Now I don’t have a lot of experience with internet communities or ‘forums’ and really have only became part of this world when I discovered writing sites. But what a strange and intriguing place to be.
I believe, in particular, writing sites may (once again lack of comparison gives me nothing to work with) be more heated or dramatic than some other forums. What it has introduced me to is a whole hierarchy and roll playing experience.
I have learned about terms such as flame wars, trolls, meat and sock puppets. I have seen people argue with their own sock puppets (well at least I think so, the ability to spot people’s puppets was not a skill I mastered). Some who conceal their identity behind a nickname or puppet so as to be downright nasty. They simply use this shield as a way to be horrid. Some on the other hand add fun and mystery. Some socks are simply people who left the community as their real self and returned as someone else, they could assume either the naughty or nice guise.
But the horrid people don’t always hide behind a mask, there are many who are just naturally rude or nasty.
Then, of course, there are the trolls. This in itself is a whole other topic for another day. Seeing how a troll can change a community and the way the members react to the ‘invasion’ is an eye opener. I have definitely discovered that true colours and the persona people portray are seldom the same. This applies to all members and socks, not just the trolls. That being said, not everyone is hiding or badly behaved, good like minded ‘friends’ can be made.
There are a percentage of people who become regular forum users and they play many roles. The stirrers who could be and have been considered trolls (who may or may not be, this can’t be determined until a ‘real’ troll arrives). There are the ‘popular kids’ and the flirtatious. The intimidators and bullies. The ‘serious’ writers who don’t like the games. The friendly and witty. There are cliques and mean girls, it’s like high school. Each person assumes a position within the community and plays it, either purposely or because of who they are, good or bad.
As a writer (who wanted to be taken seriously) I needed to maintain a certain dignity, a reputation, protect my ‘name’ so I tried to avoid issues or subjects that would upset me or were drama oriented. I did it successfully, well, mostly. I, on occasion, took threads far too seriously and became too upset. This again is whole other story. Caution is to be exercised, being wary of whom to ‘trust’, these are important things to remember.
So basically the forum can be fun, interesting and fiery. There are many great topics on writing and help with agents, queries and publishers. Great advice and lessons can be learned, once again good or bad. But you can waste copious amounts of time there, this alone isn’t always good. Writing, reviewing, editing, any other useful activities can fall by the wayside when the forum addiction takes over. I, luckily, have backed away, managed to disallow the intrigue and drama to continue to pull me in. I still visit but not quite as much. I have learned to log off and walk away.
My final words of advice, if you join an online community and participate in the forum, it would perhaps be better if you use a nickname or at least have a separate sock puppet.
The words all writers will have to become used to are ‘sorry this isn’t for me’ or ‘I didn’t feel strongly enough about your story’ or ‘your project is not fit for us at this time’ or any other standard form rejection letter, well email actually.
I have received dozens of these so far. I have also received the more personalised letters which at least give some indication as to why you are being passed over. I have yet to be asked for a partial from an agent from a query. I came very close with one agent who after reading a partial (they accept partials from everyone) wanted to see a full. BUT after reading it and loving the story said ‘I’m not quite there’. After a back and forth she asked to read partials of my other completed MS. Unfortunately it didn’t pan out. I did receive some valuable feedback on both occasions but they also offered their ‘editing and mentoring’ services at a cost so as it turns out they were probably after my money. This, I have since heard, is a common way for some agents to 'scam'. Agents should only be paid when you are.
I have since been asked by a small trade romance publishing house for a partial and a full (of two different sub genres by two different editors) from a full synopsis. The full was for The Mystic Garden and although I received a rejection, they also gave me reasons WHY. As this doesn’t happen very often, I rejoiced. Now I know why this is happening and how I could perhaps polish my writing.
The partial was for Spoilt and although once again I wasn’t offered the elusive contract, I was given valuable advice and if I fined tuned following these suggestions I could re-submit. At first I was disappointed, yes you like my story BUT once again with work you might take it. Was this like the agent all over again? After thinking about it and receiving encouraging words from a fellow writer that this was a GOOD rejection, I now begin my revisions.
At the moment though I’ve hit the wall and can see exactly what I NEED to do but am having trouble working out exact how and where to. So I will let it brew for a while as I wait for my HC review. Perhaps more light can be shed on where I need to add more sensory details.
I think the hardest thing to get my head around is the business is subjective. Readers are subjective. What I like another reader may not. Whilst on authonomy I discovered many people who enjoyed Spoilt and would probably be my target audience, so much so that they read the entire posted chapters and emailed me for the rest. I am getting to some readers and this in itself is a great feeling. If only the powers that be would see it this way. What I can get from this? People do like my stories, my ‘voice, I now have to fine tune the writing. This is proving to be a challenge but one I am willing to take head on.
