Shannon Stacey

The things people say to RWA

I’ve been watching the RWA versus epublishing debate for years, and I have a somewhat moderate stance on the issue, I suppose. My publisher is professional. My editor is a professional. I am a professional. It would be nice if RWA recognized that. But how does RWA recognize Samhain without recognizing Fly-By-Night Porn, Inc? I don’t know.

I do know some of the RWA-Hate I’ve seen recently isn’t helping. And no, I didn’t join the new yahoogroup for RWA Change because I don’t care to have RWA-Hate delivered by digest to my inbox. You have no idea how much I wish all the people involved in epublishing could elect a small group of spokespeople to manage the online argument, leaving everybody else free to shut the hell up.

Why? Let’s pretend I’m a big organization representing a ton of NY-published authors as well as many aspiring authors, and there’s a group of people out there who want me to recognize their business model is legitimate and respect their work. Let me give a hypothetical approach:

Hey, Shan, we’d like to talk to you about our business model. We have an informational presentation that illustrates why epublishing is a professional, viable approach and we’d like to share that with you, as well as getting comments from the people running for RWA office. Perhaps you could form a small volunteer committee to represent you and we could work with them on questions and answers and compromises and perhaps find ways to solve the problems you anticipate if you recognize epublishing.

My possible hypothetical response:

Maybe. I represent a large group of people, many of whom don’t want to address this issue, but if you continue to impress me with your positive, diplomatic, professional opinion, I might be willing to at least hear you out.

Now let’s look at another slightly less hypothetical approach:

Hey, Shan, you suck because you don’t respect what I’m doing, which means you’re a stick-in-the-mud and your business model’s a dinosaur and it’s going to be extinct soon, so how do you like that? You’re just jealous, plus you’re killing trees so you don’t care about the environment. Is your hair blue, because it’s obvious you not only hate sex, but you’re threatened by it. We’re the future of publishing, and you’re too stupid to see it. Why don’t you go sweat over your reserves against return while I go laugh all the way to the bank? Oh, and you have typos, too, so there!

My possible hypothetical response:

Fuck off.

HOW you say something is just as important as WHAT you say, and the argument for RWA accepting epublishing as a viable publishing option is, by and large, not being said well. I don’t read self-help books or watch Dr. Phil, but I do know you’re supposed to argue with “I”, not “You”. You don’t browbeat the other party with all the ways they’re wrong. You calmly and persistently illustrate the ways you may be right.

Bipartisanship isn’t achieved by a die-hard Democrat and a die-hard Republican screaming at each other. It’s a small group of moderates from each side, working and reworking and talking and compromising and reworking again until an agreement is reached both sides can live with.

Epublishing is not going to gain respect by trumpeting the ways print publishing is wrong. That’s just as bad as traditionally published authors proclaiming epublishing is wrong. The ignorance flows both ways. Both business models have pros and cons. And until people can discuss them rationally, without insulting the other, there’s not going to be a compromise.

Probably the most problematic aspect of the current online climate is the fact that once the RWA-Haters jump on the topic—and they’re quick—the more professional, diplomatic and well-spoken epublishing advocates don’t want to jump into the train wreck, so the opportunity for constructive conversation is lost and those of us involved in epublishing are left to be represented by people who are offending and insulting the very people we want to view us as professionals.

17 comments to “The things people say to RWA”

  1. Amie
      · July 1st, 2009 at 9:01 am · Link

    My possible hypothetical response:

    Fuck off.

    :lmao: :cheer:

  2. kate r
      · July 1st, 2009 at 9:01 am · Link

    :clap: :popcorn: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

  3. Kristen Painter
      · July 1st, 2009 at 9:05 am · Link

    As a fellow Samhellion and member of the RWA Change group, I’d like to encourage you to join and read about what we’re doing. There is no hate. In fact, the entire motivation for the group springs from our love of RWA and the desire to see it remain relevant. If we hated RWA, we’d just leave.

    I promise you, the haters come from another group. What group I don’t know, but it’s not RWA Change.

  4. Shiloh Walker
      · July 1st, 2009 at 9:28 am · Link

    Shannon, there is no denying that some of those claiming to want change are our own worst enemies. Some of them speak with voices so loud and shrieking, the calmer voices cannot be heard.

