In January 2010 my book,’ The Last Gift’ was featured on Authonomy, (a popular site designed by the major publishing house Harper Collins to flush out new and talented authors.) The strategy behind this site was to allow authors to feature chapters of their books on the site to be ‘read’ by members of the public and of course, other authors.

No sooner had my book been submitted, I received a barrage of positive comments, shelvings and backings, and the book suddenly catapulted, to what appeared to me, instantaneous stardom. I was quite overwhelmed at first with the great critiques my story seemed to garner, when all I had initially intended, or even hoped for, was perhaps a trickle of feedback on my efforts.

I have to say that receiving over 100 favourable reviews on this website, not only boosted my confidence in my own writing abilities, but also gave me a very helpful view into the world of publishing as a whole. In my experience, there was much to be excited about, but also just as much to be very wary of.

Without going into excessive detail of the writer’s ‘commonly known’ stumbling blocks in the publishing world, I’ll just say that I took a great deal from what Authonomy offered me, and used it to my progressive advantage.

Within a few weeks of being made available online, ‘The Last Gift,’ reached no 5 in the Historical Fiction Charts, and then it pushed the barrier into the Top 200 in All Genres, then the struggle to keep it there began. I very much disliked the idea of having to beg and tap and push people to keep it ranked highly, or indulge in petty and ‘unfavourable games’ in order to gain even higher ranks. With over 7,000 books on Authonomy one can only imagine the struggle for the very top! It is a tireless journey of never-ending swings and roundabouts, and all without a clear cut notion of what exactly was going to happen to your book in the first place.

Ultimately, I like to write for pleasure, and also in the hope that some people who read my work, might in turn receive some pleasure from my words. I don’t play mind games, I don’t beg, and I don’t steal commentary ‘favours’ to ride high into charts. I am simply a lover of words, and I truly believe my book went up quickly on its own merit, for since the moment my book was made available, and until I removed it, I never asked one single person to read it.

So ultimately,  after three months I pulled my work away from HC and decided to let it rest here for the time being. After getting so much lovely feedback from some very genuine people after its stint there, I am satisifed that I have written a story which ought to appeal considerably to many lovers of historical fiction.

My next book project will be revealed at a later date this year, and of course I want to thank every person who helped me on journey. One such very helpful person that springs to mind is Bradley Wind, who has designed literally thousands of wonderful book covers, and also wrote a marvellous book himself entitled A Calculated Embellishment which recently reached number one in the overall book charts!

Also thanks to those who read my book and commented favourably or unfavourably.

2020 UPDATE TO POST – Authonomy no longer exists as a platform for undiscovered authors. Check out the following page to read what happened and why!

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/20/authonomy-writing-community-closed-by-harpercollins


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8 COMMENTS

  1. You shouldn’t have quit Authonomy, I agree that HC don’t have much control over the authors ‘activities’ there, but I read your book, and I recall that it was one of the best and throughly well written.
    R Taylor
    (The Hope)

  2. Hi

    Its a really sad thing about these social network that you have to play a game to keep up with rankings. I don’t think that this is a problem limited to Authnomy by any means.

    I’ve also seen it on music websites too. Where people are in the forums asking for everyone to “vote” on their music tracks. In fact I remember once at work someone emailing everyone at work (which has nothing to do with music) to vote for their friends track.

    Personally I think you probably made the right decision as just having good material doesn’t really mean anything on a lot of these sites.

    Unfortunately that’s just human nature and it has to be dealt with. From my own limited artistic endeavours I can say how shallow and meaningless receiving comments from people, no matter how positive the comments were, when they didn’t really feel the positivity that they claimed. Authonomy is probably worse than many sites when you see comments from people who obviously haven’t read the book in question.

    Think about that its like me owning a butcher that sells all types of product and reviewing another butcher’s shark meat never having tasted shark its meaningless and shallow.

    @R S Taylor
    I agree that the removal of the last gift was a loss to Authonomy but is it really a loss to the Author? She wasn’t going to get a review by HC. All that would happen was the book would languish in no man land. What would happen afterwards when approaching a publisher for real? Oh yes my books been on this really cool website for over a year. Nope it never made the top rankings. Nope HC never paid any intrest. Yes the text of the volume has been available to be read by any member of the public free of charge.

    Sorry I respectfully disagree that it was the wrong decision.

    Freddy

  3. Thanks for both of your comments R C Taylor and Freddy, though I think my stance on this issue would come somewhere between both of yours.

