Shannon Stacey

On the flipside

From the blog of Vicki Hinze—a writer for whom I have a great deal of respect.


WARNING: This is an edit-free zone…
“I know of no more disagreeable situation than to be left feeling generally angry without anybody in particular to be angry at.” –Frank Moore Colby

For the past several days, I’ve heard from and read an awful lot about RWA’s policy on graphic content on book covers. Like fire that burns hot and bare-bone clean, word on the policy has spread throughout the industry and beyond it. Complaints of censorship are rampant. Authors and booksellers and bloggers and those who just like to complain are having a hell of a bonfire.

And I’m sitting here, completely befuzzled, and wondering why.

When you get beyond the emotion–which is admittedly difficult, particularly for those with a horse in the race–here’s the situation in its simplest form:

1. RWA is a not-for-profit organization.

2. Not-for-profit organizations must comply with federal law.

3. Federal law defined pornography. (Americans had a lot to say on this!)

4. If RWA associates by affiliation with book covers that contain federally-defined pornography, then it violates laws for not-for-profit organizations.

5. IF RWA violates laws for not-for-profit organizations, it loses its status as one.

There you have it in a nutshell.

The members of RWA elected to be a not-for-profit organization. They elected a Board and charged it with complying and following the dictates the members set forth. That includes not freaking up the works so that RWA loses its not-for-profit status.

If the Board violates the law and RWA loses its not-for-profit status, then its members must be ready to incorporate and pay corporate taxes. (Bet the members would be totally ticked off about that! If the Board goofed and cost RWA its status, members should be ticked off about that.)

But in all the ranting and raging going on, I haven’t heard one member suggest RWA nix the non-profit status and go corporate. None have agreed to it, either. So why all the fuss? The Board didn’t write the laws, they’re just complying with them.

This matter is just that simple. The Board is following the dictates of the members–protecting the organizational structure implemented by the vote of the members and retaining its nonprofit status. The Board is complying with the federal law that we Americans implemented.

And now this Board is being burned in effigy for doing its job.

Why is it that we elect members we know to be smart, dedicated to the interests of the author members, and wise enough to seek professional counsel when needed, and then we rip them apart for protecting our interests? I fail to see the logic in it, and I certainly do not see anything constructive in it.

In the past three days, I’ve heard outrageous remarks against the Board and remarks so hot they make you wish you had asbestos ears. Comments against the Board and against individual Board members. It’s not only unfair, it’s taking cheap shots and it’s appalling.

The members of the RWA Board are volunteers. They were elected by the membership. They work hard in thankless, consuming jobs and they deserve a lot better than they’re getting from those they serve. This issue isn’t emotional for the Board. It’s legal. The law isn’t emotional, and neither should members be when rendered its interpretation. Even if you don’t like the impact it has on you personally.

If you object to the Board’s action, fine. That’s your right. But as a member, then it is also your duty to provide an alternate solution. Do something constructive to correct the problem, don’t kill the messenger. The Board is merely the messenger.

As clearly as I can see this situation, you’d have the same choices I mentioned above: Work for RWA to retain its not-for-profit organizational status, or not.

If not, then I suggest you petition the members and move for RWA to alter its status to that of a corporation. Then you can put whatever your conscience and the applicable laws allow on your book covers. I don’t expect the membership will be eager to sign that petition, incidentally. I know I won’t. But you do have the right to go for it.

You know, those of us who have been members of RWA for a very long time have seen issues like this one come up now and then. The problem with them is that those who scream the loudest are often ones that never bother to ask the Board why they’ve done what they’re doing BEFORE they start screaming.

In the past, these screams have brought a fair amount of ridicule from other organizations and from the mainstream media, and I suspect that this time and this situation will as well. It’s a shame that while romance writers work their backsides off and spend a fair share of money to improve their image, they then destroy any inroads they’ve made by flying off the handle without first being informed. Last I checked, the RWA Board did not have the power or influence to change federal law.

I, for one, am weary of that ridicule and of the negative associations that accompany these rants. I fight for what I believe in; absolutely, I do. But when I fight a battle, I investigate so that I know what the battle is–before I fire the first missile. I eat fewer words that way (saves on middle-age weight gain). And I issue fewer insults that I later must regret and apologize for making.

