RWA takes my money, then asks if I deserve to exist

A little hyperbole there. Actually, it’s my company’s money and my company’s right to exist, but since I’m a major co-owner of BelleBooks, and, as we know, corporations are now people, it’s me. Once again, BelleBooks is a sponsor for the Romance Writers of America conference (San Antonio, TX, later this month.) We pay thousands of dollars each year for the honor, as do other publishers, large and small.

I’ve realized for a couple of years that the organization is trending away from traditional publishing and toward the self-publishing world; it’s a simple matter of catering to changes in the membership. As a hybrid author myself, a small press publisher, and, really, a self-publishing author since 2000, I applaud the changes in our industry.

Except for the part where a very vocal minority of self-published authors have decided that traditional publishers are greedy demons, that we offer nothing of value, and that any author who signs with us is deranged, stupid, a masochist or, at the very least, not yet “converted.”

Some days it feels like that faction is running the asylum. This has been one of those days. I downloaded the RWA conference app and scrolled through it this afternoon, looking at workshop schedules. To no surprise, this year’s schedules are dominated by topics aimed at self-pubs and hybrid authors. I didn’t expect otherwise. The attending publishers, including BelleBooks, get “spotlight” sessions to talk about their books and guidelines for submissions, as usual. And there are plenty of workshops on writing craft and general business advice. Cool.

But then there is this: “Is there a case for traditional publishers and agents?”

I stopped scrolling and stared in disbelief. The organization that has existed for thirty-ish years with the generous help of publishers now reduces their importance to a topic that implies publishers may indeed be indefensible–that a question exists, and must be debated.

Alrighty, what brave publishing folk are manning this panel?

None. Instead, there is one speaker. One. A sociologist. God bless her, she’s probably a lovely person. Her name is Dana Beth Weinberg, and the program says she has access to inside stats on market research that will show how traditional publishers compare to self-publishers. A sociologist. With marketing stats. Not someone who has ever worked in publishing, who knows what publishers do behind the scenes, or what the issues are, or how the distribution works, or what the boots-on-the-ground challenges are, or how the industry is changing, or what publishers do to help authors build long term careers, or the differences between large and small presses, or the history of returnable books or what it’s like to work with major distributors such as Amazon . . . a sociologist, armed with some numbers.

She’s going to tell everyone whether my business and I deserve to be taken seriously.

This is how RWA treats its publishing sponsors. This is how RWA regards publishers. This is how, apparently, a faction that now controls the mindset and the future of RWA views its obligation to present a conference that serves the interests and respects the choices of those members who are traditionally published.

By offering an insulting workshop taught by a non-industry speaker on a topic that is set up *from the start* to marginalize traditionally published members and their careers.

Were there no publishers invited to be on the panel? No agents? Invite me, I’ll go. You won’t like me when I’m angry, but I’ll be there, you betcha. Invite some authors who are tired of being told they don’t have sense enough to hand all their books over to Amazon. Let us tell the attendees what it’s like in the evil dens of traditional publishing. We’ll try to keep our horns hidden.

And we promise not to send any more of our wickedly earned money to RWA.
At least, I do.

About Deborah Smith

Author, publisher, partner and V.P. of BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books NYT bestseller A PLACE TO CALL HOME, Wall Street Journal and Kindle bestseller THE CROSSROADS CAFE, also When Venus Fell, Silk and Stone, Charming Grace, and many others.
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65 Responses to RWA takes my money, then asks if I deserve to exist

  1. Glen Johnston says:

    As much as I respect your opinion, it is amazing to me that you make these accusations without having the slightest knowledge about what the doctor’s research shows or the fact that these are merely statistics upon which a hypothesis (again something you have not clue about because RWA/workshop hasn’t happened yet). You seem to have made assumptions based on your previously stated prejudices that the world is turning against traditional publishers (although, you do state that that ‘seems’ to be the obvious trend). Curious. I don’t know this Dr. Weinberg and I’ve heard my share of statistics for and against a great many things – it is up to the individual to either believe or not believe, use or not use or just go about doing what they do even when others tell them it can’t be done (that’s how winners are honed), but I’m glad to see that you took the high road and decided it was in fact, shortsighted, prejudiced and ill advised to shoot a messenger.
    Statistics are just numbers…
    The human spirit can’t be quantified…


    • HI
      I don’t know how many times I’ve said here and elsewhere online that I do indeed know a lot about the doctor’s research. I’m not sure whether to bother having a discussion with you since you haven’t read my posts and have formed your own assumptions, ironically. But for the sake of saying it one more time: RWA has chosen to present the topic with a negative slant, regardless of the research, and should have included publishers on the panel. The manner of presentation by RWA — not by Dr. Weinberg — is my bone of contention. Please inform yourself. Thanks for dropping by. And btw, I suggest you do some research on the issues between indie authors and the faction about which I refer.


