Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, January 30, 2009

This Week in Publishing 1/30/09

This week! The publishing!

The publishing business is in the doldrums, but there's still gold in some of them thar hills. The New York Times examines the business of author websites, and Amazon's sales rose 18%.

And speaking of booming business, this week's "Self-publishing is the wave of the future" article is brought to you by, who else, the New York Times, who looks at the booming biz of POD. Motoko Rich begins with the ominous words, "The point may soon come when there are more people who want to write books than there are people who want to read them," for which I hope she paid Sean Lindsay a royalty.

This week in celebrity publishing news: Molly Ringwald. Yup.

HarperCollins has built quite a following behind its new site Authonomy, whose devotees are so rabid they make English football fans look like well-behaved choir boys. Anyway, Harper announced that they had given three book deals to authors they found on Authonomy. Meanwhile, one of the devotees of the site, Alexander McNabb, posted a great rundown on his experiences and thoughts on its future. (thanks to C. Michael Hall for the link).

An aside: what's most interesting to me about Authonomy is how thoroughly populated it is with people who grew tired of the "gatekeeping" system of publishing and networking. So they upload their manuscripts, then participate in a Darwinian system of elimination and calculated networking that would make Machiavelli blush, all in the hopes of making it to the editor's desk and hopefully pleasing Harper's.... gatekeepers. Also: just pointing this out will spawn a thousand e-mails, outraged anonymous comments, and message board threads. I'm telling you, these people are intense. (I kid, Authonomaniacs! I kid! I hear it's fun and you get good feedback! Please don't burn my virtual image in effigy!)

In depressing news: the Washington Post Book World will no longer be a standalone book section and layoffs at Publishers Weekly.

And finally, our first page contest ended a year ago now and...... people are still entering.

Have a great weekend!


MA Fat Woman said...

Layoffs everywhere! Someone needs to write a book on that topic. Is that something you might be interested in Nathan?

Ugly Deaf Muslim Punk Gurl! said...

Alexander McNabb!!!! I read his book, SPACE, it was hilarious and he's a great, nice guy.

Rick Chesler said...

Interesting NYT article on autor websites/book trailers. I just launched my own author site myself.

Anne said...

Most authors are desperate for face time, as in people reading their manuscripts. I think the real draw to Authonomy is just that. Rejection after rejection can wear on even the toughest skin. Especially rejections with no response. I visited Authonomy for the first time yesterday and it looks interesting. It seems new things are abloom everywhere.

RW said...

I think the fiction world may be starting to experience something very familiar to the poetry world. My friends who are poetry faculty in creative writing programs have long gotten used to the experience of asking their students what poetry they like to read and getting back the blank stare. "Read poetry? Why would I read poetry?"

Anonymous said...

You mean we CAN still submit to a first page contest?

Ha, ha...

Jessica Burkhart said...

Good link about Websites. Thanks!

Ulysses said...

A) Author web sites. I have a site. I just need an author...

B) POD: I reiterate: the problem with publishing is the absurdly popular perception that it owes authors something beyond money for published work. It doesn't. It owes readers, who pay it, good reads. POD is an excellent tool which, far too often, puts unreadable books in the hands of the people who wrote them.

POD fans, hate me if you must.

C) I have nothing against Molly Ringwald, but maybe someday...

D) Authonomy: this "experiment" substitutes selection by the ignorant masses for selection by the experienced few. I don't have enough experience to guess which system results in better published books.

E) WPBW: odd how more people are reading now than ever, but the book business is suffering. Maybe Bernie Madoff can explain it to me...

F) People are still entering? Are you sure? Maybe some comments take longer than others to appear on blogger...

WordVer: tediumm
Def'n: The result of doing nothing but meditating for six straight hours.

Crimogenic said...

Ok, I had to laugh about the first page contest ending a year ago. You have to give points for persistence. That made my day.

Margaret Yang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Fuller said...

Why do people read more, but buy less? Because there is free stuff everywhere online.

My guide to having a nice career in writing:

1) Build a following - Blog, Web Site, whatever. Post interesting stuff. Post free stuff. Invite everyone you know. Make them invite friends. Be funny. Be controversial. Take risks.

2) Self-Publish something good - Say you get a thousand unique visits per month (After three years of blogging, I have 1,200 NEW visitors per month on my blog...that means 14,400 people will look at my blog in 2009), and ten percent of them buy your book. That is over a thousand copies per year.

3) Sit back and let the virus spread - If it really is good, people will talk about it, loan it to friends, buy it as gifts, recommend it on their blogs, etc.

