RWA

ConfusionI’ve only been doing this writing gig eight years and it has amazed me the number of changes that have happened in the publishing world in that short time. It’s not so much that it’s surprising as the delivery of books is pushed by the advances in technology. It’s just that … wow! It’s hard to know which way to go.

When I first started writing in the summer of 2005 I had NO clue about writing a book. As a voracious reader I only knew what I enjoyed in a story and I sat down at the keyboard attempting to emulate my favorite writers. My first attempt wasn’t bad–not publishable–but not bad.

Back then most books were published at bigger publishers who accepted most submissions through agents. New writers needed to give their career credibility and prove they weren’t just doing this writing gig as a “hobby”, but were interested in making writing a profession. Enter Romance Writers of America. This national organization is dedicated to advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. Being a member and more specifically a PRO member (proof that you’ve finished a manuscript, submitted it and it’s been rejected) was supposed to prove to publishers and agents that you wanted your writing to be more than just a one book diversion, but that you were actually interested in building a business.

From the national level of RWA I found the Maine Chapter of RWA. THIS is what I needed. A group of writers who had been through the process, knew the ropes and became my guiding light in a business I knew nothing about. I branched out to several online chapters of RWA all of them grounding me in the chaotic seas of the publishing world.

But as technology has changed and publishing has changed–so have my needs. For the last couple of years I’ve held on to my RWA national membership not only to give credibility to my career, but also so I could be a member of my local chapters. But this year with my latest move, I’ve come to realize the relationships I’ve forged with the writers in Maine would continue even if I wasn’t a member of the chapter. I haven’t been able to make the monthly meetings anyway and all of my interaction was online.

With the changing tide of publishing now flowing into the author’s control I realized I didn’t need RWA to anchor me anymore. At the end of last year … I finally cut ties.

Being the rule-follower that I am, I still feel a little strange about it. Due to physical limitation, (and let’s face it–finanacial costs) I’ve never attended the RWA National convention. I don’t know if this has put me behind the eight ball in my publishing career, but I suspect (for me) I’m not missing out on anything. Writing conventions have never sparked my muse, quite the opposite in fact (but that’s a blog for another day). Still, I wonder if I ever choose to look for an agent if they’ll see it as a red flag that I don’t belong to a “professional” organization.

I know as a reader I have no idea if an author belongs to a professional organization … doesn’t make any difference to me. I want their books, not their bio. I know other authors are struggling with this same decision. So what do you think? Do professional writing organizations say anything about an author? I’d love to know what you think. Because you know me … I’m curious about stuff like this.

I’ve been a card-carrying member of Romance Writers of America since 2005 when I started this writing journey. I found out about them when my sister suggested I enter the first story I ever wrote into the Golden Heart Contest. Thank goodness the entries were full because the manuscript everyone in my family loved, turned out to be 100,000 words of crud. LOL! But this post isn’t really about that.

It’s about an organization that 7 years ago I absolutely needed. Mostly because it pointed me in the direction of my local Maine chapter where I met some amazing writers who were more than willing to share their experience and teach me about the craft of writing. That led me to writing contests where I learned sooooo much from some very honest and giving judges. And followed that up with RWA chapter conventions.

I learned how to write query letters and where to send manuscripts. I devoured every issue of the RWR, the monthly magazine put out by RWA, filled with articles written by authors who had walked this path before me.

A year later I signed my first contract. And that’s when I got the first cold shoulder from RWA. I had signed with Liquid Silver Books (whom I adore) which is an electronic publisher. They didn’t offer an advance and for some reason that meant I wasn’t “career-minded” and didn’t deserve to have my contract listed as FIRST SALES in the RWR. Yeah, that stung.

But RWA couldn’t ignore the digital train filling up with authors who weren’t wearing blinders and could actually read the signs on the publishing horizon. They slowly accepted that authors who were published only in digital formats might actually be making money. They even allowed us into the prestigious “Published Authors Network” when one of our books earned $1000 in royalties, which was the minimum advance they felt was worth an author’s time. They lost a little of their luster at this point. More and more magazines were arriving and sitting around unopened before they got recycled. Still, I was happy to be in online RWA chapters that offered classes and support that I desperately wanted and needed.

