About authonomy, the changing face of publishing and authonomy’s first published novel

Today’s guest post is all about authonomyTM, a writing community site for writers, readers and publishers, conceived and developed by book editors at HarperCollins. The idea stems from a desire to find the brightest, freshest new literature around and (for an unpublished writer) authonomy is ‘the place to show  your writing on the web’.

And, today, authonomy’s Digital Project Editor – aka ‘the fabulous lass that runs authonomy’ – Rachel Faulkner is talking about the changing face of publishing and authonomy’s first published novel, Mary Vensel White’s (very brilliant), ‘The Qualities of Wood’ (and I’ve 3 COPIES to give away at the end of this post…):

People talk a lot these days about the various negative changes going on in book publishing: lists are getting narrower, the market’s getting tougher, and hardly anyone gets taken out for wine-laden lunches anymore. What is less regularly acknowledged is that digital publishing is an exciting antidote to many of the challenges facing the industry. It’s good for publishers, because they no longer rely quite so much on traditional retail support, and it’s great for consumers, who can now get their hands on almost anything they can imagine without having to leave their house, or even change out of their pyjamas.

To capitalise on this, earlier this year we launched HarperCollins UK’s first digital only imprint with the publication of Mary Vensel White’s novel, ‘The Qualities of Wood’. Since then HarperCollins has launched several others (including this one for erotic fiction, discussions of which are guaranteed to spice up an internal meeting). But why publish Mary’s book as an e-book original? And why choose her novel to launch a digital list? Pretty basic really, it’s a truly good book.

The Qualities of Wood’ caught attention thanks to our online writing community authonomy – indeed, the imprint under which ‘Qualities’ is published is to be dedicated to the crème de la crème of authonomy authors. The novel follows the story of a young married couple, Vivian and Nowell, who take a break from city life to prepare the house of Nowell’s late Grandmother for sale. Nowell leaves first to begin work on his second mystery novel, and by the time Vivian joins him, a real mystery has begun: a local girl has been found dead in the woods behind the house. The death is ruled an accident, but even after this Vivian can’t forget the girl, can’t ignore the strange behaviour of her neighbours, or her husband.

After being ‘voted’ to the top of the authonomy chart by the community, Mary’s manuscript reached the desk of Scott Pack, publisher at The Friday Project of writers such as Andrew Kaufman, and, of course, Caroline Smailes. Scott liked the book a lot, and gave it a rave review, but didn’t feel it was right for his particular list. The manuscript then made its way around various other departments, to largely the same response: great writing, nice concept, difficult market, no thanks. As sadly is not unheard of, a good book was passed over because of the challenges of launching an unknown author into a difficult market.

So, when the decision was made to start an authonomy imprint, Mary’s novel was an obvious choice to publish – and not only because it meant we could take on a book we were unable to place traditionally, but because ‘The Qualities of Wood’ is a great reflection of the quality of some of the manuscripts on authonomy.  Authonomy is a website for aspiring authors that is currently home to more than 11,000 titles.  Given that it’s an open platform, some of these titles are naturally going to be a little – er – rough around the edges, but some of them are great. There are more than a handful of brilliant titles –bestsellers-in-the-making – just waiting to be discovered, and ‘The Qualities of Wood’ is testament to that.


I rarely read eBooks, but I made an exception for ‘The Qualities of Wood’. I found it haunting, delicate and utterly controlled. I thought it truly beautiful. I loved the use of gossip and rumour and legend that threaded through the narrative, making ‘Qualities’, very much, my kind of novel. I savoured, I slowed down my reading, I absorbed. ‘The Qualities of Wood’ is a strong and convincing debut and Mary Vensel White is one to watch.

And, I have 3 COPIES of ‘The Qualities of Wood’ (epubs and/or kindle files) to give away. Simply leave a ‘please pick me’ comment by 3pm (GMT) April 27, then I’ll pop all names in a mug and ask a small child to select 3 winners. This competition is open to all.

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  • Averill Buchanan
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Pick me – pretty please.

  • Thomas Smith
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    pick me!!!!! (please)

  • Posted April 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    pick me! As I’ve been telling everyone @ college about 99 reasons why & they all said how lovely u r 4 answering my questions x

  • tracee
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    please pick me ….. thank you

  • Deb Thompson
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    please pick me <3 <3 <3

  • Posted April 24, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Please – put my name in the mug!

  • Diane Muir
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Would love to try this! Please. Please PICK ME!
    Thank you

  • Posted April 24, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Pick me please lovely Caroline.

  • Posted April 24, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I’d love a copy of ‘the Qualities of Wood’. Thank you for the opportunity to acquire one.

  • Posted April 24, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Sounds fab. Pick me!

  • Posted April 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I would like to read this. I remember flicking across it on Authonony, it’ll be interesting to see what’s changed, developed since then. So … pick me .. go on. :^D

    • Posted May 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      Hello! You’re a winner – let me know if you want a mobi or epub copy, please x

  • Posted April 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Yes please. Please pick me.

    Lots of coincidences this week. I’ve been looking at the Authonomy site this week, wondering what the +ve and -ve were. Looks all good for Mary Vensel White.

    • Posted May 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Hi! You’re a winner – let me know if you want a mobi or epub copy, please x

      • Posted May 10, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

        Yey! Thank you.

        I’m not actually sure which one. I have a Kindle so would I need the mobi copy?

        • Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

          Can you message/email me so that I can email your copy to you? Thank you x

          • Posted May 12, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

            Hopefully you received my email yesterday.

  • Kaychristina Fenton
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    Please pick me, Caroline! If not… one of yours would be very welcome.xx

    An added incentive for all writers to read the wonderful *Qualities of Wood*, is that Mary’s next novel *Fortress for One*, will be the one, I think, to lift her on to the world’s literary map. It has a voice that is truly spellbinding.

    A small excerpt is on Authonomy – books/31268/fortress-for-one/ I am still thinking about a suitably gushing comment to leave for Mary!

  • Posted April 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting post. The question is whether or not authonomy (and Harper Collins) will have the will to continue with thge digitsal imprint, and if enough works of quality will come out of authonomy. Add to that the fact that more and more publishers are going down the authonomy writers’ community route. R

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