Changing The View from Here

Dear Jane:

I’m so borrowing your format. What a copycat tool I am!

I think you and I are in agreement that Diane Pershing’s response to Deirdre Knight’s ESPAN letter was a jaw-dropping exercise. I had hoped for a dialogue on digital publishing and the opportunity to see both sides discussing the issue, but wow, did that opportunity get missed. By about ten nautical miles.

However, I disagree with you about RWA. I really hate those falling-on-my-sword pathos-ridden entries that talk about RWA as if it were the most gloriously wonderful group in the world. I like RWA. I give them a LOT of my time. I respect the organization and what it does, and the ways in which it has helped many, many writers become authors. I’m going to try to keep from singing the schmaltzy “Oh, they are so wonnnderful” song, but I do want to defend it. So let me be clear:

My opinion comes from not really belonging there.

I joined RWA a crapload of years ago. It might have been in 1997, but someone from the national office will probably correct me. Back then, I wanted to write romance. I kept trying, too. And holy crap did I suck at it. Writing fiction is so very much harder for me than writing prose, and when I found online journals, and blogging, that was a better outlet for my writing. But I reupped my membership every year. And every year, before I do, I try to write romantic fiction. It occurred to me later that this was a good exercise for me as a reviewer because boy, howdy, damn hell, is that some hard work right there.

Time for that fun disclosure stuff. I started programming the HTML formatting for the eNotes, the bimonthly e-newsletter for the organization, in August 2002. I’m now the editor and have been for about two years. So that’s …holy crap, seven years of volunteering.

Even with that effort, I don’t entirely fit. I do not submit anything I’ve written to editors or agents because, well, I wrote the book I wanted to write. (Didja see the Bosoms?! They’re heaving!) And even though the book is about the romance genre, and features many of the authors signing at the 2009 Literacy Signing, our book, because it is nonfiction, is not eligible for our participation in the Literacy Signing this year (which is why we’re holding a Bitches, Beer and Bosoms signing during happy hour on Thursday of RWA, donating all proceeds to literacy). Based on that alone, you know that I disagree heartily with RWA regularly.

What I want to address are these points of your entry:

Why care what RWA thinks? Why advocate for RWA to change? Why not simply withdraw from the organization. It does nothing but to offer a contents, conventions, and help polishing your first three chapters. I don’t know of one editor who cares whether the submission comes from an RWA member.  I don’t know of any reader who cares whether the book is from an RWA member.

In what measurable way does RWA help an author a) sell books or b) become published?  There are plenty of ways to meet editors and agents.

I don’t have stats that equate RWA National Conference or Chapter conference attendance with increased sales, and I know that RWA members don’t receive any extra consideration just because they are members. Yes, there are chapters that are stronger than others, and oh, HELL, yes the benefit of membership is often in the chapters and the local or online connections. Yes, there are some bugfuck crazy people. I for one get a hell of an ab workoug when someone forwards me a particularly hilarious bit of bullshit from the PAN loop. Oh, dear God, the BBQ, it is rich with the OMGWTF and a side order of Plotz. Yes, there are moments when I wonder why on earth it’s time once again to figure out who is an author and who isn’t, who is acceptable and who is not, and why it matters so much, why there have to be so many lines of achievement and delineation.

I have no idea why digital publishing is such a tangled issue. Surely there must be a way to educate authors to evaluate a publisher so that legitimate businesses are obvious, and shady, deceitful crazy ones are equally obvious. The present policies and procedures eliminate so many authors and publishers who ought to be considered, just as I know that real business discussions are and have been hampered by ignorant people who advocate for their publisher’s daughter’s Photoshop projects as a good option for all the cover art.

Even with the great and glorious moments of headdeskery over the past few years, there is no other group of writers like RWA, and I’m proud of that. There is no organization I know of wherein multi-bazillion-dollar authors regularly come back to teach, workshop, and aid aspiring authors, particularly not in a genre-specific venue like RWA. There is no bar like the bar at RWA, and no support like the genuine connection between authors who work to help one another to achieve publication. The value of RWA is much like the value of our communities online: the smaller connections between individuals are priceless, even if the larger community is troublesome and fractious sometimes. Both are necessary.

