Steve Burt's Florida Book Festival acceptance speech for his Grand
Prize winner, FreeK Week
1/31/15 Orlando, FL -
First, let me say thank you to Bruce Haring and J.M. Northern Media for
organizing the Florida Book Festival Awards and the many other book festivals
they manage. Most of these books are written because we have something to say,
to share, and truth must out. Second, let me say thank you to them for awarding
my young-adult thriller, FreeK Week, the grand prize and a $1,000 appearance
FreeK Week is the third in the ongoing FreeKs series about psychic and
paranormal teen detectives kids with some pretty cool powers like levitation,
out-of-body travel, remote hearing, and communication with ghosts, among other
gifts. This third book is not only a fun mystery, but is a fun, educational romp
across central Florida in search of kidnappers and killers. Readers get to learn
about Cassadaga (the psychic medium capital of the world), where the teens spend
the weekend, tour the village, and get psychic readings that help advance the
plot. A couple of them snoop around Gibsonton (home to retired side show and
carnival workers). The book also features a mad doctor and a hit man in the 55+
community where I live, The Villages.
The Villages is professionally promoted with the slogan Florida's Friendliest
Hometown which it may well be, unless somebody's trying to kill you. FreeK Week
is a good book and last week was Best Young Adult Fiction at the New England
Book Festival; before that it won a Mom's Choice Award gold, the fourth for the
FreeKs series, bringing the awards total to 24.
These awards are important to me and to those of you who have been named
winners, runners-up, or honorable mentions. It's not just the ego boost, though
that's gratifying. The recognition also helps legitimize us when we're showing
our book to a potential purchaser. Many of us are self-publishers here, though
there are also some entries from small presses and even from traditional
publishers. And frankly, we know that self-publishers are at a disadvantage. As
the comic Rodney Dangerfield might say, "We don't get no respect."
Rodney's right, and part of that disrespected or unrespect is deserved. There
are plenty of low-quality self-published books out there: some poorly written,
some poorly or not-at-all edited, some full of typos, spelling, and grammar
mistakes, many embarrassing.
But there are also some high-quality self-published books out there. And some of
them are better than many of the traditionally published books. Being
traditionally published doesn't guarantee quality.
Which brings me back to the subject of independent awards like the various Book
Festival Awards, or the Ippies, or the Indie Excellence Awards, or the Moonbeam
Children's Book Awards, or the Forewords, the Writer's Digests Self-Published
Book Awards, the Benjamin Franklins, the Mom's Choice. We have them because we
self-publishers with our good quality, our medium quality, and our high quality
books are largely closed out of the big-name, well-known awards that favor only
traditional publishing houses.
Let me illustrate. The first book in my self-published FreeKs series was FreeK
Camp. It got great reviews and won a dozen awards in 2010. It's an ebook and an
audio book. Readers and reviewers loved it. Several of my professional writer
colleagues who read it said, "It's good enough to win the Edgar Award from the
Mystery Writers of America in the young adult category." To which I answered,
"It may be, but it's not a question of quality. The fact is, the MWA, of which I
was a dues-paying member, won't consider self-published books for the Edgars, no
matter how well-written or popular they are. That bias holds true for the
Thriller Writers, too, and most of the other better-known (older) awards
organizations, including the National Book Awards. They're all still tied to the
vetting process that they associate only with traditional publishing houses."
So, FreeK Camp, FreeK Show, and FreeK Week may be good enough for an Edgar, but
because of that longstanding bias, they are excluded from consideration. This is
the harsh reality we self-published authors must face when we choose an
alternate, non-traditional route.
Again, these independent awards are important acknowledgements kind of like the
Sundance Film Festival for self-pubbers important acknowledgements at a time in
history when mainstream publishing doesn't know what to do with us. I'm thankful
for these alternative awards that lift up the hidden gems and the
diamonds-in-the-rough that come largely out of the newly developing world of
self-publishing. I'm honored to be in the company of you who are category
winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions. And I'm thrilled to be here to
accept the Florida Book Festival Award for my young adult mystery, FreeK Week.