Friday, June 10, 2011

MWA(BNSP) - Mystery Writers of America (But Not for the Self-Published)

When I was offered a contract for my first novel back in 2002, one of the first things I did was join the Mystery Writers of America.

As a lifelong mystery fan, I was thrilled to be part of an organization that counted many of my heroes (living and dead) among its members. I wanted to mingle with my fellow crime writers. I wanted to attend the banquets. I wanted to sit at the MWA table at Bouchercon and sign alongside major bestsellers. I wanted to go to the Edgar Awards. I wanted to be included in their many high-profile anthologies.

In short, I wanted to be validated.

The need for validation is often rooted in insecurity--something writers have truckloads of. Insecurity is a wicked thing, and can foster an "us vs. them" mentality. More on that in a moment.

During my first year as a member, I attended a banquet, and had to pay through the nose for it. Sitting at the MWA table at a conference was a job, not an honor. While Whiskey Sour was nominated for just about every mystery award out there, the Edgar wasn't among them. I tried to submit to several MWA anthologies, only to discover the slots had already been filled before I had a chance. As for mingling with my peers, I did that just fine at conferences without needing the MWA.

The only time the MWA got in touch with me was when they needed something--I lost count of the times I was called upon to volunteer for some task or another--or when they wanted me to pay my dues. The dues notices (both email and in person) became so frequent, not only for me but for many of my peers, that it is now a long-running joke in the mystery community. (A friend of mine was even approached during his signing slot at Bouchercon to pay dues, in front of several fans.)

The MWA, an organization that was supposed to exist to help writers, seemed to exist only to sustain itself.

After a few years of getting nothing back (and yes, I aired my many grievances often to board members) I simply stopped renewing. While MWA no doubt does some good things (they rightly fought the Harlequin Horizon vanity imprint, and do various workshops and community events), I felt like I was giving more than I was getting. I was helping MWA, but they weren't helping me.

The annoyance at MWA wasn't only felt by me. The International Thriller Writers came into being at around the same time I quit MWA, and while I would never go on the record to say it was created because MWA was ignoring a large percentage of its members, I can say that ITW quickly figured out how to do things correctly.

While the MWA didn't seem to care I existed (except when they wanted something from me), the ITW actually helped my career. Their first few conferences were terrific. I was involved in two anthologies. I made connections that have served me well over the years. And best of all, the ITW does not have dues. They run such a smart organization, it actually earns money.

Both the MWA and ITW have membership requirements, and these are based around signing contracts with traditional publishers. I understood why this was necessary years ago. By allowing publishers to vet members, the organization would be populated by professionals.

The fact remains that most self-pubbed work isn't very good, and would never have been traditionally published.

But the times have changed. Now it is possible for authors to circumvent the legacy gatekeepers by choice (rather than because they had no choice.) Self-pubbed authors can sell a lot of books and make some real money. Full time salary money.

In my mind, that equates with being a professional.

The ITW maintains a progressive approach to accepting members. They review applications on a case-by-case basis. So even if you don't have a legacy publishing contract, you aren't automatically dismissed. This is because they understand that an organization for writers isn't an "us vs. them" venture. Exclusion doesn't make an organization better. It makes an organization self-important.

So when MWA recently changed its submission guidelines and issued a press release, I was intrigued. Had they finally gotten the hint? Were they looking at this untapped resource of self-published writers and realizing the potential to make their organization relevant again?

Alas, no.

From their release:

Self-published books, whether they are published in print or as e-books, still do not qualify for MWA active membership.

In crafting the criteria below, we had to strike a balance between including books published using those new technologies while also maintaining our high professional standards and our commitment to protecting our members (and writers in general) from the less-than-reputable publishers who seek to take advantage of them.

Now, I'm all for protecting members from less-than-reputable publishers, and I'm all for maintaining high professional standards.

But according to these rules, someone like John Locke, who has sold close to 1 million ebooks, isn't eligible for MWA membership.

How many MWA members have sold 1 million books?

I've sold close to 300,000 self-pubbed ebooks. But apparently that doesn't equate with "professional standards" according to the MWA.

Professional standards apparently mean "You're only worthy if you're vetted by the industry."

This shouldn't bug me. I gave up on the MWA years ago. It's no skin off my nose whom they include among their ranks. In fact, I might someday start an organization for writers who only earn $500k or more annually, and the overwhelming majority of MWA members wouldn't make that cut.

So if it shouldn't bug me, why does it?

Because I see this same casual dismissal of the future of our industry from the Big 6. They don't see the threat self-pubbing has become, and they're going to go extinct because of their denial.

Seeing a similar attitude coming from writers--folks who should know better because they've worked hard and struggled and gotten screwed over and over again--makes me shake my head in absolute amazement.

There are a lot of self-pubbed authors earning more money than a lot of MWA members. Certainly the MWA could use this new blood to teach longstanding members how to thrive in this brave, new world. And they NEED this information. MWA members have backlists and trunk novels and are getting repeatedly shafted by the Big 6.

How much could John Locke teach them about ebooks and marketing? How about 200 John Lockes, attending banquets, speaking at conventions?

But in their quest to maintain "professional standards" the MWA have shown themselves to care more about the validation of being a traditionally published author than what they should really care about: actually helping writers. (Which is ironic, because their noble stance against Harlequin Horizon helped newbie writers who wouldn't be allowed to join MWA.)

This is from the MWA's mission statement: "Mystery Writers of America is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field[...] MWA is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre."

Perhaps they need to add: "Unless you self-publish."

"Us vs. them" has a longstanding history in organizations. It's ingrained in the human genome. Sports. Fraternities and sororities. Secret clubs. Unions. Belonging to something exclusive makes you feel special. In worst cases, it makes you feel superior.

Newsflash: no writer is superior to any other writer. Some may have more talent. Some have had more luck. But if you toil away at your computer, day after day, month after month, and finally reach that magic "the end", you're a writer.

If you want to have a group of writers, you include everyone. If you want to have a group of professional writers, you can look up Merriam Webster's definition for "professional":

a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs
b : having a particular profession as a permanent career
c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return

According to the dictionary, I believe there are a lot of self-pubbed writers who qualify as professionals.

MWA also mentions in its mission statement that they accept: "aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre." Which means newbies and fans. That's fine, but these people can only get an associate membership. Which means they pay, but aren't allowed to do many of the things that regular members do.

Can you say taxation without representation?

Again, I can understand why these rules were formed. The MWA rightfully wanted to be an organization of pros.

But it seems to me that the new pros are the ones succeeding in this emerging, self-pubbing ebook world. When legacy published authors begin turning down Big 6 contracts, it says something loud and clear about the direction the industry is headed.

In the past, you needed to be validated by gatekeepers (i.e. get fucking lucky) in order to make money.

Now you can bypass the gatekeepers and reach readers directly, making a greater percentage of money than any time in the history of fiction writing.

I busted my ass trying to get published. But I don't feel that I deserve success. I have no sense of entitlement. Hard work is mandatory in any career. It doesn't guarantee anything.

I realize I was lucky to land some legacy deals, and I'm even luckier that self-pubbing has become so lucrative.

That doesn't make me worthy. It makes me fortunate.

If each and every member of the MWA realized that their careers and their legacy deals were the result of good fortune, I doubt they'd exclude self-pubbed authors from joining.

Now, I don't advocate letting anyone at all join. There should be standards. An organization for writers should be filled with writers, not posers.

So what would my membership requirements be if I were running the MWA?

I'd have just one. Prove that you've sold 5000 books. Once you do that, you're in.

I'd say that selling 5000 shows a dedication and commitment to this business that qualifies as "professional", without any arbitrary gatekeeping dinosaurs intruding. Let the readers be the gatekeepers. They ultimately are anyway.

Popularity is truly the only equalizer when it comes to publishing. If you manage to sell 5000 books, you're doing something right. The current MWA guidelines are elitist--they only accept those who are chosen by a few dozen gatekeepers in the establishment.

The majority of writers I know got offers from a single house, rather than competing offers from multiple houses. Eliminate that one house, and they would still be unpublished. That's luck. If the publishing gatekeepers really knew quality, a truly worthy book would get bids from every major house. That never happens. In fact, many houses pass on books that go on to make millions and win awards.

The gatekeeping system has long been broken, and it's a very poor determiner of quality. The fact that I'm on track to sell more of my rejected novels than I have of my legacy pubbed novels is more proof they have no idea what people want.

But the readers know what they want. They have the ability to choose what they want to read. And if 5000 people choose to buy a book, that carries a lot more weight than some self-important editor (who may or may not be having a good day) being the sole decider on whether to buy or pass.

We all work hard. We all write one word at a time. Some of us succeed. Most of us fail.

But all of us are writers. We can all learn from each other, and help each other.

And we don't need any organization that says getting a $500 advance means you're a pro, and making $500k a year self-pubbing means you're not.

Legacy publishers are quickly becoming obsolete. If the MWA doesn't change, they'll be close behind.

Before posting this blog entry, I gave the MWA a chance to respond. According to my contact, "they very much appreciate the offer to respond, but politely decline."

That's a shame. But I'm allowing anonymous comments, so hopefully some members will engage in debate. I have many friends who are members, and this blog post isn't meant to hurt them. It's meant to help.

Ignoring the future has never been a smart move.

277 comments:

1 – 200 of 277   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

Reminds me of my university alumni association. They used to send out newsletters and magazines about fellow graduates. Then, they stopped. They only called when they wanted my money. So I stopped.

So many of these organizations exist only to validate themselves.

Christopher Wills said...

Good post. I think you hit the corpse on the head when discussing the exclusivity issue. People like to think that by being a member of a club others are excluded from, they are special. I'm with you; they can carry on being special, we will carry on selling books; although I don't sell many yet, but I'm optimistic as I write more books my time will come :) Keep up the good work.

JustRR said...

Couldn't agree more about writers being dismissive. It's the worst cut of this brave new world. You expect the usual suspects to support the system, but when you read an author--especially a best selling author--going on about ebooks being the DEVAL, it stings.

You'd also expect more of a "genre" organization that's always being attacked as less than literature. Maybe they fear losing the ground they have.

Joe Konrath said...

The "ask not what your country can do for you" ethic is fine if there's a noble cause behind it. Charity work, helping others, making a difference, etc.

But while MWA may have some altruistic components, the majority of writers I know who are members do it because they want something back. They want opportunities, or education, or comradery. Most of all, they want MWA to help them sell more books.

I've stopped speaking in public, but I've helped (and continue to help) a lot of writers sell more books. And I don't charge $95 a year.

Anonymous said...

It's no coincidence that the majority of MWA members who are very active in the organization are the writers with the most marginal careers. They're the ones who "benefit" the most (in terms of validation) from the "exclusive" nature of the group.

The successful authors are too busy writing books and making money to give a shit about that stuff.

Dustin Wood said...

The Horror Writers Association has requirements simliar to those of the MWA. HWA goes so far as to say in its membership guidelines: "With the sole exception of comic books, self-published work can not be used for qualification purposes." So, six months ago Amanda Hocking wasn't good enough for them, but now she is? Right...

Jimmie Hammel said...

The e-pubbing community already has its own organization. It's the entire internet. It's kindleboards, and blogger, and goodreads, and twitter. The encouragement authors and aspiring authors get from each online is priceless.

BTW... you've been nominated president.

John D. said...

The MWA, an organization that was supposed to exist to help writers, seemed to exist only to sustain itself.

Yet another validation of Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

Sarra Cannon said...

The need for validation is often rooted in insecurity.

I felt this statement go straight to my heart. That's exactly the reason I resisted self-publishing for as long as I did. I needed that validation to come from an agent or editor.

Once I decided to give self-publishing a try, I knew it was the best thing I'd ever done. My need for validation was definitely born of insecurity and doubt. I realize now that I have more confidence as an Indie author than I ever would have had otherwise. I can look at my accomplishments (over 23,000 ebooks sold so far) and know that I did that on my own, without an agent or an editor or a big house behind me. That's all the validation I need.

As a member of another big writer's organization, RWA, it sucks sometimes to not get the same recognition as traditionally published authors. I still often feel like the red-headed stepchild. At the same time, I think RWA is open to making some changes and there is already a dialogue going on about how self-publishing is changing the game. RWA has been a great organization that I am proud to be a member of, and I have faith that RWA will not follow in the same footsteps as MWA.

www.sarracannon.com

Joe Konrath said...

I've let my HWA membership lapse, too.

Once thing I didn't touch on (because it was off tangent and would have been a long rant) is awards.

I hate awards, and I say this having won a few.

To have a handful of writers with specific tastes (and often agendas) decide which books are "best" for an entire genre, is subjective at best, wrongly misguided at worst.

It's not a coincidence that a giant number of bestselling authors have never won an Edgar. It's also fun to look at Edgar winners for first American novel over the decades and see how many of them have never been heard from again. (Hint: the overwhelming majority.)

But, in all honesty, the only way to possibly determine "best" is to have everyone read everything and then vote.

HWA allows you to vote for things you've never read for Stoker awards. That's bad.

MWA has a few people reading all the entries, but those few people are just a tiny sampling of universal taste. That's bad.

There's no good way to give awards, so I really can't place blame.

Anonymous said...

Other Writer's organizations are exactly the same way. They refuse to acknowledge accomplishments that do not fit their narrow standards. I finally broke free of mine.
Thank you for the great post and great work. Love your work.
Abbie

Joe Konrath said...

As a member of another big writer's organization, RWA

Yeah, I was probably unfairly picking on the MWA. AFAIK SFWA, RWA, and HWA all have similar rules.

But the MWA was the one that just released it's new membership guidelines, so they get the brunt of my rant and the Epic Fail award.

Joe Konrath said...

@John - Wow, never heard of that law before. It's so spot-on it's scary.

David Wood said...

One of the things I love about ITW is their process for evaluating publishers. Many professional organizations automatically exclude pod-based publishing houses by requiring a minimum print run for all books published by the house. ITW looks at many things: the quality of the product, the sales record of the authors, the publisher's standard contract, and a questionnaire all publishers must answer. They consider all the factors and make a common sense decision, rather than setting arbitrary criteria based on the traditional model.

Stitch said...

Validation is a funny thing, isn't it? As a writer, I would think the ultimate validation is readers reading and appreciating your work. Money is nice, of course, especially if there's enough of it to let you write more. But readers, that's the main thing, I think.

Being published does not guarantee you a big readership. Even a sold copy is not a guaranteed read.

As I said, being paid is nice, but someone taking the time to write you to tell you they enjoy your work. Man, that feels good.

Steve DeWinter said...

It is time to start SPAM (Self-Published Authors of Mystery) whose sole purpose is to hound members with constant emails asking for dues.
I simply had to have the validation of belonging to an organization of like minded authors, but could only join ITW as an associate member because I self-publish my books. Their yearly dues are very reasonable and I have spent far more money on less helpful things over the years, so I don't regret my decision.
Given time, the organizations (both legacy publishers and associations) will change or fade away to oblivion; or at least to small exclusive clubs of the elite few who still publish through one of the Big 6 (or whoever is left as time marches on).

E. R. Marrow said...

I think all the associations are like that at this time. I check from time it time, ESP the SFWA. I think most people in those clubs like it that way. I'm self pubbed, for some reason, that incites vitriol on certain corners of the net. They obviously don't want me to sully their clubhouse.

That's fine. I'm a bog boy, and I've met lots of awesome readers and writers without any help.

I would like some awards, though. Perhaps Best use of Sarcasm by an Indie Author

Mike Jastrzebski said...

Joe, I just received my renewal notice from MWA and have decided to pass. I've been an associate member for 5 years now and have done a lot of volunteer work at Sleuthfest.

In the past year I have self-published two mysteries and have sold over 8000 books, nowhere near what you sell, but more than many of my fellow Florida MWA members. Like you I feel I have given when asked and received nothing in return.

What upsets me the most about the MWA's new guidelines is that they are going to begin accepting writers whose books are published by approved e-book publishers as long as the publisher gives half the profit from the book to the writer.

Do they think I'm nuts? Why would I give half my profit to someone else just to be a full-fledged member of any organization?

David LeRoy said...

