Step on up and fork over your cash-updated

Speaking of putting one's work on the web, this morning an email arrives from a writing friend. Guess what?

Another site where you can pay to have your work read.

The site is very professional looking. Maybe they are legit and maybe they just want to help, but you have to be consistently rated high by the other members and then, if you're lucky, you get chosen for a review. (I checked the Snarkives, didn't find that we'd talked about this one before, but I coulda missed it.)

For $39.95 you can have "someone" review your work.
They only need a thousand people to make a fair chunk of change for lifting the template of another writing site and making it sound like this is a good use of your time.

Maybe it is, I don't know.
My general sense is that you learn to be a writer by writing, and reading books that have been published, not reading other unpublished writers on the net (although I learned a lot from reading the synopses so maybe this will work).

It seems pretty straightforward without too many snake oil claims but I just glanced at it.
If anyone sees anything weird, let us know.

Addendum: The comments thread on this is wandering quite far afield from the usefulness of the site and has descended into name calling that isn't even redeemed by being funny. Comments are closed.


MissWrite said...

I saw it once on my swimming around on the web, and nearly choked on my coffee.

Looks like a great idea----not.

Just another rip off that plays on the desperation of hopeful writers.

SAND STORM said...

Looks like a job for Victoria and Ann.

archer said...

I learned a lot from reading the synopses

Now you have to say what you learned. I mean, you don't have to--it's just a thought I had 'cause I was in the thought-neighborhood to, uh, pick up some groceries. Yeah, groceries.

domynoe said...

We can't give you awards and contracts, but the writing workshops I'm (Dreaming In Ink and Novel Crit Online) in will give you plenty of "reviews and feedback on everything you post" for free and allow you to retain your rights etc. And some of us are even published! ;) So you still have to do the work of getting it out to markets, but that's just part of being a writer.

Repeat after me, "money flows towards the writer."

bonniers said...

Forward Motion (www.fmwriters.com) is another writing community where anyone who's willing to work can give and receive feedback, discuss techniques, and learn about marketing and queries and all the rest. For free. Quite a number of Snarklings hang out there. That's how I was corrupted, er, recruited...

Problem Child said...

Three of the top-rated manuscripts were written by two of the top ranked reviewers. Hmmm... sounds a bit fishy to me.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I had NO idea! Quick! I need the link to the software site so I can set up THIS kind of ripoff--uh--that is, business, yeah....BUSINESS, that's it, that's the ticket.

But on MY website I'll undercut the competition and charge only 38.99 and STILL be able to pay my house off in a week!

This is WAY better than that pyramid sales thing I was going to try. Those tend to collapse under their own weight, but hey, there's always some sucker out there with a book.


Larsen E. Whipsnade

Kaycee said...

ot...I love the words that are being created from your blog... snarkives... snarkolicious...snarkometer... are you gonna put out a dictionary for Snark-ees?

Your fan,


Karen Pruitt Fowler / Elizabeth Raye said...

Okay, I confess. I have been to that site very recently. I have reveiwed several chapters of two novels, both of which I would pay money to buy in book form. To read and review you pay nothing. The thirty-something is for the priveledge of posting a years worth of stuff on the site to be reveiwed by others.

Oh, and the comment about the top novels being by top reveiwers is assine. You get to be a top reveiwer IF you reveiw a ton of other peoples work and they give your reveiws a score (5 if it is insightful, helpful etc.)Your work gets to the top of its catagory by reveiw scores alnne.

Side note: I have read every chapter on the top rated novel on the site and it is extremely good. Don't criticize if you haven't read it.

(Not you Ms. Snark-- you can bash anything your pretty little stilletos want to!)

The site is a bit like Zoetrope, where you can workshop your goods and get feedback, the only difference is that it doesn't have the financial backings to run the site like Zoe, so it charges. In return, your work could get published, and your novel could earn you 5-large if it becomes the top ranked one.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I remember reading somewhere on the site that there were 5000 votes in the contest (or something like that) and I stopped and thought, whoa, 5000 x 39.95.....

I'm not sure I believe they have that many paying members (since one can join and review for free), but it'll be interesting to see if they give away the $5000 in July.

Jo Bourne said...

The web is full of crit groups sponsored by various writers' forums.
There are dozens of 'em.
They're free.

In a crit group you know your partners. You become familiar with their critting style -- harsh or gentle, insightful or clueless. You know the worth of advice given, because you know the source.

Crit partners don't just describe problems, they assess progress. Crits become dialog.

Surely the time you set aside to do critting is best spent on in-depth analyss of projects you've been following for a while. Surely the most valuable crits are from someone familiar with your work and your objectives.

I just don't see the appeal of a site designed for superficial, hit-and-run, critting by anonymous passersby.

Jo Bourne said...

OK ...

sufficiently curious to test this site, I went over and signed in.

I looked at the TOP RANKED novel. This is the very best they have to offer.

I flipped to Chapter Six.
I chose Six at random
because six is a number I'm fond of.

Here are the beginning 200 words of Chapter Six.


