Getting Tough II

I’ve had lots of emails from people asking me what the new requirements are for publishers to be recognized by the Mystery Writers of America. They will be posted soon, but here are a some of the new additions/changes:

1. If you are a writer seeking Active Status membership, your publisher must have been in business for at least two years, except for new imprints by an established publisher.

2. Your publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered you or any other authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services.

3. Your publisher, if also an author, must publish at least five other authors per year, none of whom may be an employee of the company, a business partner, or a relative of the publisher.

4. Your publisher must not be engaged in the practice of wrongfully withholding or delaying the payment of royalties to authors. 

16 thoughts on “Getting Tough II”

  1. Are publishers such as Lulu.Com and PublishAmerica, which charge no fee but make their profits from sales to the author, disqualified?

  2. Lulu and iUniverse are already excluded under pre-existing rules. The four items above only reflect some of the new rules, not all of them (or the existing rules that are being retained).
    #4 would only be applied to the most egregious violators like, say, the recent debacle with Quiet Storm (though it might not qualify today as a publisher under our current rules anyway). It gives publishers another incentive to treat authors well and it gives us the leverage to threaten a publisher with dropping them if they are seriously mistreating authors.

  3. There has always been a list of qualifying and non-qualifying publisher on the site — but we will be updating/changing that list over the next few weeks.

  4. Important ArcheBooks Author Reminder: All ArcheBooks Authors are responsible to ensure that your books have been ordered in advance by bookstores or event sponsors for your book signings and public appearances. Please don’t let them wait till the last minute! (See your Training Guide for Details)
    This is from the ArcheBooks website. Are authors expected to do this? This does not sound right. They claim to be a traditional publisher.

  5. “what the new requirements are for publishers to be recognized by the Mystery Writers of America.”
    I find it interesting that an organized group of authors uses publisher classifications as a knock-out punch to automatically eliminate other authors from membership. It would seem to me that if the goal of the group is to allow only membership to quality authors, there would be many factors to consider that would be far more relevant to the topic. These include: (1) book reviews (the most important criteria); (2) print runs and sales figures; (3) distribution avenues; (4) the number of library systems that carry the author’s book(s); (5) bookstores that carry the author’s book(s) in stock; etc.
    For example, my books have been favorably reviewed by more than 30 review organizations including Booklist and Library Journal, they are carried by hundreds of library systems and are stocked on the shelves of both chain and independent bookstores. Thousands of copies have been sold. Yet, I would automatically be excluded from MWA if I were to apply for application (which I never would).
    When organized groups of authors hold up one criteria (who is the publisher?) and use it as a threshold criteria above all others, that, to me, is nothing more than a form of prejudice and/or elitism. Like most forms of prejudice, it will eventually disappear at some point down the road and will be seen, in hindsight, for what it really is.
    In the meantime, I wonder how many authors in these organization such as MWA really want to see one criteria made paramount. I believe that if many of the exiting members of these organizations such as MWA, ITW and others really thought about it, they would find the practices that are adopted by theirs boards to be archaic, discourteous and insultful to others.

  6. The Authors Guild, The Science Fiction Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Writers Guild of America, to name a few, also have strict rules for recognizing what qualifies as professional writing and professional authorship. Most of the publishers who don’t meet the MWA criteria also wouldn’t meet the existing criteria at ITW or SFWA either. It’s a fact, Jim, that most professional organizations, regardless of the profession, have high standards for membership and qualification that those who don’t meet them will find unfair and exclusionary. It’s a fact of life in the real world. I know several people who are very knowledgeable and skilled about the law and the legal system but still can’t call themselves lawyers.

  7. it’s not prejudice Jim it’s professional standards. all professions have them. you don´t meet them. end of story. stop whining.

  8. The mentality of organizations such as MWA, ITW and many others (as Lee points out), who use publisher lists as a knockout punch to bar admission to other authors, is in the nature of, “We have real publishers, you don’t, therefore you’re not a real author and are not worthy of being associated with us. In fact, you are so beneath us that we won’t even consider what books you have written, what reviews those books have received, or anything else.”
    This is nothing more than a form of prejudice by authors against other authors, which is unfortunate, considering how rough this business is to begin with. It is one group of authors self-proclaiming that “we are the superior ones, we are the real ones, we are the ones who count. Don’t pretend to be one of us.”
    Each of these organizations certainly has the right to put on an elitist air and to adopt whatever membership criteria they want. It’s a free country. However, others have an equally free right to find the criteria, the thought process, and the “therefore” conclusions to be offensive and demeaning.

  9. Jim,
    It’s not elitism or snobbery. It is a recognition that traditional publishers sift and winnow material for quality and marketability; this process is aided by agents who do the same, and by editors, copy editors, proofreaders and packaging people. The results are largely affirmed by critical reviews and often by market success. These processes either don’t happen at all, or in a minimal way by people with inadequate command of the field, with self-published, co-published or vanity-published offerings. There are always exceptions, but we need to view the overarching reality here, not the exceptions. The issue, then, is not snobbery or elitism; it is quality and marketability.


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