Fast forward a few more years. I’ve found several author and reader groups online that aren’t affiliated with RWA. They support the needs I have, social, promotional and educational. Facebook and Twitter exploded, offering me even more opportunities to connect with authors and readers. I have a whole array of friends that I’ve never met face-to-face, but who are as dear to me as some of my highschool and college friends.

Now self-publishing has added another avenue to the road to publication. People are questioning the need for agents. Is Harlequin with it’s meager advances and low print runs the gold standard anymore? It used to be that authors who were members of RWA held more credibility with the big romance publisher. I’m not so sure that’s true anymore. I’m meeting more and more highly successful romance authors who are not members of RWA.

And then there’s the convention. But even that has lost its shine for me. With conventions like Romantic Times, Lori Foster’s Get-Together and Ellora Cave’s Romanticon authors are offered many opportunities to meet and greet not only other authors, but readers as well. And isn’t that who I’m really working to get to know? The RWA convention is for members only.

Now, RWA is trying to figure out where self-publishing (that dirty word that also meant you weren’t “career-minded”) is fitting into their model of publishing. With so many NYT Bestselling authors re-releasing out of print and backlist titles, it’s no longer a publishing avenue they can ignore. I’m not sure where they’ll end up when it all shakes out, but the question is, have they become an organization that romance writers no longer need?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

I’ve been questioning my membership over the last couple of years. Mostly because RWA continues to raise their yearly dues (like everything else in the world that’s increasing). And I’m using them less and less. I have enough connections now that when I’m inquiring about a new publisher or perhaps (some day) shopping for an agent, I know there will be all kinds of people who will be able to steer me in a direction that works best for me. For now I continue to plunk down my money so I can continue to be active with the Maine Chapter. Some of my dearest friends are in that group. And I would miss seeing them. But I’m not sure it’s worth the $110 (RWA and Chapter dues) a year for me to be a member of that chapter.

What do you think? Are there advantages for romance authors to be members of RWA? Do you think those that bow out are missing anything? I’m really trying to figure this one out.

I am a member of Romance Writers of America. Mostly I keep up my membership because I can then be a member of smaller chapters like Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal, Maine Romance Writers and the New England Chapter, all of them full of wonderful authors who offer advice and support my career.

When I started writing six years ago I was alone in the world with no clue how to navigate the waters of the publishing world. I found RWA and then my local Maine chapter. Thanks to them and several RWA sponsored writing contests I was able to learn my craft, hone my writing skills and publish. Of course back then RWA didn’t consider me published because I had chosen to work with Liquid Silver Books, a digital publisher (whom I would highly recommend). With no advance coming to me for my books they considered me little more than a hobbiest. Yeah whatever.

As the electronic industry grew and e-readers became part of the book buyer’s landscape, RWA could no longer ignore the fact that many authors were choosing to contract their books to digital publishers. For many writers, the high percentage of royalties was now outweighing the desire to sell books to publisher with low advances that rarely “earned out”.

RWA now recognizes authors as “officially published” who earn $1000 or more with a single book title either as an advance OR in royalties. Okay, well, no kidding authors of e-books who have received awesome reviews and have a readership have known this for a long time.

But if there’s one truth about publishing … nothing remains the same for long.

Now, authors are finding financial success publishing books directly to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And RWA has no idea what to do with these authors who earn sometimes more than the traditionally published mid-list author in NY. Because … get this … that author is only a hobbiest. They aren’t looking at their writing career as a profession.

Wai … wha?

It’s true. And there are some authors who are jumping on that bandwagon. Now don’t ask me why, in this time of Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath and Barry Eisler, who are making amazing money publishing their own books, why RWA would NOT consider this a viable publishing option for an author’s career. To me it’s a sound business decision to make sure I’ve tapped into all aspects of the publishing market.

I consider myself a “professional” writer. I intend to contribute substantially to the family budget, not just offer a movie and dinner night to Mr. Nina once a month when my royalty check arrives. But it is the rare author who makes a living wage right out of the starting gate. It takes time to market onesself and find a readership base. When will I consider myself a success? Hmmm, I’m not sure. I suspect every time I reach one goal I’ll be stretching toward another. What I do know is that I can’t decide for someone else how to define their writing.

