I just renewed my membership in Sisters In Crime—a great organization that offers networking, advice and support to mystery authors worldwide. Founded in 1986 by mystery writer Sara Paretsky, Sisters In Crime (SinC) has as its mission: "To combat discrimination against women in the mystery field, educate publishers and the general public as to inequities in the treatment of female authors, raise the level of awareness of their contributions to the field, and promote the professional advancement of women who write mysteries."
As I am fairly new to mystery writing, I've only been a SinC member for a few years, but I've benefited greatly from my local chapter's programs, critique groups, and support. And I admire and enjoy the mystery writers and fans I've met at local meetings and events.
SinC welcomes all mystery writers and readers to join and does not classify its members into superior and inferior categories the way Mystery Writers of America (MWA) does. (MWA has several classes of membership and restricts active membership to authors of mysteries that have been published by publishers on its approved list.) And the annual Sisters In Crime Books In Print lists members' books that are published by iUniverse, Lulu, Outskirts, PublishAmerica, AuthorHouse, Booksurge, Xlibris, etc., as well as those published by small independent and/or author-owned presses, right along with those published by well-known commercial publishers. SinC gives an equal listing to each author with no partiality shown to those published by mainstream publishers.
I applaud and appreciate SinC for accepting and treating all authors as equal. But I am seriously bothered by the fact that SinC is a sponsor of conferences that treat authors unequally based on how their books are published. For example, SinC will host a breakfast at the Left Coast Crime conference, and a chapter flash training session and a breakfast at Malice Domestic, where they will also be contributing souvenir tote bags. At Mayhem in the Midlands, SinC is sponsoring a buffet and has a link to its website from the conference site. SinC is intimately involved with Bouchercon, where it was founded in 1986, and where its current president was installed at a breakfast at the 2007 Bouchercon held in Anchorage, Alaska.Sadly, all of these conferences have restrictions that exclude from author status any authors whose books are self-published, printed by means of digital technology, or published by small presses that do not meet a list of criteria like those set up by the Mystery Writers of America. And many SinC members fall into the excluded groups of authors. How many? About 45% of them according to mystery-writer colleague who is a member of both SinC and MWA. She did a comparison of SinC published authors (as listed in 2007 SinC Books in Print) with the MWA approved publisher list (as of 11/22/07) and found that of the 496 published SinC members listed, only 275 have publishers who are on the approved list.
As an organization that was founded to combat discrimination against one group of mystery authors (females), I would expect SinC to stand up against discrimination against other groups of mystery authors. Instead my sisters seem to be giving tacit approval to discrimination against authors of mysteries that are published by companies that don't meet certain guidelines.
I expect more from my sisters. I want them to stand up with me and speak out for equal opportunity for authors whose books are self-published or published by small, independent publishers. When sisters stand together and speak the truth, we can prevail. I challenge the SinC leadership to take another look and become leaders for equity for all authors in the mystery genre.