Monday, 28 July 2014

The Authonomy Relaunch: The Chart


In early August we will replace the current Authonomy.com with a brand new website. The same great community, the same passion for books and writing, but a new-and-improved platform, which we believe will help us develop and discover a greater number of exciting new authors. 

As part of this, we are changing the way the chart works. TSR’s and restrictions on how often you can change your shelf are being removed, and the hidden algorithm driving the chart is being refined, creating a more agile chart, that we hope will better reflect what you guys are reading. (Though the workings of this will still be a secret.)

Understandably, a couple of you have asked the following question:

Will this affect the current position of books?

The answer is yes, and potentially, quite a lot. 

When the new site goes live, we can expect the upper ranks of the Editor’s Desk chart to look quite different from how it currently appears. Moreover, it may take several months for the system to settle in and really represent the best of Authonomy. In order to fairly recognise the hard-work and quality of those books on the brink of reaching the Editor’s Desk and to allow the chart time to adjust, we will be doing the following: 

  • Books positioned 1 – 20 in the Editor’s Desk chart will receive a traditional Editor’s Desk review (as of 28/07/14)

  • Books positioned 21 – 30 will receive a short assessment from HarperCollins Publisher Scott Pack, via the Authonomy Editor’s account

  • The Editor’s Desk chart on the new site will be ‘frozen’ until November 1st (a 90 day countdown will apply, and the chart will be visible, but may fluctuate frequently)

We will be contacting the authors in the current top 20 by email during the course of today. Once the new chart goes live in November, the process will be the same, the top 5 books every month will be considered and reviewed by HarperCollins. 

Over the course of this week, we’ll be positing a number of blogs about the new site and how to make your profile and manuscript stand out. We’ve already begun the process of migrating all the information from the old site to the new, and you can read more about that process and how it will affect you here

It’s all very exciting.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Relaunch Countdown Begins!

It’s been a long-time coming, but the launch of the new Authonomy site is finally upon us.




As well as a redesign, on the new site you’ll find some exciting new features, such as book recommendations based on your reading tastes, the ability to announce the book you’re currently reading on your profile, an improved on-screen reader and the ability to download approved titles onto your eReader.

In the next 48 hours we’ll begin the process of moving all the information – books, profiles, covers, etc – over to the new site. There’s a lot of it, so this is going to take a couple of days. As of the end of July 23rd, content posted on authonomy.com will not automatically be added to the new site. We had the option of taking the site down entirely, but given the volatile nature of these things, we have decided it's better to keep the site live. Throughout most of the transition, Authonomy will be fully functioning, but messages, forum posts, reviews and new book postings and jackets will not be carried across. So, if you’ve got a review to share or a chapter to upload, we’d urge you to wait until the new site is ready before posting it. 

The blog will also remain live throughout the switch over, so check in to find out how everything’s going, and to get tips on how to make the most of the updated site.

We can’t thank you all enough for your patience and for putting up with this clunky old thing whilst we honed the new site. Special thanks goes to those users who completed the various surveys, interviews, and testing sessions, which were fundamental in helping us get to this stage.

Got a question about the new site? Didn't realise a rebuild was coming? Have a read of our Q&A's from earlier this year. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

One to Watch Wednesday

We’re back this week to recommend The First Cut by Layla Harding, which deals with some pretty heavy subjects in a skilled and quite original way. I whipped through the first few chapters at a great pace, immediately drawn in by damaged teenager Cam. The chatty narration is smart and realistic.

The opening chapter is very dark and not for the squeamish, but ultimately very compelling. There is something Holden Caulfield-esque about Cam, who narrates her own story. Her disdain for the people around her, whether her parents or the coffee shop ‘psuedo-intellectuals pretending to have meaningful conversations,’ and her methodical approach to self-harm, reveal a coldness that goes beyond teenage angst. Or perhaps she’s trying to convince herself she doesn't care. We see a sensitive side in her relationship with best friend Maggie, and the friendship she strikes up with a stranger, it will be interesting to see how this storyline develops, and Cam's character with it.