There are some who really are just happy writing their stories and getting them out into the world, even if they don’t make much money. And others who are happy squeezing their writing time between a fulltime job, kids and the hubster, thrilled to have extra money every month or so to feed their book-buying addiction. Are they not professionals? That’s not for me to decide. And I know that’s not much of an answer.

The truth is, RWA is trying to juggle many writers with a lot of needs. It just seems to me that the organization is once again fighting the US (those who are published with recognized electronic publishers and traditionally published authors making a living wage) vs THEM (everyone still finding their way including those “self-pubbed” to Amazon) battle. I don’t know where the organization is going or what will be decided about authors who make their living publishing direct. I just hope the powers that be are looking at this from all angles, not just the one down their nose.

So, as an author does any of this affect you? And as a reader, does it matter to you where your favorite books come from (recognized pubs or Amazon/B&N directs)?

So this week is the National Romance Writers of America conference. This year it’s being held in Orlando (after some major scrambling when Nashville flooded). Romance writers, editors, agents and aspiring writers will converge to meet and mingle and talk about all things romance in the publishing industry.

And I won’t be there. ūüôĀ

In fact, this is such a large conference, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to manage the crazy running around that authors do at these types of events. My mobility has become problematic. I’m having trouble moving around even small venues these days. I know I’m not the only disabled author. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised at the number of prolific authors with disabilities. Which means, chances are, they’re not attending the conference either.

And let’s not limit this to disabled authors. There are many romance authors who just don’t have the ready cash to shell out for this type of event. TRUST me when I say … these things ain’t cheap!

Does this put us at a disadvantage?

I’m not sure, but part of me worries it does. I belong to several online chapters and they’re all having their general meetings along with the RWA general meeting. There is a PAN tract for published authors that I understand is outstanding. Now, I know, you’re going to tell me I can order the disks and listen to everything on CD. But there are a couple of problems with that, not the least of which I’m not really interested in listening to workshops on tape. What I like is the interaction that happens in the classroom setting. (Yes, that’s totally the teacher in me.) I have no doubt I’d go crazy because I’d like to ask a question but I can’t.

But even IF I did do that, I’m gleaning the wisdom of others, but I sure as heck won’t be sitting at the bar shooting the breeze and rubbing elbows with friends and/or one of my favorite authors. I won’t be bumping into an editor or an agent just “to get to know them”. I won’t be hooking up with like minded authors and get invited to be part of a great new anthology. Nope. Zip. Zero. Zilch. None of that is available to me. Which then makes me ask again, does that put me behind the eight ball? Do I have to work harder because I can’t schmooze with the rest of the romance writing world?

I don’t know the answer to this. I’m wondering what you’re thinking. I’m sure there are LOTS of romance authors out there who aren’t even members of RWA. There’s no law against it. But do you think sometimes you may be missing out? Let me know how you feel.

And if you’re a reader, have you ever attended a reader/writer conference like Ellora Cave’s Romanticon? Did you ever find a new-to-you author because you had a chance to meet them in person and just had to have their books?

So this week is the yearly convention of Romance Writers of America. It’s a HUGE convention of authors, publishers, agents and editors. In the four years I’ve been writing I haven’t been to one of these shindigs. Of course, the first couple of years I didn’t even know about RWA … still.

Since the convention is¬†in Washington DC, my side of the coast, there are five or six writers traveling from Maine, a few of them planning a wild¬†roadtrip complete with blue drinks *wink*¬†¬†(Susan Vaughan, Teagan Oliver, Brenna Ash, Delsora Lowe, Diane Amos, Terri Linscott, and Elaina Huntley). And another of my dear friends Emma Sanders¬†is traveling all the way from Texas with her hubster!¬†I’m just bummed I’m not one of them … waaaaaa. I’ll be enjoying the festivities vicariously through their tweets, emails and pics on FaceBook.

As much as I’d like to be there, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. The whole thing scares the beejeebers out of me! Seriously. Nah, it’s not the crowds or the big names. I’d love all that stuff. It’s the SIZE of it. And of course in Washington it’s all about the walking. Every tour, every workshop, you need to schlepp. And sometimes I just can’t do that stuff.

