Macmillan is describing Swoon Reads "a revolutionary new crowd-sourced romance imprint dedicated to publishing books that capture the intensity and passion of teen love", but when you get down to the nitty-gritty details this is going to be a community of readers, writers, and folks who do both.
Starting early next year, budding authors will be able to upload their work for readers to review. Macmillan is asking for only "a completed novel, preferably between 50,000 and 70,000 words," so shorter or incomplete works would like be rejected.
The highest rated manuscripts will be picked up for publication in both print and ebook formats at rather paltry royalty rates. Swoon Reads is going to launch under Macmillan's Feiwel and Friends brand, and the website should start accepting submissions in early 2013. They plan to publish 6 to 12 titles titles in 2014.
This is a pretty good idea, but the best part is that an author can make use of it without ever signing a deal with Macmillan. Instead an author can use Swoon Reads as a focus group to test story ideas, tighten up the writing, and find out what the audience wants to read.
Once that's done an author can thank Macmillan, walk away, and make the title available as a self-published ebook.
See, Macmillan isn't doing anything here which hasn't already been used in one form or another. Crowd-sourced commentary on ebooks? I'm sure you can find authors using Wattpad to do just that. Really all Macmillan is doing is copying an existing idea and using it for their own purposes. That is a smart move, but it's also important to note that authors can use this for their purposes.