Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek
benpeek

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Authors To Do Lists

There's a bit of talk going round about how an author has to take responsibility of his/her career.

The talk spun out of the argument I linked yesterday, and which I was involved in. In case you didn't read it last time, the basic point being made is that, since it is the author's responsibility to manage their career, then I am to blame for work not being sent to the proper venues, and that I've got no one to blame except myself. A similar argument was raised around the time of the Aurealis Awards, where some people believed that, just because certain stories were not given to judges, that it was the author's fault for not managing their career properly.

So what I want to talk about a little here is the Author Responsibility. Ignore all that other shit beforehand. We're just looking at what an author should do.

The problem with the Author Career Responsibility Card is that it often seeks to shift responsibility solely onto the author. Maybe that's fair--some people tend to think that the argument stops there, and maybe it does. Personally, I tend to think it doesn't.

Consider the question of responsibility if you are running a 'professional level' award. If you're an author who appears in a publication at the top of the industry like sci-fi.com*, then I believe you have every right to believe that your story will be naturally included by the judges. You cannot claim that such a publication is under the radar, that no one of industry standing reads it, and is thus going to slip by the judges simply because, hey, who knew? When a top level publication slips by as a whole, then you have to have a seriously look at the administration of the award, and begin making sure that such things do not reoccur. You want to do this because it's bad for the award. You want an award that is respected, one that people pay attention to--which I figure is what we're going to use for a definition of professional--and if you want this, then you have to be aware of what the industry leading markets are doing, and either hunt down the work, or contact the editors to inform them of the ways in which they can submit the work. If the editors forget (and they might, but they have a vested interest in making sure they don't) then I'd even go as far as to say that it is the awards responsibility to ensure that that work is there.

That said, if you're in a publication that flies well under the radar, then the responsibility falls to you, the author. Since you're not appearing in publications that are known for setting industry standards, and which might be limited to the circulation of your friends, and maybe a couple of cat litter boxes, you can't really go round acting indignant when someone isn't aware of your work. So you got to look at that and decide if you want to go to the effort of making copies and sending them around. This will apply to you if you're sending your work to Year's Best anthologies, obscure review journals, your long last brother, whatever.

However, if you appear in a professional publication, you can expect a certain amount of things done for you, the author. You'll know you're in a professional publication because they'll pay you something like five cents a word. You'll get pretty contracts. You'll get reviews. The presentation of the site/magazine will be of an acceptable level. The editing will have been done so that you're story isn't filled with typos, and it hasn't been rewritten. You'll get some free editions of the work, if it's a print publication. You will find that strangers read it. Respected strangers, even. You will also find that the editors and publishers of these publications will send your work out to awards and Year's Best editors and various other venues from which a bit of credibility might be bleed out of that rock. They will do this not because they think that sending things to places is a perk, or because they have the spare time for it, but because it is part of how they, as editors and publishers, gain respect and recognition for the work that they are doing, and that getting this respect/readership will allow them to continue existing at a professional level in the industry. In short, they will do it because it is, in combination with all the tasks of selecting fiction, editing it, and all that stuff involved with being an editor and publisher--they will do it all because it is part of their job.

(And in some cases, a professional publication like Shadowed Realms may indeed make half sized posters of the issue you appeared in, and which you may think is expensive and rather unnecessary, but by then the editor will have sent it and maybe signed it put it in a tube that has been cut in half. Which sounds expensive, and may cause you later, when a  professional paying publication is currently complaining about the 'costs' about sending print outs to Year's Best Editors... well, it may just make you think about the Poster Money.)

Now, if you appear in publications that pay you in token payments, or not at all, your mileage will vary. A good small press market, for either novels or short fiction, will do these things that the professional editor does, much for the same reason that the professional does: recognition, respectability, and so forth. They want to see their publication recognised.  Think of all the small and independent press outlets that you know, and which you view with respect, and think about how they got it. They didn't get it sitting round and doing nothing, or crying poor constantly. They got there through the shitty hard work, through the personal financial loss, and everything involved. As an author, you may wish to help them--after all, helping them is helping yourself--but that's all depending on yourself, and if something doesn't get done and you knew the press wouldn't be able to do it, then yes, that falls to you. As the author you become responsible.

Furthermore, an author becomes responsible when he/she makes choices about what he/she wants to write. It's no use complaining about not making millions if you write short fiction and publish it in obscure journals. Same with poetry. Poetry is a choice. Like drinking. And there are hundreds of other things authors have a responsibility for: such as showing up at venues and promoting their work. Signings. Jugglings. Having the right agent. Even selecting the venues in which their work appears. I don't want it to make it seem as if I think the author doesn't have to do anything--the author is responsible for a lot, but the idea that the author is solely responsible, that they alone bear the responsibility when something is not done, is, I think, not one that is correct.

Anyhow, that's my take on this. I feel it's a view that is perfectly fair, reasonable, balanced, and one that is serving me well in the world. If you disagree, then that's cool, cause it's fair. If you disagree a whole lot, to the point that you think I'm a cunt who just goes round causing shit, then I wish to remind you that badges--



--are still available.




* This was the case with the Aurealis Awards. It's just an example, nothing more.
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