There is a huge debate going on in the Short Mystery Fiction Society about self-published stories and how they should be included in the Derringer Awards. I've remained silent on the subject because I have a foot on both sides of the argument. There is a lot of crap being put out by writers who would not be considered in a professional market. There are also a lot of great stories being published by authors who want to have control of their work.
In my opinion, this is the same argument that rages in the publishing world over the flood of books released each year, often given away free, on Amazon. Anyone can throw a book together, post it to Amazon, and presto...a new published author. Some of those books are so bad, they can't be given away. Some of them give independent authors a bad name. Should judges for important awards be subjected to reading all those stories? If so, nobody would be willing to judge those stories.
In past years, I have both judged Derringer submissions and been the coordinator of the judging. The number of short stories sent to the competition grows each year. How do we balance the number of stories with the ability of judges to give a fair evaluation? I hope the Short Mystery group figures out a way to keep the door open to self published stories. There are some great ones out there.
Personal short stories I've written have been published by traditional publishers, e-publishers, small presses, and self-published. Sarah and I run a small press. We occasionally include one of our own stories in an anthology. We are writers who believe in the craft of writing, and the need have venues where new and different voices are published. When we select a story to go to the Derringers, it is a story that should be considered.
The crisis at the Derringers is the crisis fueled by Amazon. Before Amazon, publishers were the gatekeepers of the industry. Crap was still cranked out, but it was mostly crap that fed the pop culture of "celebrity." Before Amazon, the industry blocked a lot of unique, marginalized, and minority or controversial voices from being heard.
Among the pile of stories not ready for publication, there are gems that should and sometimes do get the accolades they deserve.I am not sure how the argument about Derringers will play out. I hope that whatever method gets used keeps the gate for independent stories open.