In the spring of 2008, HarperCollins opened the doors to Authonomy, its new online manuscript display site. I was one of the first people to test it.
Authonomy allows writers to post their writing, and to comment on each other’s work. It’s possible to post anything from a single paragraph to a complete book, although extracts of under 10,000 words remain invisible to everyone but their authors.
I’m curious why HarperCollins started Authonomy, and in this form. HarperCollins has made a big investment in the design and development of the site; and by hiding all extracts under 10,000 words they’ve made certain that the site is going to be large and flabby. As it stands they’re making no money from Authonomy: might they introduce a joining fee in the future? Or is HarperCollins treating Authonomy as its own personal electronic slush-pile? If so, I can see a few problems.
While HarperCollins claims that the best of the work posted will rise, cream like, to the surface, I’ve seen little evidence of that happening. While some of the work there is good, the work which is the most commented-upon is the work from the most active writers, regardless of its quality.
I’m not sure that it’s a good thing for writers, as the only way to get your work noticed there is to spend a great deal of time networking and promoting yourself there: and for most aspiring writers, that’s going to cut into their writing time quite hard.
There’s also the problem with its size: with new work being added to the site daily, Authonomy is soon going to start staggering under its own weight. It’s already slow, and makes for cumbersome browsing for people like me, who live in an area without broadband access.
Good old-fashioned slush-piles can be monsters, but at least they are subjected to periodic culls as work is rejected. Is HarperCollins planning on ever culling any of the work on Authonomy? Or does it intend to let Authonomy lumber on unchecked, eating up bandwidth until it collapses under its own weight?