I have spent time on the Authonomy site lately.
When I first heard about Authonomy I wasn’t sure it would work. I’m still not convinced it will work long term, once the initial momentum dies down, but for the moment at least it’s doing a reasonable job of picking the better stories—sort of.
I imagine it would be somewhat like your average slush pile.
Authonomy is a Harper Collins site that allows writers to post part (minimum 10,000 words) or all of their novel and have other users vote on it. If the story garners enough votes it makes it into the top five for the month and someone at Harper Collins will pick it up, read it and, if they think it’s good enough, purchase it. I haven’t seen any purchases yet.
From my observations:
- Networking obviously helps. If you provide feedback on one person’s book they will usually reciprocate by looking at yours, so the more active you are, the more likely you are to garner votes.
- In the stories I have read and commented on to date, there appears to be a reasonable level of responsible voting. That is, readers won’t vote for the book unless they feel it warrants attention. Harper Collins encourages this by ranking responsible voters higher. If you consistently pick good books (and better still, pick them early), your book gets to the top of the list faster.
- As you would expect, there is an enormous range of quality in the books placed on the site.
- There are some brilliant stories out there, but a lot of them really need another rewrite (or two) before one could say they were finished.
- The general level of writing is above beginner. These people (and I include myself in these people) are serious about writing, but they’re not quite there yet. Some of them are very close.
- There is some good writing out there—a small number of books are very close to publishable.
I have found in reading stories that the blurb is important. This would effectively be the pitch in a query letter and it does make a difference. And I usually also have a good idea by the third page whether or not I want to keep reading.