My MS has progressed to the point where I’m right in the middle of needing a wheelchair, but not quite disabled enough to need it all the time. *sigh* It’s a pain in the butt worrying about whether my legs will last long enough to get from one place to another. The hubster is awesome. We’ve kind of got the whole moving me from one place to another down pat. But since he’s not a writer, the thought of hanging with hundreds of romance authors doesn’t really do much for him. LOL!

So this year I’m sitting on the sidelines. ūüôĀ¬†But I’m not twiddling my thumbs! Over at SIX SEXY SIRENS we’re (Madison Blake, Paris Brandon, Cerise Deland, Fran Lee, Afton Locke) offering an e-book mini workshop E-publishing from Query to Final Edits and Beyond! We’re sharing our personal stories and sharing the process of writing from start to … (well, I can’t say finish, because a writer’s work is never done!) the end of a project.

I hope you’ll join us this week. And for all of you at RWA Nationals in Washington … lift a blue drink for me!

I’m having a battle of conscience with my membership in Romance Writers of America. On the one hand, there is nothing they offer that I use. I don’t read the RWR (for various reasons that are really dumb, still, I don’t). I don’t visit their website. I can’t enter their writing contests because I am considered published and can’t enter their Golden Heart, but my e-books are only “sorta” published and don’t qualify for the RITAs. I don’t go to National convention, but this has to do with finances and health issues, otherwise I would go there. I’m not part of their PRO loop because I wasn’t “fed” by things that went on there.¬† So, I know, you’re wondering why I bother.

Well, this is where the dilema kicks in …

I LOVE going to conferences, most of them sponsored by RWA chapters. I adore the writers that belong to the Maine chapter of RWA. And I am also part of the suspense chapter of RWA, Kiss of Death. These small chapters support and feed me… replenish me when I think my writing has sucked the marrow from my muse. And an agent mentioned that belonging to writing organizations (not necessarily RWA) shows you are serious about writing as a career.

Now RWA is very smart. You can NOT belong to any of their chapters unless you are first a member of their organization. Okay, that makes sense though it really irks me. Which means I fork out big bucks so I can hang with some local romance authors who totally understand how difficult it is to become and remain an author.

This weekend I am hanging with my homegirls at the MERWA writer’s retreat. Boo-yeah! Really, I can’t even begin to tell you what these conferences do for me. They are worth every penny as I chat about writing and learn from authors who have walked this path before me. It’s refreshing.

I am really hoping to return refreshed and rearing to start a new project which has kind of stalled. So for now, RWA gets my hard-earned money so I can enjoy the company of some amazing authors.

I love my “local” chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America) … despite the fact that they meet four hours from my home and refuse to change their meeting location for me. ;). No, seriously, without this wonderful group of writers I know the road to publication would have been filled with potholes of doubt and hairpin turns of confusion. They were there patiently teaching me about writing queries and synopses and submitting manuscripts. And when my first contract offers came in, they helped me sort through the confusion and make a decision. I really appreciate their support and¬†guidance.

I enjoy my online chapters of RWA.¬†I am able to be part of chapters that talk about the erotic romance industry and others that deal with the suspense market. There’s also a paranormal chapter which I haven’t joined, but it’s on my to-do list. These chapters are important to me.

I tolerate RWA national.

Why? Because I can’t belong to my local chapter or my online chapters without being a member of the national organization. But (through no fault of theirs) I don’t get anything from them, but a big fat bill once a year and a monthly magazine (that promptly goes in a stack in the odd chance someone will mention something I might want to read.) I don’t use their website or other resources. Not that they’re not out there … I just don’t need them at this point in my journey.

But now … now there’s all this upheaval about erotic romance and electronic books and the powers that be in the national organization accusing me of not having a career-oriented mindset because I pub books without receiving an advance. (Never mind the fact that a high majority of authors never earn out their advance and therefore never receive a royalty check on their sales.)

I had been considering dropping my membership. But then an agent at the convention this past weekend mentioned that they really look at whether someone is a member of writing organizations to gauge how serious the author is about their career. Now, RWA was mentioned specifically (because after all, it was a group of romance authors), but then other writing organizations were also mentioned. But it did bring me up short.

