First off, in the interests of disclosure, I did not renew my RWA membership this year. I was a member, PAN qualified, yaddah yaddah. But year after year, there were the factions fighting each other and eruptions and I kept asking myself, “What do I really get out of this organization?” And when I couldn’t come up with a good reason to give the org another hundred bucks, I didn’t.
Previously, I’d renewed solely to advertise in Romance Sells. But I found that to have no measurable effect on sales, especially since by the time I had final cover, I usually couldn’t get an ad in early enough to influence bookstore purchases.
I’m not anti RWA, I don’t have any grudge, I simply found the organization increasingly irrelevant. My epublishers, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain were originally RWA recognized, making their authors eligible for PAN and to enter their books in the RITA. And then stripped of recognition for no good reason I could ever discern, and rules continually changed to keep epublished titles out of the RITA, the organization’s premier award. Which, unlike other industry awards, authors have to pay a fee to enter their work in. So I don’t see that the RITA has the same quality as say, the John W. Campbell award. But that’s a topic for another day.
I am not anti-NY: my publishers also include St. Martin’s Press and Pocket Books.
I’m not rabidly pro-epublishing; while I enjoy the benefits of epublishing, I’m also not blind to the downsides.
But what RWA as an organization cannot seem to get past is that if they truly want to fulfill the stated mission, “to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements his/her main income”*, it’s time to stop excluding epublishing as a valid choice.
Epublishing is not the answer to everything, but consider the benefits, mainly creative freedom and monthly checks. Both of those are worth a lot to me, and I have continued to epublish while also writing for a traditional publisher.
But, says RWA, it’s not a valid choice because you don’t get a 1K advance. Well, I can release an ebook and make more than that in royalties in the first month, with usually less than a six month wait from turn in to first check. NY might pay an advance, but an author might well end up waiting longer to get it than an epublished author gets for going straight to royalties.
I think the main issue here is fear that advances will be done away with by NY and the way authors have earned a living will be in jeopardy. This fear is somewhat valid, in that NY has begun to experiment in the royalty-only as opposed to advance-paying model. (Not that you get that advance all that quickly; payments can stretch out over 2 years from time of offer to receipt of final payment.)
I understand, from a professional perspective, that not getting a definite amount of money in exchange for sale of rights is…sticky. You might well sell your rights for a handful of magic beans. This is where an author has to investigate an epublisher, know the market, and determine if their work is likely to do well there…and they’d be greatly helped in this if RWA actually provided education about the realities of epublishing. As, you know, part of fulfilling their stated mission.
In the end, there are no guarantees either way, with epublishing or traditional publishing. Your book might tank from Harlequin as easily as it might tank from Samhain. But authors have the right to choose what they think is the best option for them, and informed decisions are much better than ignorant ones based on hype, fear, or myths.
*You can earn a good living epublishing, or at least a nice supplement. I know; I have since 2005. You cannot, however, earn a good living writing one single title per year at a 1K advance unless you live in a box under a bridge.