Is Authonomy just a Con-omy?

I joined this promising site as it appeared to offer a wealth of support and promise to the unpublished author. Grabbing an almost-complete manuscript  (which I had christened and buried in my hard drive long ago) I set about creating an account there.

For those who haven’t heard of the website, it is a spin off site created by Harper Collins that allows unpublished authors to display their books for commenting/review by other member authors. It also features a ranking system, whereby every member is given a virtual bookshelf. If another author places your book on their own bookshelf your rank level increases. Also if you place books that look like they may do well on your own shelf you increase your own TSR or Talent Spotter Ranking.

The ultimate objective for most, however,  is reaching the Ed’s Desk; where he will take a look at the top 5 ranked books per month and review them. Yes it all sounds fantastic doesn’t it, but as with everything the nitty gritties usually lie dormant at first, until you begin to unpeel the sordid truths.

Here are some brief points on what I have learned and where it’s going right and wrong in my opinion, and possibly of some others there…

1. Hit the Authonomy Forums and you will find some very disgruntled authors complaining that they are being beseiged with ‘swap read’ requests and general site spammers. Yes quite bluntly you will be messaged many times a day asking for ‘swap reads’ or reciprocal ‘comments/backings’ (by adding their books to your virtual shelf and vice versa). Its cool to begin with, but it’ll wear you down and make you feel extremely pressurised.

2. Don’t expect all the comments on your book to be genuine. The majority of the time you will realise they are thrown into your page in order for you to reciprocate quickly. Having said that, some of the authors do genuinely take the time to read through more than two sentences and offer a more constructive critique. Many of the comments may possibly stroke your ego too much, until you begin to feel that much of it is just for reciprocal support, as once the deal is done you’ll hardly hear from that author again. Some authors are genuinely critical and harsh and may lambast your book if they think it’s terrible, or tap you into improving it with gentle criticisms – these I believe are probably the most genuine members of all.

3. Even if you want to be more constructive in your appraisal of authors books, you will soon find that you run out of steam, and/or time and patience as the list of ‘return reads’ builds up like a steam engine heading straight for your brain. One morning I awoke to find ten new comments on my book. GREAT I thought to myself, until I realised they all pretty much expected me to read and comment on theirs too! Fair enough you say, but unless you travel at the speed of light you’ll end up like this : merely scanning the author’s book, commenting briefly, and getting on to the next book as quickly as you can.  All joy removed for you the speed martian, and for the poor author expecting his baby to affect you deeply enough to offer some really constructive feedback.

4. If you are interested in playing this game (as opposed to actually concentrating on your writing) then you may well at some point hit the top 5. Though there are complaints of the top 5 rank being hit with some terrible books. This is because the author has made a point of begging for reads, and backing other authors books ruthlessly in order to get there – regardless of the quality of his/her work he is catapulted to the top. Sadly it appears that this might be  leaving the more promising and ‘non-gaming’ authors bobbing about in the top 100 like lost buoys at sea.

5. I haven’t yet hit the Top 5, and I presume I probably never will, as I do not have the bluntness of character to beg people to read my book, and the best I can do is occasionally read and comment on others in hope of support. So possibly bang goes my Authonomy dream! But many can and WILL play the game – and if their book is fantastic enough, well HC might take notice of it. For most its a pipe dream. Forgive me, I know little of the statistics of  how many writers actually end up with a publishing deal there, but the impression offered is that it is quite slim.

So that is how I have come to understand Authonomy, love it or hate. For the time being I’ll stick with it, I mean after all it can’t be worse than having your MS cryogenically pressed into a world of darkness, where there is zero hope for it anyway!

 

20 thoughts on “Is Authonomy just a Con-omy?

  1. I believe there have been 5 books published through Authonomy. Two by Harper Collins.

    None of them were on the ED – though there were two that had excellent reviews and looked like they would be picked up after revisions.

  2. It’s true that HC-UK is not going to sweep down and make all your dreams come true, but many have gotten help from their peers with editing, learning about self publishing options including ebooks and more. People who met on authonomy have networked into groups like Year0 which has had numerous events and a great website to promote their books. I’ve bought 5 books (PODs) that I found through the site and have read a few more electronically.

  3. CG says:

    What else is a writer supposed to do? I sent off tons of queries in August 2009 and still receive rejection letters almost a year later. Most publishers and editors don’t even take the time to read the manuscript and only focus on the extent of the appeal in the query or pitch. If you have better ideas for publishing, please let us know.

  4. Carla says:

    Thanks for your comment CG.

