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RWA & The Case of the Lack of Vision

In the most recent RWR, a monthly publication put out by the RWA, Diane Pershing’s president’s letter contained a very wordy assessment of RWA’s commitment to its 10,000+ membership which can be condensed into this: digital publishing is not a legitimate business model and those who are in digital publishing are not sufficiently “career-focused”?

How do we accommodate  changes in the publishing industry  environment without diluting RWA’s  focus on “career-focused” writers and standards for professionalism?


In other words, that publisher’s business model is of benefit to all its authors (RWA members). The fact that a publisher might not offer an advance but pays a 37.5 percent royalty rate is inconsequential; that business model is only favorable to the few–or even the several– who manage to sell enough books to make decent money, or at least the $1,000 required for Published Authors Network (PAN) membership. It is not favorable to the rest of its authors (RWA members) who earn very little money, if any at all. When an individual author (What is good for me and my career?) posts on a loop that she’s earned thousands of dollars, really likes her publisher’s royalty rate, and doesn’t see the need for an advance, good for her. RWA is always pleased when an author earns decent money for her work. But–and this is based on real examples, not assumptions–all the authors signed with that  publisher will not make decent money;  most of them won’t.

I never blogged about this because Diane Pershing is two months away from her presidency expiring. What was the point? Several others responded however here, here and here. Deidre Knight responded with an eloquent and cogent argument on E-span, the electronic publishing chapter of the RWA.

Knight argued that to make the argument that advances are the only legitimate business model fails to take into consideration the changing business environment facing the industry.   As Knight pointed out, HarperStudio, the experimental arm of HarperCollins, is testing the no advance, no return, profit sharing model that has long existed in digital publishing.

Publishers’ Lunch reported NYT bestselling author Glenn Beck made a “multi-title co-publishing deal, covering an unlimited  number of titles over an undisclosed term with ….BECK’S COMMON SENSE, “channeling the spirit of Thomas Paine,” for  publication as an eBook original and then a trade paperback original, in  June 2009, also to include picture books and fiction for children and YA  books, said to be a 50/50  profit sharing deal with Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Jason Epstein’s keynote speech at Tools of Change this year argues that the “radically decentralized marketplace” is changing the traditional publishing infrastructure.

Like American automobile manufacturers traditional publishers will persist in their traditional mode as long as they can, but they cannot indefinitely defend their institutions against disruptive technologies any more than the monks in their scriptoria could withstand the urgency of movable type. As factory based production and distribution gradually give way to web based production and marketing the cost of entry for publishers will decline to practically zero. Such traditional publishing functions as publicity, design, marketing, legal, record keeping and so on will be sub contracted as will web marketing and design. Talented editors require only minimal managerial services and in the digital future will require even fewer provided they resist inducements to expand or merge. Today’s unwieldy conglomerates, trapped in a bad economy within their Gutenberg mode and motivated only by profit rather than the intrinsic value of the work itself — the joy of publishing distinguished books, the primary motive of successful publishers — will deconstruct, leaving their surviving imprints to fend for themselves under diverse ownership or vanish. Resourceful agents may become business managers for groups of like minded editors and authors whose imprints will become recognizable brands, distinguishing their content from the great sea of helter skelter digital content while authors, as stakeholders along with their editors, may opt for profit sharing arrangements rather than traditional royalties. Best selling branded authors who require only minimal publishing services beyond manufacturing and distribution may become their own publishers, retaining their agents as business managers, subcontracting essential functions, and forgoing today’s unsustainable guarantees in exchange for the entire net proceeds of their titles. Customers will pay less but pricing must still cover traditional author royalties, residual publishers’ overheads and profit.

At Book Expo America, the biggest buzz word of North America’s biggest trade show was “digital publishing”.    (This one is a great sum up of one of the digital seminars held at BEA ’09).

Diane Pershing’s response to Deidre Knight was posted today.   In it Pershing suggests that Knight’s motivation for speaking out in favor of digital publishing and against the current position espoused by Pershing was because Knight’s Butterfly Tattoo is not eligible for a RITA.   Pershing states that only two digital publishing seminars were ever brought to RWA’s attention:   one offered by Angela James and one deemed not up to snuff by RWA’s seminar committee.

Pershing goes on to state that for all the complaints that members may appear to have about RWA, the organization has not suffered in terms of membership or money.   Pershing notes that while authors might not get the advance paid right away, when the career focused author is ready, money in the thousands will be waiting for them.

Even so, most career-focused authors have books in various stages of completion and publication, so there is a steady flow of money to them.   And whenever the money does get there, there will be money, in the thousands of dollars.   It is guaranteed.   Can the same be said for the digital model?

Here is what I think about this whole hub-bub.   Why care what RWA thinks? Why advocate for RWA to change? Why not simply withdraw from the organization. It does nothing but to offer a contests, conventions, and help polishing your first three chapters. I don’t know of one editor who cares whether the submission comes from an RWA member.    I don’t know of any reader who cares whether the book is from an RWA member.

In what measurable way does RWA help an author a) sell books or b) become published?   There are plenty of ways to meet editors and agents. They go to Lori Foster’s events or Lora Leigh’s events.   They might be at ComicCon.   They might be at RT.   You can even go to the RWA convention without being a member.

RWA is not forward thinking as Pershing states. If it was forward thinking, it would recognize that its duty to its membership includes equipping the authors with information about all the ways in which authors in the romance industry can make money. It would tell them that a digital publisher offers higher royalties against no advances thus making that publishing path more risky but with possible better reward. It would equip authors to go forth and seek out digital publishers armed with the knowledge of how to distinguish between a good and bad digital publisher.

But why work within the the RWA?   RWA doesn’t make the money an author makes with digital publishing less real.   RWA only serves to delegitimize an author if she allows it.   RWA’s failure to recognize digital publishers makes RWA look bad; not the digital publishers or the authors that choose that model.   For the authors who aren’t aware of the avenues of success from digital publishing or know and don’t want to take advantage of that model, so what? More publishing slots for those who are in the know.

The market will change and evolve regardless of RWA.   The only people it harms are those wedded to the RWA philosophy and you know what, let them go the way of the dodo bird.

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


  1. Amy
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 17:18:07

    Pershing also said in her reply that “RWA goes on, now matter what”, and this is, unfortunately, the same mindset General Motors had too.

  2. Ashleigh Raine Jen
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 17:20:37

    And that is exactly why I left RWA three years ago and haven’t looked back since. I joined in the mid-nineties, and at that time it was a good step to help me familiarize myself with the publishing industry. But the only thing I got out of RWA in my last several years as a member was grief. I’ve made more than $1000 on each of my e-published books and novellas, and in several cases I’ve made much more than that. And, FWIW, I split royalties with my writing partner, which means the minimum each of my ebooks has earned is $2000. Minimum.

    I have several friends who’ve encouraged me to return to RWA because they feel we should fight against the idea that we’re not worthy. Thing is, I’m not interested in using my energy that way. If RWA wants to grow stagnant, that’s their prerogative. I don’t feel inspired to try to change their mind. I don’t need RWA to validate me or my writing. I’m doing just fine, thanks.

    *edited to add* I want to clarify that I’m not bitter, and I’m afraid I may have unintentionally come across as such. Fifteen years ago when I joined, I learned a lot. When RWA no longer worked for me, I left. I didn’t agonize over the decision. When something no longer works for me or represents my interests, I move on. For those authors who stay and try to make change, I wish them all the best.

  3. GrowlyCub
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 17:23:27

    Do we know who the next president of RWA is going to be?

    It’s a bit depressing for me as a reader to see this stance because it was e-publishing where I found character driven stories that led me back to reading romance. The lack of character driven stories in print publishing was what made me quit reading new romance in the late 90s and early 2000s.

    It would be nice if the largest romance author organization was actually going with the times instead of trying to hold on to an outdated model that’s been killing the mid-list and led to even worse fads than in earlier decades.

    Oh well. We can always hope that the next president actually lives in this century!

  4. Sandy James
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 17:27:17

    I am one of the writers who finds herself in RWA’s “no man’s land.”

    I am multi-published by Siren-BookStrand and currently hold four slots in their mainstream romance top ten bestsellers list. But according to RWA, I’m not published.

    Oh, wait… I AM published where the Golden Hearts are concerned but unpublished by Rita standards. I feel disrespected by RWA. If it weren’t for my local chapter (of which I am an officer) and the online Elements chapter, both of which have fantastic and supportive members I rely on, I would not bother renewing my RWA membership this year.

  5. Dayna/Rowan
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 17:44:16

    I’ve been waiting on your take on this. I’m sure it’s a shock I agree.

    However, I’ve asked generally – repeatedly – but today specifically on a forum and on Twitter – what RWA National gives its members…and haven’t yet heard anything beyond the response:


    Not a book when you join of common craft errors to help you be a better writer.
    Not a list of publishers, their wordcount and genre preferences – to help you be more market savvy.
    Not a list of agents friendly to romance and its various subgenres.
    Not a guild, which would advocate for group benefits or something similar.
    Not any sort of support when publishers behave badly.
    No suggestions on marketing, or social networking or…

    well, you get my point.

    2 authors of my acquaintance (and…I know more than a few) said their RWA National membership was invaluable to them.

    More than 2 dozen mentioned how important their local chapter is to them, and in fact most of those said it is their local chapter keeping them in RWA at all.

    I was a member of RWA for one year. I joined, thinking I’d make it to conference that year, but finances turned against me. This year I’m attending the conference as a non-member. (I opted NOT to rejoin, tho financially – attending as a non-member equalled the price of attending + renewing.) All I got for my year was a magazine. There IS no local chapter, and the online chapters all cost extra to join.

    All I have heard in my 3 years in the romance writing community? Is RWA backbiting, infighting, and disdain for epublished authors, erotic authors…to the point of people with first sale ribbons to EC being *snubbed* at National conference.

    None of it makes me want to join.

  6. Robin
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 18:10:21

    Exactly! As I’ve been nattering on about via Twitter today, RWA is ensconced in a specific print-centered, royalty-based publishing model. They are in the OLD PARADIGM. Which we see crumbling in those similarly old paradigm publishers.

    I know that people want to believe that RWA will change if only the “right” people become board members. But having an infrastructure in place that big and that entrenched does not bode well for responsive change, IMO. It doesn’t at all mean that change would be easier from within. For one thing, what RWA is doesn’t make it *bad* — it seems to serve quite a few authors for networking, local chapter activities, whatever. But in an industry as large and diverse as Romance, how could one organization really serve the diversity and continuous growth of the genre/industry?

  7. Jenna
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 18:17:05

    The only reason I have to join the RWA is so that I can join the GLBT chapter, and given this stance and how most GLBT romance is epublished, I’m not sure even that desire is strong enough.

    It’s very disheartening.

  8. BevBB
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 18:20:17

    I think what I’m most outraged about after reading some of the posts on this today is on Samhain part and I’m only a loyal consumer of what they sell. Imagine how they’re feeling.

    Or Ellora’s Cave, that’s been in business even longer.

    I mean I don’t buy as many books from EC as I do Samhain but the thing is that I’ve purchased a lot of ebooks over the last few years and most of them weren’t from NY publishers.

    But most of them were romance-related.

    We ebook romance readers have probably helped “grow” many of the authors who’ve moved into the print market, doing the scouting for the genre that the industry can’t or won’t do and then to have the writer’s organization say that the most stable companies we buy those books from on a regular basis don’t meet their “standards” and “practices”–

    Why do they think I’m spending my money with those e-companies and buying considerably less mass market off the shelf? I really don’t believe it’s only the epublishers that need to change their practices.

    So, yeah, I think it does tick me off as a reader. But then as a reader all I can do is speak with my pocketbook anyway. ;)

  9. Kristen Painter
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 18:24:43

    Personally, I stay in RWA because of my local chapter – however, I’m also the President of ESPAN and am now firmly behind the movement to change RWA. Why? Because RWA could be a powerful tool for authors. An advocate. A voice. They aren’t currently, but they could be with the right leadership.

    Incoming president Michelle Monkou has a lot of work ahead of her. For those of us who retain our memberships, we need to support the effort for change and those board members who support it also. Working together, we can make RWA relevant. Something it so sorely is not at the moment.

  10. Jane
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 18:48:43

    @Kristen Painter I’d like to see you take the entire espan chapter and form your own organization.

  11. Silver James
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 18:51:29

    Ditto, Kristen,. If everyone with a stake in epublishing bails out, nothing will ever change. I’m fairly new to the organization but renewed because of my local chapter. I have hopes that Michelle Monkou will be more open to dialogue. As NY continues to tighten its belt and purse strings, I believe the epublishers will become the go-to source for midlist and new writers with fresh stories and voices.

    I’m caught in that Catch-22 of Golden Heart/Rita/Best First Book, too. I don’t write to win contests. I write to create the best story and most compelling characters I can in hopes of entertaining a reader when they pick up my book. My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, offers a wide range of romance subgenres, with a variety of lengths. The longer books are also available in print from several sources, including Amazon and B&N. But gosh, those books are POD (oh noes teh ebil POD) because in order to be legitimate, the publishers should tie up a great deal of money on warehouses. @sarcasm

    Count me in on staying and fighting for relevancy. And I think all us epublished authors should create a special ribbon or a secret “handshake” to use at RWA09.

  12. Jody
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 18:51:56

    Why do I stay? I do not want to lose my local chapter. I am not especially skilled at online networking, schmoozing and marketing; I couldn’t replace what my local chapter gives me in those areas. I could and do find information about the publishing industry via channels other than RWA National but the networking/social/support aspects of my local chap — those are essential to me as well.

    I know not everyone finds a home in a local or online chapter, but so many of us do that we stay, and we try, and we keep chugging on.

  13. ReacherFan
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 19:01:38

    I can only assure Ms Pershing lives a vacuum of some sort. I am a consultant. I often have to sign away all my intellectual property rights to any invention or improvement patent BEFORE I’m paid my flat rate. Succeed or fail, I get that rate, no more, no less.

    Other times I am approached by small companies that cannot afford the cost of my doing extensive work. They offer me a percentage of sales instead and it’s up to me to decide if it’s worth it to me. The company must market and sell it, not me. If they fail, then so do I. How is this different than what some publishers are asking of their authors?

    And is it really any different from how some sales positions work? There are people that work on straight commission vs. those that get a draw against commission?

    Don’t aspiring actors taking an unpaid gig to ‘get experience’ or want to be rock/country/jazz band play for free in hopes of getting noticed? There’s open mike nights and everything else you can imagine. Same goals, experience and exposure.

    Does RWA see itself as a de facto union, like the Screen Actors Guild or Directors Guild stipulating minimum contractual requirements for members? Ask an actor – the one with 3 lines – if he’d work for free in a Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp film and see what he says! I bet 100 of 100 would say, “Hell yes!”

    Christine Warren started at EC, Lauren Dane too. All I can say Thanks Heavens for epublishers! I’ve found a whole bunch of very good writers there. As a reader, I’m grateful!

  14. ReacherFan
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 19:05:47

    You know something else – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by Diane Pershing. Never even heard of her.

  15. Kristen Painter
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 19:07:01

    I'd like to see you take the entire espan chapter and form your own organization.

    I have. It’s called Romance Divas.

  16. Jane
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 19:11:02

  17. gwen hayes
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 19:18:22

    I have. It's called Romance Divas.

    That is exactly what I was going to say.
    This is my last year in RWA. I just don’t have the energy for that kind of fight.
    Google is free, Romance Divas is free, Dear Author is free, Twitter is free.
    RWA costs too much for this hobbyist.

  18. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 20:00:26

    @ Dayna.

    I told myself I was going to stay out of all the current epub brouhaha (been there, done that, twice), but I can’t in good conscience sit back and let you post outright incorrect info about RWA in a public forum.

    What RWA gives its active members is *exactly* the items you claimed it doesn’t provide, starting with that “book” you claim isn’t available. In fact, there are downloadable free pdfs of no fewer than ten PRO Career Booklets AND a 215 page book called Keys to Success. What’s more, the member website contains a whole set of articles on craft, marketing, tech tips, & the industry, and it addresses every single other item you listed, from publisher submission guidelines, to agents friendly to romance, to a professional relations manager who helps in the case of author/publisher disputes. There are also member groups, listserves, and forums for networking within the organization; there’s the RWR (monthly magazine) which also deals with all these issues, and recently, for examples had articles on social networking; there’s Romance $ells, an ad booklet that goes out to RWA’s list of booksellers and librarians and anyone else who wants to subscribe, which is a great marketing opportunity for its member authors; and there are significant discounts to RWA members on subscriptions to PW, Bookscan, and Publisher Alley.

    In other words, you were wrong about RWA on all of these points.

    The one thing you were right about is that RWA doesn't act as a guild. A guild is a legal entity similar to a union, and by the non-profit laws of Texas under which RWA is incorporated, RWA cannot operate as a guild without losing its non-profit designation and opening itself to legal challenges. It would have to be reconstituted as a different type of corporate entity in order to act as a guild–a move that would then settle certain specific obligations on the members, as well.

    Please get your facts straight before you post about RWA elsewhere. It seems to me there’s already far too much misinformation being bandied about in connection with this matter.

  19. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 20:12:25

    Kristen, incorporate it.

  20. S. Smith
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 20:18:15

    Edited cuz I really don’t feel like bothering.

  21. Miki S
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 20:23:32

    Okay, let’s see if I have this right:

    *All published authors should receive multi-thousand dollar advances, with small royalties, even though most of them will never “earn” those advances (I believe the term I’ve seen is “pay out”)

    *If most authors received a royalty-only based deal, with much higher royalty rates, they would make little-to-no real money

    So am I right? Does this mean that the best-selling authors are basically subsidizing the careers of the newbie and/or low-selling authors?

    So today’s publishing model is really a form of socialism, where everyone gets a basic living regardless of their ability to earn it? I say this a little tongue-in-cheek, because publishers don’t publish just anyone, there is a process of reviewing manuscripts and determining quality and saleability. But do you see my point?

  22. Arwen
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 20:24:16

    Jane, the value of RWA is in the chapters. I am leaving RWA when my membership expires at the end of this year if things have not changed. I will miss my chapters and the help I have received. That has been invaluable to me.

    As I stated on Diane’s post on Espan-Rwa, the board of RWA is the problem not the rank and file membership.

    Edited because I saw Gretchen’s post below and had to say kudos for this remark : “Now, don't you touch my local chapter. I'll take your hand off at the shoulder for that.”

  23. Gretchen Jones
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 20:34:30

    Um, @ Lisa Hendrix, that “Keys to Success” you were bragging about? Is made up of RWR articles from 1988 to 1997. Which makes the most recent entry what…12 years old? And it was obviously scanned in 1997 or so because the resolution on it is appalling. I’m just saying, the content may be wonderful and I’m sure nothing significant has changed in 12 years in the craft of writing or the business of getting published, but these old eyes can’t read that 300 dpi sh*t.

    Not on my list of recognized useful benefits of membership. Now, don’t you touch my local chapter. I’ll take your hand off at the shoulder for that.

    Let’s see, Pro? Nope, not yet. So no benefits there.

    Articles on craft? Who can find anything on the RWA website?

    I do participate in a couple of listserves, I’ll give you that one.

  24. Mary Winter
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 20:45:37

    I agree that the value of RWA is in the chapters. In fact, I received a call from a good friend of mine a couple of nights ago that due to their growing dissatisfaction with their local chapter (I had left a couple of years ago), they’re going to start a new one. I was so excited. Except to help them out and participate I’d have to pay national. It’s a nice tax write-off, but I kind of need more in order to pay that kind of money. Especially since I’m in an additional no man’s land of being both author and editor/publisher, so I am not allowed in the places (PAN) where I got the most benefit and, even if I were NY published, I’d still be seen as “not an author” by the organization.

    I also agree that change has to come from within. As @arwen said, it is more the board members/heiarchy (oligarchy?) that RWA has rather than the rank and file membership. That’s where change needs to come. If we form yet more organizations then inevitably more alienation will occur. Having special interest chapters is wonderful, but unless more education is done, people will see certain publishing paradigms and genres as “special interest” only and not of interest to everyone in the industry.

    However, I also believe that the small tremors have evolved into an earthquake that is creating a tsunami. Someone else mentioned General Motors. I suspect, like them, RWA will either learn, or become dead weight on the industry.

  25. Leslie Dicken
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 21:36:55

    What’s gotten me has been the yearly closing of the loop. Or whatever way RWA chooses to decide what makes a publisher “eligible.” That definition has changed each year, I believe, in the last few. Not too long ago EC and Samhain could take appts at National, now they can’t even hold workshops. How many books constitute mass market again? Oh…here’s an idea – let’s get ‘em at the advance because we know that NONE OF THEM offer one at $1000.

    Those constant changes and adjustments don’t look like the workings of a professional organization to me. They smell of junior high girls figuring out ways to keep the geeky girls out of the club.

    Jane is right. We don’t need RWA. I’ve been a member for over ten years. I do feel I owe them a lot for my initial growth. But lately I’m not sure they are serving me at all….

  26. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 22:33:15

    And it was obviously scanned in 1997 or so because the resolution on it is appalling.

    The scan looks fine on my computer, even enlarged by 300%. I’m not sure why you’re having problems reading it.

    Much of the information in Keys to Success is exactly the kind of “book on common craft errors” Dayna said RWA didn’t offer new members, which was my point. That kind of information hasn’t changed since 1997. I agree, however, that other parts of KTS need to be updated. And I’m sure it will be just as soon as someone volunteers to take on the project. Any hands?

    Articles on craft? Who can find anything on the RWA website?

    Well, I can, for one. It’s not that difficult.

    In the Members Only section: Member Resources.

    From there, it’s all available. You can go to Publisher and Agent info. Or to Publications, where you’ll find the PRO Career Booklets. Or to Professional Relations, which has info on the Google settlement, file sharing sites and copyright infringement.

    There are more articles in the PAN Only section, as I presume there are in the PRO Only section.

    There’s also the E-Notes newsletter that comes directly to your inbox twice a month, with links to info both on the RWA site and elsewhere. Back issues are archived on the website, also under Publications. (Every issue, btw, has email addys for the contributors, who appreciate getting links to relevant, up-to-date articles from members.)

    it is more the board members/hierarchy (oligarchy?) that RWA has rather than the rank and file membership.

    Pardon me? The Board is constituted entirely of those rank-and-file members who are willing to step up and take responsibility. If you don’t like the make-up of the Board, then run.

    Info on how to do that is also in the Members Only section, but if that’s still too difficult, there will be a call for candidates any day now, and you can also turn in your candidacy forms at Conference.

    Since there’s so much interest in how RWA is governed, I expect to see lots of you on the ballot next fall. Should be interesting.

  27. Mary Winter
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 22:46:02

    @Lisa Hendrix

    Pardon me? The Board is constituted entirely of those rank-and-file members who are willing to step up and take responsibility. If you don’t like the make-up of the Board, then run.

    I don’t dispute that. However, when I was last an RWA member (I want to say 2007ish?), those on the ballot were decidedly quiet on epublishing in general, and the one regional rep who I thought would be good didn’t get voted in. I did vote, and I strongly encourage every member to vote and to press their candidates on their views. At the moment, I’d have to pay over a hundred dollars for the “privledge” of running for the board. I’m afraid that’s not in the cards at the moment financially, even if I didn’t have other, more pressing concerns.

    However, your logic is flawed in as much as you think everyone who disagrees with the current board and officers should run for their positions. If I don’t like our elected officials in goverment, sure I could run. I also am a realist enough to know that I probably wouldn’t get elected. Instead of running, I choose to speak out and voice my thoughts to those who may run and who are in office. That way, I can focus on my career like a good little career-minded author, and still hopefully advocate for change to those who have the ability or who can make such change. And oh yeah, I vote, so that my voice will be heard.

    Besides, I would think if everyone who was dissatisfied with the current regime ran for office the ballot and voting process would be crowded and unmanageable. So to me, the better course of action would be to make opinions heard, that way those that do wish to run will know, and hopefully garner enough support to win.

