Today is the second official birthday of HarperCollins’s website Authonomy. And since without Authonomy, Diiarts would never have been founded, we felt the occasion deserved to be marked.
Authonomy was, and is, a remarkable innovation – a self-filtering, pre-sorted, peer-reviewed electronic slush pile. Authors could (can) upload their works in progress for comment and criticism; every month the five manuscripts with the most backings are given the fabled gold star and read by HC’s editors. And of course there’s the Forum, that hotbed of lively discussion, passionate debate, flirtatious badinage and–yes–the occasional insult.
Anyone who has spent time on the site will know that it is never quite that simple. There are a few usernames that still cause this old-timer, and doubtless many others, to shudder politely or at least to raise an involuntary eyebrow (though, in the words of Hugo Hammersley, “I am not the sort of chap to have cocked it”). The backing and ranking system has caused much comment on the Forum–both the algorithm that generates the rankings, and the frenetic on-site activity it has engendered–though the system is now being overhauled, to loud cheers from the gallery.
But Authonomy has done what it was (presumably) intended to do–HC has picked up six books for publication, books like the delightful (and bestselling) Fairytale in New York; authors have been picked up by other publishers such as Diiarts; still others have taken the plunge into self-publication.
We met authors on Authonomy who had spent years honing their craft and researching their material. Paul House and Jason Horger both have several books to their credit; Pistols, Tulagi Hotel and Ask Me If I’m Happy are their authors’ first forays into the written word. May 1812 was the result of more than ten years of specialist research; Greta van der Rol, who wrote Die a Dry Death in the space of a few months, says that without M.M.’s Bennetts’s encouragement on the Authonomy forum “this book would still be rattling around in the space between my ears”. All our authors have, somewhere along the line, experienced the kindness and generosity of others from Authonomy–fellow authors and others who have shared their specialist knowledge, expertise, skills and time to help make someone else’s book better.
May 1812 received its Authonomy gold star in January 2009, Common Places in February and Pistols for Two–Breakfast for One in May. By this time last year we had founded Diiarts and signed our first four authors; by November 2009 we had four marvellous books in print, now joined by three more, with another two to come in time for Christmas.
To celebrate their birthday, and to thank them for what they’ve done for us, we’ve given Authonomy a copy of each of our books – including our two forthcoming titles – for them to give away. No doubt their blog will have something on the subject.
So Happy Birthday, Authonomy, and God bless all who upload to her.