Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, March 23, 2009

Authonomy (possibly hilariously) Hijacked

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - According to numerous sources around the Internet and my Inbox, the popular site Authonomy has been attacked by what appears to be a flash mob led by someone codenamed Klazart, which is overwhelming Authonomy servers and distressing numerous Authonomy followers.

According to reader John Minichillo, Klzart is the author of the book LESSER SINS. The novel quickly rose to the top Authonomy's rankings in only a few days, backed by the author's legion of fans, who were spurred to log in and vote for it via a YouTube video.

Authonomy employs a user-generated method of ranking titles, and theoretically the ones who generate the most esteem from other members of the ardently passionate community rise to the top, where they are supposedly reviewed by Harper UK editors.

Blog commenter Trashy Cowgirl sums up thusly: "A group of gamers following a guy who calls himself Klazart, flashmobbed the site. He is backed by 880 people, and on 233 watchlists. He is now ranked ninth. Not bad considering he only posted his ms on the 19th. Of course the flood managed to jam the site and create an enormous uproar."

Such a big uproar, apparently, that as of this writing I can't even open the Authonomy website.

According to Minichillo, Klazart is popular in the Internet gaming community for "narrating videos of Starcraft tournaments and popular players."

Further research conducted by your intrepid reporter shows that Startcraft is apparently a video game. Who knew!

Klazart's actions apparently caused Authonomy's zealous nongaming followers to go completely bananas in the forums.

Is this the future of user-generated aggregators or will this be a hiccup along the way? Should we begrudge Mr. Klazart his Starcraft-backed following?

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: "Klazart" weighed in in the comments section. His real name is Vineet and he's a nice guy. It wasn't a flash mob per se, and Authonomy's shutdown doesn't seem to be (or at least shouldn't be) related to his followers joining the site. Authonomy posted a statement clarifying matters and confirming that Klazart/Vineet didn't break any rules.






152 comments:

Kat Mayo said...

I guess gamers are like drug addicts and alcoholics: They are very supportive of one another, kind of like family. Apparently gaming is the new "in" addiction.

Jade said...

I can't open the site either - wonder how long it will take to be up and running again?

This is the reason why I feel that any contest that requires a popular vote - from Idols to Authonomy - is vulnerable to manipulation and the results should therefore not be taken too seriously.

I wonder how many of those rabid fans would end up actually buying the book if it were published?

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

Ya see what happens when you let the public in?? It's like the Modern Library's Top 100 books list as voted by the public:

http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html

Note how, um, different that list is to the board's choices.

Hubbard-loving Scientology types and Ayn Rand Objectivists have every right to vote (ONCE), but swamping the list defeats the purpose. Not sure how you can control for that - or even if you should.

Nixy Valentine said...

I had a similar issue on a website that I run in which a user with a large group of fan-friends ran away with a contest.

There was a huge kablooie. People ranted that it was just a *popularity* contest and not a "best quality" contest now that someone had figured how to "rig" the results. Others said that if someone had a large enough fanbase to "fix" the contest, was it a fix at all?

But, but, but... they aren't OUR people, complained the site regulars.

So, hacked probably isn't the right word, unless I'm misunderstanding what happened. "Hacked" implies that code was illegally and maliciously manipulated to change the website itself. Sounds like the guy just asked people to vote for him.

But if that's the case, isn't that what authonomy is all about? User popularity?

They only way to avoid things like this happening is to restrict voting to other people who also have an approved work up on the site. Otherwise, there's always some wiseass out there with five hundred friends.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

Man, I haven't logged onto Authonomy for a few days and this happened!!!! WHY DID I MISS THE FIASCO YESTERDAY!!!ARRRRrrgghhhhhh

Nathan Bransford said...

Yeah, I couldn't decide what word to use. Hacked isn't quite right, but hijacked wasn't quite right either.

I ultimately went with hacked in the general sense, not the original connotation, but if someone has something better I'll change it.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

Besides, i heard his book was total crap (and not even complete). My guess is that the Harper Collins editors will probably refuse to read his book...then I'm going to laugh at him.

StirlingEditor said...

I joined Authonomy in February, and have enjoyed the community. I don't want to comment on Klazart's book in any way, but the fact that this situation has closed down the site for the rest of us who are generally following the "rules" (read that as actively participating in the forums and reading/commenting on others' books), has left me chagrined.

As I said to another Authonomite this morning: I'm all for capitalism but no one is capitalizing when no one can reach the goods. Hmm...He'll reach the Editor's Desk in a few days (whether deservedly or no), and we'll get back to the business of honing and improving our manuscripts.

I still believe it is a wonderful writers community worth saving.

Sam Hranac said...

New addiction? Being addicted to gaming is getting old enough to buy booze legally. It has been around long enough to become mainstream. Some of these people have given up sleeping on their Mom's basement couch and now sleep on basement couches of their own.

I sometimes considered Potter fans rabid just because I never saw the draw.

I say this is a hick-up for this one creator, but not for the movement of what is "popular." Just as the music industry lost control when the Beatles hit the scene, publishers are loosing control as users storm the gates of content creation.

Oops... rambling...

[Takes meds]

Sorry.

PurpleClover said...

oh see i was think hijacked was less confusing.

Either way that is hilarious! But how frustrating for those that are on there with honest intentions and sorely losing out because they aren't "gamers" in any sense of the word.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

As much as I respect the general public, their ability to consistently vote the best of anything to the top is hampered by their inability to resist things that are shiny. This is why the most talented members of American Idol are usual voted off before those with a schtick (a schtick that usually wears thin quickly).

Flash in the pan trends are fine...sometimes they sell stuff, but in 100 years I don't want my great-great grandchildren to be reading books by a guy named Klzart.

RW said...

It's a kind of vandalism, and it's temporary. It doesn't fatally injure the concept of user-generated aggregators. (Other flaws in the concept not withstanding.) It just makes a mess that the host site has to have a system for cleaning up.

Bradley Robb said...

This is really interesting. An author has shown that he can leverage his own, rather minimal, grass-roots social support in order to win a competition which allegedly is asking author's to do just that. Honestly, Klazart is just using social marketing.

A similar tactic was used by Sean Tevis in a local Kansas election last year. He made an XKCD-styled advert which netted enough donations to bury the incumbent.

It's not gaming the system, it's marketing outside of the box. If Klazart had done this with a self-published, or even published book, the headline would probably be something like, "Author Uses YouTube Fame to Sell Books."

Cameron Chapman said...

I think "hacked" is definitely the right word. He found a weakness in the system and he exploited it. The fact that he did so for his own gain and at the expense of others would lead me to even label him a "black hat hacker". And it was not just long-time members who were on the forums. Many very hateful, very hurtful things were said by "gamers" and long-time members alike. I watched most of it unfold on Saturday night until the site was flooded to the point it was effectively shut down.

Anonymous said...

Now this is a concern.

Is the once esteemed craft of writing being reduced to gladiator battles to the death in public forums to gain the favorable eye of publishers?

Is Harper UK the emperor and Authonomy now become a virtual coliseum? Will the crowds cheer for the emperor to signal thumbs up or down?

Do we have to develop a fanatical following in another arena to compete for the whims of the emperor?

Does this not promote self-advertisement, self-promotion… leading to self-publication?

I hope, no, I pray … that all of this is a joke… or a bad dream?

Mercy Loomis said...

I'm with Nixy - if no code was changed or inserted, no hacking took place. This is what we lovingly call "gaming the system." Happens all the time - even Stephen Colbert does it, like with his call to the Nation to vote for his name for the new NASA pod. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,508998,00.html)
As for gaming being the new "in" addiction, where have you been Kat? We gamers have been doing our thing for more than 30 years, as a group. The Starcraft fans are a very rabid subset - and I don't mean that in a negative way. I think Klazart's strategy is a brillant use of his resources. The hobby gaming industry is very incestuous, in that the same people tend to move around from company to company and gain a following with the consumers. I don't see the video gaming industry (or the publishing industry, for that matter) as being too terribly different.
I think this illustrates why the publishing houses will hang out longer than some people think - it's not that people can't game their system, but we're used to it and we know who is doing it and what kind of books are likely to be produced by it. I don't think the general public is ready for the books that are picked by gamers and people who watch YouTube.

