3/06/2014

Professional Organizations and Power Trips

One of the things I did when I decided to really work at publication was join a Christian writing professional organization. I was hopeful that they'd have good classes on craft development and just a chance to rub elbows with other folk who are writing for the inspirational market. And in that respect, it's been successful.

Unfortunately, the other half of what I've discovered is that there's a distinct separation between the elite, "We are the authors who matter" crowd and the rest of us aspiring or small-pubbed folk. And Heaven help you if you decide to self-publish! Oh the scathing comments that get made about self-pubbers, no matter how much time and effort (and expense) you put into your product, according to the elite of this organization, you're sub-par. And, as one who's sub-par, you're not allowed entry to the few perks of the organization like their database of published works and new release newsletter that they put out every month.

Except...now a few of the board members have gone hybrid. (Hybrid, in this case, means they self-pub some things and still work with their traditional publisher on others.) And, well, we couldn't possibly have board members unable to reap all their benefits, could we?

So last night they put out an email saying how excited they were to be moving forward with the trend of the industry as a whole and that they'd be now allowing self-published authors to apply to be "Qualified Independent Authors." As a QIA, you'll have access to all the previously out-of-reach assets of your professional membership. Sounds great, right?

Until you read what they feel makes you a QIA. There's not a review board who looks over your book and checks it for quality cover design, good editing and writing, and internal formatting. Oh no, we wouldn't want to have standards for things you, the author, can actually control. No, the sole way to become a QIA is to earn $5K on a single title within a 12 month period.

If you look at reports from places like Digital Book World and Writer's Market who did a survey, you'll see that the majority (80%) of self-pubbed authors make between $0 and $4,999 A YEAR. And most self-pubbed authors are putting out more than one title in that time frame. So to have to make $5K in 12 months on a single title? I can tell you who will meet that criteria: the two board members who are hybrid and want their self-pubbed titles in the databases and newsletters.

Heck, talking to other authors who are published by the Big 6, $5K on a single title is just a pipe dream. Forget about people who work with the smaller presses because what they write is much more niche than anything the Big 6 are going to look at. (Ahem, like me.)

I've read great stuff -- professionally edited, quality cover designs, well formatted inside, and incredibly well written -- from self-published authors. I've read not-so great and downright horrible stuff from self-published authors, too. But then, I've read great stuff from the Big 6 publishers as well as not-so-great and downright horrible stuff from the Big 6 as well. The amount of money a book earns is not a valid indicator of it's quality! (Look at books we consider the classics today - how many of them--most of which were self-published--would meet these requirements? Anything by Dickens? Jane Austen?)

All that basing "QIA" status on sales does is guarantee that the only people who can hope to benefit from this new rule are the people who are already the elite within the organization. The big names who are hoping to get bigger. (And ask any of them why they went hybrid and they'll tell you one of the top 5 reasons was to earn more money per title. It works for them because they have a huge following from their traditionally pubbed books.) And that's great - I don't begrudge them that.

But I do think if they're going to be "changing with the publishing times" that they need to recognize the new independent author as a valid entity. One who deserves to be allowed into their database and newsletter based on the actual quality of their product, not their sales figures.

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