Our old friends, the RWA.
Well, to be fair, it’s not the entire RWA by any stretch. Just the ones who make the rules.
These women; the RWA board. (Although to be fair I don’t know if the President-Elect or the District Heads have any say or not.)
Published romance authors all of them–in other words, people who depend upon YOU for their living–who have nothing but contempt for readers who enjoy reading ebooks, particularly erotic romance ebooks. They think your tastes are too lowbrow; they think the books you enjoy reading are garbage; they think the fact that you prefer (often [but not always] less expensive) environmentally sound and convenient ebooks means you aren’t really reading books. They think what you like is low quality. Beneath them. They think you are obviously not capable of recognizing good writing or good stories. They think you’re rabid, filthy onanists who spend all your free time slavering over porn and wearing out batteries or giving yourself carpal tunnel.
And they are determined–DETERMINED–to see that the books you enjoy will never gain any sort of respect, because such books are no-good crap. And your opinion matters not one bit to them. They are going to make absolutely goddamned sure that you realize how nasty and gross they think you and your tastes are. The fact that you might enjoy them? The fact that you might find it difficult to read books because the print is small and you can make it larger on your ereader? The fact that you live in a small house and don’t have much room to store books, so you buy ebooks instead? Perhaps you’re an environmentalist. Perhaps you simply are a fan of certain ebook authors. Or maybe you just enjoy reading really hot explicit romances.
The RWA board has one thing to say to you: Fuck off. The books you like are shit. (Okay, that’s two things. But still.)
Do you wonder what’s brought this on? How I know that the RWA board–people who sure want you to buy their books–thinks this way of you?
I’ll tell you why (like you thought maybe I wouldn’t.) I might have mentioned this before, I don’t recall exactly. But there was a new rule added to the RITA contest this year. This rule was NOT given to the general membership for voting; it wasn’t even mentioned to the general membership. No one was warned it would be in there. It was simply sneaked in under the wire, because the RWA board didn’t want to openly discuss it–they didn’t want to take any chances that RWA members might hear about it and point out what a disgusting and contemptuous way this is to treat paying members of an organization, and the fans of those paying members, or readers who simply like ebooks.
These are the RITA-specific rules:
“Books entered in the 2009 RITA contest must:
Have an original copyright date (printed on the copyright page) or a first printing date or a first North American printing date of 2008.
Not have been previously entered.
Be mass-produced by a non-Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher in print book format.
Meet the requirements for the category in which it was entered.
Be a work of original fictional narrative prose.”
On other words, no ebooks allowed. Only mass-produced books, books with print runs, are good enough to enter the RITA.
The purpose of these rules, in general, is to ensure the contest is fair; but more than that, rules about non-vanity, non-subsidy publishers are there to make sure RITA judges don’t get snowed under by a flood of self- or vanity-published, unedited books. In other words–deliberately inflammatory ones–to make sure they don’t get snowed under by a bunch of crappy, poorly edited books.
And apparently ebooks qualify, in the eyes of the RWA board, as crap.
That’s right, readers? That ebook you read that touched your heart and made you happy? That kept you on the edge of your seat? That made a long train journey more enjoyable?
The RWA board thinks it’s garbage, and you’re a dipshit for enjoying it.
It’s possible right now that you’re thinking, “But that just means the RWA board doesn’t consider epublished books really published, right? Isn’t there another contest for unpublished authors? Maybe this is ebook discrimination, but in a different way; maybe they’re not saying ebooks are crap, just that they don’t consider that ‘real’ publishing. Which is bad, but, y’know, not quite as bad as telling a whole bunch of readers that the RWA board thinks the books they like are shitty.”
And that might be a fair assumption, except epublished books are not eligible for the Golden Heart contest for unpublished writers.
“The Golden Heart contest is open to writers who have not accepted a publishing offer from a non-Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher for a work of original fictional narrative prose of 20,000 words or more by the contest entry deadline.”
See? It doesn’t say anything there about a book not being considered “published” if it’s an ebook.
