Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Buzz About RWA

Well, the big news this week is that RWA, the national romance writers' organization, has made some significant changes to which publishers they'll name as "RWA-approved."

RWA approval has (or used to have, before this fallout) huge influence in the romance-writing world. Their "approval" of a publisher basically means it's one that legitimate, royalty-paying, and looking out for the best interests of the author. Romance writers target RWA-approved publishers because they know they will get a fair deal. RWA has always marketed itself this way, to both published and unpublished authors, as being the support team for writers who are trying to learn the craft of writing and become successfully published one day.

Until now, apparently.

Their latest changes include this:

"Commencing with RWA’s 2008 National Conference, for official publisher participation, a romance publisher must verify to RWA that it: (1) is not a Subsidy Publisher or Vanity Publisher; (2) has been releasing romance novels via national distribution for no fewer than three years, with no fewer than two full-length romance novels or novel-length romance anthologies published in each of three consecutive years; (3) provides per book advances of at least $1,000 for all books; and (4) pays all authors participating in an anthology an advance of at least $500...

"The Board updated the definition of Subsidy Publisher or Vanity Publisher
to: any publisher that publishes books in which the author participates in
the cost of production or distribution in any manner, including publisher
assessment of a fee or other costs for editing and/or distribution...publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site*; publishers whose list is comprised of 50% or more of its books written by authors who are principals in the publishing company; and publishers whose business model and methods of publishing are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and associates."

What does this mean? Basically, RWA is lumping together vanity publishers (which are publishing companies that people pay to publish their books - not recommended at all and a huge waste of money...authors should always be paid for their work, not the other way around) with small e-publishers (like Samhain and The Wild Rose Press, my 2 publishers), many of which are 100% legitimate, professional and royalty-paying. This is terrible damaging to e-publishers and, in fact, a total misnomer. RWA doesn't care.

What's worse is that as of this decision, RWA is pulling their recognition of all publishers that don't meet their new guidelines. This includes Samhain, which just a few months ago received the RWA-recognition. No grandfathering allowed (forget that Samahin just signed an imprint deal with Kensington, which is RWA-approved and will remain so).

Finally, what's also interesting is that these new guidelines might also throw out major publishers like St. Martin's and Avon, actually everyone except Harlequin. Check out more on this fact here. RWA still apparently doesn't care.

What does this mean for me? Well, I can't say that being a member of RWA has even given me much. They send out a nice monthly magazine, and they provide information on reputable publishers and agents and conferences, but I'm thinking that this latest move, to keep out small publishers from their exclusive circle, means I might spend my $75/year somewhere else.

However, this also means that I won't be able to belong to my local RWA group, since national membership is a requirement. Still, on the purposes of principle, I think I might bow out.

Finally, though, my overall reaction what? The last time I checked, people didn't buy books based on whether or not the publisher was nationally "approved" by some kind of self-governing body. And Borders doesn't have separate shelves for separate publishers, do they? If a book is on the shelf, and it looks interesting, people will pick it up. Period. In fact, I'm sure most of my non-writer friends who read my blog will have no idea what RWA is or why any of this should matter.

In the long run, I'm just going to write.


Marianne Arkins said...

My annual dues are actually due next month... and I was on the fence about rejoining anyway. Then this.

Um... I'm all about EPIC now. I think RWA had a huge over reaction to Triskelion. I think they're going to regret their decision down the line (and not too far down the line, either).

I agree with pretty much everything you said, and you said it so well!

Anonymous said...

My dues are up at the end of the month. I am the treasurer of my local chapter so I might join for one more year and see how things shake out. Liz

MaryF said...

My understanding at the AGM was that there isn't RWA-approved. It's RWA eligible, and all it means to the publishers is that they can't come to RWA for free. They have to pay a conference fee. The people who are PAN stay PAN. I think they do intend to work on the wording so that it doesn't sound like they're lumping e-pub in with subsidy and vanity presses.