Should Readers Pre-screen Books for Publishers?

In Discussion by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

using a computer

In today’s feature story about the discovery of Irish YA author Leigh Fallon through HarperCollins’ YA community site Inkpop, I wondered “are social media sites the new slush pile?” After all, visit any small publishers (let alone of the Big Six) and you’re likely to find somewhere on their site a notice telling you they no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts; ditto for agents. I suspect that publishers like the fact that books that come to them pre-approved via social media sites — whether focused on writing or reading — and have been vetted by the very same people likely to purchase a published copy of the book.

In the press release announcing the acquisition of The Carrier of the Mark, Susan Katz, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, said, “The opinions of our readers matter to us. Inkpop is HarperCollins Children’s Books’ first site (and not the last) to really put the users’ voice and ideas in the forefront.  Social media is incredibly empowering if used correctly, and HarperCollins recognizes this and is gearing up to make social media the cornerstone of all its digital endeavors.”

Would publishers — who are notoriously bad at audience research — benefit from more “reader focus groups” and having potential customers pre-screen books prior to acquisition? What are the upsides? The downsides?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.