Friday, November 20, 2009

Since When Do Publishers Win Writing Awards?

I've been watching the reactions of the SFWA, the MWA and the RWA about Harlequin's venture into assisted self-publishing. Basically, the fury is that Harlequin would lend it's reputation to novels that are essentially unedited, and charge the novelist for the service. While I deplore the idea and think that it would do more damage to the publisher than they had imagined, I am also appalled at the reaction to these three writers' organizations.

From the mystery writers: "If MWA and Harlequin are unable to reach an agreement, MWA will take appropriate action which may include removing Harlequin from the list of MWA approved publishers, declining future membership applications from authors published by Harlequin and declaring that books published by Harlequin will not be eligible for the Edgar Awards."

From the SFWA: "Further, Harlequin should be on notice that while the rules of our annual Nebula Award do not expressly prohibit self-published titles from winning, it is highly unlikely that our membership would ever nominate or vote for a work that was published in this manner."

From the RWA according to Publishers Weekly: "RWA has deemed Harlequin no longer eligible for RWA-provided conference resources—meaning the publisher is not entitled to enter any award competitions."

Now, I'm scratching my head at this. A publisher does something stupid and writers are penalized by being ineligible for writing awards? Are the awards for the publisher? I thought writing awards were supposed to be for excellent writing? All those years I was voting on the Nebulas, was I supposed to check which publisher was on the spine, or the author?

As a long time member of the SFWA, I apologize for that organization's action.

2 comments:

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Benjie said...

I'm with you in more ways than one, Henry. Harlequin made a major faux pas with this decision (surprising as it is given the traditional publishers' attitude toward the self-publishing branch of the family tree); but why do authors suffer the consequences?

What happens to those established authors who were established before Harlequin started this interesting hybridization?