Sunday, June 26, 2011

What Does “Published” Mean?

Warning: This is a serious, industry-related blog. Grab an extra shot of rum before diving in.

I’ve been a member of Romance Writers of America for four years now, and all four years I’ve been a General member. That means I’m a newbie who hasn’t accomplished much beyond thinking I’d like to be published some day. It’s assumed I’ve put words on the page but even that is not guaranteed nor required.

As a general member attending RWA Nationals, I often felt as if I didn’t belong. I didn’t have multiple manuscripts (MSs) under my bed. I didn’t have revision and rejection horror stories. No contest finals, no pretty pink ribbon across the bottom of my badge, and no bookmarks to pass around.

But a couple weeks ago, that all changed. Well, a little bit of it changed.

I recently achieved PRO level in the RWA organization. What this means it that I was able to prove I wrote a complete, full-length MS and attempted to either sell it to a publisher or gain representation for it from an agent. The proof can be a contract or a rejection.

In my case, it was a rejection.

Membership in this new club comes with two perks. One is being able to attend the PRO retreat at RWA Nationals, but since I’m having to skip this year, that will have to wait for Anaheim in 2012. The other is joining the PRO members Yahoo loop. This is like getting that secret password and gaining entrance to the clubhouse with the sign on the door reading MEMBERS ONLY.

Now I belonged.

But in my short time on the loop I’ve learned an important lesson. Unpublished does not mean what it used to mean. I expected my fellow PRO members to be like me - no published book to speak of. (I’m so naïve.) But more and more I see that’s not the case. The majority of signatures on the emails include links to books available through everything from well-known digital publishers to self-publication.

So much for feeling like I belong.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be a member of RWA and I understand the mission and purpose of the organization. They advocate for professional writers – those attempting to and deserving of earning a fair income for their work. I appreciate all they do for authors, from the beginner to the multi-published to the Best Seller. My intention here is to share my observation of how certain definitions within the organization are getting harder to nail down.

In the case of RWA, “Published Author” is defined by a minimum amount of earnings ($1000) either in advance payment, royalty payment, or combined advance and royalty payment on a single Eligible Novel or Eligible Novella. The terms “Eligible Novel” and “Eligible Novella” are clearly defined on the organization website but the bottom line (other than a minimum word count) is that the author should not be required to pay any of the costs that go into printing or distributing the work, nor should it be the authors sole responsibility to sell said work. A publisher must actively play a role in making sure the work reaches a larger audience than just the author and her friends and family.

I don’t know about you, but all of this sounds damn reasonable to me, and having an organization the size or RWA standing with me, fighting for my rights as an author, is a blessing I’m honored to have. But I can’t help but wonder if these definitions are beneficial to all members if the loop that is meant for those members who have yet to see their name on a book cover is filled with members who actually HAVE their name on a book cover.

I admit, I have no answers here. I know this has been an issue for many years, though the situation regarding e-published authors has improved significantly in the last two years alone. However, since RWA makes it clear self-published authors are never eligible for the PAN network, a new battle is about to be waged. Gird your loins and buy your popcorn now. This should prove to be an interesting and contentious show.

I have two questions for you.

1.) Do you consider yourself a professional writer. If not, what do you think would (or should) qualify you for the title?

2.) Have your publication goals changed with the new developments and options in the publishing world or are you a “stick to the tried and true” kind of writer?


2nd Chance said...

Wow, I sorta touched on the whole define me on my personal blog this week...our minds are working in tandem... Scarry!

I think with the advent of the changing world of publishing, I'd like to see RWA define a third group...but then again, the more they divide things, the more resentment grows over what is a 'real' writer. Or a professional writer. And where the dividing lines fall.

I'm a professional writer. I don't always feel like I am because I never got an advance, and I'm not with an 'accepted' big name
publisher. I am a professional, but I hunger for the old school way of things.

I wish I didn't. But I know what I grew up with and even though I acknowledge the changing landscape of NY publishing, I still want it.

Quantum said...

The bottom line is total cash earnings IMO.

I don't care a hoot for RWA status, but I do respect total cash earnings from writing.

Looking at the Amazon UK best seller lists for kindle, they now contain many self-pubbed authors, though price definitely has a big influence on popularity.

