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RWA Change for Publisher Recognition

3. The Board updated the definition of Subsidy Publisher or Vanity Publisher to: any publisher that publishes books in which the author participates in the cost of production or distribution in any manner, including publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing and/or distribution. This definition includes publishers who withhold or seek full or partial payment of reimbursement of publication or distribution costs before paying royalties, including payment of paper, printing, binding, production, sales or marketing costs; publishers whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books; publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site; publishers whose list is comprised of 50% or more of its books written by authors who are principals in the publishing company; and publishers whose business model and methods of publishing are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and associates.

And –
(E) Effective July 15, 2007, in order to officially participate in RWA’s National Conference, a publisher must meet the following criteria: (1) it is not a Subsidy Publisher or Vanity Publisher; (2) it has been releasing romance novels via national distribution for no fewer than three years, with no fewer than two full-length novels or novel-length romance anthologies published in each of three consecutive years; (3) it provides advances of at least $1,000 for all books; and (4) it pays all authors participating in an anthology an advance of at least $500.


Guest Reviewer


  1. Janine
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 14:16:07

    It looks like the first part of this post is missing. What is part 1 and 2?

  2. Gwen
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 14:22:55

    Hmmmm – I wonder what this could mean to Ellora’s Cave…

  3. Jane
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 14:23:49

    That’s the only part as it relates to the publisher recognition.

  4. Ciar Cullen
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 14:25:37

    Two words. The first is “bull.” A wave of the hand and the board can turn a publisher like Samhain (they do send me checks rather than the other way around) into a vanity publisher. Astounding. They need a dictionary in Dallas–surely there’s a library nearby?

  5. Ember
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 14:56:25

    The full statement is at the RWA website – – you do have to be a member and logged in to see it.

    I can’t find much in the statement to be happy about. Oh – they did allow the novella category to stay in the Rita’s. Unfortunately, most published novellas will no longer be eligible, because they’ll be published by non-eligible publishers under these guidelines. Novellas typically do not go to print unless part of an anthology; the main publishers that release them will not meet the eligibility standards.

  6. Holly
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 14:57:40

    Like Gwen, I wonder what the means for Ellora’s Cave.

  7. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 14:58:58

    I didn’t read it that they are saying Samhain or Ellora’s is a vanity publisher, just not royalty paying and in Samhain’s case, also not in in business 3 years.

    I’m actually happy with the modification to PAN membership as it grandfathers in existing members and it allows for authors to join based on their individual efforts rather than relying on their publisher achieving or trying for recognition.

    Do these rules take effect immediately? One would hope not as those publishers are already there and should be allowed to participate.

  8. bettie
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 15:12:28

    I can’t think that this move will win RWA any admirers among ePublished authors.

    My parade? Rained out.

  9. Jordan Summers
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 15:12:58

    It says effective July 15, 2007.

  10. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 16:05:39

    I think it’s better for epubbed authors in that you can be a PAN member (The only benefit to an author being with an RWA recognized publisher) on your merits even if your publisher isn’t recognized, doesn’t want to be recognized, lost recognition, etc. This change in recognition actually benefits authors.

    Before an author’s publisher had to be recognized for any authors to apply to PAn and it was a much higher standard. Now, recognition is based on individual authors’ endeavors, not any external factor such as the publisher for which they write.

    The other nice thing for authors is they can be “free” to be PAN members at epublsihers that weren’t recognized in the past, thus providing for a more free market approach to choosing a publisher. Since recognition is now based on individual sales, authors can shop for houses with the best contracts. Which in turn will probably end up distributing more income through more houses as new and established authors search for houses that provide the best terms for their situation. Ie- if a house’s contract gets too demanding, authors may choose to submit eslewhere. As in print , readers don’t care where an author writes, just that they write and if the law of supply and demand holds true for epublsihing, the houses with the best contracts will secure the stronger sellers which in turn should increase their monthly hits and sales, improving money for everyone.

    Sarah, speculating away

  11. Marie-Nicole Ryan
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 16:15:52

    Samhain is a advance/royalty paying publisher, nonsubsidy, nonvanity, however they don’t pay the $1000/$500 advance required for “eligiblity” standards. And as has been previously stated, they aren’t three years old yet, but they do pay royalties, and I’ve received mine on time each month since my first book with them was released.

  12. Ciar Cullen
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 16:33:06

    Well, Sarah, the part I was thinking of regarding Samhain was “publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site” as on criteria that would make a publisher a vanity press. I think this might apply to Ellora’s Cave as well. While they both have some bookstore penetration and sales on other electronic outlets, I don’t know if the primary percentage of income is from their own websites. Perhaps not.

