Now that Amazon has rekindled the notion that reading is kind of cool, and participation in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter has exploded, a slew of Internet startups are trying to bring writers and readers together into communities of mutual interest. HarperCollins Publishers, one of the largest English-language publishers with sales over $1 billion, is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.
Last fall it launched authonomy.com, where authors can submit 10,000 words or more from an unpublished or self-published book, and the devoted and literate members of the authonomy community can read it, comment on it and rate it. HarperCollins editors say that they will keep an eye out for the “most popular” submissions and decide whether to make publishing offers to the authors. July 9, 2009, The Reaper, written by Steven Dunne. It is described on the website as a “combination of Silence of the Lambs and The Poet set in Derby. A long dormant serial killer strikes again and the hunt is on.” Apparently the book “was picked up by HC late last year,” so with the speed typical of traditional publishing houses, in took seven or eight months to get it into print.
Well, I for one don’t think it worth the wait, nor a strong indication of authonomy’s promise. The first page of the first chapter (available to read on authonomy’s site) was sufficient to discourage me from any further exploration. And exactly one month after publication, its status had reached the dizzying heights of #2,381,842 on Amazon.com’s sales ranking. Like most large publishers today, HarperCollins no longer accepts unsolicited manuscripts directly.
What is to be found there, in lieu of the famed “slush pile” of yore, is a website where the unpaid public are invited to read through the slush for HarperCollins, and the company can pray that a few bestsellers emerge. The one aspect that would qualify as social networking is that all of the folks who voted for chapter 1 of The Reaper are strong prospects to purchase the finished book; and, feeling a certain ownership of the process whereby it was published, will read it and recommend it with more generosity than I can summon.