  2. maggielworth says:

    I’m glad you raised this point for consideration. Honestly, when I looked at the title, I assumed it would be a pro-trad session. Kind of a “combat the ‘trads are evil’ mentality we’ve got going on right now.” It didn’t even occur to me that it would be otherwise. It’s just silly, IMHO, to say otherwise. It would be like saying forks are no longer valid because we have spoons. You just have to use the right tool for the right thing. But we should all be aware of the trends and attitudes surrounding the industry and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought without your post. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I sincerely hope, if she uses survey data — regardless of her slant — that it’s been professionally vetted and that the survey was properly conducted. But then, I just want to see a strategic plan for RWA. With, you know, goals and tactics and assessment methodologies and metrics. Maybe it’s there and I’m just missing it…


  3. Pingback: Why the messenger is not the problem at RWA | Deborah Smith, Author, Publisher

  4. Pingback: I’m getting an eyepatch–and minions! | Deborah Smith, Author, Publisher

  5. sarayork says:

    Honestly, I see your post as hateful and mean spirited. For years, self-published authors were treated like leapers at RWA, shunned and told they weren’t real authors. Now authors have realized that they can generate income without having to use a publisher, shame on your for trying to discourage that. That you’ve done nothing to research Ms. Weinberg is shameful. The traditional publishing angle has dominated RWA for long enough, allow someone else to have a word.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sara
      I don’t think you read my blog, or else you’ve overlaid it with a lot of ingrained assumptions. No one is against you or self-publishing. I actually have researched Dana and know a great deal about her research. That’s not the point. Thanks for stopping by.


  6. BrookeLynQueen says:

    In your response to me above, Deborah (I would reply there but no longer see a ‘reply’ button in that comment thread) you said:

    “Hi, Sophie
    Be sure to come to Thursday’s luncheon at the conference, where BB President Deb Dixon is getting the Industry award. She’s a former V.P. of RWA. Also a founder and former president of the Memphis RWA chapter. I was a founding member of the Georgia chapter and am a former chapter president and service award winner. Also an NYT bestselling author with more than 3 million copies sold. Our company currently has 350 titles published and another 150 booked through 2016.”

    In response to that, I have to say… not a word of it matters. Nothing in your response is relevant to the points I made in my comment, which were that 1) this post, its attack on the named and marginalized presenter, and the continued and encouraged attacks within the comments were irresponsible and disgraceful, and 2) anyone reading this and seeing how quickly you’ve jumped to a conclusion without researching the person you were mocking should question how well you run your company and represent your clients.

    I stand by my entire comment, and I am disappointed to see you have not revised the original post. At the very least, you should add a note which calls for rational minds, gives the presenter the benefit of the doubt and refocuses your frustration on RWA – which seemed to be the original target of your ire until you went off on a tangent against the presenter. Surely you see the danger in that type of attack on an individual.

    It is not impressive to learn of your successes when, at this point, with your wide audience, rather than call for rational discussion, you’ve chosen to publicly vilify a woman you do not know and to agree with others who intend to show that woman a thing or two. Because of that, I most assuredly stand by my entire comment and repeat: “This is truly an irresponsible piece and if anyone reading this (your post) is as quick to judge you as you have been to judge this presenter, then they should wonder, and worry, how well you handle your traditional publishing company and its clients.” Additionally, I believe, if anything, your record of success and the hard work which no doubt went into each step of it, makes this post and its attack on the presenter that much more reprehensible.
    -Sophie May

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi, I’m not going to reply until you give me your name. You offer nothing but a screed and no actual proof, so I’m assuming you’re a troll. I’ll post your response with my response to illustrate the type of toxic atmosphere that exists. You, however do NOT exist until you identify yourself.