    There is no denying that.

    But I’m in the Change group and the majority of those in the group, from where I’m sitting, are trying to move forward in this in a calm, rational manner-a respectful one. That’s certainly that path I’m trying to take.

    This doesn’t mean there has been ugliness expressed in other avenues-I’ve received some in personal emails myself. I’ve seen it elsewhere.

    But that has come from both sides (man, I hate using that term-there should be no sides) It doesn’t change the fact that the nastiness is two sided.

    I’ve gotten emails-from sides of the fence-that are so nasty, it’s unreal.

    I was asked by one published author why those who want change don’t run for election. That is NOT an unfair question-I have no problem with it being asked. I do think it’s a short-sighted one. Many of those who voted for the president did so because they wanted change-but that doesn’t mean they’d be qualified or capable of running themselves.

    I do want change, I vote and I speak up on issues that concern me,

    My response to this person was that I don’t run because right now, I can’t. I have three young kids who need me far more than a bunch of adults. I have a strong, successful marriage and that doesn’t happen without putting time into it. My family means everything to me-they are my priority and I won’t get pulled into the timesuck of writing politics. I explained it from my own perspective and I tried to do it with courtesy.

    Her response? To quote, “So, in other words, you don’t care enough to make some sacrifices?”

    I don’t get shocked often. I just don’t. I don’t get insulted too often-I’m too lazy.

    But I cannot tell you how that pissed me off. I cannot tell you how that shocked me. The suggestion that career and writing politics take a higher rung than me family? Big fat NO there.

    Basically, she feels that unless I care enough to make sacrifices as the expense of my family, I should shut up.

    There’s a lack of mutual respect on both sides.

    My job, if I really want to help make a change, is to see past the screechers, on both sides, and focus on the calm and rational who can address each other with respect, even if that don’t see the other POV.

  5. Keri Ford
      · July 1st, 2009 at 9:33 am · Link

    I totally agree with you—you can’t browbeat someone into understanding. I’m going to second Kristin’s comment. I’m in RWAChange and nothing that we’re presenting is in anyway hatful. Nothing that we’re putting before the board or membership at large says traditional is wrong or digital is right. We’re really striving to see that US vs THEM argument done away with. We’re all in the same publishing pot together. Any nasty comments being put forth is not done so on behalf of RWAChange.

    Anyone is free (and encouraged) to join the group—even if you just want to sign in and lurk to see what we’re all about. I pasted in our mission statement points below to help clear any confusion in regards to what we’re about and what we’re hoping to attempt. This really is a positive movement:

    Romance Writers for Change was formed to help educate and create awareness about digital publishing for all RWA members. We fully support and believe in the RWA organization, and hope to partner with it in a positive, constructive way. To that end, Romance Writers for Change members support the following statements:

    • RWA members should be offered educational opportunities regarding all aspects of digital publishing and rights exploration/protection.

    • The creation of a new Digital Liaison seat on the RWA Board of Directors is in the best interest of all RWA members.

    • RWA’s Publisher Standards should incorporate publisher criteria that recognize digital and small press publishing as legitimate and valid models.

    • RWA’s Published Author standards should be revised according to a set of criteria that recognizes the specific digital publishing business model.

    • All romance publications published by a royalty-paying, non-vanity/non-subsidy publisher should be eligible for the RITA, provided the submission meets minimum industry-standardized format requirements. Format requirements should be based on neutral criteria that endorse readability and ease of judging, and should not be based on the method of production or distribution.

  6. Charlene
      · July 1st, 2009 at 9:59 am · Link

    Shan, I agree, how to recognize the good epubs and filter out the bad is a challenge, but you know, RWA used to have a standard that worked for that. True, the Triskellion bankruptcy still happened; but before epublishing, there was a new RWA recognized print pub that also went bankrupt and hurt RWA members. I don’t think there’s any approach that’s going to work for everybody, unfortunately.

  7. Jewell
      · July 1st, 2009 at 11:16 am · Link

    Isn’t it amazing how radical people can be on “either side of the fence”?

