RWA takes my money, then asks if I deserve to exist

A little hyperbole there. Actually, it’s my company’s money and my company’s right to exist, but since I’m a major co-owner of BelleBooks, and, as we know, corporations are now people, it’s me. Once again, BelleBooks is a sponsor for the Romance Writers of America conference (San Antonio, TX, later this month.) We pay thousands of dollars each year for the honor, as do other publishers, large and small.

I’ve realized for a couple of years that the organization is trending away from traditional publishing and toward the self-publishing world; it’s a simple matter of catering to changes in the membership. As a hybrid author myself, a small press publisher, and, really, a self-publishing author since 2000, I applaud the changes in our industry.

Except for the part where a very vocal minority of self-published authors have decided that traditional publishers are greedy demons, that we offer nothing of value, and that any author who signs with us is deranged, stupid, a masochist or, at the very least, not yet “converted.”

Some days it feels like that faction is running the asylum. This has been one of those days. I downloaded the RWA conference app and scrolled through it this afternoon, looking at workshop schedules. To no surprise, this year’s schedules are dominated by topics aimed at self-pubs and hybrid authors. I didn’t expect otherwise. The attending publishers, including BelleBooks, get “spotlight” sessions to talk about their books and guidelines for submissions, as usual. And there are plenty of workshops on writing craft and general business advice. Cool.

But then there is this: “Is there a case for traditional publishers and agents?”

I stopped scrolling and stared in disbelief. The organization that has existed for thirty-ish years with the generous help of publishers now reduces their importance to a topic that implies publishers may indeed be indefensible–that a question exists, and must be debated.

Alrighty, what brave publishing folk are manning this panel?

None. Instead, there is one speaker. One. A sociologist. God bless her, she’s probably a lovely person. Her name is Dana Beth Weinberg, and the program says she has access to inside stats on market research that will show how traditional publishers compare to self-publishers. A sociologist. With marketing stats. Not someone who has ever worked in publishing, who knows what publishers do behind the scenes, or what the issues are, or how the distribution works, or what the boots-on-the-ground challenges are, or how the industry is changing, or what publishers do to help authors build long term careers, or the differences between large and small presses, or the history of returnable books or what it’s like to work with major distributors such as Amazon . . . a sociologist, armed with some numbers.

She’s going to tell everyone whether my business and I deserve to be taken seriously.

This is how RWA treats its publishing sponsors. This is how RWA regards publishers. This is how, apparently, a faction that now controls the mindset and the future of RWA views its obligation to present a conference that serves the interests and respects the choices of those members who are traditionally published.

By offering an insulting workshop taught by a non-industry speaker on a topic that is set up *from the start* to marginalize traditionally published members and their careers.

Were there no publishers invited to be on the panel? No agents? Invite me, I’ll go. You won’t like me when I’m angry, but I’ll be there, you betcha. Invite some authors who are tired of being told they don’t have sense enough to hand all their books over to Amazon. Let us tell the attendees what it’s like in the evil dens of traditional publishing. We’ll try to keep our horns hidden.

And we promise not to send any more of our wickedly earned money to RWA.
At least, I do.

About Deborah Smith

Designer, artist, writer, and owner of ORNAMENTED POSSUM and THE PICKY POSSUM, selling hand made and hand picked goods on Amazon, eBay, Red Bubble, Etsy, and others.
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