Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Photo by Andre Chinn, via Flickr
Firsts are exciting. They’re the things you remember forever, right? I was racking my brain, trying to think what I wanted my first post for Blood-Red Pencil to be about. Should I write about my self-publishing experiences? How I’ve been writing since I was 10? The pitfalls I’ve encountered or the tricks that keep me from getting writer’s block? Or should I write about Romance and the beauty of genre fiction?

While I was contemplating all this, a first of epic proportions happened. It was a first that could change everything. I knew I had to write about that. Because on Saturday, July 26th, a novel called Off the Edge by Carolyn Crane became the first self-published novel to win a RITA award. That’s right, a self-published novel just won a major industry award.

So why is this important? Why is it important for you?

Obviously, when a self-published novel is judged by two rounds of peer readers to be the very best in its sub-genre, it sends a message to the world of books. Self-publishing is not only a viable alternative to traditional publishing, it’s a method by which brilliant, quality books are being delivered to readers. It puts to rest the notion that all self-published authors are just hacks who couldn’t get a traditional contract putting out garbage at the click of a button. It proves that the playing field has been leveled. The world of books just got bigger.

But what does this mean for YOU?

Whether you’re indie published or traditionally published or as yet unpublished, what happened in San Antonio on Saturday is a boon for writers everywhere. It’s an endorsement of the fact that no matter which method of publication is right for you, if you put in the hard work, you will be taken seriously as a writer. The time to worry over whether your efforts count as “real” writing or whether outsiders will diminish your accomplishments because of the way you get your work into reader’s hands is over. Your way of writing is the right way for you, and no matter what opinions you may be hearing in the world, no one can take that away from you.

I have a lot of writer friends on all sides of the traditional/indie/small press debate who have seen a wide range of success with their books. Universally, they have all chosen the path that works best for them. Some of them are much more comfortable with a traditional model and others wouldn’t trade their self-pub status for a thousand Big Five contracts. What brings us all together now is that our books are being viewed by the Romance Writers of America as six of one, half a dozen of another as far as legitimacy and quality.

Choose the path to publication that’s right for you and strut down that path with your head held high! The world is changing, and I predict that soon the days of assuming one method of publishing is better than another will give way to the option of picking which path is right for you without stigma or judgment.

Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.


  1. That is indeed exciting news (about the RITA). It took a massive market upheaval for the industry to realize that there is a lot of good material floating around that has not been snatched up. I see the new trend as a win-win: more books for me to read by authors who weren't given a chance before.

  2. Thanks for sharing that announcement, Merry. There were, in fact, 7 self-published novels among the finalists for the 2014 RITA awards. I am wondering if romance might be a genre more open to indies than some. Indie authors can become full members of RWA, but the ITW in the thriller genre excludes writers not published by a recognized traditional publisher. I can't even join the club, much less see my books compete for awards.

    1. Larry, hopefully the organizations supporting the other genres will start recognizing the indies.

  3. Allowing indies to enter contests sponsored by the highly recognized organizations will go a long way toward helping the cream to rise to the top. Unfortunately, there is still enough poorly written material being put out, that some readers are wary of the indie writer. It will take time and more kudos like the Rita to level the playing field.

  4. What a wonderful present from the self-esteem fairy!
    Major congratulations!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.