And to further clarify, RWA’s President, Diane Pershing–a woman who wants you to buy and read her books, remember–had this to say:
“The phrase “mass-produced” as it pertains to the RITA contest, is intended to define eligible books as those that are produced in sufficient quantity by the publisher to be offered for sale to the trade (booksellers and librarians) at standard discount rates and returnable.”
So there you go. The RWA thinks its dues-paying members who write ebooks should not sully their precious fucking RITA with their dirty, substandard books. And because those books are dirty and substandard it stands to reason, then, that people who LIKE those books are somehow themselves dirty or substandard. Ms. Pershing thinks you’re an idiot, in other words, with bad taste in books. You don’t know what romance really is, according to her; you wouldn’t know a good story if it bit you on the ass (although, don’t say “ass” around her because that’s one of those filthy words.) Your tastes are crap; you are incapable of judging the quality of a book or story, and she wants nothing to do with you (oh, except, of course, hopefully buying one of her books! Because you need her help to learn what a real book is, you see; hopefully one day you’ll wise up and learn that what you like isn’t good enough.)
This is bullshit. This is the biggest pile of bullshit I’ve ever seen in my life.
Why is anyone standing for this? Why the hell are epublished writers still paying dues to this organization that clearly thinks they’re a bunch of useless hacks? And why the hell would romance writers, women who spend so much of their time feeling forced to defend their genre to snobs of every other genre, turning around and being such insufferable, unapologetic, discriminatory snobs themselves?
And seriously, why does anyone bother being an RWA member? As I’ve said before on numerous occasions, aside from the local chapter meetings (which I gather some people enjoy, but I still think you could organize a good writing group without the RWA sticking their lousy noses into it), the RWA offers NOTHING. It does NOTHING. I can quite honestly say that being a member did not advance my career one iota. Not one bit. It did nothing for me, at all. The RWA provides not one bit of information that cannot be had online anywhere else for free.
As it is? It seems to me paying dues to the RWA is like having a store tell you they won’t hire you to work the register because you’re (too short/too fat/blonde/black/a woman/a man/Asian/insert some other offensively discriminatory adjective here) and then continuing to do all your shopping there.
Any other market or group or whatever in the world would react to this type of discrimination with outrage. Any other market or group or whatever in the world would not countenance this type of discrimination, period. “Some are more equal than others” isn’t permissable anymore, not in this day and age.
Now, I know I’ve said before that readers don’t need to care about the RITA. And I still feel that way, to a large degree. But this isn’t about the RITA itself. It’s about the books you love, and how a group of writers of other books has gotten together to tell you they don’t consider those books to be worthy of their time or their awards, and that as writers in the genre you read, they think you ought to be toeing their line and reading what they want you to. They think your judgment is bad; they think you and your favorite books suck, and you can all fuck off.
I am hugely, HUGELY offended by this, and you should be too. Because what the RWA board is saying, very clearly, is that they do not want members who write ebooks, and they do not consider readers who enjoy ebooks to be readers they are interested in. They don’t want to give the books you love awards; they barely tolerate authors you love as members. They do not want to invite the writers you love to signings or events. They don’t think the writers and stories you enjoy are worth their time or effort; they think you have bad taste and are not particularly smart.
And what’s particularly funny about that is, this is the same group of writers who not only have never bothered to learn anything about epublishing, but who STILL cannot figure out how to define “erotic romance”. WRITERS. WHO DON’T KNOW THE MEANING OF BASIC WORDS. Who after three or four YEARS still haven’t figured it out. They don’t want to have to give awards to erotic romance, because remember, they don’t think books with sex in them are “real” romance; they think you erotic romance fans are just dirty, filthy consumers of dirty, filthy porn, and they want nothing to do with you. (Wow, that definition thing inspires a lot of confidence in their ability. Is that like a professional violinist who can’t find F-sharp?)
Oooh, this pisses me off. I am so glad I let my membership lapse. I had actually considered entering the RITA this year, but I’m glad I didn’t, because I will never, ever give the RWA another penny of my money until they change this shameful policy.