Snowcasing new talent

<p>What else can you call showcasing snippets of new fiction on the Snowbooks blog except '<a href="http://www.snowbooks.com/weblog/2007/08/snowcase.html#more">snowcasing'</a>? It's one of our little publishing experiments.</p>
<p>If you know nothing about the book industry you might think that publishing a book and printing it are pretty much the same thing. The author writes the manuscript and then the publisher turns it into a proper book. Of course we in the publishing trade know there's much more to it than that. But just to be sure, let's make a quick list of what publishers do: we review submissions and choose what to publish, we knock the manuscript into shape, we handle layout and design for the finished article, we print it and distribute it to retailers who we've persuaded to stock it, we market it, we do general admin for the book, and we act as investors and risk-takers by putting money into a title long before any revenues ever arrive.</p>
<p>Most of that list, though, is optional. Many publishers don't do their own copy-editing, cover design or typesetting. They don't own printing presses or warehouses or trucks. But the one job we never outsource is choosing what to publish. So while we may not personally write, design, print, distribute or retail a title, we do give it its all-important seal of approval. We deem it suitable for sale to the general public. Or at least suitable for submission to retailers who might, if we're lucky, put it on sale. It's not much of a raison d'&ecirc;tre when you think about it and it looks even worse when you consider how good we, as an industry, are when it comes to customer feedback. We count units sold, not satisfied customers, and we put very little effort into discovering what disappoints or frustrates our readers. Maybe that's because we're the ones who decide what gets published, not them.</p>
<p>But that might all change. It gets easier and cheaper every year to self-publish. And if a day ever comes when most people go online and rate the books they read &ndash; and some fraction of us include a few self-published works &ndash; then readers themselves could choose which books were worthy of more attention. Whether that process would ever displace the discerning eye of the master publisher I have no idea, but it could certainly give lazy commissioning editors a run for their money.</p>
<p>The practicalities of that future are difficult to fathom at this point. Snowbooks certainly aren't in a position to launch a full-scale member-reviewed forum for unpublished fiction just at the moment, but we have space on our blog &ndash; as well as readers and contributors &ndash; so we thought we'd try 'Snowcasing' some new talent. Hosting snippets of fiction for our visitors to read and comment on is one tiny way to explore the future and to muddy the boundary between self-publishing and the traditional approach. The puzzle, though, will come if someone signs up a great new author because of it. Will that prove we still have a place in the world of fiction or that pretty soon maybe we won't?</p>