Reader Lauri Shaw pointed me to the website Authonomy, which I had not become acquainted with even though I remember hearing about its launch.
Authonomy is, basically, a manuscript ranking system combined with social networking, and it’s backed by Harper UK, who is hoping to use it to find gems among the books that have become the most popular. With its different features, user-generated content and much more, Authonomy feels very much like the future. Here’s what I want to know: is it?
In a brave new world swimming in e-books and manuscripts, are user-generated ranking systems the way the best books will rise to the top? Is a masses-governed system better than the (supposed) expert-driven system that has ruled for the last two hundred years? Is this, frankly, going to work? Or is it going to favor those who best game the system?
And yes Harper, I do intend to collect that free toaster for plugging the site.
I have some writer buds on Authonomy and joined because I’ve read the books they posted and think they’re quality books, so I voted for them, or put them on my shelf, or whatever it’s called over there. But I don’t intend to post anything myself. I’m really, really skeptical. It reminds me too much of YouWriteOn.com, which I had bad experiences with. But even YouWriteOn didn’t let just any old person read your manuscript; they had to be a site member first. I mean, maybe Harper Collins is just trying something new and different to see if it’s a better way. But I don’t think it is.
I am a ‘beta tester’ for the site, but I am not exactly in favor. I have not posted my 10,000 plus words or whatever it was that they wanted. I am not willing to link myself with one publisher or risk my electronic rights, nor am I willing to post my manuscript online–anywhere–at this point.
Sure feedback is good, but I have other ways, safer ways of getting good, consistent feedback.
Currently, I am too busy writing and working with my (ongoing) critique partners to worry about replying to comments on that site or to keep my work ‘active’ and build my ranking. It takes a lot of time and work.
Authonomy is great for HC, not so great for me. 🙂
This sort of thing frightens me. I did the Amazon contest last year (which they are now gearing up for again) and it ruined me for this sort of thing. That’s not to imply that the same difficulties will carry over into Authonomy or any other service/popularity contest, but I’ve seen a good sampling of the strange things that can happen.
As some have already observed, whenever there’s a system in place, someone will figure out how to manipulate it. Combine that with human error, organizational difficulties, and the sheer volume of competition, and I don’t see how it can be any better than going straight to an agent or editor.
That’s not even taking into account the period of trial and error, and the evolution of this business model. In ten years it might be viable, but right now its an experiment. I’m not sacrificing any more manuscripts to someone’s experiment.
Okay, I am not even in this business but I do have an opinion.
I may never really muster the nerve to write my book, although I love writing, and everyone in my life for the past 20 years (that knows the story) bugs me to write it. I think some of them just want to see their characters in print. ha. Anyway, try as I might, I can’t do it. I fail at this in a way that I don’t fail at any other thing. I was a Journalism Major and can write about other’s experiences – no problem. I enjoy helping others tell their stories. But, when it comes to my own, I fumble and write like I’ve been held back in 8th grade for 26 years.
So, since I’m such a bumbler about writing my own personal tale, I decided to go for it and write/post via my blog. I thought this would force me out of my block. And even though I only did this for one day, and it stunk to high heaven, an atty friend of mine phoned and threw a fit. She said “This is ridiculous. You aren’t guarding your intellectual property!”
So- I removed the posts.
The odds are I will never find the words to write about my own life, but if I do, I won’t begin by posting it on the web- anywhere.
The Survivor system for getting attention is terrible. Ugh.
I’ll admit that I’m mystified by the people who are revising their manuscript based on the comments they receive on this website. How do you know who your commentors are? Just because they can read and supposedly write, doesn’t mean their revision impulses are right.
Then again, maybe I’ve sat in too many writing workshops with people who can’t put together a sentence, but have a zillion (wrong-headed) opinions.
I don’t like the idea, and here’s why. Books are subjective – a hundred people over here might love one book, while a hundred people over there might not. If one hundred people purchasing the book, however, defines it as a bestseller, then wouldn’t it be a shame to not see that manuscript make it to print because only 50% of Authonomy’s users rated it well?
I know I’m using simple math, and there is certainly more to authoring and then selling a book than making the bestseller’s list, but I think it’s a good example of why the concept is flawed.
Caveat: I haven’t read the other comments yet, so may be repeating.
Oh, and a question, if you see this: while skimming the comments I noticed your suggestion to NOT query the week before or after a major holiday. Can you elaborate – why not?
