If you haven't heard, this past week has turned up quite a bit of drama across the board within the RWA and e-publishing ranks. When I received my RWR and read the president's monthly article, I mentioned to my husband that this was turning into a running joke - I can't recall when she hasn't invoked the pitfalls of e-publishing, and I had to laugh when I saw (halfway through her article) that she had done it again.
Full disclosure before I continue: Once upon a time (about ten years ago), I'd exhausted all publishing venues for my romance novel, having submitted it to every known publisher and agency in romance-dom. I was trying to consider my options when, a year after I had submitted a requested proposal, I received my final rejection letter that said the associate editor liked it but couldn't get approval from the editor, and thank you and better luck elsewhere. At the same time, a friend for whom I had a deep amount of respect signed on as an editor at an e-publisher and told me that I should submit to another editor interested in my sub-genre. I did. After a few months, the publisher offered me a contract. I accepted without realizing how RWA would eventually respond and where that would leave me in the organization. I don't regret giving the publisher my novel (it wasn't going anywhere but the trash bin anyway), but I do regret that I'm now in a weird in-between place in RWA. To be honest, it feels like punishment.
Suffice to say, the exchanges online, from the Twitter #rwafail to the e-mail lists and blog posts, have caught my interest because they apply to my situation if only vaguely. This week, seeing agent and bestselling author Dierdre Knight tackle Diane Pershing's latest RWR offering has brought up points I hadn't considered. Likewise, Pershing's response today has given me more food for thought.
What do I think RWA should do? I don't know. RWA is a monolith, and any movement is difficult with a group this diverse and large. However, I do think a large number of members (including me) are being disenfranchised. Those of us who leaped before realizing that PAN's doors would slam on us, as would the Golden Heart, receive the benefits of PRO membership and little else on a national level. Those who are continually selling books and making a nice profit from e-publishing, whether solely or in addition to print publishing, have lately had trouble submitting e-books to the Rita. The few who've qualified by RWA's standards receive the benefits of PAN membership, but what about the remainder?
So what is a good solution? What is to be gained by leaving RWA? What's to be gained by staying and working on change from within? What can RWA do to serve all of its members, regardless of their business decisions? And more so - should anything change within e-publishing and that business model to make those houses more acceptable to RWA's demands, or is RWA basing its standards on a failing business model? I see a lot of emotional response to the subject on both sides, but I haven't seen many responses that logically tackle the issue and bring the underlying problem into focus. Specifically, I'd like to know why e-published authors feel threatened by RWA's decisions, and I'd like to know why RWA's board members feel threatened by e-publishing. On the e-pub side, is it all about the recognition? On the board side, is it all about the money?
I know I don't need to remind Five Scribes visitors, but just in case - please keep comments professional and (if critical) constructive. Let's have a discussion without heat and vitriol and really ask ourselves what the root issues are and how we can address them, whether within or without RWA.