Writing communities matter

A few weeks ago,  the writer’s site Authonomy.com announced that it will be closing its cyber doors. I was a member there for nearly six years and met some amazing writers in that time. It was a great place to connect with the like-minded for critique and friendship and I’m hoping we find a way to keep our community together in some meaningful way in the future.

In the meantime, I want to highlight some of Authonomy’s success stories, with the understanding that we all define success differently. These people have taken what they learned on the site and created something tangible in the real world. There’s no way to mention everyone, so consider this a sampling of the many gems the site was able to uncover.

Most Likely to Succeed

John Booth – “Authonomy was a major part of my writer’s journey. It was the place where I found people of like mind and a HC review that told me I was ready to be published. It was where I met my publisher, in that she set up a company to publish my first book, Wizards. It has sold 10,000 copies in the years since and continues to sell about 2000 copies a year. Authonomy also toughened me up. I met my first troll and had my first experience of those who will pull other people down rather than pull themselves up. If you plan to play at being a writer in the real world you need to be tough enough to deal with those sorts. Authonomy has always been about the people, and at its best it brought dozens of top class writers into the world. I shall miss the friendships and all that talent.

Last year I sold 7000 books and earned a reasonable amount of money. I published book six in the Wizards series a couple of months ago. It’s called ‘Jake’s Break‘ and I also published the first book in a new series called ‘The Heist‘. I’m hoping to release the second book any month now. So there is life after Authonomy.”

Prom Queen

Mary Vensel White – “I found authonomy in 2010, after deciding it was now or never for my writing career. After spending many years happily chasing toddlers, they went off to elementary school and I had some time to myself. I uploaded part of a finished manuscript called “The Qualities of Wood” and immediately started hanging out on the site quite a bit. Up to that point, I hadn’t had many readers of my work and I still remember the rush that would come with a complimentary review. And the sting of criticism too!

Interaction with other writers and readers helps improve your craft in leaps and bounds, and I would encourage all aspiring writers to search for some type of community. Although my experience with authonomy turned out to be what most writers coming to the site dreamed about—publishing contract, book in stores, author status—when I think of the site, I cherish the friendships and connections made and the camaraderie that has survived through everything. Don’t get me wrong, the publishing journey was great too! I still feel very fortunate for my particular role in the brief history of authonomy. My book was the first published under the imprint and I’m very proud of that.”

The Overachiever

Joshua Jacobs got an outstanding review from the HarperCollins editors and followed it up with a win on Kindle Scout.

“Since my days on authonomy, my writing experience has been a roller coaster. Several years ago, I found an agent for my novel, The Words of Adriel, but after more than a year of rejection after rejection, we went our separate ways. I began to wonder if I would ever find a publisher for my novels when I stumbled upon the Kindle Scout program on Amazon. In March, my novel, The Withering, was chosen for publication, and this summer Kindle Press published it.

The Rebel

Evangaline Jennings – “Being the internet, there were crackpots and gobshites galore on Authonomy, but there were many more helpful and knowledgeable people, happy to offer support. During my two years as an active member, I received constructive advice from three different Harper Collins editors– but the most important things I took from Authonomy were the friendships I made there and the self-confidence to take the next step.

Working with former Authonomy members Tee Tyson and Lucy Middlemass, I set up Pankhearst, a collective for (mostly) feminist writers. In the last two years, we’ve learned together by doing and we’ve worked with dozens of other writers, poets, and playwrights, and published a whole bunch of pretty decent books. The Guardian has said nice things about us and our 2014 Xmas Single was shortlisted for an award for excellence in independent publishing. Which was nice.”

Class Clown

Julie Shaw – “I joined Authonomy in 2011, and like many new writers, I believed it would be the answer to all my dreams of becoming a published author. I quickly learned that the site was actually so much more than a route to publication, and so started my long journey of self discovery as not only a real writer, but as someone who now knew that ‘marketing and selling’ a concept were as important as having a story to tell. I made lots of great friends along the way, most of whom I am still in touch with via other media, and they are always there for me, no matter what I need to rant about.

I was lucky enough to secure a three book deal with Harper Collins, two of which were best sellers, and I’m now busy meeting deadlines for a further three. It’s hard work and can be quite stressful at times, but still, I feel very privileged and believe I have the best job in the world.

