Thursday, July 12, 2007

News From the 2007 RWA National, Part 2

Today was the first day of the RWA convention. I had a great time. I attended three workshops and the luncheon. The workshops were: How to Write the Unputdownable Book by Joan Johnston; Writing Romantic Suspense by Karen Rose and How to Write Humor by Karen Hawkins. All were excellent. Lisa Klepas was the keynote speaker at the luncheon.

At 2:15 PM, the Annual General Meeting (AGM) began. There were a large number of speakers who addressed three contentious policy issues that are under consideration:

1) The definition of a subsidy or vanity publisher has been rewritten to include the following: publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site.

2) Eligibility requirements for membership in PAN--the Published Author Network--of RWA have been changed to include earnings criteria. I am going to reprint the entire change below because it is tied to #1 above:

The Board also voted to change PAN eligibility requirements to offer two methods by which RWA members may now become members of PAN.

Option One: Any RWA General or Honorary member who has earned at least $1,000 in the form of an advance from a single romance novel or novella published by a non-Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher may join PAN either as a full member (once the title is published) or as a provisional member for an eighteen-month period while awaiting publication of the title. In order to qualify for PAN under Option One, the member must submit a copy of the signature page of the contract to the Office along with either of the following: (1) a copy of the contract page showing an advance of at least $1,000; or (2) a letter from the acquiring editor stating that the author has earned at least $1,000 in the form of an advance.

Option Two: Any RWA General or Honorary member who has earned at least $1,000 in the form of royalties or a combination of advance plus royalties on a single published romance novel or novella published by a non-Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher may join PAN as a full member following the publication of the title. In order to qualify for PAN under Option Two, the member must submit a copy of the novel's or novella's copyright page to the Office along with either of the following: (1) royalty statement(s) from the publisher showing earnings of at least $1,000; or (2) a letter from the acquiring editor stating that the author has earned at least $1,000 in the form of royalties or an advance plus royalties. Documentation must reflect earnings on a single novel or novella. In the case of a multiple-book contract, or in the event royalty statement(s) show earnings on multiple books, the earnings on the qualifying novel or novella must be shown separately. Any percentage of earnings deducted by an agent shall still be considered earnings to the author; however, the pre-deduction figure must be reflected in the documentation.


You see the sticking point, don't you? By definition, any e-publisher is considered a Subsidy or Vanity Publisher so the e-pubbed writer is ineligible for PAN.

The Board was clearly nonplussed by this interpretation of the proposed changes. The Board president said that, because Ellora's Cave (she never mentioned another e-publisher) also sells books on Amazon and in bookstores, the Subsidy or Vanity Publisher definition would not apply. However, that is NOT what the definition says. The definition doesn't say "publishers with multiple distribution channels"; it says "publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site." That would include all electronic publishers.

More to the point, the definition of subsidy or vanity publisher has NOTHING TO DO WITH DISTRIBUTION. It refers to the way the money flows. In traditional publishing, the money flows from the publisher TO the writer. In subsidy or vanity publishing, the money flows FROM the writer to the "publisher."

When I stood up to make this point, I was told that the Board hired a small press attorney to develop the definition. I said, "With respect, ma'am, the Board needs to hire a new attorney." Although the comment garnered laughter and applause, I was dead serious.

I think the RWA Board members assume a heavy mantle of responsibility and work long and often thankless hours. However, at the same time, I think this definition of a subsidy or vanity publisher is so far off base that they cannot let it stand. It will subject them to charges of bias against electronic publishing at the very time when RWA should be embracing e-publishing.

3) The third item of contention was this:

After extensive discussion, the Board decided not to add an erotic romance category to the contests due in part to the inherently indefinable nature of erotic romance. Romance entries with highly sensual and sexual content may be entered in any category. General contest instructions to judges for all categories now state that highly sensual and sexual content may be present in their judging panel.

I think that this was the Board taking advantage of a failure of the erotic romance writers to present a united front. The Board just passed the political hot potato to another board in another year.

I am a founder of Passionate Ink, the erotic romance chapter of RWA. We have a very specific definition of erotic romance. I suspect it will take a campaign by erotic romance writers USING ONE DEFINITION to change this stance on the part of RWA. My experience thus far of RWA suggests this will not happen in this fiscal year.

11 comments:

Lynne Simpson said...