My father stopped yelling and stared at Kluge. Kluge had never scratched below my father’s tightly controlled surface – and so misread his blanched complexion and misinterpreted his sudden silence. My father heard me retching and looked down at the growing pool of vomit on the floor.

Kluge missed the bright red splotches on my father’s face.

Mom knelt by my chair, prying at the straps around my wrist. “How could you? How could you dare?” She worked at the buckles with determined fingers. “How could you let this happen?”

My father’s hand gently cupped the back of my neck. I was overwhelmed by the gesture. He leaned down and said: “Tell me what happened to you, Thomas.” Then he concluded with a promise: “I will never let this happen again.”

Kluge snipped at my mother. “Mrs. Taylor, those restraints wouldn’t be there if they weren’t needed. Thomas is a danger to himself. I insist you stop at once.”

My mother ignored him. He spoke again, as if scolding a child. “You are encouraging bad behavior.”

My father withdrew his hand as he turned towards Kluge. “I believe you’ve said enough to my wife.” His voice was deceptively even as he settled his hand back on my neck.*


Now this is not of
'handwritten on yellow legal pad' quality ...
but it is also not quite ready for prime time.

No. I wouldn't pay money to read it.

If I had a slush pile I would now be reaching for the form rejection letter and the SASE.

This is the best they have to offer ...
if the 'voting' is not skewed.

The author is ranked '9' in reviews.
Hmmm ....

To doublecheck, I went to the second best.
Here is the first 200 words of the Second Ranked submission.

Dunkin led the way up the side stairs to Devlin’s apartment door.

Dunkin was thinking about his new ‘partners’. Hoping they would not die here. It was stimulating having new friends.

Ash was thinking about Dunkin’s warning to strike first. He was running scenarios and tactics through his head. All, while listening carefully and advancing up the stairs as quietly as possible.

Devlin was wondering if the stairs would collapse beneath the weight of Dunkin.

“Hey, Dunkin. You ever had the floor collapse under you?” Devlin asked. “I mean, big as you are, it must be a constant hazard.”

“Shit, Devlin,” Ash whispered. “Why not set off a firecracker and let everybody know we are coming.”

“Hey,” Devlin said. “if them fucking things can track me down sniffing an old skidmark on my underwear, I figure they already heard us coming up. I like when things know I am about to hurt them. Sneaking up and bashing somebody from the back gives me zero satisfaction. Looking ‘em in the eye while stimulating their pain receptors—now that’s entertainment.”

That is a mean SOB thought Ash.

“Devlin is right,” Dunkin said, stopping at the door. “They know we are here. A vampires hearing, like all their senses and physical characteristics, are greatly enhanced. Their bodies work at optimum efficiency. You two are welcome to wait outside, while I go in and clear the room.”**


Not a bad concept, this one. Stiff and amateurish execution.

This reviewer is ranked 5.
(I'm beginning to see a pattern here ...)

Anyhow ... if I were a publishing professional, looking for new manuscripts, I would now exit the site.
As I did,
even though I'm not an agent or editor.


*I quote this short excerpt from the novel-length work under fair use, for review purposes. The copyright belongs to Leslie Weston.

**I quote this short excerpt from the novel-length work under fair use, for review purposes. The copyright belongs to HavePenWillScribble.

Sol said...

As the Founder of theNextBigWriter, I was content to sit this one out. That is, until I read the latest posts, which are potentially illegal if not morally offensive. So here's a different perspective on all of this. Thank you Elizabeth Raye btw for one informed opinion.

theNextBigWriter lists its benefits and fees for all to see. There is no gimmick, no surprises (In fact, I ran the idea by Victoria Strauss before the site was even launched and she had no objections). We have many paying members (many of whom have come from free sites) who enjoy the mix of services that the site provides. In return for $39.95 for a yearly membership or $4.95 for a monthly membership you receive:

**Unlimited posting of your poems, short stories, and novels

**Guaranteed feedback

**A site rank which provides one data point on how your work compares to your peers.

**Access to several competitions including one that provides short story and poetry writers with an opportunity to be published (we just published our first round of stories last week). The top novel on June 7 also receives $5,000. Now, you can argue with the methodology, but it's consistent for all writers.

**The potential of receiving reviews from Star Reviewers, including Pulitzer nominated reviewers, award winning poets, and other successful professionals (Star Reviewers are given to the top writers but we are expanding them to others shortly).

**Access to a friendly, helpful community.

Is the site perfect, no. But we're only three months old and getting better every day.

In addition, you do retain all rights to your work and our membership policy is the best on the web at ensuring this. Some of the free forums mentioned above do not even have a policy that spells out how the rights to your work are protected. I checked out the free services, have nothing against them and have used other free sites before, but they just don't offer the same level of benefits and service. In fact, two of the free services posted above are limited to 25 members. So how does that help anyone?

I also wanted to make it clear that we are not a showcase site. If editors or agents want to come and pay a visit, fine. But that is not the goal of the site and nowhere on theNextBigWriter will you see the word agent or editor mentioned in that context.

