When Greased Wheels debuted in 2002, the local mystery writing community welcomed me. I was considered an odd duck for using a subsidy publisher but there were other writers in the area who self-published and whose work was respected. My publishing choice was a matter of some interest and I spoke on convention panels about it.
By the time Horse Power was published in 2006, things had changed substantially. My writing improved; my standing among my fellow mystery writers did not. Even though I moderated panels at two of the largest conferences in the world, conference organizers congratulated themselves on preventing my participation in the future. Professional writing organizations to which I belonged blocked my participation in certain events.
Instead of judging me based on the quality of my work or the success of my business, they proclaimed that I am not a legitimate writer because I did not receive an advance, I did not have a print run of at least 1,000 books, and my books are not returnable.
I was once told that I didn’t need to earn as much as a man because I would never have to support myself. I was assaulted in an elevator by an officer of the company that employed me. I am a woman. I have experienced discrimination repeatedly.
The discrimination currently promoted and practiced by the established writing community is particularly unfortunate because it comes from people who claim to be open-minded and progressive. By closing ranks and blocking my participation in traditional marketing venues, they hope to maintain the status quo.
I have one word to say to these groups – HarperCollins.
HarperCollins is a large New York-based, “traditional” publisher. It publishes some of the big names including Sidney Poitier, Mario Batali and Faye Kellerman. If I was published by HarperCollins, I would be “legitimate” in the eyes of these groups. I would have received an advance against royalties, had a press run of over 1,000 books and my books would be returnable.
However, on April 4, 2008, HarperCollins made a startling announcement. It is embracing a modern business model. For its new imprint (division), it will not pay advances against royalties and it will use print-on-demand technology – books printed to order. No more large print runs. And the final slap at tradition – these books will not be returnable.
The HarperCollins announcement did not receive much attention because it came at the same time Amazon was making waves. It is, however, solid proof that change is flowing into the publishing business like water through a broken levy and nothing the old guard does will stop it.
Part Three coming soon.