While some aspects of the story don’t feel fully developed, the aforementioned friendship with a stranger doesn't quite ring true as it stands, Cam is a compelling and original character, so why not take a look? Here's the pitch, which is also the opening of the book:

I started practicing suicide when I was twelve years old, and I was a devout follower.

I started practicing suicide when I was twelve years old. That’s kind of funny. It makes it sound like some sort of religion I picked up. I’m a non-practicing Catholic… I’m a practicing suicide. I guess in a way it was a religion, with its simple routines and services. I was a devout follower. I always locked my bedroom door. I don’t know why I did this. My mother never came into my room, and if my father wanted in a lock wouldn’t stop him. It never did. Then I chose my music. Something soothing but not too poignant – certainly nothing controversial. Nothing infuriated me more than when some kid blew his brains out with Marilyn or Ozzy spinning and all of a sudden it was the musician’s fault. Marilyn and Ozzy weren’t the problem. The demon lurking in the dark didn’t sing. He didn’t bite the heads off live bats or wear make-up. He just whispered.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Authonomy Rebuild – Your Questions Answered Part 2


It is time for another blog post in which we answer some of the questions that have been knocking around about the rebuild. We’ve tackled about half of the outstanding questions here and will have a go at the rest very soon.
 
Claire asked:
Any news on a go-live date?
We have been aiming for end of July but there is always the chance things could slip. We are testing the new site at the moment and we won’t launch it until we are happy that it will work. It won’t be perfect from the get go but it will evolve over time as we learn how people use it and what improvements would actually make sense for the community and also for HarperCollins. We’d rather be late and good than on time and not so good.
 
Ruby J. Taylor asked:
Are the forum threads on the preview the only ones that will be available to post on? No more general chat? No more threads unless they focus solely on writing?
 It was just a preview screenshot so didn’t show everything. There will, of course, be general chat and we don’t mind if there are off-topic threads.
 
Anonymous said:
The one commitment I would like to see is that HC reviews will be completed in one month. That way everyone can be sure Authonomy is working. If it is still felt authors have a right as to whether the review is published (I think they don't after all the tactics and skullduggery used to get to the desk) then at least have each reviewed book noted as such with an HC sign off date on-line.
We could easily get all HC reviews complete within a month but that would mean giving the books to people who were not editors. We would much rather that current HC editors read and commented on the work but, as we have said before, these people have day jobs publishing books and much as we’d love them to turn around every review in a couple of weeks we do understand why their authors will take priority (“Sorry George RR Martin, I’ve got this Authonomy manuscript to finish before I can tackle your edits”). If the overwhelming opinion on Authonomy is that speed is more important than having an editor read your work then we can revise our system but we don’t think it is. As for flagging what has been reviewed, we do not intend to do that. It is up to members to share their reviews if they choose to.
 
Lesa Clarke asked:
I would like to know more about whether the ranking system will change. Will there be an app?
The ranking system will change, yes. It will be more suited to finding publishable books rather than purely based on how popular someone is on the site, or how much cheerleading they have done for their work. There will not be an app at this stage, we’ll need more money from HarperCollins for that, but the site will be configured to be easy to access on tablets and smartphones.

Kaychristina asked:
I'm also wondering about the Word template - whether programmes most of us already have will still function, e.g. Word 7. My only gripe with that - or with how it uploads, is the way it shows up, lacking my lovingly deployed indents...Do I need this *new* Word template to fix that? (I do know about going through the entire ms, manually indenting paras... sigh.)
We’ll be perfectly honest, this is likely to be a bit annoying to start with. We want all Authonomy books to be readable on our new on-screen reader and also, if the authors choose, to be downloadable to devices. To do this we will need manuscripts to conform to some rules and templates and it is highly unlikely that all of these will come through the process looking perfect. We think it is worth putting up with some short term pain here as it will, in the long run, make it much easier for users, editors and agents to read the manuscripts.
 
