Display Sites – The Future Ahead?

There seems to be a developing hoopla in the past month about what are broadly defined as ‘Display Sites’ for self-published and unpublished authors. There is nothing new about these sites in regards to the basic premise of a specific on line place where writers can load up their work and display it to be read by others. Whether that site is an author’s own webpage, blogsite, social networking site or self-publisher’s ‘bookstore’ window – the same benefits, motivations and reasoning (broadly speaking) can be applied to them all. The author wants recognition, feedback, increased sales if the book is printed and available, and the chance to become more successful and significantly ‘independent’ of what the author sees as the ‘forces’ limiting them.
Phew, that took a while to pull together without feeling I was disenfranchising someone or missing the point of ‘Display Sites’. It remains a broad term and with the proliferation of such sites, borders on becoming a dysfunctional term. There are two sites recently which have come under particular scrunity, IndieReader and the recently launched Publetariat Vault. I am constantly asked on POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing to look closely at these sites/services and comment and review them. I have deliberately chosen not too – not because I do not feel they have something to offer—rather more because few of them are proven and have been round long enough to evaluate their benefit. When I review author solution services like Lulu, iUniverse, Blurb, Createspace, AuthorHouse, Mill City Press or however, I at least have a barometer, a tested template of experience of authors over the past twenty years to build an expectation and marker of standard performance of a service to guide me. This cannot be said of Display Sites because they remain at an infant stage, many still defining what they are, and more importantly, the use authors, readers and publishers of any kind can place upon them.
Rather than take examples of ‘Display Sites’ and fire critical analysis at them, it would be easier to define what a good ‘Display Site’ is and the elements which define it.

1. Free listing for an author’s work initially
2. Filtering of submitted work for basic editing and comprehensibility (done by site editors)
3. Implemented fee for work after filtering – nominal (say $10 per year, per work submitted)
4. Review and categorisation of work by general visitors/readers or site editor
5. Beta forum and rewrite/reload facility
6. Site editor recommendation and ‘top chart’ for site
7. Forwarding/review or ‘top chart’ for subscribed publishers
8. Contract & Advisory facility for acquired works
9. Acquired authors social network facilitated on site
10. Bookstore offering publisher discounts/promotions/exclusive bookclub editions

Now, let me explain how our ideal ‘display site’ works.

1. Self explanatory – no author pays to subscribe and load their work to the site initially
2. Basic typo/spelling/grammatical editing is done by a site editor. If a work does not come up to scratch it is rejected and deleted from the site for resubmission/load-up
3. A small annual fee is applied per work for authors passing the initial faze
4. The work is exposed to general readers/subscribers to the site. (subscription free)
5. Site readers critique and ‘work’ with suggestions on rewrites in the Beta forum
6. Site editors monitor the beta forum and select work for review and top of the pile
7. Selected works forwarded to subscribing publishers
8. Legal and contractual advice and support provided to authors
9. Site host official blog, tours, networks of published authors
10. Bookstore should be acquired author and driven with promotions, audio readings, interviews etc

If we study the model above – what we arrive at is more of an on line Literary Agency/Display Site. This is what I am driving at and where ‘Display Site’ evolution should aspire to. The benefits to literary agents and publishers alike are enormous. The potential is endless. Combine like-minded agencies or publishers together who share a general philosophy/tastes for books. We could eradicate paper submissions to publishers and agents and demonstrate more clearly the suitability of book submissions to authors, defined by the ‘Display Sites’ social network. Publishers would continue to acquire their own submissions through literary agents but ultimately have no unsolicited slush piles.

The publishing world would be a better place and more accessible without the submission burdens publishers now face.
For me, Authonomy offers the best example of this with their link up with HarperCollins, but this is change and power to the ten!
Your thoughts…

As an interesting tangent on this general issue, Zoe Winters has written about author sites and networking on her website:

“There are many sites out there, both regular social networking sites and sites meant for authors to promote themselves and their work. General sites would include Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. Author Specific sites would include: Author’s Den, Red Room, Nothing Binding, BookBuzzr. There are many more, but I can’t possibly list them all. In addition to that there is the marketing power of Amazon itself. Where you can have an author page and blog as well as participate in many forums on the site itself.”

You can read her full article here.



  1. April L. Hamilton said:

    Mick –
    $10 per year per book is not enough money to cover the costs of running such a site.

    Domain registration, software, maintenance (i.e., backups) and hosting alone can run into the hundreds of dollars per year, and then there’s the labor cost.

    Any type of author services site can only work if it’s adequately staffed to process registrations, serve the authors’ needs, answer inquiries, and address any technical issues in a reliable and timely manner. In order to get “reliable and timely” you must generally have a paid staff.

    Even if we assume for the moment that the people running the site are engaged in a profit-sharing arrangement instead of being paid an hourly wage, it’s simply not worth their time to do the necessary work if it’s not paying them at least the equivalent of minimum wage on an hourly basis. Passion for the cause can only keep them going for so long before they start feeling they really ought to be earning enough money to make rent and buy some groceries, too.

    Here in California, minimum wage is $8 per hour. If a given worker puts in just 20 hrs per week, that’s $160 you need to be able to give him—$8320 per year. If you’re only charging $10 per listing per year, and only have that one part-time worker, you don’t see one single penny of profit until your 833rd listing. And you’ve got to accumulate 832 more listings just to be earning $160 a week for yourself. That’s just $693 per month, which isn’t nearly enough to cover rent, never mind all of life’s other expenses.

    In the case of the Publetariat Vault, I and the others now running it are doing so on a purely volunteer basis, and must continue to do so until the first paid listings come in (October of this year or later).

    I’m an indie author, and part of the struggling middle class too, but I recognize that it’s simply not reasonable for authors or anyone else to expect to get everything they want or need for free or virtually for free. Aren’t service providers entitled to earn a living wage, too?

    It’s very easy to sit back and think this or that service provider is charging too much…until you start looking at all the expenses they must cover, and consider how much money *you* must bring in each month to pay your own bills.

  2. Mick Rooney said:


    You do make some excellent points regarding costing of running a ‘display site’ or author service on line, but much of the problem in getting these sites up and going is having a sizeable listing and charging authors much more than $10 – $30 is going to put them off when you can ‘publish’ through Createspace, Lulu, Blurb etc for next to nothing.

    There are many of these ‘display sites’ across the internet at the moment who don’t charge a fee for a listing. The trick for success for a site is to offer something different or more attractive than simply a listing. Its the same conumdrum with self published books in general. Having a random listing is one think, but you need to have the ability to connect with a ‘captured’ audience.

    In my example given in the article, I am looking at something more akin to a Literary Agency on line, where revenue is generated through ad sponsorship and percentage payments made from acquisitions made by publishing houses. My idea is to provide an improved channel for writers to connect and showcase their work to publishers of all kinds. It would be a replacement to the ‘unsolicited’ submissions merry-go-round, and not an additional channel for publishers.