Two recent stories about the publishing industry demonstrate both the promise of new, interactive models — and the difficulties of moving towards new technologies for the publishing industry.
But what makes these stories so interesting is that they both deal with the same publisher — HarperCollins — and revolve around terms of service/licensing/contract terms.
The first example comes from Sara Grimes’ Gamine Expedition, where she writes about a year-old emerging author platform,
inkpop, an online community/social network aimed at connecting “up-and-coming authors with talent spotters and publishing professionals in the teen market”, as well as providing a forum for said up-and-coming authors to test out ideas and give/get feedback on each others’ submissions. It’s also been described as “interactive writing platform for teens”
This platform has its first to-be published success story, but there are significant issues about ownership of content, especially considering that the platform is designed to help writers “pitch” their writings. And Sara
wonder[ed] about content ownership and whether or not the publisher has included a right of first refusal in its terms of service for the site. [But ]contributors retain ownership rights over their submissions, while the publisher claims they only want to find new talent and provide a space for this talent to develop (where they can see it). Which is, well, pretty awesome! On the other hand, HarperCollins also claims limited, non-exclusive rights to publish and display users’ content, both on the inkpop site and third-party websites, which would make it decidedly more difficult for an inkpop author to get a publishing deal elsewhere.
I agree with Sara that this model has many potential upsides for writers that want to share their writing with others in a welcoming, supportive environment. But I wish that instead of being created by a for-profit company, that there would be a non-profit site with similar goals reaching the same level of success (here publishing). But perhaps that is moving too far into a monetary-based system, after all, many fanfic communities serve a similar supportive to new writers purpose, though with limited exceptions — such as Naomi Novik and Cassandra Clare — those writers do not more into published works.
Sara also has a research question, so head over to Gamine Expedition if you have any insight on any studies or research into this community, including the business model, authorship issues, and the implications of these terms.