I got a lovely review for Stranger of Tempest today – for context, here it is: https://parmenionbooks.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/tom-lloyd-stranger-of-tempest-review/
And in said review, there was again a mention of some Gemmell-esque qualities, which is great not least because Gemmell was one of the benchmarks for the sort of fantasy story I want to write and tried to write with Stranger of Tempest. So while of course my first reaction was “woohoo!” my second was “of course it never stands a chance in the Gemmell awards because only rich authors are allowed to win.”
Now of course that sort of thinking sounds like the musings of an embittered mid-list fantasist and that is exactly what I am, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong. Bear with me a minute…
For the sort of writer I am and the books I want to write, I’m unlikely to trouble most awards. They’re looking for a more literary type of book and that’s fine, but when the Gemmells were announced, the goal was something a little different. They wanted to celebrate books in the spirit of David Gemmell, which is good news to someone who writes and reads that sort of book. But in the name of popularism only the rich are properly eligible to win.
That might be a flippant way to put it, but publishing these days is a global beast and all the money runs to the top just as conservative politicians would like it to. So modest success is a rare thing to see, you’re either big across half the world and your success breeds more success, or you’re struggling. The mid-list continues to be squeezed and that’s just the way life goes.
So why the whinging from this corner of the mid-list? Simply put – the Gemmell awards are a popularity contest, so you need to have sold a lot of books to get a lot of votes. It might not be a guarantee of votes, but it’s the very first criteria. If I wasn’t an embittered mid-listers but someone who sells loads, I’d be reaping the rewards of my success. Bigger advances, a dozen or more translation deals, GoH slots at conventions etc etc. My mortgage would be paid and I’d be able to write with a lot less pressure, but also, I wouldn’t NEED to win awards as a result. They would be nice certainly, but they wouldn’t make much difference to my career and life.
Sad to say, because it’s a popularity contest open to the world, the only people who can win it are the ones who don’t really benefit. And conversely, those who could benefit from winning, don’t stand a chance. Which is fun for us.
But sure, life’s not fair and this is hardly the biggest injustice around. However it rankles a bit and in large part because of one particular reason. The rules were changed – deliberately amended – to allow this to happen. For whatever reason, the awards committee decided to change their original plan to the open vote, and as a result they screwed those of us who could actually be helped by their award.
Yes, they screwed us. In the spirit of… well, something… they changed the rules with the net result that only massive-selling authors stood a chance. I could stand losing out to, say, Joe Abercrombie, on literary merit – the man’s a cracking writer after all – but to never be in the game, to never have a chance of comparison, is a kick in the crotch.
I think I’d guessed the Legend shortlist would look something like this:
Abercrombie, Brett, Hobb, Sanderson, Novik
But I could be wrong, I often am! I based that mostly on who has the most Goodreads ratings, with a few close calls going to ones who’ve got a bigger internet profile that I can see,
If any of the books on the actual shortlist has less than… say 5000 ratings of Goodreads (picking a figure that’s double my highest-selling book), I’ll gladly apologise and owe the award committee a drink or two. But I doubt that’s a bet many people would want to take.
*** Edit – Stan tells me that it was never intended as a juried vote so that is clearly either my faulty memory of being given incorrect information back when I first heard about it. Thought it best to note that here rather than rework the post and then have following comments refer to things unseen ***