Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Personal Account Concerning the RWA Uproar

Two years ago I attended an RWA conference as a first-time, published author with all the enthusiasm and confidence that a new author dreams about. Imagine my surprise at leaving the conference full of disappointment and with feelings of rejection.

I'd done what I'd always wanted to do...publish a book. Yes, it was an ebook, but still a viable means of conveying a story. I wasn't prepared for four annoying encounters that spoiled my joy at attending RWA 2007. Why was I treated like the ugly stepsister tolerated at the ball?

I remember standing in one of the many lines you find yourself in during a conference/convention. Next to me was a woman also wearing one of the coveted pink ribbons on her nametag...the one signifying a new author. We started talking and I spoke of my first book, an ebook already released at Cerridwen Press. My fellow "first-timer's" nose rose a notch and she made one of those "Oh" remarks indicating I hadn't impressed her.

Being the polite person I am, I asked about her new book...and keep in mind this was in 2007. She informed me she would be published by (insert a NY publisher here...makes no difference in this case) and couldn't wait for her book's release. I again smiled and inquired when her book would be released. With a dreamy look in her eyes, she told me it would come out in the fall of 2009.

Two years? Good Lord...who knows how long it took her to get to that point? Sorry folks, but I don't have that much time to wait around!

That conference in 2007 left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I also had an appointment with a NY editor for a book I knew my publisher wouldn't want because it had children in it. This editor seemed bored with the whole process...and I was her third or fourth appointment of the day.

I introduced myself and spoke of my Cerridwen book and another contracted book before starting my pitch. She interrupted me with some quote about "when you finally get published". I corrected her by reminding her I WAS published and had told her before pitching. Her response? "I guess I was distracted." This woman had no interest in listening to me.

She interrupted me again to wonder if I could write another book like the one I was pitching. I told her yes. I'd written a paranormal, mainstream, and the one I was pitching was another contemporary mainstream.

She then cut our interview short by saying she didn't think I had what they were looking for. And, she added, "Isn't your book an ebook?" At that point, I figured I'd faced another "print only" purist and there was no reason to waste more of my time. I thanked her and left my ten minute interview four minutes early. My only regret is that I didn't take back my business card.

I had a long discussion with someone from my own chapter at the dreaded 2007 RWA fiasco about print vs. ebooks. Her final argument was that I should be able to make a living selling ebooks. I turned to her and asked, "Do you?" She'd had two or three books published by a NY publisher and was going through a terrible time trying to sell again. Of course, she couldn't make a living from her sales. How many really can, whether print or ebook authors?

My progress has continued with more books published, both ebooks and print versions, while this woman sat and waited. She's finally acknowledged that she's now writing a M/M book targeted for an ebook publisher. I'd say that's a major jump for someone who scoffed at ebooks a few years ago. Maybe she's tired of watching others succeed who've embraced the future of reading and the publishing industry.

I did my homework when I investigated ebook publishers. I read some books Ellora's Cave/Cerridwen Press published and found a quality publisher I thought would be a great place for me to send my work. Tired of trying to fit in tiny boxes of requirements with bigger print publishers, I opted for EC where I felt would be a good home for my voice, style, and more open to "out-of-the-box" type books.

I was right. My voice found a home and I've been extremely happy ever since.

I'm a PAN member. Got "blessed" by RWA when all I needed to do was send in the final page of my contract to verify I was/would be published. All this happened before the dreaded 2007 General meeting at the RWA conference when the proverbial s**t hit the fan about "changes" in "recognized" publishers and "accepting" published authors into PAN.

Now it looks like people are getting tired of being told by RWA exactly what criteria "published romance authors" and "real, recognized" publishers have to present to be blessed and welcomed into the RWA family. I shake my head at those stubborn people refusing to acknowledge the technological parade touting ebooks and passing before them as the wave of the future. Purists think that by refusing to acknowledge ebook publishers and their authors, the "world" of romance books will stay the same.

Not true.

One amazing thing that continues to have me puzzled through all this is the following. I can understand RWA wanting to exclude self-published/vanity presses. I can also accept them requiring publishers to be in business 3-5 years...both print and ebook publishers. Lord knows ebook publishers have disappeared...BUT so have some print publishers.

What really annoys me is their need to know what terms I accept in my contract. It's none of their business if I agree not to get an advance. It's none of their business how much money I make. It's none of their business when I get paid. This information is confidential between myself, my publisher, and the IRS (okay, and my husband, too).

I'd think that many of us at EC laugh our way to the bank when our checks come in, knowing we make more than RWA's stipulated payment for PAN recognition. In fact, we get paid faster, and I haven't gone a month without receiving a paycheck. But, then again, it's none of RWA's business what my fiances are.

Let's face it. Few profession jobs offer advances. I didn't get one when I was teaching. My husband didn't get one during his time in the military or in his civilian job. Advances and absurd "protection" policies that have spewed forth from RWA as laws to be followed aggravates me.

Right now, the only thing that keeps me a member in RWA is my loyalty to my local chapter. I've known these people for 15 years and would miss them.

It's time for change. If not this year, it will come. Even RWA can't deny or halt technological progress. Ebooks are our future. There's a new Yahoo group (over 600 members) for romance writers looking for a change in RWA:
Join those of us looking toward a better, up-to-date future for romance authors. There's room for both print and electronic books in our industry.
New release 24 July...look for "Sexy Games", by April Ash, from Ellora's Cave,


Amber Skyze said...

I may not be a published writer by RWA's standards, but I AM a published writer. I won't let them take that feeling away from me. I too, am only a member because of my local chapter. I don't go to the conferences and I don't want to wait two plus years to see one of my books published. It seems a lifetime after publishing electronically.

jean hart stewart said...

I'm dropping out of RWA. I love some of my local chapter, but even though I've not got two series some members make it plain they don't think I'm real writer. I intende to keep up with the good guys by e-mail.

Marianne Stephens said...

Thanks for commenting, Amber and Jean. It's sad that RWA could be such a great organization for ALL authors, instead of trying to drive a wedge among us.

Valerie Oakley said...

Would you mind if I copied this to one of my groups? There are several authors (e-book, of course) who would love this.

Marianne Stephens said...

Not a problem. It's meant to be read by any and all who are interested. I wrote another blog at entitled something like "RWA - Should I Remain a Member?"

I'd be interested in comments from your group. If you can, send or have people email me at

Lyla Sinclair said...

Great post!

It finally hit me one day that I didn't have what it took to be a traditionally published writer. Not because I thought the quality of my work was poor. I'd won awards and had all kinds of great comments, and one well-known NY editor--my fave for years--didn't think one book was right for them but enthusiastically asked for more.

However, I'm not a patient person. I'd written and sumbitted for years. I knew other authors who were getting published after banging their head against the brick and mortar for 12-15 YEARS. Then, to wait years after that until my book came out...

I submitted to Ellora's Cave and compared to NY, it's like being published at the speed of light. I should get my first royalty check in the next few days.

Marianne Stephens said...

Good for you, Lyla! Welcome to the EC family!!

Dee Brice said...

You put it so well! Thanks. I think all of us who attended RWA in 2007 felt more than slighted. And the beat goes on. I used to think that RWA was dedicated to bringing authors, publishers and agents together, but cutting off certain e-publishers is like cutting off noses despite the fact that we need them to breathe.

Dee Brice