Writing is my career. I do take it seriously. Some day I’d like to be NY pubbed (one of the “big” guys) and I’d like to have an agent. I keep weighing this whole RWA membership and trying to decide if it’s worth my money. Perhaps things will change. With all the members lifting their voices it will be hard to ignore us all. I truly believe electronic books are the new wave. Big houses like Harlequin, Silhouette, and Kensington all have erotic lines. These aren’t going away. It just seems to me that RWA is going to have to stop ignoring the kid in the corner of the playground with our funny looking toys.

It’s an interesting place and it puts me¬†in a quandary as I¬†continue to look at all the pros and cons. I am curious how you feel about the whole RWA issue.

I’m a proud disillusioned card-carrying member of Romance Writers of America (RWA). An organization started decades ago¬†(long before¬†writing was a twinkle in my eye) that was¬†established to support the writing careers of authors, specifically (as the title suggests), writers in the romance genre. I don’t know their exact mission, you can look it up. But really, this is going to be a little rant story about an organization that is just sorta pissing me off.

Once upon a time a bunch of authors banded together and decided to create an organization that would support those writing romance and give it credibility in the publishing industry. They wrote by-laws and set membership dues and invited people with like goals to come be part of this wonderfully supportive organization. And they did. They came in huge numbers bringing with them all the shiny enthusiasm new members always bring to organizations.

Then it became apparent that the members didn’t all write the same type of love story. Little groups formed within this larger organization and chapters were born. Chapters could focus on different things like romance with suspense or paranormal elements or historical or erotic themes. Some chapters formed so writers in a particular area could get together and talk about all the wonderful aspects of writing romance and to show others the path to publication. Everyone was happy.

Then came small press publishers and epublishers.

Whisperings began in the back room as members showed up claiming to be published, but you couldn’t buy their book at Barnes and Noble or hold it in your hand. Well, they certainly shouldn’t get to sit at the “adult” table with the “real” authors, now should they?

So RWA quietly went about making these new enthusiastic authors feel just a little smaller. “Come play when you have a real book,” they said “… oh, and where’s your check for membership in the mean time?” The epubbed and small press authors shrugged, smiled, and continued to write their wonderful romances. They had readers clamoring for their next release.

At some point RWA decided to start two contests; one that would allow unpublished authors to submit manuscripts for judging called the Golden Heart and another to judge published books called the RITA (I don’t know if it’s an acronym people … but it’s not relevant to my rant, errr … I mean story.) Anyhow, everyone was happy to pay a VERY high entry fee to be judged against the best of the best.

Then … the epubbed and small press authors slapped down their money and handed their book to the judge. “No, no,” said the judge. “This isn’t a real book. You can’t be part of the RITA’s.”

So the author smiled and went back to her WIP’s and chose a manuscript worthy of being judged. With a big smile she handed her manuscript and a check to the Golden Heart judge. “No, no,” said the judge. “You are published. It wouldn’t be fair for you to compete against unpublished authors. Silly writer. Oh, but don’t you owe RWA dues?”

Now, the epubbed/small press author is very sad. She is proud of her accomplishments, but has to sit at the “kiddie” table and isn’t allowed to play with other authors. She’s published … but not. Guess what? She dropped out of RWA because it wasn’t supporting her dreams and aspirations. RWA said her career was just pretend.

The moral of the story … RWA needs to wake up and support small press and epubbed authors. The president claims that she doesn’t want the organization to be an “us” vs “them”. But RWA continues to exclude a large number of authors from their ranks.

It’s shameful. It hurts.

To add insult to injury, this year many authors entered the RITA contest for published authors in good faith. They have been told they didn’t read the rules carefully enough and their book has been disqualified and won’t be judged … and too bad for them, their entry fee won’t be refunded. WTF?

Silly RWA … you are alienating a WHOLE bunch of writers. In a time when authors need support, you make it an exclusive club. I would drop my membership if I didn’t have several RWA chapters that support and encourage my writing career.

I am blogging about this travesty, but I have also taken time to email my district representative on the RWA board. If you’re a member of RWA I would suggest you do the same. Changes won’t happen until enough people stand up on the¬†kiddie table and shout “WE”RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!”

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