After reading about authonomy for several months, I decided to check it out for myself. Basically, authonomy is HarperCollins' experimental e-alternative to the traditional paper slushpile. It's a website where writers, readers, agents, editors and publishers gather to read and evaluate unpublished or self-published works.

The uploaded material, most often several chapters of novels, but there's nonfiction, too, is read and rated, and the ratings calculated into rankings. The top five ranking books each month make it to the "editor's desk" where a board made of HarperCollins editors read at least 10,000 words and offer feedback to the author.

The hope is that the editors will find among the electronic slushpile offerings a submission they'd like to publish. Thus far (authonomy has been operating for several months), three novels have been found on authonomy and published by HarperCollins. Ironically, they weren't among those making it to the top five and the editors' desk.

The odds of your novel being found and snatched up at authonomy look, well, pretty dismal. However, there's more going on there than meets the eye. Editors and agents not affiliated with HarperCollins are said to lurk there. How many publishable jewels they might have found, nobody is saying.

I published Southern Man myself because I thought the underlying theme of anti-feminism would make it unpalatable to traditional publishers. Nevertheless, I decided to upload my novel at authonomy and just see what would happen.

HarperCollins is a British company with branches around the world. A great many participants at authonomy are European. My impression, just from reading the offerings at authonomy, is that writers across the pond, and in Australia and New Zealand, are talented wordsmiths and story tellers, and I've been gratified by the reception they've given Southern Man.

If I understand the rankings, Southern Man has gone from 5261 when uploaded on April 30 to 971 today, May 16. The green up arrow indicates that it has gained 97 points in rankings over the last time is was calculated (which I assume is daily). I don't know that it will sustain this climb in the rankings enough to make it to the Editor's Desk. Time will tell.

But meanwhile, I've enjoyed some of the comments left by readers -- what a boon to an author's ego!
I don't know whether HarperCollins' experiment with an electronic slushpile will ultimately prevail, but something will have to replace paper submissions eventually, to all publishers, just for the sake of saving trees. What shape the future of submissions takes will likely be greatly influenced by the authonomy experience.

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