Friday, June 19, 2009

RWA versus Epublishing: Round 3 (ding!)

RWA President Pershing Responds

I particularly enjoyed:

"Here is the actual story: Out of 400 workshop proposals this year, only two focused on digital publishing; one was deemed by the Workshop Committee to not be of the caliber needed, the other was by Deidre’s publisher, Samhain, which is not on the list of RWA Eligible Publishers ... RWA policy prohibits a non-Eligible publisher from offering a workshop."

Meaning, 'because we discriminate against the epublishing business model by not counted non-advance paying presses as "eligible" it is not discriminatory to prevent them from participating in the convention.' Ah, the logic, it is... conspicuous by its absence.

"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."

Meaning: discriminating against minorities is not only okay, it is admirable. And it also stops those pesky minorities from swamping the organisation and becoming a genuinely problematic majority (see also: attempting to define romance at straight-only and banning boobies from book covers--erotic m/m ebook writers aren't so much in the back of the bus as clinging to the fender and being dragged along the blacktop).

"About my June column: I wrote it in the spirit of offering information on how the board makes decisions, not ammunition in a war of words ... The board will be discussing all of this at the board table in July, by the way, and members are, as always, invited to drop in and observe the meeting."

Meaning: I talk, you listen. You do not talk. I know what is good for you. (a.k.a. the published author's burden).

"Lastly, there are PAN members who have been print-published recently or for years, who like their “advance-paying/lower royalty rate” choice, who look at the business model of “no advance/high royalty rate,” and have trouble understanding why anyone would gamble that way with a book that took so much time and effort."

Perhaps they should put more effort into developing that understanding. I made the average amount US authors earn ($10,000) last year, writing what I calculate to be an average of less than 100 publishable words per day. What is hard to understand about that?

"RWA issues a challenge to Ellora’s Cave and Samhain: Pay your authors a minimum $1000 advance against royalties ... RWA is not trying to stem the tide; it is advocating for fair treatment for its members."

As authors some of us have issued a challenge to the RWA, to accept that $1000 on the front end and $1000 dollars from royalties is the same $1000. This reply is frankly patronising not only to the author being addressed, but to these publishers and all authors who believe a dollar is a dollar. It assumes we are wrong and Pershing is unassailably and infallibly right and advance dollars are worth more than royalty dollars.

"Time alone will tell, and, in time, RWA will make any changes necessary to further the professional interests of its members."

Fair as defined by the executive, not the members or potential members. Fair only if you are completely certain that Mama Pershing knows best. But if the message is that authors not receiving a $1000+ advance are wrong, wrong, wrong, unethical and a little bit stupid--I can only suggest not spending those inferior dollars we are all earning on RWA membership.

Or as April Morelock commented: "Well Diane, I guess you told us where we fit in the the scheme of things at RWA."

See also:
Part 1

Ongoing Link-a-rama:
June 21
* RWA and the print vs e publisher question (sorta)

Edited to Add: Word is next up on ESPAN will be Angela James. Looking forward to it :)

Edited to Add: RWA Change yahoogroup


Jill Elaine Hughes said...

I'm a former RWA/PAN member who would now no longer be a PAN member, because my PAN-qualifying book didn't have an initial print run of 15,000 copies. (The PAN rules now don't just apply to advance amounts, they apply to print runs too, and since the average initial print run for a debut author in print is now between 7,000 and 9,000 copies due to smaller initial print outlays by most publishers for their midlists, a lot of authors pubbed by "legit" NY mainstream publishing presses won't qualify for PAN now, either, even if their advances are big enough. Subsequent print runs apparently don't count, which would mean that a midlist author who jumps to the NYT bestseller list on subsequent print runs wouldn't be recognized as a professional by RWA.

They are a totally fucked up organization that won't be getting any more of my dues money. Ever. I say BOYCOTT.

Treva Harte said...

We’ve managed to pay authors, artists, editors and others (including RWA) a considerable amount of money doing it our way in e-publishing. I eagerly await Ms. Pershing’s explanation of the many benefits we will get from RWA once we ignore what has worked for Loose Id and do things the way RWA dictates. You see, we run our company as a business so we expect to make a profit and continue to pay others.

kirsten saell said...

I'm not giving up my 30-40% royalty on digital in return for a measly $1000. How is grabbing for the instant (and laughable, in the case of $1000) cash more career minded than seeding a backlist with books that will be available indefinitely at a royalty rate four times what New York offers its authors? When I do break out, those early books will keep earning for me, and they'll be earning me more than 10%, thanks.

I wonder, if epublishers offered a choice between a $1000 advance with a 10% royalty or the standard percentage with no advance, which most authors would pick? I can't see many authors in the top five epubs picking the fast money over the long tail. If they did, I'd have to wonder how bright they were.

Fiona Glass said...

"As authors some of us have issued a challenge to the RWA, to accept that $1000 on the front end and $1000 dollars from royalties is the same $1000."

Not to mention that if you're paid purely by royalties and don't make that hypothetical $1000, you DON'T HAVE TO PAY ANY OF IT BACK...

Roxie Rivera said...

You never have to pay back an advance. At least not from a reputable publisher.

As to RWA, eh, I won't be joining any time soon. Every time I get close to filling out the forms and sending in my check, some epublishing kerfuffle breaks out. I'm not interested in paying for the privilege of being treated like a second-class citizen.

kirsten saell said...

No, advances don't have to be paid back. But that's kind of a double-edged sword for authors.

Failure to earn out--or failure to sell enough for the publisher to make a profit, which sometimes happens before the advance earns out--can kill a career before it's even really started.

Because they don't pay advances, epublishers are more able to keep investing in authors they believe in, even if their first few books don't do well. When you accept an advance, the publisher needs to recoup that, in addition to all the fixed costs of publication, before they make any money, and if your first few books lose them money, or don't perform as well as they'd hoped, there won't be any more contracts.

NY is kind of wired for quick money and quick success. And despite the seemingly instant nature of all things digital, ebooks are much more geared toward steady success over the long haul.