Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You Tell Me: Authonomy?

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.


Bryan Russell said...

I haven't checked it in depth... but from what I've heard, it seems likely to serve those who play the game the best, who know the ins and outs and who know how to get people to click on their story. I could be wrong, but it seems more about working the system than letting your writing stand on its own two feet. And, to me, it's all about the writing. Again, though, I'm clearly no expert, and I'm curious what people will say, particularly those who might have experience with this odd submission/vetting process. I'd also be curious to see if the experiment is bearing any fruit. Is the publisher actually acquiring books this way? What's the relative quality of stories on the sight, and how hard is it to find them? Who knows, maybe the next Stephen King is going to pop out of the masses through a system like this. I fear, though, that the people who are gonna get noticed are the ones who understand the politics rather than the ones who write the best stories. It would be nice to be proved wrong, though...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the interesting site. We live in a time overly abundant with information, entertainment, and books so a system like authonomy may be one of the best ways to allow the best, or most popular, to bubble to the top.

Question: if one's book is polished and ready should one wait until after the holidays to query?


Bryan Russell said...

I also wonder what the considerations are in terms of audience... does the audience of people "vetting" these stories in any way represent the general reading public? Is it mostly fellow wishful writers doing the reading? Would you need vast public appraisal of stories to make it in any way accurate? And if vast numbers read the stories, will they buy the books afterward? A brave new world...

Nathan Bransford said...


Avoid the weeks before and after major holidays (and, if you can help it, when you know an agent is on vacation). But otherwise, go for it.

Margaret Yang said...

When I go into a bookstore, I expect to find books that have passed the slush pile. There are many professionals who have read and vetted it before it gets to me. As a book buyer, I like it this way. Sure, the system is flawed, (very flawed in many ways) but when I get to Borders, I always find tons of books I want to buy, so in that sense the system works well.

So, if I have a choice of reading finished books in the stores or reading slush, which am I going to choose? I just can't understand, in the limited reading time that I have, why I would choose to read slush.

Nope, that's Nathan's job.

Mark Wise said...

Seems to me to leave too much open for "voter fruad". This sort of thing happens with EBay customer ankings system all the time. Once they publish a few books that tank even though they were rated highly on the site will dispell this practice.

Regardless of the voice of the masses, a book should be vetted by gatekeepers who can control quality and content.

Cory said...

That reminds me too much of an American Idol-esque contest - and really, how many of those winners were in any way memorable? It seems like it would turn out to be more of a popularity contest than anything else. That's not to say that there's not a place for a system like that, but not at the expense of the current system.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I've still got that recent study by the sociologist on my mind, where it was determined that perceived popularity increases something's popularity.

In other words: everyone wants on the hot bandwagon.

So no, I don't think that sites like this will help the cream rise to the top. I think that people who are willing to look for what THEY like without being told what they like will help that happen.

Stephen Parrish said...

I could be wrong, but it seems more about working the system than letting your writing stand on its own two feet.

I agree with Bryan. The winners are the ones who can whip up the most support. Would you, Nathan, want to pick your clients the same way?

Ann Victor said...

Thanks for this post! I've been following authonomy for a few months now, but have been ambivalent about whether to become active on it or not. So many blogs to follow, so little time...

Anonymous said...

I signed up for Autonomy when it was first launched and decided, for now, to not post anything or read any submissions. I think the system of having to find what I would be interested in reading and providing honest feedback difficult given past experiences. I've belonged to things similar to Autonomy and I think it's best served for people who 1) Have a good writing sample, and 2) Spend enough times befriending people on forums to read their work.

I find that in the amount of time I spend doing 2 I could write another manuscript. That being said, any avenue to get a writer noticed, and writers can meet other like minded writers, I consider a success. I suspect with economy more people will write (see Nathan's Tuesday post "Will Write for Food") and there will be less avenues for our writing. Something like Authonomy is a good idea. I'll just wait until I have more time to dedicate to Forums and reading other's work before I join myself.

-- Amy

Whirlochre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whirlochre said...

I took a look at this and didn't like it much.

Speaking as a writer, it seems to me to offer a great opportunity to have 10,000 words of your stuff plagiarised unecessarily. Or ignored. Or praised by imbeciles. Or worse.

