Another Chance to Educate Candy!

Update! Sylvia Day posts Debra Dixon’s rebuttal, and based on other evidence, concludes that Medallion dropped the ball. The comments have some interesting reading material, too. Found the link on Alison’s blog.

A couple of days ago, Kate Rothwell posted a letter from the CEO/Editor-in-Chief of Medallion Press about how their status as RWA-approved publisher has been yanked.

OK, I can see the value of vetting a publisher and giving it an organization’s Stamp of Approval so that aspiring authors who sell to small presses can be assured that they’re legit operations, not scam jobs.

But this part of the letter struck me as very, very strange:

Several months prior to Book Expo America 2005, we received a call from your [the RWA] office alerting us to the fact that you would be sending out a letter asking us to re-qualify for RWA approval. We were also told at that time that we had done nothing to warrant the re-qualification, but that your organization was having trouble with a particular publisher and chose not to single them out.

How weird does THAT sound? One iffy publisher was under investigation, but all the other small presses had to go through the re-qualifying process so that the iffy publisher’s feelings weren’t hurt?

Weird, weird, weird. I don’t get it. Can someone enlighten me on why this would be necessary?

Also, how often in the past has the RWA cleaned house for its list of approved small presses? Or is this the first time it has made presses that previously qualified go through the qualification process AGAIN with no evidence of malfeasance (e.g. opening up a vanity press division)?

I’m genuinely curious. Anyone care to educate me?

Please?

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  1. 1
    SB Sarah says:

    Seriously, taking a step back, it seems to me that the RWA could be a carnival booth, only, instead of shooting holes in a piece of paper with a bb gun, you just aim the gun at your foot and pull the trigger. Six or seven times. Bless their hearts.

  2. 2
    Robin says:

    I was a member for 8 years (until Jan ‘05) and never saw any “cleaning out” of the publishers list. After “overhearing” several snarky comments about one particular publisher, I can certainly believe Medallion was told that one “apple” had caused the whole bunch to need to prove themselves again.

  3. 3
    Dee says:

    Personally, I’m a wee bit worried about RWA. Just wondering if maybe they are simply looking for things to piss people off with this year. I mean, shoot, usually, I have to ask who is on staff there. This year, I’ve seen all of their names listed so many times, I’m wondering if I should name my next kid after them. I think this was just one more attempt by RWA to “clean out” whatever it is they’re trying to remove from their membership.

    If only we could figure out what they were trying to preserve, we might know what they’ll target next.

  4. 4
    Kate R says:

    hmmmmmm….I found an interesting response from Deb Dixon. (also at my blog)about how easy it is to get the numbers. 

    It’s true enough that tracking down some numbers are easy you can call to Ingram’s numbers on any ISBN they distribute—this and last year’s sales, returns etc. (It’s even a toll free number. I used to call it all the time until I realized that I was torturing myself.)

    On the other hand, Ingram’s and B’n’T aren’t the only distributing game around. My first book was in Wal-Mart and grocery stores and a couple of other places that don’t use those two distributors.

    I wonder who distributes for EC?

  5. 5

    I’m still a member of RWA but I’ve always resented what I perceive as their maternalistic rules regarding what publishers are legit or not.  I wish they’d have some faith in my ability as an author to know what I’m doing when I sign a contract, even if it’s a small press rather than a big house. 

    They’re missing the boat and applying 20th C. standards to a business that’s well into the 21st Century and leaving them behind.

    And I also resent RWA being willing to take my dues money, but not willing to allow me to list my three sales to a royalty paying publisher in their members’ sales column.  At what point do they consider me to be a legitimate writer?

    I’ve kept my membership because I love my RWA Online chapter, and because I believe the organization won’t change if everyone who disagrees with them leaves.  But it still rankles.

