Is RWA deserting all but a few romance genres?

The workshop and main speaker schedules for the upcoming Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio reveals the organization’s full transformation from a traditional publishing conduit into a voice almost solely for self-published authors, with a side dressing of open animosity toward traditional publishing and thus, toward its traditionally published members.

So the question that faces not only traditionally published authors but also hybrids and even many self-pubs may be: is the organization kicking us out? Warts and all, (I joined in 1984) RWA has always been relatively inclusive of a broad range of romance genres. Despite flame wars over adding awards and workshops dedicated to emerging sub-genres, RWA had, until recently, trended toward *expanding* its definition of the romance novel.

But then, two years ago, women’s fiction and YA romances were dropped from the awards. New berths were made for erotic romances but at the loss of those two substantial sub-genres–which didn’t need to be eliminated in order to accommodate erotic romance.

The recent, overwhelming adoption of self-publishing by some romance authors (romance far and above dominates self-publishing and most of the successes in self-publishing are romance authors) has led quickly to RWA focusing on self-pubs’ interests. Nothing wrong with serving your membership.

But self-pubs remain only a part of RWA’s membership, albeit a very vocal and visible one. Eighty-five percent of all books are still published by traditional presses (including the Amazon Montlake romance imprint, which, ironically, offers terms similar to other “evil” publisher’s).

Most of the self-pub successes are within the narrow confines of contemporary hot/sexy/erotic/NA romance, leaving a huge (perhaps majority) of other romance writers out of the scope of (likely) self-pub success.

That means what RWA has done is narrow the org’s focus to the interests and viewpoint of a very small group of authors. Maybe it’s time to rename RWA something like “A Small Group Of Romance Writers In America” for truth in advertising.

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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8 Responses to Is RWA deserting all but a few romance genres?

  1. Not true. Historical writers particularly are flourishing in indie vs. traditional.


  2. ctsohn says:

    I almost dropped my RWA membership this year. Women’s Fiction and Contemporary Romance are feeling more and more like cast offs of RWA. I agree with Skye-writer.


    • I still don’t understand why they dropped Women’s fiction and YA. Other than what I say in my post — if the faction that focuses on self-publishing is dominating decisions (and I don’t know that for a fact) then the org is going to narrow its focus to what sells best in self-pub — and that is by far hot– sexy, contemporary and NA romance. Which leaves out a huge range of “other” in the genre.


      • ctsohn says:

        The “others” are out there. And I think there are more of us than we realize. I hate to be a turncoat, but here is my new fellowship – “Women’s Fiction Writers”.

        I had a wonderful time at RWA Nationals last year in Atlanta. (I even got to pitch to you.) But when my “high” wore off and I tried to tap in to local chapters and their events, I realized that they have become less about writing good stories about a woman’s emotional journey and more about selling erotica as indie writers.


      • Hey! The WFWA is a great new organization and I’m a member. I do recommend it. They issue a terrific newsletter and I’m getting a lot out of the information.


  3. Skye-writer says:

    Do let me know whenever membership in RWA is no longer required of me. I have a lot of things I could do with the sizable annual membership fee. But even more alarming is that for years romance writers, agents, publishers and editors have labored hard to make Romance a legitimate genre rather than being viewed just as Bodice Rippers. Now it would seem that RWA is plunging into action to undo all the progress that has been made. Especially in eliminating Women’s Fiction. Offhand I can think of several “Classic” literature examples that would have fallen into that category had they been written in this century instead of the last or the one before that.

    Liked by 2 people

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