Speaking as someone who used to work for a literary magazine, I was excited to read about the poetry competition launched by Poetic Republic. With poetry viewed as an increasingly specialized discipline, cloistered in the halls of academia, and sometimes thought of as a pursuit for the elite, I like to see literary contests that open up dialogue to other poets and the crowd at large. Perhaps this marks a change for the world of poetry.
Poetry Republic launched their annual poetry contest a few months ago and announced the winner this month: Francesca McMahon. What was different about this year’s MAG Poetry Prize, however, is that the 3,000 registered users of Poetic Republic were the ultimate judges (including the entrants themselves). No celebrated authors with the final word – just the readers themselves. With more than 1,000 submissions from nearly 36 countries, it was tough competition for each of the judges who read 12 poems through each round.
The practice of looking to the crowd to sift through literary slush piles, however, is gaining traction. Unbound.co.uk has created a platform where authors skip pitching their story ideas to agents and go, instead, directly to the reader. It’s similar to a Kickstarter grant for authors. Authors are directed only to begin writing once their pledge level has reached a certain point and readers are rewarded for their pledges by acknowledgment in the book, first edition copies, and more. Pledgers begin showing their support at the ₤10 level and go up from there. And not all of the authors are unknowns. In fact, Unbound works to make sure that high-profile writers are featured on their site including folks like Amy Jenkins and Terry Jones currently.
It’s obvious that the future of the written word is changing, what with Borders closing its doors and citing the age of the eReader as one of the reasons that they couldn’t keep going in the evolving industry. How will the crowd effect the world of publishing, poetry, and reading? Is the role of the author changing as the crowd takes a hand in content creation?