I went to the Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference locally but decided not to join. The entire thing seems to be controled by the big six, and serves the purposes of traditional publishing. I have one book, 577 words, which I am working on illustrations for now, and will be formated and released for Ipad Ibooks this year. Why do I need and agent, or a Publisher for this? I don't. My crime is thinking for myself. I hope my punishment will be full 70% royalities. The rest of the folks follow and do what they are told, by the "professionals" at the conference, and their reward is rejections, or closed publishers, or small royalities, and long lead times.

I even am considering contracting the exact same marketing company the big six go to for the launch of my book and target marketing Ipad users. Why do I need permission do to this? I don't. Self publishing is for people who can see the opportunity, think for themselves, and have the courage and take the very small risk. It really is a small risk on e-books.

Eric Christopherson said...

This is a Kuhnian paradigm shift, and some, not surprisingly, are taking years to wrap their heads around it. Some never will.

Joe Konrath said...

What upsets me the most about the MWA's new guidelines is that they are going to begin accepting writers whose books are published by approved e-book publishers as long as the publisher gives half the profit from the book to the writer.

Great insight.

So if I signed with an ebook publisher and made half of what I'd make on my own, am I a professional, or a fool?

Whom would you want in your organization? The one who did it alone? Or the one who gave away truckloads of money?

Joe Konrath said...

Good catch on Khun, Eric. Quoting Max Planck from the Kuhn wiki:

"a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

Which is why I've stopped trying to prove I'm right. The world will prove it eventually. :)

L.J. Sellers said...

I'm a member of International Thriller Writers and I love being part of the organization. But it has some of the same issues. For example, when I was published by a small press, ITW would include my new releases in The Big Thrill newsletter and even write a feature. Now that my series is self-published, they won't. Same author, same series, better writing...but my new releases no longer qualify. Fortunately, they do sell well anyway.

M. Louisa Locke said...

Another great post.

Last year I attended my first Bouchercon as published (self-published) author, and I found it so alienating, except when I looked at it as a fan. As a fan of the genre, I felt welcomed, and I enjoyed the sessions where authors talked about their books.

But when I attended the sessions on self-publishing and ebook publishing (which would only be of interest to authors) I was overwhelmingly disappointed.

First of all, in a number of cases the authors they picked for the panels were very negative about both ebook publishing "my publisher made me put up a book on Kindle and Smashwords and I hated it" or dismissive "of course all self-publishied work is crap." So, what this said to me is that the organizational leaders had the same attitude, or they would have made more of an effort to at least find a balanced set of panelists.

Second, if I had been an aspiring author, or a legacy published author interested in trying to get my back list up, I would have learned nothing at these panels, except to run away from either ebook or self-publishing.

Which gets to your point, that if organizations that are supposed to help writers continue with this point of view, they will become even more marginal than the legacy publishers themselves.

Selena Blake said...

Joe, you're not alone in your frustration and head scratching. I discussed this same topic yesterday on Bob Mayer's blog.

It's sad that groups that should be helping and educating authors are excluding so many. But honestly, I learn more on the web with sites like yours than I did through these "professional" organizations. I do miss the face to face networking though. With the speed of the internet, we can learn faster. See what's working and what isn't. Heck, I have a section on my blog where I ponder the changes in the industry and my career.

RWA is really not much different than MWA.

When I was solely published by digital presses I barely managed to squeak into their "professional" level membership with one of my books.

Since I've started self publishing I have flown by their membership requirements and yet because I've taken the reins, I'm not eligible.

Who cares.

I created a pin through zazzle that reads: Yes, I'm a "real" author. My bank statement says so.

Have plans to add another: Yes, I'm a "real" author. The IRS says so.

At the end of the day, that's what membership to writing organizations should be about. Producing great books and making a living as a writer.

Anonymous said...

"I've sold close to 300,000 self-pubbed ebooks."

A little confused about this, Joe.

Wondering if you can clarify the money we're talking about here or point me to a link on your site that fully explains it.

Because I remember awesome posts from you last year and early this year about like selling over 1000 books a week, or making hundreds of dollars a day, or tens of thousands a month or something -- don't remember the exact figure, just that it was a lot.

But if these self-pubbed books are only 99 cents each, and writers only get about 33 cents of royalty on them, then 300,000 books isn't even $100,000 -- before taxes.

Still not bad at all, especially when you compare it witih Trad Publishing's measley $3-5k advances, but also don't you have like 20 books out and haven't you been doing this for like 5 years? When you split it up like that, it doesn't seem like much money at all.

Chris said...

I've discussed this before, in the days people actually used your message board, Joe, but it kind of bears repeating (with a new spin).

For the longest time, I was determined to get published the traditional way. Largely because that was the only thing available, but also because of vanity. "That's what REAL writers do!" I told myself.

My problem? I'm a successful software engineer who has a very comfortable living. Unlike when I grew up with little (no getting locked in closets and beaten with hangers, but from a financial standpoint, we were generally in the bottom 20%), I had no real driving reason to put myself through all of the rigors of finding an agent, wading through crap to get published, etc, etc. I certainly wasn't going to make a living off of it -- not for a LONG time, by any means, so the "work" seemed too much for something that would likely never see the light of day. If there's one thing I hate, it's wasting time, and the time it takes to write a book for no reason but vanity is a LOT of time when there's no other drive behind it.

So, I froze, and didn't write. What would have been the point?

Then I started to reevaluate why I wanted to write, and realized it WAS all about validation of the gatekeepers (ZOOL!!!). And that's when I thought "Why the hell do I care? I want to be a writer because I want to tell stories."

Finally, after far too long, I'm about a quarter way through writing a novel that is almost writing itself, with the next three more or less planned (and starting to think about revisiting the rough draft that I finished a few years back, but the "validation fairy" stopped me from rewriting).

So, yeah, screw the "old way". I think it's done more to hold back creativity, publishing only what they think will sell (which has been disproven time and time again) than what is actually good. (Not, of course, to take anything away from the people who have worked hard to finally get published.)

Writers who want to write, who want to improve, will ALWAYS improve. Sure, we'll end up with a lot of crap along the way, but those will fall to the bottom like they always do. Just like a lot of those Twilight and Harry Potter clones (that somehow made it through the traditional publishing despite being horribly written) will vanish never to be heard from again.

Blake Crouch said...

Who f$%&* cares. Let them be as exclusive as they want. I never joined MWA when I published my first books, because of the exact complaints voiced here, despite being constantly hounded to join. Pay some dues, get roped into doing tons of shit, and when it comes time to call in your marker, good luck getting anything in return. ITW seems to me the only organization who has a focus on what's important: The Writer. Not continuing it's own existence for the sake of itself. If you feel a burning need to be included in a "real writing organization" there are cheaper, less time-consuming ways to get an ego-boost. Because that is all it is. The real ego-boost is paying your bills and supporting your family with your writing income.

Joe Konrath said...

A little confused about this, Joe.

The overwhelming majority of my sales are for $2.99 novels, and the majority have happened this year. Right now I'm averaging about $40k a month, with highs of $60k.

Some of my ebooks sell 100 copies a month. Some sell 3000.

Joe Konrath said...

The real ego-boost is paying your bills and supporting your family with your writing income.

Agreed. But I'm getting tired of supporting your family.

:)

Anonymous said...

The MWA has board members who have ridiculed self-published authors for many years, who have made it very clear that writers who are not traditionally published are not "real" authors, and who openly refer to self-published authors as creating a "tsunami of swill." The views at the top explain why the MWA is what it is and why every day it is being sucked deeper and deeper into a spiral of irrelevancy.

The ITW, on the other hand, is a fantastic organization that has purposely avoided the antiquated prejudices of the past, and has found innovative ways to enhance the opportunities of its members.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joe. A lot less confused. Continued good luck to you. And may this revolution spread crazy.

jtplayer said...

"The gatekeeping system has long been broken, and it's a very poor determiner of quality. The fact that I'm on track to sell more of my rejected novels than I have of my legacy pubbed novels is more proof they have no idea what people want."

But as a business Joe, a publishing company has to draw the line somewhere. They can't very well publish everything that comes in the door, or even a small fraction of it. That makes no sense financially.

Indie authors on the other hand, can publish everything they write, through outlets like Amazon. The risk is not comparable to a large corporation’s risk.

Does the Big 6 pass on lots of really good work? Sure they do. And hindsight is always 20/20. Who’s to say your rejected works would have done as well published traditionally, even if they had been given a big push. There’s just no way to know that. It could be that a combination of low price combined with your name recognition as a successful author has been enough to encourage readers to buy the stuff in electronic form. Those very same readers may not be so inclined to lay down the cost of a hardback or paperback. And speaking of paper, how are the sales of the paper versions of those rejected books?

As far as trade organizations go, they’re mostly all the same regardless of the industry. At a certain point most of them forget their original mission statement and exist merely as an ongoing business concern. I’ve never been one to join such groups, as I’ve generally been skeptical of their motives.

Anonymous said...

I can totally picture Margery Flax cornering some poor bastard at a signing and harassing him for dues.

She's a big part of why I never joined.

D.D. Scott said...

RWA (Romance Writers of America) is the exact same way, Joe!

Here's a similar post I did on that "issue":

http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/rwa-sends-out-survey-regarding-indie-epublishing

I'll keep y'all posted as to what becomes of RWA's "Survey"...

tmsouders.com said...

"The need for validation is often rooted in insecurity."

This is so true and something I continue to struggle with. As I approach July, the month I set to sulf-pub/release two of my novels, I've found myself second guessing my decision on a daily basis. It's a struggle to remind myself the originial reasons I chose to self pub and not shoot out some queries to agents. But guess what? I don't want my fate as a writer to be in anyone's hands except the readers. I made this decision, and I'm sticking to it. I'm not going to let my need for validation, my insecurities get in my way.

M.E. Hydra said...

I'm surprised at MWA's attitude. I had a rant about this on Selena Kitt's Self Publishing Revolution blog a couple of months back, using a similar clause from HWA's membership requirements.

http://theselfpublishingrevolution.blogspot.com/2011/04/riddles-and-validations.html
(I hope no one minds the link, I always worry about the protocol on these things)

At the time I figured it to be an anachronism, that the organisations would get around to updating their requirements to reflect the changing eBook world.

After all, who's more of a professional - the person getting a $5K advance and only selling a few copies, or the person selling 100K copies of a self-pubbed eBook. I know which I'd rather be.

For MWA to come out and say, the world's changed, but we're going to stick our heads in the sand and pretend it hasn't is incredibly backward-thinking. Where do they expect to get their dues from in the future? :)

J.M.Cornwell said...

Organizations by their very existence are "us vs them" from the outset. We are the builders, and you're not. We're published, and you're not. etc., etc. Clubs, organizations, etc. are always "us vs them."

However, that does not mean they should limit themselves within the framework of their own groups. That's all boys with brown hair and green eyes and no one else.

These organizations should be more catholic in their membership practices. Publication and sales aren't the only criteria, nor should they be, since anyone who toils at the computer or typewriter and finishes books, and continues to write is a valid choice. Beginners need guidance and assistance as much as the professionals do, and the organizations should be mindful of that. Keep the people out and they will go and set up their own club for boys with brown hair and any eye color, or blonds, or redheads, or boys with green hair.

Ellen Fisher said...

"In fact, I might someday start an organization for writers who only earn $500k or more annually, and the overwhelming majority of MWA members wouldn't make that cut."

I'm thinking an overwhelming majority of writers in general wouldn't make that cut:-).

I'm with Blake-- who cares? I dropped out of RWA a long time ago (back then it was because I was a small press writer, not self-pubbed, but it's always something, seems like). Like you, I'd put the cutoff at a reasonable number of books sold-- but I'm not the one setting the rules. If I don't like their rules, I just won't join the organization. No real skin off my nose.

That's one of the nice things about being an indie... independence:-).

Anonymous said...

Please read Agent Courtney's blog today for an insight into the mind of a literary agent. It's a primer on how to work with agents, ie, her especially. She has many, many rules and admonitions, one of which is a big fat warning to authors not to self-publish while querying agents. She confuses her wishes with laws.

She goes so far as to remind authors to be polite and professional in their dealings with her and her agency. LOL.

Keeping out those Mongolian hordes is a tough job, but someone (like Courtney!) has got to do it.

Karen said...

Joe, I see myself as wanting validation, and I'm conflicted about that. Particularly since I've read several books recently that were traditionally published and just not all that great. We authors must remember that the publishers are looking for sales. So what's being validated is their ability to sell what you write at the threshold they want to sell at. Getting an agent is the same deal - love your writing, can't sell the book, sayonara and best of luck to you. I have been published- short stories - and in a paying market, MWA-accepted publisher. However, when I checked to see if I qualified for the active MWA membership status, the minimum was $200 in payment for short stories. (Only $50 to go!) As my day job pays very well and I recognize I will never quit to write full-time, why am I so hung up on the publishing industry's stamp of approval? I dunno. As I said, conflicted. Thanks for the post. Always good to engage in the dialogue, that's what makes change happen.

J.M.Cornwell said...

Karen, when has a person, not to mention writers, not wanted validation. It's why people who made money worked so hard to be agreeable and acceptable to the wealthy who had decades and even centuries behind their names and why some courtiers with what they felt were better pedigrees fomented rebellions against their kings/queens. Everyone wants validation and there's no shame in that. It's human. We want to be recognized, praised and accepted no matter who we are.

I.J.Parker said...

Ah, yes. There's the rub! When you self-publish and make lots of money, you may have to give up hopes for an Edgar.

Actually, my problems with MWA were identical to Joe's, and I'm no longer a member for the same reasons.

I have nothing against awards. They are excellent publicity. They may also be well deserved in spite of the judges' potential agendas.

I don't see a solution to this dilemma at the moment. Number of sales won't really convince me. Much depends on price and on factors that have nothing to do with quality.

Perhaps writers will individually work with both options: some titles for print, and some self-published electronically. That is an enormous improvement over having only print publication to work with.

Mister Snitch! said...

"I don't care to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member."

- Groucho Marx
(as paraphrased in Annie Hall)

Chris said...

I personally don't want to belong to any club that doesn't mandate the use of the double-downward finger-snap.

We've all got to draw the line somewhere.

Nick Cole said...

If people are bent on excluding you they'll always find a way and professional organizations are excellent tools for those people to fulfill these ends. May I offer this: What's happening is a movement, a moment, a happening, a battle if you will. Those of us engaging in this struggle, we happy few, we know each other. This is our organization. This is our membership. And it is worthy. I respect you all, you band of writers, I am grateful for your company.

lacycameywrites.com said...

I agree with someone who said above, "We nominate you as president" :)

Yes, start your own organization! We've already joined :) haha.

Al Leverone said...

Great post, and I will take it one step further. I signed a contract with Medallion Press in late 2009 for publication of my first novel, receiving an advance (a small one, but enough to cover the MWA requirement), and as far as I could tell, satisfying all of their other requirements.

I did exactly as you did in 2002, I immediately applied for MWA membership. The response stunned me. They advised me that an associate membership had lots of advantages and was well worth my money.

Again, as far as I could tell after reading their membership requirements closely, I qualified for an active author membership! But apparently some are more equal than others.

I decided then and there not to bother with the MWA and haven't given them a second thought. Until today, I suppose...

fantasydreamer12 said...

I think indie authors should start their own groups. Because big dog organizations like SFWA I think are going to stay elitist. Don't get me wrong, I really respect SFWA, I love their Writer's Beware blog, but I'm disappointed bestselling self pubbed writers like Amanda Hocking can't join, or even you Joe. These organizations need to evolve or die off.

Basil Sands said...

It seems like these trade organizations, much like labor unions, do tend to forget their original intent as time goes by and devolve into little more than exclusive clubs with little benefit for their members.

That being said though, there are also many that do very good jobs of helping members and potential members climb their career ladder. From writer's conferences to lecture seminars and so on they can be very useful entities for the author who is trying to learn and make the most out of their work.

Alastair Mayer said...

@fantasydreamer12 - Funny you should pick on SFWA, it's one of the easier WAs to qualify for. Three short story sales at pro rates will do it.

