Monday, January 12, 2015


I recently put my novel MEMORABLE up on Authonomy, a share site hosted by HarperCollins where authors can post their books to receive feedback from readers and have a shot at getting noticed. After I posted it, one of my friends, who has asked to remain anonymous, gave me some useful advice that I thought might be helpful to some of you interested in the site as well.

In truth, after reading her advice, I've decided to take my book down for the simple reason that I don't have time to read a lot of other people's books (outside of my job with the magazine) nor am I interested in playing a game of favoritism. But in case any of you want a chance to read my book for free, I will leave it up for another week or two. Thanks!

1.  Upload the best book you can present. In general I would tell any participant, clean up absolutely as many typos and little picky mistakes you (and a couple trusted reviewers) can find before putting up any part of it. And don't just write blindly and throw it up there. Learn a little about the craft first. The book doesn't have to be publication ready in order for you to get something valuable out of the site, but take pride in it anyway. Put your best foot forward as a writer.

2.  Be humble. Approach the site as a learning opportunity, not a way to get a publishing contract. Ask for constructive feedback and take it gracefully, applying the best of it to your work with the idea of making the story better. ALWAYS respond to any reviews you receive with gratitude and a willingness to make changes, even if all you can say is, "I'm going to give your suggestions some serious thought before deciding which way to go." Then go in and MAKE your changes as soon as possible, so that you don't come across as only paying the reviewer lip service. I might even go so far as to let the reviewer know what I changed according to their advice and if appropriate invite them to take another look at that section to see if it works better for them now. I don't get the impression that many members go this far. To my mind, however, it serves to validate the contribution of the reviewer and lets them feel that you think they are really helping you. Which, if you follow my personal Golden Rule—Sincerely CARE About People—they are. Because you have taken these extra steps, no one can accuse you of being disingenuous. Furthermore remember, do not take the critique personally. If the reviewer is doing his or her job right, then this is not about YOU. It's about what someone thinks you might do to make your story better. You don't have to listen to that person, but don't shoot the messenger.

3.  Support others. Take the time to read and review as many books (or excerpts) as you can, offering positive comments first and then gently suggesting where you think something might be improved. Keep your comments professional and impartial. Remember to critique the book, not the author. Do not expect a response. Give freely and expect nothing in return. That way you avoid feeling like someone owes you something, which breeds resentment.

4. Network. Create a genuine positive presence on the site by participating per #3 but more importantly, become active on the forums. That is how you make real connections with people who will then want to support you. Notice I did not say "support your book". That actually seems a secondary motivation for many members. The proof is that, at least before the revamp, the books that made it to the Editor's Desk were not necessarily the best the site had to offer at that moment, nor it would seem did the review process do enough to eliminate major flaws within some of the manuscripts that made it to the top. So one must conclude that ultimately this is (or was) a popularity contest to some extent. How does a person become "popular"? By applying 1-3, and also by Playing Nice on the forums, such that people come to respect and support you and therefore your work. Again, my Golden Rule is critical here. It's easy to get people to care about you when you Sincerely Care About Them. (And likely, since you actually CARE about people, you will enjoy the contacts, if nothing else.) And of course, the reverse is true. One can ruin one's chances by earning a reputation as an arrogant a**. And finally, remember to respond professionally, with grace and courtesy, ALWAYS. Once an online reputation is tarnished, it's hard to get back the golden one.

5.  Don't allow Puppets. A "sock puppet" is strictly in violation of the rules. It means this: A participant is not supposed to have more than one account. Some people apparently sign on with different names and then promote their own book "anonymously". A "meat puppet" is not against the rules; right in their FAQs (unless they have changed them with this revamp) Authonomy encourages members to invite friends and family to sign on and support their book, but DON'T. It's tempting to have people you know create an account, put only your book on their shelf and give you a high star ranking. Then nine times out of ten these people sign off, never to return. They don't participate in the site at all. They are only there to support YOUR book, and no one else's. The community does not respect that. And really, if someone just creates an account to put your book on their shelf and never comes back, that does you little good anyway. For the most part, stick with earning real support the long and tedious way from active Authonomy members. 

6.  Don't invest your time and energy with the hope or expectation that Authonomy will publish your book. Use it as a learning experience and a way to get feedback to make your work better. If anything else comes of it, BONUS!

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