Yesterday, HarperCollins announced that it has acquired its first three books through its online submission service, authonomy.com. authonomy was begun as a way to allow online readers to rate books that would normally have landed in the slush pile: Authors may post their books (at least 10,000 words) on the site. Books are ranked according to the number of reader recommendations they receive; top-ranking books are read by editors. Of the five big publishing companies, HarperCollins is perhaps the most active in seeking new ways to incorporate the Internet into their business, and this is one more example of their willingness to experiment with new technology.
Whether or not this is a boon for most authors is another question. The site stirred up some controversy on Victoria Strauss's Writer Beware Blog in September. She wrote: "Manuscript display, peer critique, reader rankings, potential publisher cherrypicking: Harper has put it all together very nicely, and given it a gloss of social networking, but really, thereís not very much thatís new here." And a reader, one of Authonomy's beta-testers, added, " . . . the only way that writers can rise to the top and so get their work read by HC is by being a consummate networker. Literary merit does not come into the equation: just how well you can make friends online, and how many other people you can manage to get to comment on your work."
Still, HarperCollins did select three books using their new system, and they are making an attempt to read books over the transom, which is more than most big presses can say. What do other writers think? Have you used the site, or would you consider doing so? Is this the future of submissions, or an experiment we'll soon forget?