I’m in marketing, and with certain campaigns and certain media, it’s a given that you don’t launch in the cushion around a holiday, because people are less likely to pay full attention then. Same reason?
Madame Lefty says
I’m not completely sold on the idea. It reminds me a little too much of MySpace. Some people are just really good at getting 2874490324792+ friends.
Whereas others, like me, barely pass the 30 mark.
I’d be afraid those not dedicated to the website, would come to think their manuscript was sloppy, because they weren’t popular enough or some other silly notion.
Sure, sending queries to agents is a cruel, painstaking process, but I trust they know what they’re talking about.
Verdict is still out on this one. I agree with BR, it does seem to be more about working the system … it also seems to me like the only ones who would read books off of it are fellow authors. I’m skeptical of submitting to this one as my piece was treated like a crash test dummy on another site recently. Crush in Colorado
marilyn peake says
After reading all the comments here and looking at Authonomy more closely, it seems to me it’s just another path to get a book out there when all else fails. There are many such paths nowadays. They’re sometimes helpful, but usually to a very limited degree. Jumping through networking hoops to make one’s book “popular” before sending it to an agent seems problematic to me.
Lisa - Mother of Nine says
I haven’t looked at the site, but a number here have said they’ve tried it and it was a waste of time. I, like so many others, have very little time to waste.
I did notice Jeanne’s comment about posting on the web, though, and that has me concerned. She said she’d removed her blog because an attorney friend was concerned about her intellectual rights. My daughter began a blog posting portions of my manuscript -re: our lives, living and dying in Indian Country. She had said it might be a good way to get the story some attention. I wasn’t confident, but allowed her to try it. I’m probably naive, but if one is telling a personal, true story – how much danger is there of it being plagiarized? After all, who but the one that lived it could claim it as their own? It’s like a fingerprint…or am I naive?
Zoe Winters says
The second you put something in a solid form (and posting on the internet counts), it is yours, it’s your copyright. If you wanted to fight something in court, you have to formally register your copyright with the copyright office (costs $35 if you do it online $45 if you do it otherwise.)
I’m not sure if you would have to have a formal registered copyright for online work in order to fight it in court (if the issue came up), but your work is your work. You can write it in big letters with a sharpie marker on the side of a barn, or put it on the interwebz, or put it in a printed book. It’s yours, you own it. The end.
Publishing your work somewhere, even your own blog, does not damage your intellectual rights over that work. It MAY harm your ability to sell the work to someone because you no longer have “first rights,” to sell, but if you build a platform for your work, it makes you more of a “sure thing” (in my opinion.)
This seems to be designed for people who would rather play on the Internet than polish their manuscripts. It seems a little sad.
Lisa, I would say, ask you atty. Very often people have simlar ideas and it is VERY difficult to prove who came up with theirs first.
For instance, a cousin of mine wrote a very famous song. Won’t say what. But they have told me they have to be very, VERY careful about their work. It is very common for someone to take a smidge of what is yours and add to it and say “these ideas are all out there, floating in the air….”
If I post something I AM able to prove by date etc… that it was my idea or creation on said date. But, do I really want to fight that battle? Am I really up to that? My answer is, no. I will give out all the free parenting advice I can muster. Read my blog and share in my triumphs and sorrows. Learn from my success and failure. That is not something I covet. By my “story” is different. It’s free for those close to me and, if I’m on a roll at a party and have had 3 glasses of wine, I can turn into Erma Bombeck and spin it until everyone is on the floor, holding their stomachs, laughing. Tragedy is hilareous if done right. But, I’m not putting into print until it doesn’t SUCK and I can query someone like Nathan.
I hate it for totally different reasons.
I used a site called You Write On.com, out of England, and it was along the same lines, and the winners would get a reading from literary agents.
But I write fairly edgy, offbeat, stuff. My novel is set in a surreal futuristic counterculture, lots of drugs and swearing. It’s got fantasy elemtents, but it’s literary fiction. GOOD LUCK getting votes on that. 1/5 people just think it’s outstanding, one person on critiquecircle.com read the whole thing in a day. But for 4/5 people, it’s confusing, weird and not their bag.
So for extremely middle-of-the-road genre work, like mystery or thriller, it’s probably not bad, for for an odd one like me, no way.
I want someone to post a chapter from “Heart of Darkness” and just watch it get panned by everyone out there.
My 2 cents,
Adam Heine says
I don’t think it will work well. It will favour skillful networkers, not good writers.