Can’t help but wonder: how many who have burned the Board and spewed personal criticism and cries of censorship will actually apologize to the Board? How many will send an “I’m sorry” email for accusing them of acting inappropriately by handling an earnest discussion that contained verbiage the law requires them to avoid in executive session so that the profanities would not be incorporated in the minutes and forever a part of RWA official records? Why was this action, which was protective, interpreted as an attempt to hide something from the members?

For those of you who have asked my position on this situation, I hope this is clear. And for those of you bent on firing outraged missiles back at me, I hope that you will back up two paragraphs and read that paragraph again–twice–before launching that strike. If you’re still inclined, well, may I suggest a walk in the park or something else relaxing that offers perspective?



Trust is earned, one book at a time.”

–Vicki Hinze

Note: I edit books and professional correspondence. But I do NOT edit email or this blog. This is chat time for me, so if the grammar is goofed or a word’s spelled wrong, please just breeze on past it. I’d appreciate it–and salute you with my coffee cup. :)

You are permitted to use the blog post above in its entirety, free of charge, provided you include the following text:


Copyright 2005. Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze is a multi-published author, who has a free library of her articles on writing–the craft, business and life–at

There are a couple of things in there I don’t really get and/or agree with, but for now this is just a view of the flipside.

13 comments to “On the flipside”

  1. PBW
      · June 6th, 2005 at 3:23 pm · Link

    Ms. Hinze makes good points. She is a credit to RWA, and I don’t mean that in any sarcastic sense.

    There’s only one problem with her argument. As Ann Jacobs has pointed out, authors have little to no control over cover art. This problem is something that originates, is composed and produced by publishers when they are packaging our novels for retail.

    Are the publishers being banned? No. Will publishers be banned? Of course not. Will RWA make publishers come to them to have cover art approved before before books are published? They can try. You’ll see a lot of publishers rolling on the floor laughing hysterically.

  2. Kate
      · June 6th, 2005 at 4:42 pm · Link

    and don’t forget to check out Candy’s reply at SBTB

  3. selah march
      · June 6th, 2005 at 5:06 pm · Link

    Ms. Hinze’s comments are all well and good, if they addressed the issue at hand. But TTQ has come out and stated in an email to Allie McKnight, author and Editor, Loose-Id, LLC (WITH PERMISSION TO FORWARD) the following:


    You have my permission to say there was a misunderstanding. I spoke of the non-profit status in terms of our mission statement, only in that the IRS expects us to make our determinations based on our mission statement in terms of our expenditures – there were many questions being asked at once
    and many thought the graphical standards related to our mission statement – it did only in that we are romance writers and as such straight erotica does not fit our mission, but I also clarified that erotic romance does meet our mission statement. I spoke about positive correspondence from an erotica publisher who has assured us that she is publishing erotic romance.

    After the meeting the Desert Rose website hostess came up to me with the chapter president in tow to clarify that the graphical standards did apply to the Desert Rose website. She explained that she had just spent a lot of time redoing the pages to include the RWA service mark on all pages. I explained that yes, that did, then apply.

    If you or anyone else has any further questions on this, please contact me directly. Rumors take up far too much time!!

    Tara Taylor Quinn,

    President, Romance Writers of America


    Please note, especially, the comments regarding the IRS and the mission statement. According to her statement here, it has nothing to do with violating laws–it has to do with defining romance.


  4. Shannon
      · June 6th, 2005 at 6:23 pm · Link

    In the Smart Bitches thread about this, there are some interesting comments regarding COPA and…CIPA? Is that right?

    :pauses to sing “Copacabana”:

    Pretty interesting reading. I’m still trying to sort through all the info and come to some kind of a conclusion, but we’re dodging some pretty bad thunderstorms right now, so I’m in and out. :rant:

  5. Mel
      · June 6th, 2005 at 10:07 pm · Link

    I’ve toyed with blogging over this myself, but it seems the subject is getting enough press. I appreciate you bringing this blog to your site so I can see another person’s opinion.

    The TTQ letter really made me sit up in my seat, however, because IMO it comes back to the same subject that got blogworld in arms just a few months ago. (RITA/Golden Heart) Defining romance. Is erotic romance still romance? At what point does it become erotica? Who has the authority to draw that line? And why can’t all romances be judged equally?

