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Warning, this is a particularly long rant, the likes of which I rarely like to indulge in these days, so I suggest you grab yourself some coffee and chocolates before you commence reading.

Dear Diane

I read your post the other day on E-span, (in response to Deidre Knight’s post that she wrote a few weeks ago) trying to defend RWA’s stance on e-publishing, and I must say, I was swearing rather loudly by the time I finished reading your column. I had to immediately take some maximum strength headache tablets, due to the brick-sized foot that seemed to be stamping on my head.

Diane, I get it, I really do, the RWA is a dinosaur that’s hard to move, mired in tradition such as it is. The majority of your members are print-published, so to a certain extent, I do indeed understand your reluctance to embrace anything that on the surface seems to veer away from those very traditions that are an essential part of your history and success.

However Diane, dinosaurs eventually became extinct, and there’s nothing to say that RWA in its current format, will continue to be successful. Myopia has downed many great organisations in the past, and RWA doesn’t have the divine right to be the exception to the rule.

Your stance with regards to digital publishing has turned this into a Them vs Us debate. Print vs E-published, as if the two aren’t able to co-exist happily together, without the constant attempts to undermine and bully the new kid on the block.

You wrote in your column:

“There is, however, a history of RWA attempting to present digital publishing information at conference:”

And yet you were only able to name two such endeavours Diane?

The first being that last year you tried to bring a highly qualified speaker, “Michael Smith, Executive Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) to speak at the PRO Retreat.”

My first thought when I read this was firstly, who is Michael Smith? And my next thought was, is he involved in the romance community? The next thought after that was, what the hell is a PRO retreat, and how can I join?

Anyway, I wanted to learn about who this Michael Smith was, so I Googled him.

Apparently he’s a prominent speaker on digital publishing, having done illustrious gigs such as The London Book Fair,

This is what I found:

“Michael Smith is Executive Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). Michael aims to help advance the interests of publishers, technologists, and readers by evangelizing the adoption of IDPF standards for electronic reading applications and products. Michael has over 20 years of book publishing and print production expertise. Prior to joining the IDPF, Michael was employed by Toronto based romance publisher Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. where he managed eBook and book production servicing North America, UK and Australian markets.”

I was impressed to see the bit about him having managed HQN’s e-book production, but other than that, I must admit, his brief bi-og left me a little cold. I’m only a romance reader Diane, but even I would have been far more interested in somebody who was intrinsically involved with the industry, rather than someone who seemed to be more like a cog in the wheel – essential perhaps, but not that interesting to the average cyclist, who’s far more interested in how far/fast the bike will go, rather than what the cog in the wheel is made from.

Diane, in my opinion, you guys made two mistakes here – firstly, you didn’t consider your audience when you hired this guy to talk about digital publishing. (I promise you, more romance authors would have found Angela James’ workshop more compelling and relevant to them) Secondly, you restricted the invitation to PRO members, leaving out PAN members. (I found out what PRO’s are, and apparently they are RWA members who have submitted manuscripts, but haven’t been accepted for publication yet.)

If I was an author, published or not, my main attraction to any kind of digital publishing speaker would be whether or not that speaker could sufficiently detail the pros and cons of e-publishing. In other words, can they tell me what’s in it for me, who are the most desirable e-publishers, who should I avoid, what are the financials like, does e-publishing mean that I’m less of an author somehow, what does the future hold as far as digital is concerned?

Are these some of the topics that Mr Smith covered? I can’t find a transcript anywhere, so if anybody attended that workshop, don’t be shy, let me know.

The other part of the “history of RWA attempting to present digital publishing information at conference:” that you mentioned was:

“This year, RWA has asked a literary attorney to hold a session on “What Authors Should Know About Their Digital Rights.”

Apparently, the response was very low from the members.

Perhaps I am being a tad cynical, but I wonder how well these seemingly token gestures were marketed to your members? How much effort was put into trying to get as many people there as possible?

Anyway, apparently, the two examples above seem to be the extent of RWA’s history on providing digital publication information to authors, so let’s move on shall we Diane?

