I doubt that the possibility of getting ripped off is that high. And probably most publishers won’t mind your exposing your work through such a service.
1. Just as in the offline world, odds aren’t that great that your manuscript will be plugged into a publisher’s formal evaluation process.
2. Would you be better off spending the time instead on actual writing—rather than networking to improve your rankings or find more helpful evaluators? Or perhaps attend local writing workshops?
3. Is this the best readership around which to build a following? Writers aren’t typical readers.
Along the way, in reviewing Authonomy, Strauss also lists other sites allowing writers to bypass or at least expedite the traditional submission process.
Some advantages over traditional submissions
Keep in mind that traditional manuscript selection, too, relies on networking. And I don’t just mean agents. Writers workshop with "readings" included may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to attend, at least with expenses considered. More than ever, in today’s book industry, the well-off come out ahead.
So from that perspective, a free service like Authonomy has its definite attractions as a leveler in the best way.
With its potential efficiencies, this method might help improve the quality of e-books published with small audiences in mind. Even small houses are swamped with submissions, and even large houses lack the resources to cope with the deluge. Here’s to anything that can potentially help the better manuscripts rise to the top!
If I were HarperCollins, then, I’d persist. Maybe Authonomy can use randomly chosen readers (with relevant interests, etc.) and other approaches to reduce the networking factor and increase the merit factor.
Also I’d recommend that HarperCollins actually link from its regular sites to expose the newbies’ works to non-authors, a species still alive and well even in this read-write era.
In addition, HarperCollins might want to experiment with some crowd-sourcing of editorial selections within its core publishing operation. No, I’m not calling for this to replace traditional editors, just augment them. Think of all the masterpieces that would never have reached print with crowd-sourcing as the only approach.
On the name: Yes, I get the wordplay but hate the word just the same. Also, I’d prefer that authonomy use the upper case, as I have here. I want proper nouns to stand out.