Sunday, November 13, 2011

RWA Takes the Spotlight off First time Author Sales

It’s Sunday morning and when my children were younger Sunday wasn’t so crazy. Now it’s filled with the race to make it to Church on time, soccer practice and usually a basketball game. I still crave my early morning reading time so this morning I picked up the latest November RWA magazine and sat down to read it. I always read the “Sold” section because I’m applauding all those wonderful authors who got their first sale. But then I turned the page and read the article called, “What Constitutes a Sale?”. I read the article a few times because honestly it wasn’t clear to me.
The article goes on to cite the definition of sale and then states how historically authors were paid an advance on signing which earned them the right to be listed in the First Sales column, and wear a ribbon recognizing their efforts at conferences. It further states, “It is a big step to move from the ranks of unpublished to published.” Yeah, you heard it but there’s a huge but coming up. The gist of it is that based on 778 first sales published in the RWR since 2007 only 65% of sales – meaning authors here – did not make $1,000 to qualify for PAN membership.

But at the end of this article I was left scratching my head. “…RWA is changing its recognition of a member’s first sale.” Really, how? The article left me hanging, so I guess I’ll have to wait until December to find out how they’re going to showcase first sales.

Here’s the thing that bugs me. If RWA doesn’t like the terminology of the words First Sales – how about Recognition of Authors Hard at Work? Okay, maybe that title sucks but surely some marketing RWA guru can come up with something jazzy that can truly shout out to me, the RWA reader, look what your fellow writers have accomplished this month. And, isn’t that the purpose of RWA? To support authors, encourage writers to keep on writing, showcase marketing trends, and talk about the changes in the publishing industry.

I think many RWA authors if you asked them started the journey of writing books firstly for the love of writing. Sure making money is great but tying a specific amount to what qualifies you as a writer, to honor your first book deal, is honestly none of RWA’s business. What RWA should be doing is what I did this morning—applauding all those writers who wrote a book and sold it. That’s a lot of hard work and worth a lot more than the $1,000 profit you are supposed to make.

I would like to see RWA stop nickelling and diming writer’s accomplishments and get with the program. I think RWA should read the article a little later on called, “Keeping Readers for Life” and think how they can best work on keeping members for life.


Julia Phillips Smith said...

I'm wondering if they're actually responding to the flood of self-pubbed authors, whose debut novels won't be traditional sales at all.

If they come up with some cuckoo sales figure, they'll feel that they're still acting as advocates on behalf of writers, whereas your reaction - and many others - will show just the opposite.

Jo Ramsey said...

I was confused by that too. They're changing how they recognize sales, but they aren't telling us what the changes are?

I've had a lot of sales, both under this name in YA fiction and under a different name in romance, and so far none of them have earned me PAN status. Does that mean none of them count as sales?

It will be interesting to see what they do with this. With so many authors being e-published now, and so many smaller publishers sprouting up, I think not reaching PAN status is going to become more common for some of us...

Renee Pace said...

Thanks everyone for commenting. I really hope that RWA works to acknowledge e-pub and self-pub but my gut says with they won't. I'm not sure who they help when they make changes like this.

Tara MacQueen said...

that's a lot to think about...
Good blog post - nice way to draw attention to this.

Stella MacLean said...

Thanks for this Renee as I had no idea. Better get back in the habit of reading the RWR cover to cover.