Posted by L.J. Sellers, author of the Detective Jackson mysteries
With the upheaval in the industry, the lines between legacy-published and self-published authors are blurring, and in some cases, disappearing. Yet, some of the old club mentality (and function) still exists, especially when it comes to awards. Self-published novels not allowed.
I belong to International Thriller Writers, and I joined when my series was published by a small press. A company, by the way, that is not on the list of acceptable publishers for Mystery Writers of American, which is why I’m not a member there. When I was with the small press, ITW encouraged me to submit my novels to its in-house awards, which I did.
Mid-last year, I left my publisher, but ITW allows me to continue to be a member. Yet, I still had to push and nag for the right to submit my new self-published releases for inclusion in The Big Thrill, the organization’s newsletter. For the record, I’m an active member: I volunteer with ITW by interviewing authors and writing features and participating in forums and giveaways.
For this year’s contest, I submitted Dying for Justice, which readers and reviewers seem to think is my best work yet (giving it a 5-star Amazon rating). I was informed that the awards were only for books released by publishers on their list. Here’s the interesting part: The award chair encouraged me to fill out an application to become an approved publisher. Huh? That doesn’t seem right. I’ll fill out the application, but if Spellbinder Press (my company) gets approved, then I really don’t see the point of having an exclusive list…unless the only criteria is producing quality books. But how is that judged?
Which brings me to another point: The books I write now are better than those I submitted before, because I’m still improving my craft. And my self-published books are better edited (by far!) than those produced by my ex-publisher. I pay for better cover design and professional formatting too. Overall, the quality of Dying for Justice exceeds the quality of the books I entered in the contest the past.
I don’t mean to pick on International Thriller Writers. I love the organization, and I appreciate that it’s trying to be more inclusive and has accepted some self-published authors. I also understand the difficulty of these decisions. How do you open the door to some indies without being run over by a flood of entries that don’t belong? Other organizations and awards face the same dilemma.
Joe Konrath has suggested that sales be the equalizer. Say, if your book sells 5,000 copies, then you’re considered professional, no matter the publisher. I don’t know if that’s the answer, but it’s certainly would simplify the decision process.
Writers organizations and award sponsors have to make changes to stay current, or they will soon be as obsolete as others in the industry that failed to adapt. How do we fix this?