Saturday, August 31, 2013

Guest Post: Nenia Campbell on Self-Publishing, Reviews and Goodreads.

We at The Book Lantern are big fans and friends of Nenia Campbell, a reviewer turned self-published author. She's smart, funny and unafraid to call out author drama BS wherever she sees it (not that we're biased or anything). Since self-publishing is everywhere right now and recent dramas have come and gone with increasing regularity (check this fab post for the Lauren Pippa mess), we thought it would be good to hear from an author in the middle of it. 

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For practically as long as I can remember, people have told me “self-publishing is for writers who can't write.” Maybe that used to be true—and, you could argue, in some cases probably still is—but as that medium explodes, and more people get drawn in by the chance to see their name in twelve-point font, I'd like to think that maybe, with a greater sample size, more and more people will prove to be the exception to that rule.

I tried traditional publishing first, and got far enough along in the process that the editor requested to read a complete draft of my work. Ultimately, though, I was rejected because I did not really fit the parameters of what they wanted for their romance genre. It had been a process that took several months, and even though everyone I talked to was incredibly sweet and encouraging, it was still a major blow to feel that it wasn't enough.

One of my friends actually suggested that I go the route of self-publishing. We were on Gchat, and I was angsting about my fragile writer feels. To make me feel better (or maybe just to silence me for a little while), she sent me a link to Createspace and said, “It's free and it's easy. See how easy it is?” It was, indeed, quite easy. Disconcertingly so. There had to be a catch! What was the catch? DOOM! DOOOOOOOM!!!

…doom?

I suppose the catch is that people assume that if you are an indie author you are going to spam the living daylights out of everyone on your friends list and have temper tantrums every time someone declares your book to be anything less than awesome. I hadn't really counted on just how icky some authors' behavior is—but I have seen things escalate so quickly that it can make your head spin, to the point where each instance is like deja vu.

“WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?” I want to say. “DIDN'T YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAST GUY WHO DID THAT?” To quote Mugatu, “I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!”

My circumstances are pretty unique, I think, because I blogged on Goodreads for—oh, I want to say about four years before making the announcement that I was self-publishing. I developed a reputation as a stern but fair reviewer with a dry wit, and ended up befriending a lot of people who shared my tastes in books and liked my sense of humor.

I've been posting my work for about seven years, and originally posted my work at FictionPress.com. I built up a considerable fanbase there, then went AWOL for a few years because of college, and also because of a massive outbreak of plagiarism. (Several of my short stories were plagiarized on Wattpad and Tumblr, and turned into—of all things—One Direction self-insertion fics.)

After that, I tried posting on Authonomy for a while, but the superficial environment there did not work for me. Feedback was, for the most part, unequivocally, aggressively positive, with the expectation that you would return the favor. I found the whole process incredibly exhausting, and when one of my friends from FictionPress invited me to post in a private group with some other individuals who were frustrated with the plagiarism of online works, I was pretty quick to agree. I met some lovely, creative individuals there, and still talk to many of them in spite of time zone differences and busy schedules.

Since I started writing at such a young age, I like to think that I got a lot of the special snowflake syndrome out of my system as a teenager. I quickly learned that the feedback that hurt the most hurt the most precisely because it tended to be the most astute. I also learned that if one person had a criticism, there were probably at least ten others who shared that opinion but were too shy or intimidated to say so—although they would be quick to point out improvements in my subsequent rough drafts.

FictionPress was really great because, since it was a free site, a lot of people read my work who probably wouldn't have ordinarily. A godsend for someone who likes to write outside the tried-and-true genres. I played around with drafts, rewrites, endings, and really tried to get a sense of what people liked and didn't like. I learned that, while a happy ending may be pleasing, a slightly downer ending can be more satisfying and realistic.

The most difficult aspect of writing is learning to deal with your readers and feel comfortable doing so. Remembering that these are the people who make it possible for me to get paid to do what I love most really helps eliminate the feelings of entitlement. It also helps that I'm my own worst critic. I just assume that everyone is going to hate everything I write. That way, if they give me one star I can be like, “Well, yeah, I probably deserve that.” And if they give me anything more than a one, I can be like, “Yay! I don't deserve that, but yay!”

My experiences on Goodreads have been positive for the most part. I get friend requests every day from people who like my reviews or books or both, and that's wonderful. I will say that I've been the recipient of attacks from authors and reviewers, alike, and it can be frustrating knowing that there is nothing that I can say or do without making things worse, and that keeping silent can sometimes feel like letting the attackers win.

