I’m sure you follow the rest.
Yes, in my second post on the RWA (that’s Romance Writers of America, btw *wink*), I’m going to bore all you non-RWA people by discussing publisher recognition. Because I’ve been hearing a lot about this, and (surprise!) I have some opinions on it.
These are the current standards for publisher recognition (to view them in situ, as it were, in the issue of RWA E-notes I took this from, go here and scroll down a bit):
To be an “RWA-Recognized Publisher,” a publisher must be a royalty-paying publishing house that (1) does not offer is not a subsidy or vanity publisher contracts to RWA members, (2) has been releasing books on a regular basis via national distribution for a minimum of one year, and (3) has sold a minimum of 1,500 hardcover or trade paperback copies or 5,000 copies in any other format, including print on demand, of a single romance novel or novella or collection of novellas in book form, in bona fide arms-length transactions, and continues to sell a minimum of 1,500 hardcover or trade paperback copies or 5,000 copies in any other format of a subsequent romance novel each year.
That’s it. Those are the standards. What this means, my lovies, is that many epublishers are not recognized (among them one of my own publishers, Whiskey Creek Press-Torrid).
What that means to the authors who write for those publishers is that they cannot join PAN, RWA’s Published Author’s Network. PAN benefits include things like first pick at editor/agent pitch meetings at RWA conventions, being able to attend the PAN retreat (which I envision being a bit like a summer camp, with lots of pillows and a fireplace, and a bunch of ladies in pajamas toasting marshamllows and discussing passive voice), co-op promo activities, and, according to the PAN page on the RWA website, “other activities designed to adavcne the professional interests of PAN members.”
All of which sounds pretty good, right? But hardly stuff worth losing sleep over.
I’m not a PAN member myself, although I’ve been provisionally eligible since April of last year and fully eligible since December, when Black Dragon released. So perhaps my view is biased. I am eligible. I’ve not bothered to send in the form to become a member. Which makes me lazy. I readily admit that part of my general contempt–or rather, my disregard–of RWA is because I haven’t bothered to get all I can from it. I never joined my local chapter in Florida, for example, and apparently it’s the local meetings that most members find beneficial. I am a member of Passionate Ink, which is the online erotic romance chapter of RWA.
And that’s where this is coming from, really. RWA is currently not accepting any more publisher applications for recognition, while they decide if the standards need to be changed (read: should it be harder for publishers to get recognition?).
Yes, it should.
See, a lot of epubbed writers feel really hurt by RWA’s refusal to “acknowledge” them as published authors. And to some degree, I’m with them. It hurts to work hard for something and think you’ve acheived it, only to have the professional organization to which you pay not-inconsiderable dues every year doesn’t think your publisher is good enough for them to send you a little gold pin and let you into the slumber party.
But this shouldn’t be about feelings. It should be about careers. It should be about A) reaching a certain level of proficiency; and B) making sure the publisher you’re selling your work to is really going to allow you to make any money. Seriously, y’all, I’ve read some books from smaller, newer epublishers. They are not all the same, and the books are not all what I would consider ready for publication. Should we start allowing anyobdy to say they’re a publisher, and get recognized? Should we start allowing Publish America authors to join PAN? Should RWA, one of the largest professional writer’s organizations, start recognizing fly-by-nights and scammers, giving author mills their approval, just so the scamees can feel good about themsleves? No matter who else is hurt by that recognition?
1500 books or 5000 ebooks is all well and good…for one title. Just because a publisher is capable of selling that many copies of one title doesn’t mean they’re capable of selling that many copies of all their titles, though, or even a decent percentage of their titles. Selling a book to an RWA-recognized publisher should be a big deal. It should mean the writer can have some expectation of decent earnings. It should mean that the publisher will automatically:
–Make the book available on time
–Make the book easily available to potential customers, either by adding it and the author to all search engines on its website, or by putting it in the print catalog and working to make sure bookstores order that book
–Provide royalty statements
–Provide professional editing, not just copyediting and spellcheck
–engage in at least some form of promotion, even if that promotion is simply announcing releases on its site and Yahoo group and sending copies for review.
It should mean that an author can reasonably expect that the publisher has the clout, either online or with bookstores, to sell a reasonable number of copies of the author’s book. An average, if you will. Not just one book that managed to meet the goals, but a lot of books.
Those standards are there to protect authors, not to denigrate them. No publisher should be RWA recognized if it’s publishing books that sell copies in the single digits. It simply shouldn’t happen.
See, this is where I think making RWA recognition such a big deal, such a be-all end-all in people’s eyes, has seriously backfired. Publishers are now so eager to get the recognition that they focus on meeting that goal, and on no other (IMO). And a lot of books, a lot of authors, are getting screwed, either by being ignored so the publisher can focus on those books, or by simply thinking they’ve got a shot at making real money, finally–at least enough for a really nice pair of shoes, if not more–only to discover that their publisher is not what they thought. That the hits aren’t there, the interest isn’t there. It’s not always the fault of the publisher. Some books are hits, some are misses. But an RWA recognized publisher should at the very least be giving each book an equal shot. They should have the juice to do that.
Because if they don’t, being recognized means nothing. And it should. Because if it doesn’t, the writers whose feelings are hurt are right–it’s just a way to be mean to them and exclude them.