What Went Wrong With Authonomy
The Great British Bake-Off for Books Is Toast
Unleashed on August 20, 2015
I never warmed to Authonomy, writes Peter Cox, the website for wannabe writers run by publishing behemoth HarperCollins. Today’s news of its closure was, in my view, inevitable.
I wasn’t endeared to it partly because it gave me the uneasy feeling that the concept was loosely based around what we have been doing – for far longer and rather better – here with Litopia. With certain important, and ultimately fatal, differences.
It wasn’t hard to understand Authonomy’s appeal to aspiring authors. Here, in one easily-accessible package, was potential access to a major publisher’s editorial team. A dream come true! Forget about pitching to finicky agents – the velvet-rope bouncers of the literary world. Who needs gatekeepers in any case, when you can sell your book directly to the Big Cheese?
From the publisher’s viewpoint, the concept was beguilingly simple. Get the slushpile (for that’s what Authonomy really was) to do its own quality control. Toss into the mix every conceivable manuscript – dire, insane, mediocre and occasionally brilliant. The cream will rise to the surface as authors feverishly rate each others’ manuscripts in one vast Darwinian literary struggle for survival! The few scripts left standing can then be acquired and published. A cunning concept, eh?
Right there, I have a huge problem.
Forget about the fact that it devalues the editorial process to nothing more than a mere popularity contest. Yes, that’s quite a big deal in itself, but I have an even bigger beef.
Setting authors in competition with each other for an editor’s attention strikes me as a very poor plan indeed. It’s a sort of imbecilic extension of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism – the cracked political theory that continues to lay waste to many of Western civilization’s finest collaborative achievements.
Of course, Ayn Rand had little time for collaboration. She was all about rivalry, struggle, self-interest and the survival of the fittest. I think a place like Litopia would make Ms. Rand wince.
The truth is, authors need each other. We need each other to progressively hone our craft – and we need each other to chart a path through today’s perplexing publishing landscape.
We don’t need to be jealously set against each other in some bonkers version of the Great British Bake Off for Books.
Of course, I’m certain that there were many warm-hearted and generously-spirited members of Authonomy who will genuinely miss the community there.
To whom I would say – welcome to Litopia… you’ll fit right in.
Finally, please note. Litopia is not run by a publishing megalith. We are tiny, in fact. We singularly lack Mr. Murdoch’s deep pockets.
If you like Litopia – do please support us, to whatever extent you can.