I've experienced everything from revenge-reviewing, to slurs about my appearance, to speculations about my personal life and habits, to comments so hateful and angry that they have made me cry. If I cannot stand up for myself without resorting to adhominems, I either use the “flag” button or try to ignore it. Because, at the end of the day, there isn't really much I can do. There isn't much anyone can do.

As long as there continues to be an internet, there will continue to be trolls.

It makes me really angry when I see other authors claiming that they're being bullied when people call them out on their bad behavior. It's an insult to actual victims of bullying. I was bullied throughout high school, to such an extent that I would actually fake sick so as not to have to go to school. It was a painful experience, traumatic, and I never really fully healed from the experience on a psychological level. That's one of the reasons I try to defend reviewers' rights. Nobody should be made to feel as if their voice isn't worth hearing.

That's why I became a writer. So I could speak, and be heard.

I think that's why people become reviewers, too.

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Nenia Campbell was born and raised in the United States. From infancy, she was fond of books- especially the cardboard ones; they were the most delicious. As she grew older, she learned that 'devouring a book' was a phrase not to be taken literally. As a result, she became a very enthusiastic reader. When she discovered that the stories she wanted to read did not exist she became an enthusiastic writer, as well.

Nenia's Goodreads. 

Nenia's Twitter.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

YA Movie Adaptations & What's Going On: A Dialogue.

A discussion between Ceilidh & Christina.

Ceilidh: I lost count of the number of articles written before the theatrical release of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones asking if the film was the next Twilight or The Hunger Games in terms of YA adaptation success. The film industry operates on a simple rule: make money by any means possible, and I can theoretically understand why a studio would think a TMI movie would bring in the big bucks. It's the most generic mix of bankable elements from other successful projects, it's sold a heck of a lot of copies, comes with a dedicated fan-base and there's a definite scent of sparkly vampires in the air. To the big suits in the studios, it makes sense.

Well, in hindsight...

So far, TMI sits at 12% on Rotten Tomatoes, the same as The Smurfs 2, with practically every review mocking its highly derivative nature *cough* and general ineptitude. It took less in its opening weekend than the other YA adaptation stinker The Host (note: I'm aware that Meyer's other work was not categorised as YA upon release but the movie definitely was). Now, there are articles dedicated to Cassandra Clare's back-tracking (including our own) with others asking where it all went wrong and what this means for YA adaptations in general as we sit in the aftermath of other flops such as The Host (9% on RT)Beautiful Creatures (46% on RT)Beastly and I Am Number Four

Christina: This is where it gets interesting. The blame has been shifted to timing and uninterested teens and CoB's hodgepodge of things that worked for Twilight, Harry Potter, and Star Wars but didn't work for CoB itself. 

The blame, however, might be to us. That's right. See, if you want more YA adaptations, you have to help market the YA adaptations that are out there (according to Clare and Ally Carter). It's not enough to merely spend your money and focus your attention on better crafted adaptations such as The Hunger Games. You gotta go all out and talk up the adaptations that are out there. Your YA needs YOU!

Ceilidh: This call to arms for the YA community to support these movies at all costs reminds me an awful lot of John Green's comment on readers's duties in the analysis of a novel. It's a deliberate shifting of blame from the creators to the consumers, and it really annoys me. Did the many critics who slated TMI just interrogate the film from the wrong perspective? Yes, there were a few sexist jerks making unnecessary comments about Lily Collins's eyebrows (the woman may be a terrible actress but cut that crap, she's gorgeous), but they weren't the majority rule on this topic. 

I also question why I should support bad things in order to keep YA movies coming. By that logic, I wonder if Clare and Carter are rallying their support around the upcoming Ender's Game movie, something I have already pledged to boycott. I highly doubt it. I saw similar arguments like this in regards to supporting female film-makers and female led movies. The idea that if one flops then it's game over for everything else after it is probably more real than we'd like to admit since Hollywood thinks women aren't worth the financial risk, but it's not my feminist YA reader duty to support TMI for the good of the industry. I didn't see these arguments when The Host and Beautiful Creatures flopped. So why so you think these movies are flopping?

