In philosophical mood today. I’ve been trying to get my TSR up, having picked a new book I liked the look of and put it on my shelf. So far it’s on three other shelves. Going back to look at it again, I find a message from someone else saying they “saw it on someone else’s shelf.” Curious as to whether it was my shelf they had found it on, I checked out the profile of the sender. On their profile they say they won’t back on a “‘quid pro quo’ basis as they ‘feel [that] destroys what this site is really about.’” Nothing to write home about there, surely? Except that, until recently, precisely this phrase was on my own profile. So, yes, whoever sent that message had indeed been looking at my shelf. And their remark begs the question, what is authonomy really all about? And, secondly, why am I there at all?
Before going down that road, that ‘Quid Pro Quo’ remark on my profile. I’d been away from authonomy for a few months and needed to change my promise of a quick return read, so I edited my profile. I still reviewed every book from whose author I’d received a review, just considerably later than had been normal in the past. The blind backings still kept coming in (just a backing, no comment). So I decided to just return the backing without a comment. In the end, because of my tracking system, which works using the comment I’ve left on their book, I did, actually, review them, if only so I could be sure I’d backed.
Now the reciprocal backing has been the model on authonomy for as long as I can remember. Indeed, I usually bend over backwards to find something to justify backing. The person whose book I’m reviewing is more likely to back my book if I’ve backed theirs. Well, fair enough, I probably am not gong to back something, and in fact I don’t back something, if it stinks. The problem arises when I’ve been backed by someone whose book is, frankly, poor. I do tend to hold my nose and err on the generous side, as a high probability of a return backing is an asset, and we all want to “win” authonomy, right? Which brings me nicely back to the first question: “what is authonomy all about?”
Harper Collins seemingly, view authonomy as some sort of self-regulating slush-pile, although they don’t very often put their money where there mouths are and offer the worthy winners an actual contract. Ironically, one book, at least, has found its way into print by them via an agent who spotted it on their site and submitted it via the “usual” method; and well before the book got anywhere near the hallowed territory of the editor’s desk. Their recent re-writing of the rule book seems to be an effort to make the system more effective in choosing books they might actually publish, so the jury’s out on that one.
Turning to the users, they seem to split into two camps. Those who want to “win” by fair means or, more usually, foul, and those who want critique of their work so it can improve (and, of course to “win”). Now, a professional critique of your ENTIRE book can be purchased for around £200 (for example from these people). Harper Collins will only read the first 10,000 words. I don’t think the investment of time and energy required to get even close to the desk is justified. Those jumping and screaming to get on the desk are deluding themselves. Worse, the amount of lying, cheating, sock puppetry, schmoozing, secret hurling of a single gold star and whatever other tactics are being employed only, as my messager so rightly says, propels work without commercial potential onto the desk and allows work which might sell like hot cakes languish out of sight. Unless the new scoring method proves to be extremely robust, the same issues will lead to the same outcome.
I don’t think I have the necessary stamina, or maybe even the right book, to get onto the desk. As I’ve already said, the editorial critique you get in return can be had remarkably cheaply. The point of using authonomy, as far as I can see, is that it is a form of social marketing. The one thing I liked about authonomy as compared to youwriteon, is that it is a more realistic model of what will happen to a book once it finally makes its way onto the shelves of a bookstore or onto amazon or into cyberspace as an e-book or whatever. The decision to back a book is a mirror of the decision to part with hard won cash. A book making progress on authonomy is a book drawing attention to itself. And, luckily for me, I am already sitting at number 6 in the “gay” chart, so my book is on public display already. The necessity of writing a “short” pitch helped me enormously, as I have a “strap line” for the book and a blurb ready for the day it makes its way into print.
So, going along the “social marketing” route, I’m starting this blog. Follow me, and I’ll follow you. See… old habits are hard to break!
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