The future of scouting?
If you're a writer who hasn't heard of PageToFame, I highly suggest you read all about it in WEbook.com's FAQ.
Basically, PageToFame is four rounds of totally objective rater feedback on your work.
Round 1: 1st page (descriptive blurb and genre categorizations included at the top)
Round 2: 1200 words (w/ optional 4000-word sample which interested readers can continue reading)
Round 3: 50 pages (possibly rated exclusively by industry pros)
Round 4: Full manuscript (likewise)
At the end of each stage, an agent or publishing professional reads and rates anonymously. These ratings don't affect your elevation, but it is interesting to see what a pro thinks of your work.
There is a small fee associated with this service (summer special of $3.95, I believe), but I have found it well worth the price. While reading your piece, raters will have no personal information about you. They won't know your name, your username, your age, your cuteness factor (though I'm sure that would only help my ratings [totally joking]). There is no quid pro quo, mutual back-scratching, or even directing fans to your rating page--it's impossible. This saves WEbook's PageToFame from some of the pitfalls rendering Authonomy a less-than-accurate scouting program.
On your side, you won't see any info about your raters other than the total percentage who want it elevated (and rated your work a 4 or 5 out of a possible 5). You will also see which percentage rated it 1 or 2 or 3. You won't know who these people are. They are in no danger of retribution from an author scorned, so they're free to be completely honest in their appraisal of the excerpt.
This is incredibly freeing for the author, too. It's not just your mom saying, "This is fabulous!" It's not even your critique partner saying, "Very good (I hope you're nice when you critique me back)." It's a completely anonymous person rating a piece of work, separate from his or her opinion of the author.
The only way to conduct real research. And this is definitely research. It's the best kind, as far as publishing pros are concerned, because it's market research. Agents and publishers should love this because the author pays for it, volunteers do the rating, and they then have the option of picking successful work--not from a slush pile, but from a list of market-proven literature. PageToFame takes some degree of risk out of the publishing industry.
I've submitted five of my own 1st pages, two from the same project where I simply retitled and reworked the first page. Ratings went up in the second 1st-page sample, but still not high enough. This kind of feedback is helping me to see which projects resonate with my public, and which ones aren't worth pursuing.
PageToFame is fairly new and still evolving. For instance, initially, there were only ratings, with a box to check if you didn't like the subject or genre (though you can easily avoid this as a rater by selecting your favorite genre from a drop-down menu). Now raters can also check whether they think the concept is unoriginal or the writing needs work. Both are very useful statistics to the author.
Each of my five submissions is in a different stage of the rating process.
My very first attempt leveled out at only 28% of raters wanting it elevated to the next round. It didn't make it past 85 votes in Round 1 (first page only). I changed it completely and resubmitted. The second time around, it has garnered 141 votes and 40% approval. Still not high enough for Round 2 (which is a longer sample of 1200 words). Of those who didn't like it, 13 said it was not original enough and 2 said the writing needs work. Based on these results, I'm setting this project aside for the time being. It obviously needs a totally fresh makeover and I have other projects that are already more promising.
Two of my girly YA 1st-page submissions have achieved 50% or higher approval, so I'm waiting to see what happens with these. If they continue to do well, I'll devote more time to writing them. Of course, I don't completely depend on these ratings to choose projects to work on. Sometimes the muse bites and I just have to write a certain story. But PageToFame has acted as a reliable guide, telling me which projects have commercial viability, a buzz-term agents everywhere can appreciate.
My most successful project so far is the humorous MG (8-12 target age range) book, which is currently in submission to literary agents as well. It's in Round 2 with 24 ratings and a 75% approval rating. In Round 1, it garnered 210 votes with 61% sending it on to the next round. Pretty impressive sample size, considering the difficulty unpublished authors usually face in finding willing readers. At this point, you can see the consensus hovering around the same number, not getting higher or lower with the addition of one vote, let alone ten. WEbook has developed an algorithm which tracks the trend in ratings, and determines when a piece probably won't garner enough positive votes to pass the round.
Though this experiment is still pretty new, it has already proven very useful to me, personally. I predict that it will be helpful to authors, agents, and publishers in the future. Imagine being able to gauge accurately the marketability of a concept, or general reader reception of an author's writing style--all from page 1.
I know what you're thinking. You can't tell a best-seller from a dud in just one page, but agents and editors have long been facing the same challenge. And a back-cover-blurb paragraph does accompany the 1st page of PageToFame, so it's the same as a bookstore patron perusing the back cover and first page to determine buyability. Okay, so I made that last word up. What do you want? I'm a kidlit writer.
If you're intrigued, just head on over to WEbook.com and check it out yourself. If you're a voracious/insatiable/avid reader (did I miss any cliches?) then jump straight into 1st-page reading and rating. You'll be surprised how addictive it can be. Plus, you may be getting a first look at the best-sellers of tomorrow.