    This is going to sound off the wall to many, but it’s my humble opinion and I’ll express it only here. If I express it on other loops after this, well, my psuedo on those other sites might be found out. Not that I’m an ass on those sites, but you know how the radicals can be and I’m just not up to dealing with that.

    I honestly believe that RWA needs to step away from the concept of approved publishers and approved agents. While I understand that the group wishes to protect its members, the concept is now outdated and causes the battles that have raged since e-publishing appeared on the scene.

    This is supposed to be a “writers” organization, and that is where the focus needs to be. Now some will argue that to remove these standards will open the door to all the fly-by-night pubs. HOW SO?

    If the focus is shifted strictly to the writers, the writing, and the genre. then you actually take away the incentive of these fringe houses to “cook the books” when it comes to some of the other criterion like sales volume.

    As to writing contests, big deal. Limit them to only members in good standing. After all, it’s supposed to be about how you stand up to others in your category, not what house you are with. And I suppose some would say that to open the doors to contests in that manner would bring on a flood of entries. Again, big deal. You can write rules in to deal with that much in the manner they did with the Ritas. You enter, you judge. If that thought gives you the heebie-jeebies as you worry about skewed results, talk to the board, not me. LOL

    And free space at the conference? Well don’t give it to anyone. Charge a reasonable fee and be done with it. If you truly use the organization to educate the members, people won’t be running up to the fly-by-night booths anyway.

    Anyhoo, that’s my more than two cents.

  8. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · July 1st, 2009 at 4:11 pm · Link

    Shannon, this is one of the most well-written, balanced posts I’ve seen on this topic. I’m heartened by the assertions and the evidence that a reasonable, professional, forward-thinking, positive approach is being taken (inaccuracies and misconceptions aside), and I’m attending the AGM to witness it for myself. I decided to stay out of the preliminaries for the same reason you did, and now feel like it’s kinda late to jump on.

    Also, some other thoughts, taking off from the comments (but speaking generally, NOT about particular people!):

    Being part of change doesn’t only mean running for president or other board service. There are many other things that can be done that take far less time and commitment. Programs don’t appear because they’re demanded–they’re created by people who dig in and create them. I completely understand the need to make choices based on personal need. I made one recently, myself. But I feel doing so affects my right to speak out to an extent. I’m part of the problem now, and can’t task others to be part of the solution when I’m not willing or able to.

    This really ISN’T about e-publishing. It never was, though that label is always the one that gets attached. Format is totally irrelevant–that small print publisher that went bankrupt and harmed authors had to meet the very same requirements as any other publisher. Most e-publishers publish novels in print, too, and follow the same “business model.” The risks, benefits, advantages, and disadvantages are similar no matter how the book is produced.

  9. SarahT
      · July 1st, 2009 at 4:20 pm · Link

    Yes! Thanks, Shannon, for a thought-provoking post. You make some excellent points, many of which mirror my take on the whole RWA vs. epubs issue. Diplomacy doesn’t mean passivity. So much depends on the way something is said. Credibility is lost when people start to rant, tempting though that might be at times. I’m all for equality but I’d like to know more about the epublishing/no advance model before I know which side of the fence I’m on. And I’d like information from BOTH sides.

    The sad thing in all of this is that some people are forgetting all the good RWA does. It’s not perfect. Not by a long shot. The board are 19 volunteers who were elected by RWA’s 10,000 plus members. Anyone can run for a position on the board if they feel things need to be done differently, or persuade a like-minded member to do so and vote for them.

    I think many epubbed members must see the positives in RWA, despite its arguably anti-digital stance. Otherwise, why would they remain members? And how many people who are complaining about RWA are attending the annual conference? Can you imagine how much time and effort goes into organizing this event alone, never mind all the other stuff RWA does?

  10. Michelle (MG) Braden
      · July 1st, 2009 at 7:16 pm · Link

    Some of us are trying to make a change in a dignified manner. There will always be people, on both sides of any argument, that will get out of hand. Most of us involved with RWAChange are trying to do so without ranting and raving, but with logical intent and purpose. Some of us will be putting ourselves out there to step up and run for the board when the time comes, some of us won’t. It needs to fit that individual’s lifestyle to run and it doesn’t mean that they don’t care if they don’t.

