Harper Voyager has put out a short-term call for unagented submissions:
Yes, it’s true! We are delighted to announce an exciting joint venture that will offer talented aspiring writers the chance to join our global science fiction and fantasy imprint.
The submission portal, http://www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com, will be open from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012. The manuscripts will then be read and those most suited to the global Harper Voyager list will be selected jointly by editors in the USA, UK and Australia. Accepted submissions will benefit from the full publishing process: accepted manuscripts will be edited; and the finished titles will receive online marketing and sales support in World English markets.
Voyager will be seeking an array of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly novels written in the epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural genres.
See? The impact of ebooks and Amazon is having yet another positive effect on the publishing ecosystem for writers: a big publisher is actually open to unagented submissions (imagine that) if only for a limited time (two weeks, feh), with the successful submissions going on to be released digitally.
It’s an obvious attempt to adapt, which is to be respected (and hopefully emulated by other publishers), though I would look VERY closely at any contract they offer, particularly as regards the royalties paid (this is a royalty only deal, no advance), lifespan of the agreement (since it’s all-digital, it’d be all too easy for Harper to keep books “in print” forever and lock in a paltry royalty), and attendant rights (this is digital only, but do they restrict the authors from taking full advantage of print and other rights?). I’d also look for guarantees of some real level of promotion and marketing; if they’re just going to throw the books out there like they usually do, with little or no actual support, the author is gaining very little beyond short term gain (mainly editorially, and perhaps in cover design) for long term commitment that will no doubt pay most of its profits back to Harper.
I suspect new authors are better off doing it themselves, but for those who can only believe in their abilities if they’re officially allowed to join the club, it’s good that more opportunities are starting to appear. Thank Amazon: publishers know they have to stay viable, and that they have to start recruiting more raw talent (a lot of established writers will be leaving their houses over time to do things themselves) and taking full advantage of digital platforms. But if the authors are getting anything less than at least 50% of the profits, they’re not doing themselves much of a favor by going this route.