House of Mirrors--When Champions Become “Chump-ions”
WARNING! RANT IN PROGRESS—PROCEED WITH CAUTION!
Naivety strikes again. When will I learn?
Writers groups. Why do they exist? The most logical of reasons comes to mind: to help writers. It has always been my belief that writers' groups were there to offer a leg up to writers, especially newbie writers and debut authors, by providing a forum in which to ask questions and network with other writers. I always pictured them as safe havens of sorts—places where advice could be found, network opportunities abound, and anew writer could find support and encouragement along the way.
So why is it that so many writers’ groups (especially the “big,prestigious ones”) actually put up barriers and hurdles for the newly published author—do they think we haven’t encountered enough roadblocks already?
I am especially peeved about the elitist attitude several of these “big groups” maintain (who shall remain nameless—but I’m pretty sure they know who they are). Among their membership there is a nearly constant cry of “foul” against the large publishing houses and overly-bloated literary agents because of their exclusionary attitudes and reluctance to give new talent a chance to flourish. Yet, these same writers’ groups erect unanticipated and unwarranted barriers themselves against new authors who are just trying to get themselves and their work “out there.”
Recently, I tried to join a couple of these writers’ groups,feeling relieved and ecstatic that, at long last, as a “published author” I had finally earned my stripes. However, I was quickly chastised when I applied “for the wrong type of membership.” Apparently, although I am technically a “debut author” published by a traditional publisher, my publisher was not one of “their”recognized publishers. I was not entitled to have my book posted or promoted on their website as a debut novel,nor was I entitled to membership as a “published author” because my publisher was not recognized as legitimate.
Give me a freakin' break.
Not recognized as legitimate?
Why? Simply because they don’t meet the groups exclusionary and arbitrary criteria.
My publisher, Wild Wolf Publishing is based out of the
Yet, upon application, they were turned down—twice—since they did not meet the criteria established by the particular writers’ group to become an “accepted publisher." And so, the author suffers. The author becomes a second-class member, paying higher fees for a second-rate membership and, by association with an “unrecognized publisher,” is not considered worthy of any kind of honor, recognition or promotion.
What a certified load of crap.
Another big-named and “prestigious” writers’ group insisted I was not entitled to a membership status that recognized the fact I was a published author because I didn’t make enough money on my book. Apparently, since I did not get paid an advance and my book did not earn enough in sales (by their standards), I was not entitled to be placed in the ranks of a legitimate and recognized “published author.” Again, I would have to settle for a second-class (and more expensive) membership because, in their eyes, the fact that I had published a book (even one that's gotten some excellent reviews) wasn’t worth diddly-squat.
Makes me want to puke.
Don't get me wrong—not all writers' groups are created equal, and there are many out there (especially the smaller, local ones) that are extremely supportive of new writers and the debut authors. Kudos to them for all the good work that they do, the encouragement and advice they deliver by the truck-loads! But this post refers instead to those "other" groups out there (and, as I said, I refer to mainly the larger ones who may have grown too big for their own good), whose supportive endeavors are being increasingly overshadowed by their elitist attitudes.
These self-proclaimed beacons of the industry, these champions of the author, these bastions of quality literature in a literary world that favors cookie-cutter paperbacks and name recognition over new talent, have sold out to the same elitist mentality which has drained the life out of so many aspiring writers. They have turned into Chumps.
And as I slam my nose into yet another closed door, I have to wonder what the future holds for the new author. I was inspired by the growing “grass roots” emergence of micro-presses and small publishers, believing them to be the eventual salvation of an industry riddled with pigeonholes and seemingly blinded to new talent. But if these small presses must wear the scarlet letter of illegitimacy since, by their very nature, they are not big money-makers, that small wellspring of hope will quickly run dry. When a new author who has sufficient talent to actually get published in this difficult environment, is quickly rebuffed for failing to earn sufficient royalties, it pisses me off. It’s a classic “Catch 22”—the writers’ organizations that hold the key to fast-track promotion, recognition, awards nomination, and overall validation are penalizing the new author who is struggling to find bona-fide avenues of promotion, recognition, awards nomination and overall validation.
I’m sure the members and powers that be who run these groups can cite reasons upon reasons to justify their right to exclusion, and some of them may even make sense. But that doesn’t make it right—not by a long shot. It’s like being trapped in a house of mirrors, where each mirror claims to be different, but offers only a reflection of the others.