again, it seems appropriate to explain why I did not enter the Arthur Ellis Award.
Yes, Suspicious Circumstances was eligible for the main Canadian crime fiction prize. I could have entered it as a first novel.
However, the Arthur Ellis Award doesn’t have the profile of the Edgars or Daggers, so I’m not sure how much influence it carries in terms of book sales or publisher interest. Therefore, that wasn’t a factor for me.
Instead, it boiled down to considerations about practicalities and realism.
I would have had to purchase 5 copies of my book to enter. Since the paperback never appeared when scheduled, that meant purchasing 5 hardcovers.
We’ll generously round that down to a cost of $25 Canadian per book, plus shipping.
Then I would have had to package them up again and include the entry fee and ship them to Toronto.
$125 for the books, $25 entry fee, ship the books to Calgary, then ship to Toronto…
Let’s call that an investment of $200. In reality, probably more, but let’s go with $200.
This is where practical considerations come to the fore. $200. It’s half the amount I’ve spent so far on review copies for What Burns Within and The Frailty of Flesh. With two books out this year, the $400 I’ve spent so far won’t be the end of those costs.
It’s enough money to put a half page ad in Crimespree Magazine.
It’s the cost of registering for Noircon or Bouchercon.
It’s almost half the cost of flying to the US to go to Noircon.
Almost enough to join two of the organizations eager to have me as a member…
Well, you get the idea. In every decision an author makes – from attending a convention to joining an organization to entering an award (if they have to pay themselves) to doing a book tour or creating promotional gizmos – has to be assessed based on anticipated return for invested cost.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel entering the Arthur Ellis Awards was a justifiable expense this year. Now, I realize some might take that as a slam on the award and its lack of significance. It isn’t really meant as such. If I could be nominated or win, I wouldn’t be complaining…
And that’s where a healthy dose of realism comes into the equation. Last year, at the award nominations announcement, the presenters raved about all the wonderful unpublished novels, so many they gave extra titles honourable mentions.
And then they lamented over the best first category and the appalling lack of quality submissions.
It irritated me to no end, for two reasons.
1. It undermines the achievement of every nominee who did make the list, because it’s like saying the eligible candidates were so shitty that these were the ones that didn’t suck quite as much, and
2. One of the books I had pegged to be nominated – and win – didn’t even make the list.
I mean, maybe that’s okay. Clearly Harcourt loved Dirty Sweet as much as I did – they’re only publishing it in the US this year.
But that, more than anything, persuaded me that I’d be throwing my money away on entering, because when it comes to Canada it really does seem to be more about tone and style than about quality writing.
In other words, dark is not in.
And simply put, even Suspicious Circumstances was probably too dark. My feelings on it are such that I didn’t enter any short stories this year either.
This year, I have my money on Sean Chercover. I hope I’m not jinxing him by saying it. And I truly would have been honoured to lose to Sean.
But the simple reality is, in the midst of dealing with things here, plans to move, and book promotion for the two titles coming out this year I had to be practical.
The nice thing about not being up for anything is I don’t have to go through any angst at all when the nominations are announced. I can just be sincerely happy for my deserving friends.
(And I’ve waited until after the deadline to enter so that nobody will try to persuade me to change my mind. It is the right decision.)