Which is why Jo Bourne's comments were so off-the-mark. Nevermind that without permission she took it upon herself to lift an excerpt from two novels-in-progress and publicly critique them totally out of context (an argument can be made that her actions were a breach of the fair use doctrine of copyright law). Both stories (in my humble opinion) happen to be excellent work but both are still, as she would have known if she had spent any time on the site, works in progress. Using feedback from the site, the authors alone will determine when they are ready to be sent out, not Jo Bourne. After all, theNextBigWriter is a tool to help writers achieve their potential. It doesn't promise perfection in the work posted. So Jo, if you truly want to be helpful, why don't you join the site as a free reviewer, actually read the stories, and then provide some real feedback.

Lastly, I want to talk about the oft quoted line that "money should flow towards the writer." This is a true if a writer is giving up the rights to their finished work. It is valid because someone expects to make money off the writer's work But it is perfectly acceptable to offer writers the choice to purchase services that will advance their writing career. MFA programs, writing schools, writing software, Blog subscriptions, writing magazines all charge writers.

theNextBigWriter provides another choice for writers. Whether you decide to exercise that choice is totally up to you.


Sol Nasisi
Founder and Director

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Prima facie, both excerpts have serious POV issues. Neither leaves me confident that the writer knows how to handle their material.

Either the critiquers/reviewers/praisehounds on that site don't know what they're talking about, or these writers don't listen to them. If these are the highest-ranked, the former seems likeliest.

I offer these comments entirely free :O.

Carolyn B. said...

If Sol Nasisi thinks Jo Bourne's comments are an abuse of the fair use doctrine (they're not), then that calls into question just how much he really knows about reviewing or reasoned discourse. No, I'm not an attorney, but I have enough common sense and journalism experience to know what is fair commentary. Jo's was fair, ethical and -- in my opinion -- ENTIRELY legal. Sol -- perhaps you should review some helpful information on fair use before you offer veiled threats that seem intended to squelch unfavorable reviews of your business. Here's a site: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html.

I say -- you go, Jo! And Miss Snark -- you rock. As usual!

- Carolyn Bahm
Collierville, Tennessee

Kirk said...

I'm a writer-member of Sol Nasisi's NBW site - have been from the beginning. The fee is next to nothing and considering the other expenses a writer has, 5 bucks a month is hardly as issue. Sol takes all suggestions and complaints seriously, and acts on them fairly. This isn't the first writer's workshop site I've joined but I believe it will be the last. I've gotten glowing reviews, some not so flattering, and once in a great while, I've recieved a review that made litle sense to me. I came to NBW to learn, and I've learned a great deal. Not just from the reviews, but by reading the work of others. The rankings mentioned are (at best) secondary to the writers. We come here to be critiqued, and few (if any) expect their work to be universally praised. But if you want to review the NBW site, take your time and check it out more closely.

Kirk Ort
Stratford, Wisconsin

Anonymous said...

In reply to Loopy, this is what i know about copyright law, backed up by the Copyrigth Public Information Office (202-707-3000)

"Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission. However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

Well we know Jo isn't our teacher, and i think a whole chapter from a novel may be more than just a sample. I personally haven't looked at the site yet but if these writers are paying to post their work that means they retain their rights for their work and since Jo did not get the permission of the authors' to take and post their work elsewhere she is violating their legal rights.
I love this blog, i don't, however, enjoy seeing possible rights infringement in the responses.
I'm a writer, and i would be literally devastated if work i gave in confidence to friends (not just gave, but paid to post) were posted elsewhere in mockery.
I noticed some posts have been dltd already. I wonder if they were posts for or against the site.

Anonymous said...

In response to Jo -
I think it is sligthly reprehensible of you to take someone else's work and post it here. Did you even read the author's profile? I looked on the site and saw that there is at least one 13 year old girl posting her work. Did you ever think maybe you just stole the work of some kid trying to get useful criticism?
Also in my brief sojourn it was very apparent to me that you only pay if you want to post work. And yes money flows towards the writer, but this website is pretty much just a year long contest, the prize being publication, and though some writing contests don't have entry fees, most do. And no one is forced to join the site.
I love how Miss Snark is the first to comment on the site, but specifically states that she just glanced at the site without judging it one way or the other.
I wish everyone could take the time to actually do a bit of research before just making assumptions.
I think it looks legit. And helpful. I'm tempted to join myself, if I don't like it, it's just $40. It's not going to break my bank.
And even if the work is less then par, well, I don't mind reviewing and helping people out. I like to edit and review, it's what I went to school for.
Anyway. Just MO that we should give the site the benefit of the doubt before we pass harsh criticism. Or at least the benefit of checking it out first.

Miss Snark said...

They were posts that did not contribute to the discussion at hand. Just do a quick survey of the comments to see there are a variety of viewpoints posted.

And I do know more than a bit about copyright and the use here is fair use.

Debating whether something is "legal" is meaningless here and beside the point. Please confine the rest of the discussion to the merits, or lack thereof, of the site, or similar sites, in question.