As a reader, I hardly have enough time to trawl through what's already on the shelves, let alone what isn't. In this respect, it's too much of a peer-moderated hinterland for me to wade through with my pickaxe.

Loren Eaton said...

This seems like what the SF magazine Jim Baen's Universe does. They have a bulletin board system where users critique each others' works and then the editors cherry pick the best. I have a fried who has done it, and it sounds ferociously Darwinian in practice.

Phil said...

Sites like this worry me, especially when it comes to primary publishing rights and plagiarism.

Michael said...

This is the first I'm hearing of this, but I don't like what I hear. I like to think of myself as a good reader, but I wouldn't want to waste my time reading all these manuscripts online because most of what I read is not going to be worth my time. So, I don't see the user ratings being very telling of the quality of the work.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of this website. It sounds really great Nathan, thanks for the plug! Now you better get that toaster, because it's definitely gotten me to wanna check it out. Now as far as it being the wave of the future, I actually think it willl be. It's good for author's who have a hard time getting their foot in the door with agents, and I think it's a great way to get your work out into the public and critiqued. And as a bonus, you could possibly get a publishing deal, and then you would already have a fanbase because of the website. But it does also seem more like an alternative to the traditional publishing format. Hm, I guess it all depends; if this works, then agents might be out of a job. But then you could blog all day Nathan :)

Other Lisa said...

Ugh. Okay, disclosure: I participated in the Gather First Chapters contest. It an was absolutely miserable experience, unless of course you like having writing contests played like some version of "Literary Survivor." The good stuff by and large did not rise to the top; contestants sabotaged other entries and used sockpuppets to rank their stuff up and competitors' stuff down. I felt like, this contest makes books and reading, one of the few forms of expression left that encourages thought and imagination and focus, into just another least common denominator circus.

Sooo, my immediate response would be, "nuh-uh." But maybe I should spend some time with the writing on the site and report back.

Mechelle Avey said...

The idea of a book finding an audience before publication is not all that new. It is how Charles Dickens became, well, Dickens. His serializations were eagerly awaited and gave readers the concept of the cliff hanger. The very last thing that we as writers should do is to marry ourselves to a single form of communication. Video games, comics, movies, television programs all begin with the written word. 100 years from now books may look different, but the creativity required to go from beginning, no sagging in the middle, dramatic end, well that will require what it has always required: a writer. . . unless computers become self aware. As for Authonomy. I like it. New media is not the enemy. Holding on to the old ways while everything around us changes for the better, that is the enemy. There are other social network blogs for writers out there. The trick to being successful is to somehow create communities that are willing and interested in reading these books. Success could very well hinge on getting family members to "vote" a book up.

Cassandra said...

I joined up after a couple of weeks of deciding back in October. I posted the first 15k words to get over the initial 10k needed to make a public book and added a couple more chapters in the middle of last month. I'm "ranked" 748 and have lost 60 pts this week, whatever that means. I haven't read any other manuscripts, or tried to make any connections as I really don't have the time to devote to it.

The link to my "book" is if you're interested in seeing someone's profile that could give you feedback, but I really don't want to push my book on you or anything. I'm not actively putting it out yet as it's only half written anyway. So, you know, no pressure. :)

At the end of every month, the top five rated books get passed on to an editor's desk. The few times i've seen the "ranks" shuffle so much that you could spend every waking hour shoving your book around only to be usurped at the last moment and have to start all over. I'm not sure this is the best way to go about finding new work.

On the other end though, if no one gave it a go we'd have no way of knowing if it would work or not. I'm satisfied with the security measures (disallowing copy/paste, etc) and i'm happy to be part of the trials.

Scott said...

I think it's going to favor those who best game the system, quite similar to AI, DWTS, and any other fan based situation. The best singer or dancer does not always win the competition. The person most voted for, i.e., the one with the biggest fan base, often wins the competition.

Another problem, if the person critiquing the work isn't a fan of that genre, than does their critique count? Is it a valid critique? In my opinion, no!

Lastly - while we all might hope that only the best books get published and arrive on the shelves in Borders; the reality of the situation is that even crap books make it to the shelves of Borders. More than once I have bought a promising book only to find it was crap wrapped in a nice looking package. SIGH!

RC said...

Regarding queries: "Avoid the weeks before and after major holidays"

So, two weeks after Thanksgiving is Dec. 11th, but that date is also two weeks before Christmas.

