Down for the count: My reaction to the recent authonomy kerfuffle

That’s right, I’m feeling a bit let down tonight.  See, I’ve taken my work down from authonomy.  The fit hit the shan late this afternoon (or at least that’s when it hit my attention, anyway) and after much reading and much soul-searching, I decided that this was the right thing for me to do.

What could have prompted such a decision?  The story of Carl Ashmore, author of The Time Hunters.  The book was up on authonomy a few years ago and reached the Editor’s Desk (if you’re unfamiliar with authonomy, the top five books each month make the desk and receive a review from a HarperCollins editor).  The review was good, stating that the book had “…terrific potential.

You can read all about it here and here.  Suffice it to say, Mr. Ashmore published his novel and it began to sell well and now all of a sudden, there’s a new series called Time Hunters being released by HarperCollins that is eerily similar to Mr. Ashmore’s work.  Anyway, check out the links above for the full scoop.

I’ve not heard anything about HC’s side of this story, but I am interested in hearing it.  I’m going on the assumption that Mr. Ashmore is telling the truth because after all, what would dishonesty get him?  A lawsuit, and likely a nasty one.  This whole thing has left me feeling a bit disillusioned with sites like authonomy because, if we can’t trust the proprietors of such sites to be honest and forthright with authors, especially when such proprietors are major publishing houses, who can we trust?

Perhaps this is all very naïve on my part.  If that’s what you’re thinking, then here’s my response: This is why I want an agent.  To help me navigate such potential landmines with my career, my sanity, and my rights more or less intact.  It saddened me to delete my books from autho, a site on which I’ve happily wiled away many an hour over the last three years.  I’ve gained so much knowledge and insight into writing there, and my books are better for it.

But as the old saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  So I will likely not be putting my work up elsewhere for people to see, except for maybe a tidbit here on occasion (yes, that means I’ve made my Chapter 1 excerpt page here private as well).

There is always a risk when you post something on the internet; it is the nature of the beast.  Once it’s out in the open, you can’t take it back, no matter how much you might one day want to.  As of this moment, I have no complaints about authonomy (other than the usual complaints about the speed of the site, the frequent error messages, etc. that are familiar complaints to all regular users) and a quick – very quick – Google search has given me no reason to fear, either.  But that does not absolve me from my duty to be vigilant and protect my work, which is why I’ve taken it down.

Authonomy users appear to be retiring their accounts en masse, or so I’ve read.  A lot of books have disappeared from shelves.  Not a very auspicious start to autho’s big site redesign.  I’ve left my account active because I still enjoy the fora, or at least I enjoy the Alliance of Worldbuilders thread – it’s the only one I venture onto anymore.  I can only hope now that the authonomy powers that be will honor their word and not keep a copy of what I had posted on their server.

I hope one day that I’ll be able to say that if you really want to read my work, you can buy it at such-and-such retailer and then post the appropriate link.  Oh, wait – I can!  If you’re just dying to read some haiku about picnic lunches and harvest moons, then check out Tuesday Daydreams: A Journal in Verse.  But if it’s my fantasy work you’re lusting after, I’m afraid you’ve got a while longer to wait.

(c) 2013.  All rights reserved.

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38 thoughts on “Down for the count: My reaction to the recent authonomy kerfuffle

  1. Sophie E Tallis says:

    I am utterly speechless that HC have done this. Totally shocking! The contempt HC have shown towards indie and self-published writers by doing something so inherently immoral and underhand, is just astounding and very very worrying. My heart goes out to Carl Ashmore, I hope he gets the resolution on this that he deserves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      So am I, Sophie. I am still stunned – it actually kept me up last night. I sincerely hope there is something Mr. Ashmore can do about this because it really infuriates me when something so obviously morally wrong happens to someone and they have no legal recourse.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie E Tallis says:

        I know! I heard some people saying there’s nothing he can do, but I refuse to believe that. He is the moral and legal owner of his work, they have infringed his copyright and stolen from him, he must be able to sue! Dreadful situation. I may say, I am considering taking my book down too, I’ve only got the minimum 10,000 words up, but I’m not sure how safe any of it is. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kay Kauffman says:

          And if not them specifically, then someone, certainly! The whole thing really is dreadful and it really does make one question the safety of the whole business. I mean, Rachel had a point in her forum post when she said that “…you have to put yourself out there and take risks to be discovered…”, but this is really pushing it.