If you write short stories (I recognize that not every writer does or can) it makes financial sense to tradpub them first (with perhaps some rarified exceptions). It'll take me a lot of 99-cent sales to make up the payment on a story, but I get to make those sales anyway as soon as the magazine is off the stands (depends on the exact contract, but that's been the case for mine). Meanwhile the nearly 30,000 sales of a magazine with one of my stories makes great advertising for my other work.

While I agree that the exclusivity of the various WAs against successful indie authors is annoying, it also makes a certain amount of sense. Those organizations were founded to help authors, in the unbalanced relationship between them and publishers. If you're a highly successful indie, you've pretty much demonstrated that you don't need their help.

As for awards, Jerry Pournelle put it best when his (and Niven's) NYT bestseller Lucifer's Hammer got beat out for the Hugo Award: "NYT bestsellers will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no bestsellers."

Anonymous said...

(Eric - Anonymous only because blogger will not let me post under my own name.)


MWA, the SFWA and other groups really need to wake up and see the shifting landscape of publishing. However, I think that their elitist mind set is that they want to keep their “private club”… well, private.

If they do not want to change they can join in the crash and burn of the traditional publishers.

Jude Hardin said...

I haven't joined anything yet, but if I do join one of the organizations it will be ITW. I've heard nothing but good things about them.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that one, brother. I've long noticed that legacy publishers like the rest of us, have little ability to predict what might gain traction in the marketplace.
After something has become a BS, (!) it is suddenly EXACTLY what they want, in triplicate. First the agent promos were all clamoring for "books like The Da Vinci Code, then books like Twilight. Now I notice a lot of agent pages are claiming that "I want to represent books like "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's nest," and other scandinavian crime novels."
They actually have no more idea of they want than anyone else. They can only look at what worked before, and beg for faux copies of the last BSers.

Joe Konrath said...

This is from Lee Goldberg. Blogger wouldn't let him post it because it's too long:

Lee sez: First, let me say, that I am speaking for myself, and not in any way for the MWA.

There are many good points in your post...but your overall argument that MWA should exist to help authors sell books is too narrow. Perhaps you are unaware of all the great things MWA does, like supporting book festivals & writers conferences, running speakers groups, funding Writer Beware, taking on predatory publishing practices, etc, to support their members and non-members alike.

But I’ll get to that in a moment.

I know self-publishing is changing everything...I am earning far more self-publishing today than I am from my traditional contracts...and that MWA will inevitably have to address that side of the business....but, speaking for myself, I am not very comfortable with the notion of defining active membership based on how much someone earns or the great reviews they get...then MWA really would be an "elitist" organization with a membership based entirely on wealth and popularity.

I think MWA’s rules will evolve and that these recent changes, while too incremental for you, were a necessary first step.

Joe Sez: The ultimate in elitism is thinking your book is somehow better and worthy because you landed a publishing deal. As I mentioned, how many of our peers only had one offer? Remove the offer, and they're unpublished.

Sales are unbiased. That isn't elitism. It's popularity.

If someone is able to make good money writing fiction, they're a pro. Period.


Joe wrote: "As for being an associate member, that's a terrific example of taxation without representation. "You can pay your dues, but you don't get any say in anything." Nice."

Lee sez: You like to use ITW as a yardstick for comparison to MWA… well, the last time I checked, ITW had only let in three or four self-published authors as active members. Self-published authors are welcome to join ITW as associate members which, by the way, is also the case with MWA. Here's an excerpt from ITW's "how to join" page:

"Membership Classes. There are two ITW membership classes, Active membership for commercially published writers, and Associate membership for industry professionals, non-commercially published writers, and others"

Joe sez: I contacted ITW before posting this. They're open to self-pubbed writers as active members. We'll see what that means for the future.

Joe Konrath said...

continued:

Lee sez: I agree that ITW does some great things for its members that MWA doesn’t...and vice-versa.

While they are a different organization, they are also, in many ways, exactly the same. They also have an approved publishers list (based a lot on our criteria, btw), they also rely upon "legacy publishing" as a primary yardstick for professional publication, and they also have a large associate membership etc.

On the other hand, I thought it was shameful the way ITW did nothing when Harlequin tried to take advantage of newbie authors with their Harlequin Horizons and paid editorial services scams (both of which falsely implied authors could buy their wait to “real” Harlequin publication)...and more recently, ITW has turned a blind eye to Dorchester as it has screwed over scores of authors.

MWA took a strong, and very public stand against Harlequin that other organizations quickly followed (notably not ITW, perhaps because the anthologies that keep their organization afloat are published by Harlequin). MWA forced Harlequin to substantially change a program that struck many as predatory and unethical. More recently, MWA delisted and strongly condemned Dorchester for their miss-treatment of their authors...and other organizations quickly followed MWA's lead (notably, ITW has remained silent). MWA has teamed up with SFWA to support Writer Beware to expose countless publishing and literary agency scams that prey on writers (What is ITW doing to educate writers about predatory publishing practice? Zero).

Joe sez: This article is about MWA's latest press release concerning their membership guidelines changes. I brought up ITW to show they are progressive. MWA is not.

I also mentioned that MWA's stance against Harlequin helped the very writers they refuse to allow to become active members. Ironic, no?

Joe Konrath said...

continued:

Lee said: I am a proud ITW member, and they have been very, very smart in how they have positioned themselves and how they are helping published writers get more traction. MWA is about more than that…which I think is something that you and many of your commenters are missing.

MWA's stand against Harlequin, for example, was geared entirely towards preventing unpublished authors from getting taken advantage of...and that's a big part of MWA’s mission…and why they partnered with SFWA to support Writer Beware.

Not only that, but MWA makes substantial financial contributions to scores of big and small book fairs all across the country (including contributing to NY is Book Country, the LA Times Festival of Books, the Miami Book Fair, etc.) to help keep them afloat because they feel supporting writers, booksellers, and the love of reading is important.

You also may not be aware of all the workshops, speakers programs, and other things the MWA and its local chapters do in high schools, libraries, book fairs, and in community events nationwide to educate writers about writing, publishing, and the mystery genre.

MWA doesn't just exist to help authors promote and sell their books. And while you may see MWA as irrelevant and a dinosaur, the organization is thriving...their membership is at about 3100 members, one of their highest levels ever.

Joe sez: So MWA is contributing to a dying industry by keeping it on life support? And this is a good thing?

As for 3100 members, that's almost $300,000 a year in collected dues. Your list of what they do suddenly looks tiny.

Lee: MWA didn't change the Approved Publishers criteria out of desperation, or to beat the bushes for new members, but to acknowledge the new technologies that are changing the way books are published and distributed.

Did they go far enough for you? No. Did they embrace self-published authors as active members? No. But I think this was an important first step in a process that will undoubtedly bring changes not only to MWA, but every professional writers organization out there.

Joe: I'd love for you to respond to the comment that I can give half of my royalty to an ebook publisher and become a member, but if I keep all the royalties for myself I'm not eligible. Would you give up half your royalties to The Walk just so you could join MWA?

Anonymous said...

Lee's arguments that the MWA is a great organization misses the issue, which is why should SP authors be automatically excluded? What would it hurt to have the bar as JA suggested, namely 5,000 (or pick your number) books sold. What does the MWA gain by excluding people who meet this barrier? What would the harm be to admit them, not a second-classs citizens, but as actual writers?

Also, of all the alleged great things the MWA does, what it doesn't do is bring in fresh blood to those conventions, etc., so that the trad members can better transition into the new world.

Seems to me that a new school can't be built with old-school thinking.

Ironically, the MWA prides itself an allegedly fighting all the "sham" publishers who supposedly prey on the self-published, while simultaneously excluding those self-published authors as members. That's how it helps the SP? By closing other doors to them but not letting them in their own doors? Note also that the sham publishers have largedly disappeared. The fight is over. All SP authors now know that they can go straight to Kindle and don't need a publisher.

Joe Konrath said...

Enjoyed this take on it:

Fingers Murphy

Cate Rowan said...

RWA has been mentioned here a couple of times. I love RWA because it has supplied absolutely critical information to me over a decade--information and education that helped me grow as a writer. I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for the organization. That being said, this is now a critical time for RWA's future.

I haven't looked into the missions of the other WAs, but RWA's states this: "The mission of Romance Writers of America is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements his/her main income." (From http://www.rwa.org/cs/about_rwa )

RWA's Published Author Network (PAN) currently has a "$1000 earned" requirement from either an advance or royalties--from a non-subsidy, non-vanity publisher.

My first self-published fantasy romance passed the $1000 financial marker back in March, and within a few days I'll have reached $5000 from two novels. My income has been most definitely "generously supplemented," and at the rate things are going, I believe I'll be able to make a full-time living from my books in the not-so-distant future. Surely income is one of the components of being a "career-focused romance writer"?

For that reason, I wrote the RWA Board in March, and I plan to do it again in a few days when I've hit the next milestone.

If you're a successful indie and a member of a WA that you want to move into the future, WRITE THE BOARD. To chart the right course for the great big ship of a WA (RWA has over 10,000 members now), that Board needs data. Sure, Internet posts abound from people who may or may not be members--but that's not going to be as useful to Board members as letters *from members* offering solid data and information, first-hand. Let the Board know about your successes and what's possible as an indie. Help them help you.

If you're a WA member and you want to see it head in the right direction, speak up. If you're not...well, go about your business. :)

P.S. I'm clapping about the Kuhn references, Eric and Joe!

Ryne said...

Great post Joe. There was just a conversation about this over on KindleBoards the other day, though it wasn't specifically about a single writers'organization.

Once again, you prove why you're respected by a great deal of self-publishers and have so many blog readers.

Oh, and I'd nominate you for president of a SP organization too. :)

Joe Konrath said...

Oh, and I'd nominate you for president of a SP organization too.

Thanks, all. But if nominated, I won't run, and if elected, I won't serve. I'm too easily corruptible, and would demand bribes and abuse my power.

But if/when self-pubbed authors get together and realize a United Authors organization would be helpful, I'll serve as a figurehead as long as I don't have to do anything.

Neil Plakcy said...

Full disclosure: I'm an MWA member, president of the Florida chapter, and a member of the committee that presented the new rules for MWA approved publishers.

But I'm NOT speaking in any of those capacities, nor am I attempting to defend any action made by MWA. Instead, as an author who has been published by legacy publishers and e-publishers and also self-published, I'd like to answer Joe's question:

Joe: I'd love for you to respond to the comment that I can give half of my royalty to an ebook publisher and become a member, but if I keep all the royalties for myself I'm not eligible. Would you give up half your royalties to The Walk just so you could join MWA?

I think this is a naive comment, made by an author who does not understand everything that a publisher can provide to an author (not Joe, he's just repeating what a bitter writer suggested).

A GOOD publisher provides:

content editing to improve the quality of your book

line editing and proofreading to ensure that your book is the best that it can be

quality cover design to attract readers to your book, whether it's displayed online or in a bookstore

Professional formatting to make sure your book looks good and performs well on multiple devices

Access to review publications, many of which do not currently accept self-published works

Marketing and publicity support in other areas, such as library sales, conventions and book fairs, and so on.

Sure, there are a lot of crappy publishers who don't do these things, or don't do them well. But the best ones do. And that's what you're giving up 50% of your royalties for, NOT for the opportunity to join any WA.

Anonymous said...

"A GOOD publisher provides: , , , "

JA was talking about eBook publishers, not trad publishers. First, what eBook publisher does all these things you listed? Second, if a SP author can do them all themselves, why should the one who needed help (and paid for it by giving up $ or royalties) be deemed a more worthy member?

M.P. McDonald said...

Wonderful post. I was just reading about this topic on Kindleboards the other day. MWA and other writing organizations seem to have a very elitist attitude.

As far as your hypothetical organization,count me
in!

Ellen Fisher said...

"And that's what you're giving up 50% of your royalties for, NOT for the opportunity to join any WA."

Most of these things can be accomplished by freelancers. One can get a very good cover, excellent editing, and terrific proofreading on one's own. Professional formatting is also easily obtained (or learned).

Access to review publications that don't accept self-published work is a bit harder to work around, but I think some of these publications may begin to accept some self-pubbed work at some point.

And WRT marketing-- yes, a lot of traditionally pubbed authors get a good deal of marketing support from their publishers. Even so, they generally wind up doing a lot of it themselves (Joe has blogged extensively about this). It's not as if a traditionally pubbed author gets to kick back and do no marketing, typically.

In short, giving up 50% of your royalties for work you can pay for or do yourself may not strike many authors as necessary in today's publishing environment.

Joe Konrath said...

Neil, everything you mentioned can be fixed costs, or done by an estributor for 15% royalties. A legacy publisher takes 52.5% to do those things.

I wrote the book, but I should give up more than half what it earns because they proof read it and gave me a cover? No thanks...

As for libraries, I'm in them with Overdrive.

As for marketing, what marketing? My last few releases got buttkiss.

YMCK said...

Why would an Indie/Self Pub/Entrepreneurial writer want to join the RWA, ITW, SFWA etc? What benefits or expert advice can they provide? These are organization that help you with publishing contract, which publishers to avoid, they have workshops on how to get an agent, create a great query letter, or dealing with having your primary income be lump sum advances. How many of those things does a Self Pubbed writer care about?

Sure they have awards, which is nice I suppose.

But here is the question: what do they have for the Indie/Self Pub/Entrepreneurial writer? Do they have a list of good freelance editors? Do they provide workshops on ebook formatting or reading Amazon/B&N sales data? Pricing information? Writing blurbs? No, they don’t, and more importantly does anyone currently in these organizations know more about these subjects than Scott Nicholson, HP Mallory, Konrath or Couch? Would you really want, the current RWA president, Dorien Kelly’s advice on how to Self Pub? Or Douglas Preston, or John Scalzi, or whoever… (I am not trying to say that they are not incredibly knowledgeable about traditional publishing. They are!)

I am sure they will eventually allow Self Pubbed writers, but I doubt they will be any help to a Self Pubbed writer for a very long time. I would much rather corral Bob Mayer, JA Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Amanda Hocking, Kris Rauch, and some cover designers, freelance editors, technical folk to talk about formats,or an amazon rep to talk about pricing/sales data, into a room and make them talk/argue/discuss. Far, FAR more valuable.

And for those living in both worlds, they can join both organizations... Be member of the RWA and the MWA, or be a member of the RWA, SFWA AND some sort of Self Pub organization. The RWA membership has different concerns and would want to speak collectively on very different issues than a group of indie or Self Pubed writers. As an example just imagine a RWA meeting where you discuss whether to audit Carina or Smashwords, or some other issue that split the Trads and the Indies. Think things are hostile now… :)
I just think there is a really good reason why there is a RWA and a SFWA. Their membership has different wants and needs. Indie writers would also have different wants and needs. Indie writers would be better served by an organization focused on them.

((BTW posted a similar comment on Bob Mayer's blog when he posted on this subject yesterday))

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks for the counterpoint, Lee. I didn't realize MWA did all that.

Joe: How about if existing members were able to vote new members in on a case-by-case basis, based on the quality of the writing rather than sales?

Sales, as you've said, are largely a matter of luck. Membership shouldn't be determined by luck with sales any more than it should be determined by luck with publication.

Katherine Pine said...

Self-publishing After Eden has changed my life. I’ve become a faster writer, the quality of my writing has improved, I’ve received feedback from readers and reviewers, and I’m making (a little) money. The only “issue” with my newfound success is that I didn’t hear about this incredible new publishing opportunity from my writer’s organization RWA—I learned about it by wasting time on the Internet. Last summer I just happened to click on a link to an agent’s blog that mentioned Joe. I bookmarked Joe’s blog because I couldn’t read it just then, forgot about it, but (luckily) noticed it a few weeks later when I decided I had the time to check out what that crazy guy who believed you could actually make money self-publishing ebooks had to say.

Like I said, it changed my life.

I think RWA has done fantastic things for writers, but that’s not really the issue here. The issue is that the best advice I’ve ever received about publishing did not come from them. In fact, it’s almost been a year and it still hasn’t come from them. Instead, it came from a random blog.

