One of the reasons I've not been posting for some time is that I made a strange decision recently. It was in part influenced by something I read in Writer's News magazine, and also because at the time I thought it might actually be a useful resource.
I joined www.authonomy.com, and uploaded the Harry Rhimes novel.
For those not in the know, the Authonomy site is basically a massive databased slushpile run by HarperCollins. The routine is simple:
Register your name, and then upload either several chapters or the whole thing (depending on whether or not you have a complete product to start off with.)
Upload a cover for your work/work-in-progress.
Write two pitches – one short (25 words, I think) and the other long (around 300 words – we're basically looking at the old back-cover blurb synopsis here.)
That puts you into the arena. Once you are on the database you are assigned a ranking, and your 'novel' is also assigned a ranking.
Your ranking is based on your ability to spot and comment on books which go up the chart, rather than down it.
The novel's ranking is based on the number of people/reviewers who have backed your book (put it on their bookshelf) and/or commented on it.
The further up the chart your novel progresses then the nearer you get to having your work 'critiqued' by a reader from HC.
As Rolf Harris says, “Can you see what it is yet?”
Within 10 minutes of loading up 79,500+ words, I had other members/writers such as Suzie Q, Texmex, and (so help me) Rev. Hardy, all telling me how fabulously wonderfully professionally written my novel was, and how they were backing it. Oh, and as per Authonomy netiquette, I was now supposed to back their offerings.
So I go to see Suzie Q's offering. It's incomplete, and reads like a first draft mémoire (and I strongly suspect the 'I' key on the keyboard must be the most worn of them all.)
Texmex is another incomplete offering, thankfully shorter that the Q, but if I wanted a James Bond clone I now know where to look.
Best for last, though. Rev. Hardy is on a mission from the Southern Baptist Army of God, and he takes no prisoners (despite it being Pro Life, Zero Tolerance from the first paragraph.)
Sorry, I may have been prepared to prostitute my writing self in regard to Suzie Q and Texmex, but I draw the line at the borderline Supremacist stuff. Though, on thumbing through other peoples' comments I found that both Suzie Q and TexMex thought the Reverend's upload was a 'fabulously wonderfully professionally written' book.
Meanwhile, from out of nowhere, I find my message box is now swamped by what are known as Blind Backer requests (the old 'you back mine, and I'll back yours') or disguised BBs in the form of Reading Swaps. There are also several interesting 'teams' at work – where a 'writer' asks you to back their work and then leave a message to three or four other 'readers'. These 'readers', on seeing the writer's novel on your bookshelf, will then back your book (this is disguised as Bonus Backing.)
After a couple of days I look over the comments in regard to the novel. Well believe me when I say this, but if the sun ain't shining where you are it's because my arse is pointing downwards and I'm standing up – as opposed to holding my ankles with my arse in the air.
Apart from the fact that I have always been told 'never come to market without a product to sell', most of the offerings on the site are incompletes or works in progress, and I'm left wondering if this isn't just a honey trap in order to keep unpublished writers out of the hair of agents and publishers.
As it is, I've heard nothing back from Crème de la Crime as yet – but it is still early days. I have my eye on Poison Pen Press (who are also handling Eric Mayer & Mary Gentle's historical writing) and maybe even Pill Hill (again, both over in the US – so will have to see if electronic submissions are okay.)
Then, of course, I'll be picking up an old copy of Writer's Handbook (2010 is far cheaper than the new one, and the information is virtually the same) and touting around the agents again. Who knows, maybe this time something will happen.
As it is, the second novel (Turncoat – Cheshire-based UK Police story with DI Fennick and DS Hansen – the first in a series of six-figure book deals, no doubt) has been finished and put aside for a month or so in order to let it settle. Then it will be edited properly.
Meanwhile, there is the second Harry Rhimes to get on with, plus submissions to Encounters (the Hertford Writers' Circle anthology.) Not sure what the plan is for that, but I've dropped three pieces into the pot, and the final anthology should be out in December. Printing cost around £800 for 300 copies, putting it at a break point of £4.00 per copy to absorb the freebie review and publicity copies. Should sell for £5.99 cover price – giving the seller £1.99 per unit shifted. Needless to say I shall be shamelessly plugging it around friends and family.
As they say at the vets – you have been wormed.