The USS RWA

This is going to be a rant about the Romance Writers of America.

But first let me say the following:

I’ve been a member since…well, I can’t remember when I joined but I think it was in the late 1990s.

I’ve been to four national conferences, not an inexpensive feat.

I’ve met some wonderful people, mostly women and several men, who write Romance.

But more importantly:

I LEARNED.

I learned about the craft of writing (and craft is useful for ALL genres).

I learned about the business of writing (yes, writing for publication is a business).

I learned about the marketing of my writing (no, a publishing house will not market you like you should be marketed).

 

Now for the rant.

Romance (the genre) has helped eBooks take off, for whatever reason. Romance writers took to e-publishing when eBooks meant you downloaded your work on a disc and then again when e-readers were brand new. But I remember a national conference where the RWA board was virtually adamant about not letting e-book writers in PAN (Published Author Network), no matter how much they’d earned. That has changed but the publishing industry had to change drastically for that to happen. During the ensuing fourteen years (I think I was at the 2000 conference for that meeting), I’ve heard many reasons for this. The most popular one was: RWA is a big organization (10K members now). Change would be like turning the Titanic.

Unfortunate comparison.

Now it seems that RWA does not want smaller chapters in its organization. RWA has given the chapters several bylaws changes that would make it difficult for some small chapters to have a board. No board, no chapter.

RWA is made up of many small chapters. Some RWA writers live in remote, rural areas that would mean driving a distance if they were to join a large chapter. I belong to a smallish chapter. Let me backtrack a bit. I could go to the RWA national conference or the regional conferences (like the wonderful NJRW conference) if I was not a member of RWA. I STAY a member for my local chapter (about 27 strong). I pay almost $100/year dues to RWA to stay in Pocono Lehigh Romance Writers, plus chapter dues. I can go to my monthly meetings, hear speakers, brainstorm stories, and chat with friends. I’ve been a member for almost seventeen years, so I keep paying my dues to RWA.

If PLRW disbands, where do I go?

Bucks County Romance Writers disbanded.

I don’t think there’s a chapter in the middle of the state.

NJRW meets almost two hours away.

Valley Forge would be the closest to me and I do know some people there. So it’s not as if I would be lost and without a “tribe.”

However, I don’t write only Romance. I write in several genres and non-fiction. So I’m a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. I could also join Penn Writers. I found the wonderful Pagoda Writers just ten minutes from where I live and they have no bylaws and no dues!

Why should I want to continue (on my Social Security) to pay RWA’s dues? PLRW is the only reason.

RWA has online chapters but there are other (FREE) groups online so why be a member of RWA if I can do it all online? RWA has online workshops. So do other nonRWA groups. What about conferences? Remember, I can GO to an actual RWA regional conference and not be a member. The travel, hotel, and conference fees are expensive. However, there are excellent online workshops (for all genres), that do not require an RWA membership. Kristen Lamb’s latest one stands out as one of the best.

RWA has also decided to put most of its eggs in the traditional Romance genre. Fiction with romance as a major element (not the main element) has been eliminated from RWA awards, even though many traditionally published, long-time members write those books.

And then there is the slow, very slow move to respect the self-published authors. Romance is the biggest genre in the self-publishing industry. A writers’ organization should be leading the publishing industry, not following it. No writers=no publishing.

Sometimes I think that my writers’ organization is in bed with the traditional romance publishers. Is there a conspiracy? Not really. But the traditionally published members are a big force in the organization and so are their publishing houses.

No. I just think that if this ship turns too slowly, ignoring its passengers, it may sink.

But guess what.

The passengers have lots of lifeboats available to them now.

 


8 thoughts on “The USS RWA

  1. Excellent post, Mitzi. I bailed on RWA two years ago after very shoddy treatment when I tried to attend the conference as an indie publisher with 15 authors, most of whom wrote romance. My authors were denied the opportunity to participate in Library Night or the book signings. They are woefully blind to the needs of their members and continue that hand-in-glove relationship with the Big Six-Five-Four (counting down as consolidations continue). With all the other “lifeboats” available, I see no reason to go back.

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  2. Mitzi, I feel your frustration, believe me. I am praying that TPTB will take the smaller chapters into consideration since we provide unparalleled support for our members. I think that particular benefit is more difficult to deliver in larger chapters and online chapters.

    For now, we’re taking Dorrie’s advice from “Finding Nemo” and “just keep swimming.”

    Terri

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  3. Mitzi – I think that if you write genre fiction, RWA (or MRWA or SFWA or etc) more closely meet your needs and represent writers in that genre. If you are writing outside the genre, then a genre writers group won’t fit your needs.

    I was on the board when the changes began and I understand the problems that brought about many of the changes for smaller chapters. I saw examples of financial mishandling, the same members running a number of chapters, and lots of signs that too many small chapters were not viable. As the parent organization, RWA has a fiduciary responsibility to maintain viable chapter or make changes that will do it….

    Some of these changes have caused smaller chapters to disaffiliate and become their own private writers groups. Bucks County RWA has done that, along with others – they’re still going strong but they’re independent of RWA…

    More than you probably wanted to hear in reply but I felt I had to share my perspective… BTW — none of my comments are on behalf of RWA or the board on which I served…they are my own.

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  4. I live in Montana–a small town with very long roads. As president of the local chapter (all 21 of us), I’m holding it together with a good board, but when the next elections come, it’s going to be difficult because of the enforced bylaws.

    Like you said, there are other options and it may be time to look at them.

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  5. Well said, Diane. I joined RWA in 2010 when I first started writing historical romance, and I did it only to become a member of my local chapter. My favorite conference is Romantic Times because of all the readers. Their workshops are every bit as good as those at RWA’s conference. Frankly, I see no benefit to being a part of the umbrella organization. (I was particularly miffed at their recent App initiative which they charge for instead of making it a membership benefit.)

    I know Indie authors who are making a good living and they tell me they will never join RWA.

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  6. I hear you. I too am trying to decide to pay my RWA dues. I’ve been a member since 1993, but I write short stories and have become to handicapped to attend meetings and/or conferences. Have I written novels? Yes, I’m even in Pro, but novels are not where my passion lies. So do I renew or not?…That is the question. I have until July 31st to decide. The past few years I have given in at the last moment an renewed. Will I do it again? Still not sure.

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  7. I am a fairly new member to RWA– maybe 3 or 4 years. I’ve been to 2 national conferences: NYC and ATL. I attended the board meeting and left feeling slimed and also wondered if the organization had been co-opted to line up sheep for shearing for the big publishers.

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