Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday's Words for January 28, 2009

If you are one who regularly reads my essays, you will know that I’ve always been up-front with my assertion that life is not fair. Generally speaking, I’m not one to decry the rather plentiful examples of this state, believing as I do that basic unfairness is as natural, even as necessary to life as is oxygen.

However, from time to time I encounter a situation that is more than unfair, it is unjust. One such example of injustice inspires these words today.

One of the first things I did, after having sold my first manuscript to Siren (now Siren-Bookstrand) Publishing was to join the Romance Writers of America. Nearly euphoric with that first taste of lifetime-dream-come-true, I felt on top of the world.

Until I discovered that the RWA, while happy to accept me as a member, and cash my cheque for membership dues, did not consider me a “published author”. Simply being published wasn’t good enough; I had to be published with what they considered a “recognized publisher”.

Not that much later, the RWA Board of Directors did address this seeming inequity by re-visiting their criteria for one to be considered for PAN (published author network) status. They took the emphasis off the publisher and placed it on the author, and PAN can be yours when you meet the financial threshold of dollars earned for a single title. In the mean time, those like myself, who are e-published but do not yet meet this criteria, have been given the designation of “PRO”.

So, too, has anyone who has simply finished a manuscript and pitched it once.

I can understand why, as an organization of professional career-minded individuals, they would want to maintain a minimum standard of qualification. While I don’t necessarily agree with their standard, I can and have accepted it. That’s not the injustice.

I have attended two “National Conferences” with this organization, and both times encountered individual members who looked at my status of being e-published in the same light Puritans two centuries back looked upon one bearing the scarlet letter.
I am far too reasonable and reasoning a human being to hold the national organization responsible for the ignorance of some of its members—although it might be argued that the membership takes its cue from their leaders. Regardless, I’ve met and dealt with prejudice before, and I had no problem shaking off the insults. That’s not the injustice, either.

This year has seen a change in the way the entries for the major awards for the RWA – The RITAS – are being qualified, and it is about this that I must speak up.

Last year, e-published and small press authors who had achieved PAN status, whose books could be had in print form, were able to enter this august competition. We won’t discuss whether or not any of them had any real chance of winning. We’ll just accept that they were considered as equals, because they could enter and be considered for the awards.

This year, they may not.

The RWA effectively closed the loop-hole that allowed the entry into the RITAS by these “e-pubs” by inserting into the criteria that the books that qualify for consideration be “mass produced”. The print books of e-published and small press authors are, as you may or may not know, ‘print on demand’.

So now, a member of the RWA who has achieved PAN through e-publishing or thru publication by a small press publisher may not enter the Golden Heart Competition, the other major competition open to unpublished members because they are published; and they may not enter the RITA competition because they are...e-published – or published with a small press.

If this organization wishes to continue to treat some of its members as “less than” the rest of its members, then I believe they need to give a huge discount on the membership fee. That, or come right out and create a segregated division for the e-pubbed authors. Of course, neither of those two things are going to happen. But I wonder if any of the principals involved in the ‘decision making’—and yes decisions are made by the principals and not the membership at large—I wonder if those principals have thought things through to their logical conclusion.

Because e-publishing is not going to go away. Technology never, ever back-tracks. If anything, e-publishing will flourish, as will small press publishers, the number of authors who are published in this way will abound, and any organization not savvy enough to change with the times and fully include these artists will eventually be considered redundant, and be left in the dust.

from the Ménage Amour imprint from Siren-Bookstrand Publishing

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