Earlier this year the storySouth Million Writers Award completed its seventh straight year of recognizing online fiction and the great literary magazines and journals which embrace the digital medium. Overall the award has been very well received, with large numbers of editors, writers, and readers participating each year as stories from across all literary genres compete for top honors. And thanks to our very supportive donors, we've given away over $2500 in money and prizes to the winning writers.
But now I wonder if we still need the award. And if it is needed, should the award change with the times?
Before I explain why I'm asking these questions, let me give a little background on the award. When I helped found storySouth in 2001, I quickly discovered that many people didn't see online magazines as legitimate publications. This attitude was summed up by the editor of one of the well-known "year's best" anthologies, who claimed he couldn't consider anything from our journal. To him, storySouth wasn't a real publication because we didn't print a paper edition.
In response, I created the Million Writers Award. I saw the award as a way to give online publications and authors the attention and recognition the literary establishment had arrogantly decided we didn't deserve.
But the publishing landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade. Today, few dispute online publications can be the equal of print publications. In fact, while print magazines and journals have seen declining circulations in recent years--and are betting their future on electronic distribution via the Kindle and other ebook readers--online magazines are stronger than ever.
One thing I've loved about running the Million Writers Award is giving recognition to new and upcoming writers. Even though print magazines are embracing e-publishing out of necessity, many are still not overly receptive to new and emerging authors. As a result, purely online magazines and journals have continued to be the fertile ground on which many of tomorrow's big name authors gain their first publications and recognition. It's no coincidence that the authors highlighted by the Million Writers Award are often emerging authors. The award reflects the reality that online publications are very receptive to new voices.
That's the background. Now I return to my initial question...is the Million Writers Award still needed?
As I mentioned, many print magazines are now transitioning to electronic distribution via the Kindle and other ebook readers. Even those magazines which retain a print edition are now often also distributed in an electronic format. Where does this leave an online fiction award? Is an online fiction award even relevant in a world where most fiction is either available online or can be downloaded from an electronic system?
Or perhaps the award simply needs to change. Should it exclusively honor new and emerging authors who are published online? Should it allow any e-published magazine to compete, even if that means allowing The New Yorker in the mix via their Kindle edition? Or should the Million Writers Award simply go away, happy to have done its little part in raising the profile of so many authors and online publications?
I honestly don't know the answers to these questions. Since the online writing and publishing community has been so receptive to the award, I hope people will let me know their thoughts on this issue by either posting below or contacting me.