MERWA

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.

It’s been six years this summer since I had to give up my teaching job. That first summer I was so excited about this new writing gig I’d decided to embark upon. I got up early every morning, the romance story of two teachers living in northern Maine, churning in my head. (Hey, they say write what you know.)

I loved that summer. There was no internet for me. No emails begging for my attention. I hadn’t started my blog. Facebook and Twitter were just in their infant stages and definitely not on my radar. It was me, a computer and two characters looking to find love.

Of course that book is buried deep under the couch because, as much as I loved the story and the characters, I just don’t think I can save that manuscript from itself. I was too ignorant of writing rules (I’m a scientist remember) and story structure to worry about doing it “right”. I just let my imagination run wild and typed. Writing it was fun. Working my way from “once upon a time” to “riding off into the sunset” was a huge learning journey for me. Enough so that I could go on and write another romantic suspense thriller that will hopefully find it’s way to publication within the year. I was thrilled with my progress and the stories I discovered in my imagination just waiting to get written.

But the last couple of years, I worry more about cliches and character growth and act structure. The joy of writing the story is gone and I don’t know where it’s disappeared.

I think part of my issue is watching authors who started writing when I did, running away with accolades and big contracts. Now, please don’t misunderstand, I wish all my friends well and hope for only the best for all of them. It’s just that … it’s hard for me to not want what they have or to compare myself to their successes. I know. I know. Every writer is different. Every journey unique. I have been blessed with some wonderful contracts and I’m grateful. Really I am. But I want to find that story that sets my muse on fire. The one I just have to write because it’s keeping me awake at night and filling my mind with images and … enthusiasm. I want the passion back.

I know I’m not the only writer who’s gone through this. Others have survived and come out better on the other side of their personal crisis. I will too. I’m just a tad bit impatient at the moment and want it all to work out now. Anyway, I’m throwing this out there. Have you ever run into a personal wall that you needed to get over? Did something you love lose it’s luster? I’d love to know how you got through it. How did you rediscover the joy. Walking away from writing isn’t an option at this point in time. This is my job. I’d just like to figure out how to get out of bed again with a smile on my face happy to face the keyboard.

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)?

This past weekend I went up to Maine for a writer’s retreat. Unlike a convention, which focuses on primarily teaching and pitch opportunities, this retreat was designed to offer attendees the opportunity for quiet writing time, brainstorming and workshops.

The speakers were amazing. KA Mitchell who did an awesome workshop on character personality types. And wow! she offered some indepth information to give writers tools for making characters that walk off the pages. Plus, she’s got a great sense of humor which made her presentation that much more enjoyable.

Historical author, Hannah Howell gave a wonderful talk on motivation. Something I desperately need at the moment as I’m finding it very easy to do anything but write. Later at dinner, she was recognized by some avid romance readers who stopped over at our table, completely giddy, and asked to have their picture taken with her. (They also were celebrating a bachelorette party which made it even that much more fun!) And Hannah was very gracious posing and smiling for her fans.

On Saturday morning Julia Spencer-Flemming spoke to us about adding suspense and conflict to our stories. She’s a mom of four (which I think contributed to the “nothing can phaze me attitude) with a wonderful sense of humor.

To say I enjoyed listening to these ladies is an understatement. All of them were insightful and, if I can incorporate even half of what they offered for writing tips, will make my stories so much better!

There are some conferences where everyone’s good news can really make me feel like I’m treading slowly through this profession, where I wonder if I’ll ever find my place in the publishing world. Though everyone’s journey is different, sometimes it’s really hard not to compare onesself to others’ successes. But this weekend I was able to just accept where I am and let the energy exploding from the other attendees to really fuel my fire. I am buzzing with the drive to keep going and get the stories in my head down on paper.

There are many conferences coming up in the next few months. Lots of opportunities for readers to meet authors and/or go to book signings. Plenty of chances for writers to rub elbows with their peers, agents and editors. Will you be attending any of them? If you do, why do you attend? I’d love to hear about your experiences because I’m always curious why others are motivated to go to conferences and retreats.

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.

Sorry about the lack of blogging over the weekend. You’d think I could find 15 minutes to jot a little something down. I mean yesterday I was remiss in not giving a shout out to my mothers! I love them both.

My own mom is amazing. She raised 5 kids, ( I really wanted to say “wonderful”, but that seemd pushing the boundaries just a little. ūüôā ) she survived a divorce from my dad, which wasn’t very pretty, but in the end our family stayed strong, loving and close and then the death of her second husband. She takes care of her mom-in-law who also happened to be her mother’s best friend. Yeah, she’s amazing and I love her with all my heart.

My mother-in-law is just as amazing and I feel so fortunate that the man I married comes from such a loving family. We’ve been together 33 years this fall (and yes, we were just kids when we got together) and his mom is just like my own. I love her dearly.