L.C. Gant said...

Yup, there's nothing on the site now but an "undergoing maintenance" message. Yuck. What a mess.

I'm with Jade here--Idol, Authonomy, high school Homecoming courts--they're all the same. Whoever has the most friends, not necessarily the most talent, wins. I'm not a fan of that type of thing.

Sadly, I think this is just the beginning. I don't see how Authonomy can regulate this type of vote bombardment. Eh, I'll watch from afar, I guess.

As a side note, Ray Rhamey over at Flogging the Quill recently blogged about his new love of Authonomy: http://www.floggingthequill.com/flogging_the_quill/2009/03/my-new-authonomy-addiction.html I'd like to direct him to this post, if that's okay. I think I'll enjoy his thoughts on it. Thanks for the info, Nathan!

Erin said...

I think you should try to use "absconded with" if possible, Nathan. You just don't see it enough these days.

Also, the site is totally crashed and down. I blogged about it too :) My overall verdict on the subject is that HC is facing a total PR nightmare and it's going to be extremely funny to see what they decide to do. Alienate the regulars? Or annoy the gamers? And it's never a good idea to annoy the gamers...

Rick Daley said...

I think hijacked is a better term than hacked. This reminds me of the "Vote for the Worst" initiative that kept Sanjaya on American Idol so long (was that last year or the year before?).

I think it exploits an obvious weakness in the premise of sites like Authonomy, i.e. all you need is votes to succeed, so campaign for them however you can.

I posted a portion of my novel on Authonomy, but I haven't had much time to read other works, and therefore have not even been ranked. I did get a comment recently from someone along the lines of, "let's face it, I'll never read your book, but I'm moving up on the rankings so do me a favor and add me to your bookshelf."

Julia Weston said...

It's just my luck. I registered just for fun less than a week ago. I enjoyed the site until everything blew up. Suddenly there were shadow-people everywhere(fake name, no avatar) picking fights with the "locals." Bizarre. And pretty discouraging.

Even though Shazam (or whatever) wasn't breaking the rules, per se, his actions still don't sit well with me.

I also wonder if HC will come issue some sort of official statement.

Bradley Robb said...

Perhaps this just shows that HarperCollins skimped on their server needs. With under a thousand votes, and under six thousand YouTube views, applying the term "traffic explosion" would be a large stretch. The front page of Digg drives a hundred times that number in a single hour on a typical weekday afternoon.

Bane of Anubis said...

Perhaps the term you should use - gaming related - is "fragged"

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Democracy in action...the popular kids get invited to the party, and the smart kids are home watching Dr. Who reruns again.

Not too dissimilar from what the gaming community did with the Spore game release ratings on Amazon last autumn, or the battle between Penny Arcade and Harlan Ellison last year, or--not to troll but make a point--the earth-shaking herd that came out to support our own Nathan as best blog (Webby? BestBlog? Sorry, can't remember which) just a few months ago. In the new economy, mobs certainly do rule the day.

Dawn said...

You're right, Sam Hranac, we Potter fans are rabid. It's frightening.

Jan said...

I joined Authonomy Feb 2nd of this year and my story has climbed into 45th place because of the helpful critique from fellow members.
I've read part of Klazart's book. It's ok but definitely not ready for the editor's desk.
I think he would have been wise to go the traditional route and improved his work with the aid of fellow members before seeking the editors desk.
His gamer friends will get him into the top 5 ranking, but then what? A red face when HC reviewers point out all the books flaws?
His tactics for manipulating the system have earned him instant placement in the top ranking. The problem is, his large following of gamers are backing him as a person, not his book and writing ability. Most have not even read his work.
Jan

Marilyn Peake said...

Sooooooo, maybe the future of books is in selling large numbers of them to people induced into mass hysteria first. Think about the possibilities. The book wouldn't have to be well-written; it could actually be thrown together very, very quickly. And, heck, no one would even have to read the damn thing, just flashmob the Amazon site, download the book into their Kindle or Kindle 2 or Kindle Whatever all at the same time, before the mass hysteria wears off, in order to boost the Amazon sales ranking to #1. Then the critics will give it a great review because it sold so well and it got people to "read" again after all the time in which people had supposedly given up reading for other more addictive pursuits. Ain't literature gonna be grand? Ch-ching, think of all the money.

Vineet said...

Nathan

The Authonomy FAQ specifically encouraged us to 'ask friends and family to come to the site', and if we have a website/blog and have people there who will come and 'champion' our work then we should invite them also.

I read this and posted a simple video on youtube asking the community to help me get noticed. Honestly, I didn't anticipate that so many of them would come. I figured, maybe a couple of hundred people would come and it would raise my profile a little.

Also, 880 people over 24 hours is hardly a flash mob. There are so many community based forums around the internet that have that many people on all the time simultaneously, and I had no way of knowing that the authonomy servers would not be able to handle this, "relatively small" increase in traffic.

In hindsight, I'm sorry for all the trouble :(

dmw819 said...

A gamer just gaming the system? I have no financial interest nor am I defending the video game industry. But annual video game sales now exceed theatrical film releases revenues. The writing about tournaments for the product, Starcraft might sound trite. Starcraft is one of the oldest (and still) most lucrative video game franchises in history. The other little game by same manufacturer, might sound familiar, is called Warcraft. Humungous sales. Content consumers who buy media content regularly. I don't think it is such a leap of faith - that Electronic Arts, or Nintendo, or Blizzard, could get into publishing other types of media. Stock it in every vertically integrated video game depot. It was't just a gamer gaming the system. It was a brilliant marketing move.

StirlingEditor said...

The site's back up! Here's an update from HC about what happened:

http://www.authonomy.com/Forum/Posts.aspx?threadId=18893

Vineet said...

From Authonomy

"Finally, we need to apologise for the performance issues which are dogging the site at the moment. We appear to have a fault in our hosting infrastructure. It is not related to the activities at the weekend and we really should have more than enough capacity in the servers for the task at hand. We are investigating and service may be at erratic until this is resolved. Please bear with us on this one. We are making this a priority. "

Can people PLEASE stop blaming me for killing the site now :(

Bane of Anubis said...

I don't blame you, sir, I commend you ;) - call their bluff and see if their servers can survive 1,000 more gaming cuts :)

Mercy Loomis said...

Poor Vineet, I bet this wasn't what you expected your 15 minutes of fame to be like!

If nothing else, Authonomy has learned a valuable lesson - they need bigger servers. Or something like that.

Vineet said...

Mercy I wasn't hoping for 15 minutes of fame.

Maybe 15 minutes on an editor's desk and some honest feedback?

Julia Weston said...

Vineet! I'll stop blaming you if you back my book ;) Seriously, I can't say I agree with your method, but I'm still probably going to check out your ms :)

Vineet said...

Julia - I appreciate all honest, constructive feedback :)

I've got a lot of stuff to read still on my watch list, but I'll try to get around to yours at some point.

David Russell Mosley said...

I don't normally comment, but I have to say that this is, one hilarious, and two it goes to show that perhaps having a voting contest like this might not be a great idea.

Bane of Anubis said...

Hey, if you can get a legion of fans to do this in a day's time, then some of them would likely be willing to coin up and buy the book - that's how I'd look at it if I were HC. We should all aspire to that level of distributionability (viral or otherwise) - I guess that means I'll need to come out of my cave at some point :)

150 said...

I'd say "gamed", actually. This is the Internet. Major news outlets post polls like "Who's the best vampire, Dracula or Edward?" EXPECTING the uptick in hits from the Twilight fans. Anyone who can mobilize almost a thousand people, well, more power to him.

Anonymous said...

Vineet,

My comments concerning the gladiators battling in the arena were not directed at you -- you too, are a gladiator.