Christina: In short, a lack of originality. When describing Beautiful Creatures or City of Bones, people often cite Twilight comparisons ("Twilight with witches, Twilight and Star Wars and Harry Potter, sort of"). Sure, The Hunger Games isn't the first dystopia of its kind, and yes, there are comparisons to Battle Royale, but the synopsis was fresh. Now dystopias are cropping up like mad. Movies and books are being touted as "The Hunger Games with zombies/robots/etc.". Maybe I can be optimistic and hope that the recent failures of copycat paranormals can provoke actual originality in YA stories, but we'll see. It's possible the only real good thing is that it might delay the release of movie versions of such horrid books like Fallen or Hush, Hush. A girl can dream.

Ceilidh: It reminds me of the bandwagon jumping and desperation to set a trend mode that publishing's been stuck in for a while now. I can't blame it since the traditional model is dying so quickly, but the serious lack of imagination doesn't bode well for us audiences.

The Hunger Games also had the fanbase many people thought TMI had. It was large, dedicated and crossed age and gender. Not that you need both men and women to sell a movie (see Twilight for that). THG was also well made. Time, effort and serious thought went into it, something that was lacking in TMI according to the reviews (having said that, I really am quite intrigued by the mental image of Jared Harris with a flamethrower. All I've ever asked for in a man!) THG also has the added benefit of a true star in the lead role, one who now has an Oscar. Neither Lily Collins or Jamie Campbell-Bower possess the range, charm or goodwill within the industry that Jennifer Lawrence has. I don't think we'll be seeing either of them leading big projects in the future.

Weirdly, while I think TMI's failure may put a dent in some optioned projects, primarily the paranormal romance stuff, one of the projects I think might succeed is Divergent. I wasn't a fan of the book or the recent trailer, and Shailene Woodley's appeal continues to elude me, but there's a book series with actual clout. Both books are hanging in there on the NYT best-seller YA list, Veronica Roth's been given spots on The Today Show, and there's just more buzz. I don't think it'll quite reach THG in terms of box office but it could make a comfortable amount. It certainly risks the calls of Hunger Games copycat so they'll need to be careful with their marketing.

Christina: Right now it's at the point where YA adaptations in the works are trying to emphasize what sets them apart from such failures as Beautiful Creatures and City of Bones. Also, the latest Hollywood gossip has Sigourney Weaver going from definitely getting involved with City of Ashes to "may possibly" having a role in it. The lacklustre performance of CoB has people wondering about a possible "Twilight curse" on movies that try to copy that sort of success.

Ceilidh: Here's the thing. I get why it's unfair to compare these films toTwilight since every project wants to be able to stand on its own merits, but this is also exactly how these books were advertised. We all live in the shadow of sparkles, whether we like it or not (surprise, I don't like it). 

But now that the Twilight franchise is finished and Stephenie Meyer has said she's over it (wish she'd been over it before she wrote it, to be honest), the paranormal YA bandwagon has come and gone, particularly for films. There are one or two book exceptions but they're usually continuing series and even then they're running out of steam. The dystopian post-THG bandwagon was never the huge hit many thought it would be, which I think is why we're not seeing as many dystopian YAs being optioned for films. A lot seems to be resting on Divergent

The YA adaptation that I think will do very well is The Fault in Our Stars but I don't think it will be marketed solely to a teenage audience. Green and his work have broken out of the YA mould in terms of readership and respectability given to the category (see the mentions in Time Magazine) and his work continues to sell extremely well. It fills up the NYT YA list week after week (actually, the top 15 seldom changes, which if nothing else is an indication of how stagnant YA has become lately, at least for me). I think you'll see TFIOS marketed as a touching indie dramedy, the kind that usually fills up at least one spot on the Best Picture Oscar nominations. Think Little Miss Sunshine or Juno. I've spoken before about my ambivalence for Green and my annoyance with his work but it's tough to deny that it resonates with many readers who don't consider themselves YA fans. There's the key - make a YA movie that doesn't call itself a YA movie.

What YAs would you like to see adapted for the big screen? I would love to see an indie director like Kelly Reichardt tackle one of Hannah Moskowitz's books or possibly Shine by Lauren Myracle. I think Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles have immense cinematic potential but would require a budget that would strike fear into the hearts of studios. Maybe Hayao Miyizaki's interested.

Christina: What the genre needs is a fresh voice. I'd love to see adaptations of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, although the set design and special effects would make it a huge undertaking for a studio. If done correctly, however, it could make Hunger Games-like waves at the box office and in pop culture.

Two darker YA offerings, such as I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga and The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison could make for some interesting filmmaking. 