The value of RWA is in those connections – between members, between loop subscribers, between critique partners and between those who’ve done it before decoding the confusing as hell process for those just starting out. It’s in the programs and educational seminars offered by the chapters each month, and in the national assembly of the members – who, thanks to the internet, are more connected than ever. The policies don’t make RWA valuable – and this particular set of policies undermine its value, I think – but the people within RWA do increase its worth. Those connections are immeasurably valuable.

Sitting on my mountain of support for RWA as a national and local organization, I absolutely agree with you: it’s time to change, and more specifically, to include and educate. If that means some writers change their allegiance to another organization, I can understand that entirely. But it’s a long way down my mountain and I’m invested in RWA personally a little too much to stop for now. Seeing such an important issue handled with division and exclusion makes me sad, and angry. Even if there are fears about some of the digital publishers that exist now, digital publishing needs to be included. And members of RWA need to be openly and frankly educated about the business model therein, how it is different, how it works, and how the risk plays out for authors and publishers. Not everything about digital publishing is bad, any more than every part of New York print publishing is good.

I wish I could run for the board, because this year I absolutely would, as Region I Director or Random Pain in the Ass At Large. I think the time has come for digital publishing and their business within the romance genre to be included in RWA. I may not be the best person to represent that opinion, and the book I’ve published does not make me eligible for board candidacy any more than it qualifies me for the Literacy signing. But RWA is too valuable to be without strong digital publishing education and advocacy within it.

If I could, I would. So if someone out there is pissed off, I urge you to run. There’s two ways to make a change: storm the castle or sneak up the stairs. If you’re already in, run up the stairs. I’m right behind you, even if this isn’t exactly the right tower for me.

However, J, I’m pleased to have the discussion with you and everyone else. There has to be a solution somewhere. I bet we can find it.

Yours in Bitchin’,



Comments are Closed

  1. Amie Stuart says:

    the smaller connections between individuals are priceless,

    WORD!  I found two of my CP’s via RWA (in some form or fashion).  And while I let my membership lapse this year, that doesn’t mean I don’t care (I actually care very VERY much) or that I’m not cheering for those who choose to fight the good fight because I most definitely am.

  2. J.C. Wilder says:

    Sarah – the fact you can’t sign your Bosoms at the Literacy Signing is too stupid for color tv. The LS isn’t about RWA, its about raising money for literacy. I’ve always said that RWA takes itself way too seriously.

    As for running for the BoD – There’ve been several people who have run for the Region Director positions who have epub background but they didn’t win. In many ways the hijinks over the past ten years or so has tainted epublishing in the mind of many members.

  3. jim duncan says:

    You are right. This is not an issue to bail on RWA for. I’ve written a suspense and a fantasy novel, but I joined because of the reasons you stated for why it is so good. Great bunch of people. Mostly. It’s when you hear stories about small press/epub authors getting marginalized against traditionaly pubbed authors that one realizes there is a likely strong minority within RWA that really doesn’t want epub in the picture, that doesn’t feel they are as legitimate, or is just plained annoyed with the fact that some epub authors are making more money than they have. People just need to be informed and educated on this stuff. A lot of RWA folks just aren’t clued in, and they are smart enough to get it with all of the information, like how requiring epubs to give $1000 advances doesn’t work. Digital publishing does not function that way. It can’t and they won’t. Listening to Pershing challenge them to join the ‘big boys’ and pay up is the sort of understanding RWA can do without. I joined RWA because it was a community oriented toward helping romance writers get published and maintaining a career once it started. At least that’s my impression of what it is/should be. It’s not their business to enforce publishing standards. They can obviously, but it’s just time to realize that the current standards are hurting members and it isn’t going to hurt the majority to make a change.

  4. Thanks for this post, Sarah. I think both you and Jane have valid points, and yes there are things about RWA that are *very* frustrating. But. I’ve been a member for five years (yes, a short-timer) and will continue to be a member of RWA. I’ve found the resources, the RWR, the local and on-line chapters, the connections, the contests, the conferences (the alliteration!) to be invaluable.

