People love competitions. We watch sports, reality shows, and fictional situations on TV because there’s drama in character/contestant/team A overcoming character/contestant/team B. I think the publishing industry could tap into this natural tendency of human nature by sponsoring a sort of American Idol meets Design Star for the next great writer.
I don’t think you would necessarily need to air it on TV, given that it would be mostly written content. Instead, the web would be a great venue for the video aspects. The concept would be something like this:
- The publisher opens a website touting that someone will win a publishing contract (cue the viral marketing).
- Unpublished and self-published writers with a completed manuscript are invited to submit a short sample of their novel (two or three chapters) for a period of three months. During this time, users can review these samples and vote and comment on them.
- A panel of agents, editors, and publishing experts selects seven finalists from the submissions. In addition, the three highest rated writers on the website also become finalists, giving a total of 10.
- After being selected, the ten finalists compete in a series of assignments that, while compressed from normal writing, establish versatility and marketability. For example, the writers must pitch their book in 30 seconds or less; the writers must successfully revise their samples based on editorial feedback; the writers must convince visitors to a bookstore to buy a book; the writers must come up with a compelling advertising idea. (Not all of these are completely fair, but they would be entertaining.)
- Each round, the judges eliminate one writer until there are only two writers left.
- Those two finish and revise their novels while the “episodes” are airing.
- The final two writers will have their books published on the website, along with a video appeal, and the world will vote on the winner.
- The winner gets a publishing deal.
In any case, I offer this as a free idea because I’d love to enter/watch it myself. Granted, this isn’t the conventional way of publication, but it could certainly generate interest and visibility for publishers, agents, and writers.