Authonomy: Home for Writing Web Workers

Authonomy Home Page - Mozilla Firefox 3.1 Beta 1 (Build 20081007125523)One of the fancy terms that gets thrown around in Web 2.0 discussions is “disintermediation” – in other words, cutting out the middleman. Authonomy is a new site from Harper Collins that aims to do just that in the world of book publishing. If you’re a web worker with a book inside battling to get out – as so many of us are – it offers an alternative to the traditional ways of trying to break into publishing.

As anyone who has tried to get a book published knows, one of the biggest battles is to attract the attention of a publisher. If you don’t have some contacts on the editorial side, or a good agent, you can blindly send your manuscript around yourself – and likely it will sit in the “slush pile,” where, if you’re very lucky, someone might read it some day.

Authonomy cuts out the agents and editorial contacts by functioning as a sort of online slush pile combined with a social network. Anyone can join and upload a manuscript. At that point, members of the Authonomy community can read, comment on, and rate the prospective book. Though the site is a recent launch, there are already around 150 books to browse through and read online – ranging in quality from “simply dreadful” to “actually pretty good.”

But from the hopeful author’s point of view, the best part is this sentence from the site’s FAQ: “HarperCollins hopes to find new, talented writers we can sign up for our traditional book publishing programmes – once we’re fully launched we’ll be reading the most popular manuscripts each month as part of this search.”

Will this method of finding and publishing new writers succeed? It’s too soon to know; I don’t believe any Authonomy authors have been signed to a contract yet, though some manuscripts have been read by editors at Harper Collins. But for anyone who wants to extend their web work to include writing a book (and with National Novel Writing Month coming up, that will be a lot of people), the site offers a new avenue for getting attention that’s worth exploring.

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