  8. Pingback: A Response to Deborah Smith | Indie Everything

  9. Well said! I think your anger is completely justified. The days of ONE way are over and each option needs to be valued equally. Especially since without the support and contributions of publishers, RWA wouldn’t be! This is like asking JIF to sponsor a Skippy convention!


  10. Kim says:

    And to think. Years ago, RWA would not even recognize that e-publishers existed. Authors couldn’t, regardless of their sales, become PAN members because the didn’t get an advance against royalties. My, how times have changed.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. julieleto says:

    Thanks for listening, Deb. I appreciate it. But I have to ask…is “What is a good agent” really derisively titled? I mean…it’s a valid question. Any Tom, Dick or Harriet can hang out a shingle and call himself or herself an agent. I bet every conference every single year has had a similarly titled workshop. And I think “Is there a case to be made…” is another valid question. With all the information online practically yelling at people that they need to be self-publishing, it’s a GOOD question. Because you and I know there IS a case to be made for the different models, for certain authors writing certain things in certain circumstances with certain expectations. Traditional publishing is no longer the only option or the best option in every case…but neither is self-publishing and I’m betting there will be a lot of people willing to share that opinion, even if you can’t tell from the workshop’s title.

    I haven’t been to an RWA conference in years, so I will see for myself if the tide has turned so quickly. But I think the fact remains that dealing with agents & publishers hasn’t changed that much over the years…it’s the relatively same system. RWA members probably don’t need (or want) the same-old “write a great book and we’ll publish it!” workshops. Indie publishing is new and ever-changing and shifting…the learning curve is steeper and the risk greater, therefore, being able to make an informed decision might require more workshops. For the record, my panel has nothing to do with the delivery model and everything to do with content of the books. I’m sure there are tons of workshops that focus on craft or branding or the like that have no direct connection to the mode of distribution.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. julieleto says:

    Deborah, to be honest, I think this is a bit unfair. Clearly, this is not a PANEL, it’s a workshop. And you’ve been around RWA long enough to know that this person sent this workshop in as a proposal and it was accepted. Publishers don’t even have to do that–they are automatically given workshop times and they can do with it whatever they wish. If this speaker has written on this topic, as you say she has, then that is her expertise, whether you agree with her or not–although as she hasn’t given the workshop yet, you really don’t even know what she’s going to say. But she is not speaking for RWA as a whole any more than any other workshop speaker is. Her choice as a speaker is not a statement by the organization. I’m on a panel this year, btw. We put together the proposal for that panel and it was accepted. Even now, we’re putting the final touches on our presentation. I don’t think we’d be open to anyone insisting on being on our panel just because they think they’re more expert than we are or to present an alternate point of view. You will have your time to advocate for your publication model during your spotlight. It’s not like RWA is shutting you out.

    I’m currently an indie author, but I published over forty books with traditional publishers before that. I dare say that I’m just as “real” now as I was then. I amassed a great deal of experience–as did you–during my time as “just” an author. Now I’m a publisher, too, with editors and cover artists and contracts and marketing plans and distribution deals, etc. The only difference is that you do it for other people, too, and I just do it for myself. I’m not saying you don’t have more experience as a publisher because obviously you do, but that doesn’t make you more important to RWA or any other writing organization than any other independently published author. You pay your money…so do the authors who are attending. Being a sponsor gets you a lot of advertising…and that’s really all you should expect for your money.

    For the record, I don’t HATE publishers. I’m certainly not happy with one or more of my former publishers for a bunch of different reasons that I won’t go into here. But I don’t paint everyone with the same brush and I personally could see several scenarios where I might go back to traditional publishing. What I do enjoy, however, is the fact that the day of authors having to kiss publisher’s asses in order to get thrown a crumb of interest are waning. The playing field has finally evened out a bit. Authors now have more options. Publishers now need talented authors more than they ever have. I know that Bellebooks has always been known for their exceptional treatment of their authors…but you and I both know that this is certainly not the case for most authors or most publishers.

