G'day folks,

Most of you are well aware that I've been a solid advocate for self-published authors for some years, but don't get me wrong. I have nothing against traditional publishers or book awards. No, what I object to is the cursory attitude many of them have towards self-published authors, who by the way, are leading the charge in the global publishing industry.

As part of my activism, I have been pursuing two major awards in Australia, the organisers of which refuse to allow independent authors to enter their awards. They are the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, the key award in the State in which I reside - Victoria. The other is the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. In recent years I have spoken and written to major players in these two awards, including government ministers and senior public servants who have been blessed with the responsibility to organise these awards. Thus far, nothing concrete has happened, but I do feel there is a shifting of the sands. Why, because the word is that independent authors are starting to voice their opinions and express their unhappiness to the powers that be. Good for them for being proactive. However, apparently I am the ony one who has offered a way around this impasse'.

I recently had meaningful discussions with senior public servants in the Prime Minister's Department and the department that organises the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. They seem to be listening and asked me to submit my proposal to them, but don't hold ya breath and get too carried away. The following is a letter I mailed to the committee yesterday. Besides offering some facts, it poses a solution to this problem - establish a separate award for self-published authors within the existing categories. Anyway, here is my letter:

"Thank you for the opportunity to present my proposed plan that will hopefully enable self-published authors to finally enter the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards in 2015.


The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards website (http://arts.gov.au/topics/pms-literary-awards) states the following:-

 “The Prime Minister's Literary Awards have been recognising excellence in Australian literature since 2008’ 

‘Recognise and reward excellence in Australian literature and history’

‘Play an important role in celebrating the outstanding literary talent in Australia and the valuable contribution Australian literature and history makes to the nation's cultural and intellectual life.”

Sadly, the current awards do NOT recognise excellence, celebrate the outstanding literary talent or celebrate the valuable contribution Australian literature and history makes to the nation's cultural and intellectual life for ALL authors in Australia. Since its inception, these awards have been discriminatory; restricted only to those who have been traditionally published.

Australia has always been blessed with an extraordinary plethora of writers, poets, singer-songwriters, artists and playwrights, but many of us, the excluded brethren, must go offshore to be accepted. However, self-published authors are growing in stature and numbers worldwide, and it is felt that the current PM’s Awards should take account of that.

Most, if not all traditional publishers and book awards, dislike self-published works, and often provide spurious reasons as to why they dislike them. Many say that self-published works are not fit to be published because they have not been edited by a professional editor. That is a fallacy. Many of us are very professional operators who work hard and pay good money to have our books edited, illustrated and printed. As a photographer myself, I utilise my own photographs for book covers and prepare and layout each book from start to finish. 

Many in this country have colluded to ostracize self-published authors and support mainstream publishers. One only has to look at those authors who have been short-listed, long-listed or won major book awards in this country. A very recent example is the 2014 results of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards (CBCA). Not one self-published book was long-listed, short-listed, mentioned as a Notable book, or announced as a winner. The same has happened every year, YET the CBCA clearly states that self-published authors can enter their award, which by the way, is the most expensive award to enter.  

Why is this so? I can only presume that the critics of independent authors are scared that the publishing industry will be invaded by authors THEY do not ‘deem’ to be suitable.  However, any diminution of the publishing industry in this country, and globally, past or present, has been brought about by the publishing industry itself, especially its inability to cope with electronic books. Instead of being proactive, they have acted like a deer in the headlights. Not only but also, they obviously fear the competition provided by self-published authors who will invade their ‘safe’ environment. Naturally, the critics say that most self-published works are second-rate, because they have not undergone the scrutiny of books that have been through the traditional publishing houses; editing, spelling, grammar etc. Well, let the industry facts speak for themselves.

 Industry Facts:

In 2011, Bowker (the book industry bible), noted that just over three million titles were published in 2011. Only one in ten—316,000—came from recognisable, traditional publishers. The vast majority - 2.75 million titles - came about via self-publishers and print-on-demand outfits.

