Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Caste System anyone?

Professional groups can do a lot of good for their members, but they run the risk of making themselves irrelevant when they stick their head in the sand and refuse to realize times are changing. Many of our labor unions in this country have discovered this the hard way. The near collapse of the auto industry has made the UAW and other related unions realize they can’t just keep screaming for more because there comes a point when there is no more.

Before I get angry responses about the good of unions, let me say I agree. My dad is a member of the UAW and built cars for General Motors until he took early retirement just after the last recession so that someone younger than he, with a young family, could keep his job. My grandfather was a Teamster and drove a truck as long as his health would allow it. Unions are invaluable organizations when they truly have the good of the worker in mind and not just an out dated adversarial, us against them, approach.

Heaven knows I wish we had a teacher’s union down here in Georgia where it’s okay to treat teachers like crap while saying that we are professionals and don’t qualify for union rights. But that’s the subject of another blog.

Professional organizations can do a great deal of good for the people they serve. But when they start developing a caste system within the organization, that is just wrong. Lets get to my rant. The Romance Writers of America. It is time for me to pay my dues again. Now if I were paying my dues to my Georgia group I’d pony up that money in a heartbeat because it does useful things. They have great meetings, they have a wonderful conference each year that helps raise money for literacy. They are a top class group of people who have never made me feel less welcome because my work is epublished.

But not so the RWA. You see, epublished writers are the untouchables of the RWA caste system and if you listen the old guard they would have you believe it is for our own good. Last year the RWA passed a bylaw that excluded from recognition almost every epublisher. Why? Because most epublishers operate on a more sound business plan and do not pay advances. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to invest in the author or that they somehow respect them less. The advance moneys they dedicate to a new writer go into paying for covers, editing, formatting and sales. Writers earn royalties on their books based on what they have sold. Gee. You pay someone when their product actually sells? Makes sense to me. It allows epublishers to take risks on new authors and to give more books a chance.

But not to the RWA. An author is no longer recognized as published if their work is…published. At first the attempt was to group epublishers with vanity publishers. I have never paid a cent to have one of my books published and I have rejections to prove that it’s not a vanity publishing system. Their nonsense about it not being about epublishing and being about advances is ridiculous. I had hoped with the growing popularity of Amazon's ereader, that it would change.

I've made enough money on more than one of my titles to qualify under the "made more than a $1000 on a single title” clause. I used to keep close track and recently asked for a total from EC so I could see where I am. (I lost my old sales figures to a flashdrive that died.) That I qualify was going to make a difference in whether I re-upped with RWA.

Then I started thinking. Why would I want to give my money to a group of people who don't really want me as a part of their group, but who put the little clause in because they didn't want to lose the dues of so many? I guess my decision is made. I’m going to miss the local branch, but I’m not renewing.

If those epublished authors who remain involved with RWA are comfortable sitting at the children’s table, so be it.

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