring to the table.
But Writer’s Bloq also tries to retain the best of the indie model: writers own the rights to their work, and they’re actively involved in creating a reader community. Anyone can join, and the road to an acceptance letter (or, more likely, email) takes less than the months that Moysidis spent waiting by her Columbia mailbox.
Writer’s Bloq is raising money on Kickstarter to host “Bloqparties” on the East Coast: modern-day writers’ salons. Like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris, Moysidis is nostalgic for the times when writers would gather, discuss ideas, and critique each other’s work.
The challenges for Writer’s Bloq will be to attract readers to the site (they’re currently a minority), and avoid becoming one of the slow-moving, elitist establishments they’re trying to improve on. Hopefully their creative community will hold them accountable.
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