  6. 6
    Ellen Fisher says:

    I’m pretty sure what’s ticking the small presses off is that RWA has announced its intention of going through this process EVERY YEAR, something they’ve never done before.  (Previously, a publisher only had to prove itself once.)  This is presumably to prevent a small press from qualifying with a fluke—one book that does really well—and then maintaining its RWA-recognized status for the rest of eternity, even if it’s only selling ten copies per year from then on.  This seems like a laudable goal, on the surface, at least.  But if it was all aimed at one publisher, that makes me wonder which publisher and why.  I’d love to know more about this myself.

  7. 7

    B&T is Baker and Taylor, the other big name in distribution. (There are only two big ones now. There used to be hundreds)

    Wendy The Librarian explained all this to me …

  8. 8

    I’m going to have to side with RWA on this one. Being a writer’s advocacy group the ‘list’ of approved publishers is a tool for aspiring writers. Some may argue that the criteria for recognition is arbitrary, true, but RWA drew a line and basically said: publishers on this side of the line have a proven track record of contracting in good faith with their authors and a level of distribution that makes them a worthwhile avenue to pursue (for submission).
    Medallion cites that the paperwork involved is onerous. I can’t speak to this not knowing exactly what is required. What leapt out at me in that letter was the part about their difficulty in accessing, breaking down records to provide the necessary information. I don’t know of any business that doesn’t know exactly where (and how much) money is being generated. Seems very cavey to me.
    So until I hear differently I’m not really sympathetic to Medallion’s plight.

    X

  9. 9
    Candy says:

    Completely irrelevant to the discussion, but speaking of Deb Dixon and the RWA, I found the most interesting quote from here at the Romance Central Forums.

    FROM DEBRA DIXON, ChapLink Advisor

    I do not believe that Tara Taylor Quinn’s statement is accurate and request that she make a correction before allowing chapters to widely distribute her
    post.

    The scriptwriter originally asked to do the script did not bow out “at the last minute” as Tara suggests. She resigned *months* prior to the awards
    ceremony when it became obvious that Tara needed a transcriber of Tara’s ideas and not a scriptwriter to craft a show.

    I’m sure if Tara looks at her date book, she’ll see that her words blaming the scriptwriter for pulling out at the “last minute” are poorly chosen.

    —Debra Dixon, ChapLink Advisor

    *wha-pssshhhhh!*

    Remind me not to get on Debra’s bad side.

    Anyway, I have nothing to add to this conversation because I know so little about how this works. Looking forward to read more comments. Also: WHICH publisher were they having issues with? The gossip whore in me wants to know. I’ve read speculation that it was EC, but I feel very, very skeptical about that.

  10. 10
    bookseller chick says:

    Argh!  I had a whole explanation written up about sell-in vs. sell through and I lost it!  Curse the evil computer gods!

    Anyway, the cliff notes version is this:

    When Ingram/Borders/Barnes and Noble/Walmart/etc places an order for X amount of books, they are not actually buying them.  In fact they are not required to give any money for these books back to the publisher.  This process is known as the sell-in (or possibly buy-in, but I think I’m just trying to confuse myself).  It is not until the book leaves the store in a customer’s hot, sweaty little hands (the sell through, of which most books only have six weeks to prove themselves before they become returns and lose their shelf space) that the money starts to trickle back to the publisher’s coffers.  First it’s used to pay off the store (and any marketing that might have been bought/coopped), then the shipping people, then middle men (Ingram, etc), then more shipping, and finally the publisher gets their chunk which is much, much smaller than you would think (because money has also gone out for the production costs).  So if RWA is asking for proof of sell-through (vs sell in), I can see why Medallion would have trouble putting all this info together.  The numbers don’t exactly come in all at once. 

    bsc (who is still really mad that she lost her first explanation that made a whole lot more sense)

  11. 11
    Monica says:

    I know of one pub that needed to be schooled in that bunch (didn’t fulfil contract, pay royalties as agreed or report on any sales).  I wonder if that’s the one.

    But where are de balls?  If they were having problems with ONE pub, why not step up?

    Not very professional if you ask me (but of course no one did).