    I hope that you don’t mind my posting an alternative viewpoint. I certainly don’t wish to stir up trouble nor do I wish to be the focus of a bombardment of any kind. I’m being respectful here in my disagreement, so I hope that anyone who disagrees with me will afford me the same courtesy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Julie, and thanks for the thoughtful response! Yes, I realize Dana proposed this and thus is responsible for the panel’s contents, but I also know that RWA picks and chooses who speaks and how workshops are run; also that RWA decides the composition of the conference as to theme and purpose. When the overwhelming selection of industry topics selected by the workshop coordinators are for self-published authors, and only, what — two industry workshops? are devoted to what I’d call traditional publishing how-to topics — and one of those is derisively titled “What good is an agent?” and the other is titled “Is there a case to be made for traditional publishers and agents?” I think it’s fair to say there’s a distinct bias at work. When respect for all types of publishing paths is reduced to respect only for what is currently getting the most attention for a relative handful of authors, RWA is shortchanging a diverse membership that goes far beyond the trends of the moments. I’ve never seen a sea-change in the org like this one, before. While I’ve always been one to complain that RWA is a stick in the mud, this time I think it’s moved much too fast and too far in one direction, and this year’s conference schedule is proof of that.


  13. kristualla says:

    I am a hybrid author who moved to self-publishing when my agent couldn’t convince NY to take a chance on non-Scottish historical heroes. I am APPALLED at what is happening! Agents and publishers are crucial to the industry, and for RWA to snub them is VERY bad business. It smacks of the debacle at RT in May, where only the authors with returnable books were called “published.”

    This all boils down to money. RWA National’s attendance must have fallen off (I have not been since 2010 – but now I’m PAN and President of my chapter so I’m going) and they are trying to lure indie writers back. But not everyone is capable of quality self-publishing, as evinced by the multi-millions of self-pubbed titles that don’t sell worth crap. As for RT, the monetary decision to divide and insult was made by the bookseller in an effort to protect his own sales.

    I hope someday cooler heads will prevail. Until then, I’m going to look for you in San Antonio and shake your hand! 😉


  14. mitziflyte says:

    Because I recently blogged about the “USS RWA” ( a different viewpoint) and because I respect you, I am reblogging this. However, you may be feeling exactly how nontraditional authors have felt for many years. Maybe RWA willm eventually find the happy medium and realize that the real good news is that writers now have a choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mitzi,
      I keep hearing this, “Now you know how we used to feel,” but I don’t think it’s equivalent. I’m not marginalized in my industry, I’m not threatened by self-publishing, and I’m not worried about being left out. In fact, no one I know, from the trad pub side, is threatened by the idea of authors having the opportunity to go the indie route. We believe it’s in the best interests of ALL PROFESSIONALLY MOTIVATED AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS to work together with other industry professionals. In large part, that’s what is happening with most authors in the hybrid and indie and trad world. But there are indie authors who feel extremely threatened and believe that no one is on their side and that any allegiance to the “old ways” is traitorous — not only for themselves, but for others. They don’t respect anyone else’s choices. That’s what I see reflected in the forums I visit; that’s why I’m withdrawing from Novelists, Inc., and that’s what I see in this year’s RWA schedule. For those of us working in the business day to day and dealing with the realities of it, these issues are an annoyance we don’t need it. So we’re walking away.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I wonder if the title of that workshop is to pique people’s interest, and the presenter will be offering pros and cons for both sides. She may not be as offensive as she sounds, but then again, maybe she intends to be. If there’s a blurb offering more about her workshop that would offer a better clue.


    • She may, in fact, be very even-handed. I’ve heard of her and I believe she’s taken some grief from the indie side over her stats being favorable to traditional publishing. Still, I think RWA owes the traditionally published authors — and its publishing sponsors– something better than just two workshops about trad publishing — one named What good are agents? and the other titled Can we still make a case for publishers? Really? Really, RWA?


      • Marc Cabot says:

        If it makes you feel any better, I doubt she’ll be even be evenhanded: she is very hostile to any allegation that self-publishing is competitive with traditional publishing in most contexts. The answer to her self-posed question will almost certainly be a resounding “Yes, what are you, stupid?”


      • Hi
        Wow. In which case, I hope she brings a bodyguard. It’s not fair to her for RWA to advertise her topic as if it’s going to throw some red meat (traditional publisher bashing) to the self-publishing attendees. Having witnessed their reaction to her analysis of the Hugh Howey report, things could get ugly.


