If anyone is still taking Authonomy seriously…

For those of you unfamiliar with HarperCollins’s digital POD farm innovative, ground-breaking online writers’ community then this is how it operates. You upload your book onto the website, other users can vote for it and every month the five people with the most votes get a critique from HarperCollins editors. I have simplified but this is essentially how the site works.

Now as you’d imagine there are thousands of writers on that site and competition for the top five is intense. You can get there by talent and effort: doing long, thoughtful critiques of other writers, polishing and revising your manuscript so that it attracts readers and gets good feedback.

Or you can get there by networking. Some users simply bombard the community with spam emails but others spend time on the message boards, forming alliances and cultivating friendships. It’s been argued that success on Authonomy owes more to networking than talent. Most people will use a mixture of both. It can take months of hard work, but it can be done.

Now, via the phenomenal Jane Smith, comes a guaranteed fast-track method of getting into the Authonomy top five.

1) Place manuscript on Authonomy and register with the site.

2) Get all your mates from online gaming forums to go to Authonomy, register on the site and back your book.

3) Watch your book hurtle to number one in a matter of hours.

4) Er…

5) … That’s it.

This is the genius strategy of Vineet Bhalla, a video game aficionado renowned for ‘narrating videos of Starcraft tournaments and popular players’ who recruited 800 other gamers to back his ms via a YouTube video, narrated by Bhalla, that provides a step-by-step tutorial on how to back his book. ‘Your time on this,’ Bhalla says, ‘should be five, ten, fifteen minutes at most’. Many of his backers admitted that they hadn’t read any of Bhalla’s ms.

Understandably many of the regular users that have been on the site since it opened in September are a little irritated that some guy can simply leapfrog his way to an almost guaranteed HarperCollins critique. Consequently Clive from HarperCollins has had to step in with some soothing words to mollify the outraged hardcore.

Clive makes a spirited defence but between the lines you can sense the horror and regret that Victor Frankenstein must have felt as he watched his freshly animated monster lurch down the hill towards the sleeping village.

He points out that Bhalla hasn’t really done anything wrong – loads of Authonomy users plug their books on Facebook, MySpace, blogs etc. No rules have been broken and HarperCollins can’t really ban Bhalla or his friends. What he’s done is completely legitimate.

But this is a precedent, isn’t it? If Vineet Bhalla can bring 800 people over from Starcraft then John Doe can bring 900 over from his ‘Stockport County Forever’ Facebook group. Surely this is going to lead to tons of users, quite legitimately, choppering to the summit using this very basic method.

Clive is aware of this and puts the best possible spin on it:

Meanwhile, authonomy has welcomed thousands of new members who have come from sites all across the internet, places that would never have become aware of this endeavour before. We think that makes this place a little bit richer.

Yeah Clive but if you read the comments and forums on your site you will see that you are losing many of the serious writers that you hadn’t already alienated with the POD debacle. They aren’t going to be adequately replaced by a few hundred game nuts who are there to back one specific book.

Imagine what would happen to your favourite pub if the management, for some reason,  lost all its loyal, high-spending regulars and replaced them with a bunch of transient weekend customers who are there for one drink on the way to the leisure complex.

Unless the site administrators find a way to prevent this sort of thing happening – and I don’t think they can  – then this is probably the beginning of the end for Authonomy.

I’m hoping maybe other publishers will take the best features from the site and develop a version that actually works.

I’ve been reading the comments to Clive’s post. I feel really sorry for the people who’ve been grinding away on Authonomy for months, wasting time with the best of intentions when they could have been reading and writing.

This is the end of Authonomy as a serious writing site.


‘Right, this’ll take five, ten, fifteen minutes…’


9 Responses to “If anyone is still taking Authonomy seriously…”

  1. Jobo Pooks Says:

    I joined Authonomy early last year and took it seriously for 63 hours 14 minutes and 12.5 seconds before seeing the spams and the klazarts and the multiple usernames and the bitter and twisted sado’s and the hypocrites and the egotists and the self-saboteurs and the nasty’s and the deluded and the creeps and the snivelers and the hopefuls and the pessimists and the single-minded and the desperate and the clowns and the fools and the vengeful and the weak and the strong and the noodles. Then I had a little fun for 12 montths and went on my merry way.

  2. Pete Says:

    MAx, I happened to stumble back upon this by accident – but having had the same reaction as you back then, I am relieved that you (and I) were incorrect. Not completely – the site has, I think, reached a point of critical mass where it is unable to achieve the more laudable and beneficial purposes. Still, for a site with 10,000 books on it, there’s still some very good writing, more than its share of fine people, and healthy social community and a strikingly small number of trolls.

    All the best to you,

    Pete Morin

  3. Jobo Pooks Says:

    Latest update:
    It’s a little free space that’s available as a billboard.
    It’s quite entertaining on the forum. Lawless towns generally are and the drama exists are it’s best quality.
    Not well maintained.
    Very basic and stone age compared to the many free discussion boards out there.
    Seems to be losing members of late.
    Attracting a lot of new readers only members with funny screen names.

  4. Jobo Pooks Says:

    That should have read drama exits. I really need to have this fifth finger surgically removed once and for all.

  5. Emmett Says:

    Almost 2012 and going strong. Go figure

  6. Jobo Pooks Says:

    “Almost 2012 and going strong. Go figure”

    Let me guess: Ok, how about; New users, old users, and admin are into self-abuse?
    Or maybe, desperation in trying to get published creates foolhardiness and blindness to reality?
    Or maybe, All the world’s Noodles are gathering in one place due to some unconscious common messaging arrangment in the universe?
    Who knows? lol

  7. Jobo Pooks Says:

    PM SAID: “healthy social community and a strikingly small number of trolls.”


  8. Anonymous Says:

    I rejoined for a while, then was quickly reminded of why it was I left in the first place. It doesn’t seem to be anything to do with writers anymore.

  9. dreamspiller Says:

    I’ve had it with Authonomy now. More trolls than writers and the rest are irritating dog-eat-dog chancers, cheating their way up a very greasy, very dull ladder to nowhere.

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