Rants

Have I ever mentioned how hard it is to write a book? I mean getting from Once upon a time to They rode off into the sunset is not only a difficult process … doing it well takes a lot of brain energy! (Well, for me anyway.)

There are all kinds of people who believe they have a book in them. Very few sit down to actually give it a try. A smaller number of those who try ever get to the end. A small portion of those that finish actually edit their story and send it out or publish it themselves. That’s an itty bitty bit of the population who actually have books available to readers.

And there are hundreds of thousands of readers out there looking for their next book to read. When they’re surfing Amazon or B&N do you think they care if it was published through a big NY publisher, a small press or if it was self-published? Okay, yeah so some of them do, but there’s a huge majority of readers with kindles and nooks and iPhones (and a whole bunch of devices I know nothing about) who are downloading books onto these devices and all they really want is to be entertained for a few hours.

And if the readers don’t care how the book they’re reading got to be published … why would another author?

I’ve only been in this publishing world for 7 years. In the grand scheme of things I’m just a toddler. I’ve never written a manuscript long hand. I’ve never typed my manuscript on a typewriter and piled the accumulated pages. I’ve never worried if the print on my computer was set so there was exactly 250 words a page (because a publisher wanted to know how many pages a book would be in the print version). I’ve never gotten my edits through the mail with red editing marks on my printed manuscript. My “call” came in the form of an email. I even signed my first contract electronically.

But even in the short time period since I began this journey, publishing has changed.

When I published my first full novel with a digital only publisher, many writers (and Romance Writers of America) felt I wasn’t really published. I can’t tell you how many people looked down their nose at me even as I cranked out eight books in two years. It took years for many people to realize e-books were here to stay. I think it began right about the day that Oprah announced on her television show that she’d discovered a Kindle. Oh, well if Oprah said …

Yeeeeah, I’ve already been through an “us vs them” attitude.

And you know what? It’s starting all over again. Only this time it’s “traditional” publishing (meaning NY authors who have chosen to sign a contract with an advance and a print book) throwing stones at the self-published (also called indie-published) faction. Oh, and don’t get me wrong, the name calling, hair pulling and clawing is going both ways. There are some big name authors who have blog posts claiming all self-published authors put out unedited drivel with no entertainment value. There are indie authors claiming all traditionally published authors are literary snobs.

Really? All?

Let’s face it, with so many people reading, everyone feels there is crap on both sides of the publishing aisle. And the fact is … what one person sees as crap another sends to the top seller list. (50 Shades? Twilight? Hunger Games? Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?) There are authors that are auto-buys for me, but a friend would never pick up.

This whole thing is really dividing the author community and I just want to scream WHY? On the one hand authors are some of the most giving people I know. There have been many who have helped me when I didn’t understand the publishing process. Many who critiqued and taught and took time to point me in the right direction. But they can also be some of the most stubborn, judgmental people I know.

Just this week I put out a long post about all the roads to publishing a book. Do I care how someone gets their book published? No. Do I feel they’re only valid if their agent got them a six figure advance? No. (Though I will be just a taaaad envious for a little while.) Do I care if an author’s success came from books they self-published? No.(Though again with a short pause to entertain my envy that they just bought a new BMW with their last royalties.)

I’m really sick of people pointing fingers and being angry and screaming that one way is more right than another and saying mean things about other authors. Really? What right does someone have to tell another author what’s right for their writing career. They don’t. And I’m not even sure why they would want to spend the time trying.

I’m a scientist in my soul and a teacher at heart. I research and I share. I don’t judge. I answer questions when asked and support when needed. I’m not interested in taking sides. And I’m getting really tired of people who do.

***NOTE I guess I’m not alone. Check out this post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and this post by Dean Wesley Smith and an open letter by Anna Elliot. Guess LOTS of authors are tired of this finger pointing and name calling.

This is just a little rant about something that is in such short supply these days it’s nearly extinct … common sense. Yeah, you remember that? The part of your brain that tells you not to cross the street when traffic is moving or not to spend money you don’t have or hold the door for someone with their hands full. I’m not sure what’s going on, but it seems fewer and fewer people are using this part of their brain.