  16. Pat Haggerty says:

    Hey Deborah,

    While I understand your point of view, I really think you should see this as a smile and nod moment, even an opportunity, more than something upsetting. There are a lot of writers out there that view the traditional publishing industry as the guards on top of the wall that have kept them out of print. For some it might be true. My current WIP is romance with a lot of Science Fiction. Would a SciFi publisher block me because I have too much romance for by book to be a REAL Science Fiction? I’ve seen it happen. And as a man that writes romance might some agents look at me and sniff, “What could a man possibly know about romance?” Ahem, been there, done that.

    So partially I think you’re seeing a reflection of the real or rationalized frustration authors have felt over not being published. Partially I think you’re also seeing blow back created by traditional publishers and agents that have drastically cut the services that they provide. The thing is though, and this is where I see the opportunity for you, the last few years have also seen more books published than ever in history. Now I’m a big reader, averaging something around 125 books a year, but when a year sees several hundred thousand different titles come out, how in the hell am I going to decide on what to read next? One of the answers is that I’m going to look for quality among all the crap. A publisher with a good rep can help me find that quality. On the flip side, as an author I’m looking for someone who can make my book stand out in the crowd, like my Y-chromosone does at an RWA convention 🙂

    So go to Nationals; nod your head and say, “Yea, you go on and try that Amazon KDP and when it doesn’t get you anywhere, come to me and let’s talk.” The free market really is a naturally correcting mechanism. Companies get big, their services go to shit, and small businesses step in to take up the slack. You can be that small business. I truly think that small publishing houses that provide the right services and hit the right gaps in the rapidly changing publishing world will be the future for most successful authors over the next 10-15 years.

    But then that’s me, the crazy guy that writes romance when he’s not writing code. And hey if you see me at nationals, the big guy in the cowboy hat, say hey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL, I like your perspective! For sure, this kerfluffle is separate from the reality of how things operate out here in the trenches. We have no worries about losing opportunities in the long term. We do understand the frustration from the old ways that drives indie authors — after all, we started BelleBooks out of frustration as authors, ourselves. I’m thrilled that authors have opps they didn’t have before — it’s the same reason BBB can exist the way it does now. We just get tired of explaining why even a small publisher can’t afford to sell the author’s books at 1.99 and why the KDP success stories don’t mean that KDP is better for everybody and that no, we’re not making boatloads of money and keeping it for ourselves, etc.


  17. Alice says:

    How the RWA world has changed! When I was active, small publishers and self-published authors were the unwanted stepchildren and everything possible was being done to keep them excluded. It appears the tables have made a complete flip. But to now belittle traditional publishers as the ugly stepchildren. That is biting the hand that feeds the conference.


  18. Sugar Jamison says:

    I have an agent and am traditionally published. I am thinking about hybriding, but at this point I could never see myself leaving the traditional world. My publishers do so much more than I could ever do on my own. A lot of people who demonize big publishers and agents have usually had a bad experience with them or are bitter because they could never get their foot in the door. As for the RWA, I think they are worried they are going to lose a large number of their membership if they didn’t start catering to them a bit. But I still think that that given a choice most writers would choose the traditional path.


    • HI Jamie — Everybody has a different path or paths and a lot of writers choose a variety. Self-publishing is a great opportunity for the writers who can make it work. Traditional publishing is a great opportunity for the writers who like it better! Or both.

      There should be a workshop on this, titled: “Your mileage may vary.”


  19. marymarvella says:

    Reblogged this on MaryMarvella and commented:
    I couldn’t have said this better! Many of us will always want some of our books to be published by a “real” publishers.


    • I just think RWA has swung too far to the other direction and this conference schedule not only ignores traditionally published authors it shows open disdain for them and for publishers. All well and good if RWA wants to return $$$$ from all the publishers who contribute to the conference. The faction of self-pubs who literally *hate* publishers make it hard to have real diversity.


  20. Publishing in general is such a mixed bag of experiences and ideas. Maybe it has always been this way. I really don’t know, but the world of the Big 6 (now 5, I believe) isn’t all that old. Presses opened, were successful, went downhill and closed or got bought out all the time. They weren’t called “small presses,” but publishers. This world of ours just keeps swinging back and forth.

    I am small press published. I adore small press. I believe the newest and most innovative stuff comes out of it. I applaud self-publishing, self-publishers, and honor all the voices now able to be heard. There is good and bad in everything, experiences vary. However, “Is there a case for traditional publishers and agents?” is insulting. Just as insulting as asking “Without gatekeepers, is self-publishing ruining the industry?” Both questions make assumptions that just aren’t valid.

