Being an author myself I know the pains we go through to fight for publication – even representation is a rash to attempt. But new online publication tools may create a more promising platform for authors, if they ever do it right.
Authonomy is a project of HarperCollins Publishers that began not too long ago, and gives unknown and unpublished authors the chance to strut their stuff. The site allows one to upload your novel/work online for others around the world to read and critique. It quickly sifts through the undisciplined writers (which I can tell you no publisher or agent wants to deal with) by demanding a 10 000 word minimum. Then you need to impress enough people to gain a good rating (out of 5 stars) and have people “shelf” your work (which is the equivalent to backing it). This certainly isn’t a walk in the park, as users can only shelf 5 books and only 5 books make the Editor’s Desk each month. Now coming to the point for the project; each month, according to popular demand, HarperCollins will choose the top 5 books for one of their editors to read through. Thus, giving a previously disadvantaged author a nice lead in the race. But this is no promise of publication – you then go through the same process as you would have if an agent had sent your work in: and may well get rejected. However, your name will certainly resonate in the right circles even if you are rejected (and you might find agents more willing to give you a go if the public so enjoyed your creativity). So, there is a definite “up” in that someone unrepresented has the chance at winning a deal with one of the largest publishers around – but, the “down” is that after years (and yes, some users keep their works up for years in the hope of it getting to the Desk) you might be thoroughly disappointed and forced to begin from near nothing once more. There’s also the worry of cyber-bullying: alright, I think I might be over exaggerating. But your rating is determined by, mostly, fellow authors who are trying to get exactly where you are. There is so much self-proclamation and advertising that often someone may back your book only to get you to read theirs (and of course, you’ll lose this backing after a few days) – or comment on your book to get their name out in the shooting range. I only worry that this project helps a select few, and aimlessly raises the hopes of others who are simply not outgoing enough to succeed. This while encouraging those who should rather go into marketing to instead write.
There’s the breakdown for you. I worry I’ve been too critical; and its not at all to say I don’t approve of Authonomy! I think it’s a marvelous idea, only with some few holes. Perhaps after some time and a fresh look at it, they’ll iron out the wrinkles and set it right.