  13. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 16:37:40


    All publishers have websites and sell off it, but both EC and Samhain distribute through national distributors just like everyone else. We’ll have to see on that, but i don’t think this is an area where they can be too retentive, because lets look how many of the NY publishers are setting up e only lines yet pay advances. Is RWA going to say authors writing for that line are non recognizable.

    I think the wording is going to have to be changed for a vanity press to restricted to, because there are online distributors, too.

  14. bam
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 19:21:18

    Is this retro-active? Does that mean that e-pubs who are RWA-recognized, but don’t necessarily qualify under the “new rules” are disqualified?

  15. Lynne
    Jul 11, 2007 @ 19:33:52

    According to the new rules, any publisher whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated web site is a vanity/subsidy publisher, which makes its authors ineligible for PAN or the RITA. Yes, publishers like LooseID, EC, and Samhain have print distribution, but do they still sell most of their books through their web sites?

    This is NOT the way vanity/subsidy publishing is defined in other parts of the industry, and I believe this verbiage should be removed from the definition. I’m not published with any of the companies in question, so it’s not a matter of this having a direct effect on me. I just see it as a sneaky way to bar e-published authors from PAN and RITA.

  16. Jordan Summers
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 00:36:15

    Actually, I think any author who can prove that they’ve made $1K on a single release can now join PAN, if I understand the changes correctly. Doesn’t matter if your publisher is recognized or not. I don’t know if that applies to the RITA award.

  17. Angelle
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 05:12:51


    That’s how I read it too.

    I like it that people can join PAN regardless of their publisher’s eligibility situation.

  18. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 05:37:05

    Okay, I’m wandering off on a limb to say the one thing that always strikes me when we have these discussions. With the exception of being able to advertise in romance sells (a questionable advantage) what does PAN membership really matter in the scheme of things? Recognition for a publisher means they can solicit membership at RWA functions, so that can and probably does mean hard cash down the road, but PAN membership for an author pretty much has no tangible value. Yet every year we treat it’s potential loss as some hugely devastating threat , giving it way more importance than its existence or lack of existence will ever have on our career and our daily life.

    Maybe it’s because it’s one of those goals we hold out for ourselves as we’re climbing the ladder. “Someday I will be a published author and I will prove it by joining PAN, but once you actually join, that is pretty much the end of the ride. You get to put initials by your name, maybe advertise in a brochure (Can’t remember if you have to be just an RWA member or a PAN member too in order to advertise) and for this we put ourselves through this much yearly stress?

    Just doesn’t seem worth this much emotional investment when I look at it. *wry grin* Yet, I do continue to argue back and forth on the yearly policy changes, wasting a lot of time debating in essence meaningless (to my life and career) policies as if they were life and death. It really is a habit I’ve got to break.

    Maybe next year. *G*

  19. Lynne
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 10:39:51

    But if your publisher is now classified as VANITY, it doesn’t matter if you got $1,000 in advance or royalties. These are the two requirements for PAN: $1,000 and non-vanity/non-subsidy.

    As the language stands now, publishers whose web site is their primary means of offering books to the public are vanity publishers. It’s not enough to have SOME distro through other means.

    It was ridiculous for the Board to warp the definition in this way. If they want to get rid of e-publishers, they need to come up with separate language for that — oh, and make the business case for why it’s necessary for the organization. I guess it was easier to sneak this bogus criterion into the definition of a vanity publisher.

  20. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 10:59:34

    Well if they’re going to pervert the definition of a vanity press to that extent to further a separate agenda, and stick to it, then it’s just RWA following their historical pattern. *sigh* I had such high hopes they might have matured.

    Ah well, if this is this case is, the good news for authors is that PAN is, in reality , these days, completely irrelevant to the business side of their career.
    I am, however, retaining hope that this vanity press thing will be reclarified to allow authors, many of whom are highly successful in their craft with an epublisher to be able to be seen as professionals by their peers within their organization.

  21. Sasha White
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 12:05:26

    For publisher recognition Doesn’t it say that the publisher has to pay an ADVANCE of 1K?
    Not that the book makes 1K. I could be wrong, but I’d be surprised if EC and Samhain pay advances of 1k.

    As for what the big deal is, or why such an emotional investment, for myself, it’s not about reaching a goal (although I so think thats a great way to see it) it’s about what I perceive to be a consistent effort to exclude ePublishers, and yes, the erotic romance sub-genre in general.

  22. Marie-Nicole Ryan
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 12:19:39

    I can only speak for Samhain Publishing in regards to my contract. Samhain pays an advance, but not near the $1000 mark for a novel.

  23. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 12:26:59

    There are currently 2 ways to PAN. Through publisher or through personal sales. The catch is if the vanity clause holds, personal sales is still tied to publisher recognition, despite the pretty pretense of otherwise.