    Too, to address JC above, there are reasons for things like “no non-fiction” at the Lit signing. I mean, imagine how messy it would get. Yes, there are obviously books (and bosoms) that SHOULD be there, but just extrapolate a bit. Where do you draw the line?

    Is any organization perfect? No, but I get a lot from RWA and am not shy about making my opinion known. So pass the black face-paint. There are a lot of us here, coming up the back stairs of this castle.

  5. Alyssa Day says:

    >>there is no other group of writers like RWA, and I’m proud of that. There is no organization I know of wherein multi-bazillion-dollar authors regularly come back to teach, workshop, and aid aspiring authors, particularly not in a genre-specific venue like RWA<



    >The value of RWA is in those connections – between members, between loop subscribers, between critique partners and between those who’ve done it before decoding the confusing as hell process for those just starting out<<

    Amen.  There is no other organization (and I’ve joined most of them) that puts members in close contact with such a large part of the publishing world (for our genre, and beyond).  The connections are magnificent and most of my best friends in the world are writer friends I’ve met through RWA -people who really, really GET what it means to have voices in my head nad not need a rubber room. 

    I have worked in volunteer positions from, literally, the day I joined RWA:  on committees, both local and national, on many, many boards, and just volunteering wherever needed.  This year the kids and I will be helping to set up the literacy signing. When the kids are older and I have more time, I hope to run for the national board.

    My point, rambling though it may be, is this:  no organization is going to serve every need of every member all at once.  But don’t LEAVEbecause you disagree – PLEASE DON’T LEAVE!!  Instead stay and work for change.  RWA is an all volunteer organization – let’s make it what we want it to be.

  6. katiebabs says:

    Something has to change. I still can’t understand why RWA won’t let you and other authors like Laura Baumbach sign books at the literacy signing event at the conference? It is for charity!

    RWA has so much to offer, but lately the powers the be of RWA feel they are above others with their, “it is my way or the highway mumbo jumbo.”

  7. Robin says:

    Time for that fun disclosure stuff. I started programming the HTML formatting for the eNotes, the bimonthly e-newsletter for the organization, in August 2002. I’m now the editor and have been for about two years. So that’s …holy crap, seven years of volunteering.

    Even with that effort, I don’t entirely fit.

    That, right there, is indication that something needs to change.

    I am less optimistic than many about RWA’s capacity to embrace the validity of BOTH advance-based (i.e. print) and epublishing models, in part because I think there’s a prejudice toward ebooks that might be tied up with similar feelings toward erotic Romance—in large part because the two seem to be persistently conflated (despite the inaccuracy) and problematized within the RWA.  But also because I really wonder whether RWA is *already* way over-extended in what they can realistically offer its members.

    Information about craft and publication involves some level of focus on different publishers, but maybe it’s time for RWA to step back and figure out what its real strengths are, what members like most about it, and what members want more/less of. That kind of self-evaluation is difficult and it can be expensive/time-consuming, but it might also yield some useful information for the organization itself, especially in a time of such growth and change w/in the genre and the publishing industry in general.  Obviously RWA has value or it would have faded away by now, but perhaps its real strengths are not being maximized, and the gaps left not filled in by other organizations. As I said on Twitter the other day, I don’t see how a genre/industry as large and diverse as Romance can remain current, vibrant, and relevant with basically ONE umbrella organization.

  8. Jody Wallace says:

    I love RWA. Love doesn’t blind me to flaws in RWA any more than it does my husband.

    Unlike with my husband, however (since you aren’t supposed to try to change your partner…right?) I am willing to advocate for change in RWA so that it can be useful to a greater proportion of its membership. I understand a lot of people feel like throwing up their hands at this point, like belonging isn’t worth the stress, and I appreciate that, but like Alyssa Day I wish they wouldn’t. I want those people in RWA learning beside me, teaching beside me, volunteering beside me, advocating beside me, getting published in all sorts of formats beside me, having a career beside me. It’s total self-interest 🙂

  9. I find membership in RWA to be both valuable and frustrating.  I was a founding member of the RWAOnline chapter, and it’s still my “home” chapter.  I’m not going to drop out of National, but I am following the call to change with a great deal of interest.  Change is in the air, and our organization needs to seriously address the issues of 21st century media.