I’m not mad at RWA. I don’t hate them and I don’t think they’re a bad organization. I just worry that RWA won’t continue to be the most valuable resource for romance writers if their members can find more helpful information about writing and publishing from a free blog than from the organization they pay $80 (or however much it is) to every year. In order to stay relevant, writer’s organizations need to be on top of new developments like this when they occur. They can’t wait to talk about them until after big name authors start self-publishing, or previously unknown authors start making millions off their self-published books.

I think RWA will recognize self-published authors in the near future. Still, I think the organization needs to put some systems in place that allows them to react to new developments quicker. Ideally members shouldn’t be begging their writer’s organization to recognize incredible new opportunities in the world of publishing. Instead, writer’s organizations should be educating their members about these incredible new opportunities.

Katie Klein said...

"Access to review publications, many of which do not currently accept self-published works."

That's a crap shoot, anyway. Being "traditionally" published doesn't guarantee reviews, and I know more authors who've been "missed" than reviewed. Fewer still who've been reviewed "well."

Everything else on that list I managed on my own, and I keep my 50%. :)

Lee Goldberg said...

You know I love you, Joe, but I have to call you out on one point.

I wrote: "MWA's stand against Harlequin, for example, was geared entirely towards preventing unpublished authors from getting taken advantage of...and that's a big part of MWA’s mission…and why they partnered with SFWA to support Writer Beware.

Not only that, but MWA makes substantial financial contributions to scores of big and small book fairs all across the country (including contributing to NY is Book Country, the LA Times Festival of Books, the Miami Book Fair, etc.) to help keep them afloat because they feel supporting writers, booksellers, and the love of reading is important.

You also may not be aware of all the workshops, speakers programs, and other things the MWA and its local chapters do in high schools, libraries, book fairs, and in community events nationwide to educate writers about writing, publishing, and the mystery genre.

MWA doesn't just exist to help authors promote and sell their books..."

To which, you replied: "So MWA is contributing to a dying industry by keeping it on life support? And this is a good thing?'

I'm sorry, but I don't see talking to students in elementary schools, high schools and universities... running workshops and conferences...sending speakers to libraries nationwide...as well as pumping enormous amounts of money into book fairs, big and small, all across the country can possibly be brushed off as "contributing to a dying industry."

Those efforts help ALL WRITERS published and unpublished, self-published and traditionally published, teaches aspiring writers new skills, and encourages a love of reading and books that helps authors no matter whether they are published electronically or in print.

To shrug off that enormous, expensive, time-intensive and entirely volunteer effort by hundreds of writers as part of some ignorant effort to support traditional is not only unfair, but inaccurate.

I can understand you criticizing MWA for not opening its doors to self-published authors as active members...but to characterize the entire organization, and everything it does for writers, readers, aspiring writers, fans and booksellers, as existing to maintain the status quo shows how superficial and limited your understanding of MWA is.

If supporting publishers, and handing out awards, was all that MWA was about, I would have quit years ago.

Lee

Lee Goldberg said...

Oh, and let me add one more thing. MWA put an enormous effort into protect aspiring writers... people who ARE NOT MEMBERS... from getting ripped off by publishing scams and con artists who prey on their hopes, desperation, and naivete. MWA also uses its might (which comes from its size and the respect it has earned)to leverage big publishers to halt unethical and predatory practices. That doesn't prop up the status quo...that's something MWA does, at great cost in time and money, because it's mission is more than helping successful writers be more successful. Again...all of this is done by volunteer writers.

So MWA is more than Edgar Awards and "status."

To shrug off all the incredible work that MWA does because they haven't chosen to admit self-published authors as active members yet is very narrow minded.

Lee

Anonymous said...

"To shrug off all the incredible work that MWA does because they haven't chosen to admit self-published authors as active members yet is very narrow minded."

Lee, address the issue. Why can't writers who sell 5000 books be admitted to a writer's organization? Can you provide a direct, concise answer to that?

Jude Hardin said...

Why can't writers who sell 5000 books be admitted to a writer's organization?

Wouldn't it be better to vote self-published writers in based on the quality of the writing?

If someone has ten $.99 titles and sells five a month of each over a ten year period...you get the idea. Selling 5000 books doesn't necessarily mean you can write your way out of a paper bag.

Ellen Fisher said...

"Wouldn't it be better to vote self-published writers in based on the quality of the writing?"

Might be a good idea in theory, Jude, but in reality I think it would just become a popularity contest. Who has time to read the books of every author who'd like to get into MWA? Instead, it would come down to what people know about you. Do you have a popular blog that gets lots of hits? Then your writing might be judged to be "good quality." Did you tick someone off on a forum somewhere? Then your writing probably isn't good enough.

As much as we all like to think we're objective when it comes to judging others' writing... we're really not:-(.

Jude Hardin said...

There could be a set of objective criteria. Books with opening paragraphs about weather, laughable alliteration, incredible coincidences, word repetition in close proximity, head-hopping POVs, unintentional rhymes, sentences that don't logically follow one another, imprudent use of exclamation marks, verbs inappropriately applied to inanimate objects, adverbial dialogue tags, adjectives out the yingyang, confusing and pointless dialogue exchanges, unexplainable verb tense shifts, pronoun confusion, nonsensical sentence structure probably wouldn't make the cut.

Anonymous said...

"Selling 5000 books doesn't necessarily mean you can write your way out of a paper bag"

Have you done it?

Mark Asher said...

If MWA does do good, why limit membership? If someone publishes a mystery short story on Kindle and then wants to join MWA, why not let the guy pay his 95 dollars in dues and join? The bigger the membership, the more clout it has and the better it will be able to continue to do good things.

Jude Hardin said...

Have you done it?

Have I written my way out of a paper bag?

Kinda.

Lee Goldberg said...

It just hit me ... The ITW, which you offer as a progressive organization compared to MWA, is utterly beholden to, a dependent upon, legacy publishers. The reason members don't have to pay dues is because the ITW lives off the royalties it earns from its anthologies published by Harlequin, among others. If any org exists to support the old guard, it's ITW

Anonymous said...

"Have I written my way out of a paper bag?"

No, that's a derogatory characterization you decided to bestow on others. The question is, have you sold 5000 copies of self-published books? If the answer is no (which it is), I would suggest that you treat those who have with a little more respect.

Jude Hardin said...

I knew what you meant the first time, lol. I don't usually waste time on Anons, but I'm in a gracious mood this evening.

Wouldn't it be better to vote self-published writers in based on the quality of the writing?

If someone has ten $.99 titles and sells five a month of each over a ten year period...you get the idea. Selling 5000 books doesn't necessarily mean you can write your way out of a paper bag.


What part of that was disrespectful?

Joe Konrath said...

..as well as pumping enormous amounts of money into book fairs

Yes, that's pumping money into a dying industry.

I was just at Printer's Row in Chicago, and BEA. Both were MUCH smaller than previous years. And that will only continue.

You don't put a new engine in a beater car. You get a new model.

Now since you keep bringing it up, and since MWA is non-profit, I'd love to see how much of the $300,000 you collect yearly is going into these tremendously helpful programs. As a non-profit you have to have transparent accounting, don't you? How much did the Printer's Row booth cost?

MWA put an enormous effort into protect aspiring writers...

Who aren't allowed to become active members.

Lee, seriously, you don't see the logic gap there?

The reason members don't have to pay dues is because the ITW lives off the royalties it earns from its anthologies published by Harlequin

Which shows it can make money. And we'll watch and see how ITW will do in the ebook market.

If they don't adapt, I'll rant against them at some future date.

But again, this is straw man. The topic is admitting self-pubbed members. Bringing up other things MWA does is off topic and irrelevant to the conversation.

Please address some of the posed questions.

Why is signing with an ebook publisher smarter than self-pubbing?

What would it hurt to allow self-pubbers membership?

Why isn't 5000 books sold worthy of being called "professional"?

Your avoidance is showing. ;)

Joe Konrath said...

Selling 5000 books doesn't necessarily mean you can write your way out of a paper bag.

Neither does signing with any number of legacy publishers. it only means some editor thinks people will buy it.

But there's a difference between "thinking a book will sell" and "a book actually selling".

It's easy to see which one is preferable.

Jude Hardin said...

Neither does signing with any number of legacy publishers. it only means some editor thinks people will buy it.

But for the most part there is at least some minimum level of quality required. Not so with self-pubbed books. Some of the contest entries you ditched after reading the first page are now for sale on Amazon. Given enough time, every one of them will sell 5000 copies.

But there's a difference between "thinking a book will sell" and "a book actually selling".

It's easy to see which one is preferable.


So any $.99 self-pubbed book is preferable to Pocket-47 because the $.99 book sold 5000 copies and Pocket-47 did not?

I'm not convinced.

Daeng Bo said...

Jude,
5x12x10=600 books, not 5,000. Fifty books a month is more than most authors sell. Why shouldn't that qualify?

I have a recommendation: Konrath should start an e-book organization by inviting authors of the various top-100 lists over the last two years. Authors with verifiable sales in that year of more than the median yearly sales of current members are allowed to apply for membership.

The organization can support itself by becoming a training organization for new and less-successful e-book writers, offering members the chance to speak and teach for remuneration, and by hosting conferences exclusively for members.

Jude Hardin said...

5x12x10=600 books, not 5,000. Fifty books a month is more than most authors sell.

I said five each of ten titles. That's 6000.

Ellen Fisher said...

"Given enough time, every one of them will sell 5000 copies."

I disagree with that, unless we define "enough time" as several centuries. The really bad stuff isn't going to sell much (in general-- clearly there are exceptions). I will concede that fairly mediocre stuff may sell 5000 copies, but the idea that any book on Amazon will eventually sell 5000 copies is, IMHO, erroneous.

Jude Hardin said...

I meant every one of the authors, not every title. Sorry.

But like Joe says, ebooks are forever. They'll still be selling centuries from now. :)

Mike Dennis said...

Great, great, great, Joe!! About time someone calls out the MWA.

Nearly two years ago, I got my first book deal with a small traditional publisher. Not long afterward, I went to Bouchercon, where I met someone from the MWA. I told her I had just gotten a deal and she urged me to join. I knew about their second class memberships and I felt somehow that's where I would be slotted. She asked me a few questions and sure enough, my publisher didn't have a high enough initial print run for them to consider me as a real member.

Me: "But I want to be a real member, not a second class member."

Her: "You will be a real member. You'll be able to do about 95% of all the things our active members can do. You just won't be able to go to the Edgars, vote for the Edgars, be eligible for an Edgar, sit on the board, or have a presence on our website."

Me: "Wow! That's only 5% of what members get in the MWA? What bountiful pleasures await me in the other 95%?"

Her: "Well, you get the newsletter and you can attend the meetings."

Right. Attend the meetings. No doubt being forced to stand in the back of the room while the real members sit up front endlessly railing against small publishers (and now self-publishers).

That was the end of my association with the MWA.

They can have it.

Anonymous said...

"So any $.99 self-pubbed book is preferable to Pocket-47 because the $.99 book sold 5000 copies and Pocket-47 did not?"

Your self-published book, unborn, is currently at rank 175,000, which translates to less than a few sales. It's at $2.99. You claim you can write your way out of a paper bag. If that' true, then how can you possible claim that someone who sells 5000 copies of self-published books isn't a writer who deserves a little respect? I

In fact, to prove your point, why don't you go ahead and put Unborn down to .99 and show everyone how easy it is to sell 5000 copies.

Jude Hardin said...

In fact, to prove your point, why don't you go ahead and put Unborn down to .99 and show everyone how easy it is to sell 5000 copies.

You seem to have missed my point entirely. Run along and play now wherever it is Anons go when they're not harassing people with names.

Jon F. Merz said...

I was once a member of the HWA - that was a complete joke. Every aspect of that organization was pathetic. It's no wonder they call the Stoker awards the "Stroker" awards.

And while I like the ITW better, they have problems like any other org. When they were planning Thrillerfest, I wrote telling them I'd be happy to do a presentation on realistic fight situations and how to properly convey those in writing. The response I got was lukewarm at best. Whatevs.

At the end of the day, the only thing I'm really concerned with any longer is selling ebooks to my fans and new readers. That's all the validation I want these days. Being able to earn as much money as I have this year - selling at least 3,000 ebooks each month since February - has been beyond thrilling for me.

And frankly, I'm too busy writing the fun stuff traditional publishers never wanted to care much about organizations.

BTW, Joe, at some point in the future are you planning on talking about any fluctuations in your monthly sales? Just curious what your experiences have been and how you've combated any dips if you've had them.

Thanks as always!
-Jon

Christopher Marcus said...

"No writer is superior to any other writer. Some may have more talent. Some have had more luck. But if you toil away at your computer, day after day, month after month, and finally reach that magic "the end", you're a writer."

You know, Joe, banal as it sounds... that little paragraph just made my day. I haven't sold 5000 anything but I sure as hell toil and I have done so for many months now, working a full time job and having a full time family-life 'on the side'... One day, though, I'm gonna get there. Next month I'm self-pubbing my first ebook. Don't know where it's gonna end but the journey has to start somewhere...

What I wanted to say, though...

Sometimes it's the simple things that matter the most. Including a throw-away remark from a writer who has toiled a lot but takes nothing for granted.

Thanks, Joe! You just made a long night shift a bit shorter... I look forward to going back to writing, when I've slept and my head is a little clearer.

But encouragement I can always be grateful for, no matter how tired I am.

Thanks again...

Marie Simas said...

Please read Agent Courtney's blog today for an insight into the mind of a literary agent.

I read her latest post about Amanda Hocking. The first few comments came from authors who disagreed. I'm a nobody, and I am selling 100 copies a day. If I can do it, anyone can (as long as they have some writing ability, that is).

Bob Mayer said...

Interesting-- posted the requirements for MWA, RWA, SFWA and ITW on my blog earlier this week and what it meant.

I was pretty shocked to read the bylaws of all those groups and their requirements. One thing I noted was that there was too much focus on the publishers as being part of the requirement, rather than the books.

Got a lot of good discussion going there on what they think it means to be a professional writer.

Natalie said...

Why do we care what their membership criteria is? Isn't it just another form of "validation?" And if you've gone Indie, haven't you pretty much decided %$ck the rules? Self-pub is maverick. Gunning to be a member of the club is not.

Having said that, I'm a member of the SCBWI and I have found it helpful, especially as a newbie writer. Their workshops, retreats and such help with craft and to meet other writers for crit group, moral support, etc. Love my tweet,blog & FB peeps, but face to face in person human contact with other writers is a good thing. So as long as the org provides these two useful things, I'll continue to be a member even if I start selling gobs of books and I'm still an "Associate" member. I've decided I've got to let go of any ego-driven need for validation if I'm going to self-pub, that includes insistence on being a member of their "club."

BTW, try being a member of a profession where you are REQUIRED to pay dues to the org in order to even do your job?! (And at the rate of about $600/year)

At least as a writer, you can truly choose to belong or not.

Lee Goldberg said...
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Lee Goldberg said...
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Lee Goldberg said...

I am having real problems posting tonight...please forgive all the deletions as I try to get !@#$% blogger to work

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe wrote: The topic is admitting self-pubbed members. Bringing up other things MWA does is off topic and irrelevant to the conversation.

Really? You didn't seem to think so in your post. You wrote:

The MWA, an organization that was supposed to exist to help writers, seemed to exist only to sustain itself.

[...]But in their quest to maintain "professional standards" the MWA have shown themselves to care more about the validation of being a traditionally published author than what they should really care about: actually helping writers.


I've explained to you in detail how that is not true. You persist in cherry-picking things to support an unsupportable argument. I listed dozens of things that they do nationwide to serve, educate and protect writers... and you choose "sponsoring book festivals" and having a booth at Printer's Row as the justification for a generalization...while ignoring everything else.

Who is dodging here, my friend? I would argue that MWA does an enormous amount to help writers.

You say the ITW discussion is a "straw dog" and irrelevant, yet you didn't seem to think so in your initial post:

Joe wrote: The International Thriller Writers came into being at around the same time I quit MWA, and while I would never go on the record to say it was created because MWA was ignoring a large percentage of its members, I can say that ITW quickly figured out how to do things correctly.

While the MWA didn't seem to care I existed (except when they wanted something from me), the ITW actually helped my career.


I still at am a loss to see what ITW does "correctly" that MWA does not.

