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Where the hell is EPIC?

I’ve read about RWA getting alot of grief this past week for discriminating against small presses however, I think it is patently clear that the reason for the 2007 change in RWA policy regarding recognized publishers (making it more author focused) is to protect its authors from unscrupulous small presses (including epresses) who start up one day with no business pplan, inadequate funding, lack of knowledge and take authors for a ride. In wake off the Triskelion banktruptcy, it seemed that RWA tightened its definition of subsidy/vanity press to encompass any contract that requires author involvement in the publication of her book. This has kept out legitimate epresses like Samhain but also prevents access to its members from other, less legitimate presses.

RWA is not an organization that is well suited to address the concerns of epublishing. I don’t believe that the individuals who run RWA or who are currently on the board have a clear understanding of the business of epublishing. Importantly, I want to note that RWA is not remiss in its inability to carve language that would include legimate epresses and keep those that are not. Rather I think RWA is focused on serving the authors who aspire to have print published careers. There is nothing wrong with this.

EPIC, however, is an association dedicated to epublishing. On its front page, EPIC states:

EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection, is a professional organization for published and contracted e-book and print authors. It was established to provide a strong voice for electronic publishing.

Even though E-Publishing is a relatively new venue, there are many readers, writers, and traditionally published authors who believe this is one of the major marketplaces of the future. EPIC exists to help professional writers learn more about the best publishing opportunities on the Internet and to provide networking opportunities for exchange of information about promotion and market growth.

In the past year, when we have seen more than one epublisher show their ass online and more and more authors being taken advantage of, I have found myself asking where the hell is EPIC? If EPIC, an association dedicated to epublishing can’t make a stand regarding the epublishing industy, what use is it other than to pat itself on the back and give questionably meaningful industry awards.

Here is why it should be EPIC’s business to protect e authors, even those that are not members.

The continual showing of incompetency, unscrupulousness and general asshattery of epublishers shines a negative light on epublishing as a whole. If New Concepts, a standard bearer in epublishing, has totally dropped its efforts to edit, it is hardly a step away from Publish America. Let’s have a short run down of just a few examples, no?

  • Whiskey Press charges authors a $90 setup fee for print books. Per the comments WP does not charge for printing books outright. Instead an author must either sell a certain number of ebooks or buy the ebooks herself to see her book in print.
  • New Concepts admits that it doesn’t do any editing.
  • Twilight Fantasies closes its doors after six months.
  • Mardi Gras publishing goes out of business and the owner opens a new epress to peddle her own books just a few months later.

Emily Veinglory lists approximately 60 epublishers on her site but would only recommend about five of them (back in December 2007). Emily is obviously do a great service (for no compensation) but one that I think an epublishing organization like EPIC should provide. Instead, its focus is on its awards and the pay services for editing that are recommended through its site.

I find it ironic that EPIC can identify qualified individuals to help you edit your book but not help you decide where to submit it once its all polished and pretty. In fact, it seems that EPIC is more interested in peddling other pay services than actually providing a resource for authors to find out more about the epublishing business. A standard contract is of minimal help when you sign on with a company that has no business publishing books. Where is the information about what to look for in an epublisher? What questions should an author ask? What information should be expected?

Everytime there is a NCP or Mardi Gras Publishing or Triskelion or whatnot that falls on its face in a blaze of un-glory, it gives ammunition to those who believe that epublishing is nothing more than a step away from self publishing. It hurts legitimate houses and legitimate authors. It tarnishes epublishing within the eyes of editors, industry folks, and ultimately readers. Readers become reluctant to give their credit card information to a house that cannot act professionally.

I believe in the doctrine of self help and that authors who don’t do enough to protect themselves warrant little pity when taken for a ride. But sometimes unless there is information readily available, unless some organization with greater power than individual author takes a stand for those authors, self help cannot be obtained.

What is the purpose of EPIC, if not to at least protect the reputation of epublishing. Because the more that the epublishing industry’s image is tarnished, the less those EPPIEs have any relevance to readers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

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