While I was off gallivanting in cornfields, a controversy exploded in the online romance community last week. In case you’ve missed it, the online portion of it started with agent/author Deidre Knight’s open letter to RWA (Romance Writers of America), and RWA President Diane Pershing’s response. Today, Dear Author has a helpful guide to further reactions around the Internet.

At issue are RWA’s positions and policies on digital publishing. Currently, the organization does not recognize any e-publisher as a legitimate publisher (for the purposes of presenting at conference, taking pitches, etc.), because they pay on a no- or low-advance/greater-royalty model, instead of giving advances of $1000 or more for each book. This has resulted in a complete absence of digital publishing education at our upcoming conference. RWA’s current policies have also created ambiguity in membership status–members who publish with an e-press or small press are considered “published” in some respects, but not in others, leading to inequities in contest participation, etc.

I love RWA–both National and my local chapter. But I do think the national organization in particular could be doing far more to educate the membership about digital publishing and e-publishers. Today, digital publishing affects every published and aspiring writer of romance–we all need to understand e-rights contract clauses, the Google books settlement, DRM, and more. And I take issue with the president’s repeated assertion that e-publishing is not the venue of the “career-focused” author of romance. I’ve published with an e-press, and it was very much a career-focused decision–one I’d definitely make again.

I’ve pretty much summed up my thoughts on the issue before, so I won’t write them all out again. A few months back, I blogged about why I think digital publishing is good for romance, and then I blogged about why I think it was a good (career-focused!) move for me.

So I’m not going anywhere in RWA. I love being a member. Heck, the national conference is the highlight of my social year! I understand and appreciate the tremendous amount of work RWA officers put in, and I can imagine that wading through these thorny issues is a difficult task, to say the least. But I do intend to use my voice and vote toward the causes of improved education on digital publishing, recognition of proven reputable e-publishers, and acknowledgment that e-publishing is increasingly a valid and viable career option for many (though not necessarily all) authors. In my opinion, those things are necessary to keep RWA relevant in the digital age.

6 comments to “RWA in the digital age”

  1. terrio
    · June 23rd, 2009 at 9:19 am · Link

    As I’m not e-pubbed or print-pubbed, I don’t have an immediate dog in this hunt. But, I am an aspiring writer and member of RWA, so I’ve tried following the action.

    The most difficult thing I see is that both sides have legitimate points while at the same time, each side seems to be blind to the other’s stance.

    Until both sides are willing to do some give and take, I don’t see a resolution possible. No reason to give up, but not encouraging for the immediate future.

  2. Tessa
    · June 23rd, 2009 at 12:06 pm · Link

    Hey, Terri!

    You know, this whole issue is so complex, and there are points I agree with on both sides, too. For example, I have no problem with the current standards for PAN membership. I also agree that there are some pretty sketchy e-pubs out there, and I understand that the leadership is trying to act with caution. But they seem to be saying that so long as there are sketchy e-pubs, they refuse to recognize ANY e-pubs. Which, to me, makes no sense.

    And I don’t see why there should be any “sides” at all over the issue of increased education. Members are best served when they have all the information available to them and can make their own informed choices. Plus, there are aspects of digital publishing that affect EVERY author right now, whether she writes for NY or not.

  3. Gina Black
    · June 23rd, 2009 at 1:32 pm · Link

    Plus, there are aspects of digital publishing that affect EVERY author right now

    To me, this is the key. For RWA to really support the WHOLE membership, it must start including awareness and education on digital publishing.

  4. Ashley Ludwig
    · June 23rd, 2009 at 3:02 pm · Link


    well said! Thanks for being an advocate – seeing all the reviews you’re getting from the likes of PW, LJ, and others – I am looking forward to Goddess of the Hunt being made available!

    Education is key, and we all have so much more to learn as the publishing industry continues its growing pains.

    I (as a small press author) appreciate your voice in this matter – and look forward to being able to enter our books in the Ritas – maybe next year… 🙂


  5. terrio
    · June 24th, 2009 at 6:33 am · Link

    If I understand correctly, they turned away an e-pub who wanted to offer a workshop because they are not RWA eligible. But would they have accepted a workshop presented by an e-pubbed author who wanted to talk about it? Or even a few authors e-pubbed with different houses?

    I can’t imagine not one author offered something up.

  6. Tessa
    · June 24th, 2009 at 7:01 pm · Link

    @terrio: As I’ve heard, there was a proposal from some e-pubbed authors, but it was deemed “not up to standards” by the committee. Don’t know who was on it. But authors are never going to have the same insights as a publisher or editor, so it’s kind of strange that they would (theoretically) allow e-pubbed authors to give out second-hand information instead of the source.

    And few writers are likely to be experts on digital rights contract clauses, the Google books settlement, etc, so it’s not surprising no proposals were offered up from the membership. All the more reason the membership needs to learn about those things! The committee could actively seek out experts to fill the gaps.