Writers' society

<p>Following <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/52051-model-behaviour.html">Laurence Orbach's Blog</a> about re-defining business models, it seems it is time to look at the elements at the core of publishing; writers and their lost mentors. <br />
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It feels like a very American concept, but mentors have always played an important part in the life of an author; providing them with an experienced eye and impartial feedback. With the publishing industry making great leaps in the way it conducts its business, writers have been dramatically losing their mentors to tightened schedules and increased productivity.<br />
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Gentlemen's publishing is now the stuff of legend; priceless first editions crammed full of dedications to long-gone editors, and the relationship of those such as DH Lawrence and Edward Garnett, become deeply anachronistic in the landscape of modern publishing. <br />
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It was natural for writers to then turn to their agents, and literary agents filled the gap for a while, but have since been forced to retreat.&nbsp; Occasionally writers can hear the odd whisper from behind the ramparts of unsolicited manuscript . . . but the agent's nervousness is understandable; the great unpublished are pressed against the portcullis and not one of them carries any guarantees.<br />
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Agent <a href="http://www.rupertheath.com">Rupert Heath</a> feels, 'Agents can be good mentors from the point of view of preparing an author's work for publication,' but, he adds, 'an author has to be doing something which has strong publishable potential from the outset'. From Rupert's side of the wall, it simply isn't practical to mentor writers who don't immediately demonstrate their commercial abilities.<br />
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So where in this new world order do writers find someone who has time to help them? To advise them on exactly which darlings to murder, or jolly them along when plots tangle and characters revolt? It seems the answers lie within; writers are uniting in their need for mentorship, and are turning to each other for that vital support.<br />
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Thanks to internet-based writers' review sites, writers of all abilities and genres are able to share work and opinions; from sorting stilted dialogue, to warning each other off the agents with the longest rejection times.<br />
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<a href="http://www.youwriteon.com">Ted Smith</a> from popular writers' site You Write On, rules his world like a benevolent despot. The site works by writers reviewing and rating their contemporaries' work, then being reviewed and rated in return. Six leading literary agencies are involved and offer professional critiques to those lucky few that make the Top Ten. <br />
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Ted believes, 'The peer review and professional critique system&nbsp;helps to mentor talented writers, while also bringing them to the attention of the publishing industry'. And it works. Aspiring novelist, <a href="http://www.lexirevellian.com">Lexi Reveillan</a>, is hugely supportive of Ted's work, and thinks the success of the site rides on the dizzying learning curve of reviewing others, 'This is not just a chore to earn a credit.&nbsp; Analysing another's writing, sussing out what works and what doesn't, and why, is an education in itself'. <br />
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One of the biggest success stories to emerge from such a cosset of contemporaries is <a href="http://www.africareich.com">Guy Saville</a>, winner of YouWriteOn's Book of The Year. He later went on to win an Escalator Literature Award which brought him official mentorship with Richard &amp; Judy author Katharine McMahon. Although Guy was already with literary agents Curtis Brown, he found the addition of a mentoring relationship hugely productive. 'At some point your mentor has also been unpublished, so they understand your position better than an agent or editor can. The relationship has less to do with editing or networking than drawing on another writer's experience to help shape your own work.'<br />
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So how does this new style of mentoring fit the business models? Very well, it seems, as something similar has already been adopted by one of our major publishers, <a href="http://blog.authonomy.com/2008/02/how-i-write-conn-iggulden.html">Harper Collins</a>. Literary review sites can help in the selection of new writers; acting as electronic slush-piles, but it is their potential for mentorship which is really exciting, with practically no economic impact on the rest of the industry. At the core of our new business model we can find writers, mentored by writers. </p>