How is that different from the current system? Seriously, who has the easiest time getting published? Those whose books are already popular or those who know people.
I’m reading a political thriller right now by a famous author who has written 60 novels in the last 30 years… and it sucks! So how did it get published? Because it won Literary Survivor: the old version. This guy’s popular, so they’ll publish pretty much whatever he writes.
Authonomy seems to be yet another version of the same old game.
Zoe Winters says
Adam, you bring up a good point.
And not to be a total cynic here, but publishers are in business to make money. While many editors and agents may love books, you can’t feed yourself, your kids, or pay your employees on love.
While it may seem “crass and like a popularity contest” to do things like this, people who win things like this clearly know how to market and get people to make the needed response to their work.
Isn’t that what publishers are looking for? Folks who can market?
Now the argument is: “But it’s not based on the quality of the writing.”
But how many novels out there are “commercial” but not very great? This is same sh*t different day as far as I can tell. I can name five bestsellers off the top of my head, that IMO aren’t that great, but nevertheless they connected with something people wanted and sold well.
So we can begrudge people who win contests like this, or we can begrudge bestsellers that aren’t really great works of fiction, or we can just stop worrying about it and get back to writing our own stuff.
Simon Haynes says
Sounds like a great idea to me.
Back in 1999/2000 I participated in Critters and the Delrey Online Writers Workshop, where I not only had my own work critiqued but also learnt a lot about spotting flaws & problems in early drafts. I can name at least two published authors who were plucked from those participating in the DROWW site.
I'm all for peer review – I know it helped me immensely. If you score high marks from other readers you know you're on the right track, and if you get a lot of critiques and pointers you know you're not ready to submit material to agents and publishers.
Actually, this concept is not new, nor an experiment…
Time/Warner had something similar earlier in this century, called iPublish.
Kathleen Peacock says
Publishing your work somewhere, even your own blog, does not damage your intellectual rights over that work. It MAY harm your ability to sell the work to someone because you no longer have “first rights,” to sell.
I believe Zoe is correct here, though I understand Jeanne's point about not wanting to take on those battles.
Personally, I've gone for a compromise. I started a blog a year ago as an outlet to post both fiction and op-ed pieces on the subject of weight. I am selective about what I post there and do not post things I intend to sell.
For me, this approach has worked well. I have a small base (between 120 & 150) of people who regularly read the blog and their response has been wonderful in both encouraging me to try and write with the end goal of publication and in confirming my suspicions that there would be a market for my subject matter.
I also think Adam has a good point here.
It doesn’t seem like a bad idea on principle, but the questions you raise are valid. I’m curious to know how you would answer them…
Also, do publishers/agents/editors actually use the site?
Vancouver Dame says
I checked out the Authonomy site, and wasn’t that impressed. I agree with the comments that the ability to skew the ranking by the authors or the readers make this a type of popularity contest. IMO the quality is not what rises to the top. Could this be reality publishing? I personally would prefer to deal with an agent. I think there should be more mentoring offered by those already established as published authors.
Few writing orgs offer this, but IMO again, that would be more valuable than some of the conferences or writing sites. I prefer to have someone with the credentials to judge (not someone off the street) review my work. The person who could review your work on this Authonomy site could be someone who prefers another genre, or didn’t like the style of your story, etc. There will always be those who play games well, but I usually don’t have time to read their books. I think the selection of what is published should improve, because what is saleable for groups like book clubs is not always good literary reading, or even good genre reading. Mass approval does not equate with quality. Look at some of the books in the bookstores this season. The sale bins are full of them. Perhaps this sort of mechanism (evaluation of new material) just needs to be redesigned to prevent the manipulation which seems to result.
Authonomy reminds me of Massify. Lots of people join, but it eventually gets bogged down by the numbers, which is a marketing challenge that plagues the Internet more so than many other methods. And like other networking sites––as another mentioned here––there tends to be too many birds of the same feather.
I’ve used Inktip, where industry folks can search for stuff they’re looking for, have a look at synops and download an MS if they want. It makes sense as a way to cut through the levels of bull to be noticed because it’s set up like the existing model and there are strict guidelines to follow.
I might sign up and check out the forums. Hopefully they’re better than most and you can actually develop helpful relationships. Otherwise, I see it getting diluted in mediocre material and repetitive hawking. And the second someone who works the system best gets found out, I think there’s a danger that people will lose trust in the process.