The key to this formula is step one. Too many people try to self-publish without a following. People will almost never magically find your book in a pile of ten million books out there.

You market yourself. You sell yourself. People buying your book is a result of that.

Lisa Dez said...

Amazon sales up doesn't surprise me. Part of it is Kindle and Kindle books. Unfortunately, it's just one more nail in the indie's coffin.

Marilyn Peake said...

I love that so many authors have websites now, and I love visiting sites of my favorite authors to see if they have anything new. My own website has grown over the past few years, and I now receive 8,000 hits each month.

Nathan, will you be having another first page contest anytime soon? Please, oh please... :) We could send you one of those Bacon Explosions mentioned yesterday.

In regard to the new gatekeepers, I've noticed that recently more and more indie presses are so swamped with submissions, they close to submissions many months of the year and have added layers of gatekeeping to those trying to get published for the first time. In some cases, this is a good thing, as it creates an opoortunity for the quality of small press books to improve.

Tiffany said...

Nathan, what’s your take on Authonomy? Do you think it’s likely to affect an author’s ability to be published either way?

I couldn’t find anything on the site to suggest that any authors have been pulled from the editor’s desk to be published, but the idea of workshopping a piece with that large of an audience is intriguing. I guess it’s a question of benefit vs. risk (?) vs. the time commitment of reading and reviewing others’ pieces.


Marilyn Peake said...

I looked over the Authonomy site and googled it, but can't find any information on whether or not the authors who received publication deals also received an advance. Did they receive a substantial advance, or just publication?

Tiffany said...

I should clarify my previous post, I saw your link above about the three authors pulled from Authonomy, but nothing on the site, which struck me as odd. Wouldn’t they want to celebrate the success of their own writers or the success of their process?

PurpleClover said...

There is no doubt in my mind that the author websites help sell the books. When people grab onto something they want to devour it. It's easy PR (for those that can't make decisions) and also marketing for the next book for those that have already purchased.

(In case anyone is interested, I posted a tribute to Christa McCauliffe, the teacher on the Space Shuttle Challenger when it exploded.)

Scott said...

I registered for Authonomy and am still feeling it out. I liked the idea of submitting work (you can only do a few chapters, not the whole book) and having someone give it a look, but then...well, it got weird. Let me explain.

Lots of blogs develop hierarchies. That is to say, a clique develops--perhaps the bolder and more sociable--and they begin to sort of lord over the site. There was some cheeky yet shameless hawking of books and what unfolded was a tit for tat that went straight over my head. I have to say, it started to feel like I was pushing my way into the subway. Not sure if it's for me, yet.

In regards to gatekeepers, I was referred to an agent recently who, when I researched her, seemed to be a real fit for my book. I e-queried her and within a few hours got rejected by an assistant. I'm thinking there were certain criteria that instigated the return volley, but it seems like agents have the "luxury" to weed through submissions to find just what they're interested in at the time. Maybe Nathan can comment on that, but timing seems to be everything more than ever.

And I have a blog which has been invaluable in a number of ways. If nothing else, it's a great place to direct people to find out all about my work and hear my "voice" without having to repeat myself a lot.

evarrac n. 1. a medicinal solution comprised of syrup and evergreen extract used to stimulate the digestion and absorption of many homeopathic remedies.

Miss Viola Bookworm said...

Purple Clover,

Thanks for your nice post about Christa McCauliffe. I hadn't realized it was today, and sadly, we didn't talk about it in my classroom today. I'm a teacher and am a bit ashamed. :(

I remember where I was on that day, sitting in Language Arts class in middle school and my teacher came into the room crying. So sad.

Speaking of sad, I don't have the link to the article, but two librarians were killed in a hit and run accident after the ALA conference the other day. Very sad story about two incredible women who advocate for literature and children's literacy. I found out about it on Meg Cabot also has a post about it on her website as well.

Miss Viola Bookworm said...

This is the article I mentioned above. My thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends, and the many community members and children they served.

PurpleClover said...


Thanks. I did actually read about the two librarians from Kristin at Pub Rants. It's a shame there is so much depressing news this week. But I think about the space shuttle every year (and any time NASA is mentioned). I've seen dozens of launches and remember sonic booms and the like. But none of them hold a candle.

It was actually two days ago. I posted a day late (last night). But I believe there are children's books on her if it was something you wanted to present to the class. Just a thought.

(sorry to go off subject)

PurpleClover said...