    RWA has a history of rewriting poilicy and applying it retroactively depending on the personal preference of those on the board at the time. It’s not just epublishing. Nor erotica. It’s been many things over many years, the justification rarely logical. But every year something.

  24. Jordan Summers
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 13:13:21

    Lynne, You’re correct. I misread the PAN requirements. My apologies. I thought it opened it up to more members, when in fact it remains the same with the vanity clause tied to publisher recognition. Also, Sarah is correct. You’re not missing out on much.

  25. Lynne
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 14:14:07

    That was my impression, too, Jordan, the first few times I read the requirements. I honestly thought, “Wow, looks like things are opening up,” but something was nagging at me, so I took a closer look.

    I really wish people with more inclusive views and, frankly, a more businesslike approach would run for office. This attempt to redefine vanity/subsidy publishing in a non-standard way reeks of personal bias, and taken in context with RWA’s history of prejudice toward smaller and electronic publishers, it’s hard not to conclude that the Board’s goal is exactly what it appears to be: to exclude all publishers except the big NYC houses.

    Maybe I’m too idealistic, but I honestly believe this level of personal bias has no place in executive decisions made for the world’s largest organization of romance writers.

  26. Sasha White
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 15:08:13

    I’m sure you’re right, Sarah. I’ve heard many authors say that RWA is always changing things, and that Erotic romance and ePublishing is just the latest “thing”. But doesn’t that in itself sort of disappoint? When did RWA stop being about the writers and their needs, and start being about the personal preferences of the board members?

    Sure, we’re encouraged to speak out and write in, but that doesn’t mean they listen. AND that is what I find frustrating.

    And just for clarity, the PAN thing itself doesn’t really bother me, I’ve had my status for a few years and this won’t change it. However, I didn’t renew my own RWA membership earlier this year simply because I got tired of all the waffling on a few of the policies.

  27. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 15:50:38

    ” I got tired of all the waffling on a few of the policies.”

    I agree. Completely frustrating.

  28. Sasha White
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 16:50:57

    And it’s sad, because I was so very excited when I discovered RWA, and found a way to connect with the industry. And with everything that goes on, it’s become more hassle than it’s worth. Instead of bettering my writing and my career, the organization, and belonging to it, has become a distraction from my writing. Which is why I finally just didn’t renew my membership.

    I find there are many blogs (Like DA for example) and smaller communities online that give me what I need with a much better mindset.

  29. Jordan Summers
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 17:35:25

    Sadly, I think RWA is making an attempt to protect its members through these changes. I believe most of this came about because of Triskelion and Premium Press. A lot of authors got badly burned and ran to RWA for help. Right or wrong, I think RWA decided this was the best way to go about helping the membership.

  30. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 17:52:17

    “I find there are many blogs (Like DA for example) and smaller communities online that give me what I need with a much better mindset.”

    Me too.

    I live work and sell in real time. I have to be up to date on technology, marketing techniques, industry trends and contract issues. I’m signing contracts today. I’m hopefully publishing tomorrow. My career is moving forward in an industry that is also moving forward. New technology is creating new markets that can be optimized. As an author, I have to figure out how to do that without losing my shirt. I have to watch to see where technology is going and try to discern what clauses I need to tweak in my contracts to make sure I’m not in a bad position 10 years from now because of something I signed today. Keeping up with all this and my writing commitments leaves me with neither the time nor inclination to run back along the path of what was to battle with RWA to take the leap into what is.

    It’s just easier to go outside the organization to groups or associations that have more relevance.

  31. Robin
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 19:10:32

    I don’t know what these changes would mean to me as a reader — if anything — but I would think that an organization which purports to represent the Romance *WRITERS* of America would take a more nuanced approach to the publisher situation, ESPECIALLY if the goal is to protect authors. If indeed this action is reflective of a bias toward the NY print pubs, I find that an interesting coincidence to my own book buying habits. My increasing frustration with the quality and homogeneity of print pubs has catalyzed my much more aggressive ebook searching and buying. I have to wonder, though, at what point the RWA becomes as monopolistic as I think the NY pubs have become, and what’s the impact of that– for writers and readers — on both the industry AND the genre?

  32. Lynne
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 19:56:58

    I agree — the waffling on positions and the resulting yearly CHURN is seriously fatiguing. It seems like every year there’s some crazy controversy, and underlying it all is some bizarre agenda.

    Oh, and to Sarah’s and Jordan’s points about the lack of tangible PAN benefits, everything I’ve heard backs that up. Unless you do the PAN track at National, there’s not a lot else.

    BUT…one big benefit of being in PAN is how you’re treated by fellow RWA members. I know there are chapters where everyone’s nice to each other and people are treated with professionalism and respect — count your blessings, if you’re in one — but there are others where the unpublished are treated worse than dog shit. And in those situations, having PAN status makes a huge difference.