::applause::

If I had been at that meeting, I would've been whistling and cheering for you. Their little addition to the definition of a vanity publisher is ridiculous, and it should be removed. Any hint that they'd be fixing it?

Swimming Kangaroo said...

Hi Maya,
Thanks for this post. The RWA (and also the Mystery Writers Association,m which has just enacted similar rules) should be ashamed for putting forth such a divisive policy. On another listserv people have been jokingly saying that we should start a campaign saying RWA hates trees since their policy is detrimental to an environmentally form of publishing.

Dindy Robinson
Publisher
Swimming Kangaroo Books

BarbaraK said...

Right now RWA sounds to me like the characters in the Dr. Seuss book about the Star-bellied Sneetches
http://www.amquix.info/humor/sneetches/amway_sneetches.html



Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches
Had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches
Had none upon thars.

The snooty Star-Belly Sneetches decided that they were better than the Plain-Belly sort and would purposely exclude them from "frankfurter roasts or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts."

Wise to this stargregation, Sylvester McMonkey McBean entered the scene and "put together a very particular machine" that put stars upon the bellies of the Plain-Belly Sneetches for three dollars each.

Clever McBean didn't end there, for he realized the original Star-Belly Sneetches became distinctly aware... with all sneetches now resembled alike, their upturned noses and sense of betterment could now take a hike!

What did McBean offer? A new opportunity to separate the masses. For ten dollars each, his new Star-Off Machine would remove the stars upon the upper-crust Sneetches.

So in and out of the machinery all the Sneetches would go, to add stars, to remove stars, to forefront the show. Meanwhile, McBean's money pile continues to grow, and when the Sneetches would realize their folly, nobody would know.

This went on for some time: the Star-Bellied Sneetches would get their belly stars removed, while the Plain-Belly Sneetches would get stars added.

Yawn.

Barbara K.
www.sff.net/people/selkiewife
www.myspace.com/barbarakarmazin

Stephen Parrish said...

"Romance entries with highly sensual and sexual content may be entered in any category."

Doesn't sound "inherently indefinable" to me.

BrennaLyons said...

Thanks for the comment about their lawyers. I was thinking the same thing, though I wasn't at the con to say it.

While I don't AGREE with Passionate Ink's definition of erotic romance, I agree that you have one. I believe the one EPIC has adopted is much more reflective of the actual industry and was given the nod of approval by the publishers and authors of erotic romance and erotica that EPIC deals with, but any definition is better than none.

B

Duane said...

Hi, I'm not a writer and don't know if I'll ever become a member, but I'd be more inclined to join the newly formed ERWA instead. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I wonder what the stuffy board would think if half their members deserted for another organization?

Dee Dawning

Emily Veinglory said...

Erotic romance is impossible to define? Wow, file that one under M for moronic or D for disingenuous ;) I'd be happy with most defintions but is really isn't complex... love story + sex scenes

Maria Zannini said...

>>...the Board decided not to add an erotic romance category to the contests due in part to the inherently indefinable nature of erotic romance.

uhh...did they say what part they found indefinable? It sounds like a not-so-hidden agenda on the board's part.

-maria

Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks, everyone.

I think the RWA Board has a tough job. They are presiding over a very diverse organization. All bureaucracies move slowly, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

My concern on the definition of subsidy and vanity press was that I did not want to see e-pubbed writers cut out of a career path to PAN. I also don't want to see RWA putting in stone such a blatantly incorrect definition. Frankly, I think the Board will move to fix this. They were clearly taken aback by the corner the definition backed them into.

I think it is Passionate Ink's job as the erotic romance chapter of RWA to come up with a definition of "erotic romance." We need to set up a process by which to solicit feedback and give all our sisters writing erotic romance and erotica a chance to voice their opinions. I KNOW we have a working definition, but I think this is an opportunity to give formal feedback to the Board as a chapter.

Then the matter will need to be addressed by RWA as an organization.

Gina Black said...

Thank you, Maya, for stepping forward at the meeting and for reporting back here.

I, also, appreciate the hard work of the Board and know they devote countless writing hours to further the organization. I do find it somewhat alarming that, since this is an organization of writers, the distribution clause, which has such a clear interpretation, was apparently missed by them. I think it will benefit RWA tremendously when an epubbed author joins that group.

Maya Reynolds said...

Gina: That's an excellent point. I think the Board should actively solicit an e-pubbed author, AND that the e-pubbed folk should be looking for someone to run for the Board.