I have no idea where i got Marilyn I meant Mrs. Viola Bookworm. What a dork I am!

Marilyn Peake said...

Purple Clover,

That's really nice you posted something about Christa McAuliffe. I remember the shock of seeing the space shuttle explode, and can hardly believe it's been 23 years. She was so inspiring.

ryan field said...

"Lots of blogs develop hierarchies. That is to say, a clique develops--perhaps the bolder and more sociable--and they begin to sort of lord over the site."

I agree with Scott. I'm not sure if it's conscious, but it happens and it can get frustrating.

Sandra said...

Nathan, any thoughts about the closing of Realms of Fantasy? While you probably don't have much reason to follow the short story market, it's a shame to lose a professional-level market.

Fred Limberg said...

I've been on Authonomy for over a month now. There is a game being played, quite fervently by some, but there are some truly good books and fine writing on the site. There's also some dreck there. I have newfound respect for what agents like Natty B must go through to find rough diamonds.

Don't dismiss the experiment out of hand. Writers are a perceptive audience.

Me, I sort of play the rankings game, but since the prize is a short Ed critique by someone at Harper Collins-UK, its tough to get too excited.

Another thing that comes into play is that in crit groups, the crit value is often diminished as the group becomes more familiar and friendly. There are approaching 4,000 members on the site. If you are looking for an unbiased read you can find it.

There's a definite Brit slant, but many American writers put their books up.

Try it, you might like it.

I wonder if I should include the hundred odd gushing positive comments on my book when I get around to querying Nathan?

Rick Daley said...

Ryan and Scott,

I can provide some input on the social networking within writing sites. Last week I signed up for What follows is not an ad or endorsement, but my experiences thus far...

You post your work, up to 5,000 words per post, based on credits earned. When you sign up, you automatically get enough credits for your first post. Then, to earn more credits you review other peoples' work.

It takes about 13 credits to post 5,000 words. Reviews net anywhere from 0.5 to 3.x credits (that I've seen so far).

I uploaded my first post at about 10pm EST. I checked the next morning, and I already had three reviews. They were favorable, so I was curious to see who reviewed me. I clicked on the reviewer's profile (you do not have to put your real name, although I did) and saw the works they posted.

I was curious...I got good reviews, but I wanted to see who was reviewing me, i.e. a good review from a good writer would carry more weight for me personally than a good review from a bad writer. While I was reading their works, I reviewed them myself to get more credits so I could upload my next 5,000 words.

I found some very good writing on there, and I found some intriguing stories with very poor writing (and I reviewed them accordingly, albeit politely and with encouragement).

So I am somewhat involved in the quid pro quo, but there is a natural curiosity that got me into it.

Pete said...

Hey Nathan - as an Authonomite who sitting at #2 in the chart, I tell you that your description of Authonomy is spot on. I fully acknowledge that my book is where it is because of a combination of writing quality and marketing success. Sort of like, er... say, James Patterson (although I truly hope my writing is better than that - heh).

Ironically, as the mad scramble for shelves progresses, many members recognize the weaknesses in the selection process and have engaged in discussion about how to fix the system. No word on whether anyone at HC is listening (or cares). And while there is generally too much fawning praise and indiscriminate shelving going on, you are correct that good criticism is not hard to come by. I've got an email contact list now of over forty people who trade chapters off-site for line crits.

And to correct Scott - there is no maximum on what you can upload - only a minimum of 10,000 wds.

Alex is a smart chap and his opinion has merit. I'm not quite a cynical about HC's motives yet - but perhaps after I see their review, I might be carryying his flag!

Scott said...

Thanks, Rick. You did the work and got reviewed. I should before I speak too loudly.

Fred, there is certainly a UK slant, and I wondered if that played a part in my court imposed wallflower status. I'm a "noob", so it could be a combo of any number of things.

But like you, I saw the rankings game and it exhausted me immediately. There were women practically lifting their skirts to be heard--albeit in a tasteful and fun manner--but I just didn't have the energy, maybe, to compete with that.

Here's how I'd like to see it done: you show up, contribute in the mix of forum posts, hopefully raise a favorable eyebrow, and then drive them to either an uploaded .doc/.pdf or to your website. Then, if you're lucky, they report their findings. It's kind of organic that way, I think. To just put your face all over the place; well, it only tells me that you're ambitious.

Not dismissing it after two days, but I'm no stranger to forums, either.

Vic said...

Aaaah, Authonomy. Such an interesting concept. I see it as perfect for a lot of writers who aren't so serious about their writing.