Let’s talk about the short-sightedness of making ineligible, any e-publisher who doesn’t provide a minimum of $1000 advance on all books.

This for me, is where the RWA officially jumped the shark in terms of being an author-led organisation.

I don’t know if you understand the full implication of such a rule Diane, but by insisting that e-publishers at least offer this money on all books, you are telling e-publishers that they have to change their entire business model to that of the traditional print model, before they can dine with you.

How can one organisation miss THE point so much?

Essentially, you are punishing authors who have selected this particular medium to get their books out there. Authors who may not have had a chance to see their work published due to the ever-decreasing strained budgets that traditional print organisations are operating under presently.

One has to wonder if this was really a way of protecting authors, or a case of, if your books don’t fit with us, you can’t sit at our table?

I also wonder if you realise how how anti-e-publishing the tone and tenor of your column was Diane?

Deidre Knight wrote: (re your statement in the Romance Writer’s Report that RWA must consider the needs of all its members)

I would also like to note that in Diane Pershing’s recent RWR letter she stated that RWA must consider the needs of all its members. I find that logic flawed because by insisting that e-published authors aren’t legitimate, haven’t achieved a recognizable benchmark—and that their publishers aren’t legitimate either—RWA is by default only representing the needs of a portion of the membership. No wonder valuable, talented members are leaving the organization or discussing doing so

This was your ham-fisted, and uber defensive response to Deidre’s comments:

This is upside-down logic. E-published authors are only one segment of RWA’s 10,000-member population. What of the huge majority that constitutes the rest of the membership? I stand by my original assertion that by governing in the interest of all its members and not the few, RWA is doing its fiduciary duty. As for members leaving and/or threatening to leave, I have been in RWA for 19 years and on the board for five. Each year members threaten to leave because they are displeased with something. Some do; most don’t. No organization can make everyone happy, but RWA goes on, no matter what.

Basically your response here, to paraphrase is this, ‘Stay or go, there’ll be others who’ll replace you, and you can’t please everybody all of the time, so why try?’

Diane, you don’t seem to get it, this isn’t about pleasing everybody, this is about not going out of your way to alienate a small portion of your membership. This is about arming your members so that they can go out there and make informed decisions about their career paths.

Yes, e-published authors consider writing to be their careers too. Shocker eh?

By acknowledging that the e-publishing model is different to that of the print model, I fail to understand how that would be going against the interest of the majority? Please somebody explain to me, because I just don’t understand what the issues would be.

This further response to Deidre’s comments was also very telling:

Deidre is also speaking as an agent, a successful agent who has taken on some digitally-published authors and negotiated nice contracts with print publishers for them, precisely because of the following and name recognition they achieved through digital publishing. I went to the Knight Agency Web site where recent sales and great deals for their clients are rightly trumpeted. These deals were with a number of publishers, but I didn’t see one primarily digital publisher on that list. Does she represent any authors who are remaining in the digital format and not moving over to print?

The above paragraph confirms what I originally suspected. To you Diane, this indeed is an e-publishing vs print publishing debate. This particular question hammered home the point in no uncertain terms:

“Does she represent any authors who are remaining in the digital format and not moving over to print?”

How obtuse are you that you don’t realise that the two methods of publishing can, and have gone together hand in hand? Why have you made this about favouring one model over the other? Don’t you realise that this is just another method of getting books to readers, and not the beginning of an apocalypse that will singularly wipe out all good, “Career-focused” authors everywhere?

You also wrote:

There are hundreds of publishers whose business model is to make money by signing many authors and selling small quantities of each book. This model does not produce significant income for any author. There are other publishers who do a much better job with regard to acquiring and editing the books, but publish almost exclusively in electronic format. For every author who does well under the “no advance/higher royalty rate” business plan, there are many more who earn very little money because of the limited distribution channels and lack of impulse buys.

You acknowledge that there are unscrupulous e-publishers out there who are shafting their authors, and so to combat this, you punish the authors themselves for having been unfortunate enough, or desperate enough to sign contracts with such fly-by-nighters?