It certainly doesn't apply to allowing in self-published authors as Active Members.

If I am not mistaken, ITW has THREE. Perhaps now it's grown to FOUR. Out of how many members? Granted, it's four more than MWA, but I don't see you taking them to task.

Instead, you write:

The ITW maintains a progressive approach to accepting members. They review applications on a case-by-case basis. So even if you don't have a legacy publishing contract, you aren't automatically dismissed. This is because they understand that an organization for writers isn't an "us vs. them" venture. Exclusion doesn't make an organization better. It makes an organization self-important.

How many self-published authors have they accepted as Active Members?

Come to think of it, I haven't seen them announce that they are now including e-publishers and POD publishers as Approved Publishers...and books exclusively published in e-format or POD as eligible for Active Membership and the Thriller Award.

But MWA has.

Where's your indignation? Your outrage?
(to be continued..)

Lee Goldberg said...

CONTINUED...
You seem to think ITW does things different as far as recognizing self-publisher authors and less interested in supporting "legacy" publishing.

I have indicated to you how ITW's rules regarding membership and publisher approval are virtually identical.

You keep insisting MWA exists to maintain the status quo, and yet it's ITW that's entire existence is predicated on it's relationship with legacy publishers... without it's legacy publishing deals, its main source of revenue evaporates.

You seem to think the sole purpose of a writers organization is to help writers sell books....and that ITW does that better. Perhaps so.

But I have shown you that MWA's goals, and responsibilities, and what it does for members and non-members alike, are far broader than that.

Again, you ignore that as meaningless. I strongly disagree.

Now I know you're going to say... lee, buddy, that's all smoke, it's a straw man, you're dodging.

Well, Joe, you brought these issues into the discussion of MWA not yet admitting self-published authors, not me.

You did so to justify your anger and indignation, to show that MWA is backward and ignorant, show how, in your view, if they did this one thing, they'd finally be relevant and get something right, because they are doing so damn little for authors.

I called you on that.

Now you want to ignore all of that and just focus on the self-publishing issue.

What I am say is that you can't.

The MWA is more than just the self-publishing issue. That is what you don't get. It's about the 3100 members...and all the things MWA does for them...and for all those authors who aren't members...and all those who dream of being authors.

(to be continued...)

Lee Goldberg said...

CONTINUED...

You wrote: Lee sez:'MWA put an enormous effort into protect aspiring writers...'

Who aren't allowed to become active members.

Lee, seriously, you don't see the logic gap there?


No, I don't at all. Don't you see your huge logic gap? You rail against MWA as "existing only to sustain itself," yet it consistent and strongly is out there educating writers, fighting on their behalf, and protecting them from scams REGARDLESS of whether they are published or unpublished, members or non-members.

That, to me, is far more important than whether they offer active membership to self-published authors in defining what the organization is all about.

Your entire argument comes from one monotonous perspective: sales & money. Whether it's helping you make more of both...or judging membership based on both.

Let's look at how you'd now like to re-frame the debate you started:

Joe says Why is signing with an ebook publisher smarter than self-pubbing?

What would it hurt to allow self-pubbers membership?

Why isn't 5000 books sold worthy of being called "professional"?


Your first question is utterly ridiculous and irrelevant and has no bearing on the new criteria MWA just announced or whether they admit, or don't admit, self-published authors as active members (though I admire the provocative way you structured it to reflect your philosophy).

Your second question: self-published authors are allowed to be members. They aren't eligible to be active members. I am not saying it won't happen...but at the moment, the MWA has chosen not to take that step, perhaps because they haven't determined objective criteria for professional publication in the self-publishing field that they are comfortable with...but that's my conjecture, not a reflection on the Board's thinking.

Your third question: You think sales equal professionalism. That is your view, that may not be the view of others. It may ultimately be the criteria that prevails, it may not. That is yet to be determined by the MWA.

(to be continued...)

Lee Goldberg said...

CONTINUED...

Now you can answer some questions for me.

Given all the things MWA does...how can you say now that they "only exist to sustain itself" and aren't doing "what they should really care about: helping writers"?

Can you show me a professional writers organization that is doing more to help writers, members and non-members alike, than MWA?

Do you think an organization should only be judged on whether they have self-published authors as members? Do you think that's all that gives a professional writers organization relevance and value?

Do you think that increasing an authors sales should be the primary focus of a professional writers organization and that sales should be the primary criteria for Active Membership?

Lee

Lee Goldberg said...

One correction...

MWA has not yet accepted books published exclusively as ebooks and pod books as eligible for the Edgar Award. When I mentioned the Thriller Awards, I think I may have created the mistaken impression that they are.

However, now that the eligibility rules for membership have changed, procedurally the Edgar committee can now consider any changes to Edgar Award qualification.

Mark Asher said...

So if MWA just dropped the gates altogether and let anyone join, what would happen? How would MWA be hurt?

I'm not really seeing what benefits the exclusivity brings.

Joe Konrath said...

I listed dozens of things that they do nationwide to serve, educate and protect writers... and you choose "sponsoring book festivals" and having a booth at Printer's Row as the justification for a generalization...while ignoring everything else.

$300k annual budget. How much goes toward the "dozens of things" MWA does? Specifically?

And no, I'm not ignoring everything else. The title of this blog is MWA(BNSP). While MWA did nothign for me while I was a member, that served as backstory to the point of this blog post, which is: Why doesn't it allow self-pubbed authors as active members?

Your answer was "I am not saying it won't happen..." That's not satisfactory.

A straw man argument is focusing on a specific detail (in this case, my stating that the MWA only helps itself) rather than the main argument (why aren't they allowing self pubbed.)

I'd be happy to debate the former with you (the "dozens" of things you've listed that the MWA does--and I didn't see dozens, BTW--to me don't seem to qualify as serving, educating, and protecting writers), but I'm more interested in the latter.

That said, I'll break down how the MWA is wasting energy and money on those "dozens."

1. Taking a public stand against Harlequin is yesterday's news. I took a stand against Harlequin as well. I'm not resting on those laurels. I'm helping authors by teaching them about self-pubbing. Scam publishers are no longer the threat they once were, largely because of self-pubbing. MWA jumped ont he WriterBeware bandwagon looooooong after WB came into being.

If MWA wanted to help newbie writers, it would steer them to Kindle. POD is passe.

2. I hung around the MWA Printer's Row booth enough to see how small an audience it drew (ditto the MWA BEA booth, by the way), and how few books the MWA authors sold.

3. I can claim I gave money to 53 charities last year, and that sounds impressive. if I gave each of them $1, it isn't as impressive. I ask again, break down what MWA is funding, and with how much $$$.

4. By my count, three is more than zero. If ITW has three self-pubbed authors, that is progressive. Zero is not.

5. Active is better than associate. If MWA truly cared about all writers as you say, it would allow self-pubbed members to be active. And you STILL haven't explained why they won't allow it. The "professionalism" argument is poor.

Jude Hardin said...

So if MWA just dropped the gates altogether and let anyone join, what would happen? How would MWA be hurt?

I'm not really seeing what benefits the exclusivity brings.


You're not really seeing it because the phrase "published author" has become virtually meaningless among the "indie" crowd.

What if, suddenly, The Board of Thoracic Surgeons dropped the gates altogether and let anyone join?

Then, the phrase "thoracic surgeon" would become virtually meaningless.

To say that anyone who wants to can be called a published author is an insult to everyone who has busted ass to earn the title.

Joe Konrath said...

It's about the 3100 members...and all the things MWA does for them...and for all those authors who aren't members...and all those who dream of being authors.

Here's what it did for me as a member. It pestered me to volunteer constantly for things, and pestered me for money.

I saw what it did for members at Printer's Row. They sold a few books each. That doesn't justify $95 a year.

I can't see what it is doing as far as I'm sorry, but I don't see "talking to students in elementary schools" as productive, unless you can show me how it is. I've done a few school talks. it wasn't productive.

Show me otherwise.

"running workshops and conferences"

That they make money off of. Or are these free?

I don't go to ITW's Thrillerfest anymore. It's too damn expensive.

Running a workshop or a conference that makes money is not an altruistic pursuit.

Running them for unpublished writers who you don't allow to become active members is a bit hypocritcal, don't you think?

...and all those who dream of being authors.

If MWA is still teaching authors how to find agents and write query letters, that's a huge disservice.

I'll concede that teaching writing craft is a good thing. But how does my $95 benefit me when it's being used to teach some newbie how to add conflict to his first short story?

yet it's ITW that's entire existence is predicated on it's relationship with legacy publishers...

I addressed this already. We'll see what ITW does with ebooks as a revenue generator.

...sending speakers to libraries nationwide

I've done more libraries than anyone, and they didn't benefit me when I was the one doing them. How would they benefit me and an MWA member if someone else is doing them?

...as well as pumping enormous amounts of money into book fairs, big and small, all across the country can possibly be brushed off as "contributing to a dying industry."

Does MWA also pump enormous amounts of money into 8-track tapes and VHS? :)

Come to think of it, I haven't seen ITW announce that they are now including e-publishers and POD publishers as Approved Publishers...

I explained this already. It's a case-by-case basis.

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe wrote: Now since you keep bringing it up, and since MWA is non-profit, I'd love to see how much of the $300,000 you collect yearly is going into these tremendously helpful programs. As a non-profit you have to have transparent accounting, don't you? How much did the Printer's Row booth cost?

Oh, I almost forgot that one.

You keep mentioning MWA's presence at Book Expo and Printers Row as if it proves the organization's irrelevance and ineptitude...and that they are not helping writers.

If I am not mistaken, YOU were at both of those events, so clearly you see some value for authors in them. You don't see how MWA might as well?

The booths we have at both of those events are, from what I have heard from authors, editors, and booksellers, huge successes that move tons of books, thrilling the authors who clamored to participate, and draw scores of attendees to the table, often in crowds.

I have never been to Printers Row or ALA, but I can attest to the big crowds the MWA booth draws at Book Expo..to the thousands of books given away...and to the scores of authors who were thrilled to attend (and where MWA also distributes hundreds of fliers, prepared by Writer Beware, on publishing and literary agency scams).

I don't know what MWA spends on those booths, but I do know that ALA, Printers Row, and Book Expo are events that our members clearly want MWA to attend...and want to participate in themselves.

Are you suggesting that spending money on those booths is some sort of abuse of member dues? That its something our members don't want? If so, I'd love to hear your justification for those views.

As for how much of the money MWA brings in annually goes towards all the things MWA does to help writers...like sponsoring book festivals & conferences, sending speakers to schools, educating writers about publishing scams, etc.... I would say the vast majority of it does (quite frankly, it has to for MWA to maintain it's tax status).

A small percentage goes towards operating costs, like our office, our managing director's salary, travel expenses to attend Book Expo (etc.), insurance, accounting, legal fees, etc. (I don't know where ITW's money goes... ThrillerFest, their website, and a Swiss Bank account maybe?).

I'm not on the Board, so I haven't seen the most recent financial reports, nor do I care to. But it's obvious where MWA spends its money...you can see it in the things we do nationally, the events we attend, and in the local chapters and events we support across the country.

Lee

Joe Konrath said...

Your first question is utterly ridiculous and irrelevant and has no bearing on the new criteria MWA just announced

Actually, it is not ridiculous at all.

MWA allows ebook authors to be active members if they are published by an approved ebook publisher.

An ebook publisher takes a percentage from the author (25% or more.)

Why should an author sign with an ebook publisher and lose 25% when they can do it on their own and keep all the royalties?

Would you sign with an ebook publisher?

Why is signing with an ebook publisher an indicator of professionalism? Because they gave 5 authors $500 each as advances? That's more important than a self-pubbed author selling 10,000 ebooks a month? Seriously?

You think sales equal professionalism. That is your view, that may not be the view of others.

Writers want to write. The more money they make, the likelier it is they'll be able to write full time.

Someone making a living wage writing is a professional. Period.

Gatekeepers were needed int he past. They aren't anymore. That's the whole reason we're having this debate.

Joe Konrath said...

Given all the things MWA does...how can you say now that they "only exist to sustain itself" and aren't doing "what they should really care about: helping writers"?

What is MWA doing for its members? Making them volunteer at conferences, speak at libraries, and man booths at book fairs, none of which are particularly helpful to the writer?

That sounds like an organization trying to sustain itself.

Can you show me a professional writers organization that is doing more to help writers, members and non-members alike, than MWA?

The MWA isn't a charity. Read the mission statement again.

It's supposed to be for mystery writers. How are they being helped? It says "respect for those who write within the genre". They are hundreds of self-pubbers who write within the genre who aren't being shown any respect.

Do you think an organization should only be judged on whether they have self-published authors as members? Do you think that's all that gives a professional writers organization relevance and value?

Any organization I join should do the things I need and want it to do.

Ask your fellow MWA members if they're getting what they want. Or if they're even getting out what they're putting in.

Do you think that increasing an authors sales should be the primary focus of a professional writers organization and that sales should be the primary criteria for Active Membership?

Yes. Professional writers don't need to learn how to write--they already know how. A "writer" organization isn't about educating non-writers or readers. MWA isn't the "Mystery Fans of America" or "Spreading Mystery Awareness."

It is the Mystery WRITERS of America.

Help the writers.

Joe Konrath said...

If I am not mistaken, YOU were at both of those events, so clearly you see some value for authors in them. You don't see how MWA might as well?


Amazon flew me down to BEA to get me drunk. I had nothing on the schedule to do there, other than hang out.

That said, I wound up meeting with Kobo, Overdrive, Adboku, Bookrix, Autography, and a bunch of forward-thinking companies that MWA would be smart in cozying up to if they want to understand where the future of the industry is going.

As for Printer's Row, I owed Henry Perez a favor and he made me sign with him. I sold a few books, but it was pretty much a waste of my time.

draw scores of attendees to the table, often in crowds.

If by "crowd" you mean "enough people to fill my car" then I agree.

to the thousands of books given away...and to the scores of authors who were thrilled to attend

MWA pays for the 1000s of books they give away? If so, that is pretty damn cool.

Oh, wait. The author pays for those, don't they?

Of course giving away thousands of books will draw a crowd. That's what BEA is all about. Giving away books.

Print books.

Print books, which have become a subsidiary right now that ebooks outsell them.

Ack.

Are you suggesting that spending money on those booths is some sort of abuse of member dues?

That's an interesting question.

Is it abusive to give someone something they want, even if it isn't helpful?

I've been to a few BEAs (and dozens of other events.) There is a fun factor. There is a validation factor. There is a sense of "I'm doing something to help my career".

But is it really helpful? Is flying to New York to give away 300 of your books at BEA worthwhile.

HELL NO.

Having your publisher fly you down and paying for everything is worth it. Spending your own money for travel (and in some cases, for books) plus the $95 MWA dues just to sit at a booth and sign for a bunch of strangers who are only there to get something free is a BAD BUSINESS PLAN, even if it is something you want.

How about, Lee, instead of a BEA booth, MWA has you talk for an hour to its members about how to successfully self publish? That would be a lot more helpful than booths at BEA and Printer's Row.

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe wrote: I'll concede that teaching writing craft is a good thing. But how does my $95 benefit me when it's being used to teach some newbie how to add conflict to his first short story?

Ah, now we are getting to the crux of it.

No offense intended, my friend, but it's all about what MWA can do for you...

I get that. It's not a bad thing. But it explains a lot about where you are coming from.

I pay my $95 not just for what MWA can do for me... but what it does for others. I get something important out of that. You don't. That's fine.

You may not take any pride or pleasure knowing that your dues go towards teaching a newbie writer about conflict, story structure or dialog...but I sure as hell do.

You may not take any pride that your money is going to support efforts to prevent publishers from engaging in predatory and unethical conduct towards writers. I do.

You may not see any personal benefit in your money going towards exposing publishing scams and protecting writers from them. I do.

Joe wrote: I've done more libraries than anyone, and they didn't benefit me when I was the one doing them. How would they benefit me and an MWA member if someone else is doing them?

It's not always about you. Sending authors to libraries or schools may not help those authors sell books...but it might inspire one kid in the audience to write...or spark a love of reading....or bring new readers to the mystery genre.

