I got an e-mail the other day from a HarperCollins representative in the U.K. He invited me to take a look at a new service they were about to launch called authonomy. I finally got a chance to review it last night and was very impressed with what I saw.
authonomy is a community site for authors, editors and anyone else interested in the publishing business. If you're an author you could use authonomy to get feedback on your manuscript and increase your visibility. The rules are pretty simple. You need to post a 10,000-word (minimum) portion of your work for review by other authonomy members. As other members read, review and rank your work it gains visibility on the site.
Publishers should love this model because it gives them an opportunity to keep an eye on a large pool of potential up-and-coming authors. HarperCollins obviously has the inside track on this, but any publisher (editor or agent) is free to create their own authonomy profile and join in the fun.
The biggest challenge a service like this will face is in creating a large enough reader/reviewer pool to give it the momentum it needs to succeed. It's sort of like the escape velocity concept in physics; you need a large enough base of participant interest to really take off, and then success seems to snowball. I'm hoping it works though and that it will become a model that can be extended into other segments (hint, hint...computer/technology books).
One final beef: All the content must be read in a browser on a computer screen. Yuck. I know it introduces a whole new level of complexity but it would be wonderful if authonomy would offer other formats and platforms (e.g., PDF, Mobi (for use on Kindles), etc.)