    One of the less lovely facts of small publishing is we get lumped into the “evils” of traditional publishing on the one hand, and into the “evils” of self-publishing on the other, depending upon who is doing the lumping.


    • Absolutely! My small press operates so differently from the big players, yet the hatred (not too strong a word) for publishers that’s coming through the extreme faction in self-pubs includes *all* publishers.


      • Dan Meadows says:

        That may be true in some circles but not everyone. I am harshly critical of publishers, but I draw a distinction between small independent publishers and the giant conglomerate-owned variety. I think small presses and self publishers have more in common than small presses and the publisher giants. There are concerns for dealing with small presses, too, but my personal experience is that small, independent publishers are far better places to work with/for on the whole than than the large piblishers.

        Can I ask you something I’ve been wondering about lately that you as a publisher might have some insight on? In your dealings with authors, do you use lifetime copyright contracts? If so, what’s your reasons for doing so? Would it be possible to instead use a limited term, say 5 or 7 years from publication, a set term of time on the shelf, basically? Do you see a high percentage of books producing significant sales in year 6, 7, 8 or on from release? I’ve been thinking that many of the problems people have with publishers would go away if the reputation that you’re stuck with them forever or have to go through some kind of long and expensive reversion process, likely involving lawyers, to get away from them were to go away.

        From my point of view, it appears the sales for most books are heavily front loaded in the early year(s) and that if all sides know the contract ends at some point, they can go about their business with no skin off anyone’s nose. And if a book is still selling well, wouldn’t it be beneficial to writers and possibly publishers too, to negotiate a contract extension that reflects the book’s actual performance rather than a projection of it that terms were based on before it was ever released?


      • Hi!
        Thanks for making the distinction between the small presses and the big ones. There are huge differences, not only in terms of not having the Big 5’s deep pockets, but in our closeness to the authors. My company pays standard print royalties (we make almost no profits on print books anymore, because we use POD and so much of the price goes to the printer) but we pay 40 percent net on ebooks. Even at that we have to explain why we can’t match Amazon’s 70 percent. Well, because we have staff, and overhead, and we sell through Amazon’s wholesale division, which takes a huge cut of every sale, etc. For the record, Amazon is squeezing the bejeepers out of small presses. You don’t hear much about it because publishers are afraid to talk, plus we have Non-disclosure Agreements with Amazon, so we’re prevented from sharing any details of our contracts. But it’s brutal dealing with the Big A.

        They can call it “just doing business,” but it sometimes feels like a mob shakedown.

        But onward to your question about reversion of rights. We don’t have any automatic time frame for that, at least, not yet. We do allow reversion is sales drop below a certain point. It’s becoming a big bone of contention in every negotiation with authors and their agents, but so far no one’s refused to sign with us because of it.

        For a publisher, here’s the issue: Part of the value in each book we publish is its long-term value as part of our list. The list, as a whole, is important. We keep finding new places to sell *all* the books in our list — for example, we’re currently uploading detailed files, excerpts and background information on several hundred titles going back 15 years. They’ll all be in a foreign rights database where foreign publishers and agents can browse through them, looking for books to publish in their markets.

        Another example of opportunities that come along years after we’ve published a book: the ACX program at Finally, we’ve got an affordable means to create audiobooks. So we’re slowly getting all the backlist titles produced and placed into Audible’s catalog.

        I totally see why authors are frustrated by this part of the traditional publishing contract. I’ve got a lot of books trapped at Random House from my years as a Bantam author. I’m bitter about the way they’ve been treated, and until a few years ago I didn’t even have a contract that allowed me to get them back. Now I’ve negotiated an amendment that will let me have them if their sales drop to a certain point. I’m watching my royalty statements like a hawk.

        So I understand both sides of the issue. As with all publisher/author partnerships, it always come down to a case by case basis.


  21. ajnuest says:

    Really loved this post. Now following your blog. 🙂


    • Thank you. There are many who feel as I do, and I hear from them. But speaking out will get us barbecued in a hurry. I’m crusty enough to risk it. There’s just so much misinformation about what publishers do and what the realities of publishing are — self pub or otherwise. And I’m not against self-publishing!