I think that's a great use of my dues money. I get a personal benefit out of it that isn't calculated in books sold. You and I may differ on that score.

Joe wrote: Here's what it did for me as a member. It pestered me to volunteer constantly for things

And you chose not to. You chose to help writers on your blog and in your own way. Kudos to you...and I mean that, as someone who has been helped enormously by you.

But I have seen other authors volunteer enormous amounts of time to help and educate writers through all of those MWA events I mentioned...and that you shrug off as valueless. You chose not to volunteer for those events. That's fine, but don't diminish the efforts of those who do. I'm one of them.

Joe writes: Running a workshop or a conference that makes money is not an altruistic pursuit.

It is when it allows MWA to give money, with no strings attached, to struggling book fairs and writers conferences,etc.

Where do YOU think the money is going? Do you think it's going to hookers, blow, and private jets? Posh offices and expensive meals? Do you think its being embezzeled? I'm honestly missing your point.

And if you think MWA is pointless, useless, irrelevant and unhelpful to writers, why would you care if they allowed self-published authors to be Active Members? From all that you're implying, it sounds to me like they could everybody as Active Members, no qualifications of any kinds required, and you'd still have the same beefs.

Lee

Joe Konrath said...

But it's obvious where MWA spends its money...you can see it in the things we do nationally, the events we attend, and in the local chapters and events we support across the country.

I'm not suggesting the MWA is crooked. It may have sounded like that, but the reason I was egging you to give numbers wasn't to show how little they spend. It was a bit of reverse psychology to show how much money they waste.

How many writers signed at the MWA BEA booth? Was it 3100? Or more like forty?

How much did that booth cost the benefit 40 writers? And as I stated previously, I'm dubious there were actual benefits.

Joe Konrath said...

No offense intended, my friend, but it's all about what MWA can do for you...

No offense taken, my friend. That's the whole point of this blog entry.

MWA is a WRITER organization. I'm a writer. I join to benefit, not because I want to help the world.

Helping the world is what I do on my blog. And I don't charge $95 a year. But I bet I get more "thank you" emails than the MWA does. ;)

but it might inspire one kid in the audience to write...

So they could grow up, read my blog, self-publish, and not be able to join MWA as an active member.

On an unrelated note, it's refreshing to debate a topic without it getting ugly. Ultimately we disagree on this issue, and probably won't convince they other one (though you and the MWA will eventually come around to my way of thinking simply because you won't have a choice.)

But I have seen other authors volunteer enormous amounts of time to help and educate writers through all of those MWA events I mentioned...and that you shrug off as valueless.

Again, I believe a writer organization should benefit the writer.

I've done my share of volunteering. I've run some MWA booths. I've mentored. I've taught. I've helped run conferences.

No good deed goes unpunished. Give them an inch, they take a mile. Not just MWA, but everyone. Volunteering is its own hell.

I'm not saying people aren't helped. I'm saying the ones who should be helped are the ones paying their $95 a year.

Do you think it's going to hookers, blow, and private jets?

If it was, I'd join again and be willing to pony up $500 a year.

And if you think MWA is pointless, useless, irrelevant and unhelpful to writers, why would you care if they allowed self-published authors to be Active Members?

A good question.

I don't want MWA to be irrelevant. I want it to be helpful in a way it never was for me, or for many other MWA members I've discussed this with.

I want to help writers, Lee. You know that. MWA is an organization that could do a great deal of good for writers, but instead it is spending a lot of time and money on things that don't help writers.

Accepting self-pubbed authors would help the MWA a lot. The new blood could do what you and I are doing on our blogs, but face-to-face. The pros learn how to exist without publishers. The newbies learn all the tricks the pros have learned through years in the legacy world. Win-win.

But instead there's the one issue you refuse to acknowledge: MWA doesn't want self-pubbed, because of an "us vs. them" bias.

I agreed with you years ago. Keep the self-pubbers out of professional organizations.

But the game has changed. The MWA needs to change too. So does ITW, SFWA, HWA, NinC, RWA, and the Author's Guild.

But MWA just posted their new guidelines, so the MWA was who I picked on.

Joe Konrath said...

You may not take any pride or pleasure knowing that your dues go towards teaching a newbie writer about conflict, story structure or dialog...but I sure as hell do.

As long as they aren't allowed to be active members? :) :) :) :)

I'm getting punchy and need sleep.

It seems like we each want something different out of the MWA. That's fine.

But if you're write and I'm wrong, then your 3100 members should all be happy with the organization.

I'm pretty sure they aren't. I'm pretty sure that many of them continue to renew because they're pressured into it, or just don't care, or do it for the validation rather than actually getting anything from it.

I may be wrong. I only have anecdotal evidence. Maybe around 100 peers who either are members or let the membership lapse. They might be the minority, and the majority might be very happy with the way MWA is being run.

An organization is only as good as its people, and there are a lot of good people involved in the MWA, many of whom are friends.

But, man oh man, based on my experience, and that recent silly press release, all I see is a one-way trip to irrelevancy. And I'm pretty good at predicting these things.

Joe Konrath said...

Last word, then sleep.

Lee, it's great that you're here, debating this topic.

But where are the other 3099 in the MWA?

Where are all the happy MWA members, pointing out where I'm wrong? I've been following Twitter, say a dozen comments, all of them supporting my position. Didn't see any dissenting opinions, yours notwithstanding.

I'm even allowing anonymous posts, so an MWA member could bash me and not give their name.

Statcounter has shown thousands of hits in the past 24 hours. Surely MWA members are reading this.

Where's your support?

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe,

We agree on more than we disagree, though some who do not know us well would not know that from reading this exchange.

I am the chair of the MWA membership committee, so you know that I played a big part in crafting these rules (but I do not take any of your criticism of them personally).

I am a published author...but I am also a self-published author. In fact, as you well know (and others here may not), I am earning more now from my self-published work than I am from my professionally published books (and I write the very successful MONK series for Penguin/Putnam).

So I see this issue from both sides.

I have said it before, and I will say it again...the MWA's eligibility criteria are a work-in-progress that will change as the industry does.

Accepting novels published exclusively as ebooks or POD as eligible for Active Membership is a big, and important step...one other writers organizations, including ITW, the Authors Guild, Horror Writers, etc. have yet to make.

I am sure there will be other steps to come.

Lee

Susan Parker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Comparing mystery writers to surgeons or other licensed professionals is way out there. Fortunately, we authors don't (yet) have to get approval from a state licensing board to practice our craft.

It seems to me that a mystery writer is someone who writes mysteries, however they're published or even if they're not published at all. Why should the MWA have more than one class of membership and why should it have any membership requirements at all, other than paying the annual dues?

In case it's not obvious, the probability of anyone other than people seriously invested in mysteries choosing to pay $95/year is vanishingly small. Sure, you'll get some serious mystery readers joining, who have no intention of ever writing a mystery, not to mention a lot of self-pubbed authors. So what? Why not let them join as full members?

Wouldn't it be better to have 31,000 members than 3,100? Or 310,000, for that matter? Just think what MWA could do for both mystery writers and mystery readers with ten times or 100 times the revenue.

I can't remember who said it earlier. It may have been Joe or one of the commenters. But it seems to me that there's not much question that MWA and all of the other *WAs are all about exclusion. What's wrong with having newbie/wannabe authors and serious mystery readers as full members?

Incidentally, I come at this as serious mystery reader (more than 100 a year) and a traditionally-published non-fiction author who's sold a whole lot more than 5,000 books and who's not (yet) self-published anything for Kindle/nook.

kathleen shoop said...

To me sales are everything. My agent passed on The Last Letter because she didn't see a market for it. She is a very successful agent.

Yet, she wasn't right about this book (or maybe she is and I'm just temporarily lucky). I'm knocking on my wooden desk right now because I don't want to count my chickens, but so far--since May 1, 2011...

I've sold 2,690 books. Most are ebooks, yes, priced at .99. But, I'm building my audience, I'd rather build an audience than sell fewer at a higher price.

I understand the constraints of someone else's business (agents/publishers, etc.). It's not my place to say someone isn't doing the smart thing for his/her company, but the changes in publishing have made it possible for me to grow my business.

It still stings a bit when I think many of the "upper" literary class will never view my work as legitimate.

But, then I think of the readers. Readers are buying my book and liking it.

For me, that's what counts.

The Last Letter
http://kshoop.com

Jude Hardin said...

Comparing mystery writers to surgeons or other licensed professionals is way out there.

It is. It's out there. But the point is there should be some way of differentiating the pro writer from the amateur or the apprentice. Not from any elitist standpoint, but as a guide for readers.

Fortunately, we authors don't (yet) have to get approval from a state licensing board to practice our craft.

Well, an active membership in the MWA is sort of like a license, I guess. You have to meet certain criteria to be accepted.

I think self-published writers should have the opportunity to join if they want to, but like I said before the criteria should be the quality of the writing--not the number of books sold.

Jude Hardin said...

Off topic, but Anon last night made a good point that my horror novella isn't selling worth a shit. I've posted chapter one on my blog for anyone who would care to offer some feedback, and there's a link at the end of the chapter for anyone who would like to buy the book. Right now the entire novel JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS: A KIM JOURNEY THRILLER by S.J. Harris is included as a bonus.

http://judehardin.blogspot.com/2011/06/unborn-chapter-one.html

Mark Asher said...

@Jude: "To say that anyone who wants to can be called a published author is an insult to everyone who has busted ass to earn the title."

It's only an insult if you take it that way. You can always make a distinction between published by a trade press and published through KDP on Amazon.

You care, but I don't see much evidence that the readers care.

And I'm not convinced that someone working on a trade publishing deal is busting ass more than a self-published writer.

Blake Crouch said...

"But the point is there should be some way of differentiating the pro writer from the amateur or the apprentice."

Readers could absolutely care less about labels, and that's really all that matters. Readers might care about sales and popularity (that others LIKE THEM have loved the book) and reading the kind of books they love. Don't think so? How many authors tag themselves with "New York Times Bestselling Author of..." All that means is...others have liked this, and you will, too. I don't think I've seen too many covers with.... "And now the new novel from active member in the Mystery Writers of America, Blake Crouch!"

Readers don't need labels. Writers do. Because they're insecure and needy.

Jude Hardin said...

And I'm not convinced that someone working on a trade publishing deal is busting ass more than a self-published writer.

Ask Joe how many hoops he had to jump through before Whiskey Sour was accepted for publication. In fact, ask ANYONE who has ever even TRIED to get a traditional publishing deal. It's a bitch. Much harder than pushing a button.

READ CHAPTER ONE OF MY HORROR NOVELLA

Marie Simas said...

In fact, as you well know (and others here may not), I am earning more now from my self-published work than I am from my professionally published books

Sorry-- but I spit out my tea when I read this. Doesn't this statement just say it all?

By the way, Joe-- thanks for making sure I got only 4 hours of sleep last night. I was up late reading this crazy thread. When I woke up this morning, I looked like a muppet.

Jude Hardin said...

Readers don't need labels. Writers do. Because they're insecure and needy.

I think readers would appreciate some sort of label of quality. As a reader, I know I would. In fact, if I remember correctly, Lee Goldberg and some others have put together a group with some sort of seal or something to indicate quality.

READ CHAPTER ONE OF MY HORROR NOVELLA

Jude Hardin said...

That's not to say I'm not insecure and needy as well. ;)

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Jude Hardin said...

It is. It's out there. But the point is there should be some way of differentiating the pro writer from the amateur or the apprentice. Not from any elitist standpoint, but as a guide for readers.


No insult intended, but...

You consider yourself a "professional author" because (as far as I can see) you've signed one book with a traditional publisher? That book was published about 5 weeks ago, and is now at 228,000+ in Amazon rank, which means it's already sold about 99% of the copies that it's ever going to sell. In other words, it's dead.

Meanwhile, someone like John Locke, who is selling hundreds of thousands of ebooks a month and earning $100,000+ a month in royalties is not a professional author by your definition? Give me a break.

Membership in the MWA or a similar organization is not a guide for readers, probably not one in 10,000 of whom know or care what the MWA is or who's a member.

As to your comment about quality of writing, leaving aside for a moment that such a metric is entirely subjective, does that mean that John Locke is not a professional because you think you're a better writer than he is? Hundreds of thousands of book buyers seem to disagree with your estimation.

Jude, I really am not trying to insult you or hurt your feelings. I have the greatest respect for you and anyone else who has actually finished writing a book and published it, either traditionally or by self-pubbing.

But, if your Amazon page is accurate, I consider you a beginning writer. Those self-pubbed authors who've written several books over a period of years and are selling them in high volume are much more entitled to be called professional authors than you are. The fact that MWA trivializes their accomplishments simply indicates to me that MWA membership is not evidence of anything and certainly not evidence that the member is a "professional" in any real sense.

Anonymous said...

"Ask Joe how many hoops he had to jump through before Whiskey Sour was accepted for publication. In fact, ask ANYONE who has ever even TRIED to get a traditional publishing deal. It's a bitch. Much harder than pushing a button."

TRANSLATION: "LOOK AT ME! I'M TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED! Im better than you. All you did was PUSH A BUTTON.'

Well, since you want to ask ANYONE who has ever TRIED to get a traditional publishing deal, that would be me. Not just TRIED, gotton. In fact, I just received my most recent traditional offer yesterday.

Although I'm traditionally published, I don't concur with the sentiment that self-published authors are sub-human, or mere wannabes, or haven't "earned" the right to associate with others.

The truth is, writing a good novel is hard, no matter which way it eventually gets published. Anyone who can write a novel and sell 5000 copies is doing something right, even at .99. Any writing organization that would exclude such a person is simply being elitist. Any author who thinks they are too good to be associated with such such a person is, well, not someone who would ever get my respect.

Mike Jastrzebski said...

Just a thought, but wouldn't it be interesting if MWA required its professional members to requalify every three years. If they don't publish with an accepted publisher at least every three years they revert to the associate membership.

After all, if they can't sell another book doesn't that mean they no longer are writing up to acceptable standards?

Joe Konrath said...

Ask Joe how many hoops he had to jump through before Whiskey Sour was accepted for publication.

Ask Joe if he's prouder of selling Whiskey Sour to a legacy publisher, or selling 300,000 ebooks on his own.

At the time I sold Whiskey Sour, legacy the only game in town. And I don't deny it was tough. I also don't deny that all of those rejections made me a better writer.

But the four books I wrote prior to Whiskey Sour are selling just as well, if not better, than Whiskey Sour has, now that they're on Kindle.

That's proof that the legacy publishers who rejected them were wrong. Those books did and do have an audience. They were good enough to be getting hundreds of 4 and 5 star reviews, and selling hundreds of thousands of copies.

Legacy gatekeepers can be wrong. They aren't a good indicator of quality.

Popularity is also not a good indicator of quality. Lots of good books don't sell well (at least at first), and some crap does take off.

But of the two: acceptance by a subjective, biased legacy editor, and acceptance by thousands, I'd have to say acceptance by thousands carries more weight.

Joe Konrath said...

After all, if they can't sell another book doesn't that mean they no longer are writing up to acceptable standards?

LOL. That's perfect.

Joe Konrath said...

When I woke up this morning, I looked like a muppet.

Wooden sticks in your arms and some guy's hand up your ass?

Some people have all the luck...

JP Kurzitza said...

But, if your Amazon page is accurate, I consider you a beginning writer. Those self-pubbed authors who've written several books over a period of years and are selling them in high volume are much more entitled to be called professional authors than you are.

Well said, RBT!

Jude Hardin said...

As to your comment about quality of writing, leaving aside for a moment that such a metric is entirely subjective, does that mean that John Locke is not a professional because you think you're a better writer than he is?

Funny you should mention him, because we now have the same agent. :)

I can't comment on the quality of John's writing, because I haven't read it. I'm assuming it's pretty good if my agent signed him.

But does that mean most self-published writers are publishing professional-quality work? No it does not.

Joe said: The fact remains that most self-pubbed work isn't very good, and would never have been traditionally published.

So why does everyone pick on me for saying the same thing?

But, if your Amazon page is accurate, I consider you a beginning writer.

Some would disagree.

Joe Konrath said...

Any writing organization that would exclude such a person is simply being elitist.