In the end, the idea is to be able to score and leave the site to work with people, which kind of limits it as an end game.
I gueth we’ll justh havth to thee if itsth the future.
I learned, in developing a large readership for my blog (on another site) that a good percentage of readership comes from simply spending time reading and commenting on others’ work. I’m assuming this site would work the same way? So if someone has oodles of time to network around and get people to read, he or she would have higher rankings. My biggest concern is theft. Are people not concerned that, in putting their entire manuscripts online, someone might claim it as his or her own? Once it’s out there, anyone can read it…
Chris Redding says
In a perfect world, only the best books would get published. It would only be about the writing. But it isn’t. It’s about being at the right place at the right time, with the right (mostly good) book, mind you. (sometimes, I’ve read some cr**)
So since it isn’t always about the writing, then this system works as good as any.
Is this really all that different from the Amazon Breakthrough contest? I guess it’s a little more “open source” and that is a good thing. This is probably the first in what will many similar methods to find new talent. As far as the naysayers who think it is all about “working the system” isn’t breaking into the publishing industry pretty much the same? There are probably more great novels that went unpublished and unseen by the masses than those that have simply because the author didn’t know the right person or it “wasn’t right” for the agents and/or publishers to whom he or she queried. Bravo to HK for having the balls to try something that goes against the status quo!
I agree that those who sit there and manipulate the game for hours (day/weeks/months?) on end are the only ones who will benefit from the rankings, etc…
But remember, the high ranking only gets your piece *read* by a gatekeeper. If it’s crap, it’s still crap, and it will probably become clear that you got it to the top by giving months of time to playing the game. It will still be rejected quickly, if more kindly.
So in that sense, it’s no different from any other system: a few pages in (if that), a reader will see that THE WRITING ITSELF IS NOT VERY GOOD, and there goes all the foolish time spent manipulating the system.
There’s a chance that this might be good for those of us with legitimate submissions to agents, as the type of people who buy in to it might now be devoting more of their time to playing games like Authonomy instead of saturating the inboxes of agents! Wouldn’t that be nice?!
Nancy D'Inzillo says
I won’t be surprised to see a proliferation of such masses-governed systems in the future. What with the growing impact of social networking (especially online) allowing authors to get their work to readers in such avenues as Authonomy among many others, it wouldn’t surprise me if more such audience-backed books rise to the top. But that’s been true throughout time, the only difference now is that it’s harder to uphold the gatekeeping of the expert-driven system when self-publishing is so much more accessible.
Will this mean more dross? Probably so. There are already plenty of books that were poorly edited and designed due to vanity press publishing and self-publishing that are on the shelves. That said, most of those books also aren’t necessarily the ones that become popular.
I still have faith that there are readers out there capable of discerning quality. The danger will be if we lose the good discernment of quality librarians and educators, as seems to be a danger in the UK right now. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/3506600/Philip-Pullman-attacks-schools-philistine-plan-to-close-library.html) Without someone teaching our readers about good composition, whose to say what will be considered “good writing” in the future? Then again, the standards of good writing have changed significantly throughout time, and maybe that’s not so bad.
Wanda B. Ontheshelves says
Hey, I just want my agent to play the Authonomy game for me! I don’t have the time, but surely my agent would…or my agent’s intern…
Oh yeah, I don’t have an agent yet.
Back to the query – I have query beta readers now!
Unfortunate slant rhyme for medical transcriptionists out there: Authonomy / lithotomy / lobotomy etc.
Why oh why does Bob Nardelli’s face have to keep floating in and out of my consciousness…
Thanks for the post, Nathan. While you were on vacation, did you note that Heidi and Spencer eloped?
And now on to the post:
I haven’t spent much time with Authonomy yet, but in reviewing the comments here and on Writer Beware, it seems clear that this kind of filtering is not for me.
To echo what Kathryn711 said, my work is just plain weird, and I don’t think pitching it into a mass feeding frenzy is the best way to obtain useful feedback.
Also, Authonomy seems to require an enormous time commitment and passion for social networking. Perhaps if one has both and writes in a commercial genre, the process could be worthwhile.
I posted the first four chapters of my book last night to find out if I could get some honest feedback. I did find that everyone who wanted me to read theirs, contacted me right off. It is a game of sorts with the rating system and it seems that the only way to get someone to read anything is to read millions of pages yourself and hope that someone might read yours. I have myself, read a few other peoples books. Not the entire works, but the first few chapters… I still have yet to see anyone read mine. There were a few books and ideas that seemed exceptional. However, there were so many more that scared me. I’m sure that is how you feel Nathan… I think it’s a good idea, but I flawed.
