I’ve just discovered another website for writers, The Next Big Writer. At first glance, the site seems a lot like WeBook. It’s another online community where members can post any type of writing to get feedback from other writers and readers. It holds frequent contests for (smallish) cash prizes and publication. It boasts that many of its writers have gone on to achieve book contracts, mostly with small presses.
I’m not sure exactly what I think of The Next Big Writer. It charges a fee of about $8 a month for the right to use the private site, claiming that because the site is private, you won’t give away “first rights” to your work as publishers consider you to have done if you publish your work publicly on the Internet (I’d like to do more research to see if publishers really do view self-published Internet work this way). It also works on a credit system. In order to post work, you need credits. You get credits by reviewing other people’s work–or you can buy credits.
In perusing their books that have been published, I don’t recognize many of the publishers, but they do have the look of self-published work. Some of them have been published by BookSurge, Amazon.com‘s self publishing arm. Part of their publication “prize packages” for some contests includes a publishing package with BookSurge. So essentially, the author is getting a publishing package from a self-publisher for free, but it’s not exactly the same as a publishing contract with Random House.
I’m also a little suspicious of the pay-to-use/work-to-use set up. I think the credit system makes sense so that you don’t have members who take from the community without ever giving anything back. But pairing the credit system with a user fee seems to provide a few too many “gates” to site usage: you have to pay to post your work, but paying isn’t enough to post your work. You need to work to post your work, too. It’s sort of like college, where you pay to work.
I wanted to take a peek at some of the posted work, but I couldn’t without a paid account, so I’m not sure of the quality level (it says writers of ALL levels are welcome, but the typical writing quality can reveal a lot about how serious the users of a certain site are about writing). At any rate, I think I’d explore WeBook for Internet critiques first, if for no other reason than it’s free. But I am a strong believer in the importance of workshopping your writing, and I think that any site like The Next Big Writer is bound to turn out a few writers who come out more proficient than they went in. That speaks to the value of critiques themselves, not necessarily to the value offered in the particular site.