golden heart

You’re probably not going to let me get away with this and I have to say … I’m soooo sorry! This week has gotten away from me AGAIN! I have no excuse. My head was in a bad place and I just couldn’t get my act together to blog. I know … shame on me.

And I can’t even say I finished the rewrite of my vampire romantic suspense, though I have been working diligently on it. One of my beta readers had some really good questions and I’m mulling them over and figuring out how to clarify. Still… it’s not a good excuse. Now I’m travelling to visit my family in Maine. Looks like it’s going to be a wonderful week at the lake. There will be a lot of laughter and too much wine and probably several nights of card playing. All fun and games. (Though I am bringing the laptop and have explained to my muse that she can’t play the whole week away). Yay!

Next week, despite the fact that I’ll be away, I’ll actually be pretty good about posting. (Because of course I, ummm … have them preloaded.)

And a happy wave to all my writer friends in Anaheim enjoying the final weekend of the RWA national convention. I’ve got a really good friend Meg Kassel whose YA manuscript has finalled in the Golden Heart! w00t! w00t! Go Meg! I’m lifting a margarita to all of you!

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’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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