As has been noted, Charles Ardai's novel Songs of Innocence, is not eligible for the Edgar this year because it is, under the MWA's rules, self-published. James Reasoner's novel, Dust Devils, it turns out, is not eligible either, because Point Blank does not meet the qualifications for an approved publisher, although it is certainly not a vanity press. I can understand having rules and sticking to them, but I've got to say these two books are both excellent pieces of work and the authors are pros with plenty of publishing credits to their name. I'm going to have to say I agree with this comment by Mr. Reasoner:
'Now that I've slept on it, an idea that someone brought up over on Sarah's blog makes a lot of sense to me: if an author qualifies for MWA membership, then his or her books should be eligible for the Edgars regardless of publisher. This would disqualify most of the truly self-published and vanity press books, while allowing authors like Charles Ardai and myself, who easily qualify for MWA membership because of our other publications, to submit books like SONGS OF INNOCENCE and DUST DEVILS for consideration."
The reason I think this idea is a good one is because it takes into consideration the fact that distribution methods are going to change. The MWA already allows ebooks into consideration, which is a smart move, considering how things are changing, but let's say an established author wants to pull a Radiohead, and make their work available on the Internet on a pay what you want format, or they have a work that a they have trouble finding a big publisher for. What then? Authors who qualify for membership in MWA are unlikely to turn out crap, even if it is published by a very small press, or even self published. If a pro wants to take a try at something unconventional or outside the mainstream that's no reason to exclude them.
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The reality is, distribution methods will change over time - it's inevitable. I certainly think that self published or not, once a writer earns the amount set by the MWA, why shouldn't they be considered members? At this point, it seems the rules are attempted to weed out vanity presses, which is fair enough, but on various blogs related to this I've seen the attacks meant for vanity presses directed at POD publishing. POD is a delivery format, and not the same as a vanity press, and publishers such as Simon & Schuster are utilizing it. Carte blanche judgment against POD as a form is only underscoring a double standard because legitimate and approved publishers are using the technology.
Right now, it seems the rules favour established, large publishers and I fear that legitimate independents are the ones who could be be caught in the crossfire, eliminated from consideration on technicalities such as the ones holding DUST DEVILS back from consideration. It certainly seems reasonable to me that if an author qualifies for membership status, they should be eligible to submit their work for the Edgar.
All of that said, there is a part of me that understands some of the frustration seeping through from these discussions. I may disagree with Lee Goldberg's position on Charles Ardai's work, but I have been the vice president of a writer's organization, and I have been charged with the responsibility of redrafting rule regulations for membership categories. It is time consuming for those on the committee, and after hours and hours of debate and assessment, you prepare to take your proposal to the membership. Some members of the original board of the group wouldn't attend the meeting because they took the proposed changes as a personal attack, and it was contentious, right to the end. There were people who walked out of the meeting refusing to speak to anyone.
We're seeing the public face. I have no idea how people involved in this process felt about it or whether they faced any of the same problems, but I do know that a serious issue was raised shortly after that vote. It had nothing to do with membership and it was a problem the elected board had the responsibility of dealing with, but I remember clearly the response of others elected: there's no way I'm going through something like this after what we just went through. It was stressful, it became personal, and it was taxing on those who had to advocate for the proposed changes.
And my position on a board is very much that I'm elected to represent the interests of the group, not my personal agenda. Once the board vote passed a resolution my duty was to support that. (The great liberty of not being on a board or even a member of the MWA is I can say whatever I want.)
So it's easy for me to say that I disagree with the MWA and I'm not part of it, have no vested interest in it at this point in time. And while I believe that the process of having these discussions is important and healthy, I can understand why it's frustrating for those representing the MWA as, no doubt, it was frustrating for those representing the CWA when it went through criticisms over the translated works eligibility for the Dagger.
It would be nice to think it will be addressed again next year... although it's too late for Charles and James.
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