Anonymous asked:
Do you have a checklist of all the specs the programmer is working with? One that compares what improvements you asked for versus what was delivered?
Of course we do. Are we going to share it with you? Nope. There were about ten supplementary questions from this particular ‘Anonymous’ but we won’t be answering them all but will try to cover as many of them as possible in answers to similar questions.
 
Last time Tonia asked:
‘Every month the MOST BACKED works get reviewed by HC editors for possibly publication.’ Most backed? Does this mean that book ranks will no longer exist and there is no ED as such?
We answered with: We will still have an Editor’s Desk chart on the site, based on a new system that we believe will help readers and editors discover the great writing on Authonomy as quickly as possible. We won’t be disclosing the specific workings of the chart, but genuine reviews, rankings and support will be as important as ever.
 
To which Tonia replied:
Didn't really answer my question. Books currently on or near the ED are not always the MOST BACKED. This seems a backward step to me.
To specifically answer your original questions. Book ranks will still exist and there will be an Editor’s Desk. Hope that is clear now. Sorry if it wasn’t before. The mechanics behind the rankings will change somewhat and if, as planned, this leads to more books being published then it will prove to be a forward step.
 
Phil Partington asked:
My apologies if you've already explained this and I missed it, but is the "shelf" algorithm going to be the same or change at all? More importantly, is the rating system going to be fixed or go away? Frankly--and it's kind of common knowledge from everyone I've interacted with on here over the years--the rating system is worthless both for feedback and for determining the quality of a novel. 
We have addressed this before but, to be clear, all of the algorithms are changing and are designed to ensure the best work rises to the top. We don’t think the current system works either.
 
Nicholas Goulding asked:
Minimum word count for upload?
There won’t be one.
 
Tonia asked:
You know what? No one has mentioned EMOTICONS! Can we please have some more interesting ones? Dance would be nice, and kiss maybe. And fix the crying one - it's been broken for at least a year.
To be honest, these are not really on our priority list. We’ll check and see what will be available in the forums but we are far more focused on making the site work as intended. We do understand that being able to express yourself through the medium of little faces in the forums is all part of the fun, and we don’t want to spoil that, but do not expect a roll out of radical new smiley faces.
 
Anonymous asked:
From our side of the screen it doesn't seem like you lot are doing very much lately. Why is the upgrade taking so long? Is it an actual improvement in the essentials, or just cosmetic? 
Well, thank you very much! The update is taking so long because the current site is pretty much completely borked and we have been setting up a new site from scratch. It is costing a significant six-figure sum and we are taking time to make sure that it works. If the changes are purely cosmetic then it will be the most expensive facelift outside of Hollywood.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

An Interview with Mary Vensel White

Today we're very excited and proud to publish The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White. Mary was the very first author to be published under the Authonomy imprint so it's quite a momentous occasion. The paperback is available now in the UK and from June 17th in the US so look out for it in a book shop near you!

We caught up with Mary when she came over to London a few weeks ago, to ask her about her experience on Authonomy and how she's adjusting to becoming a published author.


Authonomy: You’ve mentioned that, like any author, you received both positive and negative comments when you first started out on Authonomy. What advice would you give to Authonomy authors about dealing with these comments and deciding which would help develop your writing? 

Mary: I quickly realised that one of the benefits of Authonomy would be the feedback from other writers and readers. I think when you first start out, and give your work to a couple of people, anything they say that isn’t so positive, even if they’re trying to be helpful, cuts close to the heart because you’re just not used to it. One of the great things about Authonomy is that you can, if you’re a great member and you take part,  get a lot of feedback and yeah, some of it’s positive, some of it’s negative, but over time each individual comment counts for less and you’re able to see a broader picture.
Another benefit is that it really helped me with the editing process because of that. One person says something about your book, ‘I don’t think the characters are developed’, or something like that, if it repeats over and over it starts to sink in and over time you start to think, ‘Yeah, OK, maybe there’s something to this’. So I think that’s the great benefit of the site and that’s why I still use it. The offer of possibly being published is great but I think feedback was one of the big benefits for me at that stage in my career.

Authonomy: What attracted you to Authonomy in the first place? And in what ways do you think being discovered and published through Authonomy was better suited to you than a more traditional route?

