The romantic idea of the lonely writer has been taking hits from the Internet for a while. I've already been hearing about the authors who post their manuscripts online to get reader feedback before they publish it. Now, FastPencil, a Silicon Valley start up for writers who want to self-publish, has added a feature that sends out status updates on Twitter and Facebook whenever you revise your manuscript. The idea here seems to be that you can get feedback on changes you make while you are writing.
To me this raises some really interesting questions about what it means to be a writer or an artist. Certainly, collaboration has always been part of the process. Every story I write for NPR passes through an editor first, and the same is true of every book published. But, how many editors do we need? Is there going to be anything left of a singular artistic vision? What would have happened if Samuel Beckett had Twittered the the latest updates for "Waiting For Godot"? The play was a flop initially. Maybe he would have had an immediate hit if he'd brought in a whole group of his friends and associates every time he made a revision. No doubt he did some of that, but his friendship group was likely more limited by the technology of the time. I can't help but wonder if we would have lost out on the singularity of a vision that sprung from Beckett's mind or if it would have been very different if he'd run it by 1000 of his dearest friends first.
I suppose we've been focus grouping movies for years and maybe this is going to be focusing grouping for books.
FastPencil was founded to give writers a way to publish books without going through a traditional publisher. FastPencil will publish an actual bound book for as little as $5.00 dollars and they offer services to help you through the publishing process.
According to Venture Beat the company has raised under a million in angel funding and has six employees.
I don't know if this company will make it but I suspect this is just the beginning of using social networks for immediate feedback on a manuscript.