As I've discussed before, HarperCollins' manuscript display site, Authonomy, contacted a proportion of its members earlier this year to announce that it was adding a new service to its site: it had teamed up with Blurb.com, an American-based POD printer, in order to enable Authonomy members to download their books to Blurb directly from the Authonomy site and (the implication was) start selling copies of their book straight away.
Is this a good idea? Some people think not, and seem convinced that it's just a cynical ploy by HarperCollins to make money out of writers they have no intention of publishing. And when you link this idea to the worries I have about HarperCollins’ Book Army site you might begin to see the potential for problems here.
It is going to be easy for Authonomy authors to download their books to Blurb; hop over to Book Army and link their books to all sorts of other titles; and sit back and wait for sales to roll in (and your notice, here, more than a little touch of irony to my tone). Authonomy will, I'll bet, earn a commission on those sales, so what we have here is a grab at the Holy Grail of publishing: a way for a publisher to make money out of its slush pile. Funnily enough that doesn't outrage me as much as it does some: HarperCollins is a business, after all, and I have no problem with it making money in this way. What does trouble me is its choice of partner (because, as I've discussed elsewhere, Blurb isn't necessarily the best option for Authonomy authors planning to go POD), and its apparent endorsement of self-publishing as a realistic route into mainstream success. Because despite all the hype, sales of self-published books are notoriously low and very few ever make that leap into mainstream publication, let alone widespread mainstream success.