I signed up and uploaded 10,000 words. I have been perusing the work of others and concluding that my part of the slush pile is neither the best nor the worst of the lot. It is interesting to read what other non-published writers are producing. I see errors that I have made, but because it’s someone else I can be more objective when I look at the mirror later. I have no illusions that I will be “discovered.” Agents are busy enough that they will not sift through the chaff to find one kernel of wheat.
I posted 10K of my already published book with the cute little Search Inside arrow on the cover shot. I figure people might sample, then consider buying.
I wouldn’t post any WIP, though.
I have recently put a book on Authonomy and it can be a very useful tool if you’re lucky enough to score helpful comments. The rest of the comments can be sifted, just like any other advice you get through life. So for a writers’ forum, it serves its purpose.
If you prefer a fairer way of ranking authors (without all the social networking fluff) I highly recommend YouWriteOn, funded by the British Arts council (as opposed to a private company with slightly different goals). You get as many reviews as you give, and the reviews are randomly assigned (thus circumventing the back-patting). It’s not as pretty as Authonomy. But I think the social networking is overrated over there… I’m there for the honest critiques, not for the buddies.
As for Authonomy’s claims to be a talent spotting forum, I’m not sure about that either. Sure, the top people tend to be avid social networkers, but there isn’t any really bad stuff in the top five, so it works at some level. There’s some great stuff NOT in the top five that just gets skipped over, but hey, that’s the same as the real world, right?
I think we should give Authonomy a chance, and join up with a view to keeping it honest. I could have signed up fifty of my closest friends and asked them to put me on their shelf, but I didn’t. It’s up to the site’s users to define the culture of the site. And if you haven’t had a look at it, do. I’m guessing it’s fairly representative of a slush pile. Who’d be an agent, eh?
I think authonomy is great. I posted my manuscript on the site and suddenly I had my own little writing group. Plus, every one who reads your manuscript leaves new advice, different opinions, points out problems with word choice…
If you don’t have a group of writers (or friends) to help you on your journey, authonmy is a good place to go.
I was on authonomy for a while until my book sold and I took it off (rank #130 or thereabouts)…
“I could be wrong, but it seems more about working the system than letting your writing stand on its own two feet.”
A lot of people an Authonomy (usually the low ranking ones) echoed this sentiment. But isn’t “working the system” exactly what any author will have to do once their book is published if they want it to sell? There are a lot of mediocre books that sell well becuase of good (and relentless) marketing. If you don’t like having to bang pots and pans now, you won’t like it when youre published either. If you can’t work the system now, you won’t be able to do it when you’re published, either. In the words of S. King from On Writing, the phrse isn’t “best writing author,” it’s “best-selling author.”
My book is currently no. 22 on there … it’s been an enormous amount of fun. I’ve made a lot of friends there. The system is being game-proofed as it goes along; the guy Rik who runs the site is a total mensch. There’s a bit of lowlife on there, but hey it is pretty hard to get clear of that, no matter where you go.
It’s gratifying to go over there and kind of splash around, too, because there’s a wide variety of incredible talent on that site. Anybody who wants my recommendations, please write with your genre preferences and let me know. I guarantee you’ll be astounded.
I think HarperCollins are due some praise. They have very cleverly automated the filtering of their slushpile. It is now done by hundreds, if not thousands of volunteers who work for nothing. These volunteers are all aspiring writers. Do they represent a valid cross-section of the book-buying public? No, they do not, but then neither does a Literary Agency. Is Authonomy’s selection system fair? Probably not, but then neither is the real world.
Many posts here are negative, and suggest that Authonomy is open to manipulation/abuse. I disagree. The ‘Talent Spotter’ ranking system means that writers hoping to get a rent-a-crowd to vote for their book will get nowhere. Certainly, people can ‘spam’ the Fora amd messaging system hoping to garner votes. But at the end of the day, if your book is rubbish, nobody will support it.
For me, the best aspect of the site has been the friendship and support of other writers, who have read my work and offered valuable feedback that has helped me improve it. And also the chance to see what a real slushpile looks like.
My name is Geoff Thorne. I wrote the media tie-in novel, STAR TREK: TITAN: SWORD OF DAMOCLES among many other shorts, screenplays, teleplays and comics both Trek-related and non.