Anonymous said...

lynne raye - it's not 5000 x $39.50 - reveiwing is free, posting costs money. I bet 75% of those votes were reviewers who didn't pay.
Jo - even tho you stated that you're usuing it under fair use, i still thought you needed to get the author's permission? I'm not sure tho, it's just what i thought.
Also i bet they're just rough drafts. Did it say somewhere on the site that the writing is of publishable quality? Because you said you wouldn't pay money to read it, and i didn't think you had, so i'm confused about what you beef is. Maybe i just misunderstood you. :)
Also i bet that the one ranked as 5 is a 5 as a reviewer because she's reviewed a lot of work, not because her writing is great. And maybe they were ranked #1 and #2 just because they had been read the most.
I don't know, i give it the benefit of the doubt. And i don't know those people who wrote that work, so in no way am i going to pass judgment, writing is hard enough without having to fend off other writers. Also, i always, always assume something is a rough rough draft unless i'm told otherwise.
Jo - did it say on those chapters what revise they were on?

Domynoe, how do you like those sites? And how do you retain your rights? i was always told that posting on the web is the use of your first serial rights, or something, so if you're posting without paying i was told that some markets won't accept work that has been seen on a public forum before. Anyone know anything about this? Loopy?

Lesley C. Weston said...

Dear Miss. Snark, of the stiletto reputation,
I am writing – just for the record – in a 1st (reliable, or perhaps not, let the reader decide) POV - in response to your recent posting regarding theNextBigwriter workshop. My response follows in two parts.

Without mind-reading, or channeling, I can't say for certain that Sol Nasisi's mirror returns a reflection, that his hands are always clean and tidy, that he isn't sleep-walking when he responds to our requests and only comes awake at the scent of our money. I see no evidence to suggest that he is a greed driven carpetbagger, but is rather a man providing a service that some writers appreciate.

As a member of the site, I base my assessment on two points, without the use of psychic phenomena:

1. Fees- As is revealed by my monthly writing- related checkbook entries, the monthly fee is an inconsequential amount:
STARBUCKS- $187.00 (I do drink the coffee, but justify this expenditure as "office rent")
INTERNET SERVICES- $65.00 (used in an autodidact’s pursuit of education, research and publication. I do not check the winning lottery numbers)
BARNES & NOBLE- $236.00 ( books- all categories, publications-both trade & literary, notebooks- not legal pads-see Ms. Bourne’s very kind verification of that fact, thank you.)
ENTRY FEES FOR SUBMISSIONS-$55.00 (such as Glimmer train, Carve short story contest, Meridian contest, etc.)
Editor's Marketplace-$25.00
theNextBigwriter -$3.99

A quick comparison should underscore my first point.

2. Services:
As a long-standing member of Zoetrope, I find that posting novels is rare, and the feedback for such postings in that workshop is extremely sparse. As a consequence, I use that site primarily to workshop Flash Fiction.

As a member of tNBW, I have posted my manuscript's current draft, 42 chapters in all. The novel
has received 291 reviews- including many from members who've made the effort to read every chapter. Their comments will be useful as a spur in my flank, some as gentle encouragement. If I remain in the top ranking position, one can always hope, the site will afford me a month off to finish my next draft. Either way the draft will be finished, and THEN it will make the rounds.
I have also posted 2 short stories; they have received over 50 reviews of varying merit.
Quid pro quo, I read and offer help to other writers on the site, a total now of 300+ reviews. All this, in the last six weeks, for roughly $5.00. And of course, it is always possible that any one of the short stories I post, now or in the future, may up bechosen for publication in the PUBLIC section of tNBW site. In that event, the site would be paying me.

In you initial post you signed off with the suggestion that your readers report, "If they see anything weird".

The only weird thing I've seen occurred when an invited, non-paying guest, behaved as might a wedding crasher at an open bar - gulping out of other's glasses, gobbling tid-bits at the bar, secreting gnawed portions of the entrée in her pockets. The poor dear stuffed herself with snatches of stories at such an indiscriminate pace that she apparently suffered dietary indiscretion. I've seen the evidence in the random bits and pieces of undigested literature regurgitated on this page.

I blush that I may be in part responsible for the expulsion of the lady's ill wind on your blog, but I'm not certain, as she misspelled my name.

With regrets for the mess, and a promise to send a complimentary air-freshener,

Lesley C. Weston

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Lesley! These people are, indeed, spouting off with next to no information on the site. I am not a paying member, and just go to the site to review and read and have found it to be a very delightful and most certainly entertaining site. Your novel, as well as two by a writer named Iveybanks on the site are all in the top ten, and are all books I would pay to read. No, all of the items on there are NOT professional quality, and I have to say that one or two in the top ten I would not only NOT pay to read, but have chosen not to read even for FREE! But, correct me if I'm wrong, that IS the entire point of the site! You can read as you like, offer technical/personal/content opinions as you wish and choose what to read. These people can express their ignorant (as opposed to stupid) comments all they like, but it doesn't change the fact that thenextbigwriter.com offers writers a somewhat informal place to post their work and receive comments from other writers to grow their abilities and their work, as well as receive comments and opinions from free members such as myself who represent what all writers-the snotty ones, too-need....READERS.

