Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Authonomy: HarperCollins Collects the Unpublished

If you believe that the competition is fierce for getting a book published, then take a peek at the novels on HarperCollins' website authonomy. You'll have ample proof that you're right.

Thousands of novels, unpublished or self-published, are posted on this site, and then site members read and "back" those that are felt worthy.  According to the choices "backers" make, backers also can rise in ranks as "talent spotters."

After almost a month of being uploaded onto the site, my novel The Stone Dragon ranks 855, and as a spotter I rank 1195. This has been a steady, respectable climb, I believe, based on three and a half weeks of interaction.

Below are some of the comments from authonomy about The Stone Dragon:
  • "The source that is not dreaming, sleeping, or waking...perhaps the salvation of us all. An interesting journey into the creation of reality from the source, enabled by a cup of cabbage tea." [Marianne Coil]
  • "A little of Earthsea with a touch of Harry Potter, but with a wholy original and poetic voice." [Thorne Moore]
  • "I cannot believe I haven't commented on this wonderful work. This is gripping, compelling, and incredibly visual, a real feast for the senses. This is a book that belongs on a shelf or, more accurately, in a paying reader's hands." [Abigail Knight]
  • "Written with the curls and cadence of ancient runes. Also I see a great sense of humour: the cabbage song ... overall, a text to equal The Hobbit?" [Luke Bramley]
  • "At the end of your first chapter, when you speak of the raven leaping into the sky unseen by Glimmer, 'black flight following his path like a second shadow,' you send shivers up our spines." [Gerry McCullough]

The top five manuscripts with the most votes each month make the "Editor's Desk" and are previewed and commented on by a board of HarperCollins' editors.

One writer, Richard Bard, author of BRAINRUSH, wrote the following:  
AUTHONOMY WORKS! In the couple of months that I've been on this site, dozens of readers have finished the book, a Hollywood producer contacted me regarding a film option, and I was signed by a top literary agent. Now that’s a brain-rush!

My overall impression after a month of membership and interaction on the site is that there are many, many well-written and compelling manuscripts uploaded to authonomy. My sense of scale of the competitiveness of the publishing world is has become much more concrete.

Here are some examples of first lines of novels from the site:
  • "There was something about Naomi Long's face--the wide-open black eyes, the hewn look of her nose and cheeks--that resembled a ship's figurehead. [Deadly Nevergreen, Lynn Clayton]
  • "The black ocean greeted him like a motorway pileup, huge crests and troughs rising and falling beneath a burnt sky, wind and rain so many splinters of glass and light." [The Kingdom Within, Luke Bramley]
  • "In an endless supply of flower-patterned gowns covering every possible inch of skin below the neck, pale hands peeking out beneath fraying lace trim, she would rock in a chair I had rarely seen empty, staring out a window beyond which life traveled and hummed and of which she had no part." [Brewer House, Lisa Candelaria Bartlett]
  • "Leaves, roots, flying colours, the red of a squirrel's tail, a patch of blue sky, a piece of green lawn, falling over each other in kaleidoscopic chaos, merging and separating, moving seamlessly one into the other. Now came a rustling, a pattering, and finally a bird's squawking that softly exploded into the distant sound of a car horn." [Greenwood Tree, B. Lloyd]
Here are the first lines of The Stone Dragon:
Sun blazed bright fire,and wings flamed in the silent void. And if wings, why not sinew and tendon, why not muscles to stretch and pull fire on its flight through space?
Scales of fire flexed beneath his body, and he heard the flap of wings,a sound like flame guttered by wind.  He felt the surge upward and then the downward beat. Like a crown or halo, wings of light curved before him into the empty darkness—wings, and then a burning length of serpentine neck and triangular head rising to balance the stroke of wings. The viper’s head turned, eyes like coals burning into his.

What has been written by many published authors rings even more true: persevere. Don't give up. Continue with the game plan.

The further advice of authors, agents, and publishers also rings true: establish your platform, establish your web of connections and means of displaying and promoting your writing.

That is, if you want people to read what you've written.

It's a very tough business and a very tough market. The need for balance in life--inner rewards along with outer rewards is important. This is another definition of consciousness-based writing--focusing not on the subject matter of the writer's content but rather the ability of the writer to integrate writing into one's total life.

If no one likes what you've written--and you still like it--then you're still halfway there. Such an attitude, along with a healthy dose of humility, will keep you as sane as any writer can be.

Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


  1. A very good blogpost, Tom, and you're right, Authonomy does work, but even if it doesn't, it's still only one of the many avenues into publishing. You make a very good point about the invaluable networking the site can offer, and I'm in total agreement!

    A. Knight

  2. It is truly amazing how many aspiring authors there are out there. Many are talented but unpublished. Many more are not-so-talented – and unpublished. Others, not talented at all – and yet somehow published. I hear horror stories about the awful trash littering publisher’s slush piles. Very tough industry. But more often than not, I believe perseverance will allow the truly talented to find an opening somewhere and get through that door.