    My post is merely to highlight my personal experience at Authonomy. It’s a popular website and no doubt many stick around for months or years and find it very useful indeed. It was definitely an enlightening experience, I’m just not into author vs author gaming. (You scratch my back – I’ll scratch yours!) I reserve my right to my own opinion there.

    Sadly, yes the publishing industry is a difficult one to crack, I can’t say that Authonomy is any less ‘difficult’ given the percentage of books HC actually acquire there. On the bright side, at least the author gets feedback and an opportunity to have their work reviewed.

  5. Carla – thanks for this very helpful post, as I have been thinking about giving authonomy a go (along with half the rest of the world’s unpublished English language writers, it seems). Forewarned is forearmed….

    I have been using another peer review site youwriteon.com, which seems to me to avoid some of the problems you highlight with authonomy – for example, it randomly assigns you material to review, which avoids the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” problem (you can decline to review material if it sounds awful – although I think there may be a limit on how often you can do this). Once you’ve been assigned material to read, you also can’t see what other people have said about it, so you’re effectively forced to give your own view.

    It is not without problems of its own. For example, not all reviewers will do as the site urges and put their prejudices/tastes aside when they review your work – see http://paulsamael.com/blog/my-secret-life-as-an-undercover-agent Another problem is the 7000 word limit – it’s a good thing in terms of preventing you having to read novel length pieces in your reviews, but it means that the site is full of beginnings of novels (so authonomy looks to be a better bet if you want some feedback on the whole thing).

    But I think it is worth looking at as a possible alternative source of feedback – and they run their own equivalent of the Ed’s Desk (although like you, I am not pinning my hopes on getting there – it would require some very assiduous reviewing on my part to amass enough points….). Anyway, good luck with your efforts to get your novel to see the light of day !

    • Carla says:

      Paul, thank you for your comment and sorry for my late reply. I have thought about youwriteon.com and have added it to my list of sites to check out. I do however have to say that Authonomy has positively changed very recently. It seems that Harper Collins have altered the ranking/commenting system to encourage fairer play. Mainly, a book must stay on a person’s virtual bookshelf for at least 48 hours before it benefits from the ranking system. Even though some might find this irritating, it does prevent the players from messing about quite as much. Anyway, thank you for your excellent feedback!
      Carla

  6. Thank you. This is really useful for helping me decide about authonomy. Are there any other sites you would recommend for budding authors looking for useful feedback?

    • Carla says:

      Hi Richard, youwriteon.com has been recommended from previous comments. Also a good source of feedback are general writers forums. I once frequently visited http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/ which is an active forum for authors and writers. They have a writing lab where you can post excerpts of your work for critique. I also found http://www.writingforums.org/ another extremely active site, which was friendly and useful for general questions too. Best of luck with your writing, let us know how you get on!
      Carla

  7. angelina norton says:

    I have only been on this website for a short time and find it a bit tedious. I don’t wish to read other people’s work, maybe I sound selfish. I read books, because I choose to and I find it ever so difficult to read stuff online as it hurts your eyes after a whilte.
    I have found my inbox full of spam and no real genuine people as yet, maybe I’m not giving it a chance. Of course, I probably work long hours and feel too tired to bother, but maybe I should give it another go, not sure. But this spam thing is enough to put anyone off, why is it even entertained???

  8. I joined Authonomy about three years ago. I was lured by the attractive site and the promise that perhaps my book would be seen by an editor at HC. But I learned VERY quickly that it was a pipe dream. A few opening sentences of the “chosen” books was enough to scare me away. And the deluge of requests to “read” and approve other people’s books made it evident that this is a popularity contest almost totally irrelevant to fine writing.

    Just take a look at the top rated books. A paragraph is often enough to show what’s going on. I’m going to self-publish through a POD company. Meanwhile it’s nice to see an attractive layout on Authonomy and get a feeling of what my book will look like in print. That’s the single most worthwhile feature of Authonomy. And it’s a good one!

  9. Carla says:

    I have looked at Authonomy lately and found that people say its a little more controlled and the ranking system is fairer than previously, so anyone reading my post must realise that ‘times change’ and things can be improved.

    Nikki Ty Tomkins – I wonder how your book is fairing and whether POD was your end result and happy with it?

  10. All you have said Carla is correct and true. Speaking for myself many times thought about leaving, but on deeper thinking realized, if I did there would be a good chance I would shelve my book and never finish it. For good or bad Authonomy keeps my will to fight on and stay with it. Made a note, must have a look at your book, with no request for swops.