  22. Well said, Deb. I too am a hybrid author with feet firmly in both camps. There are pluses and minuses to both self and traditional publishing and all of them should be presented honestly and equally, which, it appears, is not going to happen. Sometimes I shake my head at RWA’s decisions. It’s such a completely different organization from what we originally envisioned at the start I scarcely recognize it at times. Admittedly, some trad publishers do not treat authors right; everyone knows that. Everyone also knows that Belle Books is NOT one of those publishers. I am not one of your authors (not my fault – I submitted!) but from what I have heard BB is almost a pattern card of what publishers should be. I share your indignation at RWA’s tunnel vision.


    • Thank you! Even the big pubs, warts and all, have something to offer. It’s always a case by case basis. I had great times with big publishing, and I had horrible times. No one path is right for every writer and even the path can change depending on what’s happening in the market. I’m all for self-pubbing, hybrids, etc. I’m NOT for this extreme rejection of trad publishing and the faction that compares trad published authors to slaves, Uncle Toms, Stockhom Syndrome hostages (I’m not kidding.)


  23. I enjoyed your post very much. It’s amazing how far the pendulum has swung to the other side and I’ve often felt that same “Forgive her, she knows not what she does” mentality because I choose to still go the traditional route. People keep saying it’s a great time for authors because we have lots of choices. If that’s true, then let’s respect all choices.


  24. Leo says:

    I would LOVE to see you on that panel! Maybe you can volunteer to “moderate” the panel.


    • Thank you. My biz partner has wisely asked me to stay far away, LOL. We’ve discussed this a lot and I admit there’s not much to be gained by a debate. I’ve gone to a lot of online forums and the atmosphere is toxic. The hardcore self-pub faction (which IS A MINORITY, I’m convinced, but still) believe everyone on the other side is trying to get rid of their opportunities. Anyone who supports traditional publishing in any form can’t be trusted. So there’s no way to find common ground. Regarding RWA, we have a terrific group of self-pub success stories like Sylvia Day and Barbara Freethy and many others who are lesser known but making good money — trending toward the hot/erotica category. They’re getting the attention (understandable) and everyone assumes that they have the secret of success and that what they say, goes. But here’s the thing: They don’t have the secret of success outside the sub-genres they write. They can advise on many business and marketing topics but no matter how well other authors apply the bestsellers’ techniques to their own careers, it won’t work as well, if at all.

      RWA needs to remain focused on the genre as a whole, not the current trends. Trends change and change very very quickly.


  25. Sharon Sala says:

    Need to just boycott this workshop and let her talk to empty chairs. This is ridiculous. AND.. FYI… I mention AND brag on Bellebooks IN MY WORKSHOP.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Ursula Renee says:

    I enjoyed this piece. Thank you.


  27. Bravo! Well said. One path does not fit all. There’s a need for large presses, medium presses, small presses, and self-publishing.


  28. Becky Lower says:

    I think every traditional and small-press publisher should attend this session and pepper the woman with questions. Seems only fair.


    • I hope they do. Considering that there appear to be no workshops about the validity of small presses (maybe in the PAN schedule? Dear lord, I can only imagine what they’ve got on the grill there)


      • BrookeLynQueen says:

        Wow. Does no one think perhaps a small bit of wait-and-see would be a good idea rather than riling people to ‘pepper the woman’ with anything? It’s a rather huge leap on your part, Deborah, to assume this woman’s intent is to insult or negate traditional publishers. “Is there a case for traditional publishers and agents?” could as easily be a question meant to counter the self-pub tidal wave as to support it. To assume one over the other…well, you know what they say about assuming.

        Frankly, while I agree with your points regarding RWA and traditional publishing, I think it’s extremely irresponsible of you to cheer on people who now view this presenter as the enemy and to support their suggestions to either “pepper” her with questions or “let her speak to an empty room”, as is suggested in another comment.

        This is truly an irresponsible piece and if anyone reading this is as quick to judge you as you have been to judge this presenter, then they should wonder, and worry, how well you handle your traditional publishing company and its clients. Disgraceful.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, Sophie
        Be sure to come to Thursday’s luncheon at the conference, where BB President Deb Dixon is getting the Industry award. She’s a former V.P. of RWA. Also a founder and former president of the Memphis RWA chapter. I was a founding member of the Georgia chapter and am a former chapter president and service award winner. Also an NYT bestselling author with more than 3 million copies sold. Our company currently has 350 titles published and another 150 booked through 2016.