  12. 12

    I do not deny that the “list” of approved and well-behaved publishers who have met some basic requirements is something a group dedicated to the well-being of authors should have. Publishing is caveat emptor anyway, an organization like the RWA has a duty to spread the word abotu “good” and “bad” business practices of publishers.

    However, what I take issue with is the way the RWA has engaged in this process. From what I have seen, both as an author and as a small-press-published author, the RWA is seeking to exclude small presses (perhaps because the larger publishing houses are so financially friendly? Just a thought.) and e-publishers without seeming to. In other words, they’re going behind the membership’s backs to change the playing field and shut out small presses and epublishers; changing the rules of the game before it even starts to deny the small fry a slice of the million-dollar business that is Romance Publishing.

    I don’t deny that certain standards are necessary. But when standards are arbitrary, unfair, and discriminitory in their application, it seems to me indicative of a much bigger problem. The standards for small presses, as well as the way they’re being applied and the way they’re being presented to the small presses in the “notices” sent out, are laughable. Several small presses who use epublishing to disseminate a writer’s works more widely are getting hammered, and all because the RWA has decided epublishing isn’t “real” and that small presses are all just vanity presses in disguise.

    There is a better way to solve this problem. Let’s hope the RWA finds it.

  13. 13
    Candy says:

    Well, yeah, that’s exactly my question too, Monica. Why punish all the small presses when allegedly only ONE is giving them trouble?

    And bookseller chick, thanks for the explanation about sell-in vs. sell-through.

  14. 14
    Nicole says:

    Hell, if they’re doing it to some, why not all?? 

    I’ve liked the Medallion Press books I’ve read, and can in fact find them fairly readily in my local Waldenbooks and Barnes and Noble.  Can’t say that for many of the other small presses.

  15. 15
    Nicole says:

    Well, from what I see around blog-land, looks like Medallion had plenty of time to do things and it should’ve been fairly simple.

  16. 16
    Selah March says:

    Medallion may very well have had plenty of time to pull their numbers together—or not. I haven’t a clue. I do know they seem to be a growing concern whose books are regularly stocked by the larger chains.

    So, to hijack Sarah’s metaphor, who shot themselves in the foot here? As a member of RWA, I’d rather see my organization court growing publishers—woo them with the equivalent of perfume and flowers, and thereby make their submissions guidelines available for perusing and their editors available for pitching. Instead, we have more bad feelings.

    Publishers can and will exist just fine without the RWA. What, exactly, is the RWA without publishers…besides marginalized?

  17. 17
    Candy says:

    Hell, if they’re doing it to some, why not all??

    Heh, I’d LOVE to see them try to get HarperCollins, Dorchester and Kensington go through the annual re-application process to see if they still qualify.

    Assuming the CEO of Medallion is telling the truth, making all the small presses re-apply really bothers me. It’d be like putting the whole town on trial just because one the townmembers committed a crime.

  18. 18
    Robin says:

    All I know about Medallion Press is that after hearing that they were trying to publish diverse Romance I went to their website and signed up to “test drive” a book.  A couple of months later, one showed up, and while not in my top ten Romances, I enjoyed it enough to read the sequel when it’s published and to check out their other books.  I know nothing about numbers and the importance of the RWA stamp of approval or what a process like this entails, but from visiting Medallion’s webiste, it seems safe to assume they’re not a vanity press, and they were introduced to me as a publisher that was trying to venture out of the mainstream.

  19. 19

    I can say we were slapdab next to Medallion in the Hospitality Suite at RT. They were a very professional a cool group, and their books looked great. I was most impressed with them in general. I picked up one of their books in the freebie room, and was impressed again.

    I had no issue with RWA’s new standard until I read the line about publishers being considered vanity if the authors laid out any expense, including their own promotion.

    Huh? Name ANY pub that can cover all promotional costs for ALL of their people.

    I’m not the paranoid type, but that’s a bit reaching to me.

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