Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Progress! Small Steps Away From the MWA List

I've been continuing to check websites of mystery writers' conferences to see how many are determining authors status for attendees by whether or not their publisher is on the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) list of approved publishers. And, to my surprise and delight, I've noticed some movement away from the MWA list!

Left Coast Crime (Denver, March 2008) continues to say they use the MWA approved publisher list, BUT they have added this statement: "Authors from publishers not on the approved list but who submit a signed affidavit stating that they print, in an initial edition, a minimum of 500 copies, pay standard royalties and/or advances without any hidden fees, do not require or accept any monetary contribution from their authors, including editing and promotional fees, and who make their books available at all times at standard trade discounts on a returnable basis will be accepted on a provisional basis.

"Mayhem in the Midlands (Omaha, May 2008) has changed their statement to read:"We will offer author assignments only to traditionally published authors of crime fiction or those who have been nominated for established mystery awards. We define traditional publisher authors as those who: (1) Did not pay any of the costs associated with the publication of their books; and (2) Are published by a company that: publishes at least three authors other than the publisher, members of the publisher's family, or staff of the publishing company; does not guarantee publication of all submissions; and provides editorial support to its authors.

"Malice Domestic (Arlington, VA, April 2008) is using the same statement as Mayhem in the Midlands. The site for Bouchercon 2008 (Baltimore, Oct. 2008) is incomplete and does not currently include any author criteria, but we know they planned to set up some criteria (see my Nov 29 post).

But wait—aren't these criteria still too restrictive? Of course they are. I'm not jumping up and down at these rules that continue to exclude authors whose books are printed with digital technology and those who are published by companies owned by themselves or a family member. And I'm especially unhappy that Left Coast, Malice and Bouchercon—all major mystery conferences—are limiting participation.

But I am clapping quietly that the MWA blacklist seems to be losing ground. Apparently the level of complaints has created some movement away from using a list of approved publishers, which I see as a very positive sign. If there's an accepted list it can easily be adopted by libraries, booksellers, reviewers and so on. All they have to do is check it, and if your publisher isn't on it, you're excluded. Lists of rules, even restrictive ones, are less accessible and more time-consuming to use. And we can work on chipping away at specific rules by pointing out how absurd some of them are.

I'm also happy that in my search process I discovered a whole bunch of mystery writing conferences that DO NOT list any author restrictions. I may have missed some, but here's my list of conferences that are open to all authors who write in the mystery genre, regardless of who their publisher is.

  • SleuthFest (Feb. 2008, Deerfield Beach, FL)

  • Love Is Murder (Feb 2008, Chicago)

  • Murder in the Magic City (Feb 2008, Birmingham, AL)

  • New England Crime Bake (March 2008, Dedham, MA)

  • NoirCon (April 2008, Philadelphia)

  • Romantic Times Booklovers Convention (April 2008, Pittsburgh, PA)

  • Public Safety Writer's Assoc (April, 2008, Las Vegas)

  • Deadly Ink (June 2008, Parsippany, NJ)

  • Murder In the Grove (June 2008, Boise, ID)

  • Mystery Florida (June 2008, Sarasota, FL)

  • International Mystery Writers Festival (June 2008, Owensboro, KY)

  • Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference (June 2008, San Francisco)

  • Thriller Fest (July 2008, NYC)

  • The Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave (Oct 2008, Manhattan, KS)

I'm sure there are many conferences outside the mystery genre that also welcome all authors. If, as an author, you belong to organizations or attend conferences that do not limit author participation, spread the word. Let's support those groups.

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