This week sees the launch of Advance Editions, a platform for crowdsourced editing allowing readers early access to soon-to-be-published books in the hope that they’ll spot any previously missed errors – factual, linguistic or otherwise – or be able to provide any other suggestions on how to improve. The idea is that, having already been professionally edited, books will be uploaded to the site for three months ahead of their official release, with the site’s users able to download either the first half for free or the complete book for a 60% discount on the RRP. Readers can then suggest changes through the site for the authors to make prior to final publication.
The site is launching with two titles: founder Hector Macdonald’s thriller Rogue Elements and Canadian journalist Heidi Kingstone’s non-fictional account of her time in Afghanistan Dispatches from the Kabul Café. Kingstone is looking for contributions from those with particular expertise in Afghanistan and Kabul, the NATO invasion of Afghanistan, Afghan culture and language, soldiers and mercenaries and aid workers and advisers. Macdonald, meanwhile, is looking for insights into intelligence services, drug reform, Brasilia, motorbikes, weapons, climbing and Canadian speech.
Macdonald – a bestselling author and previously founder of BookDrum – says of the site:
We feel that this is a step change in publishing, a genuine advance in the way books are developed. We are preserving the central role of the author, but opening up the support they receive to a limitless network of experts and enthusiasts. This seems like an incredible opportunity to me as a writer, which is why I can’t wait to trial it with my own book Rogue Elements.
Advance Editions isn’t looking for money or votes from readers – instead, we’re inviting people to contribute their wisdom. We’re sure that contributors will enjoy the rewarding experience of making good books better before they hit the shelves.
From an outsider’s perspective, an immediate worry about this approach is that the site could potentially operate in a manner similar to a Hollywood focus group, encouraging authors (consciously or not) to cut anything difficult or alienating in favour of a blander, more widely acceptable middle ground – trying to appeal to all of the people all of the time rather than trusting the judgement of one auxiliary pair of eyes (speaking of which, professional editors probably won’t be too chuffed either). If the pilot books turn out well, however, any such worries will likely be cast aside by authors looking for a final cost-effective polish.