Lesley, your response was a Classic! Maybe you should post it on nextbigwriter and see how it is received! hahaha

Linda Peregory said...

Dear Miss Snark,
I think you and your posters have a lot of nerve, first and foremost for lifting work off of the site. This is copyrighted material, in case you were not aware of that fact. Yes, I am a PROUD member of The Next Big Writer. I think Sol Nasisi has done a great service to writers, and the site has done more for me in three months than 45 years of listening to dry lectures, and reaidng books. I find that a sharing of thoughts and trials with like minded people who understand is worth every penny of the site's cost. Sol also delivers on his promises. He pays his prize money quickly, and treats the writers with respect and courtesty. He had a dream that worked for him, and touched the lives of many who needed a special place in which to nurture their talents. If you don't like the site, don't join it. Does not take any more than moron level intellect to work out that solution. I hope you know how to season crow, as many of you will be eating it when the site produces a best selling author.

Miss Snark said...

Ya, that's Miss Snark-full of nerve.

Enough nerve to say that if 1000 people pay $39.95 a year to belong to a site, that pretty much makes it fair game for commentary. If you don't like what is said, you have two choices: piss off, or say why the opinion is wrong.

As far as I can tell, the objections to Jo's posting are that she did it here, and she didn't like what she read. So, it would be ok to post her criticisms there? What makes posting it here so wrong? Would it have been better if she'd just said "this sux" without providing the actual text so we can see if she's a loon for thinking that? Or is it only ok to like stuff, and be gentle in your commentary?

No one like a cold bucket of water dumped on their head at 7am, but sometimes that's what's needed for a wake up call.

And I garnundamntee you that if she'd come over here and said "ohmydog, that writing is the best thing since Finnegans Wake" there would not have been a single peep out of anyone, other than perhaps Mr. Joyce rolling over in his Swiss grave.

Anonymous said...

Well, anyone who registers at The Next Big Writer (and you have to register in order to read the content), they have to agree to the following terms:

"You may make a single copy of Content posted to the Site by authors and reviewers on your hard drive or in print for your own personal, non-commercial use only. You may not modify, publish, transmit, distribute, participate in the transfer or sale, create derivative works, or in any way exploit, in whole or in part, any Content other than your own. Except as otherwise expressly permitted under copyright law, no copying, redistribution, retransmission, publication or commercial exploitation of Content will be permitted without the express permission of theNextBigWriter and the copyright owner. You may not remove, change or obscure any copyright notice, author attribution, trademark legend or other proprietary notice. You acknowledge that you do not acquire any ownership rights in the Content by downloading or printing copyrighted material. You shall not use Content or the Site in any manner except as expressly permitted by this Member Agreement or any rules and policies posted on the Site."

Jo must have registered and agreed to these terms in order to read the novels she quoted. Given the above terms, people who post at TNBW should have a reasonable expectation that their work in progress posted at the site will remain in-house.

Lesley C. Weston said...

I understand that you don't know me, and therefore may suspect defensiveness, and assume that my response was motivated by hurt feelings.
I accept that there is no help for that. Think what you will. I refuse to allow the possibility of misinterpretation to turn me into a tail-tucked cur. I will, instead, try to make my motive clear.
I am not concerned about legality, I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Nor is it the assessment of my skills. My skin is thick enough, and my desire to learn strong enough, to stand up to rigorous critique. . What offends me is the disregard of the spirit of a workshop environment. Surely you understand that there may be reason to find this distasteful?
Would it be acceptable to audit a university writing class, copy a student's homework and post it here? Would it make sense to damn the university’s writing program and cast doubt on all its students talents, based on such a limited view? I don’t believe so. And I can’t think of any thing that would truly justify such actions.
. You raised some questions, though they were offered as statements of fact. I know it’s irritating to be answered when your intent was rhetorical, and perhaps aimed at humor. Bit I am such a tedious person that I am answering them, anyway.
- I have received harsher comments than Ms. Bourne's without flinching. Until she carried our work away, she was a legitimate member of the site and had she posted her comments in the review box, and offered specifics that might help improve the work, I would have thanked her. And whether I agreed with all her suggestions and opinions, or none, I would have ranked her review with the highest mark possible. If her comments made sense, I might have also sought out her work in an effort to learn something more by her example.
-And yes, even if she'd seen fit to heap rose petals on my head, I would have been distressed to find my work in progress displayed on a public site.

Jo Bourne said...

Hi Anonymous -

>>>anyone who registers at The Next Big Writer ... <<<

I do not say it is impossible, or even unlikely, that I could have inadvertently overlooked this requirement ...
I am fallible as anyone else.

are you certain this was in place AT THE TIME I registered?

One of my suggestions to the manager of the site was that he install just such a gatekeeper.


Jo Bourne said...

Dear Mr. Weston -

I hope I am interpreting your message correctly when I paraphrase your point of view thus --
you object to all critique, good or bad,
and most especially to critique accompanied by an extract of your work,
when the crit occurs anywhere outside the 'workshop' in which you have posted your manuscript.