          Besides, on a site like authonomy, the risk was supposed to be from other site users (meaning authors), not site staff, for lack of a better word (meaning HC employees).

          Have you seen her response? The part that bothered me the most was this: “In this instance, whatever the reality, the risk was no different from any author sending a manuscript out to agents and editors.” This really is terrible because, as someone else pointed out (I forget where now – I’m exhausted and I’ve read so many threads on this subject today that I can no longer keep straight what I read where and, at any rate, I’m paraphrasing anyway) earlier, when you submit something to an agent or editor, it crosses one or two desks, not the whole freaking internet. The chances of your work landing in unscrupulous hands during the submission process is therefore much smaller than it is when you’re putting it on display for the whole wide world to see.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Kay Kauffman says:

            I didn’t realize you still had White Mountain up there! I’m still sad about not having anything up there. My profile page looks so bare with no books listed! And I do wonder if maybe I overreacted a bit but since the only place I’ve been very active lately is the AWB thread and neither of my public books were getting any crits, I think I’ll leave them down for now. Maybe things will be better after the site redesign? Maybe it really is all a big coincidence? I don’t know.

            Like

          • Sophie E Tallis says:

            Well I’ve made it private but by doing it, it knocked it off the 10 bookshelves it was on and now it says 0! So I may as well take it down completely. I noticed Sam;s & TRM:s are still there and a few others but lots of people have taken them down. It’s all very very sad and very worrying! 😦

            Like

          • Kay Kauffman says:

            I had a lovely long comment almost entirely typed out and then my thumb brushed the touchpad on my laptop and deleted it. I hate when that happens. *sigh* It’s been one of those days – it started with computer problems and ended with me getting off work forty minutes late. Why not delete a well-thought-out comment while I’m at it?

            Okay, enough whining – let’s see if I can reconstruct this. 🙂 I keep hoping someone will post something somewhere like on the blog or in the authoright newsletter, even though I know better (and by someone, I mean someone like Rachel or Scott or someone who knows something and can tell us all something definitive about what’s going on). I know it won’t happen, at least not until everything is all settled and the furor has died down, but I keep hoping anyway because I’m a trusting person by nature and I don’t like feeling suspicious. I hate feeling that I can’t trust the people at autho and HC. I feel I should be able to. Maybe that’s not how the world works and maybe I am just being naive, but that’s how I feel.

            Like you said, it’s very, very sad and very worrying. I know my work needs a ton more work, so I think maybe it’s better that it’s not up anymore, especially since I don’t really have the time right now to devote to doing crits the way I was doing when I first joined the site (or rather, I haven’t been making the time because I’ve been using my finite free time to write). And there are a couple of contests coming up that I want to have my revisions completed in time for, so maybe this will help give me the kick in the pants I need? I dunno. It’s almost midnight here and I’m on the verge of collapse, so I’m probably not making any sense anymore.

            Like

          • Sophie E Tallis says:

            Lol, well it’s comforting in a strange way to know I’m not the only one that does that. My response was MUCH longer than the one I gave but I lost it seconds before I could send it and remember what I said then!!! No, I hate making my book private and the thought of having to take it down. I don’t know what to think of it all. It’s just deeply disappointing to say the least and really shows that the powers at be, hold us in pretty low regard. 😦

            Like

          • Kay Kauffman says:

            You’re definitely not the only one with tech issues! I have them all the time – Seymour can’t understand how my coworker thinks I’m a tech genius (and for that matter, neither can I).

            I really hope there’ll be a quick resolution to all this. And I hope that everyone will come out feeling satisfied, even though I rather doubt that’ll happen. This is just such a rotten situation. For everyone.