  28. K. Z. Snow
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 23:03:53

    If chapters are so worthwhile, why don’t the chapters just bail from RWA and keep meeting on their own? Does RWA have the power to direct lightning strikes or something? Oh, look — there are eight insurgents meeting in a rec room in Green Bay. {{{zzzzzttt}}}. There. That should teach ‘em!

    This has puzzled me for years. As Jane said, who the hell needs the creaking anachronism that RWA has apparently become? Why waste time, energy, and (let us not forget) money trying to change it? RWA is essentially irrelevant to writers’ careers. Whatever guidance their publications provide is easily available, via countless avenues, all over the Internet.

    Final question: if it’s the board members who are to blame for all this stagnation and elitism, who’s to blame for the board members being on the board? Don’t the rank-and-file elect these biddies? If that’s the case, then the rank-and-file are equally culpable.

  29. Lee Rowan
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 23:06:47

    Regarding local chapters, support networks, etc…

    Maybe I don’t entirely understand this, but if a local chapter consists of, say, Susan, Mary, Tina, Joe, and Ann, and Tina and Ann decide (for whatever reason) to drop out, what prevents them from staying in touch with the others or even holding non-RWA meetings with their colleagues? Do RWA members have to sign in blood not to network outside the sacred precincts?

    “Networking.” Okay, yes, it may be easier to meet an agent at an RWA event. But aren’t those open to non-members willing to pay a premium rate? Are there agents or publishers who refuse to deal with authors who are not RWA members?

    The touted ‘benefits’ don’t sound that impressive. They may have been useful in 1980-something, but the internet has made information so much easier to find that a good search engine can probably pull up most of the info a writer could get from RWA.

    The cost vs benefits just doesn’t add up.

    And add to that… correct me if I’m wrong, but the AMA doesn’t demand to know how much a doctor earns before it admits her to its ranks. If a prospective member can afford the membership fee, she gets membership benefits. Many associations have student vs professional memberships, but in general one must prove that one is a student. One does not have to give an account of one’s earnings.

    Again, I’m not in the conventional romance community because I don’t write boy-meets-girl … but it strikes me as enormously presumptious on the part of RWA that it assumes it has the right to demand information about its members incomes.

    This doesn’t strike me as “protecting” its members. It seems more like some sort of power game, using knowlege about members’ income to discriminate against them under the guise of “promoting their careers.”

    If RWA is not a guild, not a union, then it’s got no business sticking its nose into its members’ pocketbooks. It amazes me that people tolerate that level of Gladys Kravitz snoopiness.

    I highly recommend Elizabeth Peters’ “Die for Love,” a murder mystery set at a romance convention. All I can say is, Peters must have been to at least one convention, and she has a keen eye for satire.

  30. Mary Winter
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 23:19:18

    If chapters are so worthwhile, why don’t the chapters just bail from RWA and keep meeting on their own?


    I don’t have an easy answer for this, but I think some of it is legalities. When an RWA chapter forms (and I remember when Passionate Ink was forming there was some discussion of RWA benefits vs. being on their own), there are contracts. Being an RWA chapter, I believe, allows the group to fall under RWA’s liability insurance policy and some other legal benefits as being a “chartered arm” of a national organization that pays for such things. I believe that’s also why all chapter members have to be national members, so they can be considered under that same umbrella.

    I also think there’s a “name recognition” element instead of oh, just a bunch of people starting another writer’s group. When I asked my friend that very question, she mentioned that she still received benefits from RWA as did her co-founders, and thus, they wanted to remain and create a new chapter for our area.

  31. Allison Brennan
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 01:25:05

    I probably shouldn’t comment because I don’t disagree with everything mentioned. E-books are a part of the market and they are here to stay. There is nothing wrong with e-books as a format. It’s simply another way for readers to read books.

    I went on record long ago opposing changing the publisher recognition requirements from specific publishers to a monetary based threshold. All major writers organizations–MWA, ITW, SFWA, and RWA–have publisher recognition requirements. RWA is not alone in this. To me, it wasn’t an issue of how much $$ an author made but that the publisher itself had a royalty and/or payment structure, a contract that didn’t require an author to fork over her own money to produce the book, or require an author to purchase their own books as part of a contract. I completely support the ITW structure of publisher-recognition–which is very inclusive and there are far more small presses who are “accepted” into ITW than any other writers organization, from what i’ve read.

    But every time this conversation comes up, it seems to take on a tone that print published authors are behind the curve, or that soon all print books will go the way of the dinosaur. Ever since I joined RWA in 1993 I’ve heard that “within X years” (2, 3, 5) the print book will disappear or e-books will outsell print books. It has not happened, and my e-book sales are miniscule.

    But what I really want to address is the advance structure. Advances are paid against royalties–and I fully support advances. I’m a professional writer. I wrote my first three books while having a “day job”; now I write full-time. Very few other occupations out there require their employees to produce work and wait for that work to be sold before they are paid.

    Can you imagine the auto workers waiting for their pay checks until the car they built was sold by the dealer? Or a teacher to wait for their pay check until the student they educated graduated? Why is the products of creative artists treated any differently? As I’ve argued with some editors who stated publicly that advances aren’t important because the author gets royalties, would an editor wait for their paycheck until the book they edited sold? Or accept a percentage of payment based on the sales of a particularly book?

    Advances help authors pay their expenses so they can write. And if the book does better than expected, they see additional royalties. I don’t see anything wrong with this structure. Publishers should be willing to take risks in their authors by paying an advance against royalties to write a book. If there was no advance structure, many of us wouldn’t be able to write full-time.

    However, I do agree that every author needs to make the decision themselves as to how to further their own career. RWA, or MWA, or ITW can not nor should not tell an author that they must do something a specific way. Individual authors may be able to offer advice based on their experience, and the organization may be able to offer a venue for authors to get together to talk about these issues, but honestly, the final decision rests with the individual author.

  32. Zoe Winters
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 01:55:28

    I’m kind of gleeful I never joined RWA.

    And LMFAO @ K.Z. Snow:

    “If chapters are so worthwhile, why don't the chapters just bail from RWA and keep meeting on their own? Does RWA have the power to direct lightning strikes or something? Oh, look -‘ there are eight insurgents meeting in a rec room in Green Bay. {{{zzzzzttt}}}. There. That should teach ‘em!”


    I’ve wondered the same thing. What prevents these people from just dropping their affiliation with RWA and going on their merry way as their own independent group? Hell, they could even all go to the RWA convention as non-members. They could meet up with other renegade ex-chapters as well. it would be awesomely hilarious.

    I also agree with what Lee Rowan is saying about if the RWA isn’t acting as a Guild, then they have no rights to inquire into the pay any author is making. It’s just an excuse to discriminate and create a class of “haves” and “have nots.”

    Seriously, I really thought this crap went away after high school, but apparently not.

  33. Angie
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 02:22:13

    Here is what I think about this whole hub-bub. Why care what RWA thinks? Why advocate for RWA to change? Why not simply withdraw from the organization. It does nothing but to offer a contents, conventions, and help polishing your first three chapters. I don't know of one editor who cares whether the submission comes from an RWA member. I don't know of any reader who cares whether the book is from an RWA member.

    From what I’ve gathered, as an interested observer watching this ongoing trainwreck for the last few years, most members find great benefit in their local chapters, even if they’d love to spork RWA National. They can’t participate as members of their local chapters without being National members, and if a local chapter decides to withdraw from the national organization they have to turn the contents of their bank account over to National when they go. So no, there’s no lightning bolt if they try to leave [grin to KZ Snow] but there is a rather large hand shoved into the group’s collective wallet. (I’m sure if I misinterpreted what was said, someone will correct me.)

    So RWA is doing fine, yes, and not losing too many of its members. But that’s because they’re hanging on to a pretty significant number of them with the golden handcuffs attached to their chapter treasuries.

    The fact is, though, that RWA National doesn’t care why people are staying; they only care that they are, and that they’re still paying dues. All the people who’ve said to the national organization, essentially, “I hate your guts and am only staying a member for my wonderful chapter, so there!” are apparently missing the part where National grins and cashes their checks.

    I used to hang out on RomEx on GEnie, back in the late eighties and early nineties. In fact I was a member of the RoundTable staff there for a while. At the time, I was still writing het romances and fully intended to join RWA some day, while in the mean time I loved hanging out on RomEx, talking about books and writing and reading, and participating in the workshop, which was excellent.

    Now, though, between all the brangling and kerfuffles and the people on top dissing whole groups of the people below them, plus the fact that I’m 1) e-published, and 2) write m/m romances, and am therefore persona non grata twice over in RWA’s eyes, I no longer have any desire to join their organization. I do empathize, though, with the people who feel torn between their local chapter and the people in it, and the crap coming from upstairs and the people flinging it. :/


  34. Jana Oliver
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 07:09:37

    RWA’s role is to deliver information that will help their members make wise choices. E-pub is here to stay. To ignore that fact is ignorant and doesn’t fulfill their prime directive — to help grow their members’ careers. If that means some of their members are published electronically, so be it. Why fight a trend?

    To be honest, I’m too stubborn to quit the organization. I live to be that burr under their saddle and I have the career path to back it (self-pub, then small press and now big press).

    Sometimes you just have to tilt at windmills.

  35. Linda W Jones
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 07:17:36

    As a former board member, these discussions always make me a little crazy. Believe it or not, there's a logical explanation for every decision made. Unfortunately, very few members bother to ask for explanations. Are mistakes made? Of course they are. Are the board members sitting behind closed doors plotting for or against anyone? No. Can they make everyone happy? No way.

    I for one see no problem at all with requiring the publishers attending conference to be advance-paying publishers. If you were to poll the members and ask if they'd like an advance, I'm pretty sure the answer would be yes. I've never understood how or why it is that a publisher can pay a larger percentage, and pay royalties more frequently, but for some reason that means they can't work even a small advance for the author in the mix. If they're making money in their business, it can be done. I've seen too many writers get screwed over, signing over their rights then getting nothing, or next to nothing, in return. No matter how you're published, writing is hard work. More than that, it's a part of you. To have any author's work treated this way gets my hackles up. It doesn't matter that other authors do well under the same business model. The potential (and reality) for disaster isn't offset by the fact that it doesn't happen to everyone.

    I don't know if e-publishing is the wave of the future or not. That's in the hands of the consumer, not RWA. RWA does not have the power to make or break anyone's career, or to influence the way romance readers choose the format in which they prefer to read. I've been a member for more than fifteen years, and what I get from my membership changes, as my career changes. Like many others, there have been times when my local chapter was the main draw for me. For a chapter to withdraw from RWA, pretty much everyone has to agree that's the way to go. As long as three members remain who want to stay affiliated, then that chapter stands. If they dissolve, I believe the treasury has to be donated to a charity. It's not turned over to RWA. It's been a while since I studied that part of the P&PM, but I think that's right.

    And I would like everyone to remember, when they get angry and lash out, that the board is made up of member volunteers. Diane Pershing is a member volunteer who puts in countless hours. Michelle Monkou, who will be president next year, is a member volunteer. Whether you agree with them or not, they deserve some respect for the many hours they've given the organization.


  36. KristieJ
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 07:18:42

    I don’t read ebooks until they come out in print but even I don’t understand the stand RWA has taken in regards to excluding epublishers. I’m about as old school as it comes but I think RWA needs to get their collective heads into current times and change their stance on epublishing. The times they are a changing and RWA needs to keep up with them. As far as not caring what RWA’s policy is and being fine with being excluded – sorry but I disagree with you. For those being excluded, it’s easy to say we don’t care, but in reality it’s about acceptance and being recognized for your accomplishments by many of your peers and its being part of a larger group. I’m sure there are many epublished authors who don’t care if RWA acknowledges them or not, but that is more a measure of their level of self confidence. Nobody likes being unfairly left out and I don’t think epublished authors should either. I hope the whoever the new incoming president is, this person will take a more ‘with the times’ approach to the industry.

  37. Anne Douglas
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 07:31:49

    Allison Brennan: I probably shouldn't comment because I don't disagree with everything mentioned. E-books are a part of the market and they are here to stay. There is nothing wrong with e-books as a format. It's simply another way for readers to read books.

    (emphasis mine)

    You should definitely comment! There are always two sides to every story, and you state yours quite clearly with rational arguments, but at the same time you recognise that the other side has a validity too.

    However, I do agree that every author needs to make the decision themselves as to how to further their own career. RWA, or MWA, or ITW can not nor should not tell an author that they must do something a specific way. Individual authors may be able to offer advice based on their experience, and the organization may be able to offer a venue for authors to get together to talk about these issues, but honestly, the final decision rests with the individual author.

    Exactly! You prefer one particular way of doing things, I prefer the other. Different strokes for different folks, and both are perfectly viable options – we both get paid, right?

    Authors need to have all the information to make their choices – clear, non judgemental information that lets the author decide what works best for them.

  38. Angie
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 07:37:05

    Ms Jones — the problem here is that you’re singing the same song as Ms. Pershing, and you have the same blind spot. You repeating what she said isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. No one’s going to facepalm and go, “Oh! Wow, you’re right! My publisher is just a bunch of crooks who are taking advantage of me! Thanks for pointing that out!”

    Would I like to get an advance? Sure. Would I want an advance if it meant getting only eight or ten percent royalty? Heck no. I’m willing to wait for my money if it means making more, thanks anyway.

    Is any of this even relevant to me? No. I write m/m and there’s currently one (1) New York publisher offering a mainstream print publication slot for m/m romance. It’s historicals only right now, and it looks like they’re offering about four titles per year. All the other markets for m/m are small presses, most of which are primarily e-book oriented. So the only way I could make what RWA thinks is a “career oriented” choice is to start writing something completely different, so that there’d actually be New York print-pub markets for it.

    Sorry, no. What I write is what I write, and I’m very happy to have found an area of the industry where there are publishers who welcome my work and give me money for it. I’m not willing to do something completely different just to go along with RWA’s ideas of what a proper writing career looks like. Nor am I willing to think nasty thoughts about my publisher, which is a small press and does the best it can for its writers.

    And as many people have pointed out, 35% (or whatever people are getting — that’s my royalty) is a heck of a lot more than 10%. If RWA wants to harass someone, how about aiming the guns at the New York publishers who are paying their writers only 10% on their electronic releases? That’s ludicrously low.

    Bottom line — I’m an adult and I know what I’m doing. I’m not a toddler who has to be urged with the carrot and the stick to make what some authority figure thinks is the “right” decision. I’m not going to change the decisions I’ve made for my career just because RWA witholds its lollipop, or because RWA’s president all but comes right out and says that I’m an idiot who’s going about my own writing business all wrong and should be shunned until I see the light and agree with her (and you apparently) about what’s right or smart.

    Oh, and frankly I think RWA would be better off if Ms. Pershing put in fewer hours. She could cut the time she’s been spending writing inflamatory opinion statements for a start.


  39. Bree
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 07:37:57

    Just a tiny point of clarification…I didn’t write my post in response to Pershing’s RWR column. I wrote it in response to her response yesterday, which I found to be poorly thought out and frustrating in the extreme. Though I did end up seeing the June RWR article eventually, I’m not a member of the RWA and therefore didn’t receive it in my mailbox. (And the biggest benefit of non-membership to date is not having to get the RWR anymore.)

  40. GrowlyCub
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 07:39:25

    I really don’t get the ‘only if they pay an advance are they a valuable publisher’ mindset evidenced here by some.

    Some print pubs now pay as little as $1,250 as an advance. That’s something to be proud of? Something that’s considered the gold standard for a manuscript you spent a year or more writing and revising?

    Color me puzzled. But then I’m not a writer nor an aspiring writer. Maybe that’s why I can see that the current incarnation of print publishing is seriously flawed.

    Clinging to publishers and their outdated model killing the mid-list in their efforts to pay huge advances on a couple of books that may or may not make any money and minuscule amounts to other books that then don’t get the promo they deserve does not seem business smart or career-focused to me. Especially when the new author is then dropped when the book doesn’t sell through because the publisher couldn’t be bothered to promo it while they wasted all their money on one or two big titles.

    Nobody argues that there are black sheep in e-publishing, but to blanket-exclude all e-publishers because of them seems a tad overcautious and displays ignorance and an unwillingness to be educated about alternate paths to earning a living. Just as not all e-pubbed authors rake in a bundle, so don’t all print pubbed authors.

    How many authors who are now doing really well in NY started with e-pubs? I can think of three off the top of my head (Leigh, McCarty, McCray). I’m sure there are a bunch more.

    I don’t get the narrow-mindedness. We are all in this together. I as reader want lots of books, you as authors want to write and get paid for your work. Why artificially erect barriers between your consumers and your authors? I just don’t get this mind-set at all from a group that’s purported to have their authors’ best interest at heart.

  41. Karen Templeton
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 08:00:44

    First, those unhappy with the RWA stance certainly have many valid reasons for their annoyance. Much work definitely needs to be done to embrace/support e-publishing and its authors — there’s no reason why either should be made to feel like unwanted stepchildren, or that the e-publishing model needs to mirror print. And certainly RWA should be far more aggressive about educating its members — through workshops and articles, etc. — about e-publishing, so those members can make better-informed decisions. Knowledge is power and all that. I honestly don’t feel — as many who’ve commented here obviously do — that RWA as a whole is as dismissive of e-publishing (as in, if we ignore it, it will go away) as it might seem. But I do think some things could have been, and should be, handled much better than they have been.

    However, like Allison, I’m also going to defend the advance model. Yes, there are some cases where it’s being abused, just as promising a large royalty percentage with no advance, but only selling a handful of books, is also abusive. However, the no-advance/bigger % or sharing in net/monthly royalties model doesn’t suddenly render the advance model worthless, no matter how advantageous the former might be for some authors. Nor do I understand why any author would be so adamantly opposed to being guaranteed money up front. Yes, she might have to wait for a while to see further royalties…but if her advance is sufficient, and she’s continually under contract, there’s still a steady flow of cash. Even if she doesn’t “earn out” (which, by the way, doesn’t mean the publisher hadn’t made money on the book), it’s not as if she had to pay the advance back. It’s still hers. And she still knows from the get-go she’ll earn AT LEAST X amount of dollars on that book. True, she had no idea what, if any, future royalties might be…but IMO that’s still preferable to having NO idea what the book will earn. Fifty percent of net could be *nothing* if expenses exceed profit.

    Now, I completely understand that the advance model simply doesn’t work for some publishers. Nor do I believe that paying an author $1000 upfront somehow magically legitimizes a publisher. Far more criteria than that should come into play. However…the advance model isn’t dead, yet. It works just fine for some publishers. Harlequin — whose sales are up by a healthy percentage, even during a recession — still pays advances, based on where an author is in her career and the line/imprint she writes for. So a newbie author is going to get a much smaller advance than a lead author for Mira, for example (although, it should be noted, even the newbie will get more than $1000 for a novel-length ms), mitigating the likelihood of an author not earning out. In my case, out of a backlist of more than 30 books, only three haven’t earned out…and the rest have far more than made up for those that didn’t.

    Although I believe the London office might be paying part on publication, NY still pays the final installment on delivery/acceptance of the complete manuscript. And although the royalty % is modest, in this case the volume of sales (because it’s Harlequin) more than offsets that low rate. In other words…the model still works for Harlequin, and I daresay for most of its authors. That’s not to say it’s the *only* viable model, obviously, since other models can and do work very well for other authors, especially those writing material that doesn’t jibe with more mainstream publishers’ needs.

    However, “old school” publishing, either in how books are formatted or authors are paid, does not have to vanish in order to justify “new school” publishing, or for it to flourish. It’s not an either/or situation — something I wish both “sides” in this debate would more fully realize. E-publishing, as well as other business models, present new ways of expanding the market, of gaining new readers and giving writers new avenues to get their stories into those readers’ hands. That doesn’t mean either print books, or the advance model, are going to go away anytime soon…not as long as both are still advantageous to both author and publisher.

    Because incentive will always play a part in publishers’ bids to get the best books for their lists. Even if advances were to disappear for a while, at some point somebody — a big-name author or, more likely, an agent — is going to ask for a “guarantee” before signing that “share in net” contract. And the publisher, eager to get their hands on that book, is going to agree. Because if they don’t, someone else will. Just the nature of the business.

    I truly believe the next several years are going to bring about all sort of changes and shifts in the industry. I’s already happening. But my guess is these changes will enhance and supplement what’s still working, not invalidate them.

  42. Allison Brennan
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 08:09:15

    A couple additional points (it was late last night when I posted!)

    First, I am an RWA member and I have no intention of quitting my membership because I disagree with some of the things they’ve done. For the most part, they provide their membership with valuable information, networking opportunities, local chapters, and conferences with the opportunity to meet authors and agents. I sold without ever attending a conference and wrote two (unpublished) books before I joined RWA. I don’t NEED the organization, but I do find value in the organization.

    Regarding the higher advances for e-books. E-exclusive books pay 30-45% advances, partly because of format, partly because of the size of the companies, partly because of the lack of an advance. The higher royalties are used to entice authors to sell through them.

    I make 15%-25% on my ebooks (there’s a tiered system in most publishing contracts.) My print books make 8-10% (mass market.) But I only sell .1% of all units sold in e-format. That means that I sell 99.9% of all my books in print format. Most e-books to not sell anywhere near the quantities of print books, so while I make less per book, I sell far more books to in the end I’m much farther ahead. Most e-book authors aren’t selling tens of thousands of copies. mid-list mass market authors (not category, which I don’t have numbers on) generally have a 50-100K print run. Even at 50% sell-through, that’s sell 25-50K books at 8% royalties on a typical $6.99 price point.

    Anyway, I have to run off to a volleyball tournament. Chao

  43. Karen Templeton
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 08:33:53

    Okay…not sure why there’s an automatic assumption that paying an advance means a lower royalty rate.

    (And I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, so bear with me. :))

    Say, for instance, an e-publisher or small press decided, for whatever reason, to give their authors a $1000. advance. Why would they necessarily lower the royalty rate as a trade-off? If they’re paying royalties every month, and the book does well, then — in theory — the author should earn out sooner rather than later and then begin to see additional royalties. And the publisher would recoup their investment fairly quickly, as well.

    IOW, it’s the same $1000, whether given before (as a guarantee) or later in royalties. The advance and royalty rate are separate issues. E-publishers give higher royalty rates because their overhead is lower (although does the royalty rate stay the same when the book goes to print?). I assume they didn’t give advances, at least at first, because they were starting up and cash flow was a problem. And to suddenly start giving advances now might also be problematic, cash-flow-wise. That decision isn’t up to RWA, it’s up to the publishers. As it’s an author’s decision whether to sign with one of those publishers.

    While I’m an advance ‘ho, myself, I honestly do not see that issue alone as what determines a publisher’s legitimacy.

    That said, I am curious as to why some seem to think an advance somehow stifles earnings more than the no-advance model. It’s not a flat fee. If the book does well, there will be more earnings above the advance. If not, then at least you have the advance. A *hundred* percent royalty rate is pointless if the book only sells a handful of copies, and you didn’t get any sort of advance.

    As has been said, there are potential rewards and risks in both models. But the logic in some of these arguments is sounding a tad bit skewed to me. ;-)

  44. Sandy James
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 08:45:23

    @ Zoe Winters

    Seriously, I really thought this crap went away after high school, but apparently not.

    So did I. At least I did until I went to a couple of RWA national conferences. I don’t wish to lump all authors into a stereotypical category (like many people are lumping epubbed authors into a category of “substandard”), but I experienced some condescension and disdain from writers who felt they were “better” because they were published by big NY houses. I received my “first sale” ribbon last year for my contract with Siren. If asked about my sale, I could immediately tell who valued the sale as an important first step in a writer’s career and who saw it as “not really published.” One person actually told me she thought my sale “shouldn’t count” since I was epubbed.