  33. Seressia
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 20:13:30

    I really can’t add anything here other than to say I’m already in PAN and published in print so these changes don’t affect me. That being said, I do think it hurts in the long run. I was excited at the changes at first, because I focused on the contest categories. But the more I reread, the more distressed I became.

    As I said, I don’t have a pony in this race, but it seems to me that there continues to be a pervasive bias against epublishing houses. How in the world are they going to prove that they sell more in other arenas other than their websites? Linking the shopping carts on their websites to etailers like Fictionwise will actually cost the publishers money, because they have to pay a distribution fee to get their books there, just like print pubs pay distributors to get their books into brick and mortar stores.

    So RWA will cost epublishers money (if they want to participate in RWA’s reindeer games) by not allowing sales on the publishers websites, or at least, less sales there than in all other avenues combined. In what world is this good business sense?

    I found my rose-colored glasses, so I’ll end by saying that I hope this is just some miscommunication, and the impacted publishers will corner board members or the Executive Director and get clarification. If not, I suppose we’ll all have to wait for the Market Update and see who’s in and who’s out.

  34. Ellie M.
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 20:31:28

    According to the letter from the board, the RWA Eligibility requirements don’t affect market updates, although who appears in the market updates will depend on the final interpretation of the word “primary” in the board’s definition of vanity presses. I believe they meant “primary” in the sense that the publisher in question has no other legitimate form of distribution other than their own website and perhaps Amazon and the item will need to be clarified or even deleted in order for the overall definition to be an accurate representation of today’s publishing market. I realize that many people disagree with this interpretation, however :)

  35. Seressia
    Jul 12, 2007 @ 20:56:21

    Samhain will be “unrecognized.”

    Check here.

  36. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 13, 2007 @ 05:30:24

    Let us hope the definition gets revisited. I’m clinging to mine. *Small grin*

    Publishers are still going to be unrecognized, (unless they choose to meet the criteria) but as long as the definition gets redefined, their authors won’t be and as RWA is an organization for authors, I can accept that.

  37. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 13, 2007 @ 06:59:37

    My faith is restored!

    I received an email from Board Member Diane Pershing clarifying the definition of vanity press. (The caps are hers so the emphasis is hers)

    “If the ONLY means of distribution is at the publisher’s web site–if the only way ANYONE can buy a book from that publisher is at their web site–then it is legally considered a “vanity” press.”

    So, I am happy now. I am back to thinking this policy is a very big step forward for RWA, that disconnecting Pan Recog from Pub Recog is a plus for the market and authors, and while Publishers may not be recognized, their authors still can be. Which is the way it should be. They are different segments of the market, have different priorities within RWA, and have different areas of importance when it comes to recognition.

  38. Seressia
    Jul 13, 2007 @ 07:18:34

    That is good news, Sarah. Hopefully they will IMMEDIATELY change the wording from “PRIMARY” (which was my sticking point) to “ONLY” which I can totally accept!

  39. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 13, 2007 @ 07:29:42

    Morning Seressia,

    You and me both. I do feel it’s important that what’s written matches what was intended.


  40. Ellie M.
    Jul 13, 2007 @ 08:58:07

    I kind of wondered if “primary” was used because authors at vanity/subsidy presses often handsell their books, correct? That would mean the publisher website was then not the ONLY means of distribution! I also don’t know what it takes for a vanity/subsidy press to get listed in a few places like Amazon. When I researched this I found some references to warning signs of v/s presses being they only sell at their own sites and mayb at Amazon, which I can re-track down if anyone is interested.

    But what about all that 50% stuff over at BAM’s site? Thoughts?

  41. gloriadeo
    Jul 13, 2007 @ 17:27:13

    Another concern in regards to the required advance “for all books”: how are they planning to judge this? And does it eliminate publishers like, for example Barbour (a reputable and “real” publisher) whose guidelines for their new mystery line state that all contracts are “royalty based.” Now I’m not a Barbour author, so perhaps they are offering an advance, but it doesn’t read so. Anyway, if Barbour is not offering an advance on this new line, does it mean they would not be RWA “eligible” because they don’t provide a $1000 advance on “all books.”

  42. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 13, 2007 @ 18:04:41

    For the author, it doesn’t matter if the house pays an advance. They can join Pan through their earnings. The only reason an author ever had to be concerned about a publisher being recognized was because they could only get into PAN through a recognized publisher. That is no longer an issue, and more authors will now be eligible. For a publisher, derecognition simply means they no longer get into the conference free. Not that they can’t attend, just that they have to pay their way.

    The people with the most on the line in this fight were the authors and they are the ones this policy is meant to benefit. Which it is. A huge, insurmountable barrier that has been standing in the way of epubbed authors has finally come down and I, for one, am going to celebrate.

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