I am sorry you are distressed by this.

One of my disquietudes about sites like the one you have posted upon
is that they are open to the public.
I reiterate my advice that writers seek long-term, private crit groups rather than public posting sites.

The laws governing privacy are an especially tangled skein in the larger and complex rats nest of the common law.

Very generally speaking, one does not have an 'expectation of privacy' where words or actions are freely available for public view.

My Aunt Sally may,
upon grounds of privacy,
object to an assessment of her naked arse if she disrobes in her bedroom.
Such objection
upon the grounds of privacy
is unreasonable if she disrobes nightly at the KitKat Club.


Jo Bourne said...

Hi Anonymous --

>>>Jo - even tho you stated that you're usuing it under fair use, i still thought you needed to get the author's permission? <<<<<

Well. No.

The book reviewers in the newspaper,
scholarly folks who quote texts in their papers,
scientists who give date from a study that's related to their own ...
none of these folks call up the writers and publishers to ask permission first.

They just make 'fair use' of the original material, under the law.

That's part of what the Copyright Law DOES --
it makes it easy to quote small excerpts without seeking permission.


Anonymous said...

are you certain this was in place AT THE TIME I registered?

You apparently registered at the site on January 21st, when you left your comment quoting those excerpts. The TNBW terms page is cached in Google as of January 16th containing the paragraph I quoted:

This is G o o g l e's cache of http://www.thenextbigwriter.com/about/terms.html as retrieved on 16 Jan 2006 10:02:37 GMT.
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Jo Bourne said...

Hi Anonymous --

>>>Well we know Jo isn't our teacher, and i think a whole chapter from a novel may be more than just a sample.<<<<

A whole chapter would almost certainly be beyond the scope of 'fair use' in a literary critique.

That is why I only quoted 200 words.

That's roughly 3/4 of a single page.

>>>>>since Jo did not get the permission of the authors' to take and post their work elsewhere she is violating their legal rights. <<<<<

The excerpts I posted are well within 'fair use' guidelines, representing, as they do, only a small fraction of the finished ms.
No permission is needed to quote under 'fair use'.

If you look at my message, assess the number of words posted, and reconsider whether this is an illegal use, will you return and share your findings?


lesley c. weston said...

Ms. Bourne, you have hit the nail on the head, though I noted that the sentence construction used was designed to lead with the statement that “you object to all critique, good or bad,” rather than “ You object to an extract of your work, anywhere outside the 'workshop' in which you have posted, regardless of whether the critique is good or bad.” But at least we are now on the same page. It wasn't your critique that I found objectionable, it was your choice of venue.
When I registered on tNBW, in December 2005, I read the disclaimer, and believed that my work was in fact protected by anyone using the site as a registered member (I assumed that everyone there had also read those terms and had agreed by the very fact of registration. Obviously, I was wrong in my belief that writers are readers! Or worse, I was wrong in my belief that having read them, they would behave honorably.
I would much rather believe that you had somehow missed the "fine print" than that you disregarded it due to a desire to carry a dead bird back to your mistress, tail wagging for praise.
Therefore, I will accept your action as an innocent, though distressing, oversight.
But then, as you've already pointed out, I may be hopelessly naive.
As to the one-on- one crit partners, and/or trusted long-term crit groups, I work with both. But as I am well past my youth, and have to make up for lost time, I avail myself of as many oppurtunities as I am able. I am also a member of Zoetrope, whose policy is basically the same as tNBW. In all of those situations, my work is viewed as the drafts that they are, and never before have I had anyone release any parts of them in public.
If you would like, however, to read something that was meant for public release, please, feel free to google my name. It's a meager offering, no doubt, but it is the work that I felt was finished, and ready for the public.
Miss Lesley C. Weston

Jo Bourne said...

Hi Anonymous -

>>> it is sligthly reprehensible of you to take someone else's work and post it here. <<<<<<

Look ... I wanted to post an assessment of the quality of the top ranked postings at that site.

I could have simply said ...

"The first ranked ms is not 'handwritten on yellow legal pad' quality, but it is also not quite ready for prime time. IMO.
I wouldn't pay money to read it ... The second ranked ms is not bad in concept, but is stiff and amateurish in execution."

(This is not devastating criticism, btw.)

Making my not-particularly-devastating criticism, I also provided a random, 200-word excerpt to give the mss a chance for rebuttal.
If I were significantly wrong in my assessment of the quality of the writing, it would have been obvious.

>>>>Did you even read the author's profile?<<<<<

Why would I be interested in who wrote the work, rather than the work itself?

>>> I looked on the site and saw that there is at least one 13 year old girl posting her work. <<<<<<


(deep breath)

OK. I realize this does not contravene COPPA guidelines. (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998)

But WHAT THE HELL is that age information doing on a public board?!

TELL ME that site has been set up so no one can send an e-mail to that child.
I'm sure the site administrator has that much savvy.

JEEESSH. I really, really dislike these public posting sites. One more reason.