    One of RWA’s big arguments is that the organization cannot possibly please all of its varied members. Agreed. BUT… it can make members feel valued for being published, regardless of whether “published” means ebook or print, small press or NY house. I put as much effort into writing, editing, and preparing my books for Siren as I would have with Harlequin. Why should my hard work be less valued simply because my books were in electronic form before they went to print?

  45. Lisa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 08:49:32

    While I am a big supporter of ebooks and started there myself, I am also a supporter of the advance model. I think RWA is protecting that or I’d like to thin that is their reasoning in their actions. I love getting my money fast at places like EC. However, an advance upfront for more money — even better. Both models have a place but any author who has gotten a decent advance upfront, has to appreciate how that allows you to pay your bills. And as your career progresses and your advances get higher, it offers more stability in an industry with limited stability for the author.

    If RWA makes it acceptable for a publisher to stop paying advances then they will. I don’t think most authors want that to happen. So what is the solution? I wish I had one. I hate seeing EC and Samhain excluded from RWA because they really do offer amazing opportunities for authors. They also have amazing authors writing for them who deserve to feel rightful validation. But does it compare to a real mainstream paycheck — no — not when we compare a mass market mainstream print run — and I am talking STRICTLY money here. We don’t want to do anything to keep an author from getting those advances later in their career, at least that is my opinion. And again, I started with EC. I know the model and at the point where I was writing only for them, I was amazingly thrilled to get money the month of release. BUT that said, it is months waiting on that release. Then 30 days to pay. That really isn’t super fast. With an advance you get money BEFORE release and even before you write the book. As your career advances, you go from provide a complete novel, to a partial to a synopsis. You provide less upfront and get more upfront.

    I wish there was an easy solution for everyone but I think there are reasons RWA is struggling with this decision that may not have anything to do with trying to exclude Ebooks. I’d like to think that is the case. I’d like to think its more — how do you include them and protect those very same authors in their future?

    Lisa Renee Jones aka Faith Winter

  46. GrowlyCub
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:00:01


    I don’t see the logic being ‘skewed’ at all. The reason for higher royalty rates at e-pubs is because the writer takes on part of the risk. If a publisher pays an advance, the writer’s risk is lower, so I wouldn’t expect e-pubs suddenly to start taking over all the risk or even a higher percentage of risk and still pay the higher royalties.

    The reason folks argue for higher e-book royalties for print published authors is that there is so little extra work/cost involved in producing the e-book and there are no returns against which the lower royalty rate for a MMP is a guarantee.

    Lest I be misunderstood I’m not against advances. I have, however, a beef with the trend to the multi-million dollar advances given to ‘celebrities’ while the mid-list is being neglected both in advance amounts and promotional dollars. That trend seemed to start in the mid-90s and it’s led to a real decline in what’s out there for readers to choose from and it’s made it much harder for new authors to break in and to stay in. It seems we are really very much at the level of ‘one strike and you are out’ right now which is no way to build up the future ‘bestselling author’.

    In my admittedly outsider and non-scientific evaluation over the last 20+ years, it seems the trend to ‘big money, NOW’ started when more and more publishers were merged and big conglomerates took over with folks at the helm who are neither educated nor interested in the craft and the publishing industry as a whole, but are looking solely to the bottom line ‘right now’ with no plans for a sustainable future.

    Bringing it back to the issue at hand, I think RWA is doing its membership a distinct disservice by categorically negating the publication status of e-pubbed authors on the one hand and considering them ineligible for entry in their non-published contest on the other and by having confusing, ever changing guidelines of what constitutes ‘published’. It’s hard to educate people about the pros and cons if you don’t discuss a topic at all. And I always thought that education/information was the mean (ETA: Freudian slip there, that should read ‘main’ :) reason to join RWA.

  47. Lisa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:02:07

    Also adding — some of the epubs sell less than a 100 books per release. At EC and Samhain that is not the case. I think RWA tried some process at one point regarding how many books were sold in a year to validate a publisher but they were print numbers. Maybe how many books sold in a year but taking out the print model would work for inclusion? But then — that still does not protect the advance model. It is a tough issue! We really, in my humble opinion, need to protect that advance model without making people feel that they are being excluded that are working hard to climb the success ladder! It’s a hard ladder to climb.

    And hey for the e-authors who feel snubbed — I was epublished, then only category, and now I have a single title coming out. I w was snubbed by single titles authors– one in particular who is on the Times list often — for being ‘only category’. I was furious. Snobbery happens in life. It’s sad, but it does. That said, there are reasons beyond that snobbery to protect the model — again, in my humble opinion.

  48. Angie
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:03:27

    I can’t believe that anyone honestly thinks that RWA giving EC and Samhain a gold star will cause the NY publishers to stop paying advances. Come on, let’s get serious here. Condemning royalty-only publishers “protects” the advance model about as much as condemning gay marriage “protects” het marriage.

    They’re two different models. They both work. They both have advantages and disadvantages, and some of those advantages and disadvantages shift depending on what kind of fiction you write. The vast majority of writers like the advance model and aren’t interested in the royalty-only model. That’s fine; I have no problem with that. The point of all this, and what RWA’s president (plus various other people) don’t seem to understand is that there’s no reason why the two models can’t co-exist in peace and tranquility. The royalty-only model is no threat to the advance model, there’s no reason to attack it.

    The answer isn’t to just stomp on the royalty-only model, or sneer at it, or snub the people who do business that way. The answer is education. RWA should make sure that all its members know how the royalty-only model works, what the plusses and minuses are, what an acceptable royalty is, and the signs of a good or bad publisher, along with all the currently standard info on how to choose an advance-model publisher. Teach them how to make the best decision for themselves. Most people will chose an advance-model publisher and that’s cool. But the people who fit better with the smaller, royalty-only publishers pay dues too and deserve to have educational material which serves their needs.

    Condemning all e-publishers because Triskelion ripped people off is like condemning all print publishers because PublishAmerica rips people off. It makes the same amount of sense. But for some reason no one’s pointing at PA and using them as an excuse to ban Harlequin.

    Yes, there are bad e-publishers. Why isn’t RWA teaching its members how to recognize them and how to minimize their chances of being sucked in by one, the same way they teach their members how to minimize their chances of being sucked in by a bad print publisher?


  49. Lisa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:12:06

    Angie– already one NY publisher is experimenting in a royalty only process and advances have gotten lower. Worries over advances are not because of including an epublisher. I am of the opinion there are simply because there are reasons to worry and reasons to be cautious. There has to be an answer. But honestly I don’t want publishers who sell 100 books for an author in its lifetime, or less in some cases, included. We need a validation process that is effective and protects authors. Again, as a writer, I was thrilled with EC’s money model, and volume of books.

    Off the write. Have a good Saturday everyone!

  50. Sandy James
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:14:46


    And hey for the e-authors who feel snubbed -‘ I was epublished, then only category, and now I have a single title coming out. I w was snubbed by single titles authors- one in particular who is on the Times list often -‘ for being ‘only category'. I was furious. Snobbery happens in life. It's sad, but it does.

    This isn’t about whether I have hurt feelings for being “snubbed.” I’m an adult. I’ll deal. It’s about an organization I pay dues to that doesn’t encourage and advocate for all its members, choosing instead to disenfranchise some authors. While I don’t think I would enter Rita, I do think, as a published author, I should have that opportunity. What is RWA afraid of? That some of these “subpar” ebook authors might win? That by winning, ebook authors might achieve some prestige?

  51. Jane O
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:20:40

    Since I am just a reader, I got no dawg in this fight. That does not, of course, keep me from having opinions. (Few things do.) So I offer a few:

    If you have such a low opinion of the “biddies” at RWA, why do you care what they think of e-publishing?

    If RWA is such a useless organization that some of you have dropped your membership or never joined, why do you care what RWA thinks of e-publishing?

    If you feel in need of a national organization to represent your interests, start one -‘ an e-RWA.

    If you don’t feel that need, why complain about the existence of RWA? There are obviously plenty of people who do find it useful. It may not be promoting e-publishing, but it is hardly preventing it.

    Much of this discussion sounds like people who like chocolate demonizing those who like strawberry and vice versa.

  52. XandraG
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:25:28

    I didn’t join RWA to be patted on the head and told what a good kitty I am. I don’t write, revise, submit, get rejected, submit again, polish polish polish, and keep writing just so I can get a membership in PAN. I’ve never been to a National so I don’t have all the opportunities to get snubbed, ignored, or outright mooned.

    I joined RWA for information. And that’s what I expect most out of it. I love my local chapter and my online chapters, and it’s them I’d really hurt for missing if I left. What I need from my professional writing organization (that’s you, RWA), is information. I don’t need to be patted on the head and told, “Just trust us when we say it’s a bad thing, because new equals different and different equals unknown and unknown equals baaaaad, so don’t look at it and neveryoumind.” I want RWA to present me with information about my publishing choices. All of them. Hell, RWA can editorialize, too, if they want to. Tell me why vanity-publishing is bad and self-publishing can be a dead-end in your editorial, but first tell me what the difference between the two is, so I can decide if you’re right, wrong, or talking out of a warm dark place.

    Publishing is changing, and I expect my professional organization to keep abreast on all the ways it’s doing so. Tell me about foreign rights. Tell me what they are based on–language or geography–and if they’ve been successfully negotiated. Tell me the difference between gross and net royalties, or the difference between “life of copyright” and “out-of-print.” These are the things I should be learning. Stuff that will keep me from signing away rights I want to keep, and stuff that will help me understand which rights I’m selling, to whom, for how long, and if I can ever get ‘em back. I can make my own decisions, and accept the consequences of those decisions, and mitigate them myself if need be to a certain point. But only if I know about them.

    The biggest warning flag about Ms. Pershing’s June editorial in the RWR for me was when she expressed her irritation that despite the information RWA does provide, members still–gasp!–talk to each other and trade information with each other (“…a member would not be getting all of her information from other members on the loops,…”). This to me makes me a little too uncomfortable to think that the RWA is somehow supporting the notion that things would be better if people stayed ignorant.

    Another poster upthread, @Angie, I think, remembers the old GEnie RomEx. I remember, too, that it was authors talking and sharing information that led to a large publisher being audited and finding thousands of lost dollars owed to authors. I seem to remember at the time, the publishers were all quite horrified at the free discussion going on between authors, and probably wished they’d all just stop talking to each other, too.

  53. Mel Francis
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:32:38

    I joined RWA in 2001, signed with my agent (the lovely Deidre Knight) in 2005 and sold my first book to HarperTeen in 2007. If it weren’t for RWA (and at the time my online chapter, RWA Online) I’m not sure I would be where I am now.

    The organization as a whole really taught me a lot about the industry and helped me sharpen my craft. I am grateful for that.

    I’ve been very disappointed in the way the organization is run. It should be a guild, but it really is more of a club. It should be an advocate for all members, but it really only supports a few which is ironic, given the organization’s own Mission Statement.

    (taken from the RWA National website:

    The mission of Romance Writers of America is 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.

    They say they are an organization of advocacy for career-focused romance writers. They even define what they think ‘career-focused’ means. So how is it that e-pubbed authors are less career-focused than trad. pubbed authors. Why would they blatantly shun a large portion of their membership? And why wouldn’t they want to educate their members in e-publishing? Education will arm the members. I might have considered e-publishing route when I started writing, if I’d really understood it.

    I plan to stay a member because the only way you can change an organization is from the inside. Leaving will not ‘show them.’ Now if you truly don’t get anything from your membership, then by all means, leave. I happen to love my chapters and I don’t want to give them up. They are totally worth the $85 a year membership fee. I want the organization to change–to be more forward thinking. And I plan to do whatever is within my power as a member to see that it happens. It won’t be easy and it may never happen, but I’m not going to give up on an organization that taught me so much. Not yet anyway.

  54. Amie Stuart
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:40:37

    Angie….not all print publishers are paying 10% on e-royalties. Though honestly, we don’t KNOW what NY is paying their authors for e-rights. I did set up a survey and posted the link on my blog and on twitter.

    And Allison, while Ebooks haven’t replaced print and probably won’t for quite some time, what we get in royalties from NY for those books WILL matter someday. I think it behooves us to look toward that day.

    >>if it's the board members who are to blame for all this stagnation and elitism, who's to blame for the board members being on the board?

    Those who voted them in. As a former local chapter officer, guess what my biggest complaint about our rank and file of about 20 members was?


    Apathy that was MUCH more apparent in a small chapter than in a larger one. But multiply that times every chapter and what you get is a lot of people who don’t care….for a variety of reasons.

    Would LOVE to see RWA do a survey of all members and see how many have actually finished a manuscript and how long they’ve been writing–yes we had members who had been members for years and never finished a manuscript.

  55. Karen Templeton
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 09:48:50

    Growly — TOTALLY agree with you about the million dollar advances for celeb books being a) absurd and b) screwing the business.

    But precious few romance authors get that kind of advance. And those who do, have the track record to justify it.

    The vast majority of us get far smaller advances than that. However, they’re large enough that, should the model precipitously change (say, if Harlequin suddenly decided to go no-advance), many, many of us would jump ship for another career. We’d have to, because we need that money to live on. For instance, I’ve been at this for a dozen years now, and have moved up the advance scale to the point where, when I sign a contract, I know I have X number of $ coming in, and when, and I can therefore budget how long to make it last. Since writing *is* my day job, and I support my family on my earnings, I’d be a total wreck if I had to a) write everything on spec and b) hold my breath every month to see what, if anything, I’d earned. Bad enough that I do that already when the royalty statements arrive ;-), but at least I *know* what I’m going to get with the advances, and when those chunks will arrive. In a business fraught with anxiety as it is, that’s at least some comfort. :)

    And comfort, a little security, isn’t a bad thing.

    On the whole, romance publishers aren’t doling out the kinds of advances that will break them, if they’ve got a decent handle on their finances and marketing strategy. As I said, Harlequin appears to be doing just fine. Now, I would like to see a higher royalty rate on my e-books with them (although thus far the numbers are so minuscule that it wouldn’t make much difference), but *my* tradeoff for the lower rate on my print books is that they sell so freaking many of them, through an advertising and distribution machine like no other. I do not, by any means, feel ripped off in that regard. So *for me* the carrot of a higher rate in exchange for no advance and a potentially much smaller readership doesn’t even begin to entice.

    However, my goals and needs aren’t anyone else’s. And as several of us have said, the raison d’etre of RWA should be to thoroughly educate its members about *all* the options out there. Professionalism should be measured by a person’s ability to make the decision that’s right for them at that particular moment in his or her career, not by who their publisher is, or even how much money he or she makes. And a publisher’s credentials should be measured by how well it does by its authors — the quality of its editorial staff, its dedication to marketing its catalog to the best of its ability, the integrity with which it handles its finances. Yes, I do feel there needs to be some concrete way of quantifying those things — I don’t believe anyone who tosses up a website and calls itself a publisher deserves automatic qualification as one — but I think compromises can be hashed out in a way that, even if they still wouldn’t satisfy everyone, neither would they make an entire subset of the membership feel ostracized.

  56. Mireya
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 10:18:38

    The vast majority of readers don’t have a clue as to what the RWA is. As an erotic romance fan, I always felt the RWA was too big and hence, had “dinosaur” mentality. Why am I saying this? Because 6 years ago, when erotic romance started growing in leaps and bounds, the RWA did everything in their power to disregard erotic romance as a genuine subgenre of romance. In the end, they had to relent, but then they started coming up with ways to snub digital publishing. This is just the latest push.

    Frankly, if I were a romance author. I’d take advantage of anything they could offer me as a noob (gaming term)… and then leave once I had milked my membership for all it is worth.

    Digital publishing is still small compared to the print publishing model, but that is changing, and the organization’s “dinosaur” mentality really is not helping anyone. They will become obsolete if they keep this mindset.

  57. Allison Brennan
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 10:26:56

    Karen, you’re absolutely right about the advances v. royalties. I was making a different point, but in that point I forgot to state what you did so well :)

  58. Joanie T
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 10:28:58

    I too have been struggling to stay out of this highly charged issue all morning but for the plain and simple reason that as strongly as some oppose RWA and its policies, I support them and I feared letting the strength of my emotions carry me away as it appears to have for some on the converse side. Cyber discussions always run the risk of flaming. However….

    I will not reiterate what Lisa Hendrix pointed out but echo and support her sentiments.

    Choices have been spoken of on this issue, on small presses and digitial vs NY publishing houses, joining RWA, staying with RWA, leaving RWA. Whatever choice any of the posters make, I wish you well.

    But this entire “discussion” (and I use that term lightly) is evolving into personal attacks against the ELECTED, rank and file members of the RWA Board. Members who dedicate an inordinate amount of time to weighing decisions and leading this organization in the best way they know how. It’s not an easy job.

    What would make me consider someone’s concerns or desire for change? Respectful, factual discussion of the components of the issue and not maligning, virulent, personal attacks.

    I have gained so much from my membership in RWA. I fully support it and its Board as a dynamic, growth oriented, professional organization.

  59. RWA Needs Change-but not sure I care enough to stay :
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 10:40:36

    […] Dear Author […]

  60. Miss Small Press Author
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 10:42:08

    One of the board members is in my local chapter. Whenever any member asks a question about this topic on one of the loops, it’s a big no no. I asked about it three years ago, back when ebooks could still enter the RITA but I could see the day coming when it would be outlawed. Not one person responded to my question on my local author group which consists of mostly print authors and a few epubbed authors. In fact, I’m the ONLY epubbed author that would participate in local signings with the BIG GIRLS. Finally, the second year in, another epubbed author joined me. Our books are available in print too so when asked if we wanted to do a signing at Borders or B&N, I jumped at the chance, having no idea what I was getting into. The store managers were wonderful to me. They treated me just as they treated the NY Times Best Selling author. I sold…gasp…just as many books and talked to excited readers. And after a few signings, I witnessed the thawing of some of the Big Girls into Real Girls. They realized they actually liked me and enjoyed sitting next to me…and oh my…they realized that readers REALLY DO like my books. They also loved the fact that I had some say in my book cover even though one of the Big Girls didn’t believe me. In fact, she was so horrified at the line forming for my book, she kept sticking her gigantic arm in my face and shaking the hands of all my readers in hopes that they would linger to her side of the table. The look on her face was priceless. This is what it said to me, all scrunched up and wrinkled. What the heck? Do these people know this girl’s book is from a small press…shame, shame. But guess what, my lovely chapter and I say lovely because there really are some lovely people there, print and epubbed authors but there really are some UNLOVELY people there too. Now, the board member who organizes our chapter conference has made a deal with an indie bookstore. In the past, I could attend the conference and book signing the day before and participate. Not now. Not this year. Oh yeah, I went but this year, the small press authors were pushed to the back of the room and get this…our chairs were placed so that our backs were facing the crowd that walked in. Now, there were about five rows of authors so there were some print authors seated the same way but it was different because the crowd would have to walk the aisles and go past each row of authors but the small press was the final row, shoved at the back at the room with our backs facing the room. It would have been easy for us to move our chairs to the other side of the table but we didn’t. We sat there tall and yes, some readers did trickle down to us and even readers asked why we were placed that way. Also, the board member told us that the bookstore would not order our books. We had to handle our own sales. In the past, Borders handled the signing and they had no problem ordering our books. Every event we have now, this book store is in charge so NO SMALL PRESS ALLOWED. SORRY. That’s all this board member says. And she has even arranged a deal for our chapter. They have signings at this book store ever so often but sorry, NO SMALL PRESS. In the past we all did signings together at Borders and B&N. Not now. SORRRY, WE CAN’T HANDLE WATCHING READERS FLOCK TO YOUR TABLE AND ACTUALLY BUY BOOKS. NOT FAIR TO THE POOR READER. SHE DOESN’T KNOW SHE’S BUYING A BOOK FROM….GASP…A SMALL PRESS. So, this lady has even managed to allow RWA’s snobbiness to leak into our local chapter, which I loved. How can a deal for our chapter that includes only print authors be beneficial for all of us? THAT’S NOT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR AUTHORS. And like I said, no one breathes a word about it. Some of the small press authors have just gone away. No one participates like I do and I feel like they pity me, like I’ve settled. I make good money now on my books. I didn’t at first but now my name is out there and all my hard work is paying off. What really gets under my skin is to hear some of these authors talk as if they know a thing about epublishing. They love to bash it but when I talk to some of them and explain to them that my book is not pulled after three months, they get this glassy eyed look like I’m making this up. After hearing some of their stories, I feel like I have the better deal. Sure, they may get an advance but then most of them are biting their nails, wondering if their book will be pulled or the line will change. I don’t seem to worry as much about my books as they do or so it seems from what I’ve heard. I can only tell you what I’ve experienced and this one board member, who is very sweet to my face, she’s shunning the small press and when the deal came through with this indie bookstore, she’d just say, don’t be upset at the messenger. She did this intentionally. She’s in the thick of it with Diane Pershing and part of the OLD SCHOOL that believes epubbed and small press authors are worthless. This is my final year in RWA. I’m too busy writing to play games. It just hurt me when I became very involved in my chapter and then was quietly and slowly pushed out. When I say very involved, I mean VERY INVOLVED. I have volunteered for many years for this chapter. Now I don’t mention when I sale a book to my local chapter. In the past it was a celebration at the meetings. Not now.

  61. BevBB
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 11:01:40


    I can't believe that anyone honestly thinks that RWA giving EC and Samhain a gold star will cause the NY publishers to stop paying advances. Come on, let's get serious here. Condemning royalty-only publishers “protects” the advance model about as much as condemning gay marriage “protects” het marriage.

    They're two different models. They both work.

    As a reader, this is what I don’t get reading through all these responses and posts. Why does either “plan” have to be the only one that works. It’s completely illogical to think that.

    It’s also burying heads in the sand in an extremely big way.

    Several of the authors who support the “advance model” have given very reasoned argments for why advances works and should be supported – for print publishers. I can see that.

    However, that doesn’t mean they works or should be supported for epublishing. Or ever should be.

    At all.

    Can they see that in return?

    Seems to me that’s the real question. Because until the conversation goes both ways in an open and honest fashion, there will be no meeting in the middle.

    And there’s one other comment that I found interesting.


    Angie- already one NY publisher is experimenting in a royalty only process and advances have gotten lower. Worries over advances are not because of including an epublisher. I am of the opinion there are simply because there are reasons to worry and reasons to be cautious. There has to be an answer. But honestly I don't want publishers who sell 100 books for an author in its lifetime, or less in some cases, included. We need a validation process that is effective and protects authors. Again, as a writer, I was thrilled with EC's money model, and volume of books.

    So, let me get this straight. Some print publishers are experimenting with copying the epublishers model on print books and authors feel this would be the wrong thing, possibly even disastrous thing, to do? I can understand this. So, then use the power of RWA to advocate for your members on that issue but don’t take your collective frustrations out on the epublishers and e-authors by condemning their successful business model as wrong for them in the process.

    Because we are talking about two different constructs here and if RWA as an organization can’t educate itself to make that distinction clear then they are not serving their own members effectively. Nor are they helping the industry and the readers.

  62. Gwen Hayes
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 11:20:03

    What would make me consider someone's concerns or desire for change? Respectful, factual discussion of the components of the issue and not maligning, virulent, personal attacks.

    Joanie T–Please don’t discount that there have been a LOT of respectful, factual responses in this and other discussions just because some of the posts are more virulent than others. The nature of the Internet is what it is. And Ms. Pershing’s own response was not filled with rainbows and cookies either.

  63. Robin
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 11:26:16

    @GrowlyCub: Some NY print pubs pay even less, IIRC. But yeah, that was one of my first thoughts, too. Further, many advances are being paid out in increments following the publication schedule, so this argument that the advance ensures that the author can continue writing is true, I think, for a relatively small number of authors earning relatively high advances.

    I had a brief but relevant exchange on Twitter with Teresa Medeiros, who suggested that RWA’s stance on advances was a means of advocating for authors. And I think her point is relevant because I have no trouble believing that Pershing et al believe that’s exactly what they’re doing (not to mention spending whatever hours are necessary on the BOD to do so). I have no trouble believing that Pershing’s argument in ESPAN came from a place of total belief that she’s doing the best for RWA and its membership.

