I wanna be Popular

Earlier this week I was talking about display sites with a friend and I was asked whether they were worth the effort or not.

It’s a tough question, but I’ll try and answer as best I can.

A couple of years ago HarperCollins set up a site called Authonomy (www.authonomy.com), where writers could post their books to be read and reviewed by others. Readers could ‘vote’ for books by adding them to their shelves, and the top five books every month won a review be a HC editor.

This was a pretty big thing, and a great idea. It meant that new writers could get their work read and showcased and stand a chance of getting it seen by an editor at a Big Six publishing house.

Back in the day, when the site was pretty new, I posted half of a novel there. (An early version of ‘Worth’) that received some good feedback.

Since then then HarperCollins have launched Inkpop (www.inkpop.com) which is the same idea but geared towards YA writing. It still has the same idea of uploading and reviews, but, unfortunately, it still has the same problems.

Problems you say?

Well, yes.

Here’s the thing – both sites work by reader votes. How do you get reader votes? And that’s where the problem lies. In the past when I was on Authonomy there was a culture of trading votes and reviews. It became a popularity contest and folks on the message boards were getting uber competitive with one another. What started out as a great idea quickly turned into something else.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea is still a good idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

Although I write YA, I hadn’t made the switch to Inkpop – mainly because I got a book deal for the book I’d loaded on Authonomy, so I didn’t see the point, but primarily because I didn’t have the TIME.

And that’s a major issue. The amount of time it took in terms of networking was enough to put me off – that was time I wasn’t spending querying agents or editors, or writing the next book.

I think the big draw of the site is the chance of getting your work read by an editor. But honestly you’re chances of getting your work read by an editor are much much higher if you just query in the first place.

I’ve read a couple of comments recently that the site is used more as a tool to gauge the market, but honestly I think the book charts are clearly showing that. In addition, the boon in SP means that the market is reaction faster than ever to consumer tastes.

Since HarperCollins launched Authonomy back in 2008, there have been only a handful of books which have been published as a result. Last year saw Inkpop’s first success story with Leigh Fallon’s Carrier of the Mark getting picked up by the editor who reviewed it. (you’ll remember Fallon from this post https://clairewriteswords.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/professional-is-as-professional-does/)

In all though, and I hate to say it, I really don’t feel like it’s worth the time and effort to get your book the attention it deserves. Which is a pity because, as I said, the idea is great. I think I would feel differently about it if there were more success stories, more writers getting a publishing deal as a result of the site. But the numbers are very small.

So, what do you all think?

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