Friday, May 28, 2010

Musings on that Authonomy experiment

So, away back in December I posted about joining an online writers' group called Authonomy. Hosted by Harper Collins, the idea seemed to be that aspiring new authors could share their works, get feedback and offer con-crit, and together vote the most worthy works up the ranks to reach the HC "Editors Desk." Each month, a top few - I never kept track of how many - got a professional review from the editors.

Pretty nice, I reckon. The thing is, I found the game has to be played a certain, rather aggressive way. In short, the people whose books made it up the rankings are those who can read and "back" (i.e. vote for) a bazillion books, themselves, and thus earn a bazillion reciprocal backings in return. If one does as I do and merely reads the books that grabs them, backs/supports the books that seem exceptional and goes along at a sedate and sensible pace ... they will see the ambitious rank-climbers whiz right on by.

I got my book up to the mid-400s over several weeks' time only to watch another young writer, I think her book was called "Relics," rocket right past me as if I were sitting on my thumbs. Her writing was good. Her book was worthy. But I watched in chagrin as she managed to back enough books to entice others to back/vote for hers by the dozen, and she made it look effortless. Unfortunately for me, I'm just not able to read and back a squillion books a day, because that's apparently what it took. Quantity mattered, and I just can't read that way. I can't support a book that way, because it would either mean I backed a book on little or no consideration other than whether the author had backed my own, or I just backed books, willy-nilly, at a manic pace and hoped the authors would reciprocate.

I'm too pedantic, too exacting, or maybe just too un-ambitious to play the game. Or maybe getting to the Editors' Desk failed to mean that much to me. What I REALLY wanted was good, honest, constructive criticism that would help me shape my book into marketable form. And ... I got that. I did. I met some lovely people of keen and discerning tastes who offered invaluable critique. I'm grateful for that.

I think what I'm sad about is that a point came where it seemed the people looking at my book, however nice and generous, were only looking at the first three chapters. They'd glance at it, back it and that was that. I'd hit a ceiling on the con-crit and found it all boiling back down to that race for the Editors' Desk.

Well, I had to give it up. Bottom line is, whatever the system's flaws, I simply could not be as invested in the place as "success" there seems to require. Authonomy started off a different animal and just in the time I was active there, I saw things change. Sock puppet accounts, blind reciprocal backing, spamming to get votes/backing ... the site may have once been more of an honest con-crit site, but newcomers changed it and not in a way I could accept.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of nice people there and some extremely talented writers. People whose books I hope to see on a bookstore shelf one day, because I'd buy those suckers in a heartbeat. There's talent there, quality and class. But the system itself was subject to abuse and there is a facet of humanity that will always look for the main chance.

So, I'll take the kindnesses I received, the critiques I got, the encouragement that blessed my endeavors there and count it as part of my learning experience as a writer.

But I won't count it as any measure of how things work in the "real" world of writing towards publication. There's no way to cheat a literary agent's slush pile and no way to fudge the submission process. I've still got all my hard work ahead of me.

However, I've at least got the lovely assurance that people out there, strangers, did find my writing of merit. And that's no small thing. It's no small thing at all. I'll hope it will sustain me when I take that deep breath and slip off into the sea of manuscript submissions once more. It's gonna be a long solo swim. ;-)

1 comment:

Tea- T Yamamoto said...

Hum, sounds like the book bizz to me.

I'll bet there are masterpieces under the bed inn houses across the country.