You see no gain in highlighting the few e-pubs out there who have gotten it right? You see no gain in providing assistance/education to those RWA members who may fall prey to such unscrupulous publishers? Instead you choose to ignore their plight, whilst still being happy to take their membership money?

Is this really representing all ten thousand members Diane?

Deidre Knight wrote:

For instance, HarperStudio has created an initiative whereby authors will forego advances and traditional royalties in favor of a fifty-fifty profit share. No advance, no returns, and a larger share of royalties… perhaps RWA will soon feel the need to denounce Harper Collins.

And you gaily responded with the single most ill-formed analogy that I’ve heard in quite a while:

Nope, not denouncing Harper Collins at all, but consider the authors they will be asking to join this initiative—established print authors with reputation and readership. A no-advance model, even a 50-50 model will always benefit those at the top. Brad Pitt can work for no upfront money and accept a nice piece of the net profits of his next film, but what about the actor in the same film with three lines? He’s still considered a pro, has his SAG card. Is he to work for no money? How will he live? After all the percentages have been counted, he has a really good chance of getting nothing at all.

Diane, Brad Pitt was not a mega-star when he first started acting. You do realise that don’t you? He along with most other famous actors probably took jobs that didn’t pay so good,in the hopes of one day becoming like the mega-stars of their early days, who were the ones raking in the big bucks at that time.

“What does RWA do with all of the authors not at the top of the ladder, who are not published by the top two or three digital publishers? For authors who have slaved away for years on their books and then sold them to digital publishers and who get nearly no recognition, sales or financial return, who else will speak for them if RWA does not?”

Somebody made a really good point about the film academy not banning independent film makers from entering the Oscars because they didn’t have the same budgets as the big film companies.

Whether you be an author or an actor, you work your way up the ladder. You put in the best performances that you can, and write the best books that you can, in the hopes of advancing your career.

Nora Roberts’ career spans many years, and she has had incredible success, but that success was built from the bottom up. She too was once a new author eager to find a home for her books.

When she got her first break, I pretty much guarantee that she didn’t have the negotiating power that she now has, i.e everybody has to start somewhere.

How many stories do you read about jobbing actors who went on to mega-stardom?

George Clooney became wildly popular due to a drama series that he was in. He didn’t make the same amount of money then, that he now commands. Most successful people don’t start out that way Diane. This is a fact that you don’t seem to consider in your commentary.

You say that you don’t want to advocate a system where an author isn’t minimally compensated for relinquishing rights, but who’s asking you to do that?

Who’s asking you to advocate e-publishers with a history of shafting their authors?

Surely it’s better to lay out the facts to your members, i.e educate them, then let them make their own decisions with regards to what routes to market they should take?

Surely it’s better to take the handful of successful e-publishers out there, and let your members know that there are reputable digital publishers out there?

The following comment made my teeth hurt Diane:

“Even so, most career-focused authors have books in various stages of completion and publication, so there is a steady flow of money to them. And whenever the money does get there, there will be money, in the thousands of dollars. It is guaranteed. Can the same be said for the digital model?

Although I’ve hinted at this already, you do realise that you’re implying here that print-pubbed authors are career-focused, whereas writers who are digitally published are fly-by-nighters who have no long term goals and aspirations?

Also, your comments seem to suggest that traditional publishing is a guaranteed haven where money will flow to a writer in sufficient amounts to keep them fed, watered and clothed.

I don’t know what the stats are, but I’m pretty sure there are probably more writers out there who have full/part time jobs, than those who rely solely on income from their writing. If anybody has any stats proving otherwise, I’ll be happy to retract my statement.

In all of your commentary, whether you mean to or not, there is a distinctly snobbish and elitist undertone, and it really made me want to stab myself in the eye.