So, nothing until after Jan. 14th?

In related e-book news - the WSJ reports that the kindle is sold out through Feb.

Ulysses said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jo said...

I guess I don't understand. Do you upload your manuscript for people to read? That seems slightly risky to me. There's another site like that called

Robert Burton Robinson said...

I gave Authonomy a shot in October, posting three of my novels. I thought, "Great, I'll just ask people who read my books on my site to go over there and vote."

But then they changed the rules and started ranking the reviewers as well as the books. The more books you vote for that are ranked high, the higher your reviewer rank. And since most of my readers had no interest in reading any other books on Authonomy, their votes didn't carry much weight.

So, I gave up and removed my books. I don't think HarperCollins is serious about finding new writers via Authonomy.

The last time I checked, there were over 1,000 books on the site. I doubt that many people would be will to slosh through them looking for that 2-3% of good ones.

My advice: don't waste your time.

Robert Burton Robinson

Ulysses said...

In case you haven't already caught this, Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware went into some detail on the pros and cons of Authonomy.

My take: it's a valid mechanism for beginning to separate the wheat from the chaff. Note, however, that the top selections are then examined by professional editors before being considered for publication. It seems to be an attempt to create a massive, self-sorting slush pile. The problem lies in the criteria by which it sorts itself: aside from being open to abuses, popularity in a small audience consisting of writers is no guarantee of either quality.or popularity in a larger audience composed of plumbers, housewives, geeks and a billion other demographics.

If my livelihood were dependent upon finding good salable books, I think I'd want to be the one to filter the incoming manuscripts to make sure I don't miss stuff that'll keep me turning pages all night.

But then, that's just me and not everyone thinks the way I do. For which I'm grateful.

(Word verification: corks. That's the first time I've ever gotten a real word.)

Marilyn Peake said...

Hi, Nathan,

I have a question. If an author were to submit an excerpt from a novel-in-progress to Authonomy, would agents and publishers consider it already “published” and be reluctant to take it on? I hope to complete my next novel by spring and submit it to agents, no matter what the state of the economy. I'm not rushing to get it completed, though. With the state of the economy, I figure it’s better to polish my work shinier than a brand new penny before submitting. I’d love to post the beginning on Authonomy, but several agents have expressed interest in the novel and I don’t want to jinx my chances of having it accepted.

Zoe Winters said...

I'm not sure if this specific permutation is 'the answer' but I think the internet has definitely changed the landscape of everything, not just publishing.

Who would have thought 10 years ago that there would actually exist people who built businesses somehow around something like YouTube. We've moved into a world of a zillion niches, and everybody's a critic, and all it takes is to hook up with enough amateurs with big web presence who think you rock.

That's completely divorced from the system we had before. We're moving very much away from: "This group of trusted people at the top gets to filter everything for you, then present their best" and more into a "the people decide."

The internet has democratized everything. That may be good or bad, but regardless, it's here. So even if it's not the only show in town, it's smart, IMO, to figure out how to leverage it. Which is what Harper UK is attempting, and kudos for that.

Charlotte said...

While I don't think Authonomy is a bad experiment, I can say as one of the site's beta users that it was definitely not for me. It is all about working the system, and I found that doing so was draining the precious time I have for writing. I pulled my manuscript after three weeks.

What will be interesting to see in the coming months is if Harpers actually publishes anything off Authonomy. If so, then well done to them and to that author who had to work like a demon to get noticed.

Avily Jerome said...

I don't know much about it.

I'd like to think that it would work, that it would be better this way, because regular people would actually get to put their opinions out there.

Unfortunately, there are far too many people who know how to work the system, and far too few regular people willing to put in the effort to make something like this work the way it's supposed to.

Kathleen Peacock said...

Marilyn, that was my first question as well.

I'm also wondering if it could hurt you in other ways. Say an author submits to Autonomy and, at the same time, begins querying. Based on response, they revise. Months later, they query an agent who thinks to check them out on Autonomy. The agent may see reviews and comments which no longer reflect the ms.

The other thing which immediately sprang to mind was a popular fan fiction website which used to have a section for top rated fics. They ended up removing it due to author and reader manipulation.

Janet said...

I don't think it will work well. It will favour skillful networkers, not good writers. I'm not going to waste my time.

marilyn peake said...

