Sunday, 2 September 2012

Authonomy and The New Merlins Cave

It was 1986 when I played Ron’s New Band Night at the New Merlins Cave. Ron was much less appealing in the flesh than he had been on the phone. He looked like a prototype Gerry Sadowitz, with lank dark hair and a beaky face.
There were 8 bands due to play and we were being stuck on first. Something that pissed us off at the time though as it turned out was a blessing. We were worried that going on at 8 would mean we would be finished before that place filled up. We were not familiar with new band nights.
There is a story about one gig Crass played with the UK Subs back in the 1977. Nobody turned up so Crass watched the Subs and the Subs watched Crass. And basically that is how new band night worked. Apart from a couple of girlfriends there was no audience other than the bands themselves.
A few days ago I loaded some short stories and poems onto Authonomy. It gives readers the chance to check out unpublished writers for free. For the writers it’s a chance to get your name out there. Authonomy has a fair bit of credibility as it is run by Harper Collins and offers the sizable carrot that their editors may review your work.
People must be interested in seeing new talent, or reading exciting new authors right? Well to a point. It feels a lot like new band night, in all the good things and all the bad things.
Most new bands are probably not worth traveling any distance to see.  With unpublished writers there is just so much out there to wade through before one finds gold. In fact that is why we like having somebody sort the wheat from the chaff for us.
At new bands night one applauds generously in the hope and expectation that one will reap what you sow. With Authonomy a similar game emerges. To get the Editors eye you have to be popular. My guess is that 95% of the readers are also writers. So there seems to be some frantic networking. ‘Review my book and I will review yours’. ‘Wow you are a brilliant writer, now please put my book on your bookshelf.’
This is not inherently wrong. As Harper Collins note, if you want to make it networking counts. If one hopes that by simply posting work of heart-breaking genius one will be discovered it is probably a good opportunity to be disabused of that notion.
Sadly, like my band and all the other bands at the New Merlins Cave I suspect most of the writers on Authonomy will not have their dreams fulfilled.  But if you don’t try you will never know.