One series that wouldn't cost hardly anything to make (and is more realistic while being topical to real issues young girls face) is the Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart. 

Why not some diversity? Let's see an adaptation of Gone, Gone, Gone by the awesome Hannah Moskowitz. Update the classic lesbian love story of Annie On My Mind

I'm craving something different, something real, and that's not to say avoid supernatural elements or fantasy worlds, or even dystopia. What I want is a great story, with great characters, devoid of a formula that's cooked up to make profits. Audiences want the same thing. Maybe now that's being made clear.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: "No One Else Can Have You" by Kathleen Hale.

“No One Else Can Have You.” 
Author: Kathleen Hale. 
Publisher: Harper Teen. 
Pages: 384.
Release date (USA): January 7th 2014. ARC received from Edelweiss.

Summary (taken from Goodreads): Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.
Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.

Cover impressions: Between the darkly humorous knitted nightmare cover and the comparisons to Fargo in the early publicity for the book, I was suitably intrigued. To be honest, I’ve been suffering from something of a YA slump for a while now and I was mostly glad to have a young adult read pique my interest after a long drought.

This review contains spoilers.

Let’s get this out of the way: “No One Else Can Have You” is otherwise a 3 star book. With a driven and interesting heroine who sticks to the right side of quirky, a claustrophobic small town setting akin to Fargo & Twin Peaks without the supernatural elements, and a seriously well considered take on grief and its varying effects on the bereaved, the book had a lot going for it. For the first half, I was enjoying myself. Granted, certain elements didn’t work and the central mystery is predictable but I didn’t mind so much because the intrigue of the journey far outweighed the obviousness of the destination (although it did begin to grate on me that Kippy clearly held the answers to all the mysteries in her hand – with Ruth’s diary, to which we are treated to sporadic readings from when the plot demands it – but such information is delayed to keep the story going).

Then it fell apart. Two things happened.

First, there is a domestic violence joke. To give the scene its full context, Kippy goes undercover to a therapy group session she previously attended as a child, dedicated to a non-physical approach for those prone to violence. She takes along her dead friend’s older brother, a former soldier who admits he suffers from PTSD and is missing a finger due to an incident which is disclosed later. The cover story she gives is that he is her boyfriend and he is beating her. The scene is played for humour, and there is later a punch-line along the lines of “Well, maybe next time you’ll hug her instead of beating her” (I won’t provide the full quote until nearer the release date due to possible restrictions placed on ARCs).

Domestic violence isn’t funny. It shouldn’t be used as a wacky plot point to get some laughs.

The moment that scene happened, I knew I wouldn’t be giving the book anything higher than 1 star. It completely tainted the rest of the book for me. It was a completely unnecessary scene and in hugely bad taste.

Sadly, it got worse.

Later on, Kippy is falsely institutionalised for supposed delusions. She is sent to a sanatorium populated with the kind of quirky and wacky patients you expect to see in a Will Ferrell comedy. Kippy’s roommate is a young woman who believes herself to be a middle aged male British police officer. Of course, her moments are played for laughs. Even in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, there was at least some acknowledgement of the terrible attitudes and treatment directed at the mentally ill. Here, there is nothing, and it’s honestly embarrassing. We as a society tend to label things as “crazy” or “loony” when what we really mean is “a bit odd” or “out of the ordinary”. This ableist attitude is something I myself have been guilty of and am trying to fix. The author’s dismissive attitude towards something as serious as mental illness really is unforgivable. To use a sanatorium as a cheap shock twist for her heroine is bizarre at best and cruel at worst.

I can’t overlook the problematic when I see it, no matter how many other positive elements I can find in a story. “No One Else Can Have You” is the perfect example of that. It’s a solid and often very entertaining read that will forever be the book with the gross ableism and domestic violence jokes to me. You may be able to enjoy the book while acknowledging its problems. Sadly, I can’t.


1/5. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cassandra Clare and the Great Power of Responsibility.

A joint piece by Ceilidh and Christina.

At some point, you have to pay the piper.

The reviews are in for the much-anticipated film adaptation of City of Bones, and they aren't pretty. The movie is being described as "disastrous", "messy", "soulless", "convulted", and "tedious". It currently has a rating of 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, and while it's still early to determine what the final rating might be, keep in mind that two other movies released a few days after CoB, The World's End and You're Next, have ratings of over 90%.

So who's to blame for this?

