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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Publishing Rant, Part the Second

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


So this is not quite on the heels of my previous screed, but it's connected. Sorta like a piece of toulet paper that sticks to the heel of the previous tome.

I'm not sure if that's quite an appropriate mataphor. Blame it on the Albuterol I happen to be inhaling from my portable hookah nebulizer at the moment. One of the many joys of spring.

Before you sign with a publisher there is one more thing to consider. Are you planning on using this publication as credit to join one of the large writer's organizations? With the exception of the RWA, which has a level for aspiring and non-commercially published writers (edit: so does the MWA), most organizations require you to earn a certain amount of money (generally the minimums aren't hard to reach) or publish with someone on their approved list. Unless you're like Groucho Marx, who famously said he wouldn't want to belong to any club that would accept him as a member, you might want to check out the rules for any organization you want to join before you seek publication. That erotic e-book you wrote may or may not qualify you for Published Author Network status in the RWA, depending on the publisher. The good news there is that you can still join, and can upgrade later as you qualify.

Why are these groups so mean? To put it bluntly, they have every right to set the bar for membership anywhere they want. Presumably, as long as they don't discriminate against gender, race, or whatever. I think the SFWA has a good explanation. In other words, they're an organization of professional writers and they have the right to determine what "professional" means to their group. The Mystery Writers of America lists their standards here. Please note the second paragraph of part 8.

Really, the bar is low, which means a fair number of small presses and e-puublishers may qualify. The key is that you get paid a minimum amount for your work and that you do not contribute any money towards production, editing, printing, etc.

The reason I mention this is because I've run across many posts on message boards from people published with vanity and subsidy presses complaining that they aren't eligible for membership. Please, before you decide to take that publishing contract, do your homework on all aspects of the deal. By the way, your small publisher may not qualify now because it's brand new or just starting to pay better rates, but it may qualify in a few months to a year and most organizations will still accept your publication as credit.

I bolded that last statement because it's important, and that I also feel the need to repeat that I'm not putting down small publishers. I love small publishers. They're often willing to publish edgier material than you'd find in the mainstream. And believe me, the good ones take care of their writers.

Me? I don't belong to any of the above-named groups. I qualify for SWFA and will qualify for MWA shortly as soon as I get the check in my hot little hands. I'd certainly qualify for unpblished status at RWA, even though I'm published in other genres. That's fair, as far as I'm concerned. One of my WIP's has strong romantic elements, but I'm not ready to qualify it as a romance. But I'm just sayin': If that's important to you, then you'd better check the membership requirements.

The other tangent (that I mentioned the other day) is conventions. Conventions present a great opportunity to confer, converse, and otherwise hobnob with your fellow writers. Chances are you'll also meet other publishing industry pros such as editors, agents, and even publishers. Getting on the panelist list may or may not depend on your publishing status. (Note: I'm on the committee for a convention, but their rules were set before I came on board.) Most conventions are glad to have local writers in the genre show up and talk. Depending on the budget and the size of the venue they may or may not offer to comp your ticket.

I know that some conventions prefer authors who have been published by non-subsidy or vanity presses. One reason is probably a little mercenary. If your book is available at bookstores or at an industry standard discount, then the dealers can order it to sell. Plus, even small publishers are more likely to take out an ad in the program book or support the convention in other ways. Literary genre conventions are not, for the most part, money-making machines. They're fan-run on a tight budget and usually support a charity or two with their proceeds. Because of their budget and venue size they may also have restrictions on the number of panelsts they can take on board.

If they won't take you, don't put up a fit. Consider attending just to network. You can certainly leave flyers and bookmarks for your books. Go, have a good time, and above all, act professional. It just might get you an invite for another convention. It might get you an invite to submit to a bigger press. You never know.

If you're self-published you may be able to get a table for a small fee and sell your own books. I know some authors who share the costs and rotate duty at the table. It's worth a shot to ask.

So there ya go. The tangental rant. Not terribly exciting, but as I said above, I've seen too many writers trumpet the virtues of their subsidy or vanity publisher, then turn around and complain that they're not considered professional. It's simple. A professional writer gets paid. If you're with a small press (print or electronic) go back to that bolded statement. Your publisher may be great, but it may take them a little time to qualify.

If you're looking for some resources in navigating the muddy waters, check out the writing links on the main journal page. If you're here on the static page for this entry, just click on the "Journal Home" link near the bottom of the page. I'd love for you to stick around a while!

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Filed under: Writing   Publishing         
3/25/2008 10:00:21 PM
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