It seems every day there’s another example of people in the news that win some court battle because the judicial system especially has lost its commmon sense. A woman who spills coffee in her lap and gets a huge settlement because she got burned and no one told her it was hot. The stories of inmates suing victims, prisons, and states for unlawfully keeping them behind bars could fill several wastebaskets. Stories of student victims who speak up and get punished while their bullies walk away without any repercussions seem to fill the news every day.

Recently in a public high school near where I live, a student stepped forward and said a framed copy of the school prayer gifted to the school by the graduating class of 1963 was offended by the wording (because she’s an atheist) and asked the courts demand it be removed from the auditorium wall. The judge ruled in her favor. Families are flabbergasted that this is happening. It’s not that they don’t understand people with other faiths are now attending the school, they just feel this banner is part of the school’s history and it should be preserved for that reason. I tend to agree with the majority on this one.

I’m just wondering when we’ll find our common sense in the midst of one person who feels their wants are more important than the majority’s needs. Can we save it from total extinction in a world filled with people who feel they’re entitled to have everything whether they’ve worked for it or not? I’m beginning to wonder.

This is the story of an avid reader. A regular JoAnn who stops at Starbucks and buys her double double mocha latte with extra foam on her way to the bookstore. It’s a wonderful day. She’s visited her favorite author’s websites and has her list all ready.

The bookstore is bustling and JoAnn gets all caught up in the excitement of adding to her “to be read” pile. She peruses the paranormal shelf, choosing a couple of books, even picking up a book written by a debut author. She then heads over to check out the latest releases in the historical section. gathering several more books and finishes her visit in the erotic romance section bashfully picking out the backlist of her favorite authors. With two bags filled with books, she heads to the front of the store.

But on her way to the register she comes across someone who has all the books in her bags for free. That’s right. Completely free.

“Why are you buying those books. I’ll give them to you for free.”
“Wow, why don’t they cost me anything?”
“Oh, I got one copy of the book and made more copies. I’m happy to give them away.”
“Well, if you’re here in the bookstore, then it must be legal.”
“Who cares if it’s legal. Everyone’s doing it. Besides authors are rich. They’ve already been paid to write the books.”
“Well, then I’ll take one of everything you’ve got.”

People wouldn’t do this. Of course it would never happen in a bookstore. But it happens all the time on the internet. As much as authors shout from the rafters about internet piracy and their bottom lines, readers don’t seem to understand how much money authors and publishers are losing to these thieves.

I don’t usually get too uptight about people pirating my books. I’ve never had many downloaded. But in the last two days, one of my best selling books has been downloaded 22,000 times … for free. I made no money from these books that were stolen from me. I’m sick. I’m not foolish enough to think that all of these people would have purchased the book, but even if a third of them had, I could make my mortgage payment from the royalties off those sales for THREE months!

THREE MONTHS!

And now I’m pissed. Downright indignant that people continue to think this practice is all right. Worse than the torrent sites offering books for free are people who go on ebay or create their own sites and SELL illegal copies of books. Talk about adding insult to injury!

I’m not sure if everyone understands that authors who write for digital publishers don’t get paid advances. My hard work is only rewarded when people BUY my books and I get royalties from the sales. Writing is what pays my bills. There isn’t anyone who wants to work a full week making widgets only to have all the widgets given away and the business not paying them for their time. Yeah, it’s the same thing.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here on the blog. You’re all wonderful authors and readers and I appreciate all of you. But seriously, I’m beyond frustrated with this particular website that’s giving away my book and all the people who visit it and steal from me. I’m fortunate that my publisher actually has someone who sends out cease and desist letters, but they take time to get the books taken down. Congress is working on copyright infringement laws, but they’re just not coming through fast enough for me. I believe if the music industry was able to fight the illegal downloads, the publishing industry will be able to follow suit.

In the meantime, please get your books from reputable sites where the author and publisher are making money from the sales. Secretaries, editors and cover artists also depend on book sales for their salaries.

Because seriously, this kind of pirate isn’t sexy at all!

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!”

Connect

Signup for Nina's Newsletter

* indicates required
Email Format