This demonstrates the problems with public arenas - we sometimes forget there are people behind the virtual.

PS. I apologize for calling your friends fanatics. Fanatics have purpose... my friends are just uselessly crazy...

Of course this is why I must remain,

Anonymous

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan,

Sure hope you post a blog about writing again sometime soon. Last week's discussion about writing was great.

Nathan Bransford said...

vineet-

I'm not sure you should aplogize. As you say, you were following the rules, your group shouldn't really have overwhelmed their servers, and I wouldn't begrudge any author that has a built-in following.

I do find it an interesting possible preview of the future. It will be chaotic until all of this is worked out.

Mira said...

I read the comment at Authonomy. I thought they handled it well.

Vineet, I hope you don't feel badly, the site is backing you.

Frankly, I suspect they see this as a big positive. Look how much publicity they got from this. Look how much action on the site. Isn't Authonomy a relatively new site? To have a user rally a thousand people - that's a thousand more people who now know about this site.

Besides, this totally fits in with their concept - like they said, there were no rules broken.

They still don't have to publish anything - that's where the site retains the ultimate power.

But good luck to you, Vineet!

Peter Morin said...

I'm bemused by the whole thing, but a tad annoyed too. There are NO rules (generally) other than what the community has adopted by silent consensus.

Here's my Authonomy Fable.

Mira said...

Oh, whoops. Nathan said the same thing. The foils of that lack time between reading and typing...

Bane of Anubis said...

Just b/c all the cows graze in pasture X, doesn't mean the new cows need to follow suit... or, as Emerson put it: "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"

lotusgirl said...

I wouldn't begrudge him his gamer following any more than I would begrudge Chipper Jones his baseball fans following. Just because he's popular doesn't mean he's a great writer. We all cash in whatever chips we've got when we "publish" to succeed.

Dara said...

Very interesting.

I'm not part of that site, but I find it funny how it's gotten this far.

Anonymous said...

It's made the site much more interesting.

All this stuff about voting don't mean a thing. The only vote that's worth anything is whether people are prepared to pay for it. Now if authonomy was a pay per view site, and the guy was getting hundreds of backings, THAT would be something.

Anonymous said...

We all know celebrity books sell. He was just showing publishers that they are overlooking certain types of celebrity.

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks for the link, StirlingEditor. I updated my blog post to reflect Authonomy's position and Vineet's comments.

Chris Bates said...

Man, is that site slow. My confidence in the traditional print book publishing model moves faster than that site!

I love this guy. A fine example how shaking the tree will get all the nuts (like us!) chattering.

Brilliant.

I think maybe the word you’re looking for is ‘owned’ – Vineet just purchased it through clever manipulation.

However, it does absolutely no good whatsoever for the site’s competition – nor will it likely do I think it will do anything positive for your book, Vineet, if only because the work probably isn’t ready for such exposure. This is the case with every author’s book prior to completion, rewrite and edit, so don’t feel I am personally taking you to task on this front. Discounting that, the action does illicit comment from a wider audience. Seth Godin suggests we do something ‘remarkable’ … and here we are ‘remarking’. Well done.

The challenge for newly published authors is to duplicate such publicity. Bearing in mind that just giving away an ebook will not get you noticed anymore. Personally I haven’t read a single free ebook in its entirety yet. That being said, I’d give anything to be able to grab an extra two or three ebook chapters of Bryan Gruley’s ‘Starvation Lake’, simply because it is slowly legitimizing itself as a worthy work of fiction – in my eyes.

@Bradley Robb: You’ve got the idea in one. Vineet is a activating his ‘social community ‘ - his sub-culture - to manipulate change. I also agree that he should have utilized this ability at a later stage. Like I mentioned earlier - after completion of book and after edit. Lesson for aspiring writers: be patient. Don’t query, don’t market, don’t distribute … until the manuscript is ready.

@DIMA: Don’t laugh at him. Embrace his efforts in guerilla marketing. Yes, Vineet is a little off-target but at least he’s shooting.

Vineet: don't give up. The book needs some work at the moment but don't feel disheartened. Finish the draft then polish, polish, polish.

T. Anne said...

I agree with LC Grant. It has a high school feel to it, however I suppose it offers feedback of sorts. I wonder if the feedback is genuine or if they just want you to rate there novel favorably in return? I'd love it if an authonomite would explain the whole thing to me.

Kristi said...

What unpublished author wouldn't love to start out with 880 fans? Good for him. I do agree with Nathan and David's use of the word "hilarious(ly)" to describe this incident. It's way more hilarious than my current ranking in the NCAA challenge (I don't even think I'm beating Nathan anymore...sigh).

Stephanie Faris said...

I figured that would happen. I have around 5,000 readers on MySpace and I could have very easily posted a novel and told all 5,000 of them to go over there. Does that make my novel any better than anyone else? Heck no. To me, it seems like it's cheating the system and, quite honestly, if I had to do that to get in with a publisher or agent, I wouldn't want to get published in the first place. When it does happen, I want it to be solely on the work that editor/agent has read and nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Klazart brought his entire platform to a publisher's doorstep and dumped them onto the slush pile. Why shouldn't he have done this? Can anyone else think of a better way he could have done this?

Bane of Anubis said...

SF, regarding Authonomy, that's what it primarily is anyway - a pandering popularity contest; if you have a quality manuscript and 5,000 devoted followers, HC would be happy to look at you - their primary concern is revenue and if you have a built in audience, they like that (which is part of authonomy's metric - building up or incorporating audience)... it's not cheating the system, it's using it.

Get your foot in the door any way you can; don't allow pride or prejudice to interfere w/ what ultimately comes down to a business decision for the power that be.

Marilyn Peake said...

Vineet,

I agree with Chris Bates. Your marketing plan is brilliant. I checked out the summary of your book and some of the voters’ comments on Authonomy. It seems to me that you may be a great storyteller, but I noticed quite a few grammatical errors in your book summary and several comments from voters about grammatical errors in the first part of your book. Storytelling is the most difficult part of writing. If you can do that, you can learn how to edit, no problem. Most writers complete a few books before they overcome specific problems of their earlier writing. Most writers eventually learn to live by the rather harsh mantra: Edit, edit, edit; polish, polish, polish. Best of luck in your writing career!

jimnduncan said...

You'd have thought they would have anticipated an issue like this and planned for it better. When they were making the site, nobody pondered the "what if's"? What if someone posts something who has an outside fanbase that comes in and votes it up to the top? There's actually nothing wrong with this per se, but it does perhaps show a bit if disrespect toward the spirit of the sight. No rules broken though, so people should be whining at those who run the site or maybe they have been. I checked the site out once, and realized I would not be able to devote time to read enough material there to make my efforts worthwhile, so I bailed. I certainly like the idea of authonomy, but they do need to put a better gatekeeper function in place to avoid what just happened.

other lisa said...

Disclaimer: I am coming from a place of crankiness.

I get that writers need to adapt to the new world o' publishing, that we need to build our networks and mobilize them, that we need to think of ourselves as a brand, all that. But this Authonomy thing...makes me cranky. I'm not sure what HC's real intentions with this are, but these online popularity contests seem to me to be yet another example of short-term, quick buck thinking at the expense of quality and long-term profitability. I mean, why not publish a book, if the author can mobilize mobs to promote himself? Who cares if it's good or bad? We can make some money from it, right?

I haven't read Vineet's book, so I'm not making any quality judgments on his work. Just that with such a system, a link between popularity and quality is entirely unnecessary.

/cranky rant.

Jan said...

Stephanie Faris,
I agree. Just think if we all did what Klaz did. I like the way Klaz misleads what it actually says on the FAQ page. I believe it tells us to asked our friends and family to participate in the community and build up our TSR. Not one of his followers did that until members started pointing that out to them. I could care less if he is in the top 5, his planned method of getting there destroyed our hard earned TSR ranking and they just shrug it off, blaming the system. He knew what he was doing, he was a silent member for days watching and waiting. He's not stupid thats for sure, but I don't think I would trust him too far.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I think this is probably a hiccup that will occur only occasionally, as most authors on that site are in the aspiring stage of their career and won't have a legion of fans to spur them on (with the exception of people with a following in another medium, like Klazart, or perhaps certain fanfic authors). It just shows that aggregators need to be prepared for these occasional cases.

