On Saturday, Crissy (Christina Brashear, Samhain’s publisher) and I had a chance to talk with Allison Kelley, the Executive Director of RWA and Stephanie Feagan, one of the board members. Most–if not all–of you by now know that the three epublishers who were RWA recognized are now no longer RWA eligible.
What does this mean?
For the publisher it means that we are no longer eligible for allocation of resources at RWA National convention. Meaning no editor appointments and no spotlight feature. That’s it. As a publisher, this is how it effects us. RWA recognition was never meant to be a stamp of approval. So by changing the wording and by separating both PAN eligibility and the RITAs from the publisher, they’ve removed that feel that it’s a stamp of approval. At this time, they let us know that they’d love to have us at RWA 2008, but would be unable to allocate their resources (space and money) for us to do editor appointments or a publisher spotlight. We understood and regardless, Samhain Publishing will have a presence at RWA 2008 in San Francisco because we had an excellent conference this year, we want to continue to support our authors, and though we are not eligible, we believe we still have a good relationship with RWA, both nationals and the local chapters.
I understand why the board moved in the direction they did with new requirements. However, I told both Allison and Stef that I felt that the new requirements (specifically the advances, the time in business seems fair to me) weren’t friendly to the small press/epublishing model and that I would love to see that changed at some point. During the conversation, I learned that Stef made a motion to the board–which was passed–that a task force be formed to truly educate the board on epublishing and how it works. They recognize that they have many members who are epublished authors and they seem to want to be able to provide support for those authors in the best way possible. Stef will be heading up the task force and they will spend the coming months educating themselves on the essentials of epublishing. Yes, I offered up my services in any way possible, as did Crissy!
I expressed to both of them how upset epublished members were by the definition of vanity publishing that the board put out, because including where the books are sold takes the definition to a place it has never gone before–and somewhere it probably shouldn’t go. I’m not sure they completely understood how I was explaining it or the level of distress it caused in the members, but I’ve been collecting links to blog posts and discussions, that I’ll be forwarding to Stef for the task force to go over. If you have or know of a blog post that discusses the changes to the vanity press definition, and you’d like the task force to see it, please leave it in the comments here. And please note that I’ll be looking at each link and won’t pass on any that I feel were written and posted here solely to attack the board.
I have seen a lot of upset and ire on the internet as I’ve been surfing over the past few days. Truthfully, after speaking to Allison and Stef, as well as several other board members, I don’t believe that the board–which is comprised of people, isn’t just some entity somewhere making decisions–made these changes with the knowledge they had at the time, and in response to the turmoil in the epublishing community in the past several months. While I don’t fully agree with all of the changes that were made, or in the way that things were defined, I can certainly understand their goal. And I’m going to say it here as plain as day: I firmly believe that goal had nothing to do with excluding erotic romance. Nothing. I believe it has everything to do with the publishers themselves and what has happened within those businesses. Will anyone ever be able to “prove” that or say for sure? Of course not. But in every conversation I had with people, it was clear to me that erotic romance or keeping erotic romance authors/publishers out of RWA wasn’t the goal. Let me just put it like this: there were a whole lot of authors there who write erotic romance for NY publishers and they’re there to stay. There were a lot of erotic romance books at the publisher signings. People–other RWA members–were happily standing in lines to grab them. Erotic romance is a part of the romance genre now and, of course, there will be people who dislike that. But the board’s decisions had to do with our own mishaps within our section of the publishing community.
As far as Samhain is concerned, I’m very pleased that they’ve separated PAN eligibility as well as RITA eligibility from publisher “recognition”. This allows each author to stand on their own merit, rather than that of their publisher. It opens the doors for authors who might previously have not been able to join PAN, but now can, and I think that’s excellent.
In addition, the board made a change to the RITAs which is favorable to epublishing–making it the first print date that RITAs can be entered by, rather than copyright date. I think this is an example of how the board can hear what the members ask for, because the original suggestion put out three months ago was no change to the RITAs in this regard. However, some of you, in addition to myself, emailed the board and expressed concern with the reasoning behind this and the board heard that and made changes.
I think it’s important to note that this is only one year. Next year, with new information, the board may institute new policy and Samhain and other epublishers might be RWA eligible again, if the requirements can be adapted to recognize a different business model, other than only that of NY publishers. But regardless, after seeing the conference and hearing from people about their local chapters, I do still think RWA is an organization that can benefit its members and that will work to do so. I don’t believe quitting or flaming the organization itself is the way to accomplish change. I think this newest change means the RWA needs more epublished authors active in the RWA, who can educate other authors not as familiar with our portion of the industry. I think that more authors need to join, run for office, vote, email the board and suggest different ways of doing things. Be heard, not by attacking, whining or flaming (if you have kids, you know how ineffective an argument whining or attacking can be and how it makes anyone less likely to listen) but by providing information, education and reasoning. It’s only in that way that you’ll effect change within the organization.