    As for the Not for Profit status and sudden “omg, they can’t link to my cover because it’s outside their guidelines,” I have to wonder–why did this just come up now? Far as I know, RWA has been NFP for awhile, and I’ve seen some pretty darn risque covers before last month. (I can remember a Blaze from over a year ago that had my eyes about popping outta my head.) So…why is it NOW an issue? :shrug:

    ~Mel, who asks lots of rhetorical questions and should be writing erotic romance with all those naughty words it in instead of blogging right now.

  6. kate
      · June 6th, 2005 at 10:27 pm · Link

    and then THIS! Christine’s letter over at SBTB has this line that sums up my :rant: nicely:

    “I hate to think the RWA is more concerned with having a nice image, than being an advocate for my professional rights.”

    In fact the amazing X’s whole letter is the last [buncha] word[s]. I’ll let her and those bitches speak for me. I love :love: articulate women.

  7. kate
      · June 6th, 2005 at 10:28 pm · Link

    :penguin: and so does Mr. Penguin.

  8. cece
      · June 7th, 2005 at 11:43 am · Link

    As for the Not for Profit status and sudden “omg, they can’t link to my cover because it’s outside their guidelines,” I have to wonder–why did this just come up now?

    BINGO!!!!!!!!! My thought exactly!

  9. Trace
      · June 7th, 2005 at 2:46 pm · Link

    And holy hell, have you SEEN Linda Howard’s cover for her latest paperback ‘Kiss Me WHile I Sleep?” It’s got his hands over her boobs. I wonder if her cover is banned?

    And this thing about ‘these women are volunteers’. I’ve seen this before. I don’t care if their volunteers or not. The same issues of power and control come up whether or not they are volunteers. I saw this happen when I worked at a women’s center for a summer and the board (volunteers one and all) were trying to get rid of a woman who had been there for 10 years and had gotten all the funding for the place. It was not for profit as well.

    For some reason they decided they wanted someone else in there and they were pulling similar shit. We were going through our mission statement line by line. The employees stood behind the woman who they wanted out. She eventually left because she couldn’t take the stress. But it was ‘we’re volunteers. You shouldn’t complain’ horseshit.

    I’ve never seen women be as shabbily treated as some of these volunteers were treating some of the women at that organization that summer. It was disgusting.

  10. selah march
      · June 7th, 2005 at 4:09 pm · Link

    “And this thing about ‘these women are volunteers’. I’ve seen this before. I don’t care if their volunteers or not.”

    My answer for this brand of whine has always been the same: When I spend ten bucks on an apple pie at a bake sale to support my kids’ Little League team, I know the damned thing was baked by volunteers.


  11. Shannon
      · June 7th, 2005 at 7:53 pm · Link

    And holy hell, have you SEEN Linda Howard’s cover for her latest paperback ‘Kiss Me WHile I Sleep?” It’s got his hands over her boobs. I wonder if her cover is banned?

    Actually, it is. And she voted for the standards knowing it would be. Took one for the team, I guess.

    And as for the “Woe, we are volunteers.” Umm…if you volunteer to be “leadership” for almost 10,000 women, you’ve gotta know you’re going to lose sleep.

    :rofl:, Selah. Nice point.

  12. Caro
      · June 7th, 2005 at 7:59 pm · Link

    4. If RWA associates by affiliation with book covers that contain federally-defined pornography, then it violates laws for not-for-profit organizations.

    There’s a problem with this statement — there is no federal definition for pornography. There’s a lot of, “Well, I think it’s smutty,” but there is no federal definition enshrined in law. Ashcroft tried, but even he wasn’t able to get very far.

    I’m beginning to think this has less to do with any actual threat to the RWA’s non-profit status (though that has actually been a convenient smoke-screen that was used before) and more to do, as others have said, with defining what Romance is and wrapping the image up in a nice pretty package. In order to that, they need to make certain some people — you know, those women — aren’t in sight where they might belch, sing dirty ditties or ogle the butts on the good looking waiters or even just have too much loud fun.

    I generally find gatherings where one spends all one’s time worrying about smudging one’s glove pretty damn boring.

  13. Trace
      · June 8th, 2005 at 3:00 pm · Link

    I bet that hurt RWA though, that her cover was banned. It’s an awesome cover, though, isn’t it? I think it’s beautiful. It’s a shame that beautiful covers are banned.

    When are we going to start the book bonfire?

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