As for anyone getting upset with it (re: the "uproar"), take heart: even if his book is the one that gets reviewed by the editors, they still have to *like it*. (I say this having no knowledge of the quality of Klazart's book.) It's just a shortcut to getting an editor to see your work. Theoretically, if your book is good enough, you'll have that same opportunity via another contest or the traditional agent-->editor route...it just might take longer.

RainSplats said...

Hey - Ramit http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/my-new-book-is-out-today-im-giving-away-1-kindle-per-hour-and-5000/
giving away a free KINDLE every hour...for people who buy his $11 book.

He's also answering questions all day on streaming video.

He's #1 on Amazon and B&N. Publisher just ordered a reprint...and it came out today. What do you think of his launch?

Anonymous said...

Don't get sucked into the politics of this.

I read Klazart's first chapter in one of the brief moments when the site was up, and thought it was a lot better than much of what I've read on the site. It had a very fresh plot line and the first chapter, after a few overwritten first paragraphs settled down and turned into what I thought might be the beginning of an excellent political thriller.

Annalee said...

Kat Mayo, it's hardly fair to lump gamers in with drug addicts just because they gamed a social networking system. A small percentage of gamers, like a small percentage of those who drink, are addicts. If a bunch of people logged onto Authonomy to vote up someone they knew from the pub, would you paint them all as alcoholics?

As for how Authonomy can prevent this kind of thing in the future, it would behoove them to have a look at how Digg and similar sites handle their voting. Social networking/ranking sites that have been around for a while understand the importance of developing systems to rank votes so that a brand-new user who signs on to vote for only one thing and never comes back is not weighted the same way as a regular with a solid voting record. It prevents both sockpuppetry and popularity waves like this one.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of business, has anyone noticed the DOW went up nearly 500 points today, as a result of investors reacting to specific economic plans?

Vineet said...

thanks to everyone for the encouragement and feedback

I agree that it needs some tightening and a bit more fine editing, which I'll be getting to asap.

As to the synopsis, I had to seriously condense it down to make it fit 200 words, because my novel has two primary story lines, I struggled to keep it down to this while doing justice to both.

In the end I made a few sacrifices, such as letting the synopsis appear a little clunky. I'm hoping that people will like the idea enough to give the story a chance.

With query letters I think you can get away with 300 words or so, hopefully that should do the trick when I start querying!

Jan said...

Klaz also fails to mention that he has been asked many times to repair our TSR by a simple means of making his book private for a few minutes. He will not lose his high ranking by doing this but it will restore our well deserved TSR's. He refuses to do this. His friends are now holding the top talent spotter rankings on the site.
I went from 200 position to over 1100. He's friend's that have only read or I should say backed one book have a better ranking than the members who have put hours and hours into reading to earn those rankings. The site might be flawed, but for him to refuse this simple request (that will restore our rankings) is just selfish on his part.
And yes, members are backing his book now, beause his gamer friends have the high TSR and those votes count the most.

Scott said...

Speaking of publishing of another sort, my former employer, the Ann Arbor News, announced today that it's ceasing publication in July after 174 years on watch. It's a sad, sad day.

The death of newspapers is not a good thing for our Democracy, folks.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

What the Hell! Celebrities, with the blessings and contrivance of the Publishing Industry, have *gamed* consumers for years now! Doesn't make a hoot if it's worthy or good, just plaster Celeb's name on it and open the cash register.

I personally don't see a stitch of difference!

Haste yee back ;-)

Up with the THIGH MASTER, I say!

pjd said...

I do find it an interesting possible preview of the future. It will be chaotic until all of this is worked out.

Indeed.

I learned recently that many performers in Las Vegas get paid based in part on the number of people in the seats. In some cases, these performers take the unsold tickets and give them away for free to locals just to fill seats. This is known as "papering the house."

The fundamental lesson here is twofold:

1) publishers are looking for meaningful ways to identify marketable material, and they believe (rightly) that popularity is one gauge of marketability.

2) if you create a reward, someone will be clever enough to find a way to exploit the loopholes and get the reward outside the preferred path.

And correlative to #2: everyone who follows the rules and does not achieve the reward will be righteously pissed at the one who exploited the loopholes.

What bothers me is not that an author can be rewarded for bringing an audience, but that we have not yet created the tools to differentiate between a meaningful audience (i.e. interested and paying) versus a meaningless audience (i.e. papering the house). The good news is that if the potential value is real, the tools will eventually be developed. In the meantime, chaotic is a good way to sum it up.

By the way, had the "flash mob" actually been at fault for bringing the site down, it would have been neither hacking nor hijacking. It would have been a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS), though only in result and not necessarily in intent.

Marilyn Peake said...

Vineet,

I'd recommend editing your summary for grammar. I'm not an agent; but, based on my reading of agent blogs, the best agents usually reject queries and summaries in which the basic sentence structure contains numerous errors. Whether you submit now or later, though, good luck with everything.

Chris Bates said...

@Scott:

Sadly it is just the beginning. The old newspaper model is broken and there ain't no fixing it.

It's the death of newspapers, but it won't be the death of news reporting. It can be said that many newspapers were quite bias with political siding, so the democratic freedoms were not completely true. This is a re-birth ... the model is changing but the content will still be out there in pundit blogs.

Unfortunately there will be a higher cost for most people ... their jobs.

Marilyn Peake said...

Scott said:
Speaking of publishing of another sort, my former employer, the Ann Arbor News, announced today that it's ceasing publication in July after 174 years on watch. It's a sad, sad day.

Wow, very sad. I'm very sorry, Scott.

Trashy Cowgirl said...

I agree that Vineet did nothing wrong by the rules. And, HC did have a similar problem when England experienced a snow day. Sure, he had no way of knowing how extensive the effects would be. However, he is a gamer. I find it hard to believe that he had no idea that things would be flipped on their butts. His main goal was to get noticed. It was all part of it.

I resorted to starting threads for cat lovers (I'm not one), because 13 threads for one guy just seemed to fan the flames. I'm not really concerned with if his actions were wrong or not. I am just wondering about what the implications of his actions are. Wiley Merrick, for one, said they would not take on any new clients unless the author could mustre x ammount of reads for their ms on the net. And, HC does say bring over your fan base (though I don't think they meant mobilize your entire team of gamers). It would seem that this is the sort of thing that is being encouraged.

I'd rather quit debating what's right and what's wrong and start looking at what this means for the future of publishing. Will a publisher go with book A that is well written, pushes bounds, but may be ahead of its time, or book B that has an enormous fan following of potential buyers? I think the answer is scarily obvious. I wouldn't put my money on Dickens (if he were alive) getting a better book deal than Paris Hilton.

Will readers be more intrested in quality, or hype? Sure, many of us still want something good to read, but my local bookstore doesn't carry Cormac McCarthy, Robertson Davies, or Mordecai Richler , and only had one Michael Ondaatje book on the shelf (book, not title)last time I was there. That brings writers back to the internet as their channel of distribution. But, I am sure most are like me. I don't want to get crazy on the tech side. I need the time to write.

Anyway, my head hurts. I feel like I was hanging out in a laid back writer's workshop that was invaded by a bunch of Dungeons and Dragons guys.

And, relatively speaking, for Authonomy 880 people in 24hrs is a flashmob, considering that nothing even slightly comparable had happened previously.

Scott said...

Thank you, Marilyn.

Chris, you're right, the newspaper model is broken. My hope is that new news organizations rise from the ashes. Blogs are fine and I enjoy many of them. But there's a very large difference between a blog and a legitimate news gathering organization. If we have to soley rely on blogs and television news, we're in trouble.

Leis said...

