The Tsaba/RWA saga continues, as the Publishers Weekly daily newsletter (special note to PW: OMFG FIX YOUR SERVER it is the slowest damn thing) features a new article by Claire Kirch titled TSABA vs. RWA: Round 2.
Following the March 13 PW report that Tsaba house was considering legal action in response to RWA’s policy as to what is a vanity or subsidy publisher, Tsaba’s contract and the RWA contest rules and policies continue to attract attention. Tsaba’s contract, which they downloaded from the Poynter.com website, lists specific incidences under which an author may be charged a fee. RWA has said it considers Tsaba to be a vanity publisher because of that section in the contract which “contains clauses concerning author chargebacks.”
Tsaba busted out the D word and the L word, alleging that RWA discriminates against small presses by barring their authors from competing in the RITA competition, and, as per the original article, “is considering taking legal action against the Romance Writers of America for refusing to consider one of the small California press’s authors.”
RWA’s policy manual defines a subsidy publisher as “any publisher that publishes books in which the author participates in the costs of production in any manner, including publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing and/or distribution.”
Pam Schwagerl, the “Tsaba Housse” (sic) Publisher (Note to PW: your server is slow and your article has typos), says that, “They are simply using [their policy] as a tactic to keep a small press from submitting contest entries. It also looks to me like they are trying to control the outcome of who wins by who they allow in the contest.”
Minneapolis attorney David Koehser weighs in (no explanation as to why, nor any mention whether he’s representing anyone involved) and says that Tsaba’s clauses are “fairly common:”
They’re in most of my contracts. The author has to submit a manuscript suitable to the publisher, and is obligated to provide supplementary material. This is not considered to be a subsidy arrangement. This does not convert [a press] into a subsidy publisher.
Discussions following our original entry about the story speak to the contrary.
Following the publication of the original PW article, RWA published a response on their website in the members-only section which clarified the circumstances of Schwagerl’s claims, stating that the author in question had sought to enter a chapter contest, the rules of which are not determined by RWA National but by the individual chapters themselves. Schwagerl confirmed that the author, Molly Noble Bull, “had been informed she could not enter the contests until Tsaba House proved to RWA’s national leadership’s satisfaction that they were not a subsidy publisher.”
Schwagerl maintains that RWA is not addressing the issue of labeling Tsaba House as a subsidy press, while according to the lastest article from PW, Allison Kelley, RWA Executive Director, has said that if Tsaba house would amend their “their boilerplate contract, RWA would ‘be happy’ to reconsider their decision.”
Schwagerl, who has already sent a letter to RWA threatening to seek an injunction forcing the organization to allow Bull’s novel to be entered in the RITA contest (although this year’s deadline has passed, and finalists will be announced March 26), is now consulting an attorney, before making her next step.
When asked if she would consider amending her boilerplate contract in accordance with RWA’s standards, Schwagerl refused. “I feel strongly that they should have no say in what is in my contracts with my authors or to re-define for the industry what a subsidy press is or isn’t,â€ Schwagerl said.
Ok. The last two paragraphs just dumbfound me.
Translated into 13-year-old-girl speak, she says, “You are so going to read my books despite the rules that a few hundred other authors and their publishers already obeyed, and I’m going to MAKE YOU. And I won’t change what my contract says because my best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with a girl who downloaded my contract for me from 31 Flavors last night.”
At what point do this reach minor star status in this cluster galaxy of wtf? I mean, like it or not, RWA can define vanity and subsidy however the crapping damn they want to. It’s their right. And they don’t have to open their contest to anyone and everyone. Again, that’s their right. They are a writer’s organization, and their policies are at the behest and on behalf of the membership, as are their contests. And the RWA chapters who run their own contests can do whatever THEY want, and if they want to accept works published by authors who do not appear on the RWA non-van/non-sub list, they can do that if they want to.
But the whole “you don’t like small presses and you’re meeeeean” crap just irritates me, particularly because there are more than a few small presses on the RWA list, including Genesis Press, Loveland Press, and others. But what burns my toast a bit is the idea that no matter what RWA does, someone’s going to stamp feet and say “UNFAIR!” Which is it? Should RWA welcome any and all publishers, despite the mounting number of small ePubs who folded after exhibiting the business sense of a drunken barnacle, or should RWA be as cautious as possible because of all those small houses who exhibited said level of business acumen prior to folding and taking their author’s manuscripts with them?
Personally, having seen the fallout as a bystander, I’m for the latter. Yes, it sucks, and yes, some majestically awesome ePubs and small presses are left out, and yes ePubbing and small publication houses are entirely a legitimate enterprise and rock my athletic socks, but I personally think the reasons RWA drew those lines in the sand (and to my understanding they can move them if they wish, hence the sand, which I assume is literal, because that would be awesome) is because members needed protection from contracts that were fishy like drunken barnacles and for every legitimate and savvy small press out there, there were five more giving the entire enterprise a bad name. Thus the tossing of words like “discrimination” and “injunction” around with wanton abandon and insisting her author be permitted to participate in a contest that is about to announce its finalist slate, completely undermines Schwagerl’s argument, furthers the reputation that small presses fight against, and only strengthens RWA’s position.