    But IMO that argument is only convincing if you’re beginning supposition is that the advance-based print pub system is the gold standard of legitimacy. That asking epubs to behave in the same way, to adopt the same business model, is the right thing. A stance which, as many have pointed out, ignores the fact that print and epub rely on different business models for good reasons and emerges from the belief that all authors seek NY print publishing. To wit:

    5) And still others totally support the point of view that they see themselves as having achieved a certain rung up on a ladder, with more rungs to climb. They see their careers in digital publishing as a stepping stone, a way to gather experience and readership while they wait for the rewards at the top of the ladder.

    So in response to those who argue that what’s in debate here is the future status of print books, I disagree. I believe that what’s in debate here — and at stake for many authors — is the idea that is *seems* as if RWA persists in its suppositions about advanced based print publishing (and let me point out that Pershing focuses explicitly on the split as being between e and print pubs) without exhibiting a whole lot of understanding of how and why print and epub models are different (i.e. the long-ass lead time in print pub from acquisition to shelf is more obviously suited to an income distribution like advance-based one) and in how those differences can be taken into consideration *in a way that does not indiscriminately marginalize an entire publishing model*.

    Why, in other words, should epub conform to NY print standards when, for example, it doesn’t take two years before an author starts to see her book earn on the market? Ultimately we’re talking about *income* here, whether it’s paid out in advance or on the back end, and yet the virtual deification of that model (“top of the ladder” in Pershing’s words) seems to give the advance some transcendent imprimatur of legitimacy and respectability. Which, given the current somewhat debilitated state of NY publishing, adds insult to injury for those with thriving epubs.

    So if RWA board members do really want what’s best for all their membership, I’d guess that showing more interest in understanding the business models of epub and getting rid of this idea that NY is the only true path to publishing legitimacy would go a long way to establishing some sense of good faith with its membership, many of whom are epubbed authors.

    And to whoever (Angie?) said that it’s troubling that RWA doesn’t seem to care why its members stay, I’d say it certainly seems like that when you read statements like Pershing’s. Ultimately, if authors get something out of their local chapters, then the organization is valuable to them. But on the larger points re. publisher recognition, I think authors are either going to have to work extremely hard to effect change within RWA or they’re going to have to work on establishing an alternative organization that recognizes the increasingly enmeshed relationship between epub and print pub and can represent authors and publishers in both venues.

    And count me in as another who doesn’t really understand, if RWA can’t be a guild, per se, why they are so involved in recognizing publishers (or not) to begin with. And why they could advocate on behalf of authors to Harlequin, as they did a number of years ago.

  64. Ally Blue
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 11:46:04

    I can't believe that anyone honestly thinks that RWA giving EC and Samhain a gold star will cause the NY publishers to stop paying advances. Come on, let's get serious here. Condemning royalty-only publishers “protects” the advance model about as much as condemning gay marriage “protects” het marriage.

    This :)

    The advance model does not need RWA’s protection. All RWA needs to do here (or the main thing) in my extremely humble opinion, is to offer authors information and education about epublishing as a viable alternative to — or addition to — traditional print publishing. Authors need information, and RWA should be the resource we need. I honestly believe there’s room for both epub and print in an author’s life, and in the RWA.

  65. Ruby P
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 11:52:12

    Ms Jones -‘ the problem here is that you're singing the same song as Ms. Pershing, and you have the same blind spot. You repeating what she said isn't going to change anyone's mind. No one's going to facepalm and go, “Oh! Wow, you're right! My publisher is just a bunch of crooks who are taking advantage of me! Thanks for pointing that out!”

    Wow, now there’s an interesting way of winning an argument. Everybody who agrees with me can post ad nauseum, repeating the same, old, tired, arguments until you’re blue in the face, but anybody who agrees with “them” is violating some secret code by posting?

    It’s like y’all think that if you just say it often enough and loud enough, you can force what you believe to be true. I can call my dog a cat all day, too, but that doesn’t make it so.

    But since some of you seem to be offended by anyone who would take RWA’s position, how ’bout we just do what Angie seems to be suggesting here. Ms Pershing can speak for RWA and ONE person can speak for the other side.

    All the rest of us can just back away from our keyboards and shut up.

    Ready? 1….. 2….. 3……

  66. BevBB
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 12:21:45

    @Ruby P:

    It's like y'all think that if you just say it often enough and loud enough, you can force what you believe to be true. I can call my dog a cat all day, too, but that doesn't make it so.

    You know, you’re absolutely right, Ruby, but doesn’t that hold true for both sides of the argument?

  67. Claudia
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 12:30:10

    Perennial kerfluffle aside, I’d love to see DA do a post about other writer organizations pubbed and/or aspiring romance authors could join. For groups that do offers benefits like access to buying in to a health plan, I’m really curious about dues and other requirements and how they’re faring in the current economy.

  68. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 12:30:30

    Those of you who don’t think RWA,with a membership of 10,000 writers, has an impact on the industry and its members’ careers really need to check your facts. Compare what RWA accomplishes to what any other writers group manages (except perhaps Author’s Guild, who, in their wisdom, just gave away a significant chunk of everyone’s e-rights to Google for a pittance–even non-guild members’ and, yes, yours–plus granted Google a percentage of the pittance to administer that giveaway). Publishers wouldn’t even sit down with other authors groups before RWA came to the table with the power of all those members. RWA is so “ineffective” that other writers groups have come to RWA for help, and more than once. But enough. I’m tired of doing research for people who don’t care to check facts for themselves.

    And fwiw, I didn’t make my earlier call for people to run for the Board expecting “everyone” to run. It’s a tough job. Not many people are cut out for it.

    I did however, think that just maybe someone would. But maybe not.

    Like I said, it’ll be interesting.

  69. Lisa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 12:44:41

    Wow ouch. I got the smackdown and I actually LIKE epublishers and have published with them. Very sorry if I made anyone think I didn’t support epubs because I absolutely do. I must be a really really bad blogger because clearly I didn’t get that across. I am a FAN of epublishing and owe my career to that opportunity. It opened doors. It helped me grow. It helped me grow. I need to say that twice! Practice makes improvement. It taught me to work on deadlines. It taught me to write faster! EC paid me well enough to keep writing. Unfortunately, the little epubs I wrote for outside them did NOT. Many of them only allow the opportunity to sell 25-100 books a release. Maybe RWA could have a level of recognition or something that direction but quality, sales, payment, all have to be part of the picture — and this is only my opinion. One opinion. Obviously there are many. They all need to be heard but because there are many ideas, not everyone is going to be happy with the outcome. I can’t imagine how hard that is for the board.

    That said, there are tons of people who open an epub because they CAN not because they are qualified. I don’t think we can have a certification process that excludes that as an issue.

    On another note, I agree that RWA should be an organization for all stages of career but isn’t it? I know it helped me get published, learn what I needed to know, find people to help me learn. RT did as well. Their conventions and classes were great for a newbie. I like the casual fun of RT learning and the change for business structure at RWA.

    Finally, I am climbing that career ladder..its been a hard climb too. The money issues change with each step, get better, worse, confusing, frustrating, different, all of the above. I hope whatever solution is found looks out for authors at every stage of that climb. That means people in epublishing have to think ahead to when they are in print. And the people in print have to look back at a model that starts in epbulishing. And I thinks its very exciting that SO MANY of us came from epublishing and this is even an issue. We’ve come a long ways in such a short time!


  70. Jane
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 12:57:50

    @Lisa Hendrix I’m interested to know what exactly RWA has done in terms of bringing publishers to the table since the Harlequin thing. They’ve certainly been silent on the GBKS.

    As for the no advance v. advance business model, I confess to being completely befuddled as to why only one business model can exist within the publishing industry. As Deidre Knight stated advances are a prepayment of royalties. There are currently three ways an author makes money: a) an advance that never is sold through; b) more unit sales; and c) a higher royalty.

    I get that (a) is more comforting than (c) but it doesn’t mean that (a) is the better business model.

  71. GrowlyCub
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 13:03:20

    Hey Jane, I think your last comment got eaten by the spam filter!

    ETA All fixed now! :)

  72. Robin
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 13:06:05

    re. AG and RWA, someone on Twitter inquired as to whether RWA had adopted AG’s “eligibility requirements” in fashioning their own, because apparently they’re virtually identical. Anyone know? Especially with RWA not being a guild and all.

  73. BevBB
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 13:15:16


    That means people in epublishing have to think ahead to when they are in print.

    And what about the authors that never want to be print published?

  74. Karen Templeton
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 13:17:18

    There are currently three ways an author makes money: a) an advance that never is sold through; b) more unit sales; and c) a higher royalty.

    I get that (a) is more comforting than (c) but it doesn't mean that (a) is the better business model.

    It doesn’t mean C is the “better” model, either. And I think that’s where the conflict arises.

    As I said earlier, a lower royalty rate might not be an issue (or as much of one) if the advance is reasonable (not huge, just reasonable) and the publisher routinely sells a LOT of books. If the publisher doesn’t sell in huge numbers, then of course the higher rate makes sense.

    But it all depends on the author, what she wants/needs, how fast she can write, and where she can best place her book. Not what’s “best,” but what’s best for HER.

  75. Robin
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 13:19:05

    @Lisa Hendrix: I am merely a reader, but *I* get frustrated when calls for action are followed up by a flurry of “I don’t have time to run for the BOD. . . I just can’t do it, etc.” NOT that everyone complaining needs to step up that way, but I can see why at a certain point RWA leadership feels justified in their position. It’s just that I don’t think the current policies reflect the present (and more important) future relevance of BOTH print and epub business models.

    Also, although it’s anecdotal and despite it’s lack of paragraphing (daunting to read, yes?), I encourage people to spend some time absorbing this comment. If it’s even 50% accurate, it signifies an enormous problem, IMO, not an educated advocacy of authorial rights.

    Also, Jackie Barbosa has written a very relevant blog post on NY publishing, as well.

  76. Arwen
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 13:32:15

    A group has been started for RWA members who want to talk about real change and see it to frution.

    I’m there. Are you?

  77. Karen Templeton
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 13:35:31

    And what about the authors that never want to be print published?

    But why would any author “never” want to be in print? Any more than any author — save for JK Rowling — “never” want to have her books available as ebooks?

    The point of this whole shebang is to get our stories into as many readers’ hands as possible…and yes, to further our careers. Certainly I understand that many epubbed authors are thrilled with their publishers, at finding a venue for stories that perhaps NY doesn’t want. But name me one who’d turn down a print contract that gave her the opportunity to make more money (while giving her nice chunk of that money up front), while reaching even more readers with those same stories…readers who don’t, or won’t, read e-books.

    E-publishing had undoubtedly had a huge influence on the print publishing industry, with everyone and their cousin jumping on the super-sexy and paranormal bandwagon after epublishing proved, yes, there is a market for it. And how many of our publishing stars who are now in print got their start in epublishing? If e-publishing was meeting all their needs, why did so many move into print?

    Repeating, again: Different options, not mutually exclusive. Nor will they be for the foreseeable future. However, print still far, far outsells e-books, and it will take years, even at the current rate of increase, for e to overtake print…if it ever happens. To deny that, for many authors, e-publishing is a stepping stone to print is a bit disingenuous. It’s even been said here and elsewhere, that several authors have landed trad publishing contracts BECAUSE their e-pub’d sales were so solid.

    Is it a stepping stone for everyone? Of course not, any more than writing category is necessarily a stepping stone to single title for every Harlequin author. But most writers are looking to expand their readership and their bank account…and for the vast majority, that still means eventually being published in print.

  78. Arwen
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 13:49:05

    ACK! “see it to fruition” not frution. LOL My eyes missed that misspelling.

  79. Bree
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 13:59:49

    @Karen Templeton:

    It doesn't mean C is the “better” model, either. And I think that's where the conflict arises.

    I think you might be right. My personal opinion is that the deciding factor on which model is better is the circumstances surrounding that particular author publishing that particular story at that particular publisher.

    There are stories that will flat out make more money in a high royalty digital sales model. And there are stories that will probably never make as much. I don’t see why every author shouldn’t be encouraged to find the market and format that will support the highest earning potential for the story they’ve written. That’s what a career focused person would do, after all, especially if we’re defining a career completely by how much money is made.

    An example of what I feel is a hypocritical stance: it is very possible (though not assured, of course) that someone selling three erotic novellas as a single-author anthology to a NY publisher could make a good bit more money releasing those three novellas independently at a reputable and successful epublisher, especially if they’re a currently popular genre. If the focus of the RWA’s stance was truly educating their members on how to obtain the highest monetary return on effort, it would be logical to ensure authors understand the markets. I don’t believe that would happen though.

    Likewise, I certainly feel there are books & genres that may benefit from the wider distribution offered by NY publishers, books that might never make as much money at an epublisher.

    I would love an organization that helps authors figure out which model would best benefit what they want to write, not one that tries to shoehorn every single manuscript into one path or the other. I don’t want to join an organization that says epublishing is the One True Path. But I don’t want to belong to one that says it’s not a valid path.

  80. Jennifer August
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 14:55:10

    This whole discussion has been alternately interesting and infuriating and disappointing. And that’s on all the sites I’ve been to.
    FWIW, here’s my thought, based on my personal experience.

    I have been a writer all my life. My only goal was to get published. To say “I sold a book!” I have yearned to go to a bookstore and see MY book with MY name right there for anyone to buy. Guess what? I sold a book. I have a beautiful, incredible cover with MY name on it. MY book. And if it just happens to be in e-format? Doesn’t bother me. I sold a book. People all over the world (including my family in France) will be able to purchase this book. I will get royalties. I have an editor, an art staff and an incredible support group with my publishing house. Yes, publishing house.
    Better than all of that (imo) is what I have learned from my editor. She took my work, which she liked and believed in enough to buy, and made it better. In doing so, she made me a better writer. She pointed out a small addiction I had (to -ing words) and showed me how to write the same phrase only stronger. That lesson will always stay with me. And it earned my loyalty in ways that just buying my book didn’t do. Would I still like to publish with Avon or Pocket or Ballantine? Yes. But who says I can’t do both? No one.
    Much like a lot of people, I’m giving it more time but only because I don’t live or die by what RWA decides about MY career.
    It’s an inflammatory topic on both sides and I don’t think either one is totally right or totally wrong. Now THAT would be fiction!

  81. Stevie
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 15:42:02

    It does seem distinctly odd that such strong emotions, normally confined to issues involving sex, religion and/or politics, are engaged in what purports to be a discussion about different business models.

    The Freudian reading would be that the RWA sees e-publishing as a synonym for erotic romance, and since the RWA failed in its attempt to exclude erotic romance overtly from the genre, it’s now trying to do so covertly. And, whilst they are at it, re-establish the pecking order…

  82. Vivian Arend
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 16:10:19

    All this is fascinating and distracting me from completing my current wip. But I had to observe:

    Considering these discussions and debates are all occurring online, on twitter and via emails.

    Considering a supporter of RWA pointed out earlier in this thread there are resources available -online- provided by RWA to members on the writer’s craft (she can enlarge it to read it better.) That there is available -online- publisher information etc.

    There’s even- Glory be!- an E-Notes newsletter!

    And I have to direct quote this part:

    Every issue, btw, has email addys for the contributors, who appreciate getting links to relevant, up-to-date articles from members.

    Relevant. Up to date.

    Sounds a little like the ePublisher model to me.

  83. Chicklet
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 16:21:35

    Repeating, again: Different options, not mutually exclusive.

    To me, the issue is that RWA is making print publication and epublication “mutually exclusive” by refusing to recognize epublication as legitimate. I can’t understand why they have such a problem accepting epublication as an alternative route for authors. It seems hypocritical to accept membership fees from authors whose work you don’t accept based solely on its method of distribution.

  84. Leeann Burke
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 16:35:02

    Jane your blog said exactly what I've been thinking since I read Ms Pershing's president letter.

    This is a hot topic for many RWA members. A lot of authors from small press that I have spoken to feel they should be treated as equals in the sense that their books should qualify for the RITA. I agree with them. The way things are now they don't qualify for either a RITA or Golden Heart.

    What do I want and expect from RWA? I'd like to see the education be about the industry as a whole (as many have mentioned here) and not centered only on what NY is doing. They have to realize that small publishers aren't all bad. I'm with a fabulous small publisher. Will I make the same royalties if I were with a big pub? Heck no. Did I seek RWA's advice before signing my contract? No, I went out and got the information myself so I could make an informed decision before I signed my contract. Essentially what I kept in mind is this is my career not RWA or its board career. Mine.

    Will I quit RWA over this? Not at this time, but I can understand why some would.

  85. Lisa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 16:37:22

    The epublishing and small press question has been going on since well before the erotic wave. It’s just become bigger as alternate forms of publishing have grown. I don’t think this has anything to do with erotic romance.

  86. Jane
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 16:56:01

    @Chicklet: Yes, that’s exactly it. Print publishing may be superior in forms of revenue for some authors, but only for a tiny minority. Digital publishing is just one more option.

  87. Zoe Winters
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 17:12:59

    @ Sandy James:

    Publishing is so dog eat dog, that I really think that for some people the only thing they have to hold onto anymore is the cachet of the name of their publisher.

    If that wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t feel the need to snub you. If it’s really so incredibly awesome being where they are, why oh why would they try to make you feel small?

    It’s been my experience that those individuals who try to make you feel small are not happy with where they’re at or who they are.

    And please don’t anyone NY print pubbed jump on me about how great it is to be NY print-pubbed. It’s clearly not “that great” for some people if they have to be snots to anyone else not where they’re at. I’m talking individuals here, not entire groups of people.

    The more successful and happy people tend to be more gracious to others around them.

  88. Stevie
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 17:21:53

    I think Freud would require rather more than an unsupported statement in order to convince him that this very odd behaviour has got nothing to do with sex…

  89. Julieb
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 17:23:14

    This conversation has been mostly about money, but what about contracts? I’ve seen several e-publishers and small print publishers with contracts that grab ALL rights for the life of the copyright and/or have inadequate reversion clauses. Some publishers don’t get approved by the RWA (or MWA or SFWA) for those reasons.

    Believe me, you can stand to lose far more money with a bad contract than you can make with a good one. It’s not just about the advances or the royalty. It’s about your copyright and your ability to decide what rights you want to keep and who you want to sell other rights to – and for how long.

    Personally, I think these organizations will have to start reviewing e-publishers for approval. This will require a different set of criteria, and you know that’s not going to happen overnight. Right now you should lobby your organizations to start working out that set of criteria.

  90. Shiloh Walker
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 18:15:53

    I don’t want to get too involved in another discussion. Frankly, it’s giving me a headache.

    But RWA can’t logically claim to be the voice of romance, to be an advocate when they are neglecting a percentage of their membership.

    Those that epub need that advocacy as well. If RWA isn’t willing to provide it, then lets us know. Please. I want to find an organization that will support BOTH aspects of my career.

  91. Karen Templeton
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 18:41:22

    Print publishing may be superior in forms of revenue for some authors, but only for a tiny minority.

    Superior to e-publishing for a “tiny minority”? Sorry, but have to disagree with this. Granted, neither of us are dealing with hard figures…but just considering how many authors Harlequin alone contracts, and how many of those can, and do, make a living wage writing 2-3 books a year, I’m not seeing how that translates to “tiny minority.”

    And every single *brand new* Har author gets an initial advance three times over the minimum suggested by RWA (except for the Briefs, I understand)…and I can’t think of a single line that won’t earn her at *least* double that in additional royalties.

    Add to that all those authors who, while not making a fortune writing for other NY houses (although clearly, some do) are *still* making more than a couple hundred dollars a book. Romance authors, on average, do far better than writers in other genres, for obvious reasons — we sell more books, and generally more copies of the books.

    Yes, there are romance writers who don’t make enough to live on. Plenty of them. And there are e-book authors who are doing very nicely. But people are still buying more print books than e-books, and will for some time. Therefore I’m having a hard time understanding how the print model *in general* produces less income for those authors than e-publishing does for its authors.

    Absolutely, the business is hard — to break into and to stay in — no matter what choices an author chooses. If you’re looking to make a quick buck, or even a slow one, fuggedaboutit. But I’ve yet to hear of a print author with a NY pub complain that her book has barely earned enough to take her family out to eat. Which leads me to believe the two “camps,” as it were, are defining “low-earner” very differently.

    Let’s put it this way: I consider a “bomb” to be a book that earns under 10K. I think I’ve had maybe 6 of those out of more than 30 titles, and the first three were in a dying line, when I was a total newbie. My experience with Harlequin is by no means an anomaly.

    Which means I’m by no means part of a “tiny minority.” :)

  92. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 18:43:08

    There are currently three ways an author makes money: a) an advance that never is sold through; b) more unit sales; and c) a higher royalty.

    Who the heck told you an advance is “never sold through”?

    A more accurate statement would be that there are two ways a novelist makes money: flat payment (aka work for hire) or royalties. Period.

    Every author has to sell books, whatever format, and collect royalties, whatever the percentage. More money requires more unit sales, no matter what the format. A higher royalty rate does NOT guarantee a higher income, but only that you have to sell fewer books to reach a set dollar amount.

    NY publishers do profit-loss statements on each and every book, calculating projected sales based on past experience with that type of book and offering advances based on those calculations. Again, the advance is against the royalties they expect the book to earn; it is not some separate funding. Advances are also the publisher sharing some of the risk with the author, instead of making the author take it all on themselves-‘a distinction that becomes clear when you start selling books before they’re written and can use that advance money to buy your lattes or pay your rent while you write. And yes, the books take longer to come out, but that’s *why* the publisher pays you up front.

    It’s been my experience that publishers know their markets extremely well and the P/L statements come in within just a few dollars of final figures for most midlist books, i.e. the books earn out, or very nearly so. To get royalties beyond that earn-out, of course, means the sales have to rise beyond expectations, though not necessarily to “break-out” levels. Authors earn money beyond their advance more often than you seem to think (far more often than “never,” anyway).

    I would venture a guess (just a guess, but one based on talking to authors published by both types of press) that the average author who receives an advance makes more money than the average author who does not (emphasizing AVERAGE, in case you missed that). Sure, there are e-pubbed authors who make terrific money, but there are print pubbed authors who make even more terrific money. And there are authors in both models who make precious little; logic dictates that the bottom for e-published authors must be lower precisely because they receive no advances.

    One e-pubbed author I know, who makes decent money with one of the bigger e-publishers, has told me that her per-book return has dropped considerably because the publisher brings out so many more books each month now. As a result, each book sells fewer copies (i.e., the market is diluted). To make the same money in a year, she now has to write more books, thus diluting her personal market even further.

    What that tells me is that e-publishing suffers from the same midlist crisis as traditional publishing. The only difference is that an epublisher can afford to continue to offer authors a spot in the list even if their sales are down, because the upfront expenses on a given book are low. There’s no real risk to the publisher in having more books on the website, since 4×1000 is the same as 8×500 or 32×125. On the other hand, if the publisher paid a $1000 advance per book, it would be in the publisher’s interest to avoid diluting the market, so that there was a stronger chance that each of those books would earn that advance back. As it stands now, it’s possible, perhaps likely, that some of those 32 authors will make nothing or next to nothing. (Here’s a related philosophical question: Is it better for an author with low sales to continue to be ‘published’ but make little or better for her to be told “sorry, no, we’re not buying the next one” right up front-‘before she spends six months or a year writing the book? I’m not sure, just like I’m not always sure whether to pull off the band aid slowly, or rip it off fast. Hurt less for longer, or hurt more for less time?)

    On another point: Someone complained that they somehow can’t “really” know what e-royalty rates NY publishers pay, though I don’t see why that’s any more unknown than what epubs “really” pay. But for purposes of illumination: so far, I’ve had approximately the same percent of sales on e-versions of my recent books as Allison Brennan discussed, and I get the same royalty rate. Those results make rough sense when you look at the percentage of romance readers who bought even one electronic book in the last year (2009 RomStats survey, done by RWA) compared to the numbers who bought print copies.