I like to think of it as the Revolution of Authonomy: Vineet rode in on his equine gargoyle leading an army of Huns who probably last read a page of fiction in high school (because they had to); they performed a skillful circus act ('backing' his book) without a comment to their name, then stuck around for the victory orgy in the forums.

In a flash, TSR rankings were blown to the four winds (mine dropped from 43 to 650 overnight) and getting to the ED's desk came to be widely known for what it really was all along: the click of a button, a vote -- except no longer based on mutual back scratching.

This was the second such site I have frequented, and, alas, the last. I'd rather have my MS rot in the slush pile.

Oh-ho... the word verification... LOL (I can't say what it is!! :D )

Chris Bates said...

Scott:

I agree. Most blogs are simply opinion pieces ... like a lot of newspapers nowadays too.

I think the industry is in the professional blogs, ie Huff Post et al. These sites obviously make good coin on the advertising side. They can be low-cost on the start-up front and can play a feature piece to death with little fear of stealing column inch space from advertising revenue.

But, of course, you gotta get paid. Investigative journalists need cash to unearth stories.

Sorry for highjacking/gaming/hacking your comments section, Nathan!!

Chris Bates said...

Bransford, this NCAA basketball tournament thing ... is it possible for a budding author to rig the outcome?!

Maybe you're already outsourcing a group of hackers to manipulate the electronic scoreboard to your team's advantage.

I'm telling you people: ya can't trust literary agents. They'll sell their souls for a 10-20% advantage.

kdrausin said...

I agree with Nathan. Vineet sounds like a nice guy. He used his creativity to get his novel seen.

My teenage daughter was just telling me today how many of her guy friends go on Utube just to browse...for hours.

Artificial Wisdom said...

There's nothing wrong with using the system to the max advantage. That's supposed to be what the US encourages.

If you don't like the fact that he was able to bump up his book so quickly, then ask to change the ranking system.

Honestly, I hope people like Kat Mayo never get published, for who will be there to buy your books? Especially with that attitude.

TERI REES WANG said...

Love it when some one has the power to stir up their own tornado!...
..practicing serious powers of persuasion. More power to'em.

Jen C said...

What bothers me is not that an author can be rewarded for bringing an audience, but that we have not yet created the tools to differentiate between a meaningful audience (i.e. interested and paying) versus a meaningless audience (i.e. papering the house). The good news is that if the potential value is real, the tools will eventually be developed. In the meantime, chaotic is a good way to sum it up.

This is exactly what I was thinking.

I've only been to Authonomy once, and very very briefly at that, but from what I can tell it's a bit pointless. Someone above commented that people will approach you to rank them, and they will rank you, without either having read the others work? How is that going to translate into a sale if one of those books gets published?

If I wanted to, I could certainly mobilise a few hundred people, between friends, Twitter, Facebook, forums etc, to go to a website and click a button to vote for me. Would ALL of them then go to a bookstore and pay $30 for my book, read it, and then recommend it to their friends? That would be lovely, but highly unlikely!

To Vineet, I don't really blame you for what you did. I don't see this as one person cheating the system, as that's what other people seem to have been doing, albeit on a smaller scale. I just don't see how the set up of the site relates to what they say it's for. If people are voting without having read the work, that isn't a fan base at all...

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

I didn't invite friends and family to Authonomy. I made it up to number 13 on the 1st page of the book list, then couldn't get back in for a couple of days and I was down to page 58! Oiy Ve... well, the site is actually great to hear other's views on your writing.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

sorry, make that #58, not page 58

Maria Zannini said...

Vineet, you're living proof of the power of networking. You worked by the rules and rose to the top of the heap.

I think that's pretty awesome.

If you see this, contact me, there's something I'd like to ask you offlist. mariazannini AT gmail DOT com

Karen said...

I found out about this on a discussion thread at a different site and while I've never been on Authonomy, but my first thought was "Cool move! Great way to self-promote!" Say what you will, he caught people's attention.

Mira said...

Scott,

I'm sorry to hear about your newspaper too. I'm sorry for the jobs that will be lost.

That's the hard thing in times of change. Some people's lives are affected and made more difficult in the transition.

On the other hand, it's interesting to see things change. It's interesting to see history evolve - at least I think that's what's happening. The publishing industry is changing and we're a part of it - like Vineet.

I guess I see Authonomy and other sites as experiments - we're looking for the new publishing model that will work. The exciting thing about that is it causes us to reevaluate our values, our choices.

I'm sorry about what's lost, but I think it's rather exciting to see all the experimentation.

I think in the long run, it's good for authors. I don't care how popular they were, 100 years ago, it would have been very hard for any author to mobilize 900 people on their behalf. That's kind of cool.

And I guess I'm not so worried that bad books will become popular. They may, but that's okay. Cream floats to the top. A really good book is a really good book is a really good book.

macdibble said...

HC love the publicity. They don't care that their own ranking system has been made a mockery of, proving for once and for all that Authonomy is not for serious writers.

Any serious writers who held out the last few months, in the hope that Authonomy would get its act together, have taken this sign from Klazart the Almighty Gaming Dude and are now fleeing the sinking slush pile.

reader said...

By some people's comments, you'd think Vineet was the mastermind behind queryfail.

I hope you get published, Vineet!

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

I consider myself a serious writer. But I am not so confident that I feel I can ignore opportunities to promote my work.

Mercy Loomis said...

I just have to say it. I don't know anything about Authonomy, but I am hugely giggled by the fact that people complaining about a gamer are bemoaning the loss of their TSR.

(Yes, I am a hobby gamer. I bemoaned the loss of TSR too, but the folks over at Wizards of the Coast are actually pretty cool, and savvy as well.)

ryan field said...

Scott said, "Speaking of publishing of another sort, my former employer, the Ann Arbor News, announced today that it's ceasing publication in July after 174 years on watch. It's a sad, sad day."

I just lost one of my favorite newspapers too. It seems to be happening everywhere. Sad.

Scott said...

Haven't been by Authonomy in some time, but I have to think this kind of "raid" is easy enough to police. Anyone know how last month's top five have fared?

clindsay said...

Hey, kudos to the guy for ingenuity. He's got a built-in street team, something he'll be able to use to his advantage when marketing his book. I wish more authors thought outside the box like that. Good job! =)

Jen C said...

clindsay said...
Hey, kudos to the guy for ingenuity. He's got a built-in street team, something he'll be able to use to his advantage when marketing his book. I wish more authors thought outside the box like that. Good job! =)


I don't know that going onto a site and alienating the regulars is a very effective form of street teaming...

Mira said...

Okay, this is driving me nuts. I'm a hobby gamer, and have even played the occasional dungeon. what's a TSR and where did it go?

I have to say to the guy who posted that the popular kids won this round, not so. Most Gamers stem from the more imaginative, 'geek' faction.

I say this with pride.

Anonymous said...

I heard the author of technothriller Daemon had the gaming/geek community behind him in a big way, too, which led to his self-pubbed novel going to the big leagues.

Just goes to show that besides the traditional publishing industry channels, authors should market their book to communities relating to the book's subject matter as well.

Mira said...

Never mind. I went to Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge that is good and pure.

I know who TSR is.

All is good.

Marilyn Peake said...

Vineet said:
I consider myself a serious writer. But I am not so confident that I feel I can ignore opportunities to promote my work.

I feel the same about myself; I'm sure a lot of other writers here feel the same way about their own work. Authonomy is definitely one way to get your work out there in the world, and see where it takes you. Before I learned how to use the Internet or email (can't believe that was only six short years ago), I self-published my first novel, in order to get it out there, get reviews, submit to book award contests, etc. I learned a lot by just getting out there on the Internet. (I've now won a bunch of awards, received lots of great reviews, sold over 1,000 copies of all my books combined, and met many wonderful people in the publishing world...even though I would never recommend self-publishing for anyone who knows a better avenue on which to start out.) You'll probably find lots of good things come your way, Vineet, no matter what happens on Authonomy itself. I clicked on your Bio over at Authonomy. Are you a medical doctor who wrote a non-fiction book? That's impressive.

