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First Authonomy Books Acquired by HarperCollins

By January 22, 2009

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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?

Comments
January 24, 2009 at 2:25 am
(1) Steven says:

You know, after reading this article I went to the site myself. I find it quite interesting, supportive, and friendly. As far as ‘winning’ is concerned, if that’s the only thing that was important in life, the Olympics would only have races where first place was in dispute. No, athletes and writers are not just competitors, but people who love doing what they do. In a friendly atmosphere where people encourage each other, it’s all the better.

Thanks for putting me on to the site, I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit.

January 24, 2009 at 5:17 pm
(2) Graham says:

There seems to be a lot of controversy about how ‘real’ these book acquisitions are. One of the books appears to have been represented by an agent and the other might only have been on the site two days before the contract was announced. Several Authonomy users are disgruntled as there is no sign yet that anyone who reached the top rankings on the site has received an offer from HC.

January 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm
(3) Nate says:

Sounds fishy, Graham!

I don’t like the sound of it, myself. Great writing is not a popularity contest. Just ask Emily Dickinson.

March 7, 2009 at 3:58 am
(4) Dwight says:

Currently I have a novel on both Authonomy.com and amazon.com/abna. I would add that Penguin (which partners with Amazon.com) is also a major publisher that’s shown a commitment and adventurous spirit toward technology thru a virtual slush pile. One difference is that Amazon is a novel contest; Authonomy is ongoing year round. I welcome and applaud these new ways for unagented authors to reach the big boys. God knows how hard it is to get an agent to represent you. Last year I made it to the Top 3 in ABNA, but didn’t get the book deal. So this year I’m back with a stronger version of my novel.

March 9, 2009 at 11:13 am
(5) fictionwriting says:

Thanks for your comment, Dwight. It’s really good to hear from someone who’s using these services.

August 25, 2009 at 10:07 am
(6) Valerie says:

I’ve taken part in both Harper Collins’ Authonomy and Penguins’ efforts through Amazon. Both feature heavy advertising through CreateSpace which I used to self-publish one of my books. (With a heavy push from CreateSpace to ‘market’ using them.)
I’m extremely skeptical about either offering – feeling in some ways that they are little more than a diversion for the publishers. The benefit from Authonomy is the ability to get feedback on your writing, from Amazon/Penguin the one in a thousands chance to be reviewed for their contest. Still, any shot is a shot.
I am however, still sending that same material to publishers and agents in an attempt to sell it directly. Those outlets are simply more weapons in my arsenal, but not the only ones.
As much as I want to believe that those sites are genuine, until I see a headline announcing sales from those sites (or get an offer myself), I won’t believe they are anything more than social networking sites for authors.
In a way, they almost make me angry, getting people’s hopes up. I probably received five offers to read my book in exchange for reading someone else’s, within an hour of going on-line, so that they could boost themselves up the totem pole. Mind you, they hadn’t read or commented on it first. Their priority was getting me to read theirs.

August 25, 2009 at 12:34 pm
(7) fictionwriting says:

Thanks so much for your comments on these services. It’s so helpful to hear from someone who’s tried them and given thought to the pros and cons. I hope one of your methods pays off very soon!

Best,
Ginny

February 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm
(8) David Kessler says:

I uploaded several book extracts to authonomy, to good reviews but didn’t register on HarperCollins’ horizon. But I simultaneously pursued the more traditional channel: sending my strongest manuscript to agents (a few at a time) with a bit of rewriting upon each rejection.

And guess what? I found an agent to represent me. Within weeks she had found a publisher who wanted to publish and they made an offer for a three book deal with recurring characters. And guess who the publisher was?

You’ve got it – HarperCollins (UK) or at least their Avon division. The book was retitled Mercy and is now available. It is about a lawyer who has 15 hours to save his client on death row in San Quentin. The next one (about a black man accused of raping a white girl) is due out on June 24th. They were going to call it Accused. But another book with the same title is coming out in April, so they are going to change the title to Guilty.

February 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm
(9) fictionwriting says:

David,

Congratulations on your book deals, and thanks for sharing your experience with Authonomy. Clearly, the agent route is still worthwhile.

Ginny

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