Friday, August 14, 2009

Authonomy - is it for you?

In StirlingEditor's blog post, The Ultimate Survivor's Guide to Authonomy, she brings up some very valid points about the web site authonomy hosted by Harper Collins UK. Begun a little more than a year ago, its primary purpose was to serve as a cyber slush pile. The idea was that writers could post their stories there, then the other site members (predominantly writers) would sift through them, vote for their favorites by putting them on a virtual shelf, and at the end of each month the top five would land on the Editor's Desk, where they would be awarded a professional critique. There was also the obvious possibility of Harper Collins plucking something from the slush pile - a very attractive lure to any struggling writer. So far three manuscripts have been selected from further down for publication and a few others are currently under consideration.

Stirling Editor explores both the positives and negatives of the site, why writers flock there and how some of them use the site. It's worth saying here that every site member's experience there varies from fantastically beneficial, to horridly upsetting. I posted my work there originally to see what kind of reaction it would get - I needed to know if there was hope for me, or if I should reconsider my career path. What I learned was that some readers loved it and gushed profusely (which made me feel quite undeserving), while others just didn't 'get it' and spared no harsh words. After recovering my wounded pride from the latter, it always occured to me that even the most lauded writers and those who regularly hit the bestsellers' lists have their critics.

I now take criticism less personally. And praise with more humility. I learned by reading a variety of works to gage very quickly why certain writing did or didn't capture my attention - this was something I've since applied to my own writing. I've received valuable feedback that has improved my stories considerably - a favor which I try to pay forward when I'm able to. I've also learned the monumental task that agents and editors have sifting through their own slush piles - there is so much quality work out there, it's no wonder that achieving publication has as much to do with luck and persistence as it has to do with the talent of the writer.

The sum total of the experience has caused me to raise the level of my own writing. And to be more determined to get it out there to reach readers. I've met some phenomenal people and for that reason alone it has been worth the time.

For most, authonomy itself will not result in publication. For a few, it will. It can be about shooting up the rankings or just getting that one bit of advice or morsel of validaton that you need to carry on. It can be drama and competition, a huge time vaccuum, or a place to forge solid friendships. It is what you make it. Is it for you?

Until later,



Anita Davison said...

A very balanced, and accurate view of this site - especially the part about feedback being different for everyone and veering between gushing praise and snarky comments. As you say, Gemi, not everyone is going to like your work - but I'm a fan!

N. Gemini Sasson said...

I'll be the first to say you can fritter away a lot of time there *not* writing and the place certainly has its share of histrionics. I also agree it's not the place for every writer, as there are other options that may serve an individual better - I really prefer to give/get more in depth critiques privately to/from people whose opinions I value.

The reciprocal read that's customary on the site can force one into the uncomfortable position of giving comments on a style or genre they have no affinity for. OTOH, it can also open a writer up to reading new genres and varied styles.

It can be a platform or a pile that you get buried under.

I suppose it's like anything else in life - it has its good and bad points.

Lisa J Yarde said...

I gave Authonomy a half-hearted try, and I fully admit I was skeptical about it, so I didn't take it seriously. Since Authonomy has so many participants of varied backgrounds and interests, I think if you can appeal across the board with good writing and get feedback from others who wouldn't necessarily read you genre, it's one sign that you're on the right track.

Greta said...

Authonomy has changed as the site has grown. In the beginning it was much more a critique site. I think that's changed - I know my approach has. For me, the networking was the thing. I've met some great people (like Gemi) with whom I can share my work. And for an isolated writer, that's the gold at the end of the rainbow. Really, you could say I'm getting published because of Authonomy, because that's where I met the people who are making it possible. Who needs the Ed's Desk?

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Likewise, Greta (and I'm very much looking forward to reading your book again). The people have been the reward. A year ago I believe it took, at most, 250 comments to hit the Editor's Desk. Now? At least 800, if not closer to a thousand. That's a lot of work.