I have two novels partially uploaded onto the AUTHONOMY site. One is doing well. The other, not as.
Here’s why I did it:
The internet is eroding the traditional means of publication and of access in an increasing progression. More and more works are being read first on PDA-esque devices, blah blah blah. It’s the future, kids. Wake up.
I read some of Corey Doctorow’s stuff on the web and will be buying a hard copy of LITTLE BROTHER some time in the next few days. Remember the future? It’s here.
This is the way I see publishing going, at least in terms of the slush. Sure, it’s better to have an agent (for now) advocating for you and, yes, there’s a lot of chaff to get through when you have an open slush pile like the AUTHONOMY experiment. So what?
What’s the difference between this sort of peer vetting and any bookshelf in any store across the planet?
And, as for those who persist in treating it like a game or lottery, again, so what? Any attempts to “cheat” are immediately offset by the personal interests of those who want to “play” it straight.
There are those who will attempt to game any system. How many crappy books make it to the shelves due the talent of agents rather than that of writers? Stacks, baby. And you all know it. That’s gaming the current system, isn’t it? Sure it is.
So if, once a month, five members of AUTHONOMY get to the top of the pile to get read by one or more of the HC editors, exactly how is that a bad thing?
Do you imagine that some hacker with a thousand linked-up vote generators will pass that last hurdle if his/her book is crappy? Of course not. No editor wants to be responsible for such a mistake.
Do you imagine that NONE of the HC editors look below the monthly top five if they see a title or synopsis that grabs their attention? Again, of course not.
It’s no different than any other slush pie and, in some ways it’s better.
Some of those books are CRAP, sure. They can do with a good vetting from peers and pros well before an editor ever sees them, much less the buying public. But some of those books are GOLD and suffer only from the fact that their creators don’t have representation or another means of saying “HEY! OVER HERE!”
It’s a market, another open market in a sea of them. Why not try it? As long it isn’t one’s ONLY means of attack, what’s the harm?
I see a lot of snobbery from people who haven’t, apparently, actually checked the site out. Do yourself a favor: take a personal sample before drowning yourself in the negative spin. It costs you nothing to look.
If you will do that, I promise, whatever your ultimate verdict, when Harper Collins agrees to publish my AUTHONOMY-posted novel, I won’t track any of you down to say, “I told you so.”
But, of course, we know I did.
stef nalton says
I’m new to writing so joined and uploaded to get feedback and advice. This is the real strength of the genuine members of Authonomy; they spend hours helping one another to improve (be prepared for candid reviews). As for the networking issue: Yes it has been abused and this is currently part of a debate by the members who would like to nullify this unsavoury strategy. Those of you who say its full of slush – what of your work; are you published enough to qualify the remark? My advice is to go and take a look, rather than echo soundbytes.
Jo Bailey (retired senior editor)
Harper Collins were seriously enthusiastic about Authonomy as a means unto an end: no more unsolicited manuscripts towering to infinity in the lobby.
99% of unsolicited manuscripts are are so badly written they are referred to as cringe fodder. As can be seen at Authonomy 99% of the uploaded novels are cringe fodder.
No amount of promotion by Harper Collins will induce a desparate army of readers to hang out at Authonomy. It is what it is. An electronic slushpile. Talented authors are rapidly snatched from the web site: the top listed heading straight to the bin.
A few good books on Authonomy, in case anybody would like to investigate.
(hysterically funny literary fiction)
How to Kiss Michael Keast
(YA or a little younger, but sidesplitting)
Dorkismo: the Macho of the Dork
There are good books on Authonomy, there are also excruciatingly bad ones, but that’s inevitable. I wonder how it compares with the quality of a physical slush pile?
I uploaded part of my book a couple of days after it went public. At first, it was really useful, I got lots of good crits, and the book improved no end as a result. After a while, though, it became harder to get anyone to look at it. I still get good crits, but they’re far fewer. From my POV, it’s now a lot less useful than YouWriteOn, which I also use. Time will tell, but the amount of time needed to push a book up to the top five, and get a look from a publisher, seems disproportionate. As sopon as i’m satisfied that my book is as good as it can be made, I’ll be going the traditional route.
