The approved-publisher list that Mystery Writers of America (MWA) puts out reminds me of the Dr. Seuss story about the Star-Belly Sneetches. If you recall, down in Sneetchland—or wherever they lived—some Sneetches had stars on their bellies and some didn't. The Star-Belly Sneetches thought they were so much better than the Plain-Belly ones that they ignored them, didn't invite them to their events and generally would have nothing to do with them.
Hmmm…sort of reminds you of some traditionally-published authors not inviting us self-published or independently-published authors to have author status at their conferences, doesn't it? Or of how some of those traditionally-published authors call our work rubbish that's not worth the time to consider.
But back to the Sneetches. One day a guy named McBean showed up in Sneetchland with a machine that, for a small fee, would add stars to the bellies of the Plain-Bellies. Thrilled, they lined up, went though and popped out with stars. With great excitement they proclaimed that they were exactly like the Star-Bellies and no one could tell them apart. No surprise that the Star-Bellies were very upset. They knew they were still the best and the others were the worst, but they didn't know how to tell who was who anymore.
Hmmm…maybe that's what some traditionally-published authors are worried about. Self-publishers and small independent presses have gotten so good that it's hard to tell our books from theirs. Good grief! Someone might mistake one of our books for one of theirs, start reading it and actually like it before realizing that it should be considered inferior because its publisher isn't on the approved-publisher list.
But the Sneetches' story goes on. Once more, the clever McBean had a solution for them. For a slightly higher fee each, he put the original Star-Bellies through the machine and removed their stars so they once again looked different from the others and could proclaim that they were the best. Well, then the Sneetches with stars had to go through the machine again and get theirs removed. And then the others got their stars put back on—and on and on until no one could tell at all who was a Star-Belly and who was a Plain-Belly.Wow! What if there was no MWA list of approved publishers? How would conferences like Left Coast Crime and Mayhem in the Midlands figure out which authors should be granted author status? Would they have to open their panels to applications from all authors? Would they have to accept all mystery books into their dealer rooms?That's what the Sneetches did. They finally decided that stars didn't matter at all and that no kind of Sneetch is inherently better than the others. Will the Mystery Writers of America and conference organizers wise up the way the Sneetches did? We can only hope.