The state of Authonomy
I’ve just done a drive-by on Authonomy to check the state of the nation. You know, that web site run by Harper Collins which claims to be “dedicated to sourcing the best writing talent around and connecting readers, writers and publishing professionals.”
I’m a long-time user. I joined the site back in September 08 although I did retire in disgust for a while. But then, yes, I admit it, I came back. Lots of other people have blogged about the Authonomy experience so I guess I’m just adding my small voice. Why am I doing this now? Because of promises made to change the system and my latest brief foray of loading a book onto the site.
Like many of the old hands, I loved the early days when Authonomy functioned as a crit site. You put up your book and you received comments mainly about the first few chapters but occasionally, readers would go further or even ask to read the whole MS. And that, as all my writer friends know, is worth its weight. Sure, you got a bit mesmerised by the numbers as your book rose up the rankings and became crest-fallen when the little red arrow appeared to show your book was slipping. But all was good. The forums were sometimes educational, sometimes fun and even then, sometimes the trolls hurtled insults at each other. Let’s not put on rose-coloured glasses. This is the internet. There are trolls. One of my books rose to number 35 (even). But by then I’d figured if HC was interested they would have tapped me on the shoulder and I could not be bothered with the race for the desk. Not one of the books reaching the coveted desk (five per month for two years now) had been selected for publication. Some were published elsewhere but that’s another story. What I really got from Authonomy was a network of writer friends around the world with whom I could share the writing experience. They became real friends and although I’ve met very few in the flesh, they are still friends who understand my writing trials, tribulations and triumphs.
And then came Klazart and his gamer friends. Overnight two thousand gamers, organised by this man through a Youtube video clip, descended on the site, backed his book and left. Rather like a plague of locusts. These people ended up with the top ‘talent spotter rankings’ on the site, because they backed a book which rose rapidly up the tree. Never mind that the vast majority never logged on again or participated. Eventually, the site administrators recognised the flaw and changed the scoring algorithm.
So now, you want to know why I came back? Because you can never have enough beta readers, especially of your genre. I loaded my book ‘Die a Dry Death’ on Authonomy as I was working on it and got a great deal of help and support. So I did it again, unsure if my current WIP was going to work. I’d hardly loaded the book when the top ‘Talent Spotter’ backed it. I hadn’t even had time to put in the cherry-picked comment telling readers I wasn’t after backings, all I wanted was constructive criticism. This lady left a comment later in the day, a generic ‘it’s wonderful, I loved it.’ And followed up some days later, wondering why I hadn’t supported her. To be sure, I have had a very few useful, thoughtful comments on the first few chapters of my book. But I would log on and gaze, jaw dropped, at my newsfeed showing backing after backing after backing of my book. Most did not leave a comment. I confess I never even bothered to thank the anonymous folk, or those who simply copied and pasted the comment they left on the last fifty books they ‘read’. Pretty soon, I pulled the book. So, no book, right? Just yesterday I received this message.
My book is titled the mind setter, Backing it will give you 4 strong backings and a genuine comment .
This person tried a similar approach a few days after I loaded my book. I deleted the message. This time, I sent a message pointing out that I had no book and I wouldn’t accept an offer like this, anyway. Past high –ranking ‘talent spotters’ had even been known to use ‘stand-over’ tactics, messaging people whose books they’d backed and demanding reciprocation. And now it’s clear that another Klazart type operation is in full swing for the book ‘Bamboo Promise’.
Authonomy is threatening to revamp the backing system. I wish them luck. I’m an ex-programmer/analyst and it’s such a difficult task. There are so many variables they need to juggle, human nature and the thrill of the chase for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow being the most difficult to manage. They’ve tried to clean up the increasingly vitriolic forum, I’m glad to say. Some of the threads were becoming positively hateful and vindictive. But I can’t help but feel that while the editor’s desk is a prize for the best gamer, I’ll be reluctant to go back. I’d LOVE some more beta readers and I’m happy to reciprocate, but I can’t be bothered with the gaming. (By the way, if you’ve read this far and you want a beta reader, contact me on FaceBook). And for you folk out there that still want to play the Authonomy game, remember that querying will give you better odds.