Now, I would like to add a couple of other elements into this already complex issue. E-pubs offer unique opportunities for authors who are thinking and writing outside of the box. Some writers don't want to pen a 80,000-100,000 word novel (and some readers don't want to read them!). Instead, we're interested in shorter novels, novella-length stories, even quickies. And luckily for us, lots of romance readers love this option, too. However, most of the traditional print-pubs will not consider shorter length romances. Another problem I personally encountered was the untraditional paranormal setting for my first novel...the North Pole (Santa-land). It automatically clumps me into holiday romance, and the larger print pubs generally only print well-established authors doing holiday stories, either in anthology form or special edition Christmas books. If it was not for a bevy of e-pubs looking for shorter length, holiday-themed works, I would have basically no options for my first novel Sweet Inspiration, a 55,000-word Christmas themed story. "Alternative" publishers who are offering these opportunities to writers and readers should be embraced by the RWA and commended for offering more flexibility in our industry.
As to the debate going on at ESPAN, I think the crux of this issue is what constitutes "being published." My naive understanding as a newbie in this profession is that if you write a book, and either you or someone else distributes said book in whatever format (electronic, print, audio), you're published. (And yes, that's right, I think self-published authors deserve the credit they have earned for writing and releasing a novel). Placing arbitrary restrictions on the definition of being published (you need to earn X amount of dollars, print so many books, publish with such and such publisher) is exactly why I avoid politics. It takes what should be a simple issue and starts to muddy the waters. Sela Carsen's comment to the ESPAN post struck me the most as I waded through the letters....here is a portion of her comment....
"Am I published or not? How hard should it be to determine whether someone is published or not? Story out with non-vanity, non-subsidy pub? Getting paid for it? You know what? That sounds pretty darned published to me."
Yep, I agree. Simple, really. Your book's out, you're getting paid, and romance-lovers are reading your story. It's what all romance writers dream about. The national RWA is starting to look like the old woman who lives in a shoe, chastising her unruly offspring for breaking the rules, not following directions, refusing to stick with the established program. Personally, I'm jonesing for a hip, modern mom who loves me even if I come home with a Mohawk and nose ring. Someone who lets me know that as long as I write good-quality novels, I'll be treated with the respect and support I deserve. I hope this isn't just wishful thinking, but the future of the RWA. Otherwise, I'm reminded of the final scene of Terminator where Sarah Connor is sitting in her jeep at the gas station. She's looking at storm clouds gathering in the sky...
Mexican boy: Viene la tormenta!
Sarah Connor: What did he just say?
Gas Station Attendant: He said there's a storm coming in.
Sarah Connor: I know.