Friday, November 7, 2014

THE HORROR WRITERS ASSOCATION, SELF-PUBLISHERS, and SNEETCHES ON THE BEACHES

Tell me I can’t go somewhere, and I will want to go more. Rope something off with a Police Line Do Not Cross and suddenly I DO WANT TO CROSS.  At times my subversive self has served me well.  When I learned I had to run a qualifying time in order to run the Boston Marathon,  I ran multiple marathons over ten years, failing many times, until I finally  nailed the qualifier.

 Well, after writing a couple pieces of Horror/Dark Fiction, I looked into a “Horror Writers Association” membership. I wanted to be among other writers who I could look up to and model myself after. HWA seemed like the perfect place to learn from others, rub elbows, and hopefully climb up and stand on the shoulders of some Giants.  (And Milk-Blood received a reading list recommendation. Even more reason.)

As of a few months ago, the HWA wouldn’t let me in. Full membership is based largely on cash advances for a novel, of which small publishers only offer modest amounts, if any at all. On the lips of Children wasn’t bona fide even though it’s gotten some incredible reviews by credible sources and been nominated for small-fry awards.

My most recent release, MILK-BLOOD , also wasn’t bona fide and wouldn’t be eligible since it was self-published. Doesn’t matter about the praise and sales number it has generated. Sorry son, you’re self-published, you got no stars upon thars, and we aren’t letting you in.

It is like the Boston Marathon saying “no matter how fast a marathon you run, you do not qualify unless you  are sponsored by a shoe company.”
 
Well, kudos to the Horror Writers Association which has changed the rule regarding self-published authors. Self-published authors are now allowed full membership as long as they meet similar criteria as traditionally published authors must achieve. They are even allowed to vote. This is not insignificant. I give a ton of credit to the HWA, because, from my understanding, most other genre specific associations are not as progressive.

Poking around a few blogs and message boards, there has been some dissidence over this. Not a ton, just mild unease.

The funny thing is, I can understand there being resistance. As a reader, I also have a negative prejudice against self-published work and approach it with more caution. I expect readers to approach my book with the same sense of skepticism, and therefore I need to earn the right to be read.   The only thing more annoying than overly smug traditionally published writer guy is overly offendable, chip on their shoulder, let me always tell you how Indie is best, self-pub guy.

One of things being published by Books of the Dead Press did for me was provide some credibility. I still did tons of my own marketing, but when I was able to mention that On the Lips of Children was published by Books of The Dead Press, people listened.  Throughout the process, I learned much more about preparing a book to publish and realized what an impatient idiot I had been with previous works. I also read a ton on the subject, and reached out to writers who I saw were “doing it right” (thanks Joe Hart) and hired an excellent, well-respected editor and brilliant cover artist. 

I also started my own imprint name: Wicked Run Press. It drove home the point that publishing was a business and I had to act like one. Expectations for the manuscript needed to be higher, and if they weren’t met, I would send it back to the author to rewrite. I reached out to five beta-readers who helped in so many ways, rewrote again (and again), took part in weeks long editing process, and then added more proofreading time.

Once the manuscript was done, there were cover reveals, paying for advertising, sending out arc copies, and approaching bloggers— It is a shit-load of work, but, I love it! I really do. I love the control, love that success or failure depends on me, that I can price it to sell while getting a majority of the share, and  I can take a picture of my hairy butt and put it on the cover if I want.

The problem is, of course, that lots of self-published authors have published their hairy butts and think it’s a piece of art.  Then again, I’ve read traditionally published books that also seem jam-packed full of ass.

Here’s something I think we often miss: Many of the small traditional publishing companies out there are just self-publishers, doing the same thing that a good self-publisher does, except publishing work someone else writes. The process is the same. KDP doesn’t treat them any different.  As self-publishers raise their standards and gain acceptance as mainstream, the differentiation will pass by the wayside, and all the sneetches will live together in peace on the beaches.

As of now, I am just an affiliate member of HWA, which has a meager baseline of required earnings to qualify, but if the next few months are like the last four since MILK-BLOOD was released, I’ll be as HWA membered as can be soon.  So far, the welcoming committee has been a big warm hug.

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