At first I thought it would be a good idea to get my name on various lists of authors.  It turns out there are a lot of lists, but for the most part, they discriminate so much against self-published and even ‘supported self-published’ authors, a person might begin to believe in a conspiracy theory.  Here’s one example: a list for authors living in British Columbia, (that shall remain nameless at this point) that will include anyone who has a book containing at least forty pages in print, but refuses to list print-on-demand (POD) authors, regardless of the number of pages.

Time and again, I’ve found various web sites that are eager to list ‘published authors,’ but right before the data entry part they mention they will not include self-published authors.  Personally, I have too much integrity to try and ‘sneak past’ this particular discrimination; I just leave the site when I encounter such stupidity.

Let’s review: the reason there’s such prejudice and animosity towards self-published authors has a somewhat historical basis.  Two to three decades ago, special interest groups were publishing things the big name publishing houses refused, then selling their ‘books’ back to their special interest group members.  (That alone might not have been so bad, but then they demanded to be put on the ‘best sellers’ list, which really ticked of ‘regular’ publishers.)  Others turned to self-publishing because they (rightfully) never should have gotten into print.  But times have changed.  Even being an excellent writer is no guarantee of getting published these days.  There’s simply too much material, so the best new writers have about as much chance of success with the traditional industry as they do with a lottery ticket.  Worse, the industry itself is in trouble.  (There are some unscrupulous self-publishing companies out there, but that’s another blog.)

Only twenty-five percent of published book titles sell more than a hundred copies.  (I’ve sold more than two hundred copies of my first novel, more on that in a bit.)  Someone is not doing their job.  I believe it’s a combination of the following: the traditional publishing industry isn’t doing its job properly, ie, they’re no longer ‘weeding out’ books that the public isn’t interested in; someone is failing to market the books that do get into print…there’s sort of a ‘the book is in print now, we’ve done our part, the rest is in God’s hands’ attitude; the author is too disconnected from his or her own work…people don’t just want to buy a book, they want to buy into a ‘value added’ product…is there a series, will this be a book I want to pack up and take with me when I move, or practically give away in the garage sale?  Don’t forget the book signings–they might seem archaic, but most people will not toss a book the author has personally signed for them.

So I was having supper and fuming about hitting another dead end list when it hit me:  I don’t need to be on those lists in the first place.  My name doesn’t belong on a list of ‘authors’ whose books sell less than hundred copies!!!  Not counting the ones I’ve given away for promotional purposes, I’ve sold over two hundred copies of Been Blued.  So why should I be upset about not getting onto a list of non-profiting ‘authors.’  Maybe the word ‘author’ should be redefined as: a person who writes books that people actually purchase and read.  (Although several of my would-be readers complain that their friends and family keep swiping their copy and reading it first.)  Books people actually like to read…What a concept!

Thanks for reading.  🙂

Phyllis K Twombly


About Scifialiens

Author of the Martian Symbiont series: three titles, so far; Been Blued, Martian Blues, Martian Divides. Currently writing screenplays. 'Mating With Humans' can be found on her account. Enjoyed writing from the start. Also a Star Trek and Doctor Who fan. Canadian so far. Paternal grandparents were American. Feels more at home in the States. Loves dogs and most other animals. Loves cats from afar--allergies. Plays flute and saxophone; 'messes with' keyboard and electric guitar. Single so far. Not really looking at the moment. Age: irrelevant. Not to be confused with the fictional comic book character, Phyllis Twombly, who lived for 600 years in the American Midwest.

2 responses »

  1. Cliff Burns says:

    Trying to figure out the publishing biz is like trying to decipher higher physics (to me). There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to the decisions editors are making nowadays. The slush piles are over-flowing with offerings from every ass who’s “graduated” from a creative writing program or taken a writing workshop and imagines themselves to be the next _________. And the only way to jump that hurdle is to be recommended by a published author (to either their agent or editor). Like anything, it’s who you know and quality of writing, the ability to craft innovative prose is a secondary consideration.

    Good post…

  2. Nor is this bias limited solely to the self-published. Those authors published by inventory-free companies suffer the same discrimination, and it’s deliberate.

    In the name of protecting writers, various large writers organizations such as the Mystery Writers of America and SFWA have chosen to establish membership criteria that have no relevance to reality. MWA, for example, states that a member can only qualify if they’ve earned at least $1,000 in either sales or an advance AND that their publisher must have done a minimum first print run of 500 copies.

    By those lights, as long as they got a thousand-dollar advance, that author need never have actually sold ONE copy, much less a hundred. Yet they will be accepted by MWA, whereas an author whose publisher didn’t pay an advance or do a print run but who has sold 1,000 copies of their book won’t.

    I’m not saying the people who set these standards aren’t convinced they’re protecting writers. However, it’s become clear to me over the last few years that they’re also protecting whatever cachet they acquired by having signed with at “traditional” publisher–i.e., an advance-paying publisher who does offset print runs–and having done so by butting their heads against the doors of agents and publishers for X years.

    I sense that they feel threatened by the idea that the new technology makes it possible for a good book to be published with less effort, as if that somehow diminishes their achievement.

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