  10. Melissa Blue says:

    Hit the nail on the head. I’m not leaving, because despite this one issue I still reap a lot of other benefits that is worth the 85 bucks and bullshit.

    There needs to be education regarding e-presses. They are the bad, just pure-dee-bad pubs. They are the nice ones you probably won’t make enough to fill your gas thank up with. Then there are the ones that you can plan vacations with and still have plenty left over.

    Depending on the experience this can be one e-pub.

    I’ll even go out on a limb and say this can be a NY pub.

    Education. Education. Education is priceless. I could have sworn that was their mission.

  11. Melissa Blue says:


    Yes, I am the typo queen.

  12. JewelTones says:

    I have a super stupid suggestion to settle this whole thing as someone who has been e-published (twice), someone who is writing to get “traditionally” published in romance, a Golden Heart Finalist, and current RWA member.  Why doesn’t the RWA form a sister section or (for lack of a better phrase) subforum with its own committee that reports to Big Sister called ERWA with a specific emphasis, focus on, and perhaps even monthly magazine of its own targeted on e-publishing?  Charge the members the same, have them choose either traditional RWA or ERWA memberships and go from there. 

    Like I said…. stupid solution to the whole mess, but I think it would benefit everybody involved and let everyone – from the writer to the publisher to the organization – move forward to explore, advise, learn, network and grow together to meet the changing technology.  Hell, they could even hold their own ERWA conventions every year (simultaneously as RWA nationals or at another time of the year) and even have their own awards if they want until the RWA can figure out where they fit in.


  13. KellyMaher says:

    Sarah, I just checked and as long as you maintain a general membership rather than affiliate membership, you are eligible to run for Regional Director. It’s only the President-Elect position which has the added stipulations of at least one more year of membership + publication credits.

    I do agree with Robin that RWA needs to do a deep survey of its membership and their wants and needs. The thing that sticks in my craw right now, and I would *love* to be proven wrong on this point, is that there appears to be no directional document, namely a long-range or strategic plan, for the organization. Part of the process in developing one would include an analysis of the membership. I’m another one who has a lot of personal desire as a long-term member in seeing RWA coming through this challenge in a way that strengthens the organization.  We complain routinely about seeing a lot of rehashing of old arguments. I’m sick of them myself because there seems to be no forward momentum of the discussion. I feel like we start over every single year when the president-elect takes up her position as president. Why does this happen? No directional document. Despite the pres-elect serving on the board for a year by the time she takes office, I never get a sense of continuity. We are an organization of 10,000 people. We can only grow stronger if we know what our core needs are. We will survive and thrive through the years if we make an effort to look to our future and create a roadmap to that future. And an ad hoc position of “Strategic Plan Champion” in no way addresses this need. This should be a full, standing committee in order to be able to respond to the ever-changing world of the publishing industry.

  14. Kalen Hughes says:

    I have had it with people bagging on RWA over the ePublishing issue. Or, more to the point, I’ve had it with them bagging ONLY on RWA, as if their stance is substantially different from that of any other professional writers org (and this is the heart of the matter, which I’ll get to down below). I’ve looked at the membership requirements for other professional writing groups (such as Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America) and guess what? They have very similar requirements to those of RWA (they might even be more stringent)!

    What’s the key difference, and the reason that I don’t think they get tarred and feathered to the same extent at RWA? Easy, they don’t allow unpublished members!!! RWA put itself in an untenable position, trying to serve two masters with radically different needs by accepting both published and unpublished members. The fact that the unpublished members outnumber the published ones only intensifies the problems. Add in the new pressure of ePublishing, which is still finding its feet and its place in the world, and the struggle of ePublished authors for recognition and—yes—acceptance, and you have clusterfuck of epic proportions in which there is simply no way to accommodate everyone in the way they need (or want).

