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Publishing Opportunities from Online Communities

Writing.ie | Resources | Getting Published | More Publishing Options

Vanessa O'Loughlin

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Authonomy is an online writing community enabling unpublished and self publishing writers to submit their books to a major book publisher – HarperCollins. A writing community site aimed at writers, readers and publishers, conceived and developed by book editors at HarperCollins, Authonomy’s aim is to “to flush out the brightest, freshest new literature around”

They say: “If you’re a writer, authonomy is the place to show your face – and show off your writing on the web. Whether you’re unpublished, self-published, looking to get published, or just getting started, all you need is a few chapters to start building your profile online, and start connecting with the authonomy writing community.

And if you’re a reader, blogger publisher or agent, authonomy is for you too. The book world is kept alive by those who search out, digest and spread the word about the best new books – authonomy invites you to join our community, champion the best new writing and build a personal profile that really reflects your tastes, opinions and talent-spotting skills.

The publishing world is changing. One thing’s for sure: whether you’re a reader, writer, agent or publisher, this is an exciting time for books. In our corner of HarperCollins we’ve been given a chance to do something a little different.”

Packed full of tips from top selling authors (not unlike Writing.ie!) Authonomy has had some real success, and recently launched a digital publishing programme dedicated to authonomy’s best authors. These books are hand-picked by editor Scott Packer and the authonomy Editorial Board, worked on by HarperCollins’ publishing teams, and published as HarperCollins digital originals across all possible devices.  The bestselling books will then go on to have print editions.  Most importantly, all of the titles will have been discovered on the authonomy.comwebsite.

Authonomy Editor Scott Pack told writing.ie “Authonomy had a good track record of finding new talent, with a number of Sunday Times bestsellers being discovered on the site, but we wanted to step things up a bit. So we have started an Authonomy imprint which will look to publish 10-12 digital originals a year through HarperCollins. Our first, The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White, is coming out at the end of January and we have already announced a second, More Tea, Jesus? by James Lark, with more announcements imminent. Any title that performs particularly well as an ebook will be published in a print edition by HarperCollins.

Some have described Authonomy as the ‘digital slush pile’ for HarperCollins, which is not a million miles from the truth, but as the site is open to anyone, and we have seen titles snapped up by agents and other publishers which we are more than happy about. I hope that we will create some digital bestsellers with the Authonomy imprint and that this will encourage more publishers and editors to check out the site for new talent. It certainly strikes me as a creative way to develop new writers and writing in these uncertain times.

At the moment, well over 60% of Authonomy members are from outside the UK and a significant number from Ireland. We don’t care where the writers come from as long as they tell a good story, so would love to see more Irish writers joining up.”

Authonomy’s launch title, Mary Vensel White’s The Qualities of Wood is a beautifully written novel telling the story of a young married couple who decide to take a break from city life to renovate his late grandmother’s country home, only to become enmeshed in the mysterious death of a young girl.

Book Country is a US based Penguin initiative where readers and writers of genre fiction come together to read original fiction, post work or comments, and make a name for themselves. They say, “Our free community is a creative and supportive space where fiction writers and readers can give and receive constructive criticism, discover new and entertaining books, discuss and share tips and experiences, and learn about the publishing industry. Book Country aims to be useful, egalitarian, and merit-based while fostering an atmosphere of encouragement and creativity.

Top US agent Colleen Lindsay is heading up the team at Book Country, and she already has in interest in Irish writers having signed several when she was with the Fine Print Literary Agency.

As well as spotting talent, the Book Country site also offers a convenient and affordable way to self-publish eBooks and print books. With a variety of services available, they are keen to foster new talent. Launched in 2011, Book Country is a new site already making waves in the publishing community, and as it grows, will continue to offer additional features and services for authors.

This year Book Country Penguin Group USA plucked its first author from its new electronic slush pile. The New York Times has the story:

“Ace Books, an imprint of Penguin, has signed the debut novelist Kerry Schafer to a two-book deal, only weeks after Ms. Schafer posted writing samples on Bookcountry.com, a Web site Penguin introduced in April that invites writers of genre fiction to share their work.

Penguin created Book Country as a site where aspiring authors could post their writing and receive critiques from other users — with the hope that some of the writers might be good enough to publish under the Penguin name.

One of those early users, Ms. Schafer, began posting chapters from an unpublished novel that she had written — a story of geriatric vampires in a nursing home — early in the site’s days. The chapters attracted dozens of comments from other users, but no interest from agents or editors.”

Then as the New York Times reports, it all changed, when Schafer posted a new story, “a fantasy novel about a woman named Vivian who must destroy a powerful sorceress.” Deidre Knight, a literary agent, who was browsing submissions on Book Country, told the New York Times,

“I read the first 10 pages and said, yes, she definitely needs to send to us,”

The premise of the British Arts Council backed www.YourWriteOn.com, founded in 2006, is similar, and simple: members upload opening chapters or short stories and the YouWriteOn system randomly assigns these to another member to review. You then review another member’s story excerpt – assigned to you at random – each time you want to receive a new review back in return. After 5 reviews a story enters their chart system and the highest rated writers receive free feedback each month from editors for leading publishers Orion and Random House.

Feedback can be diverse, but the experience of the site over its history has been that collective feedback from a range of reviewers helps writers to get a collective viewpoint of what works well and what needs developing in their stories. The result has been that the majority of stories are higher rated as a result of revising their writing through feedback.

As a result of developing their writing through YouWriteOn.com, and receiving feedback from leading publishing houses after being rated highly on our charts YouWriteOn Members have had many mainstream publishing successes, including a six figure book deal with Random House, & book deals with Orion, Penguin, Harper Collins and Little Brown. The Legacy, by YouWriteOn member Katherine Webb, became a Channel Four TV Book Club winner and bestseller after being discovered on YouWriteOn.com, she says “It’s taken ten years and seven completed novels, but, thanks to YouWriteOn, I have just signed a two book deal with Orion!” Our own Bob Burke found the feedback he received from YouWriteOn members formative as he was developing his Harry Pigg series, now in print with Harper Collins.

The web offers authors a massive opportunity for writers to get their work noticed, whether through sharing sites like Authonomy, Book Country and You Write On, or through posting to popular sites like Writing.ie – here our Tell Your Own Story section is open to submissions, and there will be news of more opportunities coming soon.

Make your work the best it can be and start hunting for opportunities to show off your talent!

About the author

(c) Vanessa O’Loughlin January 2012

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