Publishers of famous authors tend to overprice the e-books, partly because of the cost of DRM (so they say!), which reduces their popularity. Total return (sales x price) is what matters I think.

I hear that J K Rowling on her new site Pottermore will be selling the e-book versions of her own books and by-passing publishers and the likes of retailers like Amazon and Borders.

When you can do that you have really made it as an author! :lol:

Bosun said...

Chance - I'm not even worried about defining myself but I figured out pretty quick when I joined this new loop that I'd consider the majority of the authors emailing to be published. In the sense that they have a book, and in the case of some many books, available for sale. If I have a book and someone is paying me to write, be it in advance, royalty or both, then I'd say I'm making money from writing and that makes me a professional.

But that's not how it works these days. I too considered there should be another distinction, but fracturing the group even more would likely be dangerous.

Bosun said...

Okay, I have an eye appointment this morning so I'll be AWOL for a little while but I should be back long before lunch time.

Bosun said...

Q - Rowling is such a unique situation, I don't think you can't even include her in the conversation. She is splitting some of the profits with her traditional publishers who will help in the marketing and promotion areas, but she's essentially hiring them instead of the other way round. I'm exciting to see how her new endeavor goes and that I can get these on my eReader since they're so huge. This way I won't have to fight the exclusivity of the Kindle version, which I can't get on my Sony, or hold the heavy book up for hours!

Re: Best seller lists, it's been debunked more than once that being on the best seller lists does not mean an author is raking in the big bucks. I don't think it has to be making a certain amount of money. A journalist who works for a small paper making a fraction of what a journalist at the New Yorker makes is still a professional journalist. We'd never apply this "must make this much to be professional" to any other occupation.

Hellion said...

A writer is a person who writes. Which I am. A professional writer, I believe, is a person who writes instead of waiting for "inspiration" to strike before sitting her ass in a chair and doing it. So I'm a professional about half the time. (Then again, I believe inspiration comes from writing consistently; you get in the habit and just get better at producing quality stuff--rather like how much better you get at sit ups the longer you do them and the more consistently you do them. Slack off, and you lose all initiative to do it.)

Have my goals changed? Perhaps. I'm far more willing to consider epublishing now, although I still have the dream of one of the Big Publishers. You know, sorta like a girl dreams of The Wedding Day, when what really matters is a marriage that makes you happy rather than the perfect dress and cake and trimmings. But I would want a credible, quality epublisher. I do want the experience of an editor who can help make my book the best it can be.

Marnee said...

I think the part of your first question that's holding me up is "professional." The definition is: following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain. So, in my mind, being a professional something means you make money by doing it. I haven't made money from my writing yet so I don't see myself as a professional writer. I do consider myself a writer though. The same as I would consider myself a mother. It's a label that I choose to embrace, a way I define myself.

I am trying to figure out the second question, though. I think you're asking if I would consider epublishing or am I only going to be happy with a NY publishing contract. I think this is different for every writer. We all have different goals and there are different ways to get where we want to go. For me, I can't see a situation in which I would self-publish. I also don't know if I'm interested in epublishing. Like Hellie, I'm more willing to consider it, maybe, than I was five years ago, in the right circumstances. But not right now. I'd imagine that I'll know it's right for me when and if the time comes.

These are good questions, Bo'sun. Very thought-provoking.

And I noticed you didn't really answer. How about you? Do you consider yourself a professional? Would you consider any of the less traditional options?

Bosun said...

Yes, I should have made this clear I wasn't going for the "Are you a writer" debate. That's more philosophical and personal. This is strictly business, which I know most of this crew prefers not to deal with.


Interesting, Hellie, that you put no monetary qualification on the term. Which I like. There are classic painters whose work goes for millions these days, but in their lifetime, they couldn't sell anything. I doubt anyone would say they were not professional. But then again, attaching a business term like professional to something artistic is always wading into murky waters.

I have earned a tiny bit of money from writing, but I don't consider myself a professional. However, I don't feel the writing has to become my sole source of income in order to be considered a professional. If I never quit my day job and manage to publish (in digital or trad) books then I'll be a professional writer. In my eyes, if not RWA's.

Bosun said...

See, Marn, that definition doesn't come with a "minimum earned" requirement. I was a DJ in a very small town making small money. Compared to DJ's at larger market stations working the same shift I did, the money was nothing. But I still made my living on air and I was a professional. As I say above, no other occupation sets a money limit to the "professional" qualification.