Oh, and I'm a beginning gamer, from a family of advanced gamers. Lots of fun!

Anonymous said...

He gamed the system, pure and simple.

If he had been on Amazon and had 880 people buy the book at once--the spike in ratings would take him to the top of his category and he'd get reviewed, and then the agents would be calling him. (Unfortunate that he wasted this possibility on Authonomy instead of the real thing). Welcome to the new era in publishing.

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @ 6:19 P.M. -

When a big publishing company sets up a site like Authonomy and a writer plays by the rules to send lots of traffic its way, isn't it just one more way to get started as a writer? I'm not saying anything here about Authonomy itself, just remembering back to what it was like when I was trying so hard to figure out where to go with my work as a newbie writer.

Bane of Anubis said...

TSR was the original owner/proprietor/creator of D&D (through Gary Gygax) - bought out by WotC - I've outed myself now :)

dalecoz said...

I wouldn't call this strategy innovative. Maybe pointless, but not innovative. Several people tried similar tactics in each of the Gather First Chapters contests. It's an obvious tactic. Authonomy has apparently run into it multiple times. They set up the Talent Spotter Rating (TSR) system to make that sort of thing more difficult. Ratings from newbies are close to, but not quite worthless, while ratings from people who have been there a while and participated are worth much more.

That system probably works pretty well in most cases. Two or three hundred newbys voting for someone would have minimal impact. The problem here was the sheer number of people. Last time I checked though, even 1028 people coming to the site and backing him hadn't pushed Vaneet into the top 5. He's sitting at number 6. Each increment in the rankings gets harder. It may take several hundred more backers to get him to the top 5 and keep him there until the end of the month.

The whole exercise seems pointless to me. How many real book sales does 1000 or 1500 people willing to spend 5 minutes on a website translate to? Fifty? A hundred? Maybe a hundred and fifty at the most optimistic? That's probably not enough to make Harper Collins do the kind of editing this book would need. So the book lands on an editor's desk. They read a few paragraphs, get a sour expression on their faces and give the manuscript to some intern to finish up and write a review on. That's not a big payback for the amount of time this took and the number of Authonomy people he hacked off.

That being said, he did bring quite a few new people to Authonomy and people there should make them feel welcome if they want to stick around and participate.

Bane of Anubis said...

Kirk Lazarus would probably disapprove, but I've gone full nerd here - but for more info on the 1st TSR (Tactical Studies Rules), check out the end all be all of factoidation at wped - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TSR,_Inc.

Nathan, a month or two ago when you posted about the rabidity of authonomites, I didn't get it. After today, I get it.

Writer from Hell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PurpleClover said...

Okay now i'm feeling behind the times. I'm not a "gamer" and I'm afraid to become one for fear I would miss my children growing up. lol.

Authonomy seems like a great idea in theory, I'm just not sold on it. It seems like it should be a great marketing tool pre-publishing (I have no idea how it would help post-publishing since I'm not a member) but if people are just ranking someone regardless of seeing their work...then what if less-than-par or par work is getting pushed to the front and the ones that sitting on a masterpiece are still waiting months out because of the traffic jam, so to speak?

It's a great idea. I believe that. I just don't see it working unless there were "policing" as someone posted earlier. There has to be some anonymity (on both sides) to the grading process for there to be merit in my opinion.

Marilyn Peake said...

Hope it's O.K. for me to mention this here. I just happened to think of it, and am excited over all the gaming talk here. I recently edited and compiled two books of articles about writing and acting. One of the books includes an article by Michael A. Ventrella, lawyer, author and one of the first creators of the original live action role-playing games. Later writing novels based on his own LARP game, he found it such a difficult task turning the games into novel format, he wrote an article, Basing Your Novel on a Game: What, are you stupid? for the book, Inside Scoop: Articles about Acting and Writing by Hollywood Insiders and Published Authors. I had a blast compiling and editing that book!

Richard Lewis said...

Nathan said: "I do find it an interesting possible preview of the future. It will be chaotic until all of this is worked out."

Kata.

That's Indonesian for "word."

I used to think that excellent storytelling will rise to surface. Now I'm not so sure. In the future, it seems that other things will make the story buoyant to the public eye.

In other words, the storytelling will be devalued as other valuations come in play.

Mira said...

Bane - thanks for the info. I "outted" myself, too. It's good to be out of the closet. I feel free. :-)

Marilyn, that's a funny title -sounds like it would be a fun book to edit.

Stace said...

There seems no point trying desperately to make the 'editors' desk' when in fact, the books Harper Collins has chosen to actually publish were not in the top five at all.

We're better off using Authonomy as a place to gain constructive criticism rather than playing it as a game, I think. However, for those who do enjoy the gaming aspect of it... Why not!?

Haktaw Heart said...

111 comments wow, must be alot of Authonomites on here. People have gone Bat Sh&*% crazy on the forums. I am trying to ride it out because thus far it has been a constructive site, and helpful with much needed edits

WS
Haktaw Heart

Vineet said...

I've been thinking about this whole thing, and this might sound strange coming from me, but I think that HC should do away with the rankings entirely.

The rankings are a good way to boost the site's visibility, attract other people and perhaps find authors with established platforms and fanbases.

However, if they are looking to unearth talent, then I would propose the following system.

No rankings, no TSRs. Instead, a HC Editor/reader/representative, will take a look at the first 500-1000 words of your MS after 3 months. And maybe give you (even a couple of lines of) helpful feedback. I mean that's the typical turnaround time in most slush piles anyway.

Authonomy could even identify skilled readers in the community and hire some of them (after careful vetting) to be the first review step. I'm sure most would be happy to do this for even a nominal fee. (Kinda like Amazon Vine reviewers, I guess).

That way, we won't have a situation of people backing each other or giving fake feedback simply to climb the endless ladder.

Authors will put up their work on the site, and read/review/crit/edit. When they are happy that it is ready to be looked at professionally, they can click an "Activate submission" button, which will put them in a queue. Within 3 months they get some feedback and a yay/nay.

Additionally, you could also have an "elite committee" of community members, maybe a circle of 5 or 6 writers that each month pick their top 5 to 10 manuscripts to highlight. Getting highlighted won't do anything other than increasing the visibility, but it might serve as a pointer for lurking agents/editors, and at the very least, will help garner more feedback.

I'm sure there is a lot more that can be done to take advantage of the interactivity of the internet to modernise and improve the slush pile system, but I feel this would be a decent start.

other lisa said...

Vineet - I'm not an Authonomy person but that all sounds pretty good to me.

Donna Hosie said...

How about "Authonomy Marauded"? Covers a multitude of possibilities, including gamers dressed as Vikings!

BarbS. said...

I have emails this morning from writers leaving authonomy because they believe HC has pretty much obliterated the notion of fair play.

People who've invested time and talent on the site for several months are especially disappointed. Some are considering forming their own writers/readers site. It may not have the pull of a large publishing house, but ya never know...

Writer from Hell said...

Vineet,

Well done, good going, Keep it up.

What the fess is all about?

Someone mentioned fan following on myspace. uhm erm.. those blogs are regressive from even my Asian grandmom's point of view and they damn sell on myspace.

Lauri Shaw said...

I was one of the first people to talk to Nathan about authonomy last year.

I had an account there for two months, met a few really great people in the forums with whom I still keep in touch, and got lots of feedback for Servicing the Pole, the stripper novel I've been serialising online. In January I cancelled my account for a variety of reasons - the most compelling one being that authonomy is a giant time-suck and I wanted to get some work done on my next project this year. :-)

I've never regretted my departure. A lot of the people on the site were already resorting to petty fighting and name-calling while I was still there, and I've heard this got a lot worse before Klazart ever showed up. I was already dismayed that so few people involved with the site seemed to think professional behaviour was in order. And I was astonished by how little the community at large seemed to know about either marketing or technology.

I think what Klazart (Vineet) did may ultimately help to bring authonomy into the 21st century. He's brought new eyeballs to the site, eyeballs that know their way around the protocols of social networking. And I don't begrudge him the shortcut he found - one that, let's face it - most people are looking for.