J. Lea Lopez says
I’m in agreement with some other commenters/Authonomy members like Patty, Geoff Thorne, Keefieboy and dorkismo. I signed up for Authonomy in the private beta phase and have been enjoying it ever since. I have two books uploaded, one that’s complete (here: https://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=707 ) and one that’s a WIP. The first book is currently ranked 168, which I’m fairly happy with, considering the number of mss on the site. And recently I’ve risen to number 7 Talent Spotter, which I’m pretty tickled with too. It’s fun.
YES, Authonomy is time-consuming, but I can honestly say the time I spend there is not time I would usually spend writing, it’s time I’d usually spend spacing out in front of the TV. 🙂
YES, you have to network and actually PARTICIPATE to continue to get readers for your own book, but what did you expect? And with so many books on the site, one of the easiest ways to find new stuff to read is by looking at the books of people who’ve commented on your own, or on books you also liked, or who are active in the forums.
YES, there are the few who would like to maniuplate the system, and the few who are not nice on the site (and probably are not nice in real life), and also the few who think they’re entitled to be at the top no matter what kind of rubbish they write. But that’s life. You’ll always have to learn to deal with the Debbie Downers of life. And anyway, Rik (the authonomy tech god!!) does a great job of adjusting, monitoring, and ferretting out the would-be cheaters. And the loyal Authonomists who want to see the site do what it’s intended to do are always good at vocalizing when they feel someone’s being underhanded.
If you’re worried about getting negative feedback on your book, grow a thicker skin. You’ll need it if you want to be a writer anyway. Nobody’s telling you to change anything based on what one Authonomy reader says. But there are a nice group of dedicated members who DO have thoughtful, insightful, helpful and good-spirited critiques to offer.
And as far as the “game” or “Survivor” aspect of it all – ever heard of marketing? If you really have what it takes to make it through the slushpile (electronic or not!) and land a publishing deal, don’t you expect that you’ll have to participate at least a TINY BIT in marketing yourself? If you can’t handle doing it on Authonomy, well… how will you handle it out there on the streets with the public?
Anyway, the point of this long winded comment is this: No method is perfect – including the standard agent-querying method. But if you can get some good, free advice and a sense of comraderie, what’s the harm in that? Don’t knock it til ya try it.
All systems can be gamed. Amazon is the ultimate system–you don’t think authors are gaming that for a living every single day with their blogs, personal meessages to those who buy their book, video trailers, character contests, timing of pre-order sales to artifically boost rankings (hey I was #10 for 2.6 nanoseconds! so now I’ve got “Top 10 AMZN Bestseller” forever on my promo materials…etc. etc.etc.? They’re gaming Amazon the same way the ones learning how to game Authonomy now will game the real marketplace later. If you can’t play like that, leave your book on your hard drive, cuz the rest of us are hungrier than you, and we’ll do it. If you just want to write, then get a job and write in your spare time. If you want to write for a living, then better start gaming the system…or get back your job.
J. Lea Lopez says
Oh, and I forgot to mention… There IS talent on authonomy. Many of us over there are ALSO doing the traditional query thing (because let’s face it, it’d be stupid to put all your hopes for publishing in a website). Many have partials and fulls out to agents, some are already published, some have signed with agents and on their way to being published. I believe one member just recently signed with Curtis Brown, too. 😉 These things may not have come about BECAUSE of Authonomy, but it just goes to show you that not everyone in the “slush pile” is destined to stay there.
Let me put it like this:
Let’s say that the people who think they can play the angles become the only ones who ever reach the top five.
The bad news is this:
Their books will likely be crap because they’ve invested more time in learning code and in playing angles than simply writing well.
These shoddy works will bump up against the same editorial wall they would had they gone the traditional route, namely real people with actual brains whose jobs depend on making the right pick. And they will get the same unhappy result they would had they not gamed their way to the front of the line.
Those scammers will NOT be picked for the reasons I’ve cited. A few months of scammers reaching the top ranks to the detriment of real writers will necessitate either a collapse of the experiment or a massive restructuring so as to make it open ONLY to the previously published or something like that. That doesn’t hurt those “real” writers; they will simply go back to business as usual. But it will hurt those freshmen and sophomores who still need help and ego boosting.
But the good news is you can’t really cheat this. It’s straight out, toe-to-toe gladiator action and let the best Moriturum win.
And won’t the cheaters feel really crappy when they did all that gaming, all that cheating only to ultimately get spanked anyway by the writers with the superior works?
Of course they will.
I think I speak for all the good writers on the site when I say, “Bring it.”
We have news for you.