            Like

  2. Jane Dougherty says:

    I took my books down a long time ago, and I’m very glad I did. The plagiarism aspect bothered me then, but from the point of view of other Autho users, not HC itself! When they have such a wealth of books submitted honestly through agents you’d think they’d find enough good stuff to pay for honestly. And if they can’t, there’s nothing stopping them taking unagented submissions too. I hope they get hauled over the very hot coals for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Exactly! At one point, I had almost the whole of The Lokana Chronicles uploaded before I got wildly nervous and took down all but the bare minimum, but I was far more worried about other autho users (sorry, guys) or random site perusers than HC. It never occurred to me to worry that HC might scrape my stuff.

      Even if this is truly an outrageous coincidence, it’s apparently not the first time their ethics have been called into question over something like this, which makes me really wonder if they’re as trustworthy as they claim to be. I think they underestimate how powerful the court of public opinion can be, whether that court be right or wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tricia Drammeh says:

    Any work on the internet is at risk. I ran a Kindle freebie on my self-published book and later discovered it was pirated on a few different sites. What worries me is that Harper Collins, instead of publishing an original series that had good potential, hired a ghost writer. If you do a bit of looking on the internet, you’ll see Harper Collins has a website boasting playing cards and a board game for this series. Perhaps they saw enormous marketing potential and didn’t want to share subsidiary rights with Carl. But, of course this is only speculation. Until Harper Collins speaks out, that’s all we can do is speculate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Agreed, which is why I’ve made my first chapter here private. There’s been some discussion on autho (you can find the thread here, if you’re interested) about whether or not people should pull their books from the site, but it’s too late for me, and I’m not putting them back up, at least not there.

      I’ve got my poetry book up on Amazon and had considered doing the free promotion thing till I read about your piracy problem. But this is so much different than a random pirate, and much more infuriating, maddening as those other pirates are, if in fact that’s what happened. The response I saw from Rachel on the autho thread danced around the topic and I’m sure she was advised to do just that, but still, as an author, it’s frustrating to want answers and not be able to get them.

      Like

  4. Jamie Alluisi says:

    That is absolutely insane! It is horrible what happens to some out there. Have you thought of going with a small publishing company? I just signed with Silver Tongue Press, and love it. You can look at their website and see if working with them would be something you like. http://www.silvertonguepress.com I hope you find what you are looking for in an author, and don’t give up writing just because some people are stupid. Best of luck.

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      I have actually considered small presses! Thank you very much for the recommendation. I’m not having any luck going the agent route and am considering submitting to another small press, but I think I need to do a lot more revision (again…ugh…) first. Either that, or just scrap my first book altogether. Remnants, my second book, seems to be much better than its prequel already, and I am my own worst critic, so it’s something for me to say that. (Note that I’m still not saying it’s great, just that it’s better. ;))

      Thanks, too, for the support! I don’t intend to give up writing. But I do think I’m going to be even more paranoid than I was already about what I post and where from now on.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      This was something new for me, and very disheartening (and disillusioning, and probably a few other dis- words that I’m too tired to think up right now, too). Of all the people I worried about stealing my work from autho, HC were never the ones I’d have expected to do it! (If, of course, that’s what happened. But right now, they look awfully guilty.)

      Like

  5. *tara says:

    Pretty sad and frustrating for that author. How terrible that in the end, the very people who seemed to be supporting and praising him were the ones who allowed this to happen.

    Like

  6. Tracy C. Anderson says:

    I removed my book today as well. Then HC sent me an e-mail wanting to know why I sent them this:

    And for good I might add! The people there are so snooty that they have removed all merit in your sight as far as I am concerned.

    T. C. Anderson. (Odd Dwellers)

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      I haven’t been on in a long time, but I still have a profile there. I mostly just hang out in the Alliance of Worldbuilders forum thread – it’s the nicest place there! I’ve made lots of great writer friends there over the last few years, so I’m glad I joined.

      Is Odd Dwellers your book? What’s it about?

