>Over the past two weeks I’ve seen calls for unity in a couple of different places. The biggest and most historic one by far was from President-elect Obama. I am hopeful that both sides of the aisle can come together for the benefit of all Americans, regardless of our differences. In the end, we are ALL Americans uniting to strengthen our economy and reinforcing to the global community that we are still the greatest country in the world.
The second call for unity I saw was in Diane Pershing’s President’s Message in the Romance Writers Report (RWR). When I first read the letter, I basically skimmed it. IOWs, I didn’t read it closely or with much thought. However, I did come away with the idea that okay, new President–she’s calling for unity and that’s great. RWA could USE some unity. Then on a couple of different forums, several ePub/small press writers posted their interpretations about the message and it made me examine the issue closer.
Before I continue with my commentary, I want to clarify upfront and emphatically that I firmly believe Ms. Pershing was sincerely motivated by her desire to unite the organization. I do not believe for one minute Ms. Pershing meant any disrespect to any one segment of the RWA membership. My belief is based on an email exchange I had with Ms. Pershing earlier this week on another topic. Although the communication was short and to the point, it was the BEST and most POSITIVE experience I’ve ever had with an RWA president. I can not see this woman as doing anything to deliberately insult any RWA member. I believe she truly does want RWA to come together and unite during her term as President. I think this is an admirable goal and like the nation’s new President, she’s going to have a hard row to hoe.
With that affirmation stated, I admit to posting my own concerns about issues in the message, most specifically with the statement – “Publisher who is taking no financial risk, and therefore, has very little incentive to promote the author. (Books “sold” to them don’t even measure up to being on consignment; artists who work on consignment at least retain the rights of their work.) These publishers say if you sell to the public, then you get paid. Wrong equation. Selling to the publisher first means getting paid; later on, both publisher and writer profit from selling to the public. Career focused.”
A Different Model
I can see where the statement I’ve quoted above from the President’s message is being considered divisive by some of the membership. IMHO, it still implies small press/ePubs writers are not career-focused because they don’t receive substantial advances. The problem here is the lack of understanding among different segments of the RWA membership when it comes to the different business model ePub has from NY. Advances aren’t paid up front in ePub, BUT with the more respectable ePubs you DO earn royalties within 30 – 90 days of your book’s publication, and either monthly or quarterly thereafter. Most ePubs though pay writers royalties every 30 days.
My understanding (and NOT a certainty) with regard to NY is that you generally wait 12-18 months for royalties because of returns, which is what the advance is designed to cover (the wait). Interestingly enough, Samhain (small press) has a six-month payment policy on their print books. So there is a tradeoff between the two models with distribution playing an important role in how MUCH money one makes. And I’m not sure a lot of ePub writers or NY writers are able to totally understand the difference.
It’s A Living
Making a living by writing is not an easy thing to do. There are plenty of NY print authors who still work a day job in addition to their writing. Then there are quite a few ePub writers who don’t have to work a day job because they’re making enough off their work. So exactly what is the benchmark dollar figure when it comes to writing for a living? For one writer it might be $25K annually for another it might be $50K annually, while another writer might want low six figures. Naturally we all want to have the incomes of Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, etc., but let’s be frank here. This will NEVER happen for most of us. Like our writing, all writers have different expectations of what constitutes a decent “salary” for their writing. My point is the amount of money we make does not determine whether we’re career focused. For me career focus is anyone who’s aiming for the next rung on the publication ladder. Will all of us make it? No. Will the few of us who do reach the next plateau make a fortune? No.
I’m proud of my ePub roots. I hope to find time to continue offering works there. But I’m also excited that I’ve taken one more step up the career ladder. I’ve always been career-focused, and if other people didn’t see it that way (my family included) then they just don’t know me well or at all.
Do I have the answer for what equates to career-focused? No, but I think the BOD made a start last year by setting $1K for PAN membership. What I do know is this. There is great value in Ms. Pershing’s goal to unite the RWA membership. I should have thought more about her message before I posted any comments on the forums where I expressed my opinion and concerns about extracted statements. While my posts in those forums did not outright question the motive of Ms. Pershing, I can see where some people might misinterpret my posts the same way Ms. Pershing’s message is being dissected. So I feel empathy for her.
An Uphill Climb
Additionally, I did her a disservice by not thinking through my thoughts completely before I made comments on less public forums. So I want to express my appreciation to Ms. Pershing for her desire to unify RWA. The organization has increasingly become divided over the past six years, and I think it’s time BOTH sides of the membership come to the table. She’s taken on a really TOUGH task and I don’t envy her. However, I was impressed by my interaction with her, and I think she’s got what it takes to succeed, provided the majority of members support her efforts. Let’s face it; there will always be the disgruntled few. I’ve been one of those disgruntled from time to time. It’s expected. We can’t all agree all the time. Utopia is great to strive for as long as we accept that it doesn’t exist. But I’m coming to realize that I have to work WITHIN the system if I want to make any change whatsoever. As I’ve said before I’m a slow learner, but I do learn.