Last year the Wall Street Journal noted how Jeff Bezos had proudly told us how thousands of authors earned more than $50,000, with more than a thousand surpassing $100,000 in royalties.
Those earnings come from ebook sales via the Kindle store, from paperbacks printed by Amazon’s print-on-demand service KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) and from Audible’s very own ACX.
These books are good enough to be sold on Amazon, by Amazon, and make a profit for Amazon, but they are not good enough to be entered into the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award.
The prize website tells us,
The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award is the richest prize for a single short story in the English language, worth £30,000 to the winner. The award, for a story of 6,000 words or less, is open to any novelist or short story writer from around the world who has been published in the UK or Ireland.
What’s not to like?
Well, since you asked, the definition of being published in the UK or Ireland.
Just as last year there are clarifications on site to make sure no charlatans try to game the system.
To be eligible, the author MUST have a record of prior publication in creative writing in the United Kingdom or Ireland. This means the author MUST have previously have had works of prose fiction, drama, or poetry published by an established publisher or an established printed magazine in the UK or Ireland, or broadcast by a national radio station in the UK or Ireland (see clause 3.6 in the Terms & Conditions for further details).
Okay, so TV writing doesn’t count. Writing music lyrics doesn’t count. Newspaper writing doesn’t count. Vanity press publication doesn’t count.
Fine, we can understand that. This is about creative writing that can be recorded as audio.
Which surely puts indie authors in the running for the prize, right?
After all they have been published as ebooks by Amazon’s very own KDP service.
They’ve published their paperbacks using Amazon’s very own POD service.
They’ve created the audiobooks using Amazon’s very own ACX audiobook service.
Some of these authors are, by Amazon’s own admission, earning over $100,000 in royalties.
But that counts for nothing when Audible puts its name to, and money behind, the Sunday Times Short Story Award.
For the avoidance of doubt NONE of the following will constitute a record of prior publication:
• self-published material of any kind
• work published using a print-on-demand service
• work published via a commercial arrangement through which the publisher is paid by the author
• online publication
When I ran this story last year it was argued that Audible was the sponsor and did not make the rules. But that’s really neither here nor there.
This isn’t just about Audible sponsoring a prize. The winning entry will be published by Audible.
At a time when it sometimes seems the stigma of self-publishing is a thing of the past, it begs the question why Amazon, which has for so long championed the self-publishing movement and launched so many successful author careers, is happy to sponsor a prize that clearly holds self-publishing in contempt.