The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Trouble Brewing in Romance Land

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year, you are most likely aware of the trouble brewing between the national RWA and romance e-publishers (and their authors). Although I tend to avoid local politics like the plague, I have followed this controversy for a while now. Since I am about to have my first book published in electronic format, the issue has become of grave importance to me. A post on the ESPAN board by Deidre Knight (agent/author) seems to have polarized an already hot topic. Knight addresses a statement made by RWA president Diane Pershing in the latest RWA magazine. Hundreds of comments from e-authors illustrate the need for the national RWA to better reflect the changing technology and embrace the future of the publishing industry, as well as support ALL of its members, not just the old school girls. 

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 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.


Michelle Pressma said...

Not only do I suspect fear is a major motivator of the national organization's position -- embrace other standards/definitions/models and maybe that means that the print published authors will lose ground -- but I also believe national RWA is completely underestimating the speed of change. We live in a virtual/web/wired world and if an organization can't embrace change very quickly, they're left behind. Publishing is changing for print publication just as quickly. The idea of taking a stance and sticking by it (for example insisting on $1000 advances) is no longer helpful when that position can't keep up with the times. Fluidity is hard for a large national organization, I realize, but in some ways the medium (epublishing) is the message. It must be extremely threatening to hear so much opposition out there from the membership. And us pitiful humans frequently get stuck in fight or flight when we're threatened. I hope RWA catches up, because otherwise it's Hasta La Vista, baby.

Penny Watson said...

Michelle- don't think I am not totally loving the Terminator quote you added into your comment...most excellent! Thank you for these thoughtful observations. Personally, I think the best step in the right direction is for RWA to at least appoint an e-liaison on the board. I am hoping this will happen soon.
Dalton- Great point. It is certainly ironic that an organization trying to fight for respect for the romance industry is treating a nice chunk of its membership in the same dismissive way. I am going to believe that RWA will do the right thing. In the mean time, I think it's a good idea to join e-supportive groups in addition to RWA, to be part of a supportive community looking out for us, too.

Dalton Diaz said...

I've changed my original post here because it showed my anger, not all of my feelings. Let me set one thing straight: I love RWA. My local chapter is my home, my community, and in so many ways my 2nd family.
Like in most families, however, there is always the black sheep. For RWA, it seems to be those pesky e-pub authors whose publishing houses keep pushing their way past those roadblocks meant to keep them out of the fold.
I really hope that we can find acceptance soon. It gets harder and harder to put in the $ and effort necessary to attend those family functions where one doesn't feel welcome.