My Hobby

ESPAN, the RWA chapter dedicated to epublished and small press authors, has a fantastic blog post from writer and agent Deidre Knight in response to RWA President Diane Pershing’s letter in the monthly newsletter.

In the letter, Ms. Pershing admits that RWA is failing to educate its members properly. I happen to agree. Here is how I think they should be educating their paying members (me).

What I want RWA to do for me:

  • Help me understand the pros and cons of publishing with a large press.
  • Help me understand the pros and cons of publishing with a small press.
  • Help me understand the pros and cons of publishing with an epublisher.
  • Help me learn how to distinguish between an ethical and respected publisher, be they large, small or electronic, so that I can make an informed decision about submitting to them.
  • Help me know what clauses I should look out for in a contract and what the negatives and positives are to those clauses so that I can make an informed decision about signing them.
  • Help me learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing, by offering online classes, local chapter level meetings/workshops, and national level workshops at the yearly conference.
  • Help me network by offering local chapter meetings, online chapters with specific focuses, and the national conference where I can expect to hear from, meet with and pitch to publishers and agents that I have decided to pursue, based on the research above.
  • Help me make the decisions. By educating me.

 

Do not attempt to make the decisions for me. If I decide to work with an agent despite your warning of a specific type of clause in their contract, that is my decision to make. If I decide to publish with a large press publisher to get the advance they are offering despite learning that they are unlikely to help promote my book so that I will earn out that advance, that is my decision to make. If I decide to contract with a brand new epublisher because they have a good marketing team despite learning that many new epublishers do not last, and they turn out to produce crap I would be embarrassed to introduce to my ebook reader, that is my decision to make.

Some may disagree, but I truly believe that there are different pros and cons to each of the first three options listed above. People choose those options, I chose one of those options, because of weighing the differences, not because I fell into the one when I couldn’t do the other. I would like to be able to say that I made my decisions based on information learned through the organization I pay to support my writing career. Instead, that organization thinks I’m just playing with my hobby and gave me little to no help – I found the information, both good and bad, that I needed to make my decision through sources that were entirely free.

RWA does give me something for my money. It gives me the support of my local chapter. It gives me the support of my online chapter which supports electronic and small press authors. It gives me the opportunity to attend a national conference where I can attend workshops about the craft of writing (but not the business of publishing in my chosen avenue) and the chance to network with other writers and some agents and publishers (just not the ones that I’m interested in meeting with). Lastly, RWA tries to give me a sense of being less than other writers, writers who have chosen a different path then I have. Writers who are apparently “career focused” while I’m simply lucky to be making money with my hobby.

There are reasons that I chose the path that I did. I weighed the pros and cons. It works for me, at this time and I can see no reason to change it. I can certainly see why others might choose a different path and I wish them well. I hope that they educated themselves about all of the options available to them. But if they relied on their professional writers association for that information, then they are sadly lacking in knowledge. Which doesn’t mean they made the wrong decision. It just means they made that decision based on limited information, which is very, very sad when they are members of an organization meant to educate them.

I am not an idiot. I am fully aware that there are many epublishers that will do little to advance the careers of their authors, and some that will harm them. That is also true of traditional print publishers and agents. Simply pushing an entire publishing model to the side and hoping that it will go away, is not helpful. Worse, insulting the professionals who are actively advancing that publishing model is not doing your members a service.

Since Ms. Pershing has admitted to the organizations failing in the education of its members, I hope that they will seriously rethink their strategy and remember that I am asking them to teach me, not to make my decisions for me by showing me only the options they themselves would choose.

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