Mary: I first started writing a while ago and then I took some years off, having kids, and when I came back to it, I don’t want to majorly age myself, but when I first started there wasn’t a lot of online activity. Writing is a very solitary endeavour; I think it’s just fabulous that there are things online for writers now.
I like that it was very user-friendly even at that time, several years ago. It was easy to use, easy to upload your work, it wasn’t complicated. I would say even after all my time online now I appreciate that in a website, especially now when we’re all so busy.
I liked, as I said, being able to interact with other readers and writers, that was such an eye-opener for me and such a great thing.
I certainly wouldn’t have turned down the traditional route, if I’d have had that Cinderella story at a party and an agent said ‘This is the best book ever, here’s your million dollars,’ I don’t think I would have said, ‘No, no, I’m on Authonomy’. I, of course, loved the way I was published and I’m still enjoying the whole process. Because it’s online it’s an easier way for those solitary, perhaps not outgoing people to get their work out there. I think it’s great because one thing I’ve noticed these last couple of years is that you’ve really got to have a business hat and a creative hat. I think the vast majority of writers are introverts who aren’t good at business and I’m not saying I am, it’s hard, it’s a constant struggle, so I think it’s great that there’s an opportunity for people who maybe aren’t as outgoing to get the feedback and possibly get published.

Authonomy: You mention the different ‘hats’ you need as an author – the creative one, and the business one. For authors on Authonomy, and authors in general these days, you have to do a lot of your own marketing and publicity. How have you found that?

Mary: I have this whole beg, borrow, steal approach to everything I do, except my writing (although I guess subconsciously probably in that too). I look to people who I think are doing something right and I emulate them. When I first started on Authonomy there was someone who was approaching the site in a way that I thought I wanted to approach the site and that is: be positive, don’t get in petty squabbles, be a good member, give good critiques, be thoughtful. She was doing well, and had made a lot of friends, so I thought, I’ll emulate her and see how she conducts herself. I do that with everything. When I was designing my website I looked around at author websites and saw ones that I thought were working well.
As far as business things, I’m lucky that my husband is in the corporate world. I did work in an office for a while, years back, and had a couple of women there who were mentors to me at a young age as far as how to conduct yourself in certain ways. I was very shy, my whole life, I still am I guess, but my husband is always my go-to as far as ‘what should I do in this situation’. He’s a lawyer, so, for instance, today he said, ‘I can’t believe you’re gonna wear jeans,’ and I said, ‘These aren’t lawyers! I think I’m already a little overdressed, it’s fine, it’s fine.’ So I take his advice with a grain of salt because he’s in a different world. But yeah, it doesn’t come naturally to me. I do enjoy it though, I’ve done a couple of conferences where I’ve presented and given workshops, I mean it was horrible torture, don’t get me wrong, but I also enjoyed it. That’s very surprising to me because even in college, I had a speaking class that was just awful, I thought I was going to be ill every time I got up. So to get up 20 years later and teach a class – there’s no way I would have ever thought I’d do that! So it’s been kind of nice too, though I could maybe do away with some of that stuff.

Authonomy: Was there anything that surprised you about the publishing process, or did you feel quite well prepared?

Mary: I think the positive aspects of it were surprising. I’m continually surprised by how nice it feels – and kind of surreal – that people like the book. I keep trying to think of metaphors about what it’s like but it’s not like having children, like people say ‘it’s my baby’, it’s not like that. It’s just so gratifying to have people supporting your book, it’s strange, I guess deep down you keep thinking: ‘Oh there’s been some horrible mistake’. I think that’s maybe how we all are about everything, that deep-down grain of insecurity, so to have that support is great. Seeing the early proofs of the book – that was strange, I didn’t anticipate how strange it would be! The time, the waiting, that’s hard. Everything is such a slow process but I think in some ways it’s kind of nice that I’m not getting into this at a super-young age because it’s harder to wait for things when you’re young.

