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YouWriteOn.com is an Arts Council-sponsored website that provides a platform for aspiring writers to display their work and have it reviewed by their peers.  

It is similar in focus to Authonomy, which we looked at a week ago; with the top rated writers qualifying to have their work critiqued by publishers, including Random House and Orion.

We talked to YouWriteOn Manager Edward Smith about the site...

Tell us about the site.

YouWriteOn.com was started by the Arts Council in 2006, it’s a site for budding writers, to help them develop and get feedback from other writers.

Writers need to upload their opening chapters, around 6 – 10,000 words, to the site. They then review the work of other writers and get their own reviewed on a quid pro quo basis. For every review a user writes, they receive a ‘reading credit’ which then entitles them to get a review from someone else.

This peer review system gives writers some useful feedback on their work and helps them develop.

Books are also voted on by reviewers using a series of criteria; character, story, setting etc, and these marks are used to create our charts.

The top ten works at the end of each month are then guaranteed to be read by Random House’s team of editors, and the top five are also read by literary agents and publishers like Orion and Bloomsbury.

Peer reviewing is a good way of getting writers themselves to highlight the best work. Many publishers no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts from budding authors, so the internet offers a way to get their work in front of an audience. Good writing has a way of finding its way to the top.

How are the reviews policed?

We have a system that seeks to prevent anyone taking advantage and voting / reviewing their own or their friend’s books. Only reviews from users that have uploaded their own works can be counted towards our charts. Other users can leave comments, but we have insisted on a distinction between reader members and writers to prevent abuse.

Also, our writers are allocated titles to review at random, so they have no control over the books they give feedback and marks for. We can also see where reviews are coming from, so we can check for duplicate memberships from the same IP address, or any other unusual patterns.

With any voting system you will get a minority of users who will try to manipulate it, but we have a set up that should prevent this.

With Authonomy for instance, we have been told that there have been a few attempts to manipulate the voting system (anyone, writer or reader, can vote for books on the site). A number of titles rose very rapidly up the charts, so the site has been forced to demote some books and remove a few users from the site.

They are just starting though, and I’m sure they will find a way over time to prevent this kind of thing happening.

How many people use the site?

We have over 10,000 members on the site, the majority of which are writers, though we are seeking to get more readers involved in future.

How is the site funded?

The vast majority of funding comes from the Arts Council, though we do have some other income streams. Writers can pay to get a critique of their work from our literary editors and agents, and we also offer a publishing service.

Have many writers on the site have been picked up by publishers?

Our biggest success so far is Douglas Jackson, whose book ‘Caligula’ was recently published by Random House in a six figure book deal.

Several other site members have also picked up book deals; Bufflehead Sisters by Patricia J. DeLois enabled the author to get a five figure two book deal from Penguin, after first being published by YouWriteOn via POD (publish on demand).

You recently called for a boycott of Amazon. Why was this?

In the US, Amazon made the decision that all Print-On-Demand (POD) books should be printed through Amazon’s own company BookSurge. This, along with the company’s attempts to exert more control over book pricing.

Amazon has said that if POD companies do not print through BookSurge, they will remove the 'buy now' button for authors’ books. They are also increasing the amount that authors pay to list their books on the site.

We are worried that the move will give Amazon a near monopoly of POD, as well as hitting writers’ royalties.

Any plans for a revamp?

It is basically the same site we launched with in 2006, and is being upgraded at the moment.

Related articles:
Site review: Authonomy
Random House's Ros Lawler on widgets and Web 2.0

Graham Charlton

Published 12 September, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (3)


Susan Conroy

Why only 6,000 to 10,000words - why not less?

about 8 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Susan,

I think the idea behind that is to limit the site to people who are prepared to demonstrate a serious commitment to writing a novel.

about 8 years ago


Sarah Stevens

"YouWriteOn.com was started by the Arts Council in 2006, it’s a site for budding writers, to help them develop and get feedback from other writers."

This is misleading: YouWriteOn has received funding from the Arts Council but is not run by the Arts Council, nor was it "started" by the Arts Council.

If I understand correctly, YouWriteOn was recently taken to task by the Arts Council for implying otherwise. And YouWriteOn has recently begun its own publishing arm, which is widely considered to be a reverse vanity scheme.

Writer Beware and How Publishing Really Works have blogged against this scheme, as have many other sites.

almost 8 years ago

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