    Yes, RWA needs to figure out how to meet the needs of their ePublished members, and I personally believe that they will do so. Will it happen as quickly as the ePublished authors would like? Clearly not, and yeah, waiting blows. Watching any group, org, or society in the midst of change is always painful and ugly and rage inspiring. So if you think RWA has something to offer you, great. If not, stop giving them your money and find some other group (such as EPIC) that does.

  15. Jane says:

    I agree with you Kalen. I think RWA should strip its membership down to print published only authors.  It would be more focused and more responsive to authors’ needs.

    It should, ideally, be only “In Print” authors only as well as authors who had one contract and can’t sell another won’t have the same needs as the authors who are currently under contract.

    Yet, RWA loves the dues from these other members, no?

  16. Melissa Blue says:

    Will it happen as quickly as the ePublished authors would like?

    Ten years is not quickly and the clock is still clicking.

    But, I would agree that RWA should take one stance. It would cut out a lot of the angst of not being able to please all 10,000 members. They would also have to define what is “ony in print”, because despite what many believe the “only in print” is misleading. Harlequin offers all their titles in e-format. Those authors are not exclusively in print and would no longer be members to RWA.

    I would like to see that uproar, but, maybe those same authors would finally understand the other side’s argument.

  17. SarahT says:

    To Kalen & Jane:

    As an unpublished member of RWA, I vehemently disagree that membership should be restricted to published authors. RWA has helped countless unpublished members on their road to publication. If I recall correctly, Kalen was one of them.

    There are at least as many unpublished members as published ones who volunteer their time to help RWA National and its many chapters. I’ve volunteered for The Beau Monde chapter for 5 years, first as a newsletter columnist, then as editor. SB Sarah is – in the eyes of RWA at least – an unpubbed member who has also volunteered her time. Think of all the people who help out at the annual conference. Are they all published members?

    So what do you want RWA to do? Kick us out?

  18. Nora Roberts says:

    Nicely said, Sarah.

    One thing addressed to the strip RWA to published only:

    RWA was formed as an organization for writers, pubbed and unpubbed. It is what it is, and for many good reasons I’m not going to take the time to list—I’m on vacation.

    If someone wants a published-only org, there is Ninc.

  19. Kim says:

    As a newer member of RWA, I am not familiar with the politics behind the current debate.  RWA’s perception of epublishing seems to be outdated but RWA offers its members other benefits, pariticularly within the local chapters.  RWA is no different than other volunteer groups and even the US government – its members will disagree about its vision and implementation.  But it is only the members who can change it.  I agree with Sarah’s comment about storming the castle – members can do it over the walls or up the staircase.  As a frequent tourist to crumbling castles, I prefer the staircase.

  20. katiebabs says:

    I also am in disagreement with RWA changing things so only published writers/authors can be a part of RWA.

    Karen Scott also brings up this issue and this is what I said at her blog:
    What is RWA’s definition of being a writer? Also, what is a definition of an author? What if you sell one book in your lifetime to whatever great NY publisher? So now you are a published author, correct? What if someone else has published non-stop over the years with an epub that is not considered one under the rules that RWA has laid out? That does mean that writer is truly not an author?
    Someone is a writer regardless if they are published or not. If you have someone who has been working years on their craft but has never been published, they shouldn’t be welcome in an organization like RWA? Unpublished and published authors pay the dues so should be treated equally. And one shouldn’t be treated different than the other just because they have been cut a check from a publisher electronic or print.

  21. Victoria Dahl says:

    I love RWA and value it’s role in my life. But I do agree with Jane in this way. If you are an e-published author & that’s your career, then I don’t know what RWA does for you. They don’t offer advice or give insight or support connections with many of your publishers. So there are a couple of good options for you in regards to RWA membership. Help change the organization or don’t bother with it.

