Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Debate Continues

I'm a member of Romance Writers of America. I joined right after I finished my first novel four years ago. I wanted to enter their Golden Heart contest, a writing contest for completed romance manuscripts to be judged by other authors. I was too late ... but something good came of it. They led me to my local chapter of RWA and a wonderful group of authors who were willing to take me under their wing and show me the ropes of the publishing business. Romance authors are amazing that way. I also found the "Kiss of Death" chapter for writers of suspense (they're a scary group, always asking about guns, knives and poisons over their loop *vbg*) and the "Passionate Ink" chapter of erotic writers. Both excellent places to ask questions about my current book.

Anyhoodles, fast forward four years.

I'm still a member of RWA and I still love my homegirls and satellite chapters. But the national policies and support of the organization ... not so much. It seems "the old guard" wants to define what makes an author successful. Yes, their responsibility is to help guide a writer into making educated choices about publishers and avoiding the pitfalls and unethical practices of some people looking to make a buck from unsuspecting newbies in the publishing industry. I understand that and I commend them for taking that on.

What their job is NOT -- is determining whether a career path chosen by a writer is viable or worse ... correct.

RWA wants to define ethical practice by publishers as a model where the publisher pays an advance of at least $1000 to the author to contract their work. But no royalties are paid until the author has earned at least $1000 in royalties. The reason is that it guarantees the author at least that amount in payment for every book he/she contracts. The problem is that electronic publishing doesn't work this way.

No advances are given at time of contract, but the royalties are significantly higher than the 7% most authors make on print books. Many authors make a very good living publishing with electronic publishers. The problem with authors who publish electronically as RWA sees it, is that if authors were "career minded" rather than treating their writing as a hobby, they should not consider contracting with electronic publishers.

Excuse me?

I'm about as focused on my career as an author as any of my chapter mates. But currently my books are only electronic. Do I want to be in print? You betcha. Would I like to sell to a big NY house. Oh yeah. Would I like to have an agent working my books for me some day? In a heartbeat. Does the fact that I've signed with 2 electronic publishers mean this won't happen? Not on your life.

I have learned so much in the two years since I signed my first contract. I've learned to write tighter and created better stories. All the while collecting royalty checks that I may not have had if I waited for the publisher with advance.

I'm happy with my decision. I'd like to know I had the backing of RWA. In this age of digital everything it seems to me that the new board should look to the future of the industry and perhaps revamp the way they define a successful writing career.

Oh, and in celebration of my newest release BONDED BY NEED coming out August 7 from Ellora's Cave, I've got a new contest going on over at my
. Stop on over and enter!


Amber Skyze said...

Well said, Nina! I'm sick of hearing my epublishing is a hobby. As a relatively new author, I have five books out in a seven month period, I don't feel that's a hobby. I only keep my RWA membership to remain a member of my local chapter. I adore my group.

Nina Pierce said...

Amber - I think you echo the feelings of many.

jean hart stewart said...

I love my local group too but am resigning from RWA in protest. Hopefully I can keep up with the friends I've made.

Nina Pierce said...

Jean - I don't think you're the only one making that decision. It's so darn hard since RWA requires membership in the mother organization to join the satellite chapters. Hopefully they won't lose too many good people.

Marianne Stephens said...

I just sent a message to Diane Pershing about their "rule" for entering the Rita and GH.
Their "3-week separation" of how authors can enter the Rita is just plain awful and drives another wedge between "big publisher" published authors and the rest of us. All this nonsense about advances makes me want to scream.
Anyhow, I told Dina that my contract, and what I agree to with my publisher, is none of RWA's business...that's between me, my publisher, and the IRS. Period.
When will they learn to stop causing friction and tension between the members?

Nina Pierce said...

Marianne - It will be interesting what, if anything, comes of all the letters being sent to RWA.

Delicious Romance From Cerise DeLand said...

The problem with NY publishers is that THEY are not serious about authors' careers. If they were, they'd change the way they treat us. Good reviews, awards, money spent on promo and publicity are things they tell you they EXPECT. But what can an author expect from them? Oh, nothing, dear. Nothing. Sure, you get an advance, but it takes so long to get it, you could die. It is so small, but the time you feed yourself and your website, etc., you pant for air. And then comes the coup de'gras--they don't guarantee in ANY WAY, that you will make your advance back and even if you do and you sell, oh say, 75-90% of your print run, you coudl still be DROPPED. You are simply not the flavor of the month.
Now, are there authors who escape this cesspool? Of course. But they tend to be category authors who can turn out good books quickly and write to a strict guideline. And others who have a hot agent who fights for them, gets them bigger $$ even when they earn no awards, and no great reviews.
Give me electronic. Where I can write, not to spec, at my own pace, without an agent taking 15% of my earnings for doing nada, with no headaches--and get the reviews on line that I do see sell books.
NY? No Thanks.
They can keep it.