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Dear Author

RWA Wants Associate Members Who Foster Relationships Between Readers and Authors

I received a letter today from RWA indicating that I would not be able to renew my membership when it expires at the end of the month. I have posted the letter for you all to read it. While it says that I am a General Member, this is an error that RWA has consistently made. I’ve signed up an associate member for the three years that I have paid my dues. I want to state at the outset there there is absolutely nothing in the letter that is not true except for one thing.

Dear Ms. Litte,

On November 30, 2009 your General membership with Romance Writers of America will expire. We are unable to renew General membership for individuals who have indicated in writing that they are not in serious pursuit of a career in romance writing.

General membership in RWA is open to all persons “seriously pursuing a romance fiction writing career” (Section 4.1.1 RWA Restated Bylaws 2007). On September 11, 2009, you wrote, “I have not written a book nor do I have plans to write a book…” Staff is unable to allow renewal of General membership for individuals who publish statements such as the one cited above.

In most instances, we are able to offer Associate membership to individuals who do not qualify for General membership. However, Associate membership is offered to individuals, “who support the organization and its purposes but do not meet the requirements for General membership” (Section 4.1.2 RWA Restated Bylaws 2007). We have been made aware of numerous posts on your blog and on the “romfail” thread on Twitter that indicate you do not support RWA or romance authors.

This decision is not one that we would have chosen. We feel that authors’ and readers’ interests are closely related and that both have much to gain by a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship. In light of the evidence on file, RWA is not offering you the option to renew.

It is true that I have publicly stated I have no aspirations to write. (See blog post referenced in letter here). It is also true that I make fun of bad books (or what I consider to be bad books). Examples can be seen here.

It is also true that I have been critical of RWA and its inability to provide its members full information on the panoply of ways that publishing is changing for the membership.

It is also true that I have been critical of authors.

I do find it interesting that the justification for blackballing me from RWA is because of my blog posts and #romfail thread on Twitter indicate that I do not support RWA or romance authors. I have supported RWA but I have also been extremely critical of them. I don’t support romance authors individually, but I do support the romance authors in general; and, of course, I support the romance genre and romance books.

I actually had not planned to renew my membership. I joined because it gave you a discount for the RWA conference and you received the RWR but over the past three years, I’ve read the RWR only a couple of times and I decided that this year I would go to RomCon instead of RWA.

I have had a lot of supportive emails sent to me over this. I hope that none of you jeopardize your own membership or standing or position in RWA or with your fellow authors over this issue because I do not want to be the cause of any more disharmony for authors. And I can apparently still be an RWA member if I choose to publicly state that I am seriously pursuing a writing career.

Anyone who reads this blog will know that RWA’s actions will not change my conviction that true advocacy requires a conversation among many different — often contrary and conflicting — views. I will never believe that bad books are a necessity about which we must remain quiet, nor will I relinquish my critical views of a genre I love and an industry in which I have taken an active interest. Hopefully authors know that whatever they get here at Dear Author is candid, honest, and a product of my faith in good books and the readers who love them.

Dear Author

The State of Romance Post RWA Nationals 2009: It’s Rocky Out...

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It seems romance has evolved to the point where we either get positive press by way of showing off the Ph.D’s writing romance or we get smarmy coverage about how romance authors are all smelling of yeast but still bringing home the bacon. A better article on the RWA Conference and its reflection of the romance genre would be thus: Romance is in a state of flux and represents both the good and the bad of the state of publishing. It shows that reading and publishing is on the brink of a change and no one really knows where it is going.

The RWA National Convention happens once a year when over 2000 registrants   converge on one unsuspecting hotel. The registrants are there to revive old friendships, cement new ones, and generally get their spirit revived. Writing is a solitary business with few rewards.   Under all the conviviality, however, is a discordant note of stress. Nationals is about business too.

Contracted authors meet with their agents and publishers. Some will be told that they no longer have contracts or will have to change their name to continue writing for the publishing house. Some authors will break up with their agents or told by their agents that representation will no longer continue. Others will have news of their great new deal.

This year’s RWA was no different. It’s hard to say whether there were more authors who are suffering the ax than in previous years but the signs of economic stress showed in at least one house who nixed its annual author dinner and opted for a more casual cocktail party.

I heard from more than one editor that they are tiring from the sameness of submissions and are looking for something, ANYTHING different. As a reader, I rejoiced. From authors, though, I got a real sense of unease. Not about writing something different but how the market isn’t stable anymore.

It used to be that there were some markers of reliability about what will sell and what will not sell in the romance market. This year, that sense of inevitability is gone. Some authors are in denial. I heard a few of them state that they didn’t really believe that publishing was in as dire straits as the news made it out to seem. Many believe that digital books are the future but are uncertain how far out into the future that was. Further, these authors didn’t really know how to be part of that digital future.   Their agents and editors didn’t know and no one is telling them the “need to know” things.

We readers laugh at how ridiculous plot settings are from Pamela Palmer’s Feral Warrior series with the hero named Lyon nicknamed Roar to Ally Blue’s Eight Arms to Hold You (yes, the eight arms refers to a were shifting beastie), but authors are looking for any kind of hook. There seems to be a greater need for authors to make it in two or three books and not the eight or ten that they may have been allotted in the past. Even editors are unsure why certain authors, covers, hooks, themes didn’t work.

Conferences like Nationals offer up one or two hour seminars about how to create that good hook with the high concept, how to sell yourself online like a champ or how not to do anything but write. It was mildly ironic that Steve Axelrod, agent to the stars (Brockmann, Quinn, Krentz, Feehan, SEP, and so on), told attendees that online promotion does not work and that authors should just write while his author, Julia Quinn was on another panel describing her facebook ads and interactive quizzes (what kind of Julia Quinn heroine would you be). I suppose as an author or aspiring author, you take away what fits you best.

Like the rest of publishing, RWA is unsure what to do with digital publishing. While Angela James (Samhain) and Treva Harte (Loose Id) were invited to participate in an exclusive publisher meeting along with print publishers and given special RWA commissioned data about readers, Diane Pershing made it clear during the AGM that those authors that get $1,000 advances get first shot at RITA slots. The tension between digital and print publishing is still being navigated. In five years, we may look back at this time period and laugh, but right now, I do feel sympathy for organizations and businesses that during this tumultuous publishing time.

One thing that is clear to me is that there is no shortage of readers who are hungry for romances.   Romance is the bright spot in publishing. It is making money (even if the sales are flat) when other areas of publishing are faltering.   Going forward, though, publishers and authors need to work together to make sure that the content, the story, is available to every reader willing and able to buy the content in whatever format the reader so desires.   Readers are becoming more impatient. One new RWA attendee observed that books are the only form of entertainment that isn’t fully digital.   We want to be entertained and we want in now.   We need to have more conversations,  even if they are contentious ones, about the future of this industry, our industry.