    The constant curses that e-pubbed writers can’t get into PAN and can’t enter the Rita… they wear me down. If RWA hurts you or drives you insane or damages your esteem, don’t join. PAN isn’t a secret grotto filled with editors and cake. There’s nothing going on in here. And the Rita awards don’t allow e-entries and never have, so enter the Eppies. If RWA does nothing to advance your chosen career, then what’s the allure? Use it as a tool to get you into your local chapter, if that’s what you like, and view RWA as nothing more than that.

    Because it is a tool. It’s not affirmation. It’s not a social club. It’s not a fraternity. It’s a professional organization that doesn’t have a vote in determining whether you’re a writer or not. You don’t stomp away from a tool that doesn’t fit the job. You just hang it up and move on.

    OR… Or you could make it in to what you want it to be. You could run for office or organize a campaign for an e-supporter who wants to run for office. It shouldn’t be hard. There is ZERO campaigning as far as I can tell, and there are MANY internet-savvy women among us. You know how you can win against another candidate? Have about 5% name recognition, because the other candidate probably has zero. Work to bring about the change I’ve heard about on the loops for seven years. The president-elect ran unopposed this year. I’m betting a lot of the board members did too.

  22. J.C. Wilder says:

    Kalen wrote:

    RWA put itself in an untenable position, trying to serve two masters with radically different needs by accepting both published and unpublished members.

    I disagree. Without the unpublished members RWA would be 1/3 of what it is today. In my local chapter it is the unpubs who do the majority of the work and without them my local chapter probably wouldn’t exist.

    As Nora said, if you want a pubbed only organization then go join Ninc.

    I’ve looked at the membership requirements for other professional writing groups (such as Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America …They have very similar requirements to those of RWA

    Yes and SF&FW; are having the same issues.

    This issue isn’t about having unpublished members of RWA. It’s about you and I paying the dues yet I’m not permitted to take advantage of the same resources. If you and I went to the store to buy bread, wouldn’t you be annoyed if my loaf had two more slices than yours?

    The other issue is the digital age is upon us and RWA is still lagging in the ninties. Authors are being taken advantage of left and right because they don’t know the first thing about the epublishing model. It’s not the same as traditional publishing and RWA keeps trying to shove it into the same mold. This is not educating authors, this is not ensuring fair pay for their work, either.

    If RWA is all fired up to ensure fair pay, why haven’t they spoken out about a certain NY pub who hasn’t been paying their authors? They are perfectly happy to insinuate that small presses are ‘author mills’ yet they’ve certainly been mum on the tens of thousands of dollars that haven’t been paid out in royalties from this NY publisher.

  23. Strategerie says:

    I don’t aspire to e-publish, but I can also understand that excluding any group of authors in RWA is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

    I clearly remember a heated discussion during the business meeting at National a couple of years back re: what constituted “erotica”, and why it was not recognized by RWA. It was most interesting to watch the body language of board members as a member gave thoughtful and logical reasons why they needed to rethink their stance. It’s an easy way to marginalize erotica, isn’t it?

    There is a lot of education, mentoring and networking within RWA. There is also a lot of things that increasingly annoy. I value my local chapter. I do not value dealing with a dues increase on the national level, especially when the board made what had to be a very expensive trip to San Diego for “strategic meetings” shortly afterwards, for instance. Those of us stupid enough to inquire into the expenses involved in producing the annual conference, or inquiring why that conference is now scheduled to be held in a city that is not served by direct flights (San Antonio,) are met with derision or silence.

    Here’s the choice. Run for the board, and be one person advocating for change, or pay attention to your career, shut up and write the yearly check. It’s not much of a choice, is it?


  24. Karen Junker says:

    I’ve been a member off and on for quite a few years.  I was disappointed to find out recently that my work as an editor for The Wild Rose Press means I can’t vote or hold office.  I still belong to two of my local chapters.

    I can still work on the committee for the Emerald City Writers Conference and I’m hosting the unofficial summer social for one of my chapters.

    Unfortunately, a lot of epubbed writers are also epub editors.  We can’t vote.  I’m really sad about that.

