For years I have looked forward to the Georgia Author of the Year (GAYA) competition. Sadly, I won’t be looking forward to it in the future because the sponsoring organization, Georgia Writers Association, after 53 years, has turned its back on many, if not most, of the writers in the state.
They’ve decided that self-published authors aren’t really writers. They’ve said as much in the qualifications for their award. Here it is in their own words (here’s the link):
Can I nominate a self-published book?
No. Traditionally books and chapbooks are eligible however. These are books that underwent a selection process with the publisher, in which the author was subject to acceptance or rejection; books that were professionally edited during the publication process and the book did not require the author to pay for the publication.
I take this to mean that unless a writer is willing to sell the rights to his or her work, it’s somehow unworthy. Or maybe it’s unworthy because the writer was eager to get the book in print and wasn’t willing to mark time for the two to four years it takes to navigate the “traditional” approach. Then again, the subject matter may only appeal to a narrow band of readers which would not offer a publisher a big enough return on their investment. So, once again, it’s clearly unworthy. There are other possibilities, and I’ll get to them as well.
Isn’t it ironic that an organization which claims to be all about writers can’t find one capable of composing a paragraph without typos and grammatical errors? (See paragraph above.) A copy of Strunk and White (check it out here) will clarify the use of semi-colons and may also address the issue of run-on sentences. And can someone please explain what “traditionally books” are? As for “chapbooks,” how are they not home-grown? According to Wikipedia (link):
A chapbook is a type of street literature printed in early modern Europe. Produced cheaply, chapbooks were commonly small, paper-covered booklets, usually printed on a single sheet folded into books of 8, 12, 16 and 24 pages.
I have published both traditionally and on my own, and I’m quite certain the quality of the writing is the same. If anything, the newer books–those I’ve self-published–are even better. A book that’s been peddled by an agent and bought by an editor doesn’t automatically qualify as “good.” J.K. Rowling’s work was rejected many times before Scholastic picked it up. Did that act alone suddenly make her work significant? Stories like this are common and suggest that perseverance may count for more than talent.
Most people don’t realize that publishers typically do small print runs for “new” authors, those without a significant track record or a large, ready-made audience. If the books don’t sell after three or four months, the retailers tear the covers off and return them for credit. The books themselves go into a dumpster, and the titles go into oblivion. In most cases, the authors have sold their rights to those titles for modest advances, and because of that, they won’t be able to sell the book on their own or in any other format. Is it possible some writers aren’t willing to go along with that scenario? Surely I’m not the only one, but apparently, because of that, my work no longer measures up.
Agents and editors don’t possess any more insight than anyone else about what books will sell. Many will tell you their vast experience in the publishing industry has given them the ability to pick winners. It hasn’t. If that were true, far fewer books would end up in dumpsters.
Finally, I don’t want to end this post without a comment about “books that were professionally edited during the publication process.” I presume this means that any editing done prior to the book’s acceptance by a publisher is also unworthy. It must be magic; nothing else explains the difference between independent editors and those who punch a clock for one of the conglomerates. Evidently, GWA has become an arm of the mainstream publishing industry.
Why else would they disenfranchise so many people?
Whose interests are being served?
[I wrote to GWA on Dec. 18th, expressed my disappointment, and asked them to reconsider this new qualification. As of this date, I have not had a response. Why not let them know how you feel about their Christmas wish for indie writers? Here’s the link.]