You continue:

Here’s where I don the pair of glasses of president of RWA, which offers a different point of view. RWA issues a challenge to Ellora’s Cave and Samhain: Pay your authors a minimum $1000 advance against royalties. If they’re already doing so well, you will lose nothing. You will be showing good faith in the authors you sign that you believe in them and their potential. And Romance Writers of America will be thrilled to accept Samhain’s digital workshop proposal for next year and offer comped workshop space and editor appointments for both publishers—and any others who accept this challenge—at next year’s conference in Nashville.

But Diane, the e-publishing model is deliberately different to that of traditional print. Like I noted earlier, you are telling these publishers that before they can join your tea-party, they have to sip their tea the same way that you do?

Whatever happened to embracing innovation and individuality? Whatever happened to fair and balanced? What about those members who have found success within e-publishing? So much so that they have been sought after by prominent publishing houses? How are you representing them Diane?

This comment made me chuckle quite a lot, and not in a good way:

Actually, RWA is quite happily ensconced in the 21st century. Everyone on the board of directors studies the market, reads online and print journals.

I wonder what you mean by studying the market? I know you can’t possibly mean the digital market, because quite frankly, you seem to be a tad ignorant on some of the current debates regarding digital publishing that’s out there right now.

With respect Diane, there’s a lot of dialogue about e-publishing going on that you don’t appear to be aware of, because if you were, you’d have taken one look at your column on E-span and torn it the hell up.

It’s not my place to try to fill the gaps in your knowledge, but I suggest you make your way over to Dear Author, and Jane Litte, who appears to know more about digital publishing than either yourself, or your board.

Also, you seem to suggest that reading online and print journals, means that the board are fully in touch with the digital revolution? Really?

And yet, apparently you’ve only tried to organise two workshops on digital publishing? How can this be?

In your mind, you do believe that you’re trying to represent as many RWA members as possible, I believe that you really believe that, but here’s the rub, e-published authors aren’t the HIV victims of the early eighties that other authors have to stay away from. They really aren’t.

E-published authors are writers too *Gasp* – yeah I said it. Sue me.

I tend to agree with Jane at Dear Author who had this to say about the RWA:

“Here is what I think about this whole hub-bub. 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 contests, 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. They go to Lori Foster’s events or Lora Leigh’s events. They might be at ComicCon. They might be at RT. You can even go to the RWA convention without being a member.”

I’ve always considered the RWA to be this jurassic beast that seems to find it hard to deal with the changing face of publishing, and the divergent readers of the genre it purports to represent.

Diane, you had this to say, earlier in your piece:

“10,000 members, all with different, subjective points of view. RWA represents them all.”

No Diane, you don’t. You really don’t. You represent the members who fit within your outdated guidelines of how books should be presented.

I suggest that you change that line to ‘10,000 members all with subjective points of view. RWA represents those who do like we do.’


  • Less than 1800 out of the 10,000 RWA members have been published under print or with the most coveted NY publishing houses. What would Diane do if only those 1800 remained and everyone who is not published or publishes under epubs left?

    Nationals should be very interesting this year.


  • I truly believe that among authors who become mega-selling household names most started out as having nothing, or at least faced the position of having to divide their attention between writing, family and other demands. I have been lucky, started out in e-publishing and gone on to NY. This doesn’t guarantee anything -continued contracts, success or even that steady flow of money. I don’t belong to RWA, but just knowing what’s going on I get the feeling they have strayed from their original premise. To ignore the basic differences between traditional print publishing and e-publishing sends out a message (at least one I’m hearing) that it’s not the craft that counts, it’s the expectation of financial success. And that’s flawed thinking, because there are no guarantees in this life. You can just look at other professions/industries and see this reality. If RWA is really about representing author interests I would suggest they represent them equally in whatever professional forum they are published. And get acquainted with e-publishing, it’s history, it’s goals instead of just treating it like the deformed step-child exiled to the attic while the other kids are being served cake.


  • Lori
    June 28
    4:24 pm

    I just don’t get it.

    RWA offers benefits to some and nothing to others. Yet so many who admit that they get nothing from it won’t leave because they fight for the friendships they made or their local chapters are so important. Sheesh. They just keep on complaining and feeding the dinosaur.

