This week there's been an incredible uproar over RWA's policies regarding which smaller pubs are "valid" and what the qualification is for a member author to be "published" in romance fiction. Apparently when I left the organization last fall feeling like the cost/return ratio wasn't to my benefit as an author with a small press, I was not alone. Given the 250+ comments on Deidre Knight's blog post, lots of authors appear to feel the same.
Part of the problem appears to be a few foot-in-mouth comments by the president, along with the organization's slow-to-change demeanor. Do I think RWA will respond and eventually make itself more welcome and useful to epublished writers? Certainly. Someone with business sense will start to look at numbers and realize how many members they could recruit by bending things a little. But, people, we've got to remember it's an old school group. Look how long they take to change things like the Golden Heart. They just started accepting more sensual submissions, but made absolutely no allowance for judges who scorn such smut (like seeing that such entries get judges who are okay with the heat level), which essentially means the erotic entries are doomed from the get-go. So... they're allowed in but it's highly unlikely they'll win. And hey, that's the way (uh-huh, uh-uh) some little old biddy in Houston who's maybe finalled once or twice but still hasn't sold a manuscript or landed an agent after writing for 75 years likes it.
Fear Change, For It Is the Enemy is the same attitude that keeps all those "rules" of romance writing alive and well. Does today's romance reader have as many uptight likes/dislikes and demands about her heroine as you'll hear if you lurk around a few RWA convos online? Heck, no. The rise of Chick Lit is a prime example. Leave the old school rules behind, write a fresh story young women can relate to, and voila, hot sales, a brand-new target audience...all with heroines who sometimes sleep with more than one man during the course of a book, are not widows or virgins, and *gasp* may have even divorced!
I don't mean to call RWA a dinosaur (well, maybe a little) but hopefully it'll evolve. I'm pretty sure the founders did not intend for it to become outdated and elitist. Those gals would've wanted the organization to change with the times and stay modern.
So I won't be holding my breath, but I will be watching with interest to see how things unfold.
Romance is sexy!