Behind the Scenes: Part 2 of 3

For part 1 of this Behind The Scenes feature of with Edward Smith click here.

Have you had occasions when things have got heated in author critiques of others work? And if so how have you handled that?

Yes there has. Reader opinion, as with reader opinion for published books, will often be very diverse and we try to get that across to writers. The publishing world is much harsher in its practical consideration of writers potential than anything seen on YouWriteOn. Everyone has different tastes and preferences, and we try to underscore this message and emphasise that it is the collective opinion about their writing that writers should consider overall - rather than individual opinion - that is the most important when considering what works well and what needs developing in their stories.

Do you sit back and let the site police itself then? Or have you had to step in sometimes?

Usually members will have a more philosophical view of reviews that they may have initially been displeased with after letting the review and its points 'settle' over a few days. Either that or they will remove it via the ‘remove one review and rating every eight reviews' function.

It depends on individual circumstances, for example, if a review is really unconstructive then this goes against the ethos of the site and we may remove a review and rating and take this up with the reviewer. This will include forwarding our guide on constructive reviewing. On the other hand, it may be an issue with the writer not being used to viewing critical but constructive advice, which can be a learning curve for new writers. In these cases we may write to the writer and point out the best ways to consider constructive reviews.

Now this is the place where you put the top Questions about the site: Here's one to add to the list: Are there enough quality reviewers on the site that authors stats on average aren't affected by people who don’t really know what they are doing?

We've found the majority of feedback on is very constructive, as budding writers who review others usually appreciate what it is to want to receive helpful feedback. The collective feedback from readers negates the influence of any out-of-sync minority individual reviews, members can also remove one review and rating every eight reviews, and this all ensures the best stories rise to the top. I think the ‘proof of the pudding' is that the site's members and literary professionals alike have commented on the very high quality of stories reaching the top of the charts. Including our editor reviewers at Bloomsbury and Orion. Sara O'Keefe, from Orion, commented,

"On YouWriteOn, the standard of work is much higher than on the slush pile."

Looks like you have picked up some press on your Press Page. What would you say though to the criticism that writers of true talent would not need to enter a voting contest?

Though we do have a chart system and annual book awards, the site's less a competition and more a development site at its core. It's a place where writers of all levels can get feedback to help them develop their stories, and, for the highest rated, gain literary professional feedback and attention.

The majority of the UK's largest publishers have closed their slush piles for unsolicited submissions, and development systems like help fill the gap. We provide feedback to help writers develop that it is no longer really possible to get from an inundated publishing industry. The main reason the slush-piles were closed was because it was so hard to spot the gems amongst all the submissions. Agents and publishers like the chart 'filtering' system that highlights the best stories.

I believe feedback sites fill the gap to help all writers develop and also are a more effective way to help talented writers develop and come to the attention of leading publishing professionals like on

Next week I ask Edward about YouWriteOn's new venture with Legend Books and his thoughts on the publishing industry today.

If you want to join click here.

For part 3 of this interview click here.


Paul Burman said...

The decision not to accept unsolicited manuscripts has often placed aspiring writers in a Catch-22. Many Lit. Agents appear to gauge what a publisher wants by what they're already publishing, and yet if those same publishers are only looking at new writers presented by Lit. Agents, where's the sense of freshness and originality? On the other hand, it must be frustrating to wade through deep piles of poorly prepared or undeveloped manuscripts too, so I can see the difficulties from the publishers' perspective too. It seems then that really is bridging a gap in this respect, and all power to them.

Mike French said...

Well put Paul - The agents these days in effect process the publishers slush piles.

But that means a new writer has to fight through agents' slush piles which can be huge. As a lot of the slush is poor, with a bit of work and know-how/luck, you can stand out - mainly by not getting into the slush in the first place! But then even if the work is exceptional, if as you say, "Agents gauge what a publisher wants by what they're already publishing" then you still hit a wall.

There are some really good agents out there that can make original, mould breaking novels work in marketing terms, but my experience is that they are few.

Hence the gap.

YouWriteOn is a good step towards filling that gap.