Saturday, June 20, 2009

RWA and e-pubs

If you are an author published with a small or electronic press, I'm sure by now you've read about the uproar regarding RWA president Diane Pershing's last letter in the RWR. Well known agent and author Deirdre Knight responded to her letter on ESPAN , expressing concern over the poor treatment of and lack of education for RWA members who are with or are considering signing with an e-publisher. Then Ms. Pershing posted a rebuttal. The result? A lot of angry RWA members, who are left wondering whether they should stay in an organization that they feel is not helping them. Or worse, doesn't even care about them.

Personally, I'm actually a bit confused by all this. The whole reason I found my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, was because in my very first Romance Writer's Report (the monthly RWA publication sent out to its members) that I received, TWRP was featured in itsIn the Spotlight column. I submitted to them because of that article, because edtior-in-chief Rhonda Penders stressed that her company was a "kinder, gentler publisher" that gave personalized rejection letters. Sounded good to me, since that's a heck of a lot more than you'll get from most agents and publishers. Because TWRP was featured in the magazine and posted on the RWA website as being a recognized non-vanity, non-subsidy publisher in good standing with them, I accepted my first contract (after canvasing a few TWRP authors) and felt good about it. It wasn't until later that I became aware of a general feeling of exclusion by the e-pubbed community within RWA circles.

I had trouble understanding how this could be. If TWRP was important/worthy enough to garner a slot in RWA's magazine, and if RWA was happy to advertise for it and other e-pubs in its publication, then I couldn't understand why authors who have gone this route are being made to feel like outcasts, even though they pay the same dues and work just as hard as print authors. Most, if not all authors would love a contract with a big NY print publisher, but it's just not going to happen, especially in this economy. Companies are cutting back and printing fewer books, and are certainly less likely to take a risk on an unknown author. So how do you become a known author to make yourself more attractive to a NY house? You have to publish something, don't you?

Isn't it better for an author to publish the books that they've slaved over, rather than leave them in their hard drive and never making any money from them? To me, earning even a little money and gaining a readership is a far more attractive alternative. And, in the long run, those books or stories you've published will provide a backlist for future sales if and when you do break into the NY market.

Bottom line? E-publishing is a growing trend, and while it won't make print books obsolete, it can't be ignored, either. Harlequin is on board with e-book technology, and most other big traditional publishers are likewise offering their books in digital format in addition to print. Why? Readers can download a book in seconds from their computer at home, on the couch, at two in the morning if they want to. Talk about instant gratification. No need to drive to the bookstore if you don't feel like it, and no waiting for Amazon to ship the book to your door. Poof, it's there on your hard drive. Digital versions are cheaper than print, can be enjoyed on a computer or electronic reader (Sony's, for example), and they're environmentally friendly because there's no paper.

In short, rather than alientaing its e-pubbed members, I wish RWA would do more to educate its membership about the pros and cons of signing with an e-publisher. Tell us which are reputable, and which to stay away from. Tell us which are turning out good product and which are publishing work that should never have been contracted. Tell us what we can expect from an e-publisher versus a print publisher. To me, that would be invaluable information for a new author trying to figure out how to navigate thier way through the publishing labrynth.

If the total RWA membership stands at 10,000 or so and only a minority of that is published, I'm willing to bet the majority of the published group is either with a small press or e-pub. Why? There are simply not enough opportunities for every aspiring author to find a place in a NY publishing house. That's just the way it is.

E-publishing is a simply a different route to take in an authors's dream to become published. For some it's a stepping stone to a bigger deal with a print publisher, and for others it's a place to submit stories that are unconventional or not within a current trend in the marketplace. Good e-publishers provide editing, cover art and promotion for their authors, and they pay their royalties on time. My publisher does all those things for its authors, and what I love most is that all of the staff, even the editor-in-chief, are available to me via email. If I have a concern, I can shoot off an email and get an answer within 24 hours. How many print publishers can say that?

Maybe I will break into the print market one day, but if I do, I'll have TWRP to thank for giving me the platform to spring from, and I'm grateful that they took a chance on an unknown author like I was.


jennjmcleod said...

HI, Jenn in (down in OZ) Terrific article. Well done.

Kaylea Cross said...

Thanks, Jenn! Jealous of you being in OZ.

Katie Reus said...

You make some great points. It shouldn't be an Us vs. Them mentality. We're all writers and it feels like something the current board of RWA has forgotten. RWA is just slow to change sometimes, but hopefully they'll get their act together sooner than later :)

Wendi Zwaduk said...

I listened to a speech by Angela James over at Samhain and it mirrored the remarks by Rhonda at TWRP. Sometimes there are stories that NY will never get because they are meant to be ebooks (I love ebooks by the way). I think the RWA is punishing authors for the route they choose, but do they honestly realize that some authors go the epiblishing route even after they've gone to NY because they like the quicker turnaround?

Don't know, but I love my home at TWRP.