  25. RWA was formed for romance writers to help other romance writers.  That’s its strength.  That’s the value that every member takes away from their experience.  It is not an exclusive, elitist organization set up to serve only those who demonstrate certain success.  Never has been, never will be.  Yes, some of their policies/awards/benchmarks are narrowly defined by industry standards.  But here’s the thing – RWA does not –regardless of how you view their policies – dictate YOUR achievements.  You define your steps on that ladder.  You control what you write, who you submit to, which contracts you sign, your five-year plan, your ultimate goals. 

    I’ve been writing for twenty years.  I’ve been a member of RWA for ten years and will remain one for all the reasons listed in others’ posts.  I’m an e-published author, concerned by attitudes and perceptions, but certainly not running away from the dialogue – and yes, I’m right behind Sarah on the stairs.

    And the only definition of my success comes not from RWA, but from my readers.

  26. Chrissy says:

    I have been a member of the National Writers Union for 25 years—since I turned 19 and began writing professionally while still in college. 

    There has never been a kurfuffle, a snit, or exclusionism.  I got health insurance when I needed it years ago.  I have access to free lawyers.

    I QUIT RWA because everything it offers worth having (the convention in my area) doesn’t require membership. 

    It’s expensive and what I want is available for a small surcharge.  It has yet to show me anything approaching professionalism.

    I hope change comes, but the constant “we aren’t perfect but” nonsense has been going on for the five years I have been watching with absolutely no change worth mentioning.

  27. Victoria Dahl says:

    I’m sorry if this sounds cold, but I’m completely unsympathetic to e-editors who feel unfairly excluded from RWA general membership. Editors at traditional publishers aren’t allowed to be general RWA members either. They’re not allowed on the loops even if they are also published authors. They are not allowed to vote. This is a writers’ organization and letting editors vote is a conflict of interest.

    The fact that there are now many writers working for e-pubs while they are writing doesn’t change the reason for the rule. It’s just one factor of many to weigh in your career decisions.

  28. Karen Junker says:

    Victoria Dahl said: I’m sorry if this sounds cold, but I’m completely unsympathetic to e-editors who feel unfairly excluded from RWA general membership.

    Well, Victoria, thanks for sharing your opinion.  I think it’s wonderful that Sarah and Candy provide this forum for it and I appreciate their support for writers and readers of romance.  As on many other things in life, we may disagree.

    I am sad.  I was a writer before I was an editor and I will continue to write, even though I’m not able to participate fully as a writer in my chosen writers’ organization.  I’m sorry you can’t at least feel some empathy for me, but that’s the breaks.  There are a lot of us in RWA and I’m sure there’s some feeling of comraderie we can still share.  I joined RWA because of its inclusive culture and I hope it evolves to include more support for epubs.

  29. Victoria Dahl says:

    I’m sorry for having stated that so emotionlessly, so let me clarify. Of course I feel empathy for you. I understand that it must be a tough choice and that you give up something you love about RWA in order to work for a publisher.

    But I don’t feel sympathy, meaning I don’t feel anything bad happened. I don’t feel RWA has wronged you (and not implying that you do either) and I don’t see anything unfair about it. (Going back to my original statement about e-editors who feel unfairly excluded from general membership.)

  30. Zoe Winters says:

    *Stalks Victoria Dahl*

    I had thought that there was cake in PAN.  I think once everybody finds out there is no cake there, they won’t care at all. 😛 There will probably be a mass exodus because of that no-cake thing.  More people really do show up if they think there will be punch and pie.

    On the Rita issue: It seems unfair that those who are e-pubbed fall through the cracks for both the Rita and the Golden Heart, just saying.  It’s like “You’re too published for the Golden Heart published” but.. “you’re not published enough for a Rita.”

    I dunno, I don’t have a horse in the race, I just want to debate it because I’m supposed to be editing or at least getting groceries, but I can’t resist arguing about stuff.

  31. Robin says:

    Yes and SF&FW; are having the same issues.

    And I’m not even sure it works to primarily compare across genres. First, I think, you need to look within your genre to see how many authors are being published where. A significant digital presence in the genre deserves better, IMO.  Especially given the number of RWA members and the number of available and potential NY contracts.