    What would be helpful to me as an author would be to able to compare my ebook sales with those of the full range of e-pubbed authors. I’d love to be able to sit down with some industry-wide numbers, and I hope that some accurate, comprehensive figures are published someday soon. Maybe I’ll suggest to Brenda Hiatt that she include hard numbers (# of copies sold, as well as total $$ earned) for ebook sales of both epubbed and trad pubbed authors in her ongoing money survey. Those numbers wouldn’t be all that revealing, however, unless the majority of both trad and epubbed authors submit accurate data for all their books (not just their best or worst sellers). Still, any hard info at all would be better than the sort of random, out-of-context claims that we have now, and a numbers check would enable both authors and organizations to make better decisions about how to proceed.

  93. Sandy James
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 18:58:59

    I appreciate the kind comments, but whether people act like stuck up snobs or not doesn’t matter. What matters is a professional organization — MY professional organization — treats different members in different ways. I suppose that RWA’s stance on epubs fosters some of the elitism, but in all honesty, I don’t care how people like that act. They’re not worth my time or worry.

    But RWA can't logically claim to be the voice of romance, to be an advocate when they are neglecting a percentage of their membership.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Shiloh.

  94. Lisa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 19:12:53

    But is RWA protecting authors but saying that every publisher that publishes a bunch of ebooks is accepted? Isn’t that saying they have the stamp of approval and making authors who don’t know better think they will make good money, be well edited, and so on? There has to be SOME validation process to protect everyone. I know when I started out I didn’t know how to decide which epub was the best one. And there sure isn’t anyway from the outside to know who is selling 50 books per release rather than 1500 or 2000 or even 5000 per release (speaking of ehouses) That would be an injustice to the authors looking for a place to put their work because they would make decisions on those choices. Just because an ehouse publishes does not mean they publish well. And just because they publish does not mean they are selling many books. I would have loved to have had some ability to know which ones were stable, selling books, and a good career move, when I started out. It would be great to somehow have that available resource. But is it fair to say that anyone who opens a epub should automatically be accepted? Maybe if we had some level of acceptance. Gold star, silver star, whatever. So people know these publishers meet certain criteria only. …?

  95. Zoe Winters
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 19:23:02

    @ Shiloh Walker: I thought your comments on the Espan post were very intelligent and pretty much why I can’t take seriously the arguments about “protecting author’s earning abilities” and blah blah blah. All the points you made about the various ways they shift the goal posts in order to shun epub, makes it clear that there may be one agenda parroted on the surface, but it’s not the only one.

    To me, one of the most telling issues is the Golden Hart vs the Rita and how epublication can make you ineligible for both. How can you be published and unpublished at the same time? Oh the paradox. RWA finds a way.

    @Sandy, totally agreed. It’s one thing for individual people to be jerks, but when an organization pretty much endorses the behavior with their policies…

  96. Robin
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 19:25:55

    Am I the only one who remembers Jaid Black throwing down with Laura Lee Guhrke on AAR? God, how long ago was that? It seems like this debate has been going on for so long, and that while epublishing continues to grow, RWA has continued to narrow in its stance.

  97. Lisa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 19:31:57

    The Rita issue is another one altogether. I couldn’t even stay tuned to a conversation on a loop about erotic romance being unworthy of the Rita judges. They didn’t want to judge it erotica — -some went to far as to say sex is a filler for REAL writing. It was bad. Hurtful things being said from well published authors. It was clear that the erotic romances were not going to get a fair shot from half the judges. So the Rita issue– it goes beyond epublishing. It has the entire erotic is going on and in a big way.

  98. Dayna/Rowan
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 19:34:39

    @Lisa Hendrix:
    Considering I’ve been asking for the information you posted, I’m grateful for your reply. Your tone, and your accusation that I was lying about the RWA – that was uncalled for.

    I was clear in my original post:
    I have been asking members what they get, and they tell me networking.
    I asked about a book – no one remembered getting one. (I take it it’s a download?)
    I asked about a list of publishers – most members I’ve spoken to are confused about the “recognized” publisher system being abandoned and…what has replaced it.

    I never said RWA doesn’t provide these things. (though I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t aware of some of them, specifically regarding the ‘list of tips’.)

    I said:
    I have been asking members of RWA what they get out of it, and not one of them came up with the list of resources that you did. Not. One. In two years.

    The answers I get from members about what they get from RWA are always the same: My local group is awesome, conference is great.

  99. Chicklet
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 19:54:10

    There has to be SOME validation process to protect everyone.

    Is RWA doing this type of validation process for print publishers? If so, then why can’t they do it for epublishers?

  100. Zoe Winters
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:17:35

    Exactly, Chicklet.

    I think we can all agree that Samhain is a legit epub and above boards. There are others, but Samhain definitely. So the RWA people if they can agree on that point, needs to decide what about Samhain makes them legit and trustworthy, and then create a set of standards and figure out who else measures up in a way that isn’t so narrow *only* Samhain is in the group but isn’t so wide everybody is in it.

    I’m not saying such a thing would be an easy task, but really is there ANYONE who thinks Samhain isn’t legit or trustworthy or is bad for an author’s career somehow?

    I think a good yardstick would be if an epub has a certain percentage of authors earning a certain amount of money on a title. THen you’ve got a quantifiable money amount, without the advance model. The advance model doesn’t work for epubs and admitting that doesn’t dismantle the print pub advance model or the argument for the print pub advance model.

    Publishing society won’t erode if RWA admits Samhain and others are “real publishers.”

  101. Angela James
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:31:59

    @Karen Templeton:

    And every single *brand new* Har author gets an initial advance three times over the minimum suggested by RWA (except for the Briefs, I understand)…and I can't think of a single line that won't earn her at *least* double that in additional royalties.

    I’m not really participating in this conversation (you don’t see me here, right?) but I had to address this because no, actually they don’t. Harlequin does three digital-only lines at this time. Some of those authors are signed for an advance of under $1000 with a different royalty scale, though I didn’t ask the specifics of that (anyone see anything interesting here? Digital only? Lower advances?) I know because I asked around and got verification from contracts as recent as the last few months. What’s interesting to me about that is both times Ms. Pershing has posted about the RWA’s stance on advances, she has said that eligible publishers give a minimum 1k to “every single author”. I think she even emphasized that in her ESPAN post.

  102. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:43:07


    Yes, RWA does demand exactly the same standards from print publishers, which, btw, created a similar blow-up when FiveStar entered the romance field and didn’t have a track record in romance. They weren’t considered “approved” until they offered evidence that they were paying advances and royalties, putting out a minimum # of books, etc.

    @ Dayna

    I agree, I sounded pissy-‘probably because I was pissed. I get really tired of people dissing an organization that has done so much for thousands of writers. Especially dissing it by promoting wrong information. Whatever your intentions, it came across to me as saying that those things weren’t offered by RWA.

    Perhaps the folks you questioned answered “networking” because because we’re (mostly) women and all about relationships. Or perhaps it was a facile answer, or what they thought would most interest a non-member, as you say you are. I don’t know.

    I do know that members I’ve spoken to are generally aware of most or all those resources I listed. And I also know that if asked “what do you get from RWA?” even I wouldn't say “publisher information” or “author advocacy in the event of problems” or “a free downloadable book on craft” or even “a fabulous education in the craft and business of writing.”

    What I’d say is that I’ve gotten good friends, connections with savvy women, a chapter that I love, and a great conference that I attend whenever I can. But just because that’s my answer, that doesn't mean it’s *all* I’ve gotten. And I doubt it’s all that the people who responded to you have gotten either.

  103. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:45:22

    @Angela James

    Harlequin does three digital-only lines at this time. Some of those authors are signed for an advance of under $1000 with a different royalty scale, though I didn't ask the specifics of that

    I’m curious — Are those lines for full-length novels or shorts?

  104. Karen Templeton
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:48:47

    I'm not really participating in this conversation (you don't see me here, right?) but I had to address this because no, actually they don't. Harlequin does three digital-only lines at this time. Some of those authors are signed for an advance of under $1000 with a different royalty scale,

    To Angela-who-isn’t-here :):

    That’s why I mentioned the Briefs, because I know they’re handled differently. I was talking about full-length print, which still makes up the majority of Har’s catalog.

  105. Jane
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:53:19

    @Lisa Hendrixof course I know that people earn out their advances. My statement was inarticulate, though. If you have an existing contract and want to earn more, there is limited ways to achieve that.

    As for esales of print books v books that are in e format only, there is no comparison. It’s not an accurate apples to apples measurement.

  106. Jane
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:54:09

    @Karen Templeton Yes, you are a tiny minority. Statistics state that only 5 % of writers earn a living wage writing. Even amongst RWA members, only a small portion are published and even smaller portion can actually write for a living.

  107. Jane
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:55:16

    @Lisa Hendrix I asked before but didn’t see it, as to what RWA has done for authors as a body since the Harlequin thing. I.e., when has RWA exercised their muscle on behalf of the authors?

  108. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 20:59:06

    Never mind, I found the answer.

    All three of the e-only Harlequin lines Angela James alluded to (Nocturne Bites, Historical Undone, Spice Briefs) are novella-length, 10-15,000 words. NOT novel length fiction as she implied.

    The lower advances would be because of that shorter length, not because they are digital only. Print novellas also get lower advances at Harlequin. The total to all authors in a print anthology is approximately equal to that paid for a novel. I don’t know if that’s true for the e-books, or even if Bites, etc., are published as part of an anthology or as short stand-alones.

  109. Karen Templeton
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:03:40

    I’m not picking on you, Jane, I swear , but am I misreading your original statement, then?:

    Print publishing may be superior in forms of revenue for some authors, but only for a tiny minority.

    Superior to what?

    Before I run off at the mouth again, I want to be sure I’m running in the right direction. ;-)

  110. Melissa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:03:43

    Well, I have to say something even though I told myself I wouldn’t.

    What I'd say is that I've gotten good friends, connections with savvy women, a chapter that I love, and a great conference that I attend whenever I can.

    With all due respect, I do not pay money each year to have friends. It is a side benefit and I have to say, some of my best friends came from RWA or connections from RWA. I want an organization to be what is says it will be.

    Romance Writers of America is dedicated to advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy.

    That is from the RWA website. I do geniunely treasure the friendships I have made, but I am a career author, although not by Diane’s standards where people who make five figures aren’t really authors unless they are in print, and I want an organization that is career oriented as they advertise. The friendship is great but I need something that takes craft and career seriously and for the last few years, RWA has not done that. I don’t need a sorority sister. I want other authors who want to grow our organization, not limit people we don’t like because of what they write or their publisher. And for all the is holy, shouldn’t we have some movement on epiracy. RWA should be out in front on this, but they have been so sadly behind. That is the advocacy part.
    I know that most, not saying you, authors would rather we just leave if we don’t like it. In the beginning of my career they helped, but because I now have almost thirty of those mythical ebooks that earn my mythical money, I don’t get much out of conference career wise. And, my husband, once again, has asked that I leave. My BP is not worth it and as he says, I can spend that money on promotion for my books.

    I am sure I sound pissy to most people, but fighting over the same things we did three,four years ago is just asinine. Can we move into the 21st century? And again, I am sure we will be mocked on many industry sites because of Diane’s pettiness and unprofessional behavior(ie mentioning part of a private email convo without the other person’s permission).

  111. Lisa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:05:17

    I’ve done two bites and a Brief and I am in a print anthology for both. I thought the advances were standard for those but maybe not. It’s probably not professional to talk about the advances so I won’t. But they are short — very short. 8k for some of the briefs. 10-15k for the Bites. Is the RWA rule for full length novels or are novellas and shorts included in the 1k rule?

  112. Melissa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:05:47

    Jane, they have done nothing to advocate. The one thing they could do was work on piracy, but they do nothing but have a clearinghouse of links…that does nothing.

  113. Linda Winfree
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:06:57

    Jane wrote:

    As for esales of print books v books that are in e format only, there is no comparison. It's not an accurate apples to apples measurement.

    Thank you! The distribution is vastly different, and actually, the market/audience may vary widely also (while still possibly overlapping).

  114. Jane
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:10:32

    @Karen Templeton: If print publishing is the only legitimate source of publishing then it is superior in money only for the tiny percentage that it allows in. Digital publishing allows authors who, for various reasons, have not found a home in print publishing to earn income off their writing.

  115. Melissa Blue
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:21:46

    @Karen Templeton: Say, for instance, an e-publisher or small press decided, for whatever reason, to give their authors a $1000. advance. Why would they necessarily lower the royalty rate as a trade-off?

    Not sure if someone else has answered since I’m still going through the comments.

    From my understanding e-publishers are able to have a low-overhead because they do not pay advances. Low-overhead means they can take on more authors. They can take more chances on authors if the author choices to publish this way. They can pay the higher royalty-rate also.

    Why most won’t? E-publishers would turn into NY and all the benefits both the author and publisher reap from this model would no longer exist.

    At least that’s my understanding of it.

    Also, @Joanie T, you said, “Members who dedicate an inordinate amount of time to weighing decisions and leading this organization in the best way they know how. It's not an easy job.”

    No it shouldn’t stoop to this level, because they do dedicate their time to RWA. Yet at the same time it doesn’t excuse those same officials to insult even a percentage of paying members. Just because I’m not consider the majority gives you the right to call me what you wish based on your personal opinion. The leaders of this organization are supposed to lead by example.

    *back to reading all the comments*

  116. Karen Templeton
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:25:31



    Still have thoughts on this, but alas, they aren’t coherent enough to foist on anybody right now. :)

  117. Mary Winter
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:26:44

    Jane, they have done nothing to advocate. The one thing they could do was work on piracy, but they do nothing but have a clearinghouse of links…that does nothing.

    THANK YOU, Melissa. RWA could work on piracy. They don’t.

    I emailed them when took the buy buttons off of POD listings (including at least one electronic/print romance publisher). I emailed every member of the board, my regional representative, and my PAN liason. I heard nothing. From any of them.

    Where have they been on the Google Book Lawsuit?

    Where have they been on reports of publisher shenanigans?

    Do they even have a grievance committee where members (or non members) can mention issues with publishers? I’ve scoured every part of their website I can get to and I didn’t see it.

    When I emailed my concerns over the whole fiasco three years ago (?) when they called Samhain and EC “subsidy” and “vanity” publishers at the AGM, all I heard was… “we’ll clarify soon.” Excuse me. You’re a writers organization devoted to writers, and you can’t use a dictionary?

    With 10,000 members, RWA has a heck of a lot of clout. I’d like to see them use their powers for the good of all romance authors, no matter whether certain individuals agree with their particular career-focus.

  118. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:28:59

    @jane asked

    I asked before but didn't see it, as to what RWA has done for authors as a body since the Harlequin thing. I.e., when has RWA exercised their muscle on behalf of the authors?

    The Publisher Summit, for one thing. Every year, RWA sends a team to NY to meet with publishers and industry professionals. They collect info to share back to members, carry member concerns to the publishers (e.g. concerns about certain contract clauses). In the recent past (a couple of years ago), they met with PW and B&N about growing the market, they hired an attorney stepped in during the Triskelion shutdown to advise authors. They helped fund a publisher audit, they directly contacted at least one pirate site with a cease and desist letter on behalf of members whose books had been posted, and they have worked with publishers to come up with better ways to deal with the pirate issue. As part of that effort, RWA also maintains a section within the national website on Internet Piracy with a sample DMCA takedown notice.

    I’d have to go back through RWR and eNotes to give you any more specific answers, and frankly I don’t have time. (I don’t have time to do what I’ve done so far, for that matter, and my editor may shoot me for spending time here instead of on my writing, but I think this is an important conversation.) Maybe someone with more current knowledge can step in and contribute more-‘although I think the list above is pretty impressive.

    You should realize, however, that some of the things we might like to see RWA do are actually violations of the TX law that governs the organization. Stuff the Authors Guild can do as a union is prohibited to RWA. So while RWA can express concerns and hire attorneys, part of what the attorneys have to do is keep board members and staff from overstepping RWA’s legal parameters.

  119. azteclady
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:30:42

    uh… why is it not professional to talk about advances?

    Why is there such a taboo about talking dollars and cents?

    Wouldn’t it actually help RWA’s members to know, in dollars and cents, what they can actually expect from their writing, and how to approach it as a business?

  120. Mary Winter
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:34:31

    You should realize, however, that some of the things we might like to see RWA do are actually violations of the TX law that governs the organization

    If you have a professional company, you choose the state that would allow you to incorporate to give you the best advantage for your business. Why do you think so many are Delaware LLCs (or Nevada, I think too.)?

    While not easy by any means, if TX law won’t allow them to do what they need to do, then they either need to a) lobby to change the laws or b) go where they can do some good. And c) they need to tell their members what they can and can’t do, and what they’d like to do, so their members can also lobby on their behalf.

  121. GrowlyCub
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:46:49


    That’s a belief that’s fostered by employers or clients everywhere because it’s not in their best interest for employees/contractors to know who earns what.

    If new author B gets X amount from publisher Y and new author A only got Z amount, I know who profits if author B keeps mum about money… hint: it’s not the authors!

  122. Melissa Blue
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:48:10

    NOT novel length fiction as she implied.

    I read the same comment, she didn’t imply length at all. At least not the way I read it.

    Wouldn't it actually help RWA's members to know, in dollars and cents, what they can actually expect from their writing, and how to approach it as a business?

    My point and many other’s point, exactly. It’s said that this information is on the web, all you have do is look. Is it accurate? Does it reflect the most current information? I can find out how much the CEO of McDonald made in seconds, but I can’t do the same for a newbie author or an author who has 6+ books under their belt.

  123. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:52:27

    Do they even have a grievance committee where members (or non members) can mention issues with publishers? I've scoured every part of their website I can get to and I didn't see it.


    One of the duties of the Professional Relations Manger is to “handle member complaints against publishers and agents.” Among other places, that information is listed on the About RWA page that lists all the staff and their duties. I believe it’s also in the RWR every month (don’t have a copy handy to check). I suggest that any member who needs assistance from the RWA National organization start out by reading thru staff duties to find out who does what. It saves everyone time and headaches.

    The only people who can work on piracy directly are authors and publishers. The DMCA gives only copyright owners the right to demand takedowns. RWA has worked with publishers to find solutions, but what it comes down to is that the organization is really not allowed to do anything more than educate you and provide you with information to do what you’re required to do anyway, for example the sample takedown letter I mentioned in my last comment.

    I not clear on what you said about Amazon and their POD button, nor what you expected RWA might do about it.

    The whole subsidy/vanity press thing is ultimately what the current blowup is about. I’m not going there.

    In fact, I’m not going anywhere except away. Please don’t direct more questions and comments my direction, because I’ve decided I need to get back to my own work. It’s been fun, entertaining, and even enlightening. But now I’m going back in my cave to pound pixels into fairy dust. ‘Night.

  124. Amie Stuart
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:55:03

    Karen I think (from what I’ve read anyone) most epublished authors (and even some who aren’t) realize it’s not Old vs New….because E and Print are apples and oranges. As my CP said last night, a diesel bus is not a useless form of transportation because it uses diesel instead of unleaded. It still gets you where you want to go, just with different gas :D

    I truly believe the next several years are going to bring about all sort of changes and shifts in the industry. I's already happening. But my guess is these changes will enhance and supplement what's still working, not invalidate them.

    I agree with you about 150% percent. Again, neither is right or wrong, they are only different.

    Now, I would like to see a higher royalty rate on my e-books with them (although thus far the numbers are so minuscule that it wouldn't make much difference)

    How long is the average print publishing contract? Seven years (I’m too lazy to pull mine out). How many more years do you think you’ll be writing? How many years will those ebooks Harlequin puts out be selling? When you’re talking technology, 7 years is more like 14. I got my first computer and got on the internet 12 years ago. My computer had a two gig hard drive (and I walked back and forth to school in the snow LOL). The thumb drive I store my work on–two gig. My friend’s iPhone? 16 gig. She’s not the biggest technophile but she also has a kindle! In seven years my youngest son will go to college. He’s an avid reader. He’ll probably have an ebook reader.

    To discount what you’re getting now in ebook royalties from your NY pub is only going to hurt you later on down the line (and by you I mean ANYONE not just you Karen :D ) In 10 or 20 years the percentage you agreed to now, is going to matter a lot. Our children (my children who are 13 and 15) ARE children of the digital age. Please don’t misunderstand me. I AM NOT SAYING E is better than print. What I am saying is that print authors need to be mindful of the digital rights they give give up in the here and now even if digital sales are minuscule.

    This is one of those things I would have liked to have seen RWA address a few years back when there was a kerfuffle over harlequin paying 4-6% for ebook royalties, because that’s an abysmal number. Even a survey among the rank and file members. As far as I know nothing happened. Let’s take one model vs the other out of the equation and talk digital rights.

    I posted a survey this morning regarding e-royalties from NY Pubs and the # of people who took it is sad. The number of people getting less than 10% of gross, equally sad.

    azteclady…YES!! THANK YOU!

  125. Lisa Hendrix
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:56:20

    Ah, gad. One last thing. I said I wanted to compare ebook sales of my NY published books to the ebook sales of e-pubbed books. Not my print sales.

    Apples to apples, in other words.

    Now, really, back to the bat cave.

  126. GrowlyCub
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:57:28

    Lisa Hendrix, can I point out that you are coming across really over the top defensive and unprofessional to this reader?

  127. Julieb
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 21:58:44

    I had a question that was answered after I hit the “submit” button. Rather than cause more confusion, I’ll just withdraw it.

  128. Linda Winfree
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 22:08:32

    Lisa Hendrix wrote:

    Ah, gad. One last thing. I said I wanted to compare ebook sales of my NY published books to the ebook sales of e-pubbed books. Not my print sales.

    Apples to apples, in other words.

    Lisa, I’m not even sure this is an apples to apples comparison. (Hoping someone will jump in and correct me if my logic is faulty). I think it may be more effective to compare the ebook sales of your NY published books to the print sales of an epubbed author. Why? Because your print version is the “main” release of that title, yes? Logically you would sell more copies in that format. The electronic form is then a secondary format. For me, the opposite is true — the “main” release of my book is the ebook format, with the print version being the secondary. It sounds as though the majority of your readers go looking for the print version, while the majority of my readers snag the ebook format. I consistently sell a much higher percentage of ebook format than I do print format for each title.

  129. Allison Brennan
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 22:13:21

    Popping in briefly to support Lisa–who I don’t know but she thinks largely like I do!–and to comment about YA’s. I also have 13 and 15 year olds. My 15 year old is not a big reader, but my 13 year old is the future reader of our genre. She loves books, reads two a week–not even for school–and devours historical fiction and historical YA romances. (Which is hilarious to me because historical romance is probably the only romance genre I don’t read!) I offered to buy her a kindle because she is always carrying a book around, and she said no, never. She hates to read on a screen. She said she spends too much time at the computer doing schoolwork. Stephanie Meyer offered free e-material on her website and my daughter took weeks to read it–when she read each Twilight book in two years. My 15 year old is never without her iPod, so I bought her a book on tape (download) and she said she was asleep in five minutes every time she tried to listen. When she does read, she wants to hold a book.

    I don’t think you can say with certainly unless we conduct a poll among young readers whether they prefer print to e-book format.

  130. Linda Winfree
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 22:15:30

    What Amie Stuart said!

    Like Amie, I do not see print publishing disappearing. However, in thirteen years of teaching high school English, I’ve seen the reading habits of young people change radically. My students actually read more; however, they are comfortable with electronically formatted material and many of them prefer to read in an electronic format (I can convince them to read The Canterbury Tales much more quickly in e-form than I can print form. Same text, same annotations, go figure).

    I believe there will always be a place for print books — I love my hardbacks and paperbacks as much as I do my iPhone ereader. But I want to see all authors receive appropriate renumeration for their work, no matter the format. What I don’t want to see is one group of authors treated as less because of the format in which their work is primarily delivered. That’s like saying the work of an online or distance instructor is less valid than that of a classroom direct instructor.