Well, don't look at Cassandra Clare. Lately her tweets have her wiping her hands of any involvement she has had in the movie, which contrasts with her earlier statements of being "interfere-y" (I think she meant being "involved", but maybe she was trying to coin a new Clarism?).


We could go on (and on and on) about the cool, refreshing taste of Clare induced schadenfreude but what we really want to talk about today is responsibility, a concept that seems to be foreign to Clare. 

Many of you will by now be familiar with the recent controversy that fell upon Clare and her sometime co-writer and good friend Sarah Rees Brennan. The pair, along with another friend Maureen Johnson, have been writing short stories together centred on one of Clare's more famous Mortal Instruments characters. One such story involved a character saying the line "That is mahogany!" To those familiar with The Hunger Games, that line is pretty well known. To those who aren't, it was simply a funny aside in a random scene. Naturally, given Clare's past of plagiarism, people called foul. Brennan declared she alone was responsible and issued what can only be described as a bizarre, misguided and occasionally passive aggressive explanation for the error (by the way, I plan to use my love of mahogany as a defence for everything I do wrong in the future). Many other authors and friends of Clare and Brennan rushed to their defence, and John Green's own justification was particularly insulting. 

"As a teenager, I used to think “reading critically” meant prodding and poking a text for weaknesses and failures and typos until I found them. I find reading far more fulfilling today because I now view “reading critically” as an attempt to read generously. I am so much happier as a reader and as a person now that I understand that my job as a reader is to make the text in front of me into the best book it can possibly be." (Source with further explanation of this concept from Green.)

And so we come back to today's theme of responsibility - that of the author, the reader, the editor and the general state of the industry, not to forget Clare's own seeming inability to acknowledge her many screw ups.

The mahogany defense aside, what separates plagiarism from cryptomnesia, or "subconscious plagiarism" [when an idea occurs to someone and it is actually a rediscovered memory incorrectly assumpted to be an original thought] is intent. Cryptomnesia is a mental error, plagiarism is theft.

Entertainment is riddled with parodies, copycats, and homages. The trick is to make a well-known story your own. Old School is a frat boy comedic version of Fight Club, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? took the story of The Odyssey and turned it into a Depression era comedy. So what makes that different from what Clare has done?

For starters, the makers of these films never hid the influence of the movies that inspired their work. Clare has sidestepped the presence of other people's work in her own, citing using quotes as a game, pastiche, or with the original author's consent.

The notion of responsibility seems to have shifted from the author to the reader. John Green's quote (along with Brennan and Clare's non-apologies) basically states that it is the reader's job to assume that nothing is being taken without permission. In fact, the consensus seems to be that the reader should be able to spot the pop culture reference without assuming that it's theft of any kind.

The issue with references is that there's basically no chance that 100% of your audience will get them. Generally, you can gauge your audience's interests based on their interest of your work. I'm guessing that the thinking behind Brennan and Clare choosing the mahogany one is that YA readers will be familiar with The Hunger Games. It's not an unreasonable assumption to make, but two issues still remain.

One, as mentioned above, you can't guarantee that every one of your readers shares your interests and knowledge of pop culture, even with something as popular as The Hunger Games. I (Ceilidh), for example, have a pretty extensive knowledge of modern YA but I've never read beyond the first book in the Hunger Games series. If a reader doesn't pick up on the reference, then they simply assume that the authors came up with the comment or joke themselves. 

This ties into the second issue. Clare's past cannot be ignored in this context. Her plagiarised fan-fiction was loaded with lines stolen from books, movies and TV shows, and entire chunks of prose were lifted without citation. When she was caught stealing (no dressing up what she did here. She stole. She's a thief), she tried to brush it off and claimed these were just cute little in-jokes and references for her readers to pick out themselves. Once again, this weak excuse assumes that her audience are as knowledgeable as she was on shows like Buffy, Red Dwarf and Blackadder (the latter two are not as well known in USA as they are in UK so the task was even harder for non British readers), as well as the work of Pamela Dean (taking an entire passage and changing the names was a cute reference for friends to get? Sure thing, Clare). This "cute" little game also failed since many fan-fiction readers and Harry Potter forum users started using these jokes and lines from the Draco Trilogy in profile signatures and the like. They didn't attribute them to Ben Elton & Richard Curtis, or Rob Grant & Doug Naylor or Joss Whedon. They attributed them to Clare. Did she correct these people? Three guesses.