I've answered question one in the previous comment, but now I'll answer the changing tides bit. Yes, my goals have shifted. I still want the NY deal because I want the advance to pay off my student loans. But if I find a digital first publisher I believe in and would feel good about joining their team, then I'd go in that direction.

I like the speed of digital publishing. Chance is about to have 2 novels and 2 novellas plus one short story all available to readers. All released in a 6 to 8 month timeframe. That rarely happens in traditional print. Even with the back-to-back trilogy releases lately, those are still a year or more from the time the deal is made to release date.

Hellion said...

I didn't put a monetary definition to it because many people aren't able to publish but are still writers; and there are people who are being paid lots of money who I don't think can write. Take Snooki for example. By a monetary definition, she'd be a professional writer. By mine, she's an idiot.

Also, I believe I read a Jennifer Cruisie blog where she addresses this (sorta) and she didn't put a monetary definition to it either. You're a writer because you write. Getting published is or can be very luck-oriented, in a sense. Yes, you have to have a very well-polished, great story--but timing plays a very big key. Knowing the right people can be key. The mood of the editor that day can be key. I hope to be lucky one day, but in the mean time, I'll settle for being a writer and working on being a professional writer who writes no matter what.

Bosun said...

Okay, let me repeat, this is not about whether anyone is a writer. If you write, you're a writer. This is about how RWA defines the professional writer and how they define a published writer.

I read time and time again in RWA communications (and surveys) this idea that a professional writer should be someone with the intention of making writing their sole source of income. I like working in business. I want to own my own business someday. But I also want to be published.

I just don't like being made to feel I'll never be considered a professional writer in the eyes of RWA simply because I don't quit my day job.

Donna said...

Terri, this is a really thought-provoking post.

I think the definitions used here need to be looked at in a historical context -- I belonged to RWA years and years ago when this $1000 royalty thing was put into place, and it was designed to keep out certain vanity publishers, and it seemed like a good strategy at the time.

I also remember the PAN group being added because the published folks felt like they needed more business-related stuff that was just for them, because the majority of the RWA members were unpublished, so things were geared a little too much towards the unpubs.

I think they keep trying to accomodate every group's needs, which is why the PRO distinction was added, and now that things are changing at the speed of light, maybe these labels don't quite fit the way they were intended.

We all want to reach the brass ring, and now we have lots of different ways to get there. Unfortunately I do think these labels -- which were put in place to aid people -- are used to differentiate writers in a good, better, best kind of way.

This is getting too long! LOL Let me finish my coffee and come back.

Hellion said...

I'm not sure I'd want to quit my day job to write. I like writing at a slower pace, and if my paycheck depended on it, it would get hairy. I like my health insurance; I like benefits. I want to write and make money for travel and a nest egg. Supplemental--not sole income.

If RWA's definition is that--which I don't pay attention to frankly--then I think they're a bit narrow.

Bosun said...

You're exactly right, Donna. I truly believe the intention behind RWA decisions is in the right place. Unfortunatly, I also think in some aspects they're fighting a losing battle. In an effort to protect writers from small presses that are nothing more than a "puppy mill" verion of publishing, they've inadvertently ended up punishing writers more than publishers.

The publishing industry went so long without anything changing at all, and then digital came along and now self-publishing and it's this giant explosion of change. In an effort not to be hasty and make a bad decision, RWA seems to err on the side of caution and wait to see what happens.

The only problem with this philosophy is that many see it as a way of missing the boat and resisting progress.

Bosun said...

Yes, Hellie! Very narrow. It's the all or nothing. You're one of us and you only write or you do other things and you're not one of us. The reality of the publishing world is that making a living from writing alone is not easy and a minority of writers manage to do it.

Take for instance Eloisa James. Writer is not her only job, as everyone knows. She's not quitting her career as a college professor yet she has nearly 20 books published and I'd be very surprised if anyone at RWA attempted to say she's not a professional writer.

It almost feels like an ultimatum. On that is both unrealistic and unnecessary considering each writer is an individual who has her/his own goals for their writing career.

Scapegoat said...

For me, a professional writer is someone who makes money doing it. I don't care about the amount, but the idea would be you get paid for your creation.

