Sunday 19 October 2008This is over 14 years old. Be careful.

Authonomy is a great use of familiar web technologies to help the remarkably backward world of traditional publishing. HarperCollins took a problem of theirs, trying to separate the wheat from the chaff in their unsolicited manuscripts, and has delegated it to the internet. It’s almost obvious in retrospect: their editors don’t have the time to read through every manuscript sent to them, and the internet is full of book lovers who would gladly read and rate new work, even if it is incomplete.

Once the site is out of beta, the top five manuscripts each month will get the attention of a HarperCollins editor. That’s certainly carrot enough for hopeful writers to put energy into the site.

The last question in the Authonomy FAQ explains it well:

Why won’t HarperCollins read all the manuscripts itself, instead of enlisting internet users to help them?

HarperCollins, like all publishers, is inundated with new manuscripts, and cannot hope to consider them all fairly. We don’t feel that our current, closed ‘slush pile’ system is fair to authors themselves — nor do we believe it is giving us the best chance of finding the brightest new talent. authonomy is a genuine attempt to find a better way to determine the books on our shelves — and it hands selective power to the readers who will ultimately be buying them.


Wow, I wonder how effective this will be in the long run. Currently the #1 book is on less than 100 "bookshelves" and "watchlists". I'm pretty sure it wouldn't cost much to set up an Amazon Mechanical Turk task that instructs workers on how to pump your book to the top of the list. 'Probably less than $100 ($1/per worker) total.

If that's really the case, than this will end up becoming an Ebay of sorts for wannabe authors. Whoever has the most money/motivation to game the system gets their book read. Of course, since the end result is that book rank has little/nothing to do with quality of the story the whole idea will implode. (readers will stop trusting the recommendations, editors won't follow through on their promise to read the top books, etc.)
Broofa, that won't happen. An algorithm is in place to ensure new members' votes count for only a small proportion of active members' votes. Each member has a talent-spotter rank, and those higher up have a more powerful vote.

So recruiting sock puppets to vote up your book would not work.

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