That sounds crazy and I'm probably raising eyebrows, so let me explain.

If you're serious about your writing, you sit down and write. You polish, you cut, you clean, you rewrite, you search for inspiration, you try for originality and you study your craft.

You don't spend all day investing in Authonomy, because, hello people, it is a time vortex. It sucks your time and attention away from what you should be doing - learning to improve your own work.

I've been there, and taken a good look. Actually, I've lost friends to the Authonomy addiction and I have seen good writers go under the Authonomy waters.

Yeah, there's some good writing there, but it is lost in the morass of ordinariness.

What Authonomy succeeds at in an absolutely spectacular manner is letting the rest of us know exactly what an editor's slush pile really looks like. The good, the bad and the very ugly. It also gives us a very clear understanding of some of the behaviour the more desperate can get up to. Illuminating, yes. Inspiring or brilliant? No.

The other aspect to Authonomy that I find endlessly amusing is how rabid the comments are in response to the editor's feedback.

Authonomaniacs, (I love that Nathan!) what no one is telling you and you all seem to miss is that generally, the editors are spot on. The reason you all rise up in defence of each new review is because you're all buying into the system. You've invested by backing someone's book and then you realise your judgement was out so you feel foolish. It is no reason to launch into an attack of HarperCollins editors. You know what that makes you look like? Unprofessional. Do what the rest of us do... take our rejections and learn from them.

The bitter truth here is that if the writers on Authonomy left the self-promotion aside, the site might end up being something really incredible; a place where talent, merit and recognition meet.

However the only way I see that happening is if somehow we take the human out of human nature.

PurpleClover said...

Okay I took a look at Authonomy. Yes, just one. So what?

If people want to whore out their work (am I allowed to say that word??) then so be it. But I don't think I could take that site too seriously. I do post work to forums that I feel people give a good amount of legit feedback (because a) it's free and b) there is nothing in it for them whether monetary or points-based)...but the "Darwinian system" as Nathan called is a bit chaotic and unprofessional.

Granted maybe if I spent more time on the site...but already it was a bit overwhelming just looking at it. Looks like a popularity contest. I don't think I could post there. I wouldn't want to get into the "game". I have to agree with Vic too.

Bane of Anubis said...

Yeah, there's definitely a lot of back-slapping going on at Authonomy and definitely can be a time-vortex, but if you use it for hopefully unbiased critique (from random strangers), it can provide some benefit... there's definitely some dreck on there that needs to be filtered away much better.

abc said...

Molly Ringwald! Finally! I am an 80's child, it's true. And Pretty In Pink probably shaped me in some way--adolescence is just one big lingering bruise, isn't it?The longing of Ducky for Andy and Andy for Blaine (Blaine!) still lives somewhere inside me. Whatever happened to John Hughes, anyway?

Jo said...

How do I get Alfonso Cuaron to direct my book trailer?

Dara said...

People are still entering that contest of yours? Perhaps they got confused on the's possible. Maybe.

I heard of Authonomy and checked out the site but it's not something I'd ever be interested in. As someone said earlier, it seems like a time waster to me--at least I think , that time poured into the site would be better used elsewhere.

Of course, that's only my humble opinion. I know I'm a horrible procrastinator (an unfinished first draft is an example of that) so I'm easily distracted; a site like that would take away more of my attention.

Anonymous said...

Scott, Fred Limberg, Rick, everyone who has commented personally on Authonomy today...thank you. Your posts really helped put the site in perspective for me. I'd never heard about this site before Nathan's blog today. I checked it out and found the idea intriguing and attractive, but there are things to consider, aren't there? (I ultimately decided I don't have time for whoring my work in a forum. I know how forums can get, with their cliques.)

What is interesting though is the idea of a huge community for critiquing and that's why I might join up--if people would look at my work and critique, that would be cool.

THAT would surely foster the driving community that Alexander McNabb so wanted in his blog post (linked in Nathan's post).

Otherwise, what I want as a writer is to submit my query to an agent or editor, and have it looked at for the combination of all the things it must have in order to succeed, and then be asked to submit my work, which will have the combination of things needed to succeed (or not). I LIKE this system. It makes me strive like nothing else to produce good work.

Nikki Wadley said...

Although this is my first time commenting, I love reading your blog. It is one of the most informative blogs that I have seen about publishing. I will definitely keep reading and following!

Trashy Cowgirl said...

