My Identity Crisis

As I’ve been going around the internet to promote my latest novella, certain questions have been circulating in the back of my mind. Exactly what does it take to become a published author? And how do I know when I have arrived at this goal?

You would think the answer is obvious, but it isn’t. With the recent advances in technology, the definitions have become blurred. One person’s view of what it means to be published isn’t the same as another’s.

Case in point: I wrote a manuscript and wanted some feedback. So, I started looking at the rules for various Romance Writer’s of America (RWA) chapter contests and found that the criteria for both the published and unpublished categories varied. While my 30k novellas make me published in some eyes, in others I am still firmly in the unpublished category. So what am I?

Maybe it isn’t just me who’s confused. Recently, Harlequin announced the winners of their annual Presents Contest. Many writers were shocked to learn that the top two winners were published authors — one of them already published with another Harlequin line. This contest was marketed toward unpublished authors, and many felt betrayed by the results. Unpublished, according to their rules, meant anyone not contracted by Harlequin Presents. Following those guidelines, an author such as Sherrilyn Kenyon would be considered unpublished and eligible for the contest. Confused yet?

The line between published and unpublished was further blurred when I went to set up an author page on Amazon. You see, I can’t. According to them, I’m not published because none of my books are in print. This is despite the fact that they sell my books on their site (Kindle edition).  So Amazon makes money off my books, but won’t give me the recognition of being a published author, or help me set up a community for my fans on their site.

Then there is this whole PAN and PRO subgroups of RWA (Romance Writers of America). If you write and finish a manuscript, then you are considered serious about your writing and can enter the PRO group of RWA, a group geared toward unpublished writers seeking publication. In order to graduate to PAN (Published Author Network), not only do you have to publish, but you need to make $1000 in advances or royalties, effectively excluding a lot of epublished authors out there — like me.

And finally there is the whole quagmire of “self-published” vs “contracted” through a publisher. If you are self-published, are you really “published”? Some say yes, others… not so much.

With no clear lines defining published vs unpublished, it seems like everywhere people are confused. I know I am. It doesn’t look like the definitions will clear up anytime soon, either. 

People like to put things in categories and label them. It’s in our nature. In December, I make it a habit to write a list of everything I have accomplished in the past year. Seeing this list helps me to put things in perspective and gives me a sense of identity. So you see, how other people define me really shouldn’t matter. Quite often it doesn’t. Every once in a while it does become a little frustrating, however. Especially when these labels exclude me from accomplishing some of my personal goals.

So how about you? How do you define yourself? Are you a parent? A teacher? A writer? What were some of your accomplishments in 2009? What do you hope to accomplish in 2010?

6 Responses to “My Identity Crisis”
  1. Dawn McClure says:

    This is the exact reason I haven’t entered any contests recently. I don’t feel like swimming against the current to find out if they consider me pubbed or not. Some do, some don’t. Things became a little clearer when Asmodeus was released in print, but it’s still muddy water out there.

  2. RKCharron says:

    Hi 🙂
    Thank you for the heartfelt post.
    I think I will have “arrived” as a writer when I walk into the bookstore I’ve being going to since I could walk and see my book upon the shelf.
    *dreamy sigh*
    Merry Christmas!

  3. It would be nice if there was a clear industry-wide standard, but, in truth, even before e-publishing became all the rage there was no standard. It used to be category romance authors who weren’t *real* authors. Or short story authors who weren’t *really* published.

    I’m reminded of a children’s book called “Say Hello, Vanessa” where a little shy mouse has a hard time making friends at school. At one point she wanders around mumbling “bunches and groups, bunches and groups”. It seemed to her as if everyone was already gathered in bunches and groups to which she wasn’t welcome.

    For myself, I have a huge sense of satisfaction in telling the stories I want to tell and having them available for readers to enjoy. There’s no greater satisfaction than that for me.

    I love Samhain Publishing’s motto…It’s all about the story…because it’s absolutely true for me. I don’t care much about rules n regs n bunches n groups. I care about my stories and I care deeply about the readers who want to read them.

  4. Suzanne Rock says:

    Hi Dawn – Yeah, I’ve pretty much given up on chapter contests because it’s just too much effort to figure out if I qualify or not. Most of the time the labels don’t bother me. It just seemed like this past week a lot of doors closed for me because I couldn’t figure out the rules.

    RKCharron – Hi! Thanks for stopping by! I think seeing your book in a brick and morter store is a dream for a lot of people — myself included. We’ll get there. We just have to keep plugging away at it. 😉 Happy Holidays!

    Barbara – I thought you were taking time off from the internet for the holidays? lol. Once again, you have a great comment. I agree — and most of the time it doesn’t bother me. It’s just when those labels start interfering in my life that it starts to get under my skin. Sometimes the labels prevent me access to valuable information (like with PAN) and sometimes they prevent me from reaching out to my readers (like with Amazon). I tend to get frustrated when that happens. At the end of the day though, it IS all about the story — telling the best story we can. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I know I’m supposed to be on vacation, but we’re still snowed in after a 20″ snowfall so… You’re right that the muddy waters do interfere and I’ve been frustrated myself. I don’t understand why Amazon will sell authors e-books, but not give them an author page. Crazy!

    But, in the end, when looking back over the year and planning goals for the future, you’re right…telling the best story we can is what it’s all about.

  6. Hey, great post! I struggle with all of this as well. Finally, I had to make peace in my own head and say I’m successful and published. I made most of my goals for this year. Moving on 🙂

    Happy holidays!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

  • Promotional Opportunities

    If you'd like to schedule an interview contact Susan Blexrud.

%d bloggers like this: