Founded by New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear and former New Yorker managing editor Jacob Lewis, Figment.com is an online writing community aimed at attracting a membership of young people, ranging from kids to teens and older, to post, share and comment on each other’s original writing. Launched this week, the site is also teaming with YA author Blake Nelson, author of the well-received 1994 adult novel Girl, who is serializing Dream School, a long unpublished YA sequel to Girl, on the Figment site.
“We want to build a compelling site for young adults to share content and find stories by their peers as well as by published authors and publishers,” Lewis told PW, “a place where they can enter as reader that will offer infinite variety and where they can participate.” Since the launch earlier this week, Lewis said the site has about 10,000 registered users who have generated about 8,000 “books,” which Lewis said could be “a single poem or a multi-chaptered novel.”
While it is free to join and participate on Figment, Lewis said the site is a for-profit venture, and is expected to generate revenue from attracting publishers to market their titles through the site. While there is no banner advertising, Lewis said publishers can use the site as a platform for new releases and excerpt; “they pay us to run the stories and their content is their advertising.” Publishers can contract for pre-publication release through the site or they can post excerpts as books are released. “These days kids demand to be able to communicate with the authors of the books they read,” Lewis explained. “Publishers can use Figment to find new fans and new readers. On our site everybody is looking for everybody else. We’ve put everyone in a single place.”
Figment offers author interviews, blog posts, forums, and contests in addition to members' writing. Members can upload content and cover images (the site also offers a designing tool and stock images for covers) for their books. There is also an online reader that displays the number of chapters, how far along they are in the writing and, of course, a like button, or in this case a “heart” button. Like other social media platforms, members can “follow” the writers they like and also limit public access to their content if they choose. All copyrights belong to the writers.
While Girl was originally published as an adult novel, the growth of the YA category and Nelson’s later success as a YA author made him decide to offer the sequel—which had gone unpublished—to Figment. (S&S also reissued Girl for a YA audience in 2007.) Dream School has received “thousands of hits” and Lewis expects to work with other authors who may have unpublished work to offer as well as publishers and add more serialized fiction. Currently Running Press is serializing Joanne Dahme’s Contagion on the site, and Lewis said they also have marketing deals with MTV Books, Llewellyn Books, “and four or five other deals to come.” The site will publish a newsletter twice a month and hopes to get teachers “to use us as a resource.” Figment is also teaming with the American Association of School Librarians for a month-long series of writing contests for its members during School Library Month in April.
While the site has been approached by agents and publishers interested in some of its members, Lewis said that’s not their focus. “There’s a lot of heartfelt and thoughtful writing on the site now,” she said. “If some published writing comes out of this then that’s wonderful, but it’s not our goal. Community is the goal. We’re not trying to push people to the surface although we know that will happen.”