Since I'm not a member of RWA I don't fully grasp all the distinctions of each type of membership level but I get the general idea.

Personally, I don't feel self-published should count as published. Yes, I understand you make money off this work. That might make it "professional" but it doesn't make it "published" to me.

I know that's controversial to say and I even have writer friends who've chosen to self-pub some FANTASTIC novellas lately. I know that there are arguments that you make more money selling it yourself than sharing with publishers, BUT there is a whole lot more those agents and publishers do for you than just throw your book up on amazon.

Personally, self-pubbing works best for me when you are doing something on the side for your fans - like a "between the numbers" type of book or a side-character novella spin off from your main novel. Basically as marketing tools for you.

AND I do think that many new writers are trying to use self-pub to get their name out there and market their "bigger" books. Which I can get behind.

BUT. And it's a big BUT. When you are talking about a PROFESSIONAL organization and PROFESSIONAL distinction, I personally don't feel sub-pubbed should count.

Now, ePublishers are completely different and anyone who confuses that two pisses me off. :)

For myself, my professional career goals include pubbing with a tradional print publisher as well as putting out a few ebooks/novellas a year with an ePublisher. I would love to do both.

Bosun said...

Scape, totally with you on what professional means. Even the cook at Waffle House is a professional cook. That's what he gets paid to do!

I get where you're coming from on the self-pubbing front. The idea of saying you're published comes with the understanding you've found a professional publishing company who believes your work is good, deserves to be read, and will have value to readers. A value for which they are willing to pay.

To say you've put your own book up for sale is not exactly the same thing. I can have a yard sale but that doesn't mean I'm on par with Peir One.

2nd Chance said...

If you look back at the RWA and how they've changed in just the last five years, I bet they'll be shifting things again in the not to distant future. Seems to me they need to decide on how the idea of being the writer's advocate works.

Once upon a time it was about protecting the writer from predatory 'self-publishing' vultures out there. But with the way the electronic presses work and the ability to self-publish changing? Is it representing the writers if you don't acknowledge their work to provide, promote and publish themselves? It's like saying you only count if someone else says you count and it's murky ground in a world where self-esteem is such a hot topic.

I wish the PAN model didn't depend on a number earned, but maybe on units sold? But I'm not sure about it all myself. I may end up with a dozen books out, but it may take me years to qualify for PAN...

Wish I wasn't going to be on the road so much today and could discuss this more... I'll keep checking in as I go!

Bosun said...

That's it, Chance. It comes across as a passing judgment thing instead of an advocacy thing. And though I will profess to the heavens that Romance writers are the most generous, sweetest people I know, there are always exceptions.

And those exceptions can make an unpublished writer feel like a bug beneath their shoe with little more than one dismissive glance.

Janga said...

Labels are convenient, but any time they are applied to people, they prove unsatisfactory because people don’t fit in neat boxes. Some are always going to insist on poking out through the cracks, and the unruly may even burst out through the sides. If RWA defines a professional writer as one who makes her (or his) living at writing, I wonder how many members truly qualify. My guess is that if you eliminate all those who have day jobs and all those who depend on a spouse’s salary to cover the essentials like shelter, food, utilities, etc., the number remaining would be shockingly small.

It’s not surprising that RWA is conservative in their definitions. Most organizations change slowly, and there is a certain protection in that. But with industry statistics indicating that ebook sales are up 100+ % in 2011 and mass market paperback sales have declined by nearly 1/3—and ebooks are outselling print at Amazon and other venues, I’d say the writing on the wall is spelling out change in huge letters. RWA will adapt next year or the next or . . . Amanda Hocking didn’t need a NYC publisher to validate her as a professional writer.

I consider myself a professional writer. I sign a contract, produce a manuscript, and get paid when it’s approved. But if I had to support myself on what I make as a writer, I’d be forced to make radical changes in my lifestyle, beginning with giving up my high speed internet connection and feeding my book addition. Do I still entertain dreams of seeing a book with my name on the cover of a romance novel in a brick and mortar bookstore? You bet I do! But every day I am more willing to entertain the idea of an epublisher or even self-publishing. Perhaps we should all remember that the first meaning of “publish” is still “to make public,” and we are blessed to live in an age when the means to make our stories public are increasing at the speed of technology.

Hellion said...