  131. Melissa Blue
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 22:18:37

    @Allison Brennan:

    I think the point Amie was trying to get across is that the disdain and ignorance of “what is an e-book?” won’t be as prevelant as it is for adults now. Even being an e-published author I don’t think the print format will ever go away.

    But will things change?


  132. Amie Stuart
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 22:19:19

    I don't think you can say with certainly unless we conduct a poll among young readers whether they prefer print to e-book format.

    Allison I meant five or ten years down the road, not right this instant. What we give away right now might not matter RIGHT NOW, but five or ten years from now, it’ll matter. Points to part of blog post title “…Lack of Vision”

    Like Linda I Love my print books!! but….

    but I want to see all authors receive appropriate renumeration for their work, no matter the format.

    Says it all.

  133. Lisa
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 22:25:16


    I don’t think its unprofessional to talk about advances — I think this is the wrong place to do it and you have to think about one author getting more or less than another. It needs to be done in a different place. Not here. And without names. A blind survey like what Brenda Hiatt does but on a larger scale

  134. Allison Brennan
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 23:19:36

    Gotcha, Amie. And you’re probably right.

    I’m not unhappy with my e-book royalties. They’re higher than print royalties, but there are costs associated with e-books. The higher royalties (15-25% for most ST publishers–though they are changing to net rather than cover price which I fought and lost. I’d said I’d rather have 15% on cover than 25% on net . . . but that’s another story.) For the sake of argument, let’s say that traditionally print published authors start selling 10% of their books via e-format within 5 years. (I, personally, don’t think that it will happen this quickly based on the numbers I have seen on my royalty statements. My e-book reading fans are stagnant, maybe I’ve increased my e-book sales by 30% from my first book to my most recent book that I have a statement …. but this last statement was before Kindle, so I’m eager to see if those numbers increase the percentage of books I sell via e-format–BUT I see far more units now per book than I did with my first books, so as a percentage of my total sales, e-books have decreased.)

    BUT I’ll grant the liberal extrapolation. Publishers would then spread the cost of producing the book (minus paper and shipping which is the bulk of the cost of print books) among all units sold. There’s editors, cover artists, e-book security, producing the book in multiple e-book formats, granting large discounts to some e-book distributions (like Amazon has been demanding), additional staff cost, etc. Right now print publishers are eating the cost of the e-books because they’re not selling enough to pay for them–again, based on MY numbers only because that’s all I have access to.

    Anyway, I don’t know that we disagree for the most part. Maybe on some of the details, but ultimately, for me, the bottom line is that I want to find my readers anyway they want to read my book: print or e-format.

    Re: advances. Yes, I do think that it is unprofessional to talk about advances because the advance is only one part of the overall contract. There are other important things that are all up for negotiation.

    I learned real quick after I sold that I can never compare my career with any other author. Some authors get more money, some less. You can’t compare new author A with new author B because advances are reflective of far more than simply writing a book. It has to do with genre–some genres sell better than others. It has to do with voice–one author may have a stronger “voice” for the genre in the opinion of that editor. It has to do with the agent–some agents push harder than others. It has to do with the house, the individual stories, the time of year, the market, holes in their publishing plan (let’s say that a major historical romance author moved to another house and the pub wants another historical romance author in that time period–they may pay MORE for that author than a romantic suspense author where they already have four under contract.) And the advance is only part of the overall package. There are rights–foreign rights, film rights, audio rights, etc. Some authors are willing to accept a lower advance in order to keep their foreign rights, which can be very lucrative. Some authors are willing to accept a lower advance to work with a specific editor, or because they think that house will publish their book better than another house. Some authors have bonuses, which are rarely added to the advance when posted on Publishers Marketplace. Some authors have negotiated higher than standard royalty rates in lieu of a higher advance. Some authors have higher advances because they’ve agreed to accept a larger percentage of the advance on publication, rather than the bulk on signing then D&A.

    You can’t compare any two authors and say one has a better contract based on the advance alone. What you’d have to ask an author to do is reveal all the terms of their contract and then someone arbitrarily decides what’s better? What’s better for me may not be better for another author.

    Publishers always offer less than they are willing to pay. That’s business 101. It’s true in virtually every business. When you ask for a raise at work, you always ask for far more than what you’d settle for. In negotiations, the same principle is at work. You ask for the moon, they offer dirt, and you work from there. This is the same for virtually every author from new to midlist to NYT.

  135. Krissy
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 23:32:25

    This has been a very interesting topic indeed.

    I think comparing RWA to GMC maybe inaccurate. Comparing any NY pub to GMC and the Publishing Print industry to the Automotive Industry might be more accurate.

    As a reader I was not surprised to see Romance novels as recession proof in a recent article picked up on the AP.

    However, As an employee of a fortune five-hundred company, I have to tell you that every business is looking at tightening it’s belt and making changes. We are asked as employees to be innovative, look for cost savings and think lean. This statement is true of most industries. Why would the sales of a book be any different.

    The change may not occur because RWA members are e-published but perhaps because the NY houses need to be innovative to survive. We’ve seen many lines fold. Heck we’ve seen some houses fold. A viable business model is just that- a business model. If NY houses are looking at e-publishing and they did, they will undoubtedly experiment with other models as well.

    As we watch corporations besides publishing change with these economic times it makes sense that publishing itself will change. As a reader I’ve purchased print, digital and audio to suit my needs and my economics.

    Regardless of the RWA. Publishers (all of them) will do business as they need to survive and if the RWA hopes to play they will need to change with these times.

  136. azteclady
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 23:42:30

    Ms Brennan, out of curiosity… if an advance doesn’t tell the whole story, why the focus on that $1,000 advance? why is that held then as a measure of recognition for publishers?

    nota bene: I address the question to you only because you answered me; I don’t necessarily think you would be speaking for RWA’s board if you answer it.

  137. Allison Brennan
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 00:02:05

    azteclady: I honestly don’t know how RWA came up with the advance threshold. Why $1,000 and not $5,000? $500? $20,000? I’m pretty confident that they had a reason they felt was strong before they instituted the plan. Whether I agree or not is irrelevant because I do support some method of publisher recognition. I don’t know which is the best, but RWA does not operate in a vacuum. There’s a board who votes, and the majority–could have been unanimous or a slim majority, but there are a lot of people on the board (more than 14 or 15, I think) agreed to this method.

    I think the important thing here is that RWA is not alone in having some sort of publisher recognition program. All the major writing organizations have it. I had to submit the last page of my signed contract to MWA before I could become an active author member. ITW does not recognize e-pubs or vanity presses, and you have to be published by an advance paying publisher (though they do not specific a dollar amount.) ITW and MWA do not allow unpublished authors to vote or serve on the board; RWA is unique in that, I believe (though the president has to be published.)

  138. SandyW
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 00:09:40


    Am I the only one who remembers Jaid Black throwing down with Laura Lee Guhrke on AAR? God, how long ago was that?

    I remember that, but I don't remember how long ago it was. Some of Ms. Pershing's comments remind me of Ms. Guhrke's attitude – that epublishing cannot be considered on the same professional level as print publishing, that writers who are epublished aren't really published, and that no one makes any money to speak of from epublishing. Ms. Black responded with some general figures for the highest earning group of authors at Ellora's Cave. Ms. Guhrke did the math, arrived at $60,000 a year more or less, and declared that she didn't consider 60k a significant amount of money.

    I find that I am still somewhat offended by that dismissive attitude and I am not a published writer or a member of RWA.

  139. Edie
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 00:35:26

    Yes they do need some form of publisher recognition program.. but I also feel they need to face up to epub more than they do.
    Even if they do not formally recognise a e-publisher, wouldn’t it make sense to start looking at e-publishing in general? Even as an author tool? In the short time I have been watching the industry, the ebook thing seems to just have grown steadily and become more and more widespread. It’s there and it does not seem to be going away, with even the big boys starting ebook lines etc, so why not start addressing the industry as a whole?

    Nor do I understand the whys of it being deemed unprofessional to be part of a new growth industry, to be trying to make money from your craft, when from what I have heard from a lot of established (big name) authors is that it can take years or decades to crack into the big boys world.
    I am not an author, but must admit if I was, instead of wiling away my spare time and spare cash doing the cartwheels for the limited NY spots, I would probably be looking into e-publishing to at least get some form of payment while on the learning curve.. if that makes sense?

  140. awriter
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 03:59:51

    I honestly don't know how RWA came up with the advance threshold. Why $1,000 and not $5,000? $500? $20,000?

    IIRC the $1000 advance/royalty threshold refers to PAN. I think they were planning to bring in it much higher – $2000? and advance only? But there was a lot of complaints on the rwa loops, much like this about how everyone was out to get ebook published authors. After that when it came in it was lowered. I did expect some of the more vocal ebook published authors who were attacking the board to run for the board but none of them ever did. I guess people are more interested in attacking authority figures than stepping up and being authority figures.

  141. Erin F. Slattery
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 06:05:20

    Thanks for linking to my BEA summary, Jane. It’s fascinating to read your take on the state of things at RWA. Best of luck with your work! :)

  142. Angela James
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 06:06:19

    @Lisa Hendrix I actually didn’t imply novel length because it never even occurred to me that novel length books were the only length of book implied in this RWA conversation (this meaning conversation here and elsewhere). I thought we were talking about books, which to me meant/means of all lengths. I was also going off of Ms. Pershing’s statement of “every single author” (quoted from both RWR and ESPAN) which doesn’t add “of novel-length works” anywhere that I can see.

    You come from a different publishing view, so I think the “novel” was implied from your own perception, not anything I said or indicated.

  143. Nora Roberts
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 06:21:23

    I’m on vacation and just don’t have the inclination to read through all the comments now. But I’d like to make one on what RWA offers, and how many of its members see it as a tool and a community–flawed, but valuable.

    At literally every national conference people come up to thank me for suggesting they join when they’ve asked me how to get published or get an agent. Through the national or their local chapters, the workshops, meetings, seminars offered, they’ve been able to make face-to-face contact with editors, agents, other writers. They’ve been educated on the business through these sources. They’ve learned and developed contacts and relationships. Many of those who take the time to speak to me about it have since been published.

    Education and contacts are essential in any business, and certainly are in publishing.

    Contests are another tool for gathering feedback, perhaps getting the attention of an editor or agent–and again learning.

    RWA will not and cannot be all things to all members. Imo one of its flaws is that it too often tries to be, and ends up disappointing people.

    I’ve often disagreed with RWA’s policies over the years, and have said so. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find the organization valuable.

    I’ve never run for office in the organization. If, however, my disagreement with a policy was severe, and was one I felt strongly centered on my career, I would.

  144. Shiloh Walker
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 07:23:30

    @Allison Brennan:
    Ms. Brennan

    I agree with you about advances-in regarding to traditional print publishing. I’m working on a Ballantine series now that won’t be out until 2011 (I think). It would seriously suck to not get any money until then for these books.

    Two weeks ago, I finished a category length book for Samhain that will be out in November. Less than five months from now. I’m fine not getting an advance with that one.

    Epublishing, plain and simply, works for so many of us because the huge royalty rate we get. 35-40% of the cover price. The reason epubs can offer that is because they keep their overhead low.

    If they suddenly start sending out $1000 advances for every contract, there goes the low overhead.

    Plus, it’s risky. The solid, established epubs have got business models that work. Trying to get them to (drastically) change a working business model is foolish, IMO.

    And of course, there’s the fact that at one time Samhain DID pay advances. RWA changed their policy. Again.

    And of course, I’m curious-how does this policy affect the imprint of Random House (is it RH?) that won’t pay advances in exchange for a larger cut of the royalties?

    RWA needs to find a way to view epubs because they can’t measure them on the same yardstick they use for print. They just can’t.

    They could try setting standards:

    The epub must be in business X amount of years.
    The titles at the epub must sell an X average of copies.

    RWA needs to set standards that fit epublishing and NOT change them.

  145. Allison Brennan
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 08:06:23

    Shiloh, I completely agree with everything you said. My comments re: advances was in response to comments that there was nothing “better” about getting advances.

    I just read Nora Roberts’ comments about RWA not able to be all things to all people, and that says it all. I worked in the legislature for 13 years, and politicians who stood in the middle of the road and talked out of both sides of their mouth, or tried to please everyone, ended up pleasing no one. I’ve spoken up when I disagreed with something, and have on occasion written letters to the board. Sometimes I’ve liked the decisions, sometimes I haven’t. But the board is full of smart women who make decisions they think works for the majority of it’s members. They’re not people with an evil agenda. (This isn’t in response to your comment, but to some of the more heated comments re: the board and president.)

    Oh, and welcome to the Ballantine team! :) Hope to meet you in Washington!

  146. Jody Wallace
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 09:02:29

    Someone upthread said:

    >> but there are costs associated with e-books.

    Thank you. I wish more people would realize that. Epublishers *do* take risks with each and every author they contract, even if they don’t cough up a $1000+ advance. The smaller risk is parallel to the fact they are a smaller business, not a multimillion dollar corporation. Smaller businesses HAVE to have lower overhead in order to succeed. Business 101.

    The misinformation out there is that ebooks cost nothing to produce. And that is just one reason of many why authors need to be better educated about the digital publishing process and their digital rights.

  147. azteclady
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 09:28:18

    Ms Brennan,

    Actually, my question regarding the one thousand dollars is in response to your previous comment saying that advances should not be discussed because they don’t tell the whole story.

    I agree, advances don’t tell the whole story, by a long shot.

    As Jane explained in today’s breakdown comparison, authors who sign to get an advance may not see one cent of it for months–and they may not see the entirety of it for a year or more. And it may be even longer before they see actual royalty payments.

    Many digitally published authors start getting checks–some modest, some not so much–within a month or two of their work’s release. Many have stated that they break that one thousand dollars threshold rather quickly. Many had stated that they continue receiving royalty checks for years after.

    Neither of these tell “the whole story” but shouldn’t more information about both be shared, freely, to help all of RWA’s make informed decisions about what is best for *their* careers?

  148. Lisa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 09:50:30

    Responding to advances not telling the entire picture — I know this was directed at Allison but coming from epublishing a few things come to mind:

    –Epublishers still don’t pay until after release. If you are getting fast releases these are usually (I said usually) the publishers selling under 200 books per release. If you do the math the paycheck the author gets isn’t going to pay many bills. BUT it helps to pay to promote your name, do a website, keep plugging away and thus it has value. Or it pays a trip to the grocery store or whatever works for that person. The houses that sell more tend to have a 4-5 month wait for release. For a first time author, longer. My first EC took 9 months to release. That was a long wait. After that, it was much faster.

    –Advances — they usually come fairly fast. I know contract and payment are usually right at 30 days. With a few exceptions, its higher substantially than the payout on an ebook and you then have that money to live on while you write the book

    The Advance matters but if I get cover approval it might help me get shelf placement. If I get my foreign rights I might make another sale on this book and ANOTHER advance. If I get closer release dates I get more exposure. So you can’t say one advance is apples to apples. That doesn’t mean that average upfront advances are not relevant. It simply means authors need to know that there is much more to look at than just the dollar figure. And how did I learn that ? At an RWA convention where Joan Johnston gave an amazing seminar on contracts.

    I completely agree both payment models, advances and no advances, work as long as the people involved understand what they are getting into, and what their chances of reward truly may be. I also really really worry about new authors thinking that some epublisher that someone throws together despite having no credentials is going to sell tons of books for them and advance their career. I vote for validation process for the publishers that requires some method of saying they deserve the confidence of an author and the readers. Samhains and EC’s where we know we will make money, we will get exposure, we are advancing. That said, every books we finish, we publish, we promote, teaches us something and we grow. I believe in that value to. But please — lets not let every mom and pop epublisher have RWA status. That isn’t even fair to places like Samhain that edits well, grows careers, and is professional in all possible ways.

    As for not discussing advance amounts here– it is simply not appropriate. You don’t talk about pay in an open forum. It’s not professional.

  149. Allison Brennan
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 10:04:37

    Ms Azteclady:

    I said I felt it was unprofessional to discuss advances, and used all the other factors that go into contract negotiations as one reason why–but there are others. Most people don’t feel comfortable discussing their income, it’s considered crass in some circles, and most people aren’t asked to discuss their income or contracts in detail in public. Why are authors?

    I never suggested that there weren’t valid reasons for authors to e-publish. Every author is different. I can’t make the decision for anyone but me. I brought up all the other issues related to contracts to illustrate–for those of us who chose to exclusively pursue print publishing and for those who chose to go the e-pub route–that that there are so many factors involved and they are often personally career based. Yes, e-published authors can make good money publishing, but I have yet to meet an e-published author in any genre outside of erotic romance who made any decent money in e-publishing. So for SOME authors, yes, e-publishing is a viable option–and MOST of those authors are writing erotic romance.

    I don’t understand why these conversations degrade into an either/or situation, or why print published authors somehow get jumped on when they defend their business or publisher or choices. I have never been disparaging to e-published authors, and have always tried to look at all views.

    Since you mention print published authors not getting paid quickly–that can be true, especially for the first contract. But it’s still–generally–more money in a 12 month period than non-erotic romance e-authors.

    Finally, I’ve never lacked information as a member of RWA. I ask, I get a variety of opinions in which I can make a decision. This is true for ALL authors, whatever format they publish in. RWA is a shell–it’s the people who make up the core of the information, and access to those people is one thing RWA offers.

  150. Evangeline Collins
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 10:10:03

    At literally every national conference people come up to thank me for suggesting they join when they've asked me how to get published or get an agent. Through the national or their local chapters, the workshops, meetings, seminars offered, they've been able to make face-to-face contact with editors, agents, other writers. They've been educated on the business through these sources. They've learned and developed contacts and relationships.

    I agree with Nora on this point – well, not the fact that people come up to me at conference and thank me about anything, but about referring new authors to RWA and the value RWA can offer new authors. Anytime I come across someone thinking about writing a romance novel, or someone who is trying to write one, I tell them to join RWA, then promptly join their local chapter. Yes, there are other organizations and groups out there to help authors on their path to publications, but RWA is a ready-made group of romance authors all focused on publication. I totally credit my success thus far to my local and online specialty chapters. From them, I’ve gain contacts, learned about the business, learned how to write a romance novel, etc.

    However, that being said, I am very frustrated with RWA’s stance on e-publishing. The national level’s views of e-publishing, and their decision not to accept it as a viable career path and thus not offer information and education to its members on the subject, will hurt those newer authors the most. RWA is truly doing its members a disservice, and it’s past time for RWA to open its eyes to the changing marketplace.

    So on one hand, I love RWA – at the chapter level. On the other, I’m frustrated to the point where I’d leave if not for the chapters. Given RWA’s weight, it could do so much to champion its members in the e-publishing industry, but it chooses not to. Instead, Ms.Pershing will complain about Trisk and ‘author mills’, pointing to the few bad apples as proof that e-publishing isn’t good for an author’s career. There are many solid, respected e-publishers out there. Ms.Pershing’s time would be better spent helping authors distinguish between the good and the bad, providing educational tools to help them navigate the e-published world (just as RWA does with the NY print world). Instead, she chooses to snub her nose at e-publishing. And as an author pubbed by both NY and e-publishers, one who fully intends to continue publishing in both formats, I find her attitude offensive.

    It truly does amaze me that there is such a disconnect between the chapter and national level on the subject of e-publishers and e-publishing as a worthy career path and achievement for an author. That disconnect alone should serve as a clear message to Ms.Pershing that her views are not shared by her membership.

    -Evangeline Collins
    -Ava March

  151. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 10:37:41

    Most people don't feel comfortable discussing their income, it's considered crass in some circles, and most people aren't asked to discuss their income or contracts in detail in public. Why are authors?

    Actually, many people work in industries where salaries are NOT secret, namely public institutions, from political to educational to administrative. So whenever I see this argument about how it’s “crass” to discuss money, I get frustrated, because I see it from exactly the opposite perspective. That is, when you work in an industry where there are specific salary ranges for specific titles, where your salary is not secret, where disclosure is actually seen as a public good, the transparency can have startlingly positive effects, not the least of which is eliminating that IMO creepy, potentially destructive, falsely competitive environment wherein everyone’s afraid to talk about money but ridiculously curious about it. That the author-publisher relationship is a contract-based agreement does not change the basic principle, IMO.

    But beyond this point, I think Azteclady’s question goes to the idea that if publishing contracts are complex and individualized, how does that square w/ RWA setting a flat advance bar for publisher recognition, one that patently marginalizes an entire publishing business model? I can totally see where someone in your position would be more inclined to trust the wisdom of RWA, but I think your post actually added support to those who are arguing for a more nuanced publisher recognition standard, one that takes into consideration the fact that there are *good, solid, responsible* reasons for some of the differences RWA seems uninterested in acknowledging.

  152. likari (LindaR)
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 10:43:26

    When nobody knows anything, rumors fly.

    I used to think only people like me were in the dark — unpublished wannabes. But this convo is taking place here, at Twitter, on Yahoo! groups, blogs — wow! touched a nerve much? It seems like the proverbial heat/not much light situation.

    So this got started, I think, because Deidre Knight pointed out that RWA is not adapting to acknowledge the fact that ebooks are now legit, whether RWA wants to believe it or not.

    It’s turned into a wonderful fracas about how authors get paid these days. I wonder if I’m representative of new writers/author wannabes?

    I don’t care about RWA. I want to write books. I’d like people to read them. I’ve been learning about today’s publishing world through DA, SMTB, Twitter, Publisher’s Marketplace, Samhain’s excellent website (with real, useful information on how to write for them), agent blogs, amazingly generous author blogs, and writer blogs too, like Authoress Anon’s blog. Maybe I’m missing something from RWA, but my plate is pretty full.

    I still wonder. My steampunk post-apocalypse fantasy romance is almost ready to send into the world. Do I really want to start the degrading process aka querying in hopes of a $2500 advance sometime in the next two years against 8 percent of royalties on books sold for three months, after which the book is off the shelf but in the limbo of being in print but not for sale?

    Do I create my own epub document and send it out into the brave new world of the electronic flea market and keep 100 percent of my rights forever on the one or two copies I sell on my own? (I might be wrong about this scenario. It seems authors are selling more than a few copies themselves these days)

    Or is there a new dream publisher out there? *cough* Samhain *cough* who, if they want my book, will give me editing, marketing, community (okay, so I threw in a nonprofessional fuzzy) 40 percent of list price, monthly payment, keep the book available pretty much as long as I keep building my list?

    You can probably see where I hope my book ends up. I know Samhain doesn’t have blockbusters — yet. But they’re going to have one, and can you imagine what that’s going to be like? I hope it’s mine. If not mine, I hope I’m with them when that first rocket takes off.

    This all started with frustration with RWA. RWA will wake up or it won’t. Writers are hungry for information.

    I’ve probably destroyed my career in the bud by writing this. But I’ll bet a lot of wannabes, unpubs, aspirings — whatever term you want to use — are thinking like I’m thinking, and wondering what the hell is true.

  153. Lisa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 10:44:26

    I owned a multi-state staffing agency for 11 years and I don’t know of one of my clients that would have been pleased about people talking about pay. But aside from that debate, which we can agree to not agree on , I don’t know why RWA has picked the advance number. I would assume the organization is trying to protect advance model which, while not important to people not getting advances, is important to those getting them. And believe me, once you get advances, you will want to keep getting them. Those advances going away could hurt many many people depending on them to survive. If we had to wait on publication in the print industry for money, that could be 18 months to 2 years out and then process time. Many people simply couldn’t write anymore. I have no idea why they chose that though. It seems like there could be another criteria for ebooks altogether to me without hurting the advance model as long as it was established it was only for epubs. But I don’t know their reasoning or how they came to this conclusion.

  154. GrowlyCub
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 10:54:22

    I owned a multi-state staffing agency for 11 years and I don't know of one of my clients that would have been pleased about people talking about pay.

