Wannabe authors post their works to Authonomy, the writing community site launched by HarperCollins in 2008, in the hopes of being discovered and getting published. They’re a step closer to their goal with Authonomy’s launch of a digital imprint, which will “hand pick” the best writers on the site and publish their work as e-originals. Chosen authors won’t receive advances; rather, the imprint is operating on a profit-sharing model. The titles that sell well as e-books will also be released in print.
The Authonomy imprint aims to publish one book a month, starting in January 2012. Scott Pack is running the new imprint, and also runs HarperCollins UK’s experimental imprint, The Friday Project. The first title has already been selected: Mary Vensel White’s The Qualities of Wood, “the story of a young married couple who decide to take a break from city life to renovate his late grandmother’s country home, only to become enmeshed in the mysterious death of a young girl.”
Authonomy was launched as a way for HarperCollins editors to discover unpublished and self-published authors. The site originated with HarperCollins UK but is open to users from other countries as well; Pack told me 60 percent of Authonomy users are from the U.S. Every month, the five most popular works on the site “are delivered to the desks of an editorial board made up of international HarperCollins editors.” Several of the site’s users–and users of sister site Inkpop, which launched in January 2010 and is aimed at teen writers–have received traditional publishing deals, with books published in both print and digital formats. For example, HarperCollins’ Avon bought three titles from Authonomy author Laurence O’Bryan this summer. Another author discovered on Authonomy even made it onto the UK Sunday Times‘ bestseller list.
The new digital imprint lowers the barrier to publication a bit, allowing HarperCollins to experiment with authors it might not be ready to take on in print–especially since they don’t receive advances. Instead, they split profits evenly with HarperCollins.
The bestselling titles under the new imprint will also be released in print; I asked Pack how many titles he expected to qualify. “Realistically, I suspect the top 30 percent or so in terms of sales will make it to print editions,” he said. “But we will be doing all we can to ensure as many as possible make that transition.”