Kathleen -

Thanks for that insight. It reminds me as well of other similar programs that didn't work out too well, but wondered for a bit if Authonomy might be different.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

Hey Nathan,
Doesn't putting your entire manuscript on the web mess with the whole first print thing? I remember my brother was told that he had to keep his beta readers to a minimum and have everything password protected, etc, or it could void his contract. I thought you had to keep anything posted for the public to 10%. Would that mess up an author in the USA?

Liz said...

This is why I love this blog. I did not know about Authonomy. And I certainly couldn't even pretend to make a thoughtful comment about it yet, but WOW. I look forward to stealing a few hours somewhere to sit down and browse around there and see what it's all about. Very exciting.

dara said...

Not sure I like the idea. I mean, isn't it almost like self-publishing mixed with a popularity contest?

I would rather go the "old-fashioned" route of obtaining an agent rather than seeing if my peers think it's the "next top novel." Leave the job to the professionals :)

Jim Dempsey said...

Apologies for the plug but I have been posting about my own experiences with authonomy on my blog recently:

I was quite interested in it as an experiment so I tried it out with an early novel effort.

Most of its pros and cons have already been mentioned. Yes, it is like a 'literary Survivor' (great phrase Other Lisa).

You do have to 'play the system' and some people really take a lot of time to do that.

It is, as Mark said above, open to voter fraud too.

But it does have some plus points that nobody has touched on so far.

There is some good writing on there and it's a good way of checking out the competition and seeing what's 'in' at the moment.

Some of those people who spend so much time on there are clealry mad keen on books and can give very valuable feedback. For a novel in progress it's a great place to try out your first few chapter to see how it sits with potential readers.

I think if you've got something you've been struggling with for a while it's worth posting on there for the feedback alone. If you're using it as a way to get published I'd guess you've got fairly little chance and have probably exhausted every other possibility. I'd try Nathan first.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't bother with Authonomy, but I'd love to know how HarperCollins can get back to the "winner" with notes so fast. I've got an agented submission at Harper and it's been four months without a peep.

How about just reading your damn submissions that were sent by agents? There's an idea!

Sometimes I think publishing is going under because it deserves to.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is missing the surefire way to get published. Become a movie star first. Jamie Lee Curtis had another picture book come out in September.


Heather Kennedy said...

Sounds like an interesting thing, but on my first cursory glance I couldn't get past the tag line about "a mission to flush out..." Sorry but that just makes me think of the loo I guess you would say.

karen wester newton said...

All HarperCollins promises Authonomy users is that the top rated books in a given month will be critiqued by an editor. They have lived up to that promise, but if anyone has gotten a contract from it, they're not talking. Word is that HC has actually approached some writers about their books, but they were not ones who had been selected by other writers through the ranking process. If you want to try Authonomy, be prepared to spend some time reading and commenting on other peoples' books. Otherwise, you won't get much feedback. The ranking system weights users' votes so that long-time users votes count for more as a way to discourage cheating. It's a fun site, but it takes time. If you don't have any other way of getting feedback, then it can be very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Authonomy seems harmless, but I doubt much will come of it. Most of what is posted on their website isn't very good. Even the highly ranked manuscripts. My opinion is a little different. I don't think the publishing industry is tough enough. It's hard to find a good published book let alone one from the slush pile.

Raethe said...

Sorry if this has already been posted - I only skimmed the comments briefly - but for anyone interested there's a post over at Writer Beware on this one. Found here:

I haven't really looked at the site myself so I probably shouldn't express an opinion. I'll wait until I'm not supposed to be wrapping up university assignments to try it.

Just_Me said...

I've never heard of the site before now, but I browsed through real quick. It honestly doesn't catch my eye. The titles aren't exciting and none of it looks like something I would read without a recommendation.

So, slightly biased to start, what's the point of something like this? Popularity contests are fun for the people who can be bubbly and social, but they aren't a good way to pick a book.

blogless troll said...

It's definitely those who best game the system. If it does catch on though, the best thing to do would be to write a How To Optimize Your Authonomy Ranking And Land A Publishing Deal book.

Ryan Field said...

It's becoming a part time job just keeping up with the next new trend.
But now I'll have to follow this, too.

JES said...