    Which beautifully proves my point that *not* talking about salary in any employment situation only hurts the employees and allows employers to get lots of work for the least amount of money they can get away with.

    Employers really want us to believe that talking about income is ‘crass’ because that way they manage to pay us less than we deserve, be they corporations or publishers.

  155. Lisa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 10:58:41

    Talking money can hurt feelings and create workplace nightmares. Do you want to explain to the guy sitting next to you that he has the brain of pea (which translate to he might be smart, but he has no application of his skill being shown) so he gets the low scale of pay? I think his boss should do that

  156. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 10:59:25

    @SandyW: Ah, good times (not). I know it happened before AAR changed its board structure, so it’s been a while, right? But yes, Guhrke’s comments were eerily similar to some of the stuff we’ve been seeing in defense of RWA’s current policy (complete with some pretty insulting and derogatory overtones).

    This whole discussion is really starting to bring out the cynic in me, the one who thinks that NY will get on the digital train whenever they want, and that when they do they will act as if they invented it, ushering in a New Age of Publishing. At which point RWA will hop on as the cars leave the station, pretending that none of this ever happened, and dragging along its begrudging, frustrated, previously unacknowledged authors.

    Personally, I think everyone in the market, from publishers to authors to readers are made stronger from a vibrant, mutually empowering relationship among all elements. So it frustrates me when I see authors bemoan the state of things w/ a fatalistic sense of “someday” or “it’s changing” (Yeah, I agree it’s changing, but I don’t agree on the direction), because I think that if authors frustrated with the status quo as promoted by NY and by RWA don’t grab their own share of legitimacy and advocacy that they are going to be stuck – AGAIN, STILL – letting others set the terms, and why the hell would anyone already feeling marginalized and unrecognized want that??

    It just seems so obvious that given the number of RWA members and the number of available NY contracts that an organization dedicated to advancing professional authors’ careers would be doing EVERYTHING it could to support legitimate publishing venues outside the NY bubble. That they’re not speaks very loudly, IMO, about what publishing paradigm they support, which doesn’t make them a horrible organization, but it also doesn’t mean they’re fulfilling their mission in a way that optimally serves their membership. And if they’re not willing to a) do a self-assessment complete with a survey of member needs and wants and a long range development plan to be circulated to the membership, b) pull themselves out of the NY-advanced based publishing paradigm to see the rest of the forest, or c) limit their membership to authors seeking print-only, advance-only publishing careers OR authors already published in that venue, IMO it’s up to the dissenting authors to claim what RWA refuses.

    And IMO if this were to happen — if authors started another group that was more inclusive and more direct in its advocacy, with high standards but comprehensive qualifications for authors and publishers, I think they could really help shape the development of the new digital markets, that they could have a measurable influence on how these markets grow, as well as the creative direction of the genre. So when I see the annual rounds of talktalktalkgrumblegrumblegrumble, point-counterpoint debate followed by a return to the status quo, I see so many opportunities missed, not only for these authors, but also for the genre and its creative potential, in which readers have a stake, too.

  157. GrowlyCub
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:09:01


    if you read carefully you will realize I didn’t talk about staffing agencies at all, but about the generally pervasive idea that it somehow protects the employees if they do not talk about their salaries to each other.

    It doesn’t. I’ve seen a couple of situations where employers got away with murder as in paying a higher qualified female half the salary than the lower qualified male, etc. and these things only became an ‘issue’ for the employer when employees talked to each other. So yeah, they sure want us to believe it’s ‘crass’ to discuss our salaries with each other.

    If you are on the top of the totem pole, yeah, it’s most beneficial if nobody else knows what you make, otherwise it only helps the employers or in this case, the publishers.

  158. Lisa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:12:03

    Growlycub– I did read it again and changed my post. Sorry. I popped in in between a scene and with someone at the door. But stand by many reasons to not talk about pay by name. We don’t want to make people feel bad. Keeping it generic spares feelings and pain. I am not saying don’t share information

  159. Allison Brennan
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:20:46

    Robin, if you go back to my comments you’ll see that I wasn’t arguing for or against RWA, nor was I stating that I “trusted” or “distrusted” RWA with regards to business information. My comments were MEANT to support the individual choices that authors make regarding their career. There isn’t an either/or solution. I don’t think of this as two sides–that RWA must to one thing or the other. I think that within the structure of RWA that there can be some common ground found. But when I served on a committee I learned that the information and opinions disseminated on the internet wasn’t the same information and opinions that members who were not on the loops were writing in about–the old-fashioned way. So I try to avoid rushing to a conclusion that a majority of anyone wants anything until there’s a good, old-fashioned vote.

    I worked for the California State Legislature where salaries were not secret. The revealing of salaries never hurt the elected officials or the directors of the individual agencies. The annual public printing of salaries–particularly for those of us who were not civil servants but at-will employees–created stress, animosity, jealousy, back-stabbing, rumors, lies, and problems. I didn’t oppose the information being out there because I was paid by the taxpayers and as a taxpayer, I believe in full-disclosure of how our tax dollars are spent. But as a legislative staffer, I had to deal with the fall-out of the information being revealed.

    As an author, I’m in the private-sector. I’m self-employed. My career is my business, and my contracts are private between me, my publisher and my agent. I don’t see why I should feel I need to reveal the information. There is plenty of information online about what authors can expect from publishers; good agents know what’s selling and how much they can get for it. There is information about contract clauses and what to look for and what is a “red flag.” Authors in my local chapter were tremendously helpful in helping me figure out how to write a query letter and weed through agents to find the best for me. When I sold, another Ballantine author took me under her wing and mentored me, teaching me far more than I could have learned as an unpublished author because I didn’t have the experience to understand her advice in context until I sold. Publishers Marketplace has information on advance ranges and people can track that if they’re so inclined.

    But to reiterate my original comments from last night and this morning–I wasn’t being disparaging or critical of any choice an author makes for HER career because it’s HER career. I can’t tell her what to do. I can offer advice based on my experience, but that might be different than advice another author with different experiences may offer. Which is why authors who choose to seek out advice learn to discern what is helpful for them at this point in their career.

  160. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:28:51

    @Lisa: My question would be what hurts more feelings: transparency about earnings that demonstrate a range of differences among authors OR the resentment, suspicion, fear, and weirdness rampant in an environment where such transparency is taboo?

    Not everyone is going to think it’s fair that Author A got a six figure advance and Author B a three figure advance. But that kind of judgment occurs with or without the accurate information (speculation is always worse, IMO and IME). And again, if authors are also going to be astute business people, why shouldn’t they know a) how the system works so they can use it to their best advantage, b) know what the range is and how to negotiate with actual information grounding them, and c) what is and isn’t realistically possible for them in this career path?

    A larger question for me has been lingering at the back of my awareness during these conversations, and it’s this: is there a culture of mentorship in Romance publishing? Because at its core, that’s what RWA seems to be offering to its members vis a vis its mission statement. But if people aren’t interested in or willing to mentor others, if the competitive strains of the environment make that unrealistic, or if the individual nature of a writer’s work makes mentorship unrealistic, then I think authors really need to re-think the whole function and mission of the RWA.

  161. Lisa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:33:08

    Robin– the thing is that there are SO many factors. Even your editor can make a difference because they have power another doesn’t to get you extra exposure. They know what they plan to do down the road that isn’t even contracted, to help you, so they are willing to invest. To be fair to compare an advance, you’d have to look at sales reports only editors get, and some agents. You’d have to look at how the industry is changing, what has been bought at certain houses in genres and how that effects the release, did the authors last book get picked up at Walmart, and so on. Those are huge factors. So asking us to say how much we make wouldn’t be enough and some of the reasons are subjective but important.

  162. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:51:01

    @Allison Brennan: Well, I also work in a public environment, and my experience is the exact opposite. But I also think this has to do with how the culture among employees is cultivated, how people are treated and respected as individuals, and with how questions of value are connected to earnings.

    One of the big problems here IMO is that no matter what choices an author makes for her career, the single organization in her industry that purports to represent her is making a distinction in such a way that it DOES create an either/or situation for the author. Either she is NY pubbed with a 1K+ advance or she isn’t; either she is allowed to participate fully in the benefits of RWA membership or she isn’t.

    I think it’s only fair to acknowledge that this differentiation creates an environment of haves and have nots within the organization (which is one more reason I object to the further strengthening of the taboo against discussing money), and that authors on the included side have a certain amount of luxury in talking about individual choices, etc. That doesn’t mean their position hasn’t been earned and their advice not relevant. It just means, IMO, that it’s much easier to see the logic and wisdom in an organization or system that doubly benefits you. Ideally, I think it’s the sympathetic authors from the “have” side of RWA who need to speak up and advocate on behalf of their sisters on the other side, even though I don’t have a lot of confidence in that happening on any significant scale. I’m not directing this at you specifically, but more generally at all the authors who are w/ RWA recognized publishers.

  163. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:53:33

    @Lisa: But see I think ALL that should be more widely discussed; in other words, I think authors, pubbed and not, should have as much information as possible about how the business works, where its rewards lie, how it compensates its authors and why, and the many hidden traps and opportunities. The money factor of author advances is just one part of what seems to be a very strange culture among authors related to how they do and don’t understand the various business relationships/realities of their industry.

  164. Lisa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:57:06

    Thankfully there are people out there like Joan Johnston who give seminars to authors on protecting themselves, contracts, and negotiating money. The time I listened to her speak was amazing. She told all kinds of things that even well published authors were gaping over and taking crazy fast notes. I wish I would have know a little more about the industry at that seminar because I think I would have gotten even more from it. There are other authors who blog about it. There are authors loops where authors post blind earning numbers. Stuff like that. It is not as silent as you might think.

  165. azteclady
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 12:02:06

    Ms Jones, I guess that I would like to know whether there are also seminars by successful epublished authors (primarily epublished authors, that is) about *their* contracts, the advantages therein, etc.

    But it seems, if the current flap is any indication, that since those authors are not considered published, there’s no much room for them to offer a workshop.

    And yes, there are authors blogging about this–Lauren Dane for one. But shouldn’t RWA, as the organization claiming to represent romance writers and standing as an advocate for them, coordinate such educational efforts? More, make sure that the information reaches as many of its members as possible? As opposed to leaving it to RWA members to stumble upon this or that blog?

  166. Lisa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 12:12:08

    Aztechlady: Did you think I said something negative about epublishing? I certainly like to think my epublished books are published. I never said one single negative word about epublishing. I AM epublished. I am not sure what you mean about there being no epublished seminars? I believe there have been. I know RT has had lots. I THINK RWA has as well. Anyone can submit to do a seminar at a convention. The authors submit their ideas.

    Ack. I better go write. I am letting this distract me and I have a deadline. Cheers all!

  167. Allison Brennan
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 12:25:42

    @Robin, good points and I’ll reiterate what Lisa said–the information is out there, but maybe not personally revealed or widely spread. There are workshops and obviously agents who should know enough about the business to advise their authors. I gave a workshop where I shared numbers “blindly” from authors who were willing to share with me, provided I strip out their personal information. But while your experience and mine has been different in salary discussions in the public sector, I don’t think that any author should have to defend themselves or their contracts because some people think they get too much/too little for a book. The truth is that in the end, it *usually* balances out in that if you’re underpaid for a book, you get future royalties–and you usually see pretty quick if you’ve been underpaid. If you are overpaid, you have to fight for another contract and sometimes take a cut in advances. If you’re underpaid and your book exceeds expectations, they’ll pay you more next time–or you’ll have the numbers to walk to another publisher. Brenda Hiatt’s numbers are a good start to knowing that the AVERAGE or MEDIAN is in the industry, but it’s by no means inclusive. I have no objection to sharing numbers in a blind study. But it still isn’t going to help authors as much as they might think. A sharp agent is worth far more than comparing the advances of 20 different authors, IMO. The problem with the comparisons is that you’re never truly comparing apples to apples because contracts are complex.

    An agent once told me that she’d received calls from some of her authors (no, she didn’t name names) complaining about a post on PM with a major deal for another author and because of confidentiality she couldn’t discuss the issues. That when deals are posted they sound good, but maybe that money is spread out on 4s 5s or 6s, or the bonuses were included in the deal announcement or it was for six books rather than three or the publisher retained foreign rights or any number of things. But she couldn’t say that, and had to take flak from people who should already know these things. A major NYT author told me that his $$ is split six ways, and the last payment he doesn’t see until a year after the paperback comes out. So yeah, he gets fantastic deals and earns every dime–otherwise he wouldn’t continue to publish and hit high on the lists with staying power–but it’s not all at one time. This is why attaching advances with names is a bad idea because no one will have all the information. I may choose to take a lower advance if I get more money upfront because I have five kids and my oldest is about to start college. Or I might say I want more money spread out because I don’t want to take the tax hit in one year. So taking my numbers and comparing them to another author just doesn’t work. In the end, the numbers win: if you want a long-term career in publishing, the bottom line are your sales. You sell books, you get contracts. You don’t sell in numbers sufficient as determined by the publisher (based again on a variety of things) then you don’t get picked up and need to reinvent yourself.

    Another way money makes people crazy–I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me that it’s ok to illegally download books from the internet (or movies or music) because “the publisher already makes enough money” or “the author makes enough money” or “I’m not hurting anyone, I’m not making money from it.”

    We’re not going to agree on this, and that is fine. But my opinion would not change no matter where I am on the publishing ladder. I had this same opinion as a debut author four years ago, and it hasn’t changed. I’ve lived my life on the principal of the vineyard parable–I go to contract based on terms that are good for me, not what someone else got or didn’t get. If I agree to write X book for Y money, I’m not going to be upset or angry because another author agreed to write a similar book and got more money. Live and learn. As long as I feel that the contract is fair and the rights are good, then I need to be happy with my decision. No one is forcing me into it. But many people, like the vineyard workers, complain even though they were perfectly happy with the terms of their agreement until they thought that someone else got a better deal.

  168. Stevie
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 12:52:13

    I think that it is safe to say that if I had never stumbled across ‘Dear Author’ it would never have occurred to me to even contemplate reading ‘romances’ much less buying some; as far as I was concerned there was Georgette Heyer, her books utterly brilliant permanent residents of my bookcases, with the exception of ‘Simon the Coldheart’, and the rest who could be safely consigned to the Circle of Hell which Dante inadvertently omitted from his published survey.

    I have, therefore, seen the light, but I would still never, ever, under any circumstances, buy a book published with the intention of pulling it after 3 months, and I find it absolutely extraordinary that the officers of a body purporting to advance the interests of authors could even sleep at nights knowing that those authors were being treated as purveyors of trash.

    And yet apparently the officers of the RWA are not only slumbering contentedly but also think it’s such a good idea that other publishers should follow suit…

  169. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 12:52:28

    @Allison Brennan: Your last paragraph reminds me of when I was negotiating salary for my first post grad school job. My soon to be boss asked me what I wanted, and when I named a figure, he immediately agreed. I was too stupid back then to realize that what seemed like a fortune to my TA-salary conditioned self was a mere pittance to him. Sure I should have done more research before pitching my salary, but it wasn’t like anyone was there to help me, either.

    You and I agree on the idea that no one should be made to feel good or bad because of the size of their advance, but we seem to disagree on whether more transparency would help or hurt.

    In any case, I agree with you about the complexity of the money equation when it comes to determining value. But what would frustrate the holy hell out of me if I was an epubbed author in RWA is the lack of nuance in the discussions around publisher recognition coming out of that org, when you and others have been able to communicate that nuance and then some in unofficial, casual, blog comments. Also, I saw someone elsewhere talking about how other writer’s organizations use the same criteria, etc., and all I kept thinking was, ‘so what other writers in other genres do is more important than what the culture and market in Romance requires?’ The whole thing just seems so strange to me, and at the very top of Strange Tower is this bizarre contradiction wherein RWA puts so much emphasis on a specific number w/in a culture where talking specific numbers seems so outre.

  170. Zoe Winters
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 13:28:46

    I don’t technically have a horse in this race, but I still have opinions, so I want to address the “RWA can’t be all things to all people” argument. Fine.

    But can’t RWA at least be consistent?

    They seem to argue for consistency when it goes against epub authors and inconsistency when THAT goes against epub authors.

    And since I’m not a part of RWA, nor planning to be, not only because I don’t like what I’m seeing from the outside, but because they don’t represent my interests as I’m not even on that publishing path to begin with… I can look at this from the outside without being either part of the “haves” in this group or the “have nots” and say what it looks like to me without being accused of some bias. (i.e. no one can say “You’re epubbed and just mad at RWA cause they don’t think you’re a real author”. RWA will NEVER think I’m a real author, whether they accept Epubs or not.)

    But, this to me is where the problem lies. It’s all well and good to go on about the advance vs. e-business model. RWA seems very strident about not making any considerations for a different business model. They want there to be a one-size fits all.

    Okay, fine. I think it’s stupid, and shows a lack of understanding of the business model, but fine.

    BUT, if they’re going to do that, they also have to have a “consistent” definition of what makes a published author. You can’t have someone considered pubbed and disqualified from Golden Heart, and yet unpubbed to also be disqualified from the Rita.

    That is absolutely an inconsistency that hurts epubbed authors, both in shunning them from a psychological angle, and in just not allowing them to compete by conveniently changing the rules of the game so they’re in some kind of bizarre published author status limbo.

    RWA needs to decide what qualifies as published. ONE rule. If you qualify as published in RWA period, you should quality for the Rita. If you qualify as unpublished you should qualify for the GH.

    If for whatever reason they feel it necessary to say epubbed authors are unpublished in their circle, I think that’s goofy, but fine… they should qualify for GH.

    Letting many epubbed authors slide through the cracks of both contests based on this inconsistency, while screaming for consistency of the $1000 advance model across the boards screams to me LACK OF CREDIBILITY. HIDDEN AGENDA.

    And *that* I think is why so many epubbed authors are upset, because there really is no set standard across the boards for everything that lets people know where they stand and the goal posts keep shifting. And the goal posts shift in whatever direction automatically disqualifies epubbed authors from recognition and benefit.

    RWA may offer many learning opportunities for many people, but due to the wonderful invention of the internet, most web-savvy people can find much or all of that information on their own. Also RWA isn’t the only place anyone can go to to get face time with editors and agents. They do go to other functions. It’s not like they stay hidden away in a cave til RWA conference rolls around.

  171. Sela Carsen
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 13:39:29

    I don’t think asking RWA to allow e-published authors access to all the benefits of RWA — for which we pay the same as anyone else — is at all asking them to be all things to all people.

    I don’t think any e-published author has asked them to do anything but what they’ve already set out in their RITA guidelines. Recognize excellence in romance fiction. I don’t see a parenthetical (as long as it’s printed on paper) in there. Just recognize that I’m a career-focused author, then give me the same opportunities and education that I need to continue my career.

    I genuinely don’t believe that’s asking too much.

  172. Zoe Winters
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 13:46:50

    To ikari (LindaR):

    I went through a lot of the same thought processes myself. If I wasn’t such a bloody minded control freak so set on doing my own thing, I would absolutely be courting Samhain. It makes far more sense to me than chasing NY without a fanbase and even upon acceptance a 3 month window on bookstore shelves to “prove myself” (Almost everything in life takes more than 3 months to build a following), with a very very low percentage chance of a second contract, without that all important “platform.” Makes no sense. I think whether someone wants NY or not, Epubbing with a company like Samhain is incredibly savvy.

    As for authors going it totally alone, it depends on a lot of things. So far I’ve sold close to 1500 copies (15 copies away) since the end of November on Kindle. My price point is low so my per unit profit is low (35 cents.) I have no doubt I’d be doing better on Samhain, but I’m too much of a control freak and like to do things my way.

    But if I wasn’t wired like I am, I would be all about the Samhain train right now. It makes the most sense to me to wade around in a pool where your entire career isn’t on the line if you screw up a little. It takes time to figure things out and build a reader base. I don’t know about everybody but if I was going for NY, I’d want that first however I got it.

    I realize NY has great distribution that Samhain can’t touch, and I can’t touch on my own, BUT it’s hypothetical distribution until you get a contract, and distribution doesn’t always translate into sales, which translates into being a one-book-author, which if I’m not mistaken, isn’t exactly what a career-minded author wants.

    Which makes RWA’s policies even more mind-boggling. Careers are built over a long period of time. Epubbing for many is long-term thinking. Acting like epub authors aren’t career minded is not only insulting, it’s thinking only in the short term. And in a publishing climate so rife with change, that’s dangerous.

  173. Nora Roberts
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 14:22:39

    I’m not discussing my advances or my royalty statements with anyone. It’s no one’s business what I make, and what I make has absolutely no bearing on what another author may make in an advance or see in her royalty statement.

    I don’t care if it’s crass or if it’s cooperative. It’s my business. Period.

    And in case anyone’s thinking–oh, it’s different in your case, I felt this way from the jump, and have never discussed my financial business with others.

    I don’t have a strong opinion on whether RWA–or any other writers’ org out there–is consistent regarding rules and policies. I’m not sure which side of the fence I’m sitting on here as I haven’t read everything. But I do know that publishing and readerships and technology evolves, and rules and policies should, eventually, evolve to reflect those elements. So you can’t have one hard and fast and never to be changed rule.

    On one hand I so very often read in threads like this that epublishing is different from print. Then I hear epublishing should be treated as the same as print publishing. Well, which is it–because if it’s different, it’s probably going to be treated differently. I’m not sure which is true, which is fair, which is right.

    Which is why I’m so very, very happy not to be in charge of any of this sort of thing.

  174. RWA and the Advance Stance | Monkey Bear Reviews
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:01:56

    […] Jane at Dear Author […]

  175. Anthea Lawson
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:35:14

    @Robin (#160)

    To answer your question “is there a culture of mentorship in Romance publishing?”

    Absolutely. There is, IMO, a huge culture of mentorship, of giving back and paying forward. This is one of the biggest strengths of RWA. (See Nora’s first post above…)

    It’s not nearly as quantifiable as handouts and hiring attorneys, and certainly people have their ‘horror stories’ about mentors and mentees. But overall, there is a real sense that we’re here to help one another out — that any contest winner, any new author that gets published (in any format), any book that hits the lists or makes a splash, benefits us ALL. More happy readers = more happy writers. It’s a net gain.

    This is priceless: freely-shared information, fabulous critiques, answered questions, cogent judge’s comments, words of wisdom, ‘insider tips’ etc. Especially when you consider most other writer’s organizations close the doors to anyone who is not yet published. RWA opens doors.

    (Not that I agree with the BOD’s stance on e-pubs and the whole GH/RITA thing is totally effed up, but I’m sticking with RWA. Change must come from within…)

  176. Southern Sin » Blog Archive » Since when…
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:43:26

    […] lucid, intelligent arguments and more importantly, excellent questions and points being raised. This postis a good jumping off spot for the 411. It has links to several posts dealing with different […]

  177. Zoe Winters
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:49:05

    My computer is possessed and chose to delete my comment before I could post:

    @ Nora Roberts:

    On the money thing, I agree what you make is your business and see no reason anyone should know EXACTLY what Nora Roberts makes vs. exactly what any other author makes except sheer nosiness. However, if all romance authors advances and royalties were reported from all the major publishers (including the major e-pubs) then we could have more statistically meaningful averages which could help authors with decision making. If what each exact author makes was kept anonymous, would you be okay with a system like that?

    As for epubs wanting to be treated the same until there is a requirement they can’t meet, I don’t see that at all. I see epub authors wanting to be treated as “published” and also “career-minded” (though not every e-author is career-minded many are, and many NY contracts have come out of the e-ranks.)

    (I also think epubbed authors don’t want to be treated as published to disqualify them from the GH but not “published enough” to qualify for Rita.)

    Both are published and many are career-minded. But they are different business models.

    What I see RWA doing is setting a requirement that is contradictory to the successful e-model and then sneering when that requirement can’t be met. It’s like when a misogynistic employer tells a woman he’ll pay her more when she can grow a penis.

