Monday, June 22, 2009

Has RWA Taken a Wrong Turn?

Deidre Knight, owner of The Knight Agency, wrote a call for change. It’s mostly addressed to the Romance Writers of America. No matter what genre you write, though, her letter is worth reading.

She, along with a lot of writers, feel the RWA has taken a wrong turn by not supporting ebook authors.
RWA’s current stance on e-books is that a publisher must offer at least a $1,000 advance in order to qualify for legitimacy.
You may think that this stance keeps out only those who self-publish, but it affects a lot of writers.
HarperStudio has created an initiative whereby authors will forego advances and traditional royalties in favor of a fifty-fifty profit share. No advance, no returns, and a larger share of royalties… perhaps RWA will soon feel the need to denounce HarperCollins.
Ms. Knight goes point by point, countering RWA.
I say this to counter RWA’s claim that e-publishers do not invest in or take risks on their authors because they don’t pay advances. In short, RWA dismisses e-publishers’ validity, despite the fact that they pay four times as much in royalties, simply based on the timing of their payments….

Meanwhile, let’s talk about RWA’s position that e-published authors who make more than $1,000 in royalties are a rare exception. As an agent, I have seen a fair number of statements for clients writing for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain. The majority of these writers have passed that $1,000 benchmark within the first few months….

Not only did I sell digitally published authors to houses such as Random House, Penguin Putnam and Harlequin, but their e-readership followed them to print, launching them with a huge built in advantage in such a tough market.
These are only snippets of what she said. Be sure to link over to the full article to read all of it.
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  1. Wow - go get 'em, Deidre!!

    There's other author organizations that have similar 'criteria.' Hopefully they are paying attention as well.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  2. it's very short sited. Like it, loathe it, or fall in between ebooks are here to stay, they are a valid medium. They are not, however, the same medium as a paperback. The industry need to recognise the differences. In an instant download format it makes sense to make smaller, if any, advance payment but to give big percentages, after all you take less risk and have less up front layout on getting the books out there, but right now the market is also more limited. No advance means the author is automatically committed to putting some effort into their own marketing if they want to sell, they deserve a bigger cut for doing more of the work themselves. I could go on, but I think you get my feelings on this.

  3. Sisters in Crime have also been under fire for this same attitude. And I think Mystery Writers of America. It's not just one genre.

  4. I liked the following lines. “If RWA truly wants to protect authors, then it’s time to join the 21st century where the rules of the digital market are changing daily.” In that same vein, she wrote, “you either change with the times by adapting to the market or you are left behind.”

    Given the above as absolutely on-target, it’s self-evident that the RWA position is one level above uninformed. I’ll be generous and call it, not well thought out. But, they can change it quickly with the stroke of a digital pen. But, RWA would probably prefer the Guttenberg printing press.

    Best regards, Galen

  5. It is a great topic for discussion, Angie. It's one all organizations that represent writers are probably having.

  6. It's seems like everyone needs to be more fluid in these changing times.

  7. It's strange that large writer organizations whose members write primarily about the Old West are more far-sighted than the others.


  8. I think all of us need to make that mental shift that ebooks require. It's actually another place for us to expand to, not the enemy waiting behind the door.

  9. Maybe the other genres will learn from Old West organizations, Jean.

  10. I read this article last week. Very interesting. Be sure to look at the comments too.

    RWA president also responded to Deidra's Article--also interesting reading, especially her call for Indie pubs like Samhiem to adjust their business platform.

    Thanks for sharing this with us Helen. It's something that needs some adjustment.

  11. Times are quickly changing and authors need to adapt. Somewhere in all of this, an author can still make money.

    I made sure that my books will not be available in e-book format. Mainly because I still don't quite understand everything that's going on. I'll wait for events to evolve, and once the dust settles, make a decision as to what I want to do.

    - Steve Tremp

  12. Times are definitely changing. I think I WILL go and read the whole article.

    The Old Silly

  13. Good for Deidre! RWA's views on epub is no news and just one reason I opted not to join. Now that some of the "biggie" presses are climbing on board with epub, RWA may well have to rethink their stance.


  14. I love the people who comment here on Straight From Hel. Not only do they write insightful comments and contribute to the discussion, they keep on talking even when I have to disappear, like today when I took our quite old dog to the vet. She's fine. I'm back. And you're great.

  15. What an interesting article. My book is available in hardcover as well as an e-book. I went the traditional route with a small publisher but received no advance, so I guess that makes me ineligible for RWA membership.

    JaneKennedySutton </a

  16. Most likely, Jane, but I don't know for sure.

  17. I joined RWA when I first started writing and learned a great deal about writing in general and writing romance in particular. I attended a number of conferences and served on the board, including a term as president, of my local chapter for five or six years, starting the second year I was a member. RWA is an excellent organization for beginning fiction writers.

    The local chapter recognized the publication of my first novel, even though it was released initially only as an e-book. But just about that time, National RWA changed their definition of a published author when they realized some e-book authors had been admitted to the Published Authors Network (PAN). They expelled the e-authors who had already been admitted to PAN and revised the rules to keep e-book authors out. At that time, the criteria was the number of books published. Through the years, they have changed the criteria over and over again every time e-book and small press authors start to qualify.

    I left RWA back in 1999, and they're still fighting the same battle. As you say, so are many of the other writers organizations.

    Lillie Ammann
    A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

  18. Ebook sales is growing by leaps and bounds so RWA is a bit short-sighted not to take in this fact.

    Bargain with the Devil

  19. As everyone else commented, the ebooks are here and RWA, like many in the publishing world, are buggy whip makers (i.e. it won't ever change when it already has).


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