*waves a hankie in the air* Amen, Janga!

Bosun said...

Well said, Janga. Labels are so dangerous. They're rarely flexible enough to apply to human beings of any grouping. It makes sense that RWA wants to provide resources appropriate to all levels of writers, including those just beginning and those with their series on an endcap. But wouldn't it be better to just make those resources available to all to use at will instead of putting them in seperate rooms and making them invite only?

I mean, what happens if a writer at my level stumbles upon information on creating a marketing plan? What's the harm?? Perhaps it would be an option to get rid of the distinctive "invite only" yahoo groups and begin a forum. One open to all but with different areas for different level discussions.

I didn't even think about all the authors who have the freedom to solely write but depend on the income of a spouse. Very, very true. I should say it's not necessarily an "in writing" requirement from RWA, but it's come up in nearly every survey they've sent me. And the reference to "writing as sole occupation" comes up often.

P. Kirby said...

Wow! So RWA lets you join as a "pro" on the basis of a rejection? Interesting. SFFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) won't even look at you unless you have three short story sales to qualifying markets or a full length novel with an advance paying publisher. While I have short story sales, a published novel and another under contract, none "qualify." I think there's a non-pro membership category, but I don't see any advantages to joining SFFWA at less than pro status.

So in that respect, RWA is a lot more open than other writers' organizations. At this point, I haven't, however, gotten around to joining RWA.

Anyway, I see myself as pro since my writing, along with a part time job, and my art, contribute to our household income. I am still aiming at publication with an advance paying market, but, failing that, I open to other options. In fact, I'm much more open to self-publication that I was when I started writing.

Bosun said...

You know, Pat, I think Chance has mentioned to me that if you're unpublished you're basically not invited to that group. I'd forgotten that. But what does that group do for their writers? If they aren't doing anything to help them get published, is their main mission to help the stay published?

Good point that RWA is way more open when you look from that perspective. As I say above, just to join RWA you don't even have to prove you've ever written anything. You pay your membership dues and you can remain a general member forever, I guess.

Bosun said...

BTW, sucks that your stuff doesn't "qualify" you. Are you seeing any inkling of change in that organization with the changes that seem to be happening at lightening speed in publishing right now? Or is digital publishing not have as strong a response in Sci-Fi & Fantasy books?

P. Kirby said...

At this point, I don't see any indication that SFWA plans to alter its membership requirements or add additional tiers of membership. But then, while I spent several years trying to get qualifying short story sales (only to realize that I'm not a short story writer), I've lost interest in the matter.

SFWA does do some advocacy for writers, in particular working against the various scammers who prey on writers. In particular, they provide valuable information (free) to newbies about publishing. They have some programs to help authors promote their books.

But honestly?...I don't necessarily seem any immediate gain--beyond saying I'm a member--for me at this point. Joining could be seen as a matter of paying forward, helping provide information to newbies. OTOH, by critiquing stories over at Critters and sometimes through Absolute Writes forums, I feel I'm doing a lot of "paying forward."

I'm still on the fence regarding joining RWA, as well.

Bosun said...

I feel the same way about local RWA chapters, Pat. I belonged to one in the past but not for a couple years now and I can't see the benefit of joining another one. Tried the online one as well and didn't fit in there either.

What you want from the organization is the question. I like the magazine that comes every month. Not every article applies to me, but many do and I appreciate them. I like the loops and the information available through RWA on publishers, agents, and the industry in general. I also love the annual conference, which is why this week is going to be such a bummer.

RWA has a large number of paranormal authors as well as UF. That means there are frequent workshops and articles about things such as world building, mythology, twists on the tried and true para characters. If you're looking for that sort of thing, I believe you would benefit from joining.

2nd Chance said...

The SFFWA almost seems like a tag authors use to identify each other. Like Pat, I looked into the whole what would be the benefit and didn't see enough to make it worth while. Sure, it would be 'neat' to be able to say I'm a member, but...

RWA is probably the most learn-friendly organization out there. But I'm with you, Bo'sun, I almost think they need to eliminate the entire idea of tiers.

Do you think they worry that it will turn into a fanfest if they put the PANs and the associate members in the same groups? And, myGod, with the state of marketing we all have to do nowadays, better to have it out available for the unpubbed to get a look at and prepare themselves for all of it.