I agree 100% with your comment. But let me play devil's advocate.

I judged many writing contest for Writer's Digest Magazine. Had to read tens of thousands of stories and POD books. The overwhelming majority (99.9%) was unpublishable. Being in a professional organization full of those writers would have made for a terrible organization. There had to be rules and standards for MWA and every other writing organization.

But I contend that it is just as difficult to sell a lot of self-pubbed ebooks to readers as it is to sell to a legacy editor. If someone manages to sell 5000, they are a pro, and leaps and bounds better than the majority of the unpublished.

We all suck when we start writing. There is a learning curve. Hopefully we all get better and reach the point where we're at a professional level.

If you've sold more than 5000 books, I believe you've reached that point.

There still is an "us vs. them" divider. There has to be in any professional organization. But it should be based on more than the luck of finding a legacy publisher. I think sales is a better reflection of professionalism.

But I also think that anyone who can finish a novel is a real writer. Some of us just need to work harder to get better.

Joe Konrath said...

Those self-pubbed authors who've written several books over a period of years and are selling them in high volume are much more entitled to be called professional authors than you are.

This is an interesting comment. I'd say it is six of one, half a dozen of the other. Finding a traditional publisher does indeed mean that the book has a minimum level of quality. I'd say that selling 5000 ebooks also shows that.

I don't see one being better than the other (and this is from a guy who has done both, multiple times.) They both show that a book was professionally written.

Lee Goldberg said...

Robert wrote: it seems to me that there's not much question that MWA and all of the other *WAs are all about exclusion. What's wrong with having newbie/wannabe authors and serious mystery readers as full members?

Not everyone who makes a movie qualifies to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences...and have their work eligible for Oscars. Now that making movies and distributing them to millions is as easy as buying a Flip Camera for $150 and uploading your film to YouTube, should they let in anyone who makes a movie? What's wrong with having newbie film-makings and serious movie-goers as full members?

Not everyone who records an album is eligible for a Grammy. But now that recording music and making your songs available to millions is as easy a mouse click, should they open up membership and Grammy awards to anyone who records a song? Why not let anyone who likes music and anyone who can warble a song be a full member?

I could go on and on. Professional organizations in ALL creative fields have criteria for professional membership and eligibility for their awards. To point to MWA as being exclusionary because they do so, too, is ridiculous...

Lee

Lee Goldberg said...

Mike wrote: Just a thought, but wouldn't it be interesting if MWA required its professional members to requalify every three years. If they don't publish with an accepted publisher at least every three years they revert to the associate membership.

Novelists Inc. is now considering a by-law that's very similar to that...but I think their cut-off is five years.

http://www.ninc.com/

Lee

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe wrote: There still is an "us vs. them" divider. There has to be in any professional organization.

I agree.

Joe wrote: But it should be based on more than the luck of finding a legacy publisher. I think sales is a better reflection of professionalism.

As the industry evolves, I don't know what the yardstick should be.

But let's go with your notion for a moment for the sake of discussion.

You think that number of sales to qualify for active membership should be 5000.

Why 5000? Why not 10,000? Or 20,000? How did you arrive at that figure?

Is that 5000 books sold a 99 cents? Is that 5000 books sold at $2.99? Or does price not matter? (I could argue that it does, that pricing a book at 99 cents is pretty close to giving it away, but that's another discussion).

If you throw out the legacy publisher requirements, how many print books should you have to sell to get in as an active member? Is there a price-point differential there? If you sell 5000 paperbacks, say at $1.50, is that the same as 5000 at $12.95?

What about hard-covers? What are the qualifying sales figures and prices there?

And over what period of time do these 5000 sales have to occur? One year? Three years? Ten years?

And how do you, as an organization, verify those sales?

Lee

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Joe Konrath said...

But I contend that it is just as difficult to sell a lot of self-pubbed ebooks to readers as it is to sell to a legacy editor. If someone manages to sell 5000, they are a pro, and leaps and bounds better than the majority of the unpublished.

We all suck when we start writing. There is a learning curve. Hopefully we all get better and reach the point where we're at a professional level.

If you've sold more than 5000 books, I believe you've reached that point.


Geez, Joe, you must be a really nice guy. That's a pretty low bar for "professional" status. I'd set the bar a bit higher: are you making a living by writing? In my opinion, someone whose writing income is paying the rent and putting food on the table, and has been doing so for a significant time, qualifies as a professional writer.

Better yet, let's get rid of this "professional" label. Someone who earns a living on an ongoing basis from writing income qualifies in my opinion as a journeyman writer. Someone like you, who enjoys an upper-middle class income or better, qualifies as a master. Someone who's signed one or two traditional book deals but is not yet earning a sustained living by writing is not yet a journeyman.

But I really don't understand this apparent need for labels. People who start writing a book are wannabees. Someone who finished a book and publishes it, by whatever means, is a writer.

The authors I know whom I consider real professionals don't discriminate against those that some might consider "lesser" authors. I just re-read a blog entry I made 10 years ago about the first mystery conference I ever attended and how I was treated by Peter Robinson and Ridley Pearson. Both of these guys are class acts.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Ah, and I see that the blogging software stripped out the URL. A curse on forum spammers. Here it is, with some extra spaces.

www. ttgnet. com/daynotes /2001/20011029. html#Monday

Ann Voss Peterson said...

<>

RWA allows anyone who writes romance to join as a full member. There are different groups within the organization (PAN, PRO) that have restrictions.

Joe Konrath said...

Not everyone who records an album is eligible for a Grammy.

But if the album sells a million copies, perhaps it should be eligible.

Ditto an indie movie that becomes more popular than a mainstream one.

Right now, we're seeing some indie films get picked up for major distribution and make money, but distribution is still essential.

The Big 6 once had a lock on distribution too. They don't anymore.

If I could make a movie, sell it directly to NBC, and get a huge audience, I should be eligible for an Emmy even if I didn't go through the normal channels.

If you sell 5000 paperbacks, say at $1.50, is that the same as 5000 at $12.95?

Sell 5000 of anything, you're in. 5000 99 cent ebooks equals $1750 in royalties, which is more than the $500 advance MWA wants from ebook publishers to show they are professional.

This would be verifiable with a screen shot of the KDP page, or a bank statement showing a royalty deposit.

If you throw out the legacy publisher requirements,

No one is saying throw out legacy requirements. I'm saying also allow for self-pubbers with additional criteria.

Fact is, a lot of MWA members haven't sold 5000 books, even with legacy deals. 5000 is a lot. Which is why I believe it is a good number.

Now, everything is bendable. If 5000 means a whole buttload of unprofessional jerks join, change it to 10,000. Or 20,000.

The point it to acquire members who will add value to the organization, and help it progress into the future. The point isn't to let in every wannabe.`

Mark Asher said...

@Jude: "I think readers would appreciate some sort of label of quality. As a reader, I know I would. In fact, if I remember correctly, Lee Goldberg and some others have put together a group with some sort of seal or something to indicate quality."

We've had that in the past when legacy publishing was the only game in town, and that "label of quality" let me down time and time again. I really don't see how some group will come up with a way of labeling books that will mean much of anything. Their tastes may not correspond to mine.

And who is going to judge these books? What if they get 5000 submissions a month? Are they simply going to automatically slap the seal of approval on books by authors they know or books from legacy publishers and then put all the books from other sources into the slush pile?

It's a bad idea because it won't be applied with any manner of fairness and it will not reflect quality so much as some arbitrary set of guidelines.

Anonymous said...

I had a rude awakening in 1999 when my first self-published hard cover came out. I attended Bouchercon and proudly showed my book to a couple traditionally published writers in the break room. They immediately turned to the spine to see who the publisher was and turned to each other and did the jr high school eye roll thing. It was still happening a couple years ago at ALA when I was signing in the SinC booth. I have published hard cover and now do POD and ebooks. One company contracted to do the audio books, a company in England does the large print and Harlequin bought the paperback rights to one book for the Worldwide Mystery book club. Still, I feel like Rodney Dangerfield -- I get no respect. After writing a column in Crime Spree magazine on self-publishing a few years ago I was skewered in Lee's blog. Joe came to my defense. Another thank you shout out to Joe. Every book should succeed on its own merits. But when an organization goes out of its way to set up road blocks, convince some conferences not to give SP authors a spot on panels, dictate to vendors what books they can sell, it raises my blood pressure. When MWA first started they only allowed authors published in hard cover. When they needed more membership dollars, they opened it up to paperback writers. MWA has left a bad taste in my mouth having booted me from active status to associate before they grandfathered SP in who had joined under the radar. And I, too, was accosted at Bouchercon at a signing for my renewal dues to which I said "I'm not joining."

W. Dean said...

Jude,

The quality of writing isn’t subjective, but it’s far harder to draw the line between good and bad writing than you seem to suppose. Point of view problems, misspellings and poor grammar can be found in any book. The bigger problem is practical. It would be impossible for an organization of more than three people to arrive at a consensus on this (beyond extreme cases) and then to codify a standard that could be rigorously applied.

Ask yourself, Jude, if you would say that two grammatical errors in the first chapter are too many? If so, you failed your own test. I skimmed the chapter you posted of “Unborn” and found two errors (or one repeated). You wrote: “My legs are broke.” But “broke” is the past tense; you need the participle “broken.” (If it’s dialect you should’ve used a single quotation mark after the “e” in broke).

Now, I’m not trying to embarrass you, because it’s well-written overall (well, the dialogue is a little unnatural in places). But you seemed to be offering your own writing up as the standard of excellence.

Moreover, I noticed you didn’t include realism in your list of criteria. It seems to me that this is far more important for the average reader of thrillers. A tradesman, soldier or cop might not pick up on bad grammar and poor style, but you can bet he’ll throw the book against the wall laughing when the protagonist does something that anyone in his field in real life couldn’t or wouldn’t do.

Joe,

I realize that you’re probably using 5,000 copies sold as a kind of ballpark figure for something better than the current system. But I think the realities of e-publishing make criteria like this impractical. Suppose I sell 5,000 (or 20,000) copies through my own website. How would I prove it without compromising the privacy of my customers? Or how about this: Amazon permits me to do a two-for-one sale on my e-books (i.e., one title $0.99, the other free). Do 2,500 sales equal 5,000 copies sold? And how many individual short stories count?

My point is just that e-publishing encompasses far more things than traditional publishing, so the lines are harder to draw; and when the lines are harder to draw, everyone spends his time embroiled in minutia about who did and did not meet the criteria.

At the same time, I admit that excluding e-published authors who’ve sold millions over traditionally published authors who’ve sold a few thousand smacks of book-snobbery.

Walter Knight said...

I am not big on joining organizations, but still, I too seek recognization and validation from my peers for accomplishments. How can this be done?

Easy. The music industry does it right. If you sell a certain amout of records (music units) you get an award: silver record, gold, platinum . . . whatever. Amazon can do the same thing.

After selling my first 100 books I wanted to get up and shout "Hey look at me!" It was a milestone I was told I could not do . . . ever. I was told the first 100 books sold would only be to neighbors and friends.

After my first 1,000 books sold I thought I was hot stuff, but still no one cared. Barnes and Noble would sell my books online, but not on their shelves. After selling 10,000 books I thought the press should be seeking me out. Now I've sold over 20,000 books, and I realize my peers are busy with their own projects.

Back to Amazon. Why can't Amazon give me a gold, silver, or even bronz star ( a golden book award would be cool) as I pass milestones? I do not think so. Noting an author's success not only would be a good marketing tool, but would give authors the much needed positive strokes us unsecure types seek and crave.

Childish of me to want a brownie point? Soldiers get medals and ribbins for great acts of valor. I am sure some soldiers would prefer cash, but they are never-the-less very proud of their awards. Just a side note, I think Seal Team #6 should get a cash reward, but that is another topic.

So Amazon, give me my gold star because the MWA(BNSP) does not want me, and I don't want them either. I'll display my gold star proudly on the cover of my book. Or better yet, I want a golden Joe Konrath Golden Finger of Luck Award for accomplishment against all odds. I'll prould shake my Golden Joe finger at the establishment in defiance, like that mouce does at the eagle.

Steve Richer said...

The last association I joined was the Boy Scouts, I was 10 years old.

I quit when they told me I wouldn't get dibs on the Girl Scouts...

B. Justin Shier said...

Lee: but it might inspire one kid in the audience to write...

Joe: So they could grow up, read my blog, self-publish, and not be able to join MWA as an active member.


I resemble that remark.

Jude Hardin said...

I skimmed the chapter you posted of “Unborn” and found two errors (or one repeated). You wrote: “My legs are broke.” But “broke” is the past tense; you need the participle “broken.” (If it’s dialect you should’ve used a single quotation mark after the “e” in broke).

It's dialogue, lol. That's the way the character talks. And no editor on the planet would put a "single quotation" after the e in broke.

I'm actually embarrassed for you that you don't know any better than that. I'm sure I make the occasional grammatical error, but that ain't one of 'em.

LA Burton said...

Reminds me of the HWA (Horror Writers Asso). You can not join them without very similar outline of rules. Very crappy.

tyhutchinson said...

Sometimes the comments are the best part. Jude, you're a feist old fella.

I'm never been big on joining professional organizations. I've been in a couple in my current profession, advertising, and don't recall getting much out of it.

Indie go.

Joe Konrath said...

Indie go?

How about "Indie go bragh."

Barry said...

Damn, I click on Joe's blog to procrastinate a little, and... this?!

Great post, great discussion. Lee, salute for having the balls and integrity to do what MWA would be doing if its balls and integrity were commensurate: engage Joe's sound, respectful, and productive argument.

Jude said, "There could be a set of objective criteria. Books with opening paragraphs about weather, laughable alliteration, incredible coincidences, word repetition in close proximity, head-hopping POVs, unintentional rhymes, sentences that don't logically follow one another, imprudent use of exclamation marks, verbs inappropriately applied to inanimate objects, adverbial dialogue tags, adjectives out the yingyang, confusing and pointless dialogue exchanges, unexplainable verb tense shifts, pronoun confusion, nonsensical sentence structure probably wouldn't make the cut."

This made me smile, because:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000844.html

and

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/6194031/The-Lost-Symbol-and-The-Da-Vinci-Code-author-Dan-Browns-20-worst-sentences.html

and

http://hestia.typepad.com/flatlander/2004/04/dan_brown_the_d.html

(Just Google "Dan Brown bad writing" for lots more.)

So The Da Vinci Code is out, alas.

FWIW, I let my MWA membership lapse about a year ago. Lee, it does sound like the organization is doing some good in the world, for which, salute. But I didn't feel it was doing much for me, and I'd rather donate to one of the bloggers, independent journalists, or civil rights organizations I support, while helping writers through articles, periodic guest blogs, and occasional long conversations with Joe. As I say, take that FWIW, because I could certainly be an outlier. I do hope the organization will come to its senses on admitting self-published writers. There's no perfect system of criteria, and since MWA has an imperfect one now (outsourcing of quality determinations to legacy publishers), why not add another imperfect one (a baseline number of units sold)?

Okay, back to writing.

Jude Hardin said...

I didn't want to play the Dan Brown card, Barry, because I have a personal policy against bashing other authors in public (even ones who are billionaires).

But since you brought it up...

If sales are to be the new yardstick, then that would make Dan Brown the greatest writer who ever lived.

Hehe.

Barry said...

Jude, my point wasn't that sales would be an inappropriate yardstick for determining professionalism. Sales is pretty much the definition of professionalism in this context, and besides, in my comment to Lee, I explicitly argued for an additional, sales-based criterion.

Rather, my point was that an evaluation of quality, as you proposed, wouldn't work -- because it could easily achieve the odd effect of excluding Brown from the MWA. If you think Brown should qualify for MWA membership, and that criteria which would exclude him would be inappropriate, you'll probably want to shy away from a quality test. Perhaps in favor of a sales one.

Anonymous said...

@Jude re: "broke"
Thank you. I was about to change all my "had to move quick" to "quickly", which ain't the way you talk when your legs are broke and you gotta move quick.
...just a newbie

Jude Hardin said...