I blogged about authonomy a couple months ago. Am interested, but also skeptical for many of the same reasons which others have mentioned. Hence the backscratching image at that post.

abc said...

OK, that website hurts my brain. But I like the idea. My guess is that the future is going to be lots of things, including this. In others words, I don't know. But I'll go with it. It does look nice.

Nathan, when is next contest? (no pressure!)

qse said...

As someone who bought John Dies at the End and was a huge fan of Sarah Rees Brennan years before she sold her books for a bazillion dollars, I have to say...kind of. I don't know if the Authonomy arrangement is really the ideal way to suss out great talent, but I do believe that by paying attention to people who make popular free content, publishers have a good chance of finding people who will eventually sell popular content for money.

Anonymous said...

nathan are you going to be at the sf writers conference?

AmyB said...

I've heard good things about Authonomy, in particular that you can get good feedback there, and it's a good way of seeing what the competition looks like.

However, getting your manuscript to the editor's desk appears to be a full-time job. If I were to seriously play at the Authonomy game, I'd have to abandon my two critique groups and all new writing just to keep up. It's a big sacrifice of time and a big gamble. I'm open to the possibility of doing Authonomy in the future, but right now I think my career is better served by spending that time writing and revising.

Patty said...

I have been on Authonomy for about three months and my book is currently on the Editor's Desk. Authonomy is a game, and the prize is a review by a professional editor, not a publishing contract. The professional review comes on top of the many, many other comments you can get on your manuscript. As writer, I feel one of the most valuable aspects of sites like these is feedback from readers, to get that manuscript into the best shape you can before you even send it out. I haven't sent this particular manuscript out anywhere. I'm learning. I believe that someAuthonomy members have illusions that someone will just give them a publishing contract. That may happen, but not overnight, and probably to manuscripts that have been improved with member feedback. But I'm willing to play the game and let readers vote on my book.

Writing is a time-consuming and lengthy business. The best thing you can do is stick around and be involved in as many things as you can. Take the ratings with a healthy dose of salt and join in the fun, I'd say.

superwench83 said...

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, 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.

Jean said...

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. :)

Anonymous said...

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.

R2K said...

: )

Jeanne said...

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.

Clio said...

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.

MzMannerz said...

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.

MzMannerz said...

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 said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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 said...

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 said...

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 said...


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.)

annerallen said...

This seems to be designed for people who would rather play on the Internet than polish their manuscripts. It seems a little sad.

Jeanne said...

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.


Kathryn711 said...

I hate it for totally different reasons.

I used a site called You Write, 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 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 said...

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 said...

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 said...

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.

AstonWest said...

Actually, this concept is not new, nor an experiment...

Time/Warner had something similar earlier in this century, called iPublish.

Kathleen Peacock said...

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.

Anonymous said...

I also think Adam has a good point here.

Kristan said...

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 said...

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.

Scott said...

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.

Anonymous said...

I gueth we'll justh havth to thee if itsth the future.

Stephanie said...

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 said...

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.

fwbaseball said...

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!

Dan said...

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 said...

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. ( 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 said...

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...

mkcbunny said...

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.

Newbee said...

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.

DCS said...

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.

Marva said...

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.

Stace said...

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?

Anonymous said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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."

dorkismo said...

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.

Keefieboy said...

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.

Winterman said...
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Winterman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Winterman said...

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 said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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.

dorkismo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dorkismo said...

A few good books on Authonomy, in case anybody would like to investigate.

(literary fiction)

(literary fiction)

(hysterically funny literary fiction)

How to Kiss Michael Keast
(YA or a little younger, but sidesplitting)

Dorkismo: the Macho of the Dork
(pop culture)

Anonymous said...

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 said...

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: ) 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.

Anonymous said...

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 said...

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.

Winterman said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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.

DangerousBill said...

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.

Dangerous Bill

Anonymous said...

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?

aliceblackandwhite said...

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.

Alice Gray

Anonymous said...

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.

Robb said...

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 said...

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.

Dan said...

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.

DadsDinner said...

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.)

Anonymous said...

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.

Asobime said...

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.

Peace ensues.

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

No issues as of yet, but who knows about the future??

Jane Kohut-Bartels (aka Lady Nyo)

playpitspark said...

Authonomy? Been there, done that...

J_Jammer said...

Authonomy Sucks.

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.

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