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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.