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 posted on Friday that I had uploaded my book on the site. I had at least two or more people check out my work over the weekend and give feedback. Some positive, and some with helpful tips… 😉 At first I didn’t think this site was really working, but you need to give it a chance. If you work it, you can really get some feedback and a feeling that you are making progress. The ranking makes you feel like you aren’t stagnet in your efforts. That can be helpful in a world of neverending work. I did take mine down to continue working on it. It is only the start of something big and I don’t want to put something out there that is basically a rough draft. I will think about placing it back up when I feel it’s ready. This was like a trial to see what the site was all about. Hope this helps those who are questioning the site.
As Anonymous said, all publishing is about gaming the system. I’ve been writing for many years, and communicating broadly with other writers during that time. There are many, many great writers out there, so you need more than writing to get you stuff in front of the public. You need talent and perseverance — everyone says that — but you need luck and connections, too. A strong ego and lots of energy for self promotion doesn’t hurt, either. There’s much more to getting between covers than just writing well.
I think “luck” is for people without skill, drive and talent. If your work can’t stand up to the light all by itself what good is schmoozing agents and whatnot?
Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
The Authonomy participants who spend time reading and offering solid crits are golden. I’m surprised that anyone would knock the value of useful feedback. You don’t have to play the popularity game to receive quality information on ways to improve your writing, only a willingness to give someone else’s work the same consideration.
Authonomy *is* a game and it’s called, ‘One path that may lead to the city of Published Author.’ Make of it what you will.
I have been a member of authonomy since May and have seen the site evolve in the past 5 months – including the addition of the forum and recently, a friending system which enables personal messages. It’s kind of like facebook meets youwriteon.
Personally I love it!
I am one of those social creatures and to hang out with a bunch of writers has been fun and full of learnings.
I’ve worked in a literary agency so I’ve been on the other side of the fence – the person writing the rejection letters – and for the past 10 years I’ve worked as freelance book doctor. I’ve got magazine credits and a film in development. I figured I knew a lot.
But it’s amazing how much there still is (always is) to learn about writing. Since being on the site I’ve picked up some brand new writing tools and had people nit-pick my work to pieces. I can’t stress enough how much my book has benefited from all the feedback and how much I have evolved as writer. Whatever stage you are at with your writing, you can still learn stuff on this site.
Yes, there are game-players on it and yes, there is a system. But ignore the rankings and see it for what it can be – a vehicle for improving your writing.
Re the top 5, for the most part, they are all very good. I was lucky enough to make the top 5 last month – yeah probably because I did invest a lot of time into the site to get myself there. I haven’t submitted it to agents, and haven’t yet heard from HC, but for me, I can now use this achievement as a selling tool when I pitch it elsewhere.
I joined authonomy a couple months ago. I’ve got a completed (and I once thought polished) MS and I’ve been querying agents. A friend told me about authonomy, and I thought, why not. I posted the few chapters of the MS. I had no illusions that I would make the top 5 or get a publishing deal out of this. I went to get some feedback, see if this new site was worthwhile or not.
What I’ve gained is the most incredible group of writer friends and a very direct, honest critique group from all over the world – some published authors; some, like me, yet-to-be published. I have had more than 300 people read at least a few chapters of my novel and comment on it. Dozens have given very insightful critiques. My work will come off Authonomy better than it went on.
Authonomy does not replace the traditional routes of getting published. I’m still querying agents.
I’ve had a very good, positive experience on Authonomy, and I recommend it highly.
So go check out the site and have a look at my book if you want. It’s rated #2 on the site right now, for whatever that’s worth.
Carry Me Away
Abu el Banat says
I’m a reader, not a writer, who discovered Authonomy three months ago and has become completely addicted. I’ve turned to Authonomy because I have become so disillusioned by what’s on offer in Waterstones, and as a reader, have been so comprehensively short-changed by literary agents and publishers.
Every Waterstones window is now crammed with the meaningless droolings of non-entity TV celebrities, and if I can get past that, most of the rest is so bland and formulaic that I rapidly lose the will to live. (As a historical fiction reader, I’ve lost count of the badly-written attempts to replicate Patrick O’Brian I’ve bought, or the unimaginative soap-opera storylines in Elizabethan costume, of which I’ve read two or three chapters before giving them away to Oxfam.)
In contrast, on Authonomy I’ve found some stellar writing, much of it in genres I would previously have avoided. I have found books that have kept me reading all night; characters with whom I actually want to spend time; stories that can teach us how to live (as the old man said to Scheherezade); a towering work of scientific and moral philosophy wrapped up in a psychological thriller; most recently, a children’s book that I actually want to read to my children (and re-read a hundred times if necessary).