    Ladies, if they don’t represent you, don’t give them your money. Create your own organization that embraces ALL writers despite how much $$ is paid in advance or royalty. Find or create an organization that respects you as writers and works at understanding and offering information on all the publishing models.

    I truly don’t understand why people are holding on so tightly to something that benefits them not at all.


  • I don’t understand the need or business sense to hand someone $1000 up front on a book that may suck when it comes to sales. Yeah, you more than likely will make the $1000 back in sales on a new release – but you may not. What do you do then? Give the $1000 back? Yes, I know advances have been happening for yonks but I prefer the old fashioned way of putting a product – shock, gasp – an e-book – out there and seeing what the punters think. And RWA? I write e-books. My care factor on what RWA thinks on this medium is negative 12. I never saw the point of dealing with these people. I care about what readers think and I deal with my publishers. I don’t need an organization like this telling me what is acceptable in their tight knicker elastic world. Nor do I understand why people bitch and moan about them but refuse to leave.


  • I’ll tell you this. If Samhain ever embraced the traditional business model of $1000 advance plus single/low double-digit royalties on ebooks, I’d walk away from them in a second.

    Digital books are potentially available for purchase forever. When (if, heh) I move on to NY, my Samhain ebooks will still be earning me 30-40%, and it stands to reason they’ll move faster once my name is more widely known, and as ebooks become more popular among the readership. Being career-focussed for me means thinking of *future* earning potential, not just instant cash.

    And as far as the $1000 hurdle goes, what can $1000 buy me? One month’s mortgage and a week’s worth of groceries. If the advance requirement is really there to ensure authors make good money from their books, it should be a five or ten thousand dollar minimum. Unless they expect authors to churn out 30 books a year?

    It can be a sound financial decision to give up an immediate payout in return for greater potential long-term earnings. How is being confident in your own potential as an author, and your own ability to succeed over the long haul less career-focussed than grabbing a handful of bills and settling for lower royalties? How is understanding that the market is shifting toward digital a little more every day, and banking on the growth of the only part of the industry that’s thriving right now non-career-minded?

    I just don’t get it.


  • Anon76
    June 28
    8:48 pm

    If RWA continues to think that a 1K advance makes a person a serious writer, or a pub house a serious enterprise, then they are so far out of touch with reality.

    A 1K advance only frustrates the heck out of those that have been told that the NYC type model is the cat’s ass. Seriously, if you are starting out, and can get only one slot a year, that 1K sucks. Unless the publisher has huge distribution and is willing to promo you a bit, you won’t often earn out. And not earning out is a bad bad thing.

    If you are going to put a low limit on the advance, go for the gusto…say…3-5K. You’ll have pubs dropping by the wayside because that is just not good business. Not for untried authors.

    I watch authors all the time who enter contest after contest after contest because they are put on by RWA chapters. I can’t imagine what the cost of that is. I’m starting to feel that writing is a biz where if you don’t have money to splurge on those types of things… and conferences, and chapter meetings, and bookmarks, and yada yada…, then you might as well give up.

    I’ve pretty much given up. I can’t AFFORD to be a writer at this point. Well, I suppose I could, but not when I’m told by RWA that I’m not valid if I opt to write for e-book pubs who don’t follow a pay plan that they approve. I just don’t care to fight that battle too.


  • I don’t agree with how RWA has handled things with epublishing. I really don’t.

    I do know there are many members who are trying to understand epublishing better-many who are expressing interest in the changes RWA is pushing for.

    But to be fair, I think much of the issue lies not so much in keeping epubbed out, but many think like Julie Leto does~she feels every author who is good enough to be pubbed is worthy of an advance.

    For print-yes, I agree.

    The problem is too many don’t understand just how different the epub model works-but I think more of them are trying to learn. Maybe we’ll actually get somewhere this time. I hope.

    The quicker turn around ‘most’ (I did say most, not all) epubs have allow for a writer to build a backlist in a fairly short amount of time and that backlist is what provides for our month to month income, much in the same way advances provide for print. Those backlists, the quicker turn around, the higher royalties are the very reasons epubs are so appealing for many-but all of that can easily go away if the overhead shoots up. That’s what offering advances would do.


