I planned to do a final “Choosing a Publisher” post today–on other warning signs that a publisher is losing its hold–followed by some exciting news for the rest of the summer Fridays. But I feel the need to post about this new RWA debacle, so I hope you’ll all tune in next Friday for the Publisher post.
My regular readers know that for some time I’ve been vocal about the need for RWA to get much stricter about what publishers it deems “Recognized” or “Approved” or whatever. (here) for example). So it was with quite a bit of trepidation that I saw on Wednesday evening that RWA did just what I thought they should do…
On the surface, I agree with the changes. These are the new standards:
“After much research, member input, discussion and deliberation, the Board has determined that the blanket application of “Publisher Recognition” to allocate RWA’s resources is not serving its members, many of whom mistakenly perceive that RWA is placing a “stamp of approval” on these publishers. Therefore, the Board has examined its programs and services, item by item.
By substituting the word Eligible for Recognized, and limiting the scope of the term Eligible Publisher so that it deals solely with RWA’s allocation of its programs and resources, primarily at our national Conference, the term and concept of “Recognized Publisher” no longer factors into PAN and PRO eligibility, the RITA and Golden Heart contests, RWR content, and many other sections of our Policies and Procedures Manual.
Commencing with RWA’s 2008 National Conference, for official publisher participation, a romance publisher must verify to RWA that it: (1) is not a Subsidy Publisher or Vanity Publisher; (2) has been releasing romance novels via national distribution for no fewer than three years, with no fewer than two full-length romance novels or novel-length romance anthologies published in each of three consecutive years; (3) provides per book advances of at least $1,000 for all books; and (4) pays all authors participating in an anthology an advance of at least $500.
A Subsidy Publisher or Vanity Publisher means any publisher that publishes books in which the author participates in the cost of production or distribution in any manner, including publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing and/or distribution. This definition includes publishers who withhold or seek full or partial payment or reimbursement of publication or distribution costs before paying royalties, including payment of paper, printing, binding, production, sales or marketing costs; publishers whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books; publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site; publishers whose list is comprised of 50% or more of its books written by authors who are principals in the publishing company; and publishers whose business model and methods of publishing are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and associates.”
The business of the advances has angered and upset quite a few epublished members. Since most epublishers don’t pay advances (and the one who does, Samhain, pays, I believe, $100 or so), this new standard automatically excludes all epublishers. While this doesn’t please me entirely, I’m really okay with it. RWA should be making sure the publishers it allows to solicit authors at its convention are able to provide a decent amount of money to authors. This is a step in the right direction.
Personally, I think an epublisher should be able to prove average earnings of over $1000 or $2000 per book, and thus still be eligible. It’s all about the money, or at least it should be.
So this is good. I like that they’re trying to provide for their members.
The problem, the shameful problem, somes in their definition of Subsidy/Vanity publisher. Did anyone catch it? It’s this line here:
publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site;
Which basically means, every epublisher.
This apparently caused quite a stir at the general meeting yesterday, as well it should have. To imply that epublishing automatically means vanity publishing is frankly disgusting.
We all know there are epublishers out there who will seemingly accept just about anything. We’ve all read epublished books that are essentially crap: poorly written, poorly edited, dull, ungrammatical, etc. But that certainly doesn’t mean all epublishers accept anything, and RWA does writers a disservice by both implying they do, and failing to distinguish between the good and the bad. They should be helping their members do that, not ignoring those questions.
When this fact was brought before the board, they claimed to be shocked. Shocked! They enlisted a publishing attorney to help them draft this definition of vanity publishing–an attorney whose name they have not given, and who is apparently a total moron–and they never, ever intended to imply epubs like EC, Samhain, and Loose-id–publisher who were Recognized by them until this convention–were vanity publishers.
But they have not as yet changed the wording. This is highly disturbing.
Whatever the current board says, in an attempt to cover up their shameful ignorance and lack of research into the most basic facts about epublishing, the fact remains that this definition as written equates all epublishers with vanity presses. This board will be up for re-election in a couple of months; who’s to say the next board won’t choose to rule by the language and not the intent?
The board claims they meant the definition to mean publishers whose only form of distribution is their own websites, and not Fictionwise or Ingrams or any other form of distro.
But the correct wording for that–which one would certainly expect a group of published authors to know–would be “publishers whose exclusive means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site;”, not “publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site;”.
The fact that none of them caught this is cause for real concern. That one reason alone is more than enough to vote against every member of this board when they come up for re-election soon, and it’s exactly what we should do. That they claim to represent us and be the face of all of us with regards to the romance industry, and yet apparently can not adequately use or understand written language or do any amount of basic research to benefit their membership is grossly incompetent.
We all know they’re trying to prevent another Triskelion-style blowup, and that is admirable. But hiring the Keystone Kops to protect the President is a bad idea, and keeping any member of this failure of a board in office would be irresponsible for any member of the RWA to do. Today they’re ignorant of how epublishing works; who knows what new issue they’ll be incapable of dealing with next?
This new rule also does NOT address in any way how they will treat epublishers when it comes to the problem of e-piracy. Will the RWA aid epublishers in their efforts to prevent it?
I am quite upset that Ellora’s Cave has lost its status with RWA. I am quite upset that Samhain and Loose-id, after finally winning Recognition only a few months ago, ahve now been demoted (apparently, the RWA hasn’t officially said yay or nay but these new rules leave little doubt of their intent.) I am quite upset that the RWA isn’t taking changes in the industry into account.
Of course there’s more; the board managed to claim the reason they haven’t added an erotic category to the RITA is because nobody could give them a definition of erotic romance, which is probably one of the silliest excuses I’ve ever heard (we could give them one, and next year they’ll try and tell us their dog ate it).
I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last couple of days about whether I want to keep my RWA membership. I don’t know for sure. As I’ve said repeatedly, RWA does pretty much nothing for me; in my eyes it’s basically a useless organization full of silly women who spend most of their time behaving like they’re back in high school. The much-vaunted PAN (Published Author’s Network) doesn’t, to my knowledge, offer much for its members either, although I’m hoping that now it’s harder to get into they’ll expand it and make it worth a damn.
For the moment I’m staying in; my membership isn’t up until October anyway. Beyond that, we’ll see.
But please, if you are a member, and you’re reading this, join me in voting against every member of this board. They failed at the very basic tenets of their job, which is to understand the industry and the authors they’re supposed to represent, and they do not deserve to keep their offices.