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)?

8 Responses to How Far to Professional?

  • E-publishing is another way to get the story into the hands of the consumer and the consumer is anyone willing to read the story and purchase it. Regardless of how you publish your story, it still required the same effort to write it. No less an author to me.

    E,F or G publishing, shouldn’t matter. Get the story out there.

    Mary G.

  • I think we have not received enough support. I think they should find a way to support both traditional and non traditional published author’s/ I keep my membership so I can be part of my local chapter as well. I think RWA needs to step into our shoes and look at our needs more.

    • Savannah – I think you and I are the majority of the RWA membership. That is, we don’t get much from the National organization save for a very expensive magazine subscription. 😉

  • As a reader, I could give a rats (you know what) the way in which a book was published. If it’s a good book then it’s a good book. Period.

    As an aspiring author, I feel the same way. I do not however think that the RWA should pick and choose what they consider to be a “professional writer”. A writer is a writer, and if they make money doing it then they are a professional. In the world today, if you get paid for something, it’s make you a “professional”. Sports athletes, business owner, bartender–I mean really, prostitution is considered a profession! LOL! Of course I’m not comparing it to that, though as writers, we bare our hearts and souls in our stories instead of our bodies. For the RWA not to recognize that hard work, regardless how they got there, is an insult and just plain makes them look bad in my eyes. Well, that was my rant, and I’ll get off the high horse I stormed in on!! :0))))))

    • Elece – I agree, books are books when it comes to reading them. It just doesn’t matter how they got out to the public.

      Andd when it comes to RWA there are a lot of authors who feel the same way you do. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

  • I’m not a member of RWA so in a sense I’m on the outside of the discussion. However, it seems to me they could broaden their parameters to any author who earns $1000 on a single title–regardless of the route they go. That would even cover those authors who were published by an e-publisher, got their rights back and then self-pubbed the book (as some of them are doing!)

    On a personal level, I don’t worry too much about whether an elitist organization considers me a professional or not. As far as I can tell, they’ve contributed zero to my career. Good discussion, Nina!

    • Anny – Thank you somuch for weighing in. I suspect RWA will have to change how they look at self-publishing the same way they re-evaluated digital publshing. It will just be interesting to see how long the process takes.

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