  • Those backlists, the quicker turn around, the higher royalties are the very reasons epubs are so appealing for many-but all of that can easily go away if the overhead shoots up. That’s what offering advances would do.

    My biggest fear is that if some epubs embrace the advance model, yes, every single advantage an epub gives authors will go right down the toilet.

    Because fewer books published will mean fewer of MY books published, and a longer wait between them. And royalties will come down if overhead goes up enough. So instead of putting out two or three or four books a year, where my potential earnings per title go up the more books I put out, I get a thousand bucks up front and get one slot every year (or two)? And no more income from that title until the advance earns out–likely at a royalty so low it might never happen.

    How does this make business sense–for the publisher or the author?


  • Myra Willingham
    June 28
    11:26 pm

    RWA offers benefits to some and nothing to others. Yet so many who admit that they get nothing from it won’t leave because they fight for the friendships they made or their local chapters are so important. Sheesh. They just keep on complaining and feeding the dinosaur.

    There in lies the rub.

    It’s a club, ladies and gentlemen. A bloody, f*ing club and nothing more. Yes, there are authors making money who belong but the majority aren’t making money because they aren’t published. But they belong to the club. They can brag to people that they are members of RWA. Oooooh, ahhhhh, neato-keeno. The prestige! The honor! The glory of belonging to a club where other would-be writers are also holding their collective breaths in the hope of getting a chance at the gold ring. Those poor misguided fools will put up with anything they’re told just to have that magic card in their wallet that they can take out and look at, sigh over, or show to a co-worker.

    Can’t you just heart their brags: “I belong to Romance Writers of America!”

    Big hairy deal. I belong to AAA, AARP, BOTM, and a few dozen other alphabet clubs. Doesn’t mean a darn thing unless I break down on the side of the road and I get to call a tow truck and not have to pay upfront. Those clubs don’t pay my condo fees. They don’t put food into my belly. They don’t make me anybody special at all.

    And therein, TOO, lies another rub.

    Women who keep holding on by their fingernails to that stupid membership because they say they LUV their local chapter are simply perpetuating and feeding the beast. Because of their loyalty to that local chapter, they’ve convinced themselves there is one small ray of sunshine in the dark abyss of belonging to an outdated and snobbish clique of prune-faced, tight-assed old biddies with their noses so far up in the air they won’t ever be able to wake and smell the coffee.

    If you’re not happy LEAVE THE DAMNED CLUB. I dare you.


  • I wasn’t getting anything out of my membership, so I quit RWA. I did enjoy my local chapter (100 miles south of me) once a year at their conference. Nice folks.

    RWA reminds me of the “ladies auxiliary” in “The Music Man.” One Grecian Urn! Two Grecian Urns! I don’t do Grecian Urns.



  • RWA offers benefits to some and nothing to others. Yet so many who admit that they get nothing from it won’t leave because they fight for the friendships they made or their local chapters are so important. Sheesh. They just keep on complaining and feeding the dinosaur.

    You’re not wrong about that some get more out of RWA, and others get less.

    However, it’s not just the ‘friendships’. The friendships I’ve made I can maintain without RWA.

    I’m not as focused on supporting and networking, etc. However, for many, that support, the networking are very, very important-discounting what some views as important isn’t a very enlightened way to view things.

    If RWA doesn’t work for some, I get that. I very much get it. but it does work for others, and if the org will change with the times, it can do far more for far many.

    That is what most of us fighting for change want, and it’s something we believe in.

    That is the reason those of us who are disappointed or unhappy DON’T leave-because as a whole, many of us believe in the organization. More, we’re entitled to do just that.