Ok, to adress a few things first. I'm an Authonomaniac. HC posted info on the deals in the Autho forum and on their blog. And Pete, 40? Really? I'm still your bff, right? Oh, and lifting up skirts, well Gypsy took off her kit, but it wasn't a skirt. And, that was for crit on writing a dance sequence and getting the feel of the music with words, not shameless plugging.

Anyway, there are some major flaws with Authonomy. The tit for tat and such gets out of hand. There's even Autho spam. But, the crit I am getting is amazing. Sure I waste time on there, but the peer reviews have saved me countless hours of rejections and revisions. I have learned so much. For example, before I sat down and wrote my pitch, I read about 100 pitches on Autho. Some were great, some made me want to choke myself with my keyboard. I learned what worked and what didn't. I've also learned to be more conscious of POV and to read my own work like a reader, not the one who wrote it.

It is a three ring circus, and I feel for noobs. The best way to get your feet wet is to hit the pitch me option at the bottom of the home page, until you find something you like. Then read it and comment. Do that a few times and you'll start getting reads without having to dive into the forums which are rather cut throat.

Speaking of forums, it would seem the latest victim of that dreaded label "Trash" over at Autho is (shudders in horror) Hemingway. Honest. I had no idea. Is there really a growing negative sentiment toward him. Mayeb we could have a vote.

a) Hemingway was an uninspired mysogynistic mediocre writer (people really said that)
b) Hemingway was the single largest literary influence of the latter half of the 20th Century
c) Wasn't he the guy with those weird cats

Seriously blows my mind.

And in regards to building an internet presence, if you are a writer and haven't (though if you're on here you probably have) do. I was asked to write a ms for my dream publisher all thanks to my blog. Dreams do come true (well, we'll see if I- anyone know a good pb agent?).

Richard Lewis said...

One thing I've noticed about the NYT is that by the time something bubbles to the surface of their pages, it's been well on the boil in the local community (for example, the recent article on Hawaii's heavy surf enforcers called the Wolkpak). Same with with this POD article. Interesting but not anything we haven't heard, complete with the breakout bestsellers (and when people read that, will they pay attention to how very rare it is? Doubt it. When it comes to the rule, I guess it's human nature to believe oneself to be the exception...)

Shruti said...

Thanks for the links on author websites, and also for the news on publishing industry, Nathan.

Jessica said...

Sorry, Trashy Cowgirl, but I'd have to go with A. :P I can't stand Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises was the first and only book that I ever stopped reading and had no desire to finish.

I must have been living in a hole, because I had never heard of this Authonomy site. From looking at it and reading these comments here, doesn't sound like my thing, but I can see how it would work for some people. But, yeah, I can totally see getting sucked in and spending all one's time there.

Rick Daley said...

John Hughes seems to be semi-retired. According to Wikipedia:

Since 1994, Hughes has lived a reclusive life in Chicago, rarely granting or giving interviews or photographs to the media save a select few interviews in 1999 to promote the soundtrack album to "Reach the Rock," an independent film he wrote[2]....A photograph of him visiting his son on the set of his son's film in 2001 is the last photo taken of him in public.


Trashy Cowgirl said...

Really? Shock. Horror. *runs from room screaming* Ok, Im back. I really had no idea some people felt so strongly against him. I am truly curious to know how many people find him relevant these days. I truly am surprised. But, we all love Mordecai Richler, right? (ok, probably only the Canadians, because the rest of you are saying who?)

Ink said...

Hi Trashy (always wanted to say that...),

I like Hemingway, though I much prefer his short stuff to his long stuff. And I tried reading Mordecai Richler once (being a Canuckian myself)... with the emphasis on tried. Barney's Version... well, let us say I did not get far into Barney's version of anything. Maybe I just picked the wrong book...

My best, as always,
Bryan Russell

Anna said...

okay, I had to click on Molly Ringwald.

at least it's not a memoir...

Anonymous said...

I think Alexander was naive. I and several others never expected publication but relished the feedback from other writers (often insightful and valuable). This has been the best ever writers' group and my book has improved dramatically. Comments are the real gold dust on authomomy!

Keefieboy said...

My name is Keef and I am an Authonoholic. Actually, I was, I've learned to rein back my time on it recently. Whatever other folks may think, I have found the experience absolutely invaluable. I've made friends, both virtual and physical, I've learned a lot about writing, and I've had a lot of feedback that has improved my work out of all recognition.

What's not to love about it?

Trashy Cowgirl said...

I have to agree. I like Hemingway's short stuff quite a bit more, as well. As for Barney's Version, I loved it, but it was experimental and I could see how it wouldn't be for everyone. Try "Solomon Gursky Was Here". Far easier to read. No footnotes, I promise.

