I promised to pen my thoughts abut the Romance Writers of American annual conference and so here they are:
RWA presents a dilemma for me. They are a strong and growing organization. They also are very inclusive. They have set certain standards that designate who is and isn't considered a published author. This is not unique. SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and MWA (Mystery Writers of America) do the same. RWA certifies publishers based on a number of criteria, including copies sold, etc. The upshot of this is that even though I have 4 published books to my name, I'm considered unpubbed because self-pub doesn't count and my current publisher isn't an "RWA Approved Publisher." (The time and expense required to achieve this status is not necessarily worth the effot for a small press. Better to be focusing on this year's book launches than doing tons of paperwork.)
Because of this arbitrary line, certain parts of the conference are off limits to me because of my status. I can't attend the meet-and-greet session with the booksellers or the librarians (an ideal way to increase book sales and my chance of moving 'up the ladder'.) I'm not allowed into some of the panels nor can I enter all of the contests. Of course, my dues and conference fees (nearly $400/year) pay for all this.
Which leads to the obvious question -- why am I a member of RWA and why do I attend their conference? The truth is, I'm stubborn. I am the odd duck -- a self-pubbed author who has won awards and now has moved 'up the ladder' to a tradional publisher. I want to be a reminder that not successful authors come from NY. (I've had a role model -- a good friend of mine came up through small press and now she's published by three NY houses.) My publishing path is no less viable than someone who took five years of rejections before they got their first 'call' from NY. Each result in a published book.
There are signs that the wall is cracking. 2 years ago the 'newbies' were told that if you self-pubbed your career was over, that no one would touch you. Fortunately, I wasn't in the same room with the agent who said this or there would been a heated discussion. Now they're saying that NY publishers are cherry-picking authors from small press (and self-pub). All of a sudden it's no longer the death knoll for your career. For those of us who work the SF&F convention circuit, we recognized this trend at least three years ago. RWA is just now catching up.
So the conference was mixed for me. I saw more small press authors win awards and evidence that the growth of the e-book industry continues. I also experienced some of the inclusiveness. Nowadays it doesn't get me as riled as it used to.
When I finally make the NY Times Bestseller list, I'll point to my unique career path and ask, "Hey guys, isn't it time to change the rules?"