Thursday, August 16, 2007

Because I'm self-published, I'm not an author?

When I heard that the annual "Left Coast Crime Convention," (LLC) meeting will be in Denver in March 2008, I was excited. The LCC convention is a mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, for mystery fans. Since I live next-door to Denver in Boulder, CO, and I published my first mystery less than a year ago, I figured this would be a chance to go to a regional conference as an author, meet fans, and maybe even get my book in the "book room" to sell. I went to their website, clicked on "participants" and found a long list—at least half of them authors with links to their websites.

Uh,oh…not so fast. Turns out that to be considered an author at the LLC I have to either meet the requirements for active membership in the Mystery Writers of America or be shortlisted for a major mystery award like the Edgar or the Anthony.

So what are the requirements for active membership in Mystery Writers of America? Well, I have to be a professional writer in the mystery/crime/suspense genre. That makes sense. But beyond that I have to have been paid at least $1,000 in advances and/or royalties for my book, which had an initial print run of at least 500 copies. Furthermore, I can't be considered an author at their conference if my book is self-published or cooperatively published. My publisher must have been in business for at least two years and publish at least five other authors per year, none of whom may be an employee, business partner, or a relative of the publisher. Oops! My husband and I own our publishing company, and so far, all our books have been written by family members.

Then, just to make sure some author of a self-published book doesn't slip through, they say my publisher must be on the MWA list of approved publishers—who they describe as "reputable, professional publishers" who work with agents or other authors' representatives and are listed in the Literary Marketplace or belong to professional publishing associations.

Well my publishing company, PMI Books, belongs to PMA, and we are reputable—but clearly, given all their criteria, they aren't going to put us on their approved list.

But wait, what about the award thing? They said they would consider authors whose books have been shortlisted for certain mystery awards. I'm not on their shortlists but my book actually won a silver medal IPPY award. I didn't think that would get me in, but my husband (ever the optimist) said I wouldn't know until I tried.

So I wrote them a very polite email asking if the IPPY would qualify me to be an author at their conference. They replied that I don't meet the eligibility requirements and that awards like the IPPY are not on the list, "since they are primarily awarded to authors from non-traditional publishing houses."

I think their criteria are outdated, unfair and shortsighted. They are arbitrarily excluding some good books and authors based not on the quality of the books but on the publisher and method of printing. There must be a better way and I think self-publishers need to work together to find and promote it.

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