      • Jeannie Moon says:

        Just piping in here to say the Pan Retreat schedule this year looks terrific. There are a couple of business focused workshops after the keynote,and then a selection of master classes on craft. I’m looking forward to it.


      • Hi, Jeannie
        Since I resigned from RWA several years ago after I was notified that I no longer qualified for PAN or general membership due to my status as a publisher (after being a member since 1984, president of Georgia Romance Writers, 35 books published, a NYT bestseller, and spending ten un-contested years as a publisher while running BelleBooks) I don’t know what the PAN schedule is. If it’s published for non-PAN members to view, I’d love to take a look. I’m curious as to whether RWA has now or will soon change membership status to allow publisher/authors to once again have full privileges.


  29. joyspraycar says:

    I would love to see you on that panel. I think alot of us wonder about the question. Not getting any answers at all is bad, but getting one sided and non industry answers is even worse. I had three different publishers, all small presses and was not happy with any of them. i do my own marketing, and felt like the wanted me on their rolls to help them sell their other books, but they did nothing for me in return. I know that was at the cusp of the big shake up with those small publishers going broke, etc. But I would love real answers to what publishers do now for their authors, because in our RWA Chapter, that is a question that even our pan authors can’t or are unwilling to answer. Put together a blog with some of you publishing buddies, I’d love to hear the questions and answers there. YEAH! You tell em girl.


    • Thank you! I’m just stunned that they didn’t have others on that panel with the sociologist or at least have a panel of publishers talking about what publishers offer–there’s so much that authors don’t understand about what comes with a publishing package and what the challenges are when our hands are tied by the companies we do business with (like Amazon as our distributor, I could tell horror stories, except our contract won’t let us.)


  30. This should be very interesting…..I am working with traditional publisher and thinking of epublishing too. I want to hear more about this topic!


  31. Skye-writer says:

    Does this workshop allow for questions? Can we attend and add commentary from the floor?


    • They almost always have Q and A. Honestly, I believe this woman has come out with articles about this stuff already, and has a positive spin on it re: how publishers stack up. I don’t think she’s a shill for one side or the other. In fact she’s taken a beating from some of the self-pub extremes. So I suspect she’ll be grilled with stupid comments from self-pubs and I hope there will be a good number of trad authors and agents there to balance it. I promised Deb D I’d chain myself in my lair and resist going. Cause I always open my big mouth and say the wrong thing off the top of my head.


      • Skye-writer says:

        Probably smart for me to choose another activity during that time as well. I tend to tell it like I see it without sugar coating and often get myself in trouble. I’m not very patient with extremes in any setting, publishing, politics or religion and have a hard time being pleasant to people who won’t at least listen to opposing points of view.


      • Here’s the thing: If Dr. Weinberg presents the results I think she’s going to use, it came from analyzing Hugh Howey’s controversial “Author Earnings” report, where he scraped together a bunch of sales rankings from Amazon and used them to argue that indie authors are doing way better than everyone else. Weinberg concluded that he was wrong, and her summary said traditional publishing remained a viable route and not many people were making a go of self-publishing. She got flamed (and still gets flamed regularly) by the self-published authors. But here’s how RWA describes her workshop: “Join a sociologist for an inside look at the evidence for and against the importance of publishers and agents, using industry data typically only available to publishers and their market research departments, including a look at the market performance of traditionally published and self-published authors.” Either that’s a misleading impression of what she’s going to present, or she’s going to soft-pedal the stuff that makes the self-pubs mad.


      • Marc Cabot says:

        Dr. Weinberg analyzes data for Writer’s Digest, including their surveys of their readers. That is probably the “inside information” she will be discussing.

        I personally am unimpressed by her analysis, but I can all but guarantee you that it will have a very positive spin toward traditional publishing if her past performance is any indication of future results.


      • Hi
        That was my takeaway from her summary of the analysis she did at Digital Book World, too, re: Hugh Howey’s Author Earning’s Report: Positive toward traditional publishing. In fact she took a lot of flack from Howey’s supporters because she disputed his self-publishing statistics. Which is why it seems disingenuous for RWA to title her workshop “Can a case still be made for traditional publishing?” and, in the program notes, to describe it as a “for and against” session, with only a brief reference to self-publishing as part of the topic.


      • Marc Cabot says:

        That title, in Internet parlance, was pure clickbait. 🙂


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