Authonomy: You were saying about writing being quite an isolated process. Do you think that the build-up of putting your work out there for people to give you feedback, and already being in touch with your readers, helped it sink in that people were actually enjoying your writing and that maybe you were actually quite good at it?

Mary: Yeah … maybe I’m just an insecure person, I don’t know. There’s a political aspect to everything, so even on Authonomy if someone likes it you always think, well do they just want me to read their book? I guess you could do that with anything, it just depends what kind person you are. But again, over time you get more and more feedback, and it starts to sink in. I thought the book was good but having all that feedback, it does start to make you believe.

Authonomy: An extract of your second novel Fortress for One and your short story collection Human Stories are both available on Authonomy, do you feel it’s important to keep being involved in the site and the Authonomy community?

Mary: I do, and I wish I could do more. I have a book on my Kindle that I found on the site and asked the author if I could read the whole thing because I really liked it. I like getting the feedback, I like finding new things on there. I have a more streamlined approach to dealing with Authonomy now, which is that I have friends who are active on the site and I’ll see what they’re reading and find a lot of good things that way. And again, I keep making new contacts and new friends, so I really enjoy it. I wish I had more time to go on more often. It’s fun to use your own criteria to find new things, sometimes I’ll go and look at, say, the highest ranked literary fiction this week. I’m sure everybody’s got their own filters and ways of doing what I think the site is intended for and that’s finding things to read. I do like to still be involved, I like to hear what’s going on with people, ‘this person got a book deal’, you know, lots of people have gone on to lots of things from there so it’s nice to keep up.

Authonomy: What do feel the process of being published has taught you? And is there anything you’ll do differently for your next book?

Mary: I don’t know, it’s hard to think ahead. It was a very pleasant process. I guess, however the next book is published, I don’t know if the process would be exactly the same. Tools I could bring to a sophomore effort would be patience, taking edits with a grain of salt, staying focused and not taking things personally, and maintaining that balance between the creative and the business. Those are all things that I think can be taken to the next book. And maybe I won’t be as shocked or mortified by some of those steps! With editing, I think the longer you’re apart from the book – I wrote this book so long ago – the easier it is to take. When you first finish something, you think it’s the best thing ever and it’s very hard to hear anything about it. But over time, if things are repeated, you start to see it too. The Qualities of Wood was written so long ago, I’m pretty thick-skinned about it and able to see it objectively.

You can buy The Qualities of Wood in paperback and ebook here.

You can follow Mary on twitter @mvw888 and visit her website: http://maryvenselwhite.com/

Friday, 30 May 2014

Sign up for the HC Romance Festival


At a loss for something to do next weekend (because it doesn’t look like we’ll be spending it basking in the sun here in London!)?  

Well, look no further. HarperCollins is running a Romance Festival 7th–8th June. It’s a free digital festival for romance writers and authors and you can sign up to get involved: www.romance-festival.com

The line-up includes industry icons Jill Mansel, Barbara Freethy and Lindsay Kelk who will be hosting twitter Q&As and Google hangouts across the weekend.

Saturday 7th June is dedicated to authors – a professional development day. There will also be loads of great sessions offering advice on the industry, including:

  • Advice from top agents on how best to work with them 
  • An hourly #ScriptDoctor session on Twitter with editors 
  • A session from Fixabook on creating great book covers 
  • Social media, marketing and PR tips 
  • How to be a great book blogger 
  • Chance to win a year with an editor 
  • And much more
The day is aimed at romance authors, but all authors will certainly pick up some great tips and advice. And the event is global: everyone is welcome. To ‘attend’ the festival you simply need to register here.

And, hey, if the summer does decide to arrive, you can take your computer into the garden. 

 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Happy ebook publication day to Kat French!

This is pretty much how we look right now. We're so excited that today, Undertaking Love by Kat French is published in ebook by Avon, HarperCollins.


Can you imaging what we'll be like when the paperback publishes on 19th June?

Kat's a true home-grown talent, her writing is smart and funny and and we're so proud that Authonomy helped play a part in her journey. We really can't think of a better home for Kat than Avon, so here's to the start of a beautiful relationship!