    SarahT – Many of us epublished authors definitely see the positives with RWA and that’s why we stay. That’s why we advocate for change. We want an organization that we believe in to continue to grow in a positive manner. As for attending the annual conference, there are a lot of people that would love to be there that can’t afford to go. I don’t think that should be a reflection on their dedication or passion for RWA and/or its change.

  11. Heather Rae Scott
      · July 1st, 2009 at 10:19 pm · Link

    :clap: :clap: :clap:

    S’all I’m going to say. You said it for me.

  12. Shannon
      · July 1st, 2009 at 10:59 pm · Link

    Unfortunately, personal life is kicking my butt right now, but as soon as we get home from the long weekend, I’ll join the RWA Change. :nod:

  13. Bev Stephans
      · July 1st, 2009 at 11:37 pm · Link

    As a reader, I applaud all you writers for trying to bring about change in a rational manner. Keep up the good work and hopefully RWA will admit the epubs.

  14. Jill Sorenson
      · July 2nd, 2009 at 11:37 am · Link

    Great post! Hilarious and informative. Props to you, miss. I try to keep in mind that the abrasive comments do not represent the whole of epubishing, but it IS difficult to not feel insulted by the dinosaur/dead tree/U R stupid and irrelevant stuff.

  15. Emma Wayne Porter
      · July 2nd, 2009 at 3:53 pm · Link

    I asked the question a while ago: If digital publishing had to become “recognizable” by professional organizations, what would the criteria be?

    What makes one legitimate and another illegitimate? I don’t think the digital publishing world can get a foothold in any argument like the one with RWA until our industry clearly defines the publishing house’s role in the new publishing process.

    I work in digital publishing, and so far as I can see, with self-publishing becoming a more and more viable option, digital publishing (from a digital publisher’s standpoint) becomes an almost purely service-based (editing, cover art, promotion, production, distribution) prospect. Yes, there are benefits to working with a publisher, but are those benefits worth it when an author could, theoretically, do all those things for themselves?

    Self-publishing authors who wish to benefit from RWA are in the same boat, but don’t yet have a voice in this argument. Will RWA ever recognize self-publishing as a legitimate pursuit?

    The point I’m trying to make is that changes within the industry are far more sweeping than just publishers who choose to offer primarily digital product…to the point where the RWA kerfluffle becomes almost irrelevant. If a professional organization is needed to aid, protect and educate digital authors, perhaps it’s too much to ask of RWA, who has its hands full enough with authors pursuing the analog route.

    I do think we’re asking too much. I really do. I’m saying this not in a “they won’t play with me so I’mma pick up my toys and go home” way, but a “they have their own mission statement; we need one of our own” way.

  16. SarahT
      · July 2nd, 2009 at 5:20 pm · Link

    @Michelle (MG) Braden I don’t live in the US and I’ve never attended the conference, much as I would love to. I was referring to the amount of work which must go into organizing the event – most done by volunteers. I meant it as an example of something positive done by RWA.

    Another huge benefit – and the main one for me – are the online chapters. My chapter alone is worth my annual dues.

  17. Carolyn Jewel
      · July 2nd, 2009 at 6:02 pm · Link

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. I’ve been hesitant to enter the opinion fray for many of the reasons you mention. The thing is that, ultimately, I think RWA needs to move from its current position, but I’ve been put off by the near hysteria of some of the RWA must change language. Not necessarily the specific group RWA Change which I too have avoided, rightly or wrongly, because of the language and invective that appeared around the time of it’s formation.

    And, even though I do think RWA must sooner or later, change, I also think they are right to be cautious.

    Frankly, I don’t feel the issue is legitimate vs. illegitimate, but what is in the best interest of the author and I often feel that’s getting lost in the conversation.

  • Get my latest news straight to your inbox!

    I'll only be sending newsletters when I have news to share, and I'll never share your information. You'll receive an email asking you confirm your subscription (so please check your spam box if you don't receive that). You can unsubscribe at anytime.


  • Affiliation

    Shannon Stacey is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of

    If you purchase a book listed on the site from, she’ll earn a small commission. Thank you!