And, to second Keef. Autho really is helpful. Having a fan base waiting for you to post chapters is incredibly motivating. I had a scene to write and was avoiding it like the plague. It was holding up the whole story. It was the one chapter everyone was really waiting for, so I took the encouragement and wrote it. Got amazing reviews and it's now my fave chapter, but I would have procarstinated on it forever had I not feared a lynch mob if I did. The ego can be a potent thing when it comes to inspiration. Sorry, but it is. I also found Autho useful in that I had a small character that everyone seemed to really take to. So, I amped him up a bit. Rather do it as I'm writing, not a couple of years down the road when I finally get an agent and they say, "amp him up."

I will also add that anyone looking to Autho to be their main source of publication is in the wrong biz. Use it as a tool, then type your queries and carry on, business as usual. Some people knock themselves out networking. Why? We all know the eds are searching the whole pile. Knock yourself out soliciting crits and then doing the revisions. You'll get published much faster.

Anonymous said...

Authomaniacs, if you're under the impression the 'comments' you get on the site constitute a workable critique, you guys need to get out more.

Try a serious writer's group. One where the participants don't have a vested interest to do well at what is essentially a popularity contest.

Oh! Epiphany! I know how Authonomy could work... it needs people to list themselves as 'readers' and others to be 'writers'. That might remove some of the 'I'll promote your work if you promote mine,' carry on.

Wait a mintue... that would be like the real world, wouldn't it?

Trashy Cowgirl said...

Anon 3:19,
Please. Not everyone one plays a tit for tat game. I have had some killer crit, and been ripped apart like you wouldn't believe. I've dug into others, too. Some of us are serious about the crit not the popularity game.It doesn't take long to weed out who is who.

A serious writer's group? Great, I'll round up the moose in my back yard, the beaver from the creek and a couple of cows. See what they think. I'm on a farm in the middle of nowhere trying to raise three kids. There are no writer's groups here and it is hard for me to commit to deadlines when it comes to producing recip crit. I don't know why people have to be so negative about something that works for others.

I think the game aspect is a joke, too, but I'm not in it for the game. Some of the crit is fluff meant to gain backing, but I wouldn't be where I am right now without many of the comments I have received. If you don't trust the crit I get, click my name and have a peek. If you scroll down a little you'll see some harsh line edits, like Jay G's for example. I had a great time doing rewrites after that one. And I'm not anonymous.
Christy Jordan

Scott said...

Good post, Christy. Funny, too.

The fluff stuff on Authonomy is deffo cringeworthy, but the several pieces of helpful crit I can imagine make it all worth it. I've only been floating in the forums and I've picked up some useful info, and I'll probably stick to that kind of activity. I tried to put up my novella, but I didn't have it broken into chapters, so I scrapped the whole deal. I'm in the process of querying the book I just finished, and have put it through the ringer enough, I think, so I'm not interested in peddling it there. But anywhere I can "hear" writers "talking", I'm going to hang around.

Another site that offers some decent feedback on a "review three before me" basis is Scribophile. Again, I've not had the gumption to critique as I'm too busy writing, really, but the forumers there are very quick to reply and help. So far, Authonomy has pegged me as a Yank noob, and frankly, I don't have the energy to work into their good graces. Not yet, anyway.

Trashy Cowgirl said...


Will have to watch for you in the forums. I know the atmosphere is fairly British at times. I have a ms about rodeo, I am painfully aware of it.

As for giving crit, I struggle to find the time to do it, but I find that everytime I take apart someone else's work, I learn more about my own. I read a sentence that sounds funny, then I have to try and figure out why. After I do that I discover a million places where I have done the same thing.

I never realized how awful my writing was, until I jumped into the slush on Autho.

Good luck with the queries.

Ink said...

Trashy (that's still fun to say... I admit it, I'm easily amused)

I can handle footnotes. Infinite Jest was a seminal book for me when I was eighteen. And them's some footnotes, let me tell you. :) I just couldn't get into Barney's Version. Just seemed dull and the voice didn't engage me. But everyone tells me Richler is funny, so I may give him a try again some day...

As for Authonomy... it's not for me, but I'm happy it works for some people. But, I did think I should mention that there's lots of other good places online to get critical feedback. For example, I hang out at an online community called Forward Motion for Writers. It's got eleven or twelve thousand members, an online mag on writing, dozens of forums and classes and writing prompts and challenges. Live chat rooms, crit areas, places to hook up for novel swaps (critques), and it hosts dozens (hundreds?) of different online writing groups. And it's free, with no strings attached. No ulterior motives, just a supportive community that does without flamewars. No games to play, just honest writing comradeship.

