Beat the Slush Pile – Authonomy

As always, via Boing Boing:

Publisher HarperCollins is launching a new web site, authonomy, aimed at book lovers and writers, whose purpose is to help unpublished authors promote their work.

What is authonomy? Here is a description, straight from the website’s FAQ:

authonomy invites unpublished and self published authors to post their manuscripts for visitors to read online. Authors create their own personal page on the site to host their project – and must make at least 10,000 words available for the public to read.

Visitors to authonomy can comment on these submissions – and can personally recommend their favourites to the community. authonomy counts the number of recommendations each book receives, and uses it to rank the books on the site. It also spots which visitors consistently recommend the best books – and uses that info to rank the most influential trend spotters.

We hope the authonomy community will guide publishers straight to the freshest writing talent – and will give passionate and thoughtful readers a real chance to influence what’s on our shelves.

How it works is you upload your manuscript and the authonomy community reads and ranks your work. The top five make it to the Editorial Board at HarperCollins.

A few more questions and answers from the site:

How much of my book should I upload?

You must make a minimum of 10,000 words available online, but we encourage you to upload as much as possible – even the entire book. No-one can support or honestly recommend a book if they can’t read a good amount of it first!

Why do you need to display so much of my work?

Two reasons.

Firstly, we want to attract serious writers to authonomy (who have complete or near complete manuscripts), who in turn will attract keen, enthusiastic readers to the site. The ten thousand word minimum ensures this.

Secondly, we firmly believe that writers should be judged on the quality of the work they produce, not on their ability to pitch, market or publicise themselves. Personal recommendations are by far the most effective way of building support for a book, and writers on authonomy stand to gain the support of a community of readers who are really motivated to spread the word about the best new writing. But they can’t help you unless you’re prepared to show them what you’ve got!

On the face of things, this seems like a brilliant use of technology on the part of HarperCollins. They set up a community, get people excited in potential projects, and find new talent. In the meantime, people will be talking about HarperCollins, which is a good thing for them.

At the least this will give me some motivation to actually finish my manuscript. I have around 12,000 good words written. Part of me wants to upload that and get feedback, but the rest of me things I should finish the novel first.

What do you all think? Will you be uploading anything to authonomy? If so, let me know.

15 thoughts on “Beat the Slush Pile – Authonomy

  1. I don’t know, man. Seems like a good place for self-pubbed people to pimp their work, but I’m not sure how much it will benefit those seeking a NY publishing contract. Think about it, editors already have teetering slush piles in addition to their crazy work loads. Are they really going to take the time to weed through this site? Sure, maybe the top ten books or so might get some hits, but otherwise? It just seems like another way to play on unpublished authors’ hopes. But then I’m not a huge fan of posting work online in general.

  2. It sounds good, but HarperCollins isn’t necessarily going to get the best 5 books. They’ll get 5 books from the 5 authors who have the most friends who recommended them, with or without having read their stuff. Who’s gonna read reams of unpublished novels for free? Unless it’s from a writing buddy, or part of a crit group, I can’t think of one reason I would read somebody else’ unpublished stuff.

  3. Maddy – thanks for the comment 🙂

    Jaye – I think it’s good for people like me who have almost no hope of a publishing contract. It does give a glimmer of hope.

    blogless – I think you are partly right. The hope is that initially the buddy thing will happen. However, the cream should rise to the top as it will take votes from the community to stay at the top.

  4. I remember that another big Pub House tried something similar years ago, I thin it was Del Rey. It’s an interesting concept, but I think overall attitudes of both writers and publishers would have to fundamentally change for it to be a real opportunity.

    Plus, as Blogless said, anytime you add “social community” to the mix, you are inviting those who will play the system and it becomes a popularity contest as opposed to an indication of talent..

    Thanks for mentioning this. I’ll at least read more about it.

  5. While the idea is interesting, I don’t see it being more than a publicity stunt.

    Like someone else mentioned, I don’t believe in publishing fiction online.

    You have a wonderful blog, btw, and you are clearly skilled. I will come back for more shortly!

  6. I remember a site very similar run by Francis Ford Coppola. It was a part of the whole Zoetrope magazine thing. I was a part of that for awhile, and it may even still be up and running, though I haven’t been there for several years.

    I’ll have to check it out, though I don’t think I’ll upload anything at this point . . .

  7. I’ve been a member since they were trialling the site but I haven’t uploaded anything and probably won’t at this rate. I actually wanted to read what other people had written but finding the time is a real problem. I suppose publishers would feel the same way, and even more so. I’d try it if I had more time to write “test material” but wouldn’t put my best work there.

  8. A glimmer of hope, as you say, Paul, but a very far one, indeed…
    I’m very skeptical these days. I keep reading about how you absolutely need to have an agent to get anything published so I’m not sure how much good it’ll do to you to put your work on such a site. And if nothing comes out of this, what will happen? Will you be able to submit your work to other editors or agents, or will it be considered as already published on that web site and no one will want to touch it?

    I think you should finish your novel first. You’re very talented; you shouldn’t be saying that you don’t have any hope at a publishing contract! 🙂

  9. I tend to agree with Absolute Vanilla. These days I turn a jaded eye to stuff like this. It’s all about what the “creator” in this case Harper Collins will get in return — publicity.

    I would also be concerned that maybe my painstaking work would be plagiarized. That would really, really piss me off.

    It happened to me once, back in high school — admittedly not a huge deal — but at the time I was out for vengeance. And vengeance was mine.

    Oh, maybe I’ll write a post about that. I. Was. Livid. And 19 at the time.

  10. I took part in the Amazon contest awhile back. It was somewhat similar. You submitted your first 5000 words, and after the semifinalists were selected, the public got to vote on their favorites. They also had a panel of “experts,” too, though. Eventually, a single author (not me!) was offered a contract.

    I would agree that it’s a long shot. Do people have the opportunity to offer serious feedback? Because then it might be useful.

    I don’t think it would hurt to enter, though.

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