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No awards for self-published authors…

Friday I read an interesting article on Books Blog, a page on the The Guardian website, about the deliberate snubbing of self-published authors by the literary awards community. It seems that in order for self-published authors to receive an award for their work, they must first sign with a “proper publisher” so their book is no longer considered self-published. And yet, many talented authors have made the choice to self-publish for a variety of reasons, the least of which was their ability to get signed with a publishing house. Self-published is not synonymous with poorly written.

At first glance, this practice reeks of the good ol’ boy mentality in thought and action, but is there another reason for this blatant snub?

The self-publishing community is an unregulated conglomerate of authors who either don’t want to sign their works over to a publisher or can’t find one that will pick them up. Does this mean their books are sub-par? No, but without the normal sifting of the manuscripts to find that diamond in the rough that comes from the acquisitions department of the publishing house, there’s no way to tell if the book you’re getting is good. And reviews aren’t always reliable because at least the first ten reviews are from family and friends gushing about the book.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big supporter of the self-publishing movement, but without the discerning eye of an editor or agent or a person with some publishing know-how, a lot of books that probably needed more revision get thrown into the pile of available books to choose from. Add to that online book retailers that don’t advise authors on how to properly classify their books by genre, and readers find that picking a book from the self-published shelf is a lot like playing Russian roulette.

No awards for self-published authors

Can you image the pile of books these prize administrators would have to work through to find a winner? At least by requiring a book to come from a “proper publisher,” the awards committee knows the book has been read and polished by someone with a discerning eye. Excluding self-published works is an effective way to insure the books nominated have met the standards the industry upholds.

That being said, the status quo of rejecting all self-published works is too rigid, in my opinion. While there are awards available for books from self-published authors or independent publishers—the IPPY and the Indie Book Awards come to mind—it would be nice to see the prize administrators for literary awards change the rules in such a way as to allow quality self-published gems to compete with the nominees from publishing houses. Whether the prize administrators like it or not, readers continue to embrace works by those not willing to play the industry game. The indie author movement is here to stay. By refusing to acknowledge quality works by these authors, the literary world is missing out on real talent from those indie authors with an independent, devil-may-care spirit that makes them so wonderful.

In the end, if the administrators of these prizes continue with what appears to many to be an elitist attitude, they may find the audience clamoring for their prize has dwindled over time and their image eroded by the perception of a stuffy prize offered by stuffy people. Perhaps it’s time to usher in a new era of prizes indicative of the 21st century.

If you’d like to read more of the article that sparked my interest, please visit Why is self-publishing still scorned by literary awards? at TheGuardian.com.

What would you do? What solutions could you offer?


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