So, if you love getting honest feedback from writers but get tired of the gamesmanship and infighting... there are other options, even if you're somewhere isolated.

Whatever happens, best of luck!

Bryan Russell

BarbS. said...

Erg, just what the industry needs: more layoffs. More people out of work--and probably staying connected to writing by blogging.

Depressing...the layoffs, not the blogging!

Sorry. I've just mucked out (again). Tough to do, when you're allergic to hay, tee-hee...

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

Well, my brain will ignite if I read all of these comments, (I suspect that you've probably stopped reading them yourself) so I'm sure someone else have said what I'm about to.

I've been on Authonomy since last May. Back then you had to be exclusively *invited* to be able to sign up - at least that's what I was told.

I don't think I'll ever get on the Editor's desk. I don't spend enough time marketing my book AND I write non-fiction - not the kind of thing HC prefers to populate the earth with.

Besides, my writing-for-pay work, sometimes gets in the way of spending those hours on the Authonomy forums.

Authonomy has its values, and I've never regretted joining up. I may never be contacted by HC, but my book is a whole lot better *because* it's been there. Fellow writers have put in hours of reading and suggesting edits - for free!

I will say to anyone who wants to join. If you're there just to get on the desk and be read by HC, you'll have to put your marketing hat on. However, if you just want to improve your book and make it the best it could be before sending it out to publishers, (and meet some very nice people) it's the place to be.


Trashy Cowgirl said...

Ink (Bryan),
I think Barney's Version is much more enjoyable for the die-hard fans, because it was like watcing thesignature type characters come full circle, sort of put a cap on his body of work.

Thanks for the tip. I am always excited to learn about new places to improve my work.

And, I have a confession. I'm not really that trashy (don't tell anyone) it was sort of a joke in response to Nathan's "Trash" post. But, you may feel free to call me Trashy as you seem to enjoy it so much.

Good luck!

denese said...

Have you been to Open Salon lately? ( It is a community of very prolific writers, many very good, and most very supportive of the attempts of the rest of us. A number of published authors have accounts there. And yes, posts are rated by other readers, and there are "Editor's Pick" selections, and now pick of the day selections. As an added bonus, Joan Walsh is the Editor in Chief at Salon, and I think she's a super talent.

other lisa said...

I formed a small online writers' group out of getting spammed to join some huge "writers' workshop" - I was curious enough to see what it was, discovered it was an enterprising fellow's come on to get you to sign up for fee-based classes and such, asked if anyone there was interested in novels and got a few hits. A lot of trial and error followed. Two current members found the group - it's private but apparently listed in the Yahoo registry - and we recruited a few others.

I have another group of writer friends who found each other through a different social networking site.

So if you're out in the wilderness, you can find critique groups. I imagine within Authonomy that you could find helpful critique partners. I've looked at the site a little and there are some good people there and some interesting stuff.

Me, I wouldn't go that route because I would not be comfortable posting WIP in such a public forum, and the "game" aspect of it - having participated in one such online contest two years ago, I vowed I would never do it again.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: "But, you may feel free to call me Trashy as you seem to enjoy it so much."

How about Trashi, with an "i" - sort of a mix of Tricia and Tracy. I think of Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" - "A Girl Named Trashi."

P.S. Just looking up on Google, "A Boy Named Sue" was written by none other than Shel Silverstein - children's author.

Marilyn Peake said...

I noticed that several Authonomy authors have received publishing contracts from Harper Collins, but I can't find any information online about advances they might have received. Does anyone know the amount of their advances, or if they even received advances? I belong to several writers' groups in which members have landed contracts with both literary agents and large publishing houses and have received significant advances. I was wondering how Authonomy might compare.

BarbS. said...

I think my Mac has saved me from Authonomy. I was going to participate, hoping it would be a good exercise in focus, but I can't upload the formats the site requires.

Oh well. If Auth. is really a thinly disquised HC (Avon) FanLit thing, I'll gladly walk away and create my onster elsewhere, LOL. At least writing the short and long pitches was worth the effort. I think it solidified the story and gave me decent stuff for a query.

BarbS. said...

DUH... make that Monster...

Wordver: nessepu. Why the Loch Ness Monster is so darned hard to housebreak.

Patty said...

I have just written a blog post about my experience at Authonomy:

Anonymous said...