Writing isn't just write a good book and pray it isn't rejected anymore. It's marketing and publicity and social media and all of the stuff no one tells you about in the trad world.

I had no idea how time consuming it would to be published. I don't know how much time the trad-pubbed have to put into it nowadays, but I'm sure it's more than they thought it would be or was in the beginning!

And well said,'s a brave new world out there!

Bosun said...

I can't imagine the fangirl stuff is an issue. If that were the case, they'd keep all the pubbed authors locked away somewhere during Nationals. Or block Nationals from anyone outside the PAN realm.

I do think the barriers should be dropped. On a forum, you can have distinctions without locking people out of information and threads. For a long time on the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn bulletin board, I held one of the top spots for most number of comments. Didn't give me any kind of leg up, but it signaled to newbies that I'd been there for a while.

You could have those same distinctions on an RWA forum. The problem would be the huge task of moderating said forum. But all the loops currently have moderators and with thousands of members, I can't imagine they couldn't find the volunteers.

2nd Chance said...

I think the tier system worked well at some point, but with the state of publishing and the shifts, it's very old school to assign value, whether they percieve it as value or that isn't their intention.

It's good to have a goal to shoot for and levels to celebrate...they could even keep that in place, but open the forums up to everyone.

Bosun said...

The "perceived value" seems to be what ruffles feathers. I don't know, maybe there should be a value. Goodness knows there are published authors who wear the "value" like a badge of honor. And then there are other publishes authors (the majority in my experience) who don't wear it at all.

You have to wonder if RWA created the seperation and thus the snobbier author, or if the authors attitudes created the problem and it bled into RWA.

JK Coi said...

I like this post. Thanks for tackling the subject.

In my own opinion (for what it's worth), being a “professional writer” means that I intend to get paid for my writing efforts. It really shouldn’t matter how much I’ve been paid. I would never ask my coworker at the day job how much she got paid for doing her job and then dared to tell her it wasn’t enough to be considered a professional.

In the end, it all comes down to choices.

The choices authors make when looking to become published do not change the fact that they have written books and are seeking to earn money by selling them.

I don’t care if that means you’ve self-published (as long as you recoup any losses to generate the product—because many professionals have to pony up start-up capital at one point or another). I also don’t care whether you’ve gone with a small publisher, or landed an agent and a new york deal. Those are choices. Some of them are harder choices than others, but they’re still yours to make.

Bosun said...

Well said! *applauds* It's almost as if RWA punishes authors for making choices they don't like. But as I said before, I think there are good intentions behind the decisions, but they've backfired in so many ways it's time to reconsider. Sometimes admitting something isn't working is better than being stubborn and refusing to admit it.

2nd Chance said...

I can really see where this started out as an effort to work as advocates for the budding writer...warning against predatory editors and agents... But it's turned into a sort of teachers at recess thing, regulating the games instead of keeping an eye out for bullies and or sex offenders on the sidelines.

Well, said, JK. I do think that these decisive tiers need to end.

Quantum said...

Bosun: As I say above, no other occupation sets a money limit to the “professional” qualification

Scape: For me, a professional writer is someone who makes money doing it. I don’t care about the amount, but the idea would be you get paid for your creation

In most walks of life a pro is someone who earns his living at the particular activity. Some live better than others of course and some are pros at more than one activity. (like cricket in the summer and soccer in the winter)
Until you earn your living (or part of your living) at it, then your an amateur.

Scape: Personally, I don’t feel self-published should count as published. Yes, I understand you make money off this work. That might make it “professional” but it doesn’t make it “published” to me.

That seems to me to be splitting hares.
Readers are the customers here and never forget that! :lol:
I don't believe most care whether the book they buy on Amazon is self published or marketed in the conventional way.
If its out there to buy, then for most its published.

As Janga said Perhaps we should all remember that the first meaning of “publish” is still “to make public,”

And readers will judge whether its any good or worth buying! :D

Bosun said...

Very good points, as always, Q. Scape and I both agree that making money is the key phrase, but putting a making THIS much money or more on it is what we don't like. How would you feel if someone said you're not a professional scientist because you don't make a million pounds a year? (disclaimer: I have NO idea how much is a lot for a scientist nor how much Q makes being one. Picked a high, random amount out of thin air. End disclaimer.)