    R C Taylor – I’m glad you enjoyed my book, it means I didn’t waste my time writing it and that’s a good thing, 🙂 Though I disagree about remaining on Authonomy. It merely did not suit my tastes. As mentioned in my post, I don’t like asking people to read my book, just as similarly, those authors who are traditionally published don’t sit inside the bookshops and ask customers to read or buy their book. Obviously that isn’t a perfect example but some of us are just not interested in playing games.

    Freddy – A great comment, though I disagree on a few levels. Firstly….

    “Authonomy is probably worse than many sites when you see comments from people who obviously haven’t read the book in question…”

    Well, the majority of them do read books and with meaningful intentions. I still believe most of the readers comment as they see fit, and give some insight into how they felt about a book. I do believe that the helpful and honest critiques are gems to the writer, and do actually outweigh the meaningless ones.

    “I agree that the removal of the last gift was a loss to Authonomy but is it really a loss to the Author? She wasn’t going to get a review by HC.”

    Wrong. Many authors have received reviews from Harper Collins on merit alone, they are just a smaller division than the mass puppeteers charging to the top of the charts using tactics. The difference is, that it just takes genuine authors far longer to get there, when it could make just as much sense for them to spend that time prepareing and pitching their MSS to agents via traditional methods. Many authors on HC have pulled out with excellent books to do just that.

    “All that would happen was the book would languish in no man land. ”

    Sort of wrong again. The book would still continue to receive feedback (always a good thing) and continue to be available to external publishing and editing scouts, indeed some of the authors books have been spotted there by external publishers, and been offfered deals. Staying or going is always a bit of a gamble. I left mainly because of the ‘games’ and I was constantly tired of incessant beggars scratching at my door for swap reads.

    “What would happen afterwards when approaching a publisher for real?”

    According to many ‘authonomites’ who have picked up deals with other publishers, or been approached by other publishers, have found that they have reacted positively to their work being on HC. Authors have been able to use their comments to ‘sell’ their work, and not only this, a HC review or high ranking has worked to an Author’s favour in some respects. (Again you don’t have to take my word for it, but these are the sentiments expressed on the HC board).

    ………..

    Thanks to both of you for your input, I fully appreciate your comments.

    Carla

  4. Hi Carla!

    I totally agree with your reasons for withdrawing from Authonomy. As you say, what you achieved with those 100 genuine comments was beyond your initial dreams. And if the next stage meant begging and playing games then clearly you went as far as you could on Authonomy, that your principals would allow.

    It seems you experienced the best and the worst of Authonomy, enjoying the good bits and learning a lesson from the bad, so it’s all been a positive experience.

    When you love writing for writing’s sake it really is a joy, and that joy comes across in your work. It’s a gift but certainly not your last! 😉

    I don’t even have to say “keep writing!” because I know you will. Always a pleasure to read your words! And that’s quite a compliment coming from a dyslexic whose first reply is usually “does it have pictures?!”

    David B

    xXx

  5. I had my book on Authonomy for a year. It was the most stressful year of my life. No HC Review and I soon saw how very nice folks become complete megalomaniacs on that site. The place can seriously cause a mental breakdown. Whether you did the right thing or not……it’s your book and life’s too short.

    My feelings are that your book fitted nicely within a niche market, so you’d clearly have many of the Bronte fans behind it. My first thought after reading it was that the writing smacked of an authentic expression rarely exhibited today, but my preference is crime and not historical fiction, but I am familiar with some of Gaskell’s texts.

    As for Harper Collins, they don’t really care two hoots about the majority of authors or how their books fare, and just how many books have HC plucked out from the authors there?
    Exactly!
    With best regards,
    Scott

  6. Ziggy – Thanks for your thoughtful comment and encouragement. 🙂 I will indeed continue to write, and you are correct in saying that my principals prevented me from continuing there.

    Strangely, I am reminded of similar moral issues within my music career. If I ever felt pressured or became ‘objectified’ in a more sexual rather than creative/artistic way, I would withdraw. I think ultimately, we can only go as far as we are personally comfortable with in terms of creative development. I then wonder just how possible it is to reach any summit without succumbing to some lesser scruple? Food for thought there maybe?

    Scott, thanks for your comment also. It’s good to know how other author’s feel about the Authonomy site. I got what I needed there for my current book, but let me add that the experience doesn’t prevent me from adding future books there, because the feedback is genuinely helpful. Have you done anything further with your book since leaving the site?

    Regards,

    Carla

  7. Hi Carla, this is a very useful article and I understand about all these websites that play on peoples wishes…

    i heard someone say a good book will eventually find a good author….of course if you cant wait then you are half way there with a good blog and your own readership….i heard selling your own ebooks was more profitable than the normal publisher route…if you have the readers..good luck

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