@Sandra- Realms of Fantasy closed? Nooooooo -> infinity ->! [unearthly howl] I LOVED that magazine! I don't even read fantasy that much anymore(save Terry Pratchett), but that was a piece of my youth. Dang it, I almost feel like a relative I'd been out of touch with died. I feel guilty, like maybe I should have written, sent flowers on its birthday and such. Grrrahhh rage. Thanks for letting us know, though. I have some weeping to do.


Elyse said...

I've read the work in question at Authonomy, I've read the review and I've read some of the comments generated by the review.

I can see the critique was badly worded. The impression given - and meant to be given, I believe - is that the author got to the top 5 by winning a popularity contest and now the editor resents having to read the work.

In other words, their system isn't working the way they thought it would and they're disappointed with what is ending up at the top.

(Aside: I wonder if the books signed were from the top rankings? And if not, why bother with Authonomy at all? If you're not going to use the slush to weed the slush for you, then why develop such a system? Thoughts to ponder.)

One of the points I did want to make is that there seems to be a recurring theme of indignation in the commentary of supporters for this author along the lines of, 'How dare HC comment on this work having lack of originality? How can they possibly expect us to bring anything new to this or any genre?'

Um, hello? We all should be working for originality. Of course we should be working to bring original concepts and ideas to life... that's the point of writing.

If we can't offer new concepts, ideas, storylines or insights, then how can we justify asking the reader to purchase our product? If they want to read what they've read before, they have only to visit the library.

To break out of the slush, you need a great voice and an original hook. You need to offer agents, editors and readers something fresh.

Absolutely, the tone of the review was harsh and brutal and it was badly worded... most definitely, the poor author got the thin edge of the whip of honesty. It should have been handled better.

But to my way of thinking, the point about originality and bringing something fresh to the genre sends an important message that I hope isn't missed in the outpouring of shocked sympathy.

Since we have actually heard the unvarnished truth for a change -without the palatable smoothing of courtesy - maybe we could take the opportunity to learn from it?

Patty said...


You got it.

My point: this is the face of a major corporation, a flagship project it is advertising worldwide.

They come the site, and what do they see? A faceless editor rudely hacking into an author, and mentioning things that are not relevant to the review and that make the author look ridiculous, whether that was intended or not.

BarbS. said...


Sounds like that reviewer has an advanced case of Simon Cowell Syndrome. People think rude is edgy; rude builds ratings.

Sigh. I guess it all comes down to Authonomy being just another clever exercise in hype. There are no winners--aside from HarperCollins.

Marilyn Peake said...


Thanks for that information. It's possible that the editor in question was told that editing submissions on Authonomy would be a new part of their job, and they had gotten to the point where they had experienced too many corporate changes to mince words. It's also possible that Harper Collins has decided to publish only the type of books they usually publish anyway, to publicly validate their decision to reject certain projects by having editors write razor-sharp scathing reviews of those projects, to keep out literary agents as deal negotiators on all Authonomy projects, and to use Authonomy to bring in huge numbers of writers and readers. It sounds like the program is based on a business plan to bring in more customers as well as writers. It reminds me of the Amazon Shorts program, also announced as a way for writers to build a fan base; but, in the long run, only benefitted already well-known authors from the big publishing houses.

Julie Weathers said...

I have a friend who is a web designer and was a little surprised at the importance of author websites. She was discussing a mutual acquaintance who had written a book that benefited greatly from the site. He writes about autopsies, SWAT team procedures and the like if I remember correctly. You wouldn't think there would be that much demand.

As for the first page contest, it must be a sign. Time for another contest!


Julie Weathers said...

"I have 1,200 NEW visitors per month on my blog...that means 14,400 people will look at my blog in 2009), and ten percent of them buy your book. That is over a thousand copies per year."

That absolutely makes my head hurt. I have to be interesting and post fun stuff every day?

I think I have perhaps, let me get out the calculator and make sure of the numbers, yes, 1 new visitor a month...on a good month. I obviously need to work on this.

Marilyn Peake said...


With not too much work, e.g. getting interviews and reviews on popular book sites, you can gradually increase traffic to your own website. For the past few months, I've also been receiving 1,000 additional hits to my website each month - resulting in over 9,000 hits to my site during the month of January 2009. When I first started my website, I received 50 hits per month.

Adaora A. said...

Is Molly going to pen a novel that is a cross between The Breakfast club (<3) and Sixteen Candles? Haha.

Are you sure I can't still enter that contest?!

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