Sure, some of it needs some proofreading or editing before it’s published. (What do you expect?) And some of it’s in early draft. And some of the writing in the top 5 isn’t as good as some of the work ranked lower. And inevitably, some of the MSS are slush.
But I’ve come to trust Authonomy. And I no longer trust Waterstones or Amazon or the publishers and agents who feed them. To whomever is choosing books for publication these days, I say this: you have lost touch with real-life, honest-to-goodness readers, who are fed up with a diet of metrosexual celebritocracy, cynicism and/or soap-opera.
Now I’m going back over there to carry on with a fantastic book I was reading.
I haven’t read the other comments yet, but I thought I should come and say soemthing here as the current Number One writer on Authonomy.
There are two questions here – does Authonomy work? Is it the future?
1. According to my ranking, I should probably be some kind of geek kid in Baton Rouge sending out Spam faster than Monty Python, but I’m not. I’m a regular guy who’s written an irregular book about a teenage girl growing up gay in post-communist Hungary (if ever there was a conversation stopper). I’ve reached my position by doing two things: I read and honestly appraise other people’s work. And somehow what I’ve written seems to have creatyed a buzz. Which leads to
2. There are several books on the site with a “buzz” about them, by which I don’t mean their authors hammer away telling everyone how great they are (there are MORE than plenty of those, but hey, writers are gobby egotists, what do you expect); I mean books people have read and gone wow! I’m gonna tell my friends about that. And THAT is the future of marketing books. Thank heavens we now have the technology for literature to catch up with what Myrick and Sanchez were doing with film 10 years ago!
Whetehr or not HC publishes anything from the site I don’t know – they sure didn’t see the credit crunch coming when they launched it, so give them a break when they don’t. What I do know is this:
The future of literature is when the great, unpublished writers get together (a critical mass of them), print their own books, and collectively do the marketing for their imprint that individually they can’t. At the moment the industry has us writers thinking we need it because makreting’s just too difficult without them but you know what: Keaton, Pickford et al. realised that wasn’t the case in the earliest years of cinmea; musicians know it’s not the case; the only reason writers still think it is because they’re too stubborn and pig-headed to pool their very considerable creative resources. The moment they do, the future will be here.
And I intend to be right at the front not when that happens but making it happen.
Authonomy is part competition, part community and part magic slush-pile which reads itself.
Sometimes it feels like genius and sometimes it feels like madness. Usually it’s a bit of both.
Edmund Farrow (currently lurking in the top 100 with PlayStations and Pooh – One housedad’s struggle to remain chirpy in a world full of sleep-deprived women and toddlers with toilet issues.)
JBailey (senior editor retired)
As expected Harper Collins has, by all accounts, deliberately isolated new writers who join up to Authonomy. Few non writing readers have joined up, and of those who have they are either driven off the site (for giving crap reviews) or for seeing fit to disagree with the writers on the forum threads. Whether some (most) of the proposed books are shop-shelf ready is debatable, but the authors are less than willing to see that it is not wise to post your work in a public forum and then yell when told “your book is crap”.
HC’s further launch of BookArmy is, apparently, merely another form of online marketing tool, therby aiding the sales of books by established authors already on their sales listings.
Meantime, YouWriteOn’s new writers’site is editor/agent friendly, thereby affording greater chance at a publishing deal/contract by way of its independant status.
This is a tough one for me.
I’ve posted two novels…unfinished both, but have met corresponded with other writers that were writing some similar themes. This was all to the good. Their reviews and crits were very helpful (some I followed, some I didn’t however) but I don’t know what this ‘game’ is. I am just writing, and though a relatively ‘new’ writer, I have not come up against vituperators (is there such a word???) in the reviewing of my two novels. One writer is writing a 16th century Japanese novel as I am, and I am so impressed with his research and elegant writing. Something to watch and learn from.
I have no idea what is behind all of Harper Collins UK plans here. And I am less worried about plagiarism ….however, my blog:
has been raided and poetry posted on far flung sites that haven’t asked permission. However, once confronted, generally we exchange cards and support each other.
I don’t know how to sum up this discussion because my experience is slim. However, I am very pleased with the people who are reading “The Kimono” and “Az Kapitany” on Authonomy.com.
No issues as of yet, but who knows about the future??
Jane Kohut-Bartels (aka Lady Nyo)
Authonomy? Been there, done that…
If it were ran as promised, it wouldn't be a problem. But they play favorites and therefore the site is ran by a mob of people.
And that mob of people are by no means what writers should be like.