The number of self-published books produced annually in the U.S. has nearly tripled, growing 287 percent since 2006, and now tallies more than 235,000 print and “e” titles, according to a new analysis of data from Bowker® Books In Print and Bowker® Identifier Services. Their research explores the dramatic U.S. growth of an area once relegated to the fringes of publishing. It finds that while production increases are occurring in both print and e-book formats, the latter is driving the greatest percentage gains. It also shows that while self-publishing may seem like a cottage industry, it is dominated by large firms that offer publishing services to individual authors. (October 24 2012) http://www.bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2012/pr_10242012.shtml

Sadly, one major point that is often overlooked by many awards like yours, is that self-published authors make an extraordinary commercial contribution to the publishing industry and the Australian economy via printing, postage, employment of graphic artists, photographers, editors and illustrators, purchase of computer software and hardware, paper and stationary etc. We also pay taxes to the same government that disallows us to enter our Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

Many writers who have previously been with traditional publishers are now leaving those mainstream publishers to self-publish. Why, because they have more control over their product, and they also gain a far better financial return on their investment, as opposed to the standard 10% of Recommended Retail Price – RRP. Some examples of this are: Barbara Freethy (Traditionally published for many years, in 2011 Barbara began self-publishing her backlist and has sold an incredible 4.3 million e-books, and as of today she is the bestselling KDP Author of ALL TIME!).

Others include, John Harnish, Barbara Morgenroth, Bella Andre (“After years of bending her stories to the will and opinions of publishers, editors and literary agents, Andre found the prospect of having complete autonomy over her material very appealing.”)

And, Marie Force, James C. Martin, Helga Kleisny and Courtney Milan (“Courtney Milan, who writes historical romance fiction, went from earning what she describes as an “average household income” with a traditional publisher to bringing in close to $1 million each year by putting out two books per year on her own.”)

Traditional publishing is fine but it is slow; often 18 months before a book appears on shelves, and it will be withdrawn from shelves weeks later. It is also unfair. The publishers take the lion’s share of royalties – usually 85 – 95%. Also, the biggest winners are the distributors and bookshops. Whilst an author will get $3.00 for a book worth $30.00, the distributors and bookshops gain around $12 - $17.00 per book - Hardly equitable. Hardly encouraging for aspiring authors.

 Please note that a few years back the top two selling books in Australia were both self-published: ‘Underbelly’ and ‘4 Ingredients’. The rest, for them, is history. They are two amazing Australian success stories. Many self-published authors have also won major awards in Australia, and internationally. I have won many, including three awards in the Australian National Literary Awards. So, we cannot be all that disreputable.

Reasons to change the eligibility rules:

Why have I and others campaigned for self-published authors to be allowed to enter the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards? Here are a few reasons:

It is right.

It is 2014.

The current PM’s Awards are obviously not seeking to find the best literary works in this country. No - only the selected works that have emanated from a traditional publishing house. So, the current award is far from equitable, and certainly un-Australian.

The current rules are discriminatory, anti-competitive and they lessen the worth of the recognition the awards bestow. 

 My proposal:

Notwithstanding the above, I propose that you establish a separate category for self-published authors in the 2015 awards. Here are four rules that could be laid down for independent authors who enter the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – rules that should allay any fears previously held by traditional publishers and those who set the rules for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

a.    Each book must have an international book number – ISBN.

b.    Each book entered must be verified by its author that it has been edited by a professional editor.

c.    Any book entered should contain a CIP number (Cataloguing- In- Publication) from the National Library.

d.    Each book should look like, smell like and quack like a book – not a loose-leaf folder etc.

Finally, it is in the best interests of Australia and the Australian economy for self-published authors to be encouraged and nurtured, and that encouragement and nurturing should start in the Prime Minister’s office.

I hope this has been helpful, and I look forward to a positive response, for an on behalf of every self-published author in Australia.

Yours sincerely.

Clancy Tucker

1 September 2014"

Clancy's comment:  Don't forget. This is in no way meant to be a book award or traditional publisher bashing session. No way. It is all about seeking a level playing field, and an attempt to seek the BEST literary works this country can produce. 
So, what do you think? Do we start the prayer meeting now? I think that would be a very good idea. However, I have a better idea. Why don't you guys write a supporting letter to them and encourage them to change the rules and be more equitable? Here is the email address:

Anyone reading this can send a supporting email. You don't have to be an Australian or an independent author.  Also, send this link to Twitter, Facebook and any other social media outlet. I guess the more mail they get, the more chance we will have of them changing the rules. Fingers and legs crossed, eh? Next award to drag screaming into the 21st Century is the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. Bring it on!

I'm ....

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