More on my re-submission soon. In the meantime, keep writing and keep submitting.
When we arrive at authonomy we have high hopes. I will be discovered for my genius. At first this realisation seems a reality. You climb up the ranks with rapid speed and think wow I really can write!
Weeks pass and the comments and backings slow down. Now I have to find reads rather than return them but if I want to reach the top five and the desk, this is the only way.
And so it begins. The return rate is maybe two or three in five, if you’re lucky. Some people still seek you out first but it isn’t as often.
Spam becomes a dirty word. No-one should spam their way to the desk, there is no integrity in spam. It is marketing. Lots and lots of marketing. Click, copy, paste, repeat. I am proud to say I went almost seven months without having to do this and I really wish I didn’t have to. Coming up with ‘creative’ spam or something to stand out is difficult. I changed mine constantly. The return rate here is also fairly low.
I digress, the upside to reading lots of openings is finding the diamond in the rough, the ones that you would pay good money for and I found many of these. HC really don’t know what they have at authonomy. There is a potential goldmine for publishing. A whole e-publishing enterprise would be the way to go. Have each MS for sale, see how it sells, and use this as a potential marketing tool instead of spam. Let the work speak for itself.
The other upside to reading and reviewing is, by helping others you are helping yourself. Passing on what I learnt to others and leaving honest advice and comments aided my learning. What I saw in others, I then saw in my own work and was able to improve.
The other bug bear on authonomy forums besides spamming is the quality of books reaching the desk. It is all about marketing and reading lots of books. Be that as it may, I don’t believe a poorly written book will rise the entire way. It will get to a certain point and either stall or be torn apart by other members then the writer will probably leave.
It needs to have some quality to receive the number of backings required to reach the desk. Quality alone won’t get you there, being active with quality helps. I realise this sounds as though, because I reached the desk I believe my book is quality, it might be, it might not but it appealed to enough to get there. Spamming for votes got it over the last hump.
I received a lot of helpful comments on my journey, some really helped me get Spoilt from the dogs breakfast that is was, to what it is now. Helpful, constructive comments without malice while ignoring subjective views, become the valuable ones. The comment that may sting but will make you think, yes that really isn’t right are the ones that help. Some just preach the rules without any idea of how they are actually to be used. These aren’t always helpful.
It is mostly smooth sailing until the top 100, and then it starts to become difficult. I climbed fairly steadily and quickly to this point but after this, it became tough. Though I am proud to say until the last two months of my trip up the authonomy charts I read five a day every day. Yes I backed everything I read but I did also choose the books I knew I would probably enjoy.
Some would say this is no better than offering backings for free, or other such ‘tactics’ and it probably isn’t but if I didn’t like the pitch or opening paragraph I would slink away. I know this may not have been helpful to the writer but I would not have been able to offer them much. I don’t like this because I don’t like literary fiction, comedy (insert least desirable genre here) so how could I offer anything. I know nothing about writing as a craft. I don’t read this genre, what could I offer? A backing but then would I get the return? It is always about the return.
Finally after reaching the top 30, I bounced up and down and encountered my first red arrow. Shock horror! This was tough, never moving, going down not up. I went on holiday for a week twice during my time and suffered because of it. This is how the game works. Every day you must stick with the task, be diligent. A week of no or little reading hurts, sets you back a month at best. Thus, the game of authonomy.
I however cannot complain. I now have my gold star and in about a month I will receive my review. I have no illusions that I will be snapped up and be their next discovery but I do hope I can learn something from an editor from a large publishing house. Many writers who have received gold stars have used this for marketing purposes and many have been successful in obtaining an agent. I hope to be able to say the same.
In the meantime I find tune Spoilt for a re-submit but again I digress.
What I have learnt and obtained from authonomy? The people, the forums are a laugh. The fun, the flirtations, the humour, drama and flame wars. Interesting fodder in itself. This is without going into socks and trolls. This could take a whole blog in itself, forum life.
So friends or at least like minded people who live in the computer have been worth the hard work. The excellent advice about my work and querying. The resources from websites about agents and hearing the success stories. Learning the art of writing. These are valuable lessons.
The top five was its own event in itself, I started at one an felt fine. After a big lot of spamming whilst hanging on at ten, I shot up to six and held onto seven as the month ticked over. I then held first place for two and a half weeks and I can tell you it stroked the ego. But I got complacent. Stopped spamming. Big mistake. Reading and spamming became my life as I slipped down the ranks and for one nervous moment in the last week I slipped out the five. But I sold my soul and whored myself out and held on to fourth position. I now have my star.
Next comes the review but that is for another blog, another day. I am also a glutton for punishment and posted another book but all for the comments though, of course.