I'd greatly appreciate it if you could reassure me that one cannot send e-mails to that 13-year-old girl. OK?


lesley c weston said...

You continue to refer to tNBW as a public site, so I’ve come to the regretful conclusion that you are willfully missing the point. And if you dislike public posting sites, whay exactly are you here. This is quite public, isn’t it? And having reread your comments to me, where you “paraphrase my comments as stating that I had no desire for ANY critiques, good or bad, I have also come to the conclusion that you are intentionally malicious.
To my knowledge you are the only person who signed up for membership with no intention of being a legitimate participant. While you willfully miss my point, I have gotten yours. With “writers” such as yourself in the mix, there is no safe workshop on the internet. Thank you so very much for the lesson. Now go lick the cream off your puss, or return to hunting truffles and be happy. If that word isn’t in your vocabulary, I’m sure you can find it in some workshop, or other, once you’ve signed up for memebership.

lesley c. weston said...

Miss Snark
I appologise for using your forum for an ill-mannered dialogue.
I'm sure this site provides many services to the writing community, at large, or to some very large members of the writing community.
I am, myself, quite small, so I will exit with a bow before the weight of JOB's concern crushes me.

Jo Bourne said...

Hi Anonymous --

The Member Agreement, which you post in full, does not prohibit copying a brief excerpt for literary criticism.

The relevant line from the Member Agreement is --

no copying, redistribution, retransmission, publication or commercial exploitation of Content will be permitted ... "

My suggestion to the site owner was that he add specific provision to more stringently limits use if he does not wish to allow use specifically permitted under copyright law.

If such provisions exists, in the Member Agreement or elsewhere, I did not see them.

As I say, I might have missed them.
I'm fallible as anyone.


Anonymous said...

Dear Jo Bourne,

For somebody who denigrates the desires of other writers to receive critiques and suggestions from a public forum, you seem to have a strange way of presenting your belief in deed:

"Me and the Synopsis"
I'm feeling chuffed with myself.

My synopsis for JESSAMYN was slurped up by Miss Snark's crapometer and came through the other end with a 'good."
Then, in the final voting, it managed to pull itself to a distant-but-honorable second in the 'Synopsis That Made You Want to Read the Book' category.

Getting that 'good' pleased me and reassured me. No big mistakes in the synopsis execution. Good.

The synopsis being voted 'interesting' by the snarklings just flabbergasted. I mean ... gee. Only five of a hundred synopses got any mention. One of them was mine. Gee." **

**I quote this short excerpt from the blog of Jo Bourne, under fair use, for substantiation purposes. The copyright belongs to Jo Bourne. In my opinion, the blog is a little stiff and amateurish in execution.

I hope I am interpreting your message correctly when I paraphrase your point of view thus --

Having seen your idol express concern at sites like tNBW, you joined in and criticised such sites for thier 'hit and run' critiques given by 'passer-by' reviewers.

You then proceeded, as a passer-by, to make a hit and run critique on partial chapters of the works in progress of writers whom you took no time or interest in acquainting yourself with. Your critique was offered in mean spirit, to the furtherance of a personal agenda, and not as advice or assistance to the writers.

Your confession of fallibility is acknowledged and accepted although I would prepare yourself for the legal ramifications brought about by your inference that your Aunt Sally is a stripper.

I'm not sure what you hoped to achieve by diverting the topic to the email addresses of tNBW members, but I have no doubt that when Miss Snark gives you your opinion on it, we'll be the next to know.

Have a nice day and don't forget to take your antacid.

Anonymous said...

Jo, I think it's pertinent that the line you quote from the terms is preceded by this: "You may not modify, publish, transmit, distribute, participate in the transfer or sale, create derivative works, or in any way exploit, in whole or in part, any Content other than your own. Maybe the terms should be clearer, but this seems to suggest that publishing excerpts of any posts other than your own is forbidden.

Jo Bourne said...

Dear Mr. Weston --

>>> believed that my work was in fact protected <<<<

Your work, copyright from the moment you set it into electrons, is protected in many ways. It is not, however, protected from public comment.

And it is not, on that site, (so far as I can tell,) protected from quotation under 'fair use'.

One of the several reasons I dislike public posting sites is that those who use them frequently have very little understanding of what protections they are entitled to under law and, further, what protection they may expect on the net.

>>>... rather believe that you had somehow missed the "fine print" than that you disregarded it due to a desire to carry a dead bird back to your mistress, tail wagging for praise.<<<<<

There is, so far as I can see,
no 'fine print'
which prohibits use of material in a manner specifically allowed by copyright law.

If such further limitation on use exists, I have, indeed, overlooked it.
I do not discount this as a possibility.

>>>>> the sentence construction used was designed to lead with the statement that “you object to all critique, good or bad,” rather than “ You object to an extract of your work, anywhere outside the 'workshop' <<<<<

I did not, at that time, try to imply you object to negative review, as such.

It I had wished to convey that you are overly sensitive to criticism
I would have either said it outright
or been much more subtle.

