Wednesday, March 21, 2007
FROM RWAalert. Permission to forward is granted.
RWA standards for publisher recognition determine which publishers will be allowed to attend RWA's annual conference and listed in RWA's Market Update to solicit works written by RWA members. Unfortunately, the standard has been construed as a "stamp of approval" by RWA. That was never the purpose in setting the standard.
A publisher's recognition by RWA is not a guarantee of an author's publishing success. RWA's standards merely indicate that the publisher pays royalties, is not a subsidy or vanity press, has been in business a minimum length of time (1 year) and has sold a minimum number of copies of one romance title (1500 hardcover or trade paperback or 5,000 in any other format). Each author must evaluate the company, carefully read the individual publisher's contract and decide if they are willing to accept the conditions put forth in the contract.* (Please read Trish Milburn's informative article which begins on page 30 in the February 2007 issue of the RWR.)
RWA standards are something the Board must review regularly because of the ever-changing industry. Over the years, RWA has received complaints about the inequities of current standards but also many complaints against the business practices of small presses. In order to learn more about current publishing practices, two Board Members, Diane Pershing and Nicole Burnham, and Executive Director Allison Kelley attended a conference sponsored by Book Industry Study Group in March 2006. (This was reported on page 37 in the July 2006 RWR.) In light of information gained from the BISG conference and input from RWA members, a task force was appointed at the July 2006 board meeting. The motion stated:
Motion regarding a Publisher Recognition Task Force:Kelly moved and Grant seconded that a task force be formed to analyze RWA's publisher recognition standards and procedures in light of current industry practices.
Rationale: Publisher recognition procedures need to be examined to see if they are: (a) aligned definitionally with industry standards**, and (b) procedurally efficient and enforceable.
The motion was unanimously adopted by general consent. The task force has received input from literary attorneys, other writers groups, the Small Press Center, PMA--The Independent Book Publishers Association, authors and owners of small presses. A report was delivered to the board at the March 2007 board meeting. The Board is still looking into the issue and will continue to discuss it at the July Board meeting so nothing has been decided yet.
The fact that RWA is reviewing the standards has been reported to members repeatedly in the RWR, Hot Sheets, and minutes which are posted on RWA's website. As always, members are welcome to come to Board meeting and listen to the Board's discussions. Board meeting will be held at the conference hotel July 8 and 9. Members who wish to contact a member of the Board can find contact info in every issue of the RWR.
The RWA Board
* italics added by me. On this point I am strongly in agreement with the RWA. Their recognition and its firm connection to sales figures for top sellers is a valuable service that they provide to all writers--members and non-members alike. But writers have to also do their own research. No short cuts, no excuses. But given this assertion why do they go on to mention the business practises of (specifically) small presses as a reason for re-evaluating recognition criteria?
** I give the RWA their due, but the fears of ebook authors that being "aligned definitionally" may be an experience akin to defenestration is not entirely irrational given RWA's history. This explanation is vague to the point of coyness about just what "industry standards" the current criterion might not be aligning with (and whose industry, exactly). Those who put 'rocking the boat' on the agenda shouldn't be surprised by the consternation of the passengers.