I received an email this morning from the newsletter of the YouWriteOn website advising that its closure – or at least temporary closure – will go ahead on 1st February. An effort was made at the end of last year to raise new funding for the site via a Kickstarter campaign, but it looks as though this was unsuccessful.
If you’ve never heard of YouWriteOn, it was a peer review project funded with the support of publishing houses Bloomsbury and Orion. In order to earn reviews of your own work, you reviewed the work of other contributors; chapters – sometimes entire novels – were then rated based upon these scores, and those that made it into the Top Ten won an assessment from an editor at Bloomsbury or Orion. (I was thrilled to win one myself a few years ago when I used the site to get feedback on the first chapters of the Hanged God; thankfully the editor was very complimentary.)
It was the carrot of this free assessment from an editor that probably persuaded most people to submit their work and undertake to look at other people’s; in a lot of cases the submissions needed a great deal of improvement. Losing the backing of the publishers – not to mention their funding – meant the demise of YouWriteOn was probably inevitable. At least in its current format. But it’s always sad for writers – old and new – to lose a tool for learning and improvement. Sadly the publishing houses don’t really need to invest in and foster new talent to maintain their position in the industry.
Still, don’t despair! If I’ve learned one truth over the years, it’s that publishers don’t like to take risks, but these days that needn’t bother us too much. Self-publishing is a lot of work – that absolutely DOESN’T stop once you’ve finished writing your magnum opus – but if you invest your time and energy into it, it will pay off. Yes, it’s sad that we’ve lost another option for peer review and feedback, but there are others available. And YouWriteOn is still hoping to return in some form in the future.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed.