Friday, 24 February 2012

The need for impartial feedback

Well, this is supposed to be the blog of a writer.  You wouldn’t think it would you?  But I am honestly doing things behind the scenes; I’m editing my hopefully debut novel Silver and I am entering short story competitions as often as possible.  I just haven’t been able to put anything up here yet but I hope to change that.

In light of this, I would like to write a review of a fairly new writing tool used by mainly readers and new writers;  Authonomy is a community website run by HarperCollins where writers can upload a minimum of 10,000 words of their book for the community to read and comment.

Readers can ‘back’ the book, giving the book a higher rating.  The higher the books rating the higher the chances of the book being chosen to go to the editors of HarperCollins for a review and possibly publishing contract.

When I first heard about this I thought it was a wonderful idea.  I had just finished my second draft of Silver and desperately needed some feedback from people who didn’t know me or wanted to spare my feelings.  So I signed up.

Uploading your book is the first challenge.  It took me a long time to upload seven chapters and I soon discovered that weekends are not the best time to try this. is obviously a very popular community and HarperCollins should perhaps look into getting more bandwidth.

I waited and waited and waited for the comments to come in.  But that isn’t how Authonomy works.  In order to get feedback on your work, you must give feedback on others.  This is crucial.  It is a tit for tat system.  Some people resort to spamming and my message inbox is full of messages from strangers asking to be my friend, saying they love the blurb of my book (not enough to read it though), oh and by the way, would I take a look at their book?  I’ve also received similar messages asking for ‘chapter swaps’.  This is how works, which is fine, if you’re at home all day, which I am not.  I tried to swap chapter reads and I tried to find books to comment on but after only a few I began to struggle for time.

I have about 6 comments on Silver in all.  All of them are book swaps.   I read their first chapters so they read mine.  No stranger actually read past the first chapter (what is more depressing is that no close, personal friends have even attempted it.  That led to a long weekend of depression).

Getting to the editors desk isn’t quite how it sounds either.  No one to date has actually been picked up by HarperCollins through this website.  While it is very helpful to get a professional review and  this would help with securing an agent, it will not result in a publishing contract.  HarperCollins have also closed submissions for new writers. is basically their slush pile and so far no one has been successful.

I find it hard to see the point of pushing my novel when I won’t necessarily get a publishing contract or any sales out of it.  I have some very helpful comments so I decided to stop any pushing and just go with what I had.

I took the comments for my first chapter and I am working through Silver, using these comments to edit and refine every chapter.  I received some good advice, some bad advice and some useless advice.
My personal advice on receiving feedback is to go with your gut.  If you read a comment and you know deep down that they’re right, then make the change.  If you completely disagree with them then keep your writing as it is.   This is your book and you shouldn’t have to change anything that you don’t want to (unless maybe your agent or publisher tell you to, of course!).

Authonomy is a good idea and works for a lot of people.  I’m hoping that it will work for me as I refine my novel before sending it out to agents.  Ultimately, it can be a great community website for those that way inclined and it works excellently as HarperCollins’ slush pile, giving them easy access to writers from all over the world and people reading and rating books so that they don’t have to.

 I’ve learnt a lot through using it but I won’t be using it again.  It’s time consuming and can easily become an addiction.  What with Facebook and a large number of favourite television programmes, films to watch and books to read, I just don’t have the time for another addiction, especially one that will probably not amount to much.

I should also mention that I have tried numerous times now to delete my book from Authonomy but the website always crashes.  I’m not sure whether to be angry about this or to think that fate is trying to tell me to put some effort into getting it noticed instead of giving up.

You don’t have to be a writer to be involved in Authonomy.  If you’re a reader or writer, check it out and see what you think.

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