  • Fae
    June 29
    6:40 pm

    I have to agree with Kirsten on this. $1000 up front with miniscule royalties after would *cost* me money in just the first month a book is out! I have no bones about giving numbers, so here it is: On my 3 EC novels I made right around 2k in royalties on each in the first month of sales, which is as far as I can tell right about the average for EC. If they’d given me 1k in advance and then the 7-10% royalties print gets? I’d have lost a huge chunk of that second 1000 dollars. And every month after that, instead of getting the amount that actually paid bills and bought extras (oh hai new laptop!) and paid for my cat’s vet bills, I’d have been getting maybe enough to cover my cell phone bill. Maybe. Because instead of 37%, I’d get 7-10%, less than a third of the amount.

    How is that beneficial? How is that more career-focused? They want us to forgo a third of our income just so we can play in their sandbox? Not a freaking chance. $1000 doesn’t even pay my rent for a month, it’s a pittance and I’m worth more than that. RWA doesn’t think so, but then I don’t care what they think. I do, however, care that they’re trying to strong-arm successful epublishers into shafting their authors in exchange for an invite to their dull party.

    I have no position on those who choose to remain members. They see a benefit and so they’re welcome to their choice to remain and participate. I only care when it affects me and my career and RWA’s president challenging (attempting to shame is more like it) at least one of my publishers into shafting me of future royalties? Then I care.


  • Nora Roberts
    June 29
    6:49 pm

    I’m not sure I understand. Does the $1,000 advance mean royalties would automatically lower to reflect those in print publishing? I had assumed it was simply meant to be an advance on the royalties standard for epublishing.

    If the first is the case, there’s certainly every reason to say whoa. But I don’t understand how the requirement for 1k advance on royalties to meet the current standard for RWA publisher recognition–whether or not you agree with that requirement–means eroyalty rates would be cut to the print standards.


  • Fae
    June 29
    6:58 pm

    I think the royalties would have to come down, to offset the advances they’d be giving. The ebook royalties are higher as a trade-off of sorts. An epublisher who releases 5 books a week would have to pay $260,000 more every year in advances for those books. That money would have to be made up somewhere and authors would, I have no doubt, take the shaft.

    No one’s said definitively whether royalties would come down, because no one’s taken RWA’s challenge, but I would assume they’d have to. It’d change the whole business model to one that simply doesn’t benefit the epublished author at all.

    A more nominal advance, as a token of good faith to the author and to RWA, I probably wouldn’t have a problem with. But asking epublishers to incur 260k more in business expenses every year isn’t a good plan for anyone, including the publishers, I don’t think.


  • I firmly believe that the only way to change the attitude in RWA is for someone in the know about epublishing to be on the board. I did a brief run-through of the various members on the current board and – as far as I can tell – not one is epublished. I’m not dissing the board. They’re all volunteers and are the elected representatives of RWA’s 10,000+ members.

    There appear to be a ton of misconceptions about epublishing and I freely admit I’m not convinced by the non-advance model. But I’m willing to learn more about it and I’m sure many other RWA members are as well. We just need someone who actually knows what they’re talking about to write an article for the RWA magazine, or to give a workshop at the conference.


  • I’m not sure I understand. Does the $1,000 advance mean royalties would automatically lower to reflect those in print publishing? I had assumed it was simply meant to be an advance on the royalties standard for epublishing.

    I don’t know if it would automatically mean a lower royalty–but epublishers can offer the higher royalties they do because they have very little overhead. I do think that if you increase that overhead to any great extent, royalties will have to come down to offset the upfront costs.

    Advances would also make epublishers less willing to take chances on books that aren’t “inside the box” (like mine, heh). And it would almost definitely make it harder for new talent to break in–because the number of slots will almost certainly go down, and those authors who’ve already proved they can earn out will get priority–and rightly so.

    I chose epublishing specifically for all the ways it’s not like NY. I don’t write the kinds of stories that are likely to sell to NY (straight from the mouth of a Tor editor). I like the high royalty, and the opportunity for long term success from my own consistent effort and skill, and the fact that I may have to be patient is no big deal because I believe in the quality of my work. And I like the fact that I don’t have the pressure of that advance looming over me, so if success comes more slowly than my publisher might like, they’ll still be willing to take a chance on me.

