Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Angry authorDiscrimination. Big word. I don’t use it lightly here. I used to think it was closer to “bias” but from where I sit, that is not strong enough. The publishing world is evolving, but some portions of it are fighting it harder than I would ever have imagined.

Here is an excerpt a friend sent me about the Texas Book Festival’s policy on books they include. She owns a small press that uses print on demand for their titles. They are not a self-publishing house, but apparently are frequently considered one within the industry, because of how they print their titles.

“Should a self-published/printed author submit? – We do not accept self-published books. The Author Selection Committee selects from more than 1,000 titles submitted each year and has found that many self-published titles, as well as those from vanity or subsidy presses, require additional professional editing and polishing that would enable them to be selected for the Festival. Self-published authors are encouraged to participate in the Festival as exhibitors.”

At Booktrope, we encountered a similar sentiment last year when we tried to become a “recognized” publisher for the Mystery Writers of America (if your publisher is not recognized, your book is not eligible for their annual awards or anthologies). If you look at their publishers guidelines, they have done a very thorough job of ensuring nothing other than a publisher in the most traditional form of the term will be permitted. In our case, we were told:

“…their corporate model also strikes us more as self-publishing than as publishing (at least as we define it now).”

Booktrope is not self-publishing, in that we do not accept all manuscripts, nor do we charge fees. All of our books are edited, proofread, etc. But, because we do not have all of our talent “on staff” we are deemed “more self-publishing than publishing”.

Our specific situation aside, in 2011 – 76% of books published on Amazon were self-published titles. Conservatively, that is 210,000+ titles. It seems to me, that is a lot of potential talent arbitrarily being thrown away without even a consideration on the part of organizations such as these.

Regardless of my opinion, when was the last time a reader selected a book based on who or how it was published? Ask your mom/uncle/friend who is not in the book business how many Knopf titles they read last year, and see what they say. Readers want great, high quality books. They do not care at all where or how they are produced. They also do not choose one book at the expense of a another thinking “well, that title loses, and I will never read it”. They do think “I will start with this book then move on to that one”.

From a marketing perspective, the good news is that with today’s internet-centric world, it is debatable whether either of the specific examples above matter either.

Still, I am left wondering, can’t we all get along and play nicely with one another here in book-land?


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