Tuesday, 24 February 2009


I first became aware of UK based Harper's not Collins' Authonomy critique and plug site through the Grumpy Old Bookman. In a spate of enthusiasm I signed on. Months rolled by with no discernible signs of life on the site before re-surfacing in my purview through an invitation to test a beta version which had come via YouWriteOn. So, I visited again --- Woah! By comparison with YouWriteOn's more straightforward approach the Authonomy site at first seemed unnecessarily over-complicated and more than a tad intimidating.

If YouWriteOn's message board is a schoolyard then Authonomy's forum is a sixth-form common room, or a JCR at a Midlands university, cluttered with a rude mix of earnest fellows, smartarse slackers who routinely mistake mordant comment for wit, sensitive types who've spent too long reading de Beauvoir and Sartre, look-at-me airheads dancing on the coffee tables, and the occasional genius lurking in the corner taking it all in while jotting notes for tomorrow's seminar.

Contributors upload work for critique then roam the site to find, read and comment on others' efforts in the hope that this activity will garner sufficient positive regard to bring the attention of an editor from one of Harper's not Collins' imprints.

If reviewers like what they read they can back it by putting the title on a virtual bookshelf; if undecided, or wish to re-visit the work for closer appraisal, they can put it on a watchlist. There's no scoring; titles are positioned on the chart in line with the number of bookshelves they have appeared on. But it's not quite so straightforward, some reviewers' bookshelves count more highly than others.

On the last day of the month non-fiction as well as fiction titles which make the top 5 of what's called the Editor's Desk, join a queue for a critique from one of Harper's not Collins' editors.

There's no minimum and maximum word count for comments/critiques, so these vary wildly between 'brilliant' or 'crap' and 2000 word, in-depth essays.

The site also features an ongoing book chart based on titles' cumulative support from reviewers, and a blog featuring invited editors and writers.

There's a lot of coralling and caballing, backscratching and game playing involved. A private messaging system reinforces the networking aspect of the site.

Some contestants in this beauty pageant have confessed to spending 16 hours a day on the site.

The forum can be a veritable viper's nest of vituperation, snark, nark, nay-saying, bullying, fawning and faint praise -- some of it wittty and amusing, though most of it dull, plodding and self-serving.

There are some good people on the site, and a few very good writers, but be prepared to wade through much idle, bland natter masquerading as wit to find them.

What are your perceptions of Authonomy? What's been your experience of uploading your work?


  1. I've been on Authonomy for a month now, and my novel THE LEGEND OF JIMMY GOLLIHUE is doing well in the rankings (#41 at this writing).

    Frankly, there is quite a lot of the nonsense that you mentioned going on there, but much else that's good, not the least of which is global networking with fellow writers. I think you ought to give it chance, maybe come back and take a look at the pearls before the swine swallow them all.

    I'd also be pleased if you'd add my Blogger blog to your list, as I have done with yours.

    George LaCas
    author of The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue

  2. Hi George, thanks for your comment. I do check into authonomy most days. It seems to have calmed down a lot from its early days. I'll probably post a follow up at some point in the future. And thanks for your link -- I'll stick it in the sidebar under writers' blogs. All the best, regards.

  3. My husband fixed my computer so I can't get on Authonomy as I was wasting to much time there. Meanwhile, the site is imploding and may gone soon because a young gamer who wrote a novel put it up and also put up a "how to back" video on youtube and now all his followers have arrived and thrown the entire ecosystem into chaos. It's fascinating, but I can't go back and look because I no longer have access. So instead I was putting off work by googling myself and book title and found your site. Can't remember if I posted here or what. I've written in my blog about my addiction to authonomy (though not about the latest turn of events).

  4. Hi Marion, welcome back. Sorry, I've still to edit your blog listing. If you can't go directly to Authonomy you could read my post on the fracas above, then follow the links. Regards

  5. I think you've summed it up pretty well!

  6. Hi Claire, thanks. And thanks too for calling in and taking the time to post a comment. Regards.