I've also read his book's synopsis. It looks like he might have a workable story and some marketing know-how. If I was an agent or a publisher, I'd probably snap him up this instant, set him up with the most appropriate editor I could find to get his story into publishable shape, and most importantly, let him lead his own marketing effort.

Vineet, if you're still keeping track of these comments, I would love to interview you for my blog. It mostly focuses on the future of publishing, but has been dark for several months now. If you're so inclined, you're invited to help me pull up the shades.

Lauri

Writer from Hell said...

Lauri Shaw, Its a deal. I'm Vineet's agent...

Bryan B. said...

I feel led to comment...finally. I've been lurking for a long time.

Still, all of this is just...insane.

Writers are so...what's the word...ah, yes - petulant.

And I get it, we all want our work to be read. We all want that holy grail of publication (or, for some, just having an agent would do.)

As soon as I read this post, I chuckled - already imagining the grumblings of writers being all, "How unfair. My ms was reviewed by the local paper!"

Again, I get it! I'm in the same boat. But, c'mon! Maybe everybody should just count to 10 and spend the time we're complaining - and call this a wild idea - writing.

Okay, nice to meet everyone.

Scott said...

Purple Clover, I share your skepticism on Authonomy's model. I have some experience there, and as far as I can tell, books are backed by authors doing the leg work (asking that you read their stuff, and when it's closer to crunch time, back their stuff unread) and making themselves known in the forums which are filled with threads started for this book or that. So there is networking involved, lots of mutual support, but no real push up the ladder by anonymous, un-preconditioned forces. I think that's where the model falls short, and what might prove it to be more of a loose indicator that may or may not be effectively productive as a real slush buster.

That said, someone raiding the site for a sudden push might just get a look. HC are looking for a legitimate filtering process. Whether this person can prove that his following represent a legit filtering sample is another story.

Nona said...

vineet 1:42

ironically, what you describe is starting to sound like the traditional publishing system.

Nathan Bransford said...

nona-

That's exactly what I was thinking.

Bill Greer said...

I checked out the Authonomy web site and I'm not sure what it sees as its primary benefit for writers.

Is it a chance to be published? I think that's the carrot they're dangling, but they don't really come out and say that will happen. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if your book gets the HC editors' attention, all you'll get is a critique of your first 10,000 words. Granted, that may be worthwhile in itself, but it's not a publishing contract.

Is it a chance to get your book critiqued? I imagine that entails all the usual pitfalls of critique groups. How helpful are the critiques? How much of it is constructive criticism that can offer realistic suggestions on how it can be improved? How many authors offer a scathing criticism of a book that's ranked ahead of them in order to improve their own book's ranking?

Is it a chance to build a pre-existing readership for your book once it's published? If I put my entire novel on their site and it is eventually published one day, how many Authonomy readers will buy the book? They've already read it.

TonyK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DCS said...

What Vineet has done is not that different from the tactics used by Vince Flynn. He self-published, then encouraged everyone he knew to buy his book. He used the sales numbers to persuade bookstores to carry his book and the whole thing snowballed. Now he has an agent and the whole nine yards. Of course, you have to have a product that people will want to buy. Vineet's writing is not bad, although he does a lot of telling. I have bought books in airport stores far less readable than his, so who knows what will happen? The Authonomy system was begging for something like this to happen. Beware of unintended consequences.

MV Merchant said...

Ultimately I feel Klazart did nothing wrong. I'm a fellow Authonomite, but my opinion for the site soured a week before this happened when I realized it IS a popularity contest.

Granted he achieved this quick success in an unconventional manner, but according to Authonomy's FAQ's, they encourage you to tell your friends who can register and back your book. Some Authonomy Elite feel these army of "sock puppets" are invalid and therefore one's work is not valid, because THEY don't agree with the opinion.

I've found writers brow-beating fellow authors to "read and shelve" and chasing folks for unsolicited reciprocation of "backing".

Even more troubling I was bothered that people who moved in this aggressive fashion, with lots of motivation and ambition didn't quite have the talent - but yet were on the editor's desk. Or, offer drive-by backing only so that you would do the same with no regard to actual review.

All in all, Authonomy was a nice idea, but having been on the site for over a month and discovering the flaws in which rankings can easily be gamed -- which Klazart and his army have exposed, I'm moving on to Writers Wrule.

I had hoped Authonomy would offer the opportunity to learn and, with the multiple talents there, offer guidance so I can better my craft but those hopes were quickly dashed with the above circumstances. I never expected to be on the editor's desk with Authonomy, but I did expect more than an exercise in marketing tactics.

Writers Wrule is a much more comprehensive, interactive tool and resource for writers wanting to be stronger and better at what they love to do--write.

Anonymous said...

Scott said...

Speaking of publishing of another sort, my former employer, the Ann Arbor News, announced today that it's ceasing publication in July after 174 years on watch. It's a sad, sad day.

The death of newspapers is not a good thing for our Democracy, folks.


Wow. I had noticed it getting smaller and thinner.

However, I have to comment that the AANew, like so many other newspapers over the past few decades, went from locally written to imported AP articles.

IMHO, I liked the locally driven papers so much and the AP driven ones, where every newspaper seems the same, turned me off enough to not bother subscribing locally.
And, actually, I used to subscribe to out of town papers to get a feel of their local flavor.It made me feel a part of the community, even from a distance.

StirlingEditor said...

As an Authonomy member I wanted to share a clarification for those who are not in there day-to-day. The majority of members are honest, thoughtful critiquers who don't wish to back what they haven't read, who sincerely wish to help other members of the community rise to their potential.

I have seen this firsthand by almost everyone who has backed my book. I can tell you that I posted one plug in the forums on my book but mostly I just read the books by people who message me kindly for reciprocal reads. I don't back anything I haven't read. And I always critique, sometimes leaving very detailed comments/edits in the hope of seeing that writer's book on the store shelf someday.

There will always be those who wish to get ahead regardless of consequences. There will always be those who enjoy controversy. Eventually, I believe the selfless, honest, and kind souls that make up the majority of Authonomy will bring the site back to rights. Isn't that what most fiction is about: good prevailing?

I, for one, would love to invite Nathan Bransford's readers over to Authonomy. Ya'll are wonderful people, great writers, and consummate professionals. It would be a privilege to have you.

~Cheri

Scott said...

Cheri, may I ask if you've ever read a member's book and had them read yours, offered and received thoughtful comments, but decided not to back their book for one reason or the other?

I enjoyed my time at Authonomy for the most part, and liked the forums as a place to share info and opinions on writing, but it seems like the system is more about bartering a backing for a read and vice versa rather than backing a book that you feel truly deserves it. Both happen, I'm sure, but the one seems to dilute the other.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

Going in, it is obviously a popularity contest. Anyone there has to be able to disassociate from the bad and concentrate on the good they can find there. I have met some fantastic people and just a couple of as- h---s. So far, the good has won me over. Just don't think of it as a chance to get published. Enjoy it as a place to meet others in the same boat you are in.

Marilyn Peake said...

I think it might have been on this blog that someone pointed out HarperCollins' slogan at the top of the Authonomy site: We're on a mission to flush out the brightest, freshest new writing talent around. Now, that there ain't quite right. Perhaps, after they find their bright, fresh new writers, they could ask them to write a new slogan. Every time I read that slogan, I'm sorry, but I always think of a large toilet bowl, and some really fresh, potty-mouthed writers. :)

StirlingEditor said...

Hi Scott,
Nice to see you here. Yes, there are many books I've not backed. Often, if I see promise, I'll tell them to check back with me after revisions. At that point, if the writing is better executed, I am usually happy to back it.

But I've had a better experience than some at Authonomy because I don't choose to join in the fighting--I've never been very good at arguments anyway. =)

~Cheri

MV Merchant said...

You know, I had commented without reading everyone else's comments first.