Rather, my point was that an evaluation of quality, as you proposed, wouldn't work -- because it could easily achieve the odd effect of excluding Brown from the MWA. If you think Brown should qualify for MWA membership, and that criteria which would exclude him would be inappropriate, you'll probably want to shy away from a quality test. Perhaps in favor of a sales one.

I understood what you were getting at, Barry. Just having a little fun.

And I never said that I think Brown should qualify for an MWA membership. ;)

W. Dean said...

Jude,

You’re seriously going to pretend that’s not a mistake? I wouldn’t bother commenting if you’d admitted the error or even if you didn’t to save face—but then you had to go an insult me. So here’s the pedantic response.

Every editor at the Big 6 publishing houses uses the Chicago Manual of Style (for U.S. editions), along with an in-house style sheet. I’ve cut and pasted the basic rule from Chicago for all contractions (note the examples):

--7.29 Contractions

In contractions, an apostrophe normally replaces omitted letters. Some contractions, such as won’t or ain’t, are formed irregularly. Colloquialisms such as gonna or wanna take no apostrophe (there being no obvious place for one). Webster’s lists many common contractions, along with alternative spellings and, where appropriate, plurals. Note that an apostrophe—the equivalent of a right single quotation mark (’ not ‘)—is always used to form a contraction.

singin’
gov’t
’tis (not ‘tis)
dos and don’ts
rock ’n’ roll--

This rule is simple, commonsensical and known to every high school kid who reads Steinbeck: if you drop a letter, you must add an apostrophe (or single quotation mark) to distinguish between misspellings and dialect (with some exceptions). Otherwise, the reader can’t tell whether he’s reading dialect or typos. Everyone follows this rule and every novel I’ve ever read follows this convention. But all this is neither here nor there because we both know it’s just a mistake.

Here are some other rules you may find handy in the future: don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, don’t pick fights with guys with cauliflower ears...

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Jude, babe,

The fact of the matter is that Brown does many things very well. Maybe not the the actual stringing of words on the page, but he spins a story that a whole lot of people had to pay 25 bucks a pop to read. If you don't give that due credit, then you don't understand what's most important to readers.

A good story.

I don't mean to pick on you, Jude. I actually agree with you a lot of the time. But this is something that bugs me. There's a difference between writing and story telling, and story telling is always king with the reader.

I am an English Major/literary fiction writer turned romance writer turned thriller writer. I've also been making my living writing fiction for 11 years. So I've experienced many sides of this. Many writers who can pen brilliant sentences can't put a story together that makes readers care or need to turn the page. Many brilliant storytellers don't write compelling or original prose. But all authors readers will pay to read do -something- very well.

Everyone who writes is a writer. Following that, everyone who writes mystery should be able to join a mystery writers organization. That's the way is is with RWA, everyone who writes romance can join (the definitions of published and unpublished and other tiers come after that). If MWA wants to narrow its membership more than that, then the authors readers pay to read in certain numbers vs those they don't might be a good barometer. Quality has too many variables and is too subjective to make a measure.

Joe Konrath said...

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I'm reasonably sure using a common grammar mistake in dialog to reflect how people really talk doesn't fall into the realm of dialect. Some grammar mistakes get repeated so often they become acceptable.

I write "gonna" in dialog all the time. That's a bastardized contraction of "going to", but it doesn't use an apostrophe.

jtplayer said...

It's not a mistake. But keep sayin' it is ;-)

jtplayer said...

Dan Brown does have a way of keeping you turning the pages. Sure, there's a lot to pick on there, but clearly he's doing something right.

Blake Crouch said...

"Every editor at the Big 6 publishing houses uses the Chicago Manual of Style (for U.S. editions), along with an in-house style sheet. I’ve cut and pasted the basic rule from Chicago for all contractions (note the examples):"

This is actually not correct. I wrote a book called Abandon, in which half of the story is set in 1893 and uses extensive late 1800s dialect, which I invented. A copyeditor tried to put apostrophes everywhere where letter were omitted, and it looked like shit, and I asked them to leave the words alone. And they did. So "standin' there" would be "standin there". Maybe an apostrophe is the standard, but it looks ugly, and I don't begrudge Jude not using it. I wouldn't and never do.

Style guides are lame and meant to be abused.

Jude Hardin said...

if you drop a letter, you must add an apostrophe

I didn't drop a letter. Broke is a complete word. The grammar my character uses is not correct, but no apostrophe is required. I promise.

Don't bring a gun to a tankfight. :)

Jude Hardin said...

And Blake is right about all those apostrophes being ugly, lol. If I were to write a bunch of southern dialect I would leave them off same as he did.

Jude Hardin said...

The fact of the matter is that Brown does many things very well. Maybe not the the actual stringing of words on the page, but he spins a story that a whole lot of people had to pay 25 bucks a pop to read. If you don't give that due credit, then you don't understand what's most important to readers.

A good story.


I agree, Ann. Barry was the one who put up all the Dan-Brown-is-a-crappy-writer links. Yell at him! ;)

everyone who writes mystery should be able to join a mystery writers organization.

Maybe you haven't read some of the truly awful stuff that's out there. Ask Joe if the authors of some of the contest entries he has read should be active members in an organization for professional authors.

And anyone can join MWA as an associate member. I'm not sure how that differs from the tier system in the RWA.

W. Dean said...

Joe,

The passage I quoted directly from the 16th edition of Chicago Manual actually uses “gonna” and “wanna” as examples that don’t use apostrophes, because they don’t break the rule of a missing letter in the beginning, middle or end. They’re really just transliterations of slang. But every case where you’d expect to find a letter should have one. Every style guide or writer’s handbook will say the same thing: you have to be clear about what is slang, so as not to confuse the reader.


Blake,

First, you said the copy editor tried to put apostrophes in, which was my point from the start. The reason I quoted Chicago is that Jude decided to deride me for being a pedant while simultaneously deriding others who didn’t live up to high literary standards--that struck me as ironic.

Second, when your book is filled with dialogue in dialect, the editors should remove most of the apostrophes because, as you said, it looks like shit. But again, my point was that apostrophes are common practice.

Jude,

Really? So you, the gatekeeper of high-style, are now going to maintain that all dialogue in all books is off limits for your Style Test for Membership in MWA so long as the author claims the character just talks that way? You’re cutting off your own legs here.

In fact, any intro to writing book will tell you not to put bad grammar in your character’s mouth without it fitting the character and making it clear that it’s the character and not you. You didn't do either, which means you made a mistake.

Jude Hardin said...

So you, the gatekeeper of high-style

WTF??????

I write genre fiction, dude. Dime store private eye shit. Just because I sometimes acknowledge that there is such a thing as unpublishable writing widely being published doesn't mean I'm any sort of literary snob. You got the wrong hombre, hombre.

“I think my legs are broke'. God, it hurts. It hurts so bad.”

Find one reputable editor in the WORLD who would leave that apostrophe there and I'll buy you a milkshake.

Joe Konrath said...

I dunno how I missed that. I shoulda read more careful.

:)

Joe Konrath said...

Maybe his legs are broke because they gambled all their money away.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Hey, Jude (sorry, couldn't resist),

I've already had a similar discussion with Barry at a writer's conference. I beat him to a pulp. ;) Actually we agreed. I believe he was illustrating his larger point here.

In RWA, all members have the same perks. As far as I know, the only perks the PAN (published author network) gets is a separate track of workshops at the national conference. The PRO members (those who have finished a manuscript) also have a special track, which PAN members can't attend (and it's always fabulous, she says enviously).

I've judged a lot of unpublished writer contests. I know what kind of garbage is out there...and I don't feel threatened by it. :)

Seriously, what do those writers take from you? Anyone who knows anything will recognize the difference, right? And the ones who don't are not your readers in the first place.

I am a member of RWA and ITW. Maybe I'm a bit battle worn, but I agree with Blake. The only validation that matters is making a living.

jtplayer said...

Keep digging bro!

Jude Hardin said...

Maybe his legs are broke because they gambled all their money away.

LMAO.

Jude Hardin said...

The only validation that matters is making a living.

Hmm. I understand Cormac McCarthy lived in squalor for a good portion of his life, and I think most of us would agree he's pretty damn good.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

And I'm sure Cormac McCarthy would have preferred a membership in an organization to a decent living, right?

What are you arguing here, Jude?

Jude Hardin said...

What are you arguing here, Jude?

That sales aren't necessarily a good measurement of quality.

I don't belong to anything, so I personally don't care who gets to be a member of this and that and who doesn't, but I agree with a lot of the points Lee made. I won't rehash them here, but it seems to me there should be some sort of criteria for membership into a professional organization. Maybe sales is the best we can do. I don't know.

W. Dean said...

Jude,

Look, I work for the Man (English Language Division). I have my own black helicopter and guy to fly it who wears black sunglasses and sits in the cockpit all day waiting for my orders.

My job is to preserve the grammatical order of things; failing that, I maintain a reasonable order where dime store novelist don’t talk crazy talk about standards that are difficult to codify and even harder to maintain. That’s why we’ve warned you to start being more charitable to your fellow writers.

And for the record, I didn’t say put in an apostrophe, I said you should’ve used the goddamn past participle. Anyone who can afford a mahogany casket with brass hardware should also be speaking proper English.

Cormac McCarthy? You must want me to leave and never return.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

This idea that you have to choose between being a good writer and making money is a false choice. You can do both. And being a member of an organization isn't going to have a bearing on either.

Joe Konrath said...

Cormac McCarthy? You must want me to leave and never return.

I tried to read The Road twice. Didn't grab me. My friends rave about him.

Crumley is another lauded by my peers. I've read several of his, recognize what they like in his prose, but the story just isn't there. Unattractive people doing unattractive things without much happening in the way of plot. Edgy? Sure. But gimme Dan Brown any day.

You want to know my definition of a good book. One that is intentional.

Maybe the flowery prose is what is intended. Maybe a rollercoaster plot. Maybe laughs. Maybe depth.

If the writer is intentional, and obvious in their intent, it's probably a good book. Everything else is just subjective taste.

Jude Hardin said...

This idea that you have to choose between being a good writer and making money is a false choice. You can do both. And being a member of an organization isn't going to have a bearing on either.

Amen.

Jude Hardin said...

Joe:

The Road was pretty depressing. Try No Country for Old Men. One of the creepiest villains ever.

Barry said...

Totally agree that the question is always, did the writer *intend* this effect? If the answer is yes, you can't really criticize without falling afoul of that great High Fidelity (movie) line: "How can it be bullshit to express a preference?"

Have to add here, though, that I don't think Dan Brown intended to write such execrable prose. But: I assume Brown must have told a hell of a story to sell so many copies in spite of the writing.

But that's just my opinion, and again, my point wasn't to opine about the quality of Brown's writing, but rather to demonstrate that, as a criteria for admission to MWA, quality, whether of story, writing, or otherwise, would be unworkable. We're having as much trouble coming to some sort of a consensus on the quality of one of the all-time bestsellers ever and of a Pulitzer Prize winner. Quality is something for prize committees to wrestle with. I don't think it's a great criteria for admission to professional organizations.

It occurs to me that awards (whatever you think of them) are supposed to be about quality, and should focus on that. Bestseller lists are about sales, and should focus on that (maybe weighted for dollars earned in addition to units sold, but that's a separate story). And professional organizations are about being a professional, which is about making money. At some point, it becomes as odd for MWA to exclude the John Lockes of the world from its professional ranks as it is odd for the NYT to exclude Locke et al from the ranks of those it calls "bestsellers."

Maybe distilling out, clarifying, and separating these concepts would produce better results.

Jude Hardin said...

Anyone who can afford a mahogany casket with brass hardware should also be speaking proper English.

I'm changing it just for you.

Revision:

"Ah! Jesus Christ, my motherfucking legs are fucked. God, it hurts. It hurts so fucking bad.”

Jude Hardin said...

Spoken with grace and eloquence as always, Barry. Cheers!

Ryne said...

Personally, I'd prefer:

"Ah! Jesus Christ, my motherfuckin legs are fucked. God, it hurts. It hurts so fuckin bad.”

;)

Ellen Fisher said...

"And professional organizations are about being a professional, which is about making money. At some point, it becomes as odd for MWA to exclude the John Lockes of the world from its professional ranks as it is odd for the NYT to exclude Locke et al from the ranks of those it calls "bestsellers."

I tend to agree with this assessment. A professional writer is reasonably defined as one who's making money. Certainly you can argue that a certain amount isn't sufficient (if I've earned $10 at writing, am I really a pro?), but when some self-pubbed writers are making as much or more than many trad pubbed authors, it gets a little weird to treat them as less than professionals.

That being said, it's up to the organization, not to me. And organizations can only be changed from the inside, so if one cares enough, one should join the organization and help change it. Otherwise, it seems to me it's not really worth worrying about.

Selena Kitt said...

Joe said: The fact remains that most self-pubbed work isn't very good, and would never have been traditionally published.

So why does everyone pick on me for saying the same thing?


Because, Jude, you're so dang easy to pick on. *poke*

:)

Ey Wade said...

All I can say is 'wow'. Basically it all boils down to discrimination, validation and a wish for inclusion. I haven't sold many books, but I put that down to a year of horrible personal issues and sparse marketing. Not to my professionalism.

As for readers not caring about the labels ...I have read some pretty horrible tirades against us indies in the Kindle forums. To each his own.

There's always an outsider, newbie, unprofessional in any given field. People can get over it. Just look at how they've gotten over the presence of minorities. We can't all be like Mike and I'm not one for wasting time banging on doors. Doors that will probably squeeze open to let me in and then only place crap in my reach. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that Indie publishing is different and deserves it's own organization. Make one and make it better.

Jude Hardin said...

LOL Ryne.

Jude Hardin said...

I guess I'll just have to accept being the Charlie Brown of the literary world, Selena. ;)

Maybe some day I'll sell 1/1000 of the books that other Brown guy has sold.

W. Dean said...

Jude,

That’s perfect. Now the wife needs a realistic response:

“Oh for chrissake! ‘I broke my legs!’ I broke my legs!’ Boo-hoo! I’m so sick of you whining over every little thing! I’ve got gasoline all over my favorite dress and you don’t hear me crying about it! I’d punch you if I could move!”

Joe,

I could go on all night about McCarthy. But B. R. Myers wrote a much-hated (by the literary establishment) piece for the Atlantic Monthly a few years ago that covers the purple prose problem in contemporary literary fiction. As for the content, it’s the nihilism that I can’t stand. Suffice to say some people think it’s the height of high culture sentiment; I think it’s the bottom.

Barry,

I agree on Brown’s prose. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. But it’s far worse if your background happens to be in the area he writes about, because it just destroys the suspension of disbelief altogether.

I also think Brown is the perfect example of the point I think we’re both making about literary standards as criterion of membership in a writers association. There are too many factors that come into play—it’s a trade off between good story and good writing that can’t be laid down like law.

Robert Walker said...

Oh hell, I quit MWA years ago, right around the time they started excluding small presses where I had a vested interest like Echelon and Five Star. As soon as they began disrespecting whole publishing companies, not bothering to even find out if the company offered an advance or not...and the exclusivity issues mounted with the Harliquin deal, and more and more nose-in-the-air attitude coming out of MWA and ignoring letters I wrote and so it went -- stopped paying dues, withdrew, and I let people know why. What ten years ago? OK was it seven? I am having memory lapse but it has been a long time.

MWA stopped impressing me so long ago as it became apparent not only were they henchmen for the gatekeepers but that they were a clique, a big, self-important clique. So I finally did what all self-respecting authors did. I stepped off and out of the bullshit. You notice Dean R. Koontz is not a member? I followed Koontz out of Horror Writers of America for the same damn reasons.

JOE -- I am on board with you one hundred percent but make it 1000 bks. sold, man, when we start our own damn organization, OK, buddy?

Rob Walker
Titanic 2012, Children of Salem & 45 other Kindle titles...

Joshua S. said...

I'll still take Koontz, McCammon, or Preston and Child over a Jude Hardin any day of the week, but I was impressed with "Unborn", and I think Jude's as worthy of our $2.99 as anyone else.

And that's really the most beautiful thing about this blog: there's room under the tent for everyone. If you have a good story to tell, you're welcome here.

Those good vibes are worth all the juvenile bickering. :)

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