Book publishing giant Harper-Collins has created a community where authors may upload their manuscripts and self-published books (both fiction and non-fiction), and other community members get to read them and vote on them.
The promise is that Harper-Collins editors will troll through this slush pile and, perhaps, discover an unknown talent (sort of the way starlets were said to have been discovered in the 1940s, sipping sodas at a Hollywood drug store counter).
authonomy invites unpublished and self published authors to post their manuscripts for visitors to read online. Authors create their own personal page on the site to host their project – and must make at least 10,000 words available for the public to read.
Visitors to authonomy can comment on these submissions – and can personally recommend their favourites to the community. authonomy counts the number of recommendations each book receives, and uses it to rank the books on the site. It also spots which visitors consistently recommend the best books – and uses that info to rank the most influential trend spotters.
We hope the authonomy community will guide publishers straight to the freshest writing talent – and will give passionate and thoughtful readers a real chance to influence what’s on our shelves.
Call me a cynic but I’m not convinced that Harper-Collins’ editors are furiously sorting through the unagented manuscripts of would-be authors, hoping to find the next blockbuster. They already get hundreds of submissions each week via literary agents. Most editors have their days filled — along with some weekends and evenings — reading those.
So why create the online slush pile?
My guess is that Harper-Collins expects to benefit in less direct ways by creating a social network comprised of readers and authors. First, it can market its current offerings to both. Also, by engaging readers who rank manuscripts, it forms an ongoing focus group that lets the company discover what broad factors “sell” a book, absent promotion and advertising. So, it will be able to better predict what will attract a large audience (and, perhaps, avoid throwing seven-figure advances to duds destined for remainder tables).
And maybe, just maybe, if one manuscript gets recommended by so many readers that it forces someone in acquisitions to take notice, we’ll see some lucky undiscovered author offered a contract. Stay tuned.