Two amazing female role-models in my life. And I am so blessed to call them “mom”.

On to other news. I didn’t blog this weekend because this was¬†the ONLY weekend in 8 that the DH and I were/will be home together. Yeah, that sucks the Big Kahuna! I totally depend on him to help me with the shopping and cleaning … he’s amazing that way. So between Little Boy Blue’s track meet, dinner theater and spring cleaning the family room, I really didn’t have a spare minute.

No, I haven’t seen Wolverine. No, I didn’t get to see Star Trek this weekend. I don’t want to talk about it. Although I can’t name the serial numbers of the Enterprise and I don’t know how many Romulans it takes to change a light bulb. I am a HUGE Star Trek fan from a young age. I can watch about 5 secs of an episode from the original series and tell you which story it is. So yeah, I’m bummed … and I REALLY don’t want to talk about the fact that Little Boy Blue went and didn’t drag his mom along. (Who cares if I had¬†another obligation, he still didn’t ask … just sayin’)

And marketing … oh, I’d like to go on about marketing and selling books, but it’s just not a good idea. I’m in one of those “between story” funks where I really should avoid talking about all things writing. It’s just not going to be productive. LOL!

This weekend I’m off to see my homegirls at a writing conference for the Maine chapter of RWA. Wonderful group of ladies and gent. Very supportive. I totally wouldn’t be where I am today without them. And I just need to know think about everything that needs to get done before Friday. I mean, it is only Monday!

Have a great day!

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.

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So I’ve been laying back for the last couple of weeks. But it’s back in the saddle this week. I don’t post goals for the coming year … avoid it like the plague. But I thought I could open 2009 with my favorite moments of 2008. Here’s the top 13 in no particular order.

1. Road trip in the summer to go visit Beautiful Girl. (We saw lots of other people during that weekend, but seeing number one child topped it off.)

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2. Getting my contracts. Each and everyone of them made me smile. Okay, and a couple of times I wept with joy. But I’m queer that way.

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3. All the new friends I’ve met online. I can’t believe how much the internet has opened up my circle of friends. Hugs to everyone. You know who you are.

4. Speaking at the library luncheon for seniors (as in retired). Those ladies were a hoot. I brought PG excerpts of my books and they wanted to know where the heat was.

5. Going to the Highland Games in Canada. We’ve been wanting to go for a really long time and finally just bit the bullet and made the reservations. DH and I would totally do it again. Baby Girl and Little Boy Blue … not so much.

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6. Every month I made it down south to be with my home girls. The Maine Writer’s chapter of RWA is a kick-butt group of writers. I’m so happy I found them.

7. Picking up Little Boy Blue from engineering camp. He got to spend 3 days at the state university where he wants to go to school and learned all about the engineering profession. Riding 3 hours home from the camp was a chance for us to have a nice visit and I think I learned all the naughty things those high school seniors did. (My lips are sealed!)

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8. The record breaking winter of 2008. More snow than northern Maine has seen in … like ever! I didn’t say I enjoyed it. I simply said it was memorable.

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9. Spending 3 days with my critique partner at her house just talking writing and brainstorming plots. I was in heaven! Hugs, Jen!

10. Having a chance to ride a hot air balloon. DH insisted. I’ve always wanted to do it and it was beyond what I expected! After skydiving, it’s my favorite flying (or is it falling) activity.

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11. Snowmobiling with DH. Okay, so if you look at my blogs from last winter there was more downs than ups. Still the Maine woods in the middle of winter are beautiful. And one always needs good stories about your significant other. Those trips totally added to my repetoire.

12. Visiting with my family. My sister (in-laws), my mom (and in-law), my dad, my brothers (in-laws), nephews, neices, you name it … I love seeing them all. It’s the best part of making the looooong trip home.

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Oh, that’s not my family. It’s just a lovely summer picture … don’t you think?

13. The Kiss of Death writer’s retreat in Oct. Now that was an awesome retreat that I enjoyed from the moment the valet parked my car until I had to say goodbye. I can’t recommend this retreat enough. It’s in New Mexico next year. And if I can afford it, I’m going!

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Thanks for stopping by and I’m sorry I’m not here to chat with you. This weekend is the monthly meeting of the Maine romance writers, a chapter of RWA. Awesome group of ladies (and one gent)! But they meet so very far away from me. I literally have to take the whole weekend to go to the meeting. But I lubs them a lot. So it is sooo worth it. And this month I get to meet one of the other authors at Liquid Silver Books, Elaina Huntley. w00t! w00t! I am beyond excited.

And beautiful girl is coming up from college and meeting us at her grandmother’s house. Yay!¬†I haven’t seen her since June! She’ll be getting lots of TLC this weekend.

Monday is another interview with a fabulous author and editor at Wild Rose Press. So come on back and check out what’s going on the beginning of the week!

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