  32. Bree says:

    What’s the key difference, and the reason that I don’t think they get tarred and feathered to the same extent at RWA?

    Honestly I always assumed this was at least in part due to the fact that all statistics seem to indicate romance outsells every other genre online by a vast quantity. Are there a lot of mystery or speculative fiction writers who can make the same sort of living working in epublishing as someone can by writing popular books for EC?  (I’m not asking sarcastically, I really don’t know the answer.)

  33. Zoe Winters says:

    Oh, something I’m wondering, is there anywhere online where someone has reposted the June President letter that caused all this outcry in the first place?  I’d love to read the original letter.

  34. Karen Junker says:

    I don’t see anything unfair about it. (

    It’s just the way it is.  I don’t see anything unfair about it, either.  I don’t feel that I was excluded from general membership unfairly.  I made the choice to work for an epub, for now.  But I miss feeling like part of the crowd, yanno?  Especially since I’d still like to work toward publication myself.  I’m not writing lately, since I spend almost all of my available time working on helping to make other people’s work better, but at some point I’ll decide to make it my priority.  It’s just frustrating to be in the position of having no voice in the RWA process concerning the issue of epubs, especially since my work has been published by an epub (and I’m a big believer in epubs, which is why I work for one).

  35. Zoe Winters says:


    If in the future you stopped editing and were only writing, would you then be allowed to vote and such? (Curious.)

  36. Karen Junker says:

    That’s my understanding.  I was a general member for years, I’ve only been an editor for the past 18 months.  But if there’s some period of time which must pass to cleanse me of my editorialness, I don’t know about it…

  37. JenB says:

    Hmm…I think I’m with Victoria Dahl on this one. I think Victoria’s approach is smart and pragmatic. I’m a reader and an editor with no authorial aspirations, so I don’t really have anything else to add to the conversation. But I’m not much of a follower or group-thinker anyway, so I don’t think I could see myself being too concerned or personally offended over this ordeal even if I were trying to get published.

  38. Ella says:

    Something to consider, for those suggesting dividing RWA—

    Choosing to publish a book with a small press or e-pub does not mean an author isn’t on the same track as everyone else in learning the business.  Some epub authors also pursue contracts with traditional print publishers.  Deciding to publish only in e-pub doesn’t mean an author shouldn’t be informed of every avenue or opportunity available, including how the print world works, etc.

    Creating different organizations or different rules for e-published authors is a disservice not only to people who would like to pursue both, but also because it limits education and sharing for everyone.

    There are also many things a multi-published print author might have to learn about digital publishing.  Does a print author deserve to learn how to market an ebook?  What kind of royalties should an ebook get?  Can an ebook allow an established print author another outlet to explore new genres?

    The opportunities aren’t just for unpublished or digitally published authors.  Education is a wonderful thing. 
    That’s why I love RWA.

    For the record, I’m not complaining.  I’m career focused and determined.  RWA has helped me be that way.  I’m optimistic that one day I’ll be eligible for PAN.  But I’m not actively seeking to be in PAN or be eligible for a RITA.  I value my RWA membership as it is.  I would value it a little more if the rules were consistent and fair.  Not necessarily for me but for everyone.

  39. Victoria Dahl says:

    But if there’s some period of time which must pass to cleanse me of my editorialness,

    I *think* you just have to send a letter stating that you’re no longer working in the position. That’s what I saw happen in one case, at least.

    Btw, your note about losing general membership triggered my thoughts about the e-pub/RWA discussion. I should’ve made clear that I was speaking to general issues of e-editors being RWA members. It seems to have come to a head in the past year and has been played out on several of my loops. I wasn’t accusing you of crying foul, so I apologize that it seemed i was pointing fingers at you.

  40. Zoe Winters says:

    I think she (Karen) will have to be baptized in a special pool at the secret RWA bat cave. Only then will she be cleansed of editorialness.

    I think if a bunch of renegades ever got together and made a competing organization to RWA what would improve things is having a bat cave. 

    I automatically want to sign up when there’s a bat cave.

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