What’s the difference between “author” and “writer”? An author has readers. A writer doesn’t.
After five years writing my first novel Going Out In Style, I wondered how to get folks to read it without paying them or calling in favours from bookish friends or relatives. My sister described a BBC interview with an author who said that she never would have been published without www.authonomy.com. The Harper Collins UK editors who developed this site claimed they want to flush out the freshest new literature, offering writers to: “Get read, get noticed, and get published”. Authonomy.com calls itself “an online community of discovery where writers become authors”.
I registered and received a virtual bookshelf that allowed me to back five books at a time. I uploaded the required ten thousand words. The book under the pseudonym A. Zoomer could get read.
Within the week, the emotional wave of reading other writers’ comments about my book spurred me to check the site. Repeatedly. Comments like, “original… international style… good sense of the absurd…” intoxicated me. When there were no comments, I read the online books, wrote feedback, and backed them. They reciprocated. My thank-you’s gushed appreciation.
Forget writing. I was jockeying this horse race ⎯ imagining the editor’s review trophy and perhaps a publishing contract. Life online delighted me, “Just freaking fabulous. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3 million buy it. Wow!” Or not, “Readers may not be willing to get over the literary hump to become committed.” Following advice that “the novel could be great if you have a friend read it out loud to you,” I heard the clunks and edited. “Your book is like marmite ⎯ you love it or hate it,” sums up the eight hundred online reader-responses.
One Frenchman started a forum thread suggesting that my book was ‘must read and must publish.’ I was elated until he and the thread vanished into cyberspace. In another forum a US woman shared her parents’ cruise experience. I even chatted face-to-face with an authonomite at a conference. One book was removed for an investigation. A forty-eight year old Bristol woman who died of starvation in the Dominican Republic wrote the book, and I felt the strangest grief. I only knew her through her online book, Love In Paradise and her palm tree avatar. Her Swedish lover had disappeared and her family were disinherited. I can’t tell you more, that’s all the Daily Mail reported.
In insecure moments, the site was not play but a time-consuming focus group that pooled reading tastes. Harper Collins marketed their self-publishing arm, new books, and workshops to twenty thousand registered international writers/readers. Two hundred newbies joined monthly. But I had readers. And what are my other options?
If there was a downward red arrow beside my novel, it signalled I was losing ground. With the determination of a “stage mom”, I nudged online writers. Some authomonites considered this to be crossing the line from self-promotion to spam. It worked ⎯ hours of messaging coaxed some folks, turning the arrow to upward green.
While there is no substitute for good writing, I learned how to use words to market readers. Book companies snap up volumes from high-profile bloggers and promising self-publishers with existing readerships. My Facebook ‘friends’ from authonomy who know me as the scuba-diver-avatar are now part of my ‘social media platform.’
It’s my one-year anniversary and the authonomy community selected my book as one of April’s five most popular manuscripts. It is in the hands of the editorial board at Harper Collins Publishers.
Publication is possible. I fantasize that I have a shot at the shiny Nobel Prize or the ultimate interview with the new Oprah. However, the Harper Collins editor gets the last laugh. The review might say that my darkly comic tale is not commercially viable. Don’t quit your day job ⎯ nobody wants to read about death on an exit cruise.
Plan B is to self-publish Going Out In Style as an e-book and market it quoting only positive phrases from the review. Although not my dream entry into the traditional winners’ circle, I want to thank the authonomy site for launching me into this connection with creative readers/writers and providing valuable feedback.
Try surfing www.authonomy.com before the word is published in the dictionary. The definition will read something like: ‘authonomy’: noun, 1. a person or place who invents or causes writing to be published or self-promoted. And check out Going Out In Style at authonomy.com. If you are a registered user with Authonomy, you can even read my novel online.