Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Place at the Table, by Polly Iyer

Hello, MB4 fans and friends,

Polly Iyer published this piece over on the Blood-Red Pencil blog a little while ago, and she's graciously allowed us to repost it here for Murderby4 readers. I'm proud to have my cover for Betrayal: A Tall Pines Mystery, included in the collage, below!

Polly tackles some tough subjects that are in the forefront of many writers' minds. Please comment below and weigh in on the issues.

Aaron Lazar

There has been a lot of talk on one of my writers’ loops about the disrespect given to self-published and small-press authors. Are they good enough to be included in one of the big writers’ organizations? That organization just sent out a questionnaire to its members to ask for their opinions. I gave up my membership in that group a while back because, as a self-published author, they didn’t support me, so why should I support them with my hard-earned money?

If self-published authors are to be included in these organizations as “active” members, then by what criteria? Should we be accepted on the basis of how much money we’ve earned? And if that doesn’t guarantee acceptance, what does? How about the quality or quantity of our work? Who is to judge which writers are acceptable and which are not? What about rankings or reviews on sales outlets? Should that be a method of evaluation? By what calculus should we be judged?

I have two friends, one self-published and one published by a small press, who were bluntly rejected to guest on a writers’ blog because my friends weren’t “traditionally” published, which by the bloggers’ standards meant published by a major publisher. Both friends are avid readers, supporters, and blogging hosts, and both were embarrassed and hurt by the put-down. I understand bloggers want to draw in readers by hosting big name authors, but we all know the big guys. We want to learn about good writers we haven’t heard about. Not too long ago the same writers making these judgments were searching for publication acceptance themselves.

That’s not the only example of the caste system snobbery within the writing community. Self-published authors want an even playing field. A seat at the table, so to speak. The possibility of representation on the panels of major conferences. How that’s decided is up to the organizations who host these conferences, but how long can they pretend that so many good self-published and small-press authors don’t exist?

I recently attended a conference where I was barred to be on a panel. I witnessed first-time authors participate while I, who at the time had six well-received and highly ranked books, could not. I knew this before I went, so I accepted it.

But it’s wrong.

The insult is that “traditionally published” authors aren’t held to the same standards we are. I understand that bestselling authors bring more money to the publishers’ coffers. They’ve worked hard and earned their places. Many self-pubbed authors are also writing terrific books and making tons of money. They’ve been great advocates for the rest of us. We appreciate them and hope more of us join their ranks. But when will we have a seat on a panel at a big writers’ convention? When will we be considered “real” authors?

If I wrote the same books for a big publisher, would my books be any better? Some would argue that they would. They’d say I’d have first rate editing and outstanding covers. I admit that at the beginning of my writing career, I made mistakes, but I and others learned quickly what we needed to do. We hired editors and cover designers. Even books edited and published by The Big Five have glaring mistakes and typos. I’ve seen them, and so have you. As for covers, the books represented in the collage on this page are all self-published books. I think they look pretty darn good.

A friend went to a romance conference this past weekend in Atlanta, Moonlight and Magnolias, and told me that three of the eight category winners were self-published. Romance seems to be ahead of the curve. Three cheers to RWA. I may even renew my membership.

Are there some bad indie books? Yes, but we’re working harder and getting better collectively all the time. In all fairness, there are some less than great books in the traditionally published market too. I forecast that a self-published author will win a prestigious award in the near future, and more will follow. There have already been a few indie writers nominated. I hope I’m there to cheer their win.

Stay tuned.

Polly Iyer is the author of six novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and two books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games and Goddess of the Moon. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitte


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Polly, thanks so much for sharing your insight with us. This is an ongoing complex issue which seems to be changing as rapidly as the industry. I'm honored to have the Betrayal cover up in your collage, thank you!

Polly Iyer said...

You're welcome, Aaron. When a bestselling author who shall remain anonymous, quoted another bestselling author saying that those writers doing well should just be quiet (I'm paraphrasing), it rather makes me mad. It's always easy speaking from the high pulpit, but that's not where many of us are. I appreciate you spreading the word.

writerchick said...

I find it highly disrespectful that we don't qualify as acceptable when we have chosen either small presses or self published. We work equally as hard as any traditionally published and should be recognized in the industry as writers.

Polly Iyer said...

I agree, Writerchick. My proposal of one self-pubbed writer on each panel at a conference--those conferences that now ban s-p writers--would do much to even the playing field. How they determine which writers is another story.

Ellis Vidler said...

Why not select panel authors from each sector, big press, middle press, small press, and indie the same way you select a book to read? Look at the book (it can be online--you don't have to buy them): is the cover appealing? The blurb? Do you like the writing on the first few pages? If yes, what's the problem?

Polly Iyer said...

Exactly, Ellis. What's the problem? It seems simple enough, doesn't it?