The jury’s still out on Authonomy

jury in sessionThe pixies at Harper Collins have rejigged their Authonomy website. Having said sceptical words in an earlier post, The State of Authonomy it’s only fair that I should consider the changes they’ve made and what sort of difference I think they’ll make. Changes were made to the algorithm for determining both a book’s position and the TSR (talent spotter rank) of individual readers.

For those who don’t know, the better one’s TSR the more impact a reader has on the votes for a book. The reason this mechanism exists is to lessen the impact of people who join the site for the express purpose of backing their friend’s/lover’s/boss’s etc book and for no other reason. HC doesn’t prevent authors from getting mates to back their book (quite the reverse) but they don’t want that support to completely skew the voting as it has in the past. In the past, a book accumulated votes almost as soon as it was backed. This led to people backing every book in sight as early as possible and garnering the increase in their TSR as the book inevitably rose up the ranks. People didn’t even read the book. Now, a book must stay on a shelf for 24 hours to change its ranking or the TSR of the voter. They’ve also introduced a ‘star’ rating (rather like the one on Amazon). A reader can award a book stars but they don’t have to have read the book to do so and the stars don’t have much impact on the overall rating.

So what difference will all this make? This jury is out until the dust settles and we’ve had a few month-ends.

Sure, it’s an improvement. Sure, it means less one-line comments and inevitable backing. But the star thing is an obvious candidate for mean-spirited people to denigrate the competition. Star ratings are anonymous and how easy is it to award somebody’s book 1 star just to drag down the average? And already the forum is crackling with plots to rort the new system using sock puppets and collusion. But to give them their due, the administrators have made a genuine attempt to combat schemers. For instance, where people award 6 stars to every book their vote is reduced to the average score. They seem to be doing their best to prevent sock-puppets, too, but there is a limit to what is possible.I’ve said before that I don’t envy the site designers in the monumental task of devising a system that is fair, equitable and ‘gamer-proof’.

Do I think the site is better because of the changes? Yes, I do – if getting to the desk is what you want. The struggle will be fairer, I suppose – but the end prize isn’t any different. You may as well get back to submitting to agents.

I’d love to know what others think. Is the site better, would you/have you gone back?

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About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 7 November 2010, in On writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. nothing would tempt me back. not even a guaranteed straight run to the HC publishing director’s desk.

  2. Any system involving the votes of biased contributors will never work properly. Autho worked pretty well at the start, as the biased hadn’t arrived in great numbers. But they’re now there to stay and any tweaks will always eventually be exploited by them.
    Will I go back for a 3rd time? Unlikely, and if I do, it’ll only be for feedback from genuine people there, like you, Great.
    Simon x

  3. I agree with Simon and Fiamma. Had Harper Collins taken action when they should have done over eighteen months ago to keep the site working well, they wouldn’t have lost so many good members and attracted so many bad ones. Now I doubt it’s possible to sort out the mess.

    I’m only astonished that anyone should think it worth while to spend time on Authonomy these days. That said, I haven’t yet deleted my account, and I pop in now and then hoping to see an improvement.

  4. There are still some people willing to give genuine feedback but they are becoming more and more rare. I’m inclined to agree with you guys, but I do think it’s a shame.

  5. Sound analysis I suspect, Greta but I regret I simply don’t know! I haven’t been back to Autho in a year or so; if the tweaking HC have done results in greater ‘fairness’ that must be a positive step.

    However, as you have identified, the ‘prize’ at the end remains largely valueless. The real prize is constructive, insightful critiques; that and the good friends one makes from participating. Perhaps I should return with a couple of chapters of my current WIP.

  6. In a way the changes extraordinate me a little. The ED has never been more than window-dressing, though having had a review I can testify how useful they (often) are. The fact is, books HAVE been signed up, sometimes by HC sometimes not. The ED has little to do with the former, possibly more the latter, but it’s always been the case that having your book there and not being a plank in the forums have been key to getting read, and having the ingredients when you ARE read the key to getting signed. I still find great writing there, and writers I want to work with. And now I’m a publisher I look for material there. If you haven’t seen, they all but announced they were signing one of this month’s ED books, Bamboo Promise. Convenient timing, sure, to show the ED “really does mean something”, and possibly coming across a little cynical (and extraordinating again if the ED really is irrelevant). That certainly IS interesting.

  7. Rather late in the day to respond, Greta, but you’ve just pointed me here. I have to say that my Autho experience has been nothing but good. I’ve been there a bit over a year, and actually did very little until May this year, when I ranked at 400. Then I started to get involved & since then have managed to get to 35. I’ve met wonderful people, had huge support and helpful feedback, all of which has led to a vast improvement in my book, Blue Diamonds.
    It’s now my home away from home.

    • Not at all. I’m delighted you had a great experience. I did, too – for a long time. Maybe the changes made improved things. I just want people to be aware that there are pitfalls and that Auth isn’t necessarily the path to publication. Thanks for leaving a comment.

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