      Like

      • Tracy C. Anderson says:

        Hellow, Kay,
        Thank you for your interest in my book. I have pasted my Authonomy book pitch below:

        Odd Dwellers is a modern Sci-Fi thriller, offering a stimulating mix of characters. While some are driven by greed, others only desire to outlast a deadly alien nightmare.
        Allen Ryan and his wife Sharon are enjoying a relaxing camping trip when they are beset upon by an enigmatic military security force in the middle of nowhere. After being held at a remote government compound they soon learn that escape holds their only hope for survival.
        The staff at this complex has fallen prey to an alien consciousness. Blind avarice compels most of them to be unaware of the hazardous dangers surrounding both the “DWELLERS” and the alien consciousness that have inhabited an orbiting satellite.
        Several individuals are caught up in the violence and destruction leading up to a major event. Site supervisor, John Sperry forces his will upon those around him in an attempt to profit individually from the physical transport of a savage creature to the surface of the planet.
        Through teamwork and resourcefulness the innocent battle for their lives against an enemy that has never before been encountered by man, an enemy that has never before been a natural inhabitant of Planet Earth.

        You can read the first portion of the e-book on Amazon.

        Tracy Anderson.

        Like

  7. Marion Stein says:

    It’s awful that this happened. However, the problem may not be limited to authonomy and I’m not sure that having an agent would help. I was on authonomy years ago and recall a young author who wrote a terrific novella telling me of her disappointment when a major house picked up a very similar story. (Can’t remember if it was HC or not, but it was sickening). The fact is ANYONE could have seen that story on Authonomy and then years later written something similar with or without conscious knowledge of what happened. It’s unlikely that whatever intern writes their reviews for the site said to a client — write me a series based on this. If they did, they probably would have changed the name — for propriety’s sake — as titles aren’t copyrightable. The same thing could happen if you submit to an agent. The agent thinks it’s promising but can’t use it. A year later one of her clients writes something with a similar premise. Coincidence? Something in the air? Or nefarious plot? Who can say? But we all live with the danger. If the — original — Time Hunter writer actually published his work (even SP) that’s probably at least some evidence if he sues, but things like this take years especially if it’s about the idea and the plot and not specific chunks of prose. As for me, this is one reason I’m off Authonomy and would be careful even about submitting my work.

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      It really is a tricky issue, and I haven’t heard anything about it since the original firestorm. You’re right that as writers, we all live with the danger of our ideas being lifted, and you do make some good points about what may have happened.

      I know I said when I posted this that I would probably not put up anymore work on autho or other sites of its ilk, but in the months since then, I’ve waffled on the issue. I haven’t decided if reposting my work there is something I’d like to do or not because while it was up there, I gained a lot of useful critique. Thanks to my time there, I’ve made friends with many wonderful authors whom I trust, and who could possibly take the place of what I found on authonomy. So when I finish my revisions (again), I may not post them up there for all to see.

      As for caution in submitting my work? That’s something I’m not so sure about. I mean, no risk = no reward, right? If I don’t send my work out to agents (or eventually small presses if I fail to find representation), how will I know whether or not my work is something they would love to sign? My dream is to be a published author with a long career, and I’m not sure I’m cut out for the self-publishing road. Therefore, submitting my work to agents is a risk I’m willing to take.

      Good luck with your own writing!

      Like

  8. Belinda says:

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked
    submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say superb
    blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mom says:

    Wow! I thought it was just my lethargic and persistent procrastination imp who kept me from putting anything up on authonomy…I’m kinda gratified to find that it may have been my intuitive little protector muse holding me back instead! Whew! I really feel like I may have dodged a bullet there stress-wise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      I’ve actually reposted an excerpt from my book there, hoping for a little critique on my revisions, but it’s not the same. They’ve completely reworked the site since I was active there, and most of the people I was friends with there have either left or are no longer active on the site, which is sad because I loved the one forum community I was a part of. We’re all friends on Facebook, but it’s not quite the same. I gradually lost hope over the course of my time there of ever making the Editors’ Desk, but the critique I received from other site members was invaluable.

      Liked by 1 person

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