Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Firsts

Photo by Andre Chinn, via Flickr
Firsts are exciting. They’re the things you remember forever, right? I was racking my brain, trying to think what I wanted my first post for Blood-Red Pencil to be about. Should I write about my self-publishing experiences? How I’ve been writing since I was 10? The pitfalls I’ve encountered or the tricks that keep me from getting writer’s block? Or should I write about Romance and the beauty of genre fiction?

While I was contemplating all this, a first of epic proportions happened. It was a first that could change everything. I knew I had to write about that. Because on Saturday, July 26th, a novel called Off the Edge by Carolyn Crane became the first self-published novel to win a RITA award. That’s right, a self-published novel just won a major industry award.

So why is this important? Why is it important for you?

Obviously, when a self-published novel is judged by two rounds of peer readers to be the very best in its sub-genre, it sends a message to the world of books. Self-publishing is not only a viable alternative to traditional publishing, it’s a method by which brilliant, quality books are being delivered to readers. It puts to rest the notion that all self-published authors are just hacks who couldn’t get a traditional contract putting out garbage at the click of a button. It proves that the playing field has been leveled. The world of books just got bigger.

But what does this mean for YOU?

Whether you’re indie published or traditionally published or as yet unpublished, what happened in San Antonio on Saturday is a boon for writers everywhere. It’s an endorsement of the fact that no matter which method of publication is right for you, if you put in the hard work, you will be taken seriously as a writer. The time to worry over whether your efforts count as “real” writing or whether outsiders will diminish your accomplishments because of the way you get your work into reader’s hands is over. Your way of writing is the right way for you, and no matter what opinions you may be hearing in the world, no one can take that away from you.

I have a lot of writer friends on all sides of the traditional/indie/small press debate who have seen a wide range of success with their books. Universally, they have all chosen the path that works best for them. Some of them are much more comfortable with a traditional model and others wouldn’t trade their self-pub status for a thousand Big Five contracts. What brings us all together now is that our books are being viewed by the Romance Writers of America as six of one, half a dozen of another as far as legitimacy and quality.

Choose the path to publication that’s right for you and strut down that path with your head held high! The world is changing, and I predict that soon the days of assuming one method of publishing is better than another will give way to the option of picking which path is right for you without stigma or judgment.

Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

16 comments:

  1. What excellent news! I'll have to check out Carolyn Crane's book.

    I also started writing very young - I remember making my own little books, probably around age eight. And then I started writing a diary at 10 or 11, after I read Anne Frank's diary.

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    1. I think that writing a diary was the one thing I didn't do as a child. Not sure why except that I was writing to get away from everything that was hapening to me. I remember seeing a play of The Diary of Anne Frank around that age and thinking it was wonderful, though.

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  2. That is indeed exciting news (about the RITA). It took a massive market upheaval for the industry to realize that there is a lot of good material floating around that has not been snatched up. I see the new trend as a win-win: more books for me to read by authors who weren't given a chance before.

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    1. Exactly! I still think NYC is reacting on the slow side to the changes, but I also think that ultimately both avenues to publishing are necessary and can work together. Hopefully this award will open eyes as well as doors.

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  3. Thanks for sharing that announcement, Merry. There were, in fact, 7 self-published novels among the finalists for the 2014 RITA awards. I am wondering if romance might be a genre more open to indies than some. Indie authors can become full members of RWA, but the ITW in the thriller genre excludes writers not published by a recognized traditional publisher. I can't even join the club, much less see my books compete for awards.

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    1. Larry, hopefully the organizations supporting the other genres will start recognizing the indies.

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    2. When I was in San Antonio I had the privilege of listening to Hugh Howey (and Kristen Nelson) give a presentation about indies and the industry. I got a little glow of pride when he said that the RWA and Romance writers in general were three years ahead of the rest of the industry. I hope this means that it's just a matter of time before other genres follow. It really does enrich the marketplace.

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  4. Allowing indies to enter contests sponsored by the highly recognized organizations will go a long way toward helping the cream to rise to the top. Unfortunately, there is still enough poorly written material being put out, that some readers are wary of the indie writer. It will take time and more kudos like the Rita to level the playing field.

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    1. I agree that there's still a lot of not-so great writing being self-published, Maryann. But I remember someone recently saying that self-publishing is the new slush pile and readers themselves are the gatekeepers. For now I think quality rises to the top in terms of sales rankings and reviews. I'm interested to see what the future holds, though. I know in RWA indie authors can join PAN (the Published Author's Network) when they have a single title that earns over a certain dollar amount. That's at least one way to separate the wheat from the chaff. I was super happy the day I made PAN.

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  5. Great post, Merry, and welcome to BRP.

    Yay for the RWA. I may have to revive my membership, since I dropped it, along with MWA for not accepting self-published authors on the same level as trad published. Why should I support those organizations if they don't support me? Now when the Malice Domestic Conference allows self-pubbed writers to be on panels, we may be on our way. I was excluded and thought it stunk, since I had a body of work, reviews, and high rankings over some of the first time authors on panels. I went to meet friends I'd made over the years, met them, enjoyed them, but I won't be going back.

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    1. Thanks, Polly! I'm constantly struck by how certain aspects of the publishing world are so tied to their 20th century models. I consider myself fortunate to be mostly surrounded by people who are supportive of ALL kinds of publishing. That includes traditional publishing too. The fact that we can choose the route that works best for us and not be criticized or excluded for it is a major step forward as far as I'm concerned.

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  6. Welcome aboard, Merry. It's great to meet you through your article because that says a lot about who you are as a writer. Well done!

    You shared some exciting changes in attitudes in the publishing industry (and among readers). I particularly liked your comment to Maryann about self-published works being the slush pile and readers being the gatekeepers. We likely will find this more and more to be the case in the next few years.

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    1. I think you're right, Linda. And thanks for the welcome! I do think there will always be a place for traditional publishing. Heck, I know it based on the preferences in publishing style for some of my romance-writing friends. But it's such a comfort to have an alternative that is taken seriously.

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  7. It's great to be part of the changes in the industry. I'm new to writing, and remember attending conferences not very many years ago when speakers were saying, "Publishing is changing very fast--but nobody knows where it's going." I've always been a firm believer in choices. My first publisher was an e-publisher, and people would say, "Oh, tell me when you write a "real" book. Now they're saying, "Can I get it for my e-reader?" I think the RWA results (and even just the fact that they allow indie authors to enter) will be a wake-up call to other organizations. I know I was 'banned' from entering a contest because they were still "no indie authors." On the other hand, I'm a finalist in another contest with my latest indie book. Let the readers judge.

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    1. Exactly, Terry. I feel like in the last two years, even, the number of contests that have been open to indie books has boomed. I remember being turned away from a few myself. Plus I do think that readers are perfectly capable of judging on their own. They're a pretty smart bunch.

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  8. What a wonderful present from the self-esteem fairy!
    Major congratulations!

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