Friday, January 16, 2009

For A Non-Confrontational Person...

I certainly have started something. In case you haven't read about the petition I started, here's the deal in a nutshell. Just because you're a PAN member of RWA, doesn't mean you can enter your books in the RITAs. And if you're epubbed, but don't qualify for PAN, you're probably not eligible for the Golden Hearts either.

In this day and age, it seems the time is right for RWA to take a more progressive stance on epublishing, starting with a greater inclusion of those books and those authors.

In the April issue, the RWR will be publishing a shortened version of this letter I sent them (they only publish 350 words):

Recently one of my dear friends, M (as I'm going to refer to her), received a letter from RWA stating the two books she'd submitted for the RITAs had been disqualified due to them being "not mass produced by a non-Subsidy, non-Vanity publisher in print-book format." Last year, she entered the RITA without incident. Her publisher has not changed since last year. M is not the only epubbed author who has received this letter this year, either.

By RWA's definitions:
"Subsidy Publisher" means any publisher that publishes books in which the author participates in the costs of production in any manner, including publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing and/or distribution. This definition includes publishers who withhold or seek full or partial payment or reimbursement of publication or distribution costs before paying royalties, including payment of paper, printing, binding, production, sales or marketing costs. M's publisher does not do any of this.

"Vanity Publisher" means any publisher whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books and publishers whose business model and methods of publishing and distribution are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and/or associates.
Neither does M's publisher do this.

In fact, her publisher is listed on RWA's Non-Subsidy, Non-Vanity Publisher Chart. (

So what's the sticking point? That little hyphenated phrase "mass-produced" which did not exist in last year's rules. When and where exactly was this addition announced? I tried to find it in various hot sheets and alerts, but couldnt. It seems this change merely showed up in some minutes, then in the RITA rules. RWAs take on mass-produced: The phrase mass-produced in print book format as it pertains to the RITA contest, is intended to define eligible books as those that are produced in sufficient quantity by the publisher to be offered for sale to the trade (booksellers and librarians) at standard discount rates and returnable. Yet many POD books carry these discounts and are returnable. It seems RWA doesn't know enough about the difference between mass produced and print on demand to actually clarify and enforce their own rules.

One of the greatest injustices is that M is not only a member of PAN, but due to her phenomenal sales, could be a member of PAN many times over. So she can be PAN, but not enter the RITA? Where's the equality in that? Wheres the unity so proudly lauded in the January 2009 issue of the RWR? Yes, we recognize you're a published author, but no, you cant enter our published author contest. In a recent letter from the RWA president in the RWR she talks about "If not now, when?" My thoughts exactly. This us vs. them mentality has gone on long enough. Epubs are here to stay. Treating them like a redheaded stepchild isn't going to make them go away. Why is RWA so worried about letting epubbed print books into the RITAs? Shouldn't an award for the best book be based on the writing and not the method of print production? There is already an imposed limit on RITA entries, so saying that adding epubbed print books would tax the system isnt valid.

My friend is out approx. $250 dollars (entry fees, cost of books and shipping) and so far, RWA won't even return her books. (Which she'd be willing to pay for.) M is heartbroken and I'm disappointed in RWA. This organization may claim to be the voice of romantic fiction, but on this issue, they certainly don't speak for me.

This letter was the impetus for me to create this petition: ChangeRWA. And while I realize not everyone will agree with what this petition stands for, that isn't going to stop me. I have a voice, as do those who have already signed the petition, and I intend to be heard.


  1. I forgot to put what chapter I was a member of on the petition, etc. Is there a way to go back and add that?

  2. I'm doing a dance for you here. I'd really like to see this come to a fruitful conslusion instead of everyone left feeling more battered from the latest round.

  3. Your stance makes perfect sense to me! While I'm not a member of RWA (yet) I definitely agree and am saddened by M's situation.

    I hope your petition is successful.

    (fist in the air)

  4. Excellent letter. I'm not a member of RWA, and stuff like this is part of the reason I'm on the fence about joining. I'm not an e-book reader, but that doesn't make them any less worthy books. Sheesh.

  5. Excellent letter Kristen. I had been just scanning the loops an didn't really know what it was all about. Very well said.

  6. Hoping your petition gets some sense into this organization. I've been a member of RWA since 1993 (or 4?) and I'm ready to bail and not look back. I'm published with a non-subsidy non-vanity publisher and I can't enter the Rita. Even though I'm not in PAN--because I haven't earned enough--I can't enter the Golden Heart. Yet they say they are advocates for my career.

    You know, I could really give up the bi-yearly RWA dramas and not mind it at all.

  7. Excellent letter and way past due. If not for my local chapter, I wouldn't bother with RWA. I could qualify for PAN now, but why bother?

    I won't attend the national conference again until this stance changes and all authors who were disenfranchised by the "mass-produced" clause are refunded, their books returned,and are allowed to participate in the Golden Heart and RITA's.

  8. You're the best. :)
    And regardless of what happens in the end...this is an awesome thing you've done.

  9. It makes me NUTS that they forced you to cut it. That letter is made of awesome and I hope to goodness the PTB listen up and hear you, because things are a mess over there. Go, Fight, GO!

  10. Great letter.
    I actually did sign the petition because, like you said, it's the story that wins, no matter how it's read.
    And really, how can someone possibly be PAN but not eligible for the Rita? It makes no sense.

  11. If this continues, will the RITA cease to be a reasonable representation of the romance writing world? By excluding so many books and authors, they are missing part of the reader experience. So aren't they worried that the RITA will no longer be a stamp of excellence - just a stamp of excellence for part of the romance world? So why not go the whole hog and make it, say, category romance only?

  12. Wonderful letter - and thank you for doing this! I signed the petition and fully support what you're trying to do. :)

  13. You ROCK! The RWA has stuck e-publishers and e-authors in limbo for long enough.

  14. Kristen, if you need some firepower, drop me a line. I went through all this crap 10 years ago and nothing has changed. Yes, it's been that long since the GH/RITA thing was pointed out to them -- repeatedly, I might add.
    Back then we fought to just get epubs acknowledged as publishers, while our authors were snubbed, belittled and made to feel like they are lower than pond scum.
    In a time when the markets are shrinking everywhere, it boggles the mind that RWA would choose to (still) reject, rather than embrace and foster, a growing one.

  15. In this day and age of technology and green living, it is only logical for writers to gravitate towards epublishing. How can an organization such as RWA not recognize the abundance of talent that lies within the many ebook pages? I must say as a newbie to the writing/publishing world this type of action from the RWA is discouraging. With your permission to forward the link for the petition I'd like to post it on my site. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the Internet is faster!

  16. I think RWA is a great organization, but like any organization/agency every once in awhile they need a good shaking (okay, maybe more than just every once in awhile). Awesome letter, Kristen! I really hope they take notice and listen!