Social networking site Gather.com has just announced an American Idol-like competition for authors, according to the New York Times. In this competition, called First Chapters, Gather community members get to choose a winning manuscript from those submitted by their peers. First you read the first chapter, select your favorite; then the second week you read the second chapter from the top 20 picks; and so on. The winning author will receive a publishing contract from Touchstone/Simon & Schuster and a $5,000 prize from Gather.com.
Apparently this is one of the book publishing industry’s attempts to take advantage of social networking and mass taste a la YouTube and American Idol. I wish the best of luck to the aspiring authors who enter this competition, but my heart goes out to everyone who’s gotta then wade through the virtual slush pile. In my first job after college, I was an editorial assistant at Ballantine Books; my boss specialized in mystery fiction. Every month I rejected hundreds of manuscripts from writers who thought they could write a good book — and I mean hundreds. Out of the mass of schlock I endured for two years, only one (one!) managed to get into print. It’s a lot harder to write a good book than it seems.
Nonetheless, if you win the competition and you’re a lesbian and/or you write a lesbian novel, let me know, because I wanna interview you!