For months, a contentious flap has been brewing within the Romance Writers of America® over the status of eBook writers.
Should they be considered pros? Or are they still wannabes, desperately awaiting that life-changing call from New York? Could they even be something else entirely? Inhabitants of an odd sort of limbo in which their books earn them money, but it isn’t the right kind of money to classify them as career track professionals? Writers who ironically are disqualified from entering or being nominated for contests for both the published and unpublished?
Unfortunately, that featureless mist of purgatory has formed around eBook writers for now. As the RWA’s 29th Annual National Conference opens today in Washington, D.C., the organization seems to be saying, Sorry guys, you aren’t really writers…yet.
At least that’s the sort of thinking organizers of the Rogue Digital Conference believe they’re up against, a denial of the rights of eBook authors. Not allowed a workshop or a place for one of their publishers to make a presentation on the official conference program, rogue conference organizers decided to take matters into their own hands. Their alternate, mini-conference begins tomorrow at 8:30 am in the Harding Room. Sponsors include: Books on Board, Red Sage Publishing, Samhain Publishing, Quartet Press, and Smart Bitches.
As the host of this blog, I’m sure you can guess where I stand on the legitimacy of eBooks. However, I get why hashing this out is going to take time. eBooks involve a new technology, a new format, with operating rules so fundamentally different from those in traditional publishing, that the old school is having a difficult time integrating the new school’s business model into their own worldviews.
RWA is an amazing organization, however, and though it may take a while for the two sides to come together, I’m confident that an exciting fusion of the two will eventually emerge. Hopefully it will be one that strengthens the industry as a whole going forward.
[Late breaking news: RWA Conference Administrators have added a new session to the calendar for 4:30 pm tomorrow. “Digital Initiatives” asks “How are authors and publishers innovating and using technology to connect with readers?” The session features execs from Harlequin and HarperCollins, as well as author Rachel Vincent and blogger Sarah Wendell. Doesn’t quite sound like an endorsement of ePublishing, but it’s a gesture.]
Helpful Expository Lumps for the Hopelessly Confused
As a service to all of you out there who may not be up to speed on the back story re: this brouhaha—or like me, may be in serious need of a recap—below are links to pages detailing how the major players feel about the issues:
- In the June Romance Writers Report, the trade publication for the RWA, President Diane Pershing, caused a ruckus with a letter to members in which she stated, on behalf of her organization, that the digital publishing model is not a legitimate one; and intimated that eBook authors are not career track professionals.
In addition, RWA’s stance is that no matter how many thousands of dollars in royalties an eBook writer might earn, s/he doesn’t qualify for PAN (the Published Authors Network). I wish I could provide a link to the original letter in the RWR, but the report is available online only to members.
- Deidre Knight, author and owner of The Knight Agency, responded to Pershing’s letter with The Digital Age and RWA: A Call for Change, a post on espan-rwa.com. Knight pointed out that the old ways of figuring publishing status may no longer apply and suggested, politely, that RWA might want to drag itself into the 21st century.
- Diane Pershing followed with a rebuttal to Knight’s call for change, which was also posted on the ESPAN website.
- In the interim, Knight and several other RWA members created Romance Writers for Change, a website for the purpose of advocating the rights of all RWA members with regards to digital publishing. Founded on June 19th, the membership in their Yahoo User’s Group currently tops 600.