May I add -- impoliteness does not render an argument more convincing. Rather the opposite, at least among rational folk.


Jo Bourne said...

Hi Anonymous --

>>>The copyright belongs to Jo Bourne. In my opinion, the blog is a little stiff and amateurish in execution.

I know I'm supposed to be fuming or hiding my head in my hands whimpering ...

but this made me laugh out loud.

>>>I'm not sure what you hoped to achieve by diverting the topic to the email addresses of tNBW members<<<<<

Ah. Then you can tell me ....

IS the e-mail address of that author, who is identified to the world as a 13-year-old girl, accessible on the site?

Please reassure me that it is not.


Anonymous said...

"May I add -- impoliteness does not render an argument more convincing. Rather the opposite, at least among rational folk."

How do "rational folk" view the constant discourteous reference to a female as "Mr."?

Anonymous said...

"I know I'm supposed to be fuming or hiding my head in my hands whimpering ...

but this made me laugh out loud."

Now that is a more useful critique! Keep working at it, you show promise.

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Bourne,

Considering your apparent distrust of sites such as tNBW, their operators and frequenters,
(and your obvious concern for the teenaged girl who’s work you may or may not have ridiculed in a forum other than the one on which she chose to display it, in the hope of receiving constructive advice) might I suggest you assure yourself as to the accessibility of her email address and personal details.

This would then reinforce your stance that your concern is genuine and not simply a transparent effort to divert attention from your ill-conceived attempt to curry favor on this blog.

Jo Bourne said...

Hi Anonymous -


I shouldn't be quibbling law here at Miss Snark's.
She is not going to be happy with me.
Especially since she asked us to just stop it.
But let me do it one last time.

>>>>Maybe the terms should be clearer, but this seems to suggest that publishing excerpts of any posts other than your own is forbidden. <<<<<

OK. You got several legal considerations here. Two important ones.


This is not just an admission that copyright law governs in these provisions, it is also an acknowledgement that copyright law is applicable to the site.

(That is, this site is not in a State – like Saudi Arabia before 94 –non-signatory to international copyright law.)

The second legal point to consider is the whole concept of 'fair use'.

This is not a bit of piddling contract law. This is a rather important, jealously guarded, right.

One can't just print in the frontispiece of a book ....
'oh, and this book doesn't come under the 'fair use' provisions of the copyright law so neener neener to you if you want to review it.'

The situation is perhaps analogous to covenants that try to keep black people from buying houses. They don't have any force in law, because it's just plain hard to take away basic rights.

Now ... there are some ways you can jiggle this on a site, but I didn't see anything like that in place here.
Could have missed it, of course.


Jo Bourne said...

Hi Annonymous --

>>>I suggest you assure yourself as to the accessibility of her email address and personal details. <<<<

After the acrimony displayed here, I would consider it impolite to access the site.

If no one is willing to reassure me on this point, however, I will do so.

It's a fairly simple question ...


Anonymous said...

--After the acrimony displayed here...--

In the words of my own teenager, "She who smelt it, dealt it." Reap the wind, miss bourne.

-- I would consider it impolite to access the site.--

So much disharmony could have been avoided, had you displayed such consideration previously.

--If no one is willing to reassure me on this point, however, I will do so.--

You miss the point. The only way for you to be sure, is to do it yourself, right? Or would the assurance of an anonymous commenter on an unrelated blog provide you with the comfort you seek? (Unless, of course, your motive is not actually the well-being of a minor? Or have we now progressed to the housing opportunities of ethnic minorities?)

Anonymous said...

Regarding personal e-mail addresses on tNBW site. They are not available on the site unless the member posts it either in his/her bio or in the forum. Members may reach one another by e-mail THROUGH the site forum, and there is a warning in place that your personal e-mail address will be revealed to the sendee. The only way for a sender to get a personal e-mail address is if the sendee reponds.

Jo Bourne said...

Hi Anonymous --

>>Members may reach one another by e-mail THROUGH the site forum,<<<

So you got a 13-year-old author on your Board ... and everyone knows her age ... and what she's written.

And anyone can send her an e-mail.

Does everybody think this is just honky-dory? Is it just me?


May I suggest you ask your site owner to remove age- and location-specific information from the 'biographies' of teenagers on your site.

I suspect this is an oversight on his part, rather than any conscious policy that considers this a 'good thing'.


lesley c. weston said...

I am not anonymous, so to the question about the young lady. I checked the site, and the young lady is no longer on the membership list. However, during her membership, her e-mail address was never posted, nor was there a photograph attached to her brief bio.
Sol is very careful to keep our younger members from viewing inappropriate material, and to protect them from inappropriate correspondence.

Jo Bourne said...

Dear Ms Weston,

Thank you for the information about the 13-year-old author.

I suggest elsewhere that the age and location of young teenagers, (and, of course, their names,) should not be posted where the teenagers can be reached by e-mail.

If e-mail routed through the site is subject to scrutiny before it is forwarded, this adds an extra layer of protection. I will assume this is the case.

My apologies for the rudeness of addressing you as Mr. The rudeness was unintentional.