Saturday, June 07, 2008

RWA Membership - Is it worth keeping?

I read an interesting blog post by Regina Carlysle on this subject and it got me to thinking about my own RWA membership, which will come up for renewal in September.

I joined RWA in 2000. I decided I'd had enough of "Dear Author" rejection letters and thought that, by joining the romance organization, I'd learn enough to become a real, live writer. So, I joined. Okay, I was on my way.

Or was I?

Now, I'll admit, I love the RWR - which is their trade magazine. I devour it every month because there are a lot of good articles about a variety of subjects within the romance writing world. And all I wanted was to see my name in their First Sales column. And with that, I'd gain entrance into The Club. PAN - their published-authors segment of RWA. Silly, maybe, but it seemed to me that would be validation. That would make me a writer.

To be honest, aside from that RWR, I don't get a whole lot out of RWA. I have never been to National. I don't order the conference CDs. Nothing. With the exception of New Jersey Romance Writers - my local RWA chapter. Now this is a group that is totally worth the dues every year. In a short time after joining them, I sold my first book. See? I was on my way.

Or was I?

Not by RWA standards. My publisher - an epublisher - was not on the coveted list of "Approved Publishers." Rats. I wasn't quite there just yet. Maybe someday.

That first sale did gain me entry into NJRW's PAN - which was good - but it wasn't RWA.

Then Ellora's Cave became the first epub to achieve the standards set by RWA in order to qualify as an "approved" publisher. Then Triskelion Publishing and Samhain, and Loose-ID - one by one, these epubs made it. They were "legitimate." (Not that not being recognized by RWA takes away from legitimacy, but within the industry at the time, it seemed the RWA approval carried a lot of weight.)

When Samhain closed to submissions in the spring of 2007, I was gritting my teeth because I'd been thisclose to being ready to submit to them. But then, RWA National came and it seemed like they were going to prove what a lot of us epublished authors already kind of thought.

RWA did away with their "Approved Publisher" criteria and revamped their recognition system.

They can claim their reasons all they want, but to me (and a lot of us) it seemed as if they changed those standards in order to pull that PAN status from the e-publishers. This organization claims to to operate in the best interest of their members - but to me, it seems that it's the best interest of select members. Print authors only. E-pubbed authors need not apply. Gotta keep out the riffraff.

I nearly let my membership lapse because of that. Why should I want to belong to a group that clearly views me as a second-class citizen? I joined EPIC - but don't know if that serves any purpose at all - but that's another blog post. And that is a growing feeling amongst e-published authors. We aren't "good enough" to hang with the print (PAN) members.

Now, my membership is coming up for renewal again, and I'm again wondering if I should bother. Well, actually, I already know the answer. I have no choice. If I wish to remain a member of NJRW, I must renew my RWA membership. Without it, I will not be allowed to remain and NJRW member. And that's why RWA can do nonsense stuff like change the rules to disqualify a certain segment of it's membership. Because they know members like me can't go anywhere because of their rules regarding chapter laws.

The ironic thing to me is that, last August, I sold a book to Samhain (woo hoo!). If I'd made that sale six weeks earlier, I'd be in The Club. Apparently six weeks earlier, I was good enough.

Well, I managed to sell four books without help from RWA. With any luck, I'll continue to sell books as well - keep your fingers crossed on that one! =) But I can't help but wonder what RWA will do when e-published authors reach their new standards? Raise them again? Outright refuse to acknowledge that e-pubbed authors are just as skilled and just as talented and work just as hard as print-pubbed authors? I wonder what sort of backlash that would create? It seemed as though it would happen last summer, but then it kind of died down. But as e-pubbed authors get closer and closer to meeting RWA PAN criteria, it should be interesting to see what happens.

Until then, I'll grit my teeth as I write that check every September. It's a mighty expensive magazine subscription.

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