    Look, I know my work is good. I didn’t choose an epublisher because I thought I wasn’t good enough for NY. I spent months researching publishers (both print and digital) and agents, and for the time being I prefer the epublishing model to the print model. Insisting epublishers change that model to make it more like print is unnecessary–and for many like me, undesirable.

    And it kind of burns my butt to see RWA pushing epublishers to make changes that could actually be detrimental to my success as an author.


  • I’m not sure I understand. Does the $1,000 advance mean royalties would automatically lower to reflect those in print publishing? I had assumed it was simply meant to be an advance on the royalties standard for epublishing.

    Lowered royatlies are definitely a valid concern. We get higher royalies, because there is less overhead. There aren’t the print costs, there aren’t shipping costs, storing costs, etc.

    Because it isn’t a costly for an epublisher to release a book-there ARE costs-but they are less-because of this, epubs can take risks that many trad pubs can’t. They fit very well into a niche market, but that niche market is growing by leaps and bounds.

    If costs go up, epubs won’t be able to take as many risks.

    If costs go up, they may also start limiting the variety of stories, and I don’t mean genre-simply the format-I’ve sold stories that are 10K and stories that are 85K to my epubs and I’ve had a good return on them all. I don’t want to see that go away.


  • I have never, pre- or post-pubbed, ever boasted that I belonged to the RWA in a normal conversation. I did bring up the fact to people who were interested in publishing but nope, never whipped out my (non-existent) RWA card from my pocketbook.

    I do think that the Internet has opened the world for one to get formerly unavailable information, including about publishing. Many who start researching, though, are overwhelmed by this and this is where RWA might help. Sometimes, I think there’s too much on the Internet, making everyone an instant expert.

    Yes, I get that for many, RWA isn’t needed to get pubbed. For many, RWA isn’t relevant for them. But overall, what RWA gives for $100 a year is pretty good money–knowledge, a chance to meet people who love writing one’s genres, workshops with insiders, and meetings with publishers and editors (yes, the last one is more expensive since that would mean expenses for a convention).

    I’m one of the dinosaurs from the era of pre-Internet popularity. I get that RWA must change with the times, just as I’ve adapted to being IV-ed to a laptop and some other electronic gadget the last decade, but I also realize that the majority of its members are still trying to understand the ebook business model. Heck, many of them still don’t understand how print publishing works as a business.

    It’s a struggle, especially for those who don’t want to take the time to understand.

    In defense of RWA, it’s a challenge for a huge organization to educate as well as protect its members. In the early boom days of epublishing and new small pubs, RWA had been burned several times while trying to embrace the new world when many of its members were victimized. The last five years, I’ve seen RWA struggle to find ways to help authors, from making by-laws about number of copies sold to its current stance of $1000 advance.

    That said, I’m a Samhain author too, and agree that RWA needs to stop comparing apples and oranges when it comes to the two business models. I think they know this, but the PTB can’t agree on how to bring about change without opening RWA into a marketing jungle. It’s, after all, not in the business of helping start-up businesses to succeed. However, this isn’t fair to stable and proven ebook publishers such as Samhain and Ellora’s Cave. I hope that RWA would look into embracing e-publishing in a fair and educated manner.


  • Edie
    June 30
    11:07 am

    random off the topic butt in.. what is your book with Samhain Gennita?? Me wants!


  • Hi Edie,

    I’ve sold Virtually Hers and Virtually One to Samhain and VHers will be coming out this October. Thank you!


  • Edie
    June 30
    11:44 am

    *fangirl squee*
    Thanks Gennita!

    Back to regular discussion now.


  • Gennita, I’m glad to hear that!


  • Tovah
    July 30
    5:30 pm

    Thanks for posting this. All of you just saved me from forking out $110 for joining an organization that will not help me one bit. Wish me luck publishing my first novel as an e-book. Tovah Byrd


  • Ah, Tovah… just keep in mind, this article is more than two years old and things do/have changed. The more the market changes, the more RWA is going to change to keep up WITH the market. And that involves ebooks.


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