>Decision Number One! Green Light
Last week at its National conference, RWA decided to admit published members into PAN (published authors network) based on the author’s performance and NOT who they write for. It’s an amazing step forward for the organization. Not everyone agrees with me, but then I don’t always agree with everyone else.
Decision Number Two! Honk If You Disagree
Another issue RWA addressed at their annual meeting was whether to add an Erotic Romance/Erotica (ER/E) category for the RITA and GH contests. Allegedly, the Board stated publicly that the category wasn’t considered because they’d never received a definition for ER/E. I can’t speak for others, but the Board received my definitions for the category on 6/5/06.
Decision Number Three! Traffic Is Moving Nicely
The Board reevaluated RWA’s definition of a publisher. In the past, the word recognized was used, but they changed it to eligible this year because too many members were interpreting the old word (recognized) to mean the publisher had an RWA stamp of approval. This is a good change IMHO. Cathy blogged about this recently, and while I don’t think the change is going to make that much difference in most members minds, at least it’s a step in the right direction when it comes to RWA not endorsing any specific publisher.
Decision Number Four! Accident Ahead
Then the Board updated the organization’s definition of Subsidy and Vanity Publishers. The really sticky language that was added into the definition by RWA’s literary attorney (I really have little confidence in this individual) reads: “publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site”
The literal translation of the definition means ALL ePublishers are now classified as Subsidy/Vanity Publishers, specifically because ePubs use their website as their primary point of sale. Even if the Board’s intent wasn’t to exclude even the BIG ePubs (i.e., Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, etc.) once their tenure’s over it doesn’t mean the next Board won’t follow the definition to the letter. While I imagine most ePubs could care less about the change the Board made, I care because I firmly believe this is a bad business decision on RWA’s part.
Here are some reasons why I believe that.
Point 1: The very nature of subsidy/vanity press means the money is flowing from the author to the publisher for the publication of a work with no, if extremely, distribution channels. Anything else where the money flows from the publisher to the author in terms of advances and royalties is not subsidy/vanity press. Classifying ePubs incorrectly illustrates not only that RWA doesn’t understand ePublishing, it implies they don’t understand what subsidy/vanity press really is. It makes them look ridiculous to a great many people, including publishers. Not good.
Point 2: Eliminating publishers from eligibility simply by virtue of their distribution method is short-sighted and does a disservice to the RWA membership. It’s short-sighted to assume (forget the ass out of u and me part) that ePublishing won’t continue to gain ground in the publishing world. Not overnight, but eventually it will happen. It’s also short-sighted because it displays RWA’s ignorance about ePublishing and how it operates. Again we look ridiculous to others in the publishing industry. Its bad representation of the membership.
Point 3: Advocacy starts with communication. With this new definition, RWA has effectively closed the door on advocacy with ePublishers for their ePubbed members. Yes, there’s a task force being formed, but it’s not as strong a position as I think RWA could or should take. By making it more difficult for ePubs to attend the National conference, RWA has lost momentum. Their ability to meet face-to-face with ePublishers, learn about them and cultivate them as valid partners in publishing where large numbers of them are gathered is severely hampered. Without communication one cannot begin to be an advocate for its members.
Thus by the very nature of this policy RWA had eliminated the opportunity to advance advocacy for ALL of its members. Let’s not forget that there are growing numbers of print authors who are seeing their work go from print to eBook format. While ePublishing might not be a major portion of the book industry at the moment, it’s short-sighted to ignore the fact that eventually it will become more powerful and visible. Rather than scrambling at some point down the road to catch up, RWA should be making inroads now to building bridges between its members and the ePublishing industry. Again, a BAD business decision.
Point 4: Member Resources – We’re now back to my biggest pet peeve, pet project, pet whatever–RWA is also about providing information to its members. There are members (a great many of them from sweet romance to Erotica) who view ePubs as a viable option in developing their careers. While print is still a mainstay in the publishing industry, ignoring ePublishers and small press limits RWA’s ability to provide quality information to ALL its members. As things currently stand, the organization’s main focus is fixated on print. While the ultimate goal of most writers is to see their work in print, it’s important to note that ePubs provide an excellent training ground for authors in the advancement of their careers. Ignoring ePubs makes it almost impossible for RWA as an organization to provide quality information about ePublishing and small press opportunities, their inner workings, their distribution methods and other educational issues that a great many members would find useful.
RWA Has Clout With A Lot Of Romance Writers
With their decision, RWA has further reinforced the negative stigma of ePubs by stating they’re subsidy/vanity press publishers. There’s the implication by RWA, intended or not, that a writer who’s ePub/small press is somehow unworthy of respect by RWA. This does not mean all RWA members believe this, but it does give those members who feel ePubs/small press pubs are inferior the impression that RWA as an entity agrees with their personal beliefs. Primarily it reinforces ignorance, something that we as writers tend to be against as a rule.
When an organization shows little regard for a portion of its members, then one has to wonder about their business savvy. There are a lot of members who take the decision personally and aren’t renewing their membership. I don’t believe I’m taking the decision personally, because politics, ignorance and other emotions are involved. Those things aren’t going to go away overnight. Nor will they vanish if this policy is rescinded, reworded or changed next year or the year after. Change comes slowly, or at least that’s what Natalie and others are teaching me. Besides, I don’t need my work validated by others, for me, despite my inability to say it succinctly, cleverly or dispassionately, it’s always been about respect. Particularly when I’m paying someone money. I believe I’m entitled to respect from an organization I pay dues to. Something, that over the years, I don’t believe I’ve always received from some members and some staff at the National level.
So, despite my disagreement with the Board on matters, my irritation that sometimes I don’t get respect, I’ve decided to renew my dues next year. I came DAMN CLOSE to not doing so. But, the pros still outweigh the cons as far as I’m concerned. Besides, if I’m not a member, I can’t vote, and if I don’t vote, I can’t complain can I. *grin* And I soooo love to complain, whine and moan.