Teacher’s Pet

Claire Lyman – “I discovered Authonomy in the spring of 2011, thanks to Harry Bingham’s Writers and Artists’ Guide to Getting Published. I had been working on my novel, Inevitable, for almost two years by then and it was time to start thinking about the business end of my art. Getting to the desk proved to be hard work, but  I finally made it, and got a really positive review from HarperCollins in the autumn of 2012. It was worth the wait and the effort – a really thoughtful review, pointing out what worked and what didn’t in a concise and encouraging way.

The best thing about Authonomy was that along the way, through a series of random and not so random clicks, I met some great writers online, one of whom has become a good friend. There was, at times, a great sense of community as we chatted through the various trials and tribulations of the aspiring author. I still feel a kinship with, and cheer internally for, Authonomy friends and acquaintances who get publishing deals, like, most recently Liz Tipping for Five Go Glamping. Hopefully, they will get a chance to do the same for me soon – at long last, I have an agent, and I’m hoping my third novel will be The One!

The Brain

Declan Conner – “I have learned so much from authonomy over 6 years in every aspect of the publishing industry and genre crafting and writing. I’ve also met many other authors whom I learned to trust to give solid advice. I don’t usually submit to agents, having made the decision to self-publish. I am one of those who will never forget the “not knowing” so I stuck around on the site not just for feedback on new works, but to give advice and for those who wanted to take the self-publishing route. I even set up declanconner.com which is dedicated to those who wished to self-publish, with free guides on formatting.

As for the writing, I’ve self-published a decent catalogue of thrillers. I’ve also had some of my shorts translated both into German and Portuguese. There have been some successes along the way and some disappointments, but more than anything, logging into authonomy every day was a great motivator to keep going. I for one will be sorry to see it go, not as much for me, but for those new to the craft. I’m just thankful for the apprenticeship. I’m also thankful that other writers’ sites have developed along the way for new authors. I’m also grateful that there is now a wealth of information on the Internet that wasn’t there when I first started, both for those who wish to self-publish, or who wish to follow the traditional route.”

Yearbook Staff

And then there’s me – Katie O’Rourke. I was a newbie when I joined and now I have the toughest of skins. I learned how to give critique and how to take it, how to filter the good advice from the bad, to find my own voice. I consider myself an Authonomy success story because my first publisher found me there and the community support helped give me the nerve and know-how to strike out on my own with my second novel, A Long Thaw.

That’s what our writing communities can help us do. Not only can they push us to put our work out there, they can make us better writers. And, along the way, we’re able to build friendships with people who truly get us.

Writing can be such a solitary endeavor and our writing communities are so important for keeping us inspired and challenged and sane. The Authonomy community won’t disappear when the site closes; we’ll be absorbed by the larger community of writers that exists on the internet, communities like the one we are building here at Today’s Author. Like Declan said, we’re lucky that there are so many more options for this than there were six or eight years ago. Authonomy’s class of 2015 will take what we’ve learned and spread it around.


9 thoughts on “Writing communities matter

  1. Well Done, fellow Authonomites! Good Luck and Best Wishes in your future writing endeavours. Thanks for a wonderful article, Katie. 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on The World of The Teigr Princess and commented:
    Authonomy taught me a lot about myself and a whole lot more about writing… it also showed me my greatest weakness – procrastination!

  3. Sorry to see this community go, and I only just found out about it. Wish I had known years ago. It seems that everyone benefited from a well organized site, especially if they participated generously. Katie, thanks for letting us know what can be achieved on the Internet.

  4. Quite uplifting. Colin Smith.

  5. My only regret, now that it’s gone, is that I didn’t read more…

  6. Lovely, the familiar chime of names. I shared chapters of my first novel, ‘Course of Mirrors’ on authonomy, read lots, promoted and offered feedback to other writers. An invaluable experience. I finished a sequel since. For better or worse I signed a contract for ‘Course of Mirrors’ with a small publisher in 2013 – since then it’s been a long and frustrating wait. I live in hope while working on a third book. If my novels catch on, I’ll give thanks to the brilliant concept of authonomy. I hope its core values survive. Best success to the brave who stick with their writing.

  7. Reblogged this on Caroline Batten and commented:
    Authonomy was my best procrastination method until I discovered You Tube cat videos. I learned to write, edit, critique, take critique but best of all, I made some amazing friends.

  8. Totally agree on this and I see several friends mentioned here. I joined sometime in 2006. Authonomy is where I met my first writerly friends and to the courage to post the ENTIRE novel. Great comments led to rewriting the beginning of TREE SOLDIER. It went onto win several awards after I published it myself. When things got too troll-ly, many of us migrated to FB. But Authonomy is where my writer’s journey began. So grateful to all of you.

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