Now that I have, I just want to point out @Jan, that this was my worry about "popularity contests". Worrying over a talent-spotter ranking (TSR) shouldn't be anyone's main focus of Authonomy. I agree with Vineet's solution - return the concept back into traditional publishing.

No one's sole expectation should be that coveted spot on the Editor's desk, but while we're all there working together, why not help each other out with thoughtful feedback?

I was disappointed with some reviews of fellow Authonomites of my stuff because it proved they weren't reading, weren't focused and certainly were only reciprocating b/c they asked me to back their book first.

Perhaps I came in at a wrong time (been there for about 6 weeks) but, I have yet to see the type of "souls" and "prevailing good" Cheri and others have said resides there.

What I see is distributive bargaining and aggressive marketing--which, if it works for them and makes them happy, more power to them. But, I'm taking my work to a different site where it is thoughtfully looked over and used as a resource and a tool to help me make a stronger manuscript.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, this might be bit off line, but I'm wondering in a fiction, IF I chose to use the real people for few characters in the story, would I be inviting some law suits down the road? What's the best way to deal with it? Is there a web site discussing such matter?
Thanks

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I'm not a publishing attorney, so I really can't be offering legal advice on that.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nathan,
I always imagined that white object in front of you in your picture to be your surfboard, which I thought was pretty cool.
California guy and all.
Now I think it's someone's arm.
But if you ever post another pic, (and I'm not saying you should cause this a great pic),
I would love to see you with your (a??) surfboard!
Or (brainstorm! lightbulb!)you could photoshop one in where the arm is!! Viola!

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

That's actually my wife's arm. (I won't tell her you said she looks like a surfboard.)

And I don't surf! I'm a farmboy!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear! So very sorry!
Let me backtrack, please.
That's a very fetching arm in that picture! Don't change a thing!

(beating head senselessly against desktop)

word verification: stoph

Sarah Laurenson said...

Lions and tigers and bears... Oh my!

LOL

Love the voice in this post!

No comment on the source material.

Trashy Cowgirl said...

Nathan,
You haven't lived until you've surfed on a tobbogan behind a horse.

To those who think Autho has always been about gaming,
Yes, for some. And some actually make the desk. I've read two that had no business there at all. But, we're not all like that. I back less than half of the mss I read, to be honest, though I give detailed feedback. My criteria is: Do I think an editor or agent would request a full. If I don't, I don't back. And, guess what? I stayed between #37 and #45 for about four months (I'm floating into oblivion now, but I'm not too worried). Anyway, it isn't all mass backing, though you'll find it in good measure.

Also, anyone who sinks all of their hopes and dreams into a few hundred word review from an editor who works for a house that probably isn't the right fit for you has got a long way to go before they are going to make it. The only writer who has been asked to resubmit (to my knowledge) got there by the merit of his brilliant ms. He only logged on a couple of times a week. A lesson there.

Well, the snow is still falling here, so maybe I should dig out the tobbogan out.

macdibble said...

It will be interesting to see what happens at the end of the month:
Whether Klazza will actually make the editor desk with this tactic that HC admire so much.
If so, will HC will allocate his 10k of ms to a good editor, knowing it will be read by thousands (some HC reviews in the past looked like they'd been thought up by the tea lady).
And then will they be prepared to stand behind their own policy of "Popularity Counts for Everything." Could Lesser Sins be the first ms ever to be plucked from the monthly top five and published?
Will a copycat group be along before the end of the month and do it better than Vineet's mob and bounce him out? I bet HC will be encouraging that! Imagine the publicity! It'd even be worth organising it themselves. (You can see why Vineet is keen to encourage the site changes!)

I think Vineet went into this a little naively. He really believed the HC hype about the editorial review being worth something and he didn't seem to imagine there might be a backlash from the community who was already there playing the Authonogame the way they thought Harper Collins wanted.

I really feel for that community who thought they were working towards something only to find out that anything goes and all their thoughtful critiquing and building followers within that community was worthless. It's time they won't get back. I think they're well and truly entitled to be grumpy generally and at Harper Collins. Don't tar them all with the wanker brush, please.

BarbS. said...

Marilyn Peake, so true, what you say but the authonomy slogan!

HC should say, "We're on a mission to flush." Period.

KFran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jan said...

Here is a perfect example of how Authonomy is suppose to work. StirlingEditor has read and commented on my story. She gave very helpful critique that has improved my work. She did not back my work as she didn't feel it was quite there yet. I read her story, to me it read like quality work so I did back her work.
There was no back scratching involved. Her book was more polished than mine. She earned my backing and I gained help with my writing.
As for the(TSR)talent spotter ranking. It is just a number showing our talent at spotting good books.
Most of us are not that interested in making it to the editors desk, though we are proud of our rankings.
The site is very good for anyone wanting to improve their writing skills.
Jan

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but a "nice guy" would never do something like this.

MacDibble said...

I don't think it's over. Vineet's mob pulled a prank. They're not pranksters, they're gamers. Surely that's going to upset the real internet pranksters: 4chan/Anonymous.

Before the month is out we may really see what it means to have a site rolled by pranksters. HC may get more "publicity" than they can handle.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, there's nothing "hilarious" about what this guy did. The rest of us played by the rules and had our work undermined.

clf said...

I did try Authonomy for a while, but didn't have the time for all the networking required to obtain readers. The "I'll do you if you do me" didn't seem quite honest to me. After all if you give someone an honest review, but telling them their chapters need work you can bet fault will be found in your own work. I belong to another website where reviews are assigned randomly, no networking required. This latest bit doesn't surprize me, the site has has similar problems in the past.

Anonymous said...

SterlingEditor:

"As an Authonomy member I wanted to share a clarification for those who are not in there day-to-day. The majority of members are honest, thoughtful critiquers who don't wish to back what they haven't read, who sincerely wish to help other members of the community rise to their potential."

Really? Then I suggest you read this:

Dear Harper Collins,

I would like to bring your attention to the illegal and unethical activities of one of Authonomy's members: Username "Stef Nalton".

As you have stated in your official statements, Klazart was within the rules of the site and has done nothing wrong. Mr. Nalton on the other hand has capitalized on his high TSR ranking and spent the last few days artificially inflating the rankings of the top 5 books in order to keep "Lesser Sins" at #6.

Mr. Nalton has spammed every Authonomy user with a proposal to back their book if they will back any of the top 5 books. This is an example of the type of message he has been leaving:

"Hi Sherry, due to the blitzkrieg on the site by over a thousand fans of the #6 book author, i was garnering support for two of the books on the Ed's desk to help nullify the effect they were having. This has been successful but has now demoted "The Shadows Map" (which is on my shelf - click on my usename to access it) If you haven't read it, and do so now, let me know if you back it and I shall give your book a boost with my #2 TSR vote. No probs if you're not interested. All the best, stef nalton."

His messages to users are generally a variation of this:

"Let me know if you backed these books and I shall support you in return (I'm the Number 1 talent spotter so my vote would help your book's position somewhat)."

This underhanded bribery of other users in order to manipulate the ranking system is clearly unethical and a violation of Authonomy's terms of service and in my humble opinion, he should be banned from the site.

Incidentally, if you are wondering how his proposals have been received this is the reply from Ms. Sherry:

"Hey, I'm really new to this game. You need to explain to me what you want me to do. And to quite frank, I'll be happy to screw up that other guys ratings, just like he did to everyone else. I have a question, if I back a book, then remove it does this affect it's ratings? Or do they stay the same?"

Are the majority of Authonomy members really honest? They don't seem to be much above accepting bribes just so their own books can be backed. A quick view of Stef Nalton's messages is evidence of that.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

This is just so juvenile!

Leis said...

(Nathan, I bet you had no inkling you'd be getting so much mileage out of Authonomy!)

This addresses the post dated March 27 @ 6:39AM...

Dear Anonymous,

I find it intriguing that in your post you are naming names and citing posts. Yet, you choose to remain... anonymous? Why the cloak? Are hiding something.. someone??

For the record I have left Authonomy and enough said. But can we all please have the grit to stand up to be counted if we feel so strongly about a particular issue?

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