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Friday, July 26, 2013

Why The 2013 RWA Conference May Be a Game Changer

I'm making a full disclosure here. I used to be a member of Romance Writers of America.

About a year ago, the president of the last chapter I belonged to e-mailed me: "Why did you quit RWA?" I sent back, "I didn't quit. I just didn't bother sending in my renewal form." Unfortunately, my response mirrored my blase feelings about the organization.

For the last five years, RWA's policies concerning e-publishers such as Ellora's Cave and erotic romance flip-flopped depending on who the national organization's president was. When Harlequin created their vanity publishing arm, they should have been taken off the RWA's acceptable publishers list. And they were--for a few months. A once-proud advocate for writers had literally become schizophrenic.

For me, the beginning of the end as an RWA member came when I decided in February of 2011 to indie publish. Then came the wailing and gnashing of the teeth from fellow writers. I was giving up. I was stupid.  I would never get a New York contract if I dared to *gasp* self-publish.

The things said to my face and whispered behind my back were the types of things I'd managed to survive in high school. The nasty comments on social networks, and the people actively trying to sabotage my sales were another. Funny, all the weird behavior didn't make me angry so much as it just made me tired and sad. My renewal form sat beside my day planner for ten months before I finally tossed it into the trash.

By this time, I was making enough money to quit my day job. But if someone asked (and several people have), I still tell them RWA is a fabulous organization for learning craft, just take their business advice with a grain of salt, a lime, and a bottle of tequila.

Until now...

I heard the first rumor on Monday. Editor and agent pitch slots went unfilled at the RWA National Conference in Atlanta.

This was unheard of! That never happened! The pitch schedule was always full within hours of it going live online. Writers had always waited breathlessly outside the pitch rooms, praying for a last minute cancellation they could grab. Surely, the person must be mistaken.

Then more rumors floated in. 138 slots went unfilled. No, 141. All of them were Harlequin. No, it was a mix between all the publishers. The only confirmed source I can find is a comment from Debra Dunbar at The Passive Voice. If anybody has another source, I'd love to know!

What I can confirm is that the RWA Board of Directors has changed the Rita (published authors) and Golden Heart (unpublished) contest rules for 2014. Self-published authors will be allowed to enter the Rita, and a new erotica category was added to both contests.

Furthermore, several blogs, including Barbara Vey of Publishers Weekly, mentioned that the self-publishing track wrangled together by hybrid writer extraordinnaire Barbara Freethy was standing room only. IN THE FREAKING BALLROOM! Talk about a serious 180 in attitude.

Meanwhile, Barbara O'Neal at Writer Unboxed talks about how "Change has been the word on our lips for at least a couple of years, but the swell was washing over every aspect of the conference this year." She then goes on to say that agents and editors were wooing writers. Well, everyone except Donald Maass. He didn't come out and say the indie publishing phenomenon was stupid as he's done in the past, but read his comment on Barbara's blog. You can taste his fear.

Yep, things are definitely changing at RWA. Will I rejoin though?

Not yet. Given the flip-flopping nature of the beast, I'll wait a little while longer and see if the changes stick.

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