Eleven, almost twelve, years have passed since I first sent a manuscript to a publisher. I was twenty-one years old and about to start my Honours year at university. Lovingly, I printed off the first three chapters of my manuscript, bundled them together and caught a bus to the post office, where I sent my manuscript, along with an envelope and return postage. It was mailed to Penguin Books in Victoria. Eight weeks later, Penguin returned the manuscript to me, along with a rejection slip and a lovely, short note telling me that they hoped that this decision would not deter me from continuing to write, as the editor who saw my work thought that I showed real promise.
From there, I had three choices. Submit elsewhere, wait until I had written something else and submit that instead, or pay a good couple of thousand dollars to a vanity press.
Publishing, or at least the submission of manuscripts, was always a bit slow with the digital age. It was not until a few years ago that the major Australian publishing houses would accept manuscripts that were submitted online instead of in hard copy. Soon after, Allen & Unwin began the Friday Pitch, an initiative where anyone could submit a manuscript, so long as they did so only on a Friday and followed the submission guidelines. A number of other major publishers followed suit, tailoring the initiative to suit their own business model. (Macmillan for example has Manuscript Monday, while HarperCollins has the Wednesday Post.) And it is a great idea. It is inexpensive and it means that everybody has the opportunity to submit their work to the publisher. It does not, of course, guarantee that everyone (or even anyone) using this submissions process will be published.
And then authonomy came along. Run by HarperCollins in the UK, authonomy works on the principal that anyone can upload their manuscript to the site. The books that get a certain number of votes within a certain time frame will be read and considered from publication. More recently, in the United States, Macmillan established Swoon Reads, a YA romance imprint. YA romance authors are encouraged to upload their manuscript to the site. The manuscripts with the highest reads and rating will be considered for publication. It is an interesting business model, though ultimately there is always going to be that risk that the best manuscript on the site may not be the one that is the most popular.
Meanwhile, fan fiction and self published novels are starting to find home with major publishers. I'm sure everybody is already aware that Fifty Shades of Grey started out as a Twilight fan fiction, as did the arguably more intelligent Gabriel's Inferno. And let's not forget After by Anna Todd which started out as an odd One Direction fan fiction published on Wattpad. Meanwhile, authors such as Sylvia Day have gone from being little known self-published authors to having multiple best selling novels.
Much has changed in a relatively short space of time, thanks mostly to the rise of the internet. This makes me wonder what the publishing industry will look like in eleven years from today.