And in this case, it's not about who a writer is in the eyes of readers. It's about who a writer is in the eyes of a professional industry organization. But I have to argue that I've seen many readers comment in various places online that they do care if a book is self-published. A publishers name on the spine says "quality work" to readers and without that mark (and a professional looking cover) many will not pick up the book. Think of it as buying a diamond out of the back of a truck and buying one from Tiffany's. One puts a bit more faith in the heart of the consumer.

2nd Chance said...

Yeah, and if you decide it's about profit...then it comes down to defining how you prove a profit. Because so much depends on how much an author puts out for promotion and marketing...

When you look at how well the 99 cent books sell on Amazon or the freebies...I'm not sure who looks at publisher prints when it comes to e-books anymore. It seems like reg. readers look at price and genre and that is about it.

Bosun said...

That price point thing is a constant conversation these days. I'm admit I belong to the readership who will not pay as much for a digital book as I will for a print book. And I get that authors say you're paying for the STORY and that story should be worth just as much either way.

But my brain doesn't see it that way. My brain says "This is print and has weight and substance and money went into printing and binding and shipping and distributing so it's worth more." I've read the blogs that say this is not the reality, that printing and binding and shipping and distributing don't amount to much of any of the costs that go into production.

But my consumer brain still isn't giving in. I know it should, but it's not happening. This is not to say I'll buy any book because it's cheap. I'm still choosy what I buy. But it is to say I won't buy what is probably a really good book just because the price is too high.

2nd Chance said...

And I'm one of those readers who is so pleased to be able to read without buying print, I'll pay the same, no problem. For me, not having to deal with the physical makes it worth the money...takes all kinds!

I've waited a long time for e-books to be so readily available!

Maria Zannini said...

I left RWA this year. I just didn't feel I was getting enough for the money. While they started out as an advocacy group, I think it kind of lost its way. RWA is very fluid though. It changes (sometimes slowly) to meet demands.

I remember when they used to shake a finger at digital publishing, and then self-publishing. The self-published are still outsiders to them but they're friendlier to digital publishers now.

The only real benefit to PRO and PAN is the community of writers helping each other. I've gotten more out of them than I have from RWA directly.

Bosun said...

I have a feeling you're one of many who are leaving the group these days, Maria. I have to wonder how RWA will respond to authors already in their PAN group who have now switched over to self-publishing. Will they treat Connie Brockway differently? I'm assuming she would not be permitted to take part in the booksigning with her self-published work.

You're right about the writers helping each other. In the long run, RWA provides the yahoo loop. But writers can create their own yahoo groups for free and collect together without RWA. That's why I haven't felt the need to join another local chapter. The pirates and several Pirate Pals ARE my local chapter.

P. Kirby said...

That's just it. I don't need to join SFWA or RWA to find a writers' community. With the Internet, there are loads available at my fingertips, so to speak. Blogs like this one. Forums and my publishers writer loops.

And if writers' organizations put up barriers to membership (SFWA, I'm looking at you), or don't provide anything significant for my membership monies, then I don't really see the point.

As for local groups. My husband and I both work all day. In the evenings, the last thing I want to do is schlep myself across town to a meeting. I want to have supper, then plant my ass on the couch next to my beloved, and watch a movie or kill stuff on Xbox.

Anyway, mileage may vary. I'm sure writer's organizations are a great help to some. I've never been much of a "joiner."

Bosun said...

Right there with you, Pat. Not a joiner either. Never did girlscouts (Sorry Assassin!) and I don't even participate in my kiddo's PTA. When I first joined the local RWA chapter, I was brand new at this and they embraced me. Made me feel so welcome. But then I guess I outgrew them. Or they went in a direction that didn't work for me anymore. I have no problem walking away from something if it's not working.

It's almost supply and demand. A writer group has to fill a need or else why would I join? As you say, this involves schlepping across town (or further for me) and that better be worth my time. I'm very fortunate to have online friends who fill my well, but I do understand those who get what they need from chapters. Always good to have options for everyone.

2nd Chance said...

I totally get the people who chose to leave RWA or never join. I'm always a bit amazed at the authors I meet who don't know about it at all... Which might demonstrate how fast irrelevancy can creep in!

I'm with you, Bo' interesting to see how they treat Connie...I'm betting they let her sign her reg. published books and not her self-published.