Monday, December 6, 2010

Awards? I Don't Need No Stinkin' Awards

If you're a genre writer and you want your work to be eligible for certain awards - the Edgars, for example - you need to be a member of the Mystery Writers of America. The MWA's list of eligibility requirements is fairly extensive and includes earnings thresholds that must be met to be considered a professional author, as well as requirements publishers must meet for their authors to qualify.

Fair enough; after all, it's their organization, they have the right to run it however they want.

I'll be honest - I'd love for FINAL VECTOR to be eligible for a Best First Novel Edgar. And yes, before you say it, I am well aware it would be the ultimate longshot, but you can't win if you don't play, right?

The problem is I can't play.

I meet the earning requirement by virtue of the advance for my debut novel and my publisher, Medallion Press, is a qualifying publisher. But I am still not eligible to join the MWA as an active member, because of a rule that states, "The initial print run for a book-length work of fiction or non-fiction must be at least 500 copies."

Sounds pretty reachable, right?

And, in fact, if FINAL VECTOR was being released as a mass-market paperback, which was the original plan, it would not be an issue. But in this rapidly changing publishing landscape, many of the smaller/Indie publishers are abandoning the unprofitable mass-market paperback format for the lower-overhead electronic format. Which is exactly what Medallion has done, meaning there will be NO print run.

I wrote an email to the MWA asking for a clarification and was told I could apply for an affiliate membership, making me eligible to receive "about 95 percent of...member benefits." Unfortunately the major benefit I want is award eligibility, which doesn't apply for affiliate members.

What's funny about the entire thing is that in the lengthy list of eligibility requirements at the MWA site is the following: "If your available only in an electronic format...but can meet certain criteria, you may qualify." What those criteria are is not stated, but whatever they are, I guess I don't meet them.

I don't mean to complain, and I fully acknowledge the MWA's right to operate their organization in any manner they choose, but to have a "sliding scale" of eligibility requirements, especailly one that is not quantified or explained, seems to me to be more than a little unfair.

The International Thriller Writers, another professional writers organization and one to which I already belong, has the right idea. They maintain their list of eligible publishers, and if you sign with one of them to release a book you are deemed eligible, whether your book will be available in hardcover, paperback or ebook.

Simple. And fair.


Dani said...

That does seem unfair.

So your book will only be available electronically? bummer! I haven't joined the e-reader train yet. Don't know if I ever will. There is nothing like the feel of a book in your hands.

Al Leverone said...

Hi Dani, I do agree about the feeling of holding an actual paper-and-ink physical product in your hands, and I went through about a three week period of agonizing whether to demand the rights to my book back from Medallion when they informed me of the change back in March.

But I'm glad I didn't. The ebook market is exploding and the stigma of publishing electronically is disappearing just as fast, although apparently not to the MWA.

I got a Kindle about 15 months ago and I love it. If you love to read I recommend borrowing one from someone who owns one and reading one book on it, just to see if you like it. You might be surprised.

One more thing - Amazon has a FREE Kindle app you can download at their site, one for your computer, one for iPad and iPhone, as well as other hand-held devices, so you really don't even need a dedicated e-reader anymore.

Anyway, thanks for the interest, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Dani said...

Borrowing an e-reader is an excellent idea!

(And I secretly want an iPad)

Al Leverone said...

You and me both, Dani. But who knows, maybe Santa can make that happen...