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Authonomy, a site from publisher Harper Collins, is a social network which will allow aspiring writers to exhibit their talents online.
Publishers receive too many manuscripts to sift through themselves, and this seems like a good way to sort the wheat from the chaff, so how does it shape up?
How does it work?
Harper Collins receives more than 50 manuscripts every week, and the company simply doesn't have time to read them all. This social network idea gives some of these wannabe authors a chance to get their work in front of readers, while the publishers hopes that the cream will rise to the top.
Harper Collins offers no guarantees about publishing the most popular writing on the site, but has promised to read the Top 10 every month.
Writers will need to upload a minimum of 10,000 words (fiction or non-fiction) to Authonomy, as this should ensure that only people who are serious about their work will participate in the site.
These books or extracts can then be viewed by anyone who visits the site, and readers can vote for books by placing them on their 'bookshelf'. This determines the ranking of books on the site.
The navigation and layout of the site makes it very easy to get around the site and either upload your own work, or read that of others.
The site is nice and clean without too much text of the homepage, while navigation options are limited to six links at the top, as well as the charts and featured talent spotters.
If you are browsing the site looking for a book to read, then the charts on the homepage are a good starting point. The 'editor's desk' section shows the top 20 books of all time in all genres, or you can use the drop down menu to see the charts for different categories.
This is a very good way of showcasing the most popular work, and makes it easier for casual browsers to use the site and find something of interest.
Clicking on the title of a book will take you to a page which summarises the book and gives you the option of reading the whole book, backing it, or adding it to your watchlist.
You can also click on the author's name to find out more about them, and see other works they may have uploaded to the site.
Comments from readers are displayed below; for the books in the top 20 at least, many of the comments were constructive, which could be useful for aspiring writers.
Uploading your book
The designers of the site have created an easy to use upload process which allows writers to add their work to the site and label it effectively.
Authors need to add a short description, which people browsing the site will see first, and a longer pitch to entice people to read the book in full.
People can upload a book cover or choose from a selection on the site, as well as choosing from a range of categories and adding tags to make the book easier to find on the site.
Profiles / social features
Users, whether readers or writers, can create and fill out their profiles for others to see. You can write a little about yourself and list your favourite published authors to give people an idea of your literary interests.
This will also display your bookshelf, showing your five favourite books on the site; Harper Collins has kept the list to five so that people have to make difficult choices.
Books by that user are displayed, as well as all comments made on others' work, which is a good way to figure out whether commentors are serious or not.
A forum has also been provided for open discussion, allowing users to introduce themselves and plug theirs or others work, as well as talking about writing in general.
This is a very well thought out site which is easy to use and participate in. I was impressed, both by the quality of some of the writing on the site, and by the constructive criticism left by users. Harper Collins has done a fine job in encouraging participation.
Whether this site will spawn any great authors remains to be seen, but it is certainly better than having your manuscript languishing in publishers' slush piles where it may never be read.