There’s a lot of talk about the RWA’s PAN eligibility rules. I’m not going to address that, not really. Listen, I see on one of my loops constant angry grumblilng about the RWA. People bitter and unhappy with them and in the end, my thought is, “I wouldn’t belong to an organization that made me feel so horrible and resentful all the time.” I wouldn’t. IMO, you need to decide if the RWA (or any other organization) is right for you and meets your needs. If it doesn’t, you can attempt to change it from the inside, you can rail at the unfairness of it while staying and doing nothing, or you can say F’it I’m outta here. I think the first and last are fine decisions, the second drives me crazy.
Anyhoodle, enough of that! This is my attempt at the first approach.
What I wanted to talk about is the idea that being career minded, with respect to the National RWA board, means an advance, even one as minor as a grand and no other way.
My feeling is that the RWA is woefully ignorant of any other publishing mode but the traditional one. I do not believe those on the Board are jealous or threatened by epublishing. In fact when that statement comes up it makes me roll my eyes so hard I get a strain. They don’t understand it and when you don’t understand something, you tend to feel it’s wrong or inferior.
I’m a career oriented author. I’ve been career oriented since I wrote my first book and I continue to be. I hold myself to high standards and I hold my editor and publisher to high standards as well. I complete my books on time, I edit them in a timely fashion and I promote effectively and regularly. Whether I get an advance of a thousand dollars or more or whether I get paid monthly, my attitude is the same. This is my job, this is my career and it is beyond insulting that a few people who don’t understand anything about epublishing to judge my approach when they don’t know me.
If we were to attach “career oriented” to money – I must interject here that I’ve made more than my largest NY advance in one month on one ebook title and I’ve done that more than once. I rarely talk about money because I think it’s a private thing and also, it can create issues between authors. But I’d like to say I personally don’t find an advance any more “career oriented” than monthly royalties. There are things I’d give up in a contract with an advance that I wouldn’t to an epublishing contract, but making those choices also makes me career oriented.
Here’s how an advance works – your agent pitches the book. Author waits. A long time usually. If editor wants to buy it they make an offer. Negotiation takes place and you accept. Author writes book and waits for contract. In some cases, months more. I know authors who have been done with the book and hit a deadline without a contract (or money). It hasn’t happened to me, but these authors write for very large houses. You sign, it goes away wherever and then you get a portion of your advance. Not all of it.
Let’s just use 10K for an example because it’s easy to break down and I hate math (also remembering that every contract is different and these breakdowns are just an example):
You get 2500 for signing and acceptance of the proposal – you get this minus the fee your agent takes. I’ve received this money anywhere from a month after signing to six months after signing.
Then you turn in the book and you get 4000 for delivery and acceptance of the manuscript
Upon publication you get the remaining 3500
Now this entire process, getting paid that original 10K can take up to two years. And it can take up to two years more to start earning royalties because of how the pay schedule works)
Meanwhile with epublishing:
I turn in book/proposal to my editor. She takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months depending on her schedule. If she buys we talk about when I can turn in the completed book and she puts me into the schedule.
So say I contract the book in June and I turn it in in October and it comes out in December. In January I’ll get a check for more than any 1K advance. And then each month afterward I continue to earn. Within the year it takes to see the entire advance from NY, I’ve made that and more on that title and once it goes to print with Samhain for instance, I receive twice yearly print checks that make me very happy.
These two processes are not superior and inferior – they are simply different. I find plusses and minuses to each so I find them complimentary and do them both. There are many authors who continue to write for small/epublishers while they write for NY (I’m one of them but not the only one by any stretch). I take my career very seriously. I work very hard. Promotion tends to be different to account for the differences in medium but it’s the job of any career minded author to understand that and account for that.
In essence though, I enjoy what I do. I do it to the best of my ability and I continue to build my career and my name with each book I put out. That’s career oriented.
But really, it’s not only about money because as many of us know from experience, there’s a hell of a lot of rejection in this business. Sometimes you write and write and write and no one wants to buy.
In an RWR last year I read an article about authors who’d written and submitted for upwards of a dozen years before selling. That takes heart. That takes courage and that is career oriented. In those dozen years those authors made no money from writing at all as they didn’t sell, but to say you have to get an advance check of 1K before you’re “career oriented” or that an advance makes you a “writer” worth of support by the RWA as a writer’s organization is simply offensive and ignorant.
The RWA needs to set standards on some level. I understand that. I understand that in an organization of over 9,000 with different approaches, styles and levels of success there’s no one rule that will make everyone happy.
However, writers should understand that there’s no one approach to career. Some writers write novellas. Some write 700 page historical romance tomes that are rich with detail. Some write short stories for magazines and a lot haven’t sold yet but continue to try to. None of these approaches is more important or worthy than the other. We are all writers.
With epublishing, I’ll say yes, there are a lot of authors who don’t make a lot of money. They don’t get much exposure and they sell to companies with poor reputations and they’ll sell 4 copies instead of 1000 that first month (or whatever). It is my belief that those authors who jump at a quick sale with a start up to get a sale and without thinking about all the important things like how much you can sell with a company no one has heard of, should bear responsibility for poor choices. It is also my belief that if the RWA was more open and willing to understand other career paths, this could be addressed by the RWA and SHOULD be.
Educating noobs on what patience means in a business where waiting is the norm rather than the exception, should be part of the services the members get and it seems to be with some of the local chapters, but serving authors shouldln’t just be about teaching them how to write tension or how to outline, it should also be how to manage their businesses, how to keep good records for taxes, how to choose agents and editors and how to look at ANY potential publisher and decide if saying yes to get a quick sale is worth it or if you should wait, continue to hone your craft and sell to a publisher who will get your work out before a larger audience.
In the end, I’ll stay a member of the RWA because I think it’s a worthy organization full of creative, dynamic people who if given the chance can work together and make positive change. They do things I disagree with, like this recent RITA controversy – Rules people, rules should be CLEAR. Just say what mass produced means, stop hiding rule changes and give a refund to those people who were disqualified. These are your members, this is our organization – we can and should make it known when directions are taken that are confusing or just plain wrong.
And to my sisters and brothers in epublishing, I challenge you all who are members of the RWA to be full members. I know it feels like at times we’re supposed to sit at the kids table in the back. But why let yourselves be relegated to that status? Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” and while I think there are gradations of truth to that comment, I think it’s very much true here. I don’t care if people who don’t know me judge me because I write erotic or because I write ebooks. I care what my editors think and I care what my readers think. No member of the RWA is more or less worthy of belonging than I am. This all starts and ends with me and you, and you over there, and you too. Stand up and speak – another favorite quote, this one from Maggie Kuhn, is “Speak Your Mind Even If Your Voice Shakes”
As long as we remain civil and coherent, we create our own power. Any organization is only as dynamic as her members. I truly believe most of the authors in the RWA do not feel epublishing is inferior, I think they don’t know much about it. Approaching with that in mind can make some important ground in 2009. The atmosphere is ripe for education. So let’s do it.