    Well baring a sex change, she is never going to have a penis but that doesn’t make her a lesser human being, that’s not some deficiency on her part. Men and Women are just different, but neither is less human.

    E and print are different models. But neither is less published. And E can be a successful and legitimate model that is rewarding for its authors, even its career-minded authors.

    If I’m not mistaken there are different economic realities that determine if a publisher prints in Trade paperback, hardback, or mass market. But no one is insisting only hardback authors are “real authors” (though actually that debate raged on many decades ago, so this E-thing is a re-run), And further no one is forcing publishers to shoehorn everything into following the “hardback model” when it doesn’t make sense for say mass market. Or the mass market model when it doesn’t make sense for hardback.

    I find RWA offensive as a woman, because being a purportedly business-focused organization run and populated mostly by women, they make serious business women look stupid by being so under-informed about their own industry. They look instead like a group of sorority sisters running the grunts through pledge week.

    Especially in light of Diane Pershing saying things like: published and “published.” I could feel the self-important sneer in the quote marks.

  178. Zoe Winters
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:49:56

    I think a post I made got stuck in the mod-bin. I think it’s because I used a word for the male anatomy, lol.

  179. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:50:21

    re. epubs as same v. different, I haven’t seen people arguing that they should be seen as the same thing (or treated as such); mostly what I think is being asserted is the need for equivalent treatment. It’s a common equal protection issue, which is really what’s being debated here and elsewhere, IMO. That is, if you look at gender discrimination, for example, and you specifically look at the fact that only women get pregnant, then clearly you can’t have the exact same equal protection/discrimination/leave policies for everyone. However, you can have policies that create an equivalency on a more general level — that is, somewhat different policies that ensure *equal treatment* but not necessarily the *same treatment*. I think that’s the issue here, as well – that epublshers and print publishers receive equivalent treatment, not that they’re either treated the same OR differently in such a way that the treatment (intentionally or in its effects) is discriminatory.

    That does mean that print publishing or advances of a certain level aren’t a good thing, but whether they’re good or not doesn’t, IMO, lead to a similar conclusion about whether a publisher who doesn’t pay them at a certain level is bad. That is, advances may be well suited to a publishing model where a writer is not otherwise likely to see income until 2 years down the road. But if the wait is less than six months, what makes the advance a marker of publisher quality? In other words, if the point of an advance is to show good faith from the publisher, to support the economic needs of the author, and to reflect a certain level of financial stability on the publisher’s part, can’t all of those things be met using other criteria for publishers that don’t have such a delayed schedule for publication & ROI? Surely that doesn’t compromise the value of the advance, but at the same time it doesn’t dismiss out of and those publishing models that can compensate an author just as efficiently and effectively without an advance.

    As for the issue of transparency around the money issues, it occurs to me that in film, for example, it is very common to discuss what any project costs to produce and how much its stars are getting paid. I wonder at the origin and effect of those differences, especially since both communities are commercially artistic.

  180. grave
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:53:32

    Ms Jones, I guess that I would like to know whether there are also seminars by successful epublished authors (primarily epublished authors, that is) about *their* contracts, the advantages therein, etc.

    But it seems, if the current flap is any indication, that since those authors are not considered published, there's no much room for them to offer a workshop.


    I’m not Ms Jones but I will repeat what has been said in this thread before as it does not appear to be getting through ANY MEMBER OF THE RWA, PUBLISHED OR UNPUBLISHED CAN SUBMIT A WORKSHOP PROPOSAL TO THE WORKSHOP COMMITTEE. There were forms in RWR and on the website and I’m sure I saw folks linking to it at romance divas. If epublished authors want a workshop on epublishing then maybe more than one of them should get off their backsides and submit a professional proposal that adheres to the RWA’s rules.

    When my chapter requested workshop presenters we got no submissions from anyone who wanted to discuss the epublishing market, and we advertised very widely. We have published and unpublished authors teaching the classes, other rwa chapters are the same. I have not see any classes on the epublishing market this year. The only class I saw on this subject was the free one at romance divas presented by Angela James. There is a gap in the market, you would think that ebook authors would be looking to fill it, especially as it pays quite a lot – probably more than some authors (not at the big three or writing erotic romance) are going to earn in royalties.

    Also the $1000 advance royalty rate only applies to membership for PAN. It does not apply to anything else.

    The problem with the current flap is no one is bothering to go and investigate things for themselves, they are just taking information and misinformation that has been posted as gospel and running from there. Anyone that doesn’t agree with them that the RWA is the most evil organisation ever is a liar.

  181. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:55:08

    @Zoe Winters: I just pulled three comments out of the very eager spam folder, two of which were yours.

    If anyone finds their comments aren’t showing up and no one has fished them out in a timely manner, please go ahead and nudge us by leaving a comment.

  182. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 16:07:18

    @grave: According to Pershing — and OMG does that response of hers get even MORE offensive the more times I read it — one of the two presentation requests for this year’s Nationals was by Samhain and it was rejected b/c Samhain isn’t an RWA eligible publisher. So here comes the widely admitted gold standard in epublishing and they are rejected because RWA does not recognize them as “eligible.” Am I the only one who sees the double bind in that? To spell it out, RWA has made a decision to privilege only publishers that offer a certain amount in advance, which basically eliminates the epublishing market. However, some of those who are not w/ or representing eligible publishers are still RWA members, but they cannot give a presentation because of the status (or lack thereof) of their publisher. Huh? It’s like if I kick you onto the ground and then yell at you because you’re not standing.

  183. Stevie
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 17:30:16

    It's like if I kick you onto the ground and then yell at you because you're not standing

    Actually, I think it’s closer to the RWA complaining that the e-pubbers don’t have the decency to lie still so that they can kick them more easily …

    Not good for a body allegedly dedicated to all of its members’ interests.

  184. Melissa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 17:51:10


    Ms Pershing herself discusses the $1000 royalty rate in her ESPAN response.

    From RWA's Policy and Procedure Manual, section 1.17. “Eligible Publisher” means a romance publisher that has verified to RWA in a form acceptable to RWA, that it: …..(3) provides advances of at least $1,000 for all books; and (4) pays all authors participating in an anthology an advance of at least $500

    (bolding is mine)

    Just sayin.

  185. Zoe Winters
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 18:28:02

    @ Robin. Thank you. Is there any way you could delete the first one, post number 176? It’s rehashing all the same stuff as 178.

    I’m not used to this new laptop and so i probably pushed a button that submitted it and didn’t realize it. I thought I’d somehow deleted it altogether. By the second try I realized I was probably in the mod/spam bin.


  186. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 18:38:11

    @Melissa: Do the guidelines also define a book as a full length novel or by a particular word count? Because otherwise currently eligible publishers dabbling right now in digital and not paying 1k advances might not be in compliance.

    Also, given the previous protestations about how RWA can’t be an advocacy organization, etc. etc. (and we’ll totally ignore the advocacy non-profits do all the time and that’s allowed at least under the Federal tax code), can anyone explain why RWA can trademark the RITAs when trademarks are specifically intended to protect commercial activities/entities (i.e. trade)? I’ve always wondered about that, but this conversation has piqued my curiosity again.

  187. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 18:40:12

    @Zoe Winters: Done.

  188. Melissa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 19:01:47


    Yes, the Policy & Procedure Manual says:

    Section 1.23 “Novel” means a work of Romantic Fiction of at least 40,000 words (as determined by computer word count) that is offered for sale to the general public by a publisher through a readable or audio format, for which the author receives payment as stipulated in a written contract from a publisher, and is published by a non-subsidy, non-vanity publisher.”

    Section 1.24 “Novella” means a work of Romance Fiction of 20,000-40,000 words as determined by computer word count that is offered for sale, blah blah, same stuff here….

  189. Robin
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 19:02:54

    @Melissa: But is that the same thing as “book” per the guidelines?

  190. Melissa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 19:09:18


    And interestingly, I’m reading the March 2009 edition. Section 7 is titled “Agents and Publishers; Eligibility”. Section 7.1 is titled “Agents” and provides 10 sections (7.1.1 throught 7.1.10). There is no section 7.2 for “Publishers”. It skips to Section 8, titled “Conference”. This is the version currently online at

    My DH, the conspiracy theorist, would see something very suspicious and non-coincidental in that. Hrm.

  191. Melissa
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 19:16:11


    There is no definition for “book” in the Policy & Procedure Manual.

  192. Nora Roberts
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 19:21:24

    I think it’s naive to suppose that all authors, and all publishers would agree to have their advances/royalties put into public consumption. Anonymously or not. Because there are way too many of us, and trying to get all to agree is pie in the sky, trying to get everyone to report accurately is more pie. And it changes and varies and just plain depends.

    If the average advance for Publisher X’s contemp romance mm is $Y, it doesn’t mean a bloody thing to Author A,B and C as it depends entirely on those authors’ agents’ ability to negotiate, the authors’ track records, the book itself, the slot where it will be published, the editor’s clout and enthusiasm and on and on and on.

    Then, how is the advance paid out? How much on signing, how many hits? Is it spread out in many parts including pub plus six, or paid more up front? Variables–zillions of them, all depending on the author, the book, the agent, the publisher, the acquiring editor, the book.

    Then, frankly, you would have someone in my position screwing up the curve. There IS no average.

  193. Nora Roberts
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 19:46:01

    I’m wondering after skimming some of the comments here and seeing some of the terms used to reference or describe RWA–and getting a serious sense of anger from many….If RWA is so useless, so stupid, such a crumbling anacronism, a dinosaur, why in the world would you care what it does or doesn’t do? It’s not worth anything to you, so why care?

    If that’s what Jane meant in her statement, I have to agree.

    And if there are those of us who find value in it, whatever it might be, again what does it matter to you?

    Membership isn’t required to publish. No one demands anyone join. It’s a choice, and it’s a tool to be used–or not.

  194. Zoe Winters
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 20:41:16

    @Nora Roberts, fair enough. It seemed since so many wanted reported earnings, anonymity might solve the issue, but it’s obviously a bit more complex than other situations where people’s earnings are posted. I do wonder though, how do people come up with numbers like: 15% of people make enough money as published authors to quit their day jobs, and an additional 5% make enough to be sole breadwinners? If no one is reporting or reporting accurately, where do they get such a statistic?

    On the RWA issue, I care that my fellow writers are treated unfairly in the organization that is supposed to represent their interests. I have opinions about everything, even tons of things that aren’t really of my business. We all have flaws. :P

    Even if I don’t feel RWA is *for me,* I do admit I find their attitudes somewhat annoying and i’m kind of offended in general for businesswomen because they seem so woefully under-informed about a growing sector in their own industry.

    And I don’t care if people find value in it. I’m glad if some people like it, though I wish those who didn’t would either leave and find or form a group that better serves their interests, or work for change from the inside.

  195. GrowlyCub
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 20:41:34

    again what does it matter to you

    It matters to me as a reader because I want my favorite authors to make enough money so they can continue to write. It matters if their professional organization is totally missing the train on new technology and emerging markets and it matters because that professional organization is obviously not protecting them from publishers’ rights grabs nor educating them about what’s due them financially for their hard work.

    I cannot tell you how flabbergasted I am by the authors who say that they don’t sell enough e-books to care about whether they are getting a good deal in their contracts. My hair stood on end when I read that some of them are paid percentages on NET. How can smart, educated women let themselves be bamboozled that way?

    How can they not see that even if the marketshare of e- for their print titles is minuscule right now that this might change over the next decade or more and that setting a precedent with regard to ridiculously low royalty rates is going to hurt them and future new authors even if the split between e- and print were to go only from 0.5% to 5% over the next few years?

    Whether or not I believe that e-books will be the wave of the future (I think they will definitely become a larger percentage of print author’s sales) or take over completely (which I don’t, even though I love reading on my Sony), what matters to me is that RWA is not educating these print authors about the rights they ought to have and the money they ought to make on *all* the different versions of their books.

    And it really smacks of elitism and outright snobbery to me when folks are told to leave when they don’t like the fact that the organization that’s happy to take their money is even happier to disparage and discount them because the leadership is unable to see past the currently prevalent publishing model.

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  197. grave
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 01:28:09

    I still see no ebook authors stepping up to the plate and offering classes on the epublishing industry. Chapter’s don’t have the same rules as national when seeking workshop presenters, so if Angela James and Samhain were to offer to teach the class when Chapter’s are seeking workshop presenters, I sure some chapters would be interested. I know mine would be, we are always looking for classes on the business of writing.

    @Robin. There were only two classes offered. They turned down Samhain because they weren’t eligible. If you don’t like the rules of the kitchen, either work to change them or get out of the kitchen. Don’t sit on your hands and bitch. Surely there are more than two people with an experience of the epublishing industry that wish to share their knowledge? The more epubbed authors that submit professional workshop proposals, the higher the chance that one will be successful. Frankly it would have been easy to get around the RWA eligible thing if people bothered to think outside the box. It seems that everyone wants to complain that the RWA is being mean to them. Nobody actually wants to do anything. In my short time as an RWA member this is the third time this has come round. We have these circular discussions and nothing changes. I think some folks just like to be the victim.

  198. Nora Roberts
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 07:45:58

    I don’t see how RWA impacts whether an author can make enough money to write for a living. It shoud educate, absolutely, and I don’t agree with–or actually more don’t understand–some of the president’s comments.

    It feels to me as if the org is trying to protect authors from unscrupulous publishers, but certainly may not be doing so in a way that suits everyone, or is even correct. I don’t have the answers, but I also don’t think bashing the org, calling it useless or some of the other terms used are correct either.

  199. Angela James
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 08:04:04

    @Nora Roberts

    I don't have the answers, but I also don't think bashing the org, calling it useless or some of the other terms used are correct either.

    We’re in agreement on this, it’s frustrating for me as well because I don’t think that type of “defense” of epublishing is an effective defense at all and causes any salient points made to be lost.

  200. Jude
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 08:29:54

    It’s great to hear that someone else thinks the same as I do. Why care what the RWA thinks? I’ve never been a member, and I have no desire to ever be.

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  202. Sue T
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 13:35:20

    Here here Nora, Allison, Lisa Hendrix and Linda Jones. You all took he words right out of my mouth and in much nicer fashion.

    Still going to give my two cents:

    Let me start by saying I have nothing against epub (I actually published a book initially that way); however, I will NEVER be an ebook reader and that’s a personal choice for many reasons.

    Argue all you want but we, as a professional organization, need rules and boundaries as to what makes us professional. Don’t like the rules? Don’t like Ms. Pershing’s attitude, then run for an office.

    Remember, if you are a member of RWA and you actually voted, you helped elect our officers. And if no one with an e-pub platform runs against them, whose fault is that? You want change? Then run. And I don’t care how many step up – could be all of you – as LH says, could be interesting. But right away, the fact there’d be many is thrown up as an excuse why not to run. I call BS.

    I’m the President of my local union chapter and it is amazing to me how many people want to complain but are not willing to go after an office. Far easier to send emails or letters or talk among yourselves then to step up to the plate.

    And I have to agree with those that say if you aren’t a part of RWA and choose not to be, then why do you care what RWA does? I don’t care if you are a reader and you want your authors to be paid fair. RWA has set up what’s fair. Don’t agree? Support your authors by ordering their books, have your friends order their books – no one’s stopping you. Your support of them has NOTHING to do with whether or not you agree with their professional status within RWA. You buy them because you like them, not because they belong to RWA.

    I’ve been a member since 1997 and plan to be a member until I die (unless RWA changes the definition of romance which is another entirely different subject). And I plan to run for a Board office one day because frankly, I love being a part of RWA. All of it – the good, the bad and the ugly.

    If you’ve ever been an officer, you know that a shitty and thankless job it can be. Each year, at my writing chapter level, we have to push, pull and prod members to step into an office. Sure, everyone is always so willing to take the benefits but then bitch and moan about what’s not getting done but shut up when asked to participate. I call BS on that too.

    Should epubs be recognized? Sure, they should. What does that mean? Why don’t you all put your heads together and come up with a reasonable rule on what makes you a professional? Not that you publish an ebook?

    I recognize the phenomenal Angela James and I will admit to being disappointed her and Samhain is not recognized and not just because she is an epub but she gives a lot back to writers.

    So, want to be recognized? Send in a realistic proposal. Maybe our ELECTED leaders would have an easier time figuring out what the majority of members want if you acutally presented an idea versus complaining. Contrary to what is said above, Board members are doing the best they can for the majority of the members.

    Sorry – I know this is harsh. I’m ready to be beat via blog comments.

  203. Arwen
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 14:49:47

    I think we need more change and less bashing (and I have taken my fair share of shots at the Board on the digital publishing kerfuffle). Because I feel strongly about this, I am part of the nearly (at last check) 500 member group called RWAChange. We are dedicated to putting our sweat where our mouths are.

    Of course there are going to be hard feelings. This is about feeling validated by a group I have chosen to support since 2001 when a non-romance author’s agent first told me about RWA. I personally have my panties in a wad because it seems that my own organization’s president (whom I voted for even) thinks digital publishing does not deserve the same educational leverage as that of print publishing.

    $1000 in one year on one book? Okay. Fine. Accomplished on two books last year out of three.

    But what good will joining PAN do me? I have to tell you that I wanted to be PAN for all the reasons of “belonging”, “validation”, “acceptance” and “acknowledgement” as mentioned.

    I want my organization that I very much love to stand by digitally published authors with the same fervor and fierce protectiveness as it does print published and aspiring authors.

    Is that too much to ask?

  204. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 17:26:34

    I don’t think people should be mistaken about the intentions of those voiced here.
    The reason so many of us complain about RWA’s stance is that we recognize something you seem to have missed.
    It isn’t about the published authors.
    It’s about the UNpublished authors.
    I don’t know about you, but the first place I went when I wanted to write a romance was the biggest name in the industry-Harlequin. On the eHarlequin boards, the first thing I was told was “Join RWA”.
    I’m sure I’m not unique. Those unpublished authors need to know all their options. ALL of them. Perhaps epublishing is the right place for some of them, but they know nothing about it. Why? Because the national organization has been dragging its feet, unwilling to acknowledge this unique and different career in publishing.
    Several epublished authors HAVE stepped up to the plate, willing to share their experience with new authors. We have over two thousand of them.
    We call it Romance Divas.
    But the truth is, RWA is the FIRST place these unpublished folks go. And there’s nothing there to guide them.
    One more thing.
    Several people have piped up and said how their local chapter has been so supportive of them in epublishing.
    The nearest “local chapter” for me is five hours away. I’m a member of ESPAN because online is the closest I can get to author interaction. (Other than Romance Divas).
    So, you see, it DOES matter to me that the national organization rejects me as a “published” author. It DOES matter to me that I can’t enter the RITAS OR the GOLDEN HEART.
    I’m a romance writer. I’m not asking RWA to give me a big hug and pat me on the head. I want the RWA to stand up and say we’re a growing market and we’re just as important as the print market.
    I’m hoping to learn what I need to know so I can run for office. It’s the only way I know change will be implemented and I think RWA is valuable enough to “stick and stay.”

  205. Gina Rosavin
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 20:06:33

    I’m still wading through all of this, and I am outraged by RWA’s callous attitude toward digital publishing. I’ve been going through everything I could find, and I am seriously considering giving up my membership. I will lose the benefits of my chapter, which I adore, but my critique group is made up of those members I most want to see and the group does not require being a chapter member to participate.

    In any case, I saw someone make the comment about taking ESPAN and breaking off and forming a new group. That has actually been done in the past. EPIC, the organization for digital publishing, started out as an RWA chapter. But they quickly found out what RWA National thought of them and left. The only requirement to join EPIC is that you be digitally published – there are specifics for genres, novellas and such. There is also another new fiction writer’s group, though again, you must be published, either digitally or in print, to join, Liberty States Fiction Writers. These groups are both made up of romance authors, as well as authors of other genres. These new organizations are growing, and while they also will suffer growing pains as they do, I think they just might show RWA a thing or two.

  206. Jo Vandewall
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 19:28:11

    Allison Said:
    Can you imagine the auto workers waiting for their pay checks until the car they built was sold by the dealer? Or a teacher to wait for their pay check until the student they educated graduated? Why is the products of creative artists treated any differently? As I've argued with some editors who stated publicly that advances aren't important because the author gets royalties, would an editor wait for their paycheck until the book they edited sold? Or accept a percentage of payment based on the sales of a particularly book?

    But this argument is flawed. The auto workers are not self-employeed. Authors are. And anyone who has owned a business knows that they only make money when a customer walks in and buys something.

    Why should authors be any different?

  207. Allison Brennan
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 19:46:29

    @Jo Vandewall:

    I sell my book to the publisher. The publisher is my “customer” since I don’t sell directly to readers. I enter into a contract with the publisher that I will produce X number of words in Y genre by Z date and in return they’ll advance me $$ against future royalties based on how well they think that book will sell–based on their internal analysis of like books, etc. It’s not a perfect system. It works.

    I’m self-employed, and I understand the point you tried to make, but most self-employed businesses start with capital–and it’s not theirs. They get a small business loan based on market analysis that such a service or product is in demand in a specific area. If I wanted to open a book store in Elk Grove, I would show to a bank that I had retail experience, that I’ve managed staff, that there is a need–based on demographics that I may commission a marketing firm to put together. I would pick a location that based on the proposal would be the best for my venue. Then I would share the risk with the bank in that they would loan me money if they felt the business was viable. If the business fails, they know they won’t get paid back. Business bankruptcy is far different than personal bankruptcy.

    Publishing is the same. They see the product they’re going to invest in, rather than a loan that won’t be repaid if there is failure, they give an advance that isn’t repaid if there is failure. Which is why publishing is truly a partnership with both the publisher and the author taking risks. The publisher puts the best “package” together for the project and sometimes throws it out there and hopes for the best, and sometimes pushes the book believing they can easily find an audience. But without sharing the risk with the author, they can dump more books out hoping something will stick.

    If you read my previous comments, you’ll see I have no problem with the e-publishing business model–that’s a completely different thing that print publishing and the advance structure. I was responding to comments that advances were inferior to higher royalties. I don’t believe this is the case, and I don’t think that it’s an either/or situation.

  208. Jo Vandewall
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 20:24:10

    I have to disagree, Allison. The publisher is not your customer. It’s a joint venture. What you’re putting up is sweat equity. What they’re putting up is manufacturing and distribution.

    If an author can cut a deal that gets them money up front, that’s great, but in no way can an advance be equated to wages that come from a job. To be in business for yourself is to take a risk. Anyone who wants or needs the security of a guaranteed paycheck gets a job. Self-employeed people get profits (if there’s anything left over after expenses.) To say that an author is entitled to a specific wage is trying to create a class of entrepreneur that is radically different from any other out there. Being self-employeed means taking risks. There is no entitlement to a salary when you’re self-employeed.

    And I just don’t see the validity of comparing an advance to a business loan because, unlike most advances, whether the business folds or not, you have to pay back the loan or declare bankruptcy.

  209. Allison Brennan
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 20:56:41

    I don’t want to get in a tit-for-tat argument, but I don’t agree with your comments or your interpretation of what I said. Maybe I wasn’t clear. I’ve never said that an author is entitled to a specific wage. Authors who choose to enter into a contract for no advance can do so. Authors who choose to not sign a contract that doesn’t have an advance have the right to do so. It’s my choice, your choice, every author’s choice, provided that a publisher wants to publish the book. I don’t want a salary, nor a wage. I do want an advance. I’ve never said on this thread or anywhere that all authors should only sign contracts that have an advance. I take plenty of risks–if an author has excessive unearned advances (unless you’re a mega author) then you don’t get another contract–sometimes even if you are willing to take a lessor advance. That’s a huge risk for an author who is dependent on writing income. Maybe the business analogy wasn’t perfect, but it still relates to the over-all sharing of risk. You don’t have to pay back the advance if you flop, but you may not have another contract. You don’t have to pay back the loan if you fail in a business (i.e. bankruptcy) but you may not they get another business loan.

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