Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sisters, Stand With Me

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.


  1. Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a fitting time to reflect on the human costs of prejudice. In that spirit, I vow to challenge bigotry in whatever form it takes. Thus, I have decided NOT to renew my membership to Sisters in Crime and have resigned from Mystery Writers of America.Mystery Writers of America's Board started this mess by adopting highly discriminatory standards--this done without notice, an opportunity for comment or a vote of its membership. Their actions were totally irresponsible since they, by their own admission, are the premiere Mystery organization. They showed no concern for the hundreds of small publishers--many woman-/minority-owned-- that their standards would drive into bankruptcy. They even went so far as issuing an approved publisher list, which by default created a Black List. The Black List part makes my skin crawl with thoughts of witch hunts and McCarthyism.Sadly, SinC has a high percentage of MWA members (a majority of the Board) who are so afraid of being black-balled by the "big guys" they will not speak out. It's sad that an organization formed to advance women's rights has caved-in to the very organization they were formed to combat. SinC has become an MWA Jr. League or little sister group. Not something I can support!I usually wish people well, whatever their beliefs. I do not wish the MWA bunch well--they are proponents of prejudice and elistism. I hope it comes back to haunt them.

  2. I was also horrified when I heard about the new SinC policy. I'm a conventionally published author, owner of a small publishing company, a self-published mystery novelist, and have been an author for over 29 years now--so, I've seen all aspects of publishing. POD is a GOOD thing. I agree that with this new policy, SinC is going backward in equality for its members, not forward. Not to mention how NOT earth-friendly this is. Funny, huh? SinC was formed in the beginning as a step against the "elitism" of the MWA.I just got lambasted on a discussion list for voicing my opinion about this. It seems that some members (who might not otherwise think it fair that books are being eliminated from the SinC catalog) are refusing to stand up and speak out because they are afraid that they'll jeapordize their own book reviews. Sad.bobbi c.

  3. [...] The SinC board made this decision without asking for input from its members, many of whom have books published by small independent publishers who may use POD printing or by subsidy publishers who definitely use POD printing. (See my Jan 17 post for more about SinC authors.) [...]