  11. Carla says:

    Hi Phil, this thread is two years old so I’ve not much of an idea any longer how Authonomy is running and I no longer have a book shelved on it. As said though, I’m certain it always has some advantages on offer, and helping people improve their drafts is the main one I think, as well as giving them that little ego boost. I hope your book fares well!

    Carla

  12. Kim Sahw says:

    Hi Carla,
    I joined authonomy about 3 weeks ago. It has dawned on me (very rapidly) that my initial expectations of the site in no way reflect the realities -i.e., rise to the top and you may just catch a break!

    I’ve dedicated nearly three solid, obsessive-compulsive weeks to read swops and checking my daily rankings – which have risen at what I can only call an alarming rate. I have no idea how this really happens – I suppose it must be a result of a very few backings of my MS by ‘talent spotters’ for a day or two, and my own hours of effort at giving at least half-decent reviews.

    I joined a ‘club’ for fantasy genre writers, which has resulted in some very useful commentary and criticism. I’ve also had some ‘backscratch’ reviews – as in, so glowing that for 5 mins I felt like a genius, until I worked out what my response was expected to be. It was pleasant, though, to feel validated just for those few moments.

    I’ll probably keep at it for a while (keeping the dream alive!) but more for the connections to some genuinely decent authors, with genuinely good work. Forums offer the occasional useful tip too. It saddens me though that much of the work that hits the desk is in no way the ‘best’ the site has to offer. And even the really good work that does hit the desk still has little hope of actually seeing the real-world book shelves courtesy of HC.

    On the whole, I feel that the site is selling pipedreams in the way that it presents itself. I will try to make the most sensible use of it – to get some potentially valuable feedback. It’s an obsession I’m going to have to wean myself off, if I ever intend to actually finish writing my second book!

    Thanks for this post – it’s a sort of ‘nicotene patch’ for the authonomy addiction.

    regards,
    Kim

  13. CE says:

    I joined authonomy yesterday after quite a while of deliberation. I was at first quite disappointed – within a few hours of joining I had over a dozen requests along the lines of “Come read my book, and I’ll repay the favour,” or even just ‘Come read my book.”

    Out of all those people, only one read mine and reviewed before advertising their own work.

    The Top 5 is a bit of a joke – I read a few of the latest ones and to be honest, they aren’t great. Not bad, but not the best, and it is clear that at least a few of them got their by the mutual back-scratching people have mentioned.

    I think for anyone interested in using this site, join it to get your name out there, or to have your work critiqued – because there are people who will offer genuine and helpful advice.

    But don’t expect to get to the top 5, and don’t go into it as a way of getting published unless you’re prepared to engage in all that back-scratching business.

  14. CJ Harcourt says:

    Hello Carla, liked your comments.
    I have been on the site myself since the middle of December and have found some genuinely good writing but I hate the scratch back system that some shamelessly use to enhance their ratings.
    Clearly there is some literary talent on the site if you search for it but the majority is in my view unpublishable which probably reflects the success rate you advise Carla.
    Some years ago in the age of the typewriter I sent a synopsis to an agent who returned a printed sheet explaining his in tray was full to overflowing and he was not accepting new authors, poor thing.
    The sheet went on to say that 85% of what he received was simply unreadable rubbish not worth the paper and of the 15% remainder the decision for him (not unnaturally) was simply a commercial one – what was in it for him.
    Of the small percentage remaining any book of publishable worth then enters a world of footballer antics, kiss and tells, revelations of a life in crime AKA the political memoir. Permeate these with the number of publishers, selling outlets, purchase deals that rocket books to best seller lists, those funny swap review deals we read about back then and what are you left with? Authonomy!

    C J Harcourt
    Bring back the typewriter – it slowed things up a little.

  15. jim ludwig says:

    I agree entirely with the author’s assessment. People at discussed site evidence no interest in actually reading your work; all that matters is the self-promotion process.

  16. Jonny_s says:

    Taking into account all the above views, does anything think that Authonomy would be better off if it worked slightly differently? Perhaps, if authors weren’t ‘expected’ to read and critique each other, there would be less game play.
    What if:
    a) Authors posted their works.
    b) ‘Authentic’ readers were invited to read and shelve their favourite books.
    c) Rankings are then based on real feedback as given by the correct audience. This means that Harper Collins top lists are made up of unbiased judgements. I know that people can find loop holes there by asking friends and family to throw in tons of votes. But if they control it via one vote per ip address etc?

    Any views appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *