Here Iz Some Mental Gymnastics. Let Me Show You It.

So, I was talking with a friend of mine, Jackie Barbosa (who, btw writes some REALLY great historical erotic romance you should check out), and we were discussing changing attitudes toward self-publishing and in particular RWA which is Romance Writers of America.

I’ve never joined RWA, and I don’t see that reality changing. They would have to change their attitudes pretty severely to be more embracing of all types of genuine publishing achievement and not just publishing achievement that props up the old guard. They would also have to talk about relevant publishing topics and not just NY print publishing as if that’s all that exists or the “one true way to making a living”.

For example, right now, unless things have changed while I wasn’t looking, you aren’t a full member (i.e. acknowledged as a published author and allowed on panels at conferences and to officially promote your work and etc), unless you have been published by a publisher they have “approved” as a “really real publisher”.

This leaves out some epublished authors (last I checked. Sometimes epubbed authors are “real authors” in RWA world and sometimes they aren’t. I’m not sure if that tempest in a teapot has died down yet), and it leaves out all self-published authors.

RWA also has book awards called the RITA. Jackie was commenting on the midlisters who have left their publishers to go indie and said it will be interesting to see what kind of mental acrobatics RWA has to perform to explain and justify why one of these author’s St. Martin’s published book is eligible for RITA consideration, but the author’s self-published book, which has made her more money than any of her trad pubbed books… isn’t.

I’m dragging up the popcorn if/when that justifying goes down. Because it will be hella entertaining.

RWA basically bills themselves as a professional organization for romance authors whose main goal is supposedly to help romance writers get to the point of making a living writing. This is ostensibly what most official, large, genre writing organizations are about. But here is the thing…

It’s not really about that and never has been. It’s about validation, and ego, and wait for it… vanity.

So all this time, when people have said: “People just self-publish for vanity and because they are impatient and stupid and lame and can’t write…”

Well, sort of the definition of vanity is when you do something just because it “looks good” and makes you feel “validated”. What is the trad pub circus but a validation parade? Again, I don’t hate NY publishers. Most of the drama and silliness isn’t even being perpetuated by NY publishers. It’s being perpetuated by writers and writer organizations and a handful of agents who are too out of touch with reality to bother mentioning.

I am not in any way bitter. Why would I be? I’m thankful that I was smart enough to avoid all the drama and heartache that seems to be inherent in that system from start to finish for most authors.

Only 1% of authors make a living writing fiction. And here is where the intellectual dishonesty with many of these writer organizations start to show through. I’m in that 1%. I’m making a lot more than most NY published authors. And yet… according to RWA’s litmus test, I’m not a published author.


So is publishing as a career about vanity or is it about business? Because I thought it was about business. Wouldn’t it be much more fair, if the genuine goal is about making a living, to do things based on income/sales levels?

RWA has always seemed like a hen party/social club to me. Which is why I’ve never joined and don’t foresee a future in which I would, unless I was treated like a “real author”. Because, I am one. When someone is making a career-level income, you can’t keep pretending they don’t have a career just because they don’t have a certain label on the spine of their books.

As things continue to change in publishing these organizations with special rules for those who have at some point in their past had a NY pub, even if they don’t have one now, is going to look more and more dishonest and just plain silly. I can’t wait for the show to start.


This is a reprint from Zoe WintersWeblog.

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