So when John Green talks about the job of the reader, I snort. It is not up to me to make your work better. If I like a book, I like it. If I don't, it's not because I failed in my task as a reader. It's just my opinion. If the first assumption readers made when they saw that Hunger Games line and thought "Theft", they're not overreacting; they're aware of an important context that people like Green, Holly Black, Maureen Johnson, Sarah Rees Brennan and Cassandra Clare are desperate for people to forget. The only problem for them is that the internet never forgets.

Readers have no duty or responsibility to fix the problems of authors. If an author gets called out for something obviously problematic then that's not the reader getting the reading of their work wrong. Fortunately, the film critics of the world have done a bang up job of noticing Clare's many "references" in the Mortal Instruments movie. It's all just a cute game for friends, after all.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why No Awards for Self-Published YA and Literature?

Even the biggest doubters of the meteoric rise of self-publishing over the past few years can’t deny its increasing legitimacy in the industry and among consumers. When indie and self-published offerings are filling the NYT best-seller list, sitting side by side with the big hitters like Dan Brown and James Patterson, the sneering suddenly stops.

Well, it almost stops.

I’ve written before on my apprehension and cynicism in regards to self-publishing, primarily in terms of quality and editing, but even I can see how popular such books have become. They don’t fill the YA bestseller list in the same way they fill the adult list, and when they do it’s with familiar names like Abbi Glines, but the market is there (plus it’s become harder and harder for new books that aren’t Divergent or John Green related to break through to the top 15).

Why no awards for such books? Not just in YA but literature in general? First of all, the simplest explanations are usually the right ones, so let’s remember good old fashioned snobbery. Many awards committees across literary genres, including big hitters like the Man Booker Prize, immediately disqualify self-published novels from even entering consideration, regardless of quality. After all, being traditionally published is not an automatic indicator of quality or expert editing. Anne Rice, anyone? For many, including the most traditional minded in publishing and criticism, the old way remains the true way.

The genres self-publishing have really risen in are also not ones traditionally given much attention by awards bodies, such as romance. Once again, snobbery reigns supreme, as expected. Self-publishing hasn’t really been the scene for the awards friendly literary fare yet. That’s not to say such a scene won’t grow over the next few years as the big 6 tank and authors look for more control over their work, but as it stands it’s not the case.

For readers, writers and awards bodies, there is seen to be less risk and more legitimacy of quality in going through the tried and tested process of agents, editors and the like, even when the sales and critical word don’t back such claims up. For a lot of people, self-publishing automatically invokes images of “50 Shades of Grey”, which, for all its massive sales and pop culture conversation starters, was hardly Anais Nin.
Self-publishing may offer creative control but one must also deal with total control over promotional efforts. Even the old way of things doesn’t guarantee publicity by the cartload. There’s the Catch-22 situation for many authors: awards help get publicity and readers but you also need publicity to get awards.

For YA readers, a scene where blogging plays a huge part in the circle of author promotion, interaction, etc, there’s a wider scene to interact with, more people to connect with. YA bloggers can be stubborn and dedicated sorts who adore a book so much that they want to bang on doors and let everyone know about it. When a book clicks for the right audience, it can become unstoppable regardless of its origin. How can readers translate this to awards attention? Is such a thing possible?

So what’s the solution? I’m not sure there is one, at least not an immediate one. Attitudes need to dramatically change first. Committees like the Man Booker team need to widen their horizons and as more authors take the plunge into self-publishing, I have no doubt that the awards scenes will reflect that. It may take a hell of a lot longer than the rest of the industry moves, as is expected, but it’ll get there.


This also raises the question of whether awards really matter. We’d all like to pretend that our favourite things, be it books, TV shows, movies, etc, are going to win all the awards and everyone as a result will discover them and love them. Sadly, such things are Tumblr dreams (yeah, I had plans to eat the Emmys committee when Hannibal got zero nominations). We like to get defensive and pretend such things don’t matter and the rest of the world is just stupid for not getting it (and they are stupid for not nominating Hannibal, dammit!) It’s important to remember that the awards bodies, particularly AMPAS and the Emmys ones, are made up of demographics that don’t quite represent the average TV and film viewer. I cannot account for the boards of ALA or the changing faces of the Man Booker judges’ panel, but intersectional representation seldom happens in practice, as much as it is needed. So if we want the awards to actually mean something to the average reader, perhaps the committees should look into having their membership reflect the average reader.