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HarperCollins recently introduced a new way for prospective authors to get their books noticed, and it’s way Web 2.0. lets you upload your manuscript (or partial manuscript – at least 10,000 words must be uploaded), where it’s available to be read by editors, publishers, agents, and your writing peers – as well as anyone else who feels like checking out the site.

Visitors to the site then rank their favourites, and once a month the top 5 books get sent to a team of HarperCollins commissioning editors for consideration.

The idea is to “beat the slush pile,” but reaction to the initiative has been mixed.

Written Road thinks Authonomy represents an exciting opportunity:

Your uploaded travel book or books will be sitting on the doorstep of one the world’s largest publishers. Your work is also ripe for discovery by talent scouting agents, not to mention other publishing houses that may dip into the site from time to time spotting the next best thing for their list before HarperCollins themselves get to it.

The Guardian’s books blog, on the other hand, takes a more cynical view:

I remain unsure whether this really provides a great service for writers or whether it will level the playing field. I imagine that the hearts of those behind Authonomy are in the right place, but it’s hard to ignore the suspicion that what they are really doing is outsourcing the unlovely task of sluicing through the slush pile. Of course, outsourcing is totally within publishers’ (and agents’) rights. Reading and responding to the slush pile doesn’t generally make them any money, with the cost of the time spent most likely outweighing any profit made from finding a very, very occasional diamond amongst all the rough.

Being realistic, I think Authonomy may end up being a nice polite way for the publishers to say that they’re not accepting unsolicited submissions anymore. If the launch goes well, I’d wager that anyone asking about submissions will be directed to hit the site, keeping editors’ (and editorial assistants’) desks clear for them to get on with the books agents have sent them, the ones they are genuinely interested in.

As for me, of course I love the idea of being able to cut straight through the hassle and have my (imaginary) book manuscript voted right on to an editor’s desk.

But I’ve also always figured that if you’ve got the skills and the right idea, you’ll be able to find yourself an agent – and that agent will find you a publisher.

The thing is, short-cuts rarely work, especially when the voting public is involved.

How many American Idols have managed to put together award-winning, lasting music careers? How many Top Model winners have actually become, well, top models?

And, I wonder, how many manuscripts are ever going to hit the New York Times bestseller list, or even get published?

Call me jaded, but this strikes me as more false hope than legit opportunity.

That being said, I’ll be thrilled for the lucky writer who proves me wrong.

What do you think?

Photo by gadl (Creative Commons)



About The Author

Eva Holland

Eva Holland is a freelance writer, Senior Editor of World Hum and a longtime contributor to the Matador community. She lives in Canada’s Yukon Territory and blogs about Alaska and Yukon travel at Travelers North.

  • richard whittle
  • junetee

    I have  a book on Authonomy called Four Corners. I have been a member for two months and I didn’t join just to try to get my book  published. I joined to see if my book was good enough to be published. I wanted to hear comments from people I didn’t know, who had some idea what they were talking about. I wanted to know if I needed to make changes, and that is how Authonomy has helped me.
    Okay maybe I could get published, but it would take some time before it reaches the ‘editors desk’ – if ever. 
    While your book is on the site other authonomists read, comment and rate your book, and you do the same in return. And depending on how well your book is rated and how popular it becomes over a period of time, the higher it gets to the ‘editors desk.’
    Once a month the first five at the editors desk get the chance to be read by Harper and Collins, and that is what everyone who is a member on Authonomy aim for.
     But Authonomy isn’t just about being seen by publishers and I think its a must for all writers because they can gain tons of experience. I’m really pleased I joined.
     But  I do believe we are all doing ‘the dirty work’ for Harper and Collins, so they dont have to sieve through piles and piles of manuscripts, all they do now is look at the top five which we, the authonomists have chosen.
    But I’ve learnt a lot in the last 2 months, I’ve made friends who have the same interests, who have pointed out ways of improving my book, I’ve learned  how to write comments on other peoples books, and while doing so its helped me in all sorts of ways with my own book. I’ve learned more in this last two months from authonomy than I could have learned  from a two year course. And in those two months I’ve seen friends make it to the first five and people DO get published.
    There are some brilliant books on authonomy, and even if you haven’t written one yourself its definitely worth joining just to read them. But don’t forget, you have to back them and rate them too! 

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