Can the RWA Change?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Status
Not open for further replies.

job

In the end, it's just you and the manuscript
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 27, 2005
Messages
3,459
Reaction score
653
Website
www.joannabourne.com
it wasn't a "romantic elements" book, it was a _romance_. If I entered it in the "Contemporary" category, though, the conservatives at RWA would have laughed all the cl*ts and c*cks and other various/sundry four-letter and otherwise explicit terms out of the room, though. It never would have stood a chance in that category given the tastes/attitudes of the judges---who per RWA rules, would not be erotic romance authors, but straight contemporary authors.


I think you may be wrong to believe the judges for Contemporary Romance -- those pubbed authors -- will be conservative. Or that they'll be unable (or unwilling) to look past the realistic language and situations used in your book to the underlying excellence of the prose and beauty of the story.

The notion that erotica is appreciated only by a small, select audience -- no, no and no. Everybody loves erotica.
(ok. Almost everybody.)

Many of your 'Contemporary RITA' judges are going to be coming from just exactly 'the Blaze line', 'Kensington Brava and Berkley Sensation' (*cough* ... my own imprint,) and 'Avon Red, Berkley Heat, Kensington Aphrodisia, Harlequin Spice'.

The more conservative types may be judging the more conservative categories ... eh?
You may be in far less conservative company than you think.
 

veinglory

volitare nequeo
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
28,686
Reaction score
2,863
Location
right here
Website
www.veinglory.com
Yes and no, I think. I accidentally saw a little judge chatter about MM and bondage a few years ago that suggested at least some judges were less than thrilled.
 
Last edited:

jennontheisland

the world is at my command
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 17, 2006
Messages
7,269
Reaction score
2,121
Location
down by the bay
This very public petition is going to help. The well-intentioned will be pricked to action and the malevolent will be shamed to silence.
I hope.


Some of the long-term problem at RWA, I think, is that folks are sensitive about the reputation of genre Romance.

I'm inserting anecdote here ...
I have this friend who pointed me to a comment about one of my books.

The commenter said something like ..
"I didn't want to pick this one up because it's Historical Romance. Soft porn."

Which would be cool if I were writing soft porn. Advertising, y'know.
But I'm not. So I get this kinda appalled moment of stomach-sick, thinking ... 'I'm pouring my heart into something intelligent people assume is garbage, just from the name of it.'

I think at least some of the resistance to the inclusion of Erotica in the Romance genre fold comes from members who fear it will exacerbate the 'Romance = soft porn' opinion.

Excluding Erotica is NOT the way to handle this misconception, IMO. But I see where they're coming from.

I don't see where they're coming from at all. Their mandate is to promote romance and dispell the myths of the genre. To me, their current actions seem to perpetuate the 'soft porn' opinion rather than refute it.
 

Irysangel

She of Many Names
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 19, 2005
Messages
1,711
Reaction score
936
I think people realise there will be idiosyncratic lapses. But those who are PAN-elligable for ebooks are now a very substantial category of people who should really fit in one category or the other.

Wanted to come back and state that it wasn't my intention to make a sweeping statement and thus downplay the problem with ebooks not being considered. How embarrassing. :) I was trying to make the point that not everyone that is PAN/PRO can enter one or the other. That being said, I am in total agreement that there needs to be something in place to acknowledge the books that are slipping through a (size of a canyon) crack.

Sorry if it came across that way. :)

-Jill
 

veinglory

volitare nequeo
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
28,686
Reaction score
2,863
Location
right here
Website
www.veinglory.com
Oh no, I certainly get your point. There is a stage at which you can only close one loophole by opening another.
 

Irysangel

She of Many Names
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 19, 2005
Messages
1,711
Reaction score
936
My PAN-qualifying book was an Erotic Romance, which follows the typical plot structure of a typical romance, including the HEA----just with a lot of explicit sex. So it wasn't a "romantic elements" book, it was a _romance_. If I entered it in the "Contemporary" category, though, the conservatives at RWA would have laughed all the cl*ts and c*cks and other various/sundry four-letter and otherwise explicit terms out of the room, though. It never would have stood a chance in that category given the tastes/attitudes of the judges---who per RWA rules, would not be erotic romance authors, but straight contemporary authors.

Then you should have entered your book into the Contemporary category, if the only thing that is holding you back is the usage of cl*t or c*ck. Kresley Cole won the RITA for paranormal in 2007 and she uses these words all the time. I think JR Ward won last year? I think? And she has quite explicit sex in her books.

And the judging stuff is weird. I thought it was like you said - if you write contemporary, you judge contemporary. Actually from what one of my friends has said, she requested to read paranormal and was sent contemporary suspense. So it's not a hard and fast rule. I'm not sure how the selection process works, but it's not an absolute, I don't think.

That being said, I don't have a pony in this race (and yet here I am, yakking) because I'm still in the fish-nor-fowl category. What would happen if you did enter your contemporary erotic romance into the contemporary category? Can judges reject books? I didn't think they could. I guess that's the reason I am asking. I have no idea so I figured I'd ask. the only thing I know about the RITA rule is that the entries are limited. I mean, I have heard of people applying for First Novel with their book, just because it didn't fit the other categories. Not saying it's right or wrong, but just bizarre.

I mean, with the big publishers, the labels are fluid nowdays anyhow. I'm not sure that a category specifically for 'erotic romance' would fly because it seems like EVERYTHING acquired lately is super-steamy. More erotic romance is becoming the norm. My book was changed from 'erotic romance' to 'paranormal romance' (and one would argue that it's not just a straight paranormal) because my publisher wanted to change the format. Nothing changed in the book. I used c*ck and cl*t and other explicit things but my publisher changed what the book category was.

Stuff is being called romance when it's not (some of the UF out there). Stuff is being called erotic romance when readers view it as just romance. Just about the only thing that isn't extremely explicit lately are some of the category lines and the Inspirational stuff.

I guess it would make more sense if RWA said "These lines can only apply for this RITA" but I guess that would be difficult to follow along with? So you knew "Ok, my book was published by Avon Red, therefore I have to apply for this RITA". It's not like Avon Red is going to toss in an inspirational, right? I don't know.

The system is whack. I have a headache now.
 
Last edited:

Jersey Chick

Up all night to get Loki
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
12,320
Reaction score
4,278
Location
in the state of carefully controlled chaos
Website
www.kimberlynee.com
I don't have a problem with the PAN and PRO designations, per se. At least, not a huge problem.

I do think they need to clear up the mess over the GH and Ritas, though. And frankly, I think it's beyond stupid that they need a task force to decipher their own language. Maybe it's me being simplistic, but I just want to headdesk it whenever I think that they need to study their own language to figure out what the hell they meant by their own words. And these are writers who can't figure out what their own words mean. Yes, there are lawyers involved, but please - how hard is it to figure out what two freakin' words mean? So, you'll forgive me if I think that is almost pathetic, really. Either you're published or you're not - and not well you're pubbed if your print run is 5k books, but you aren't if it's 4,999 books.

Yes, there should be a category for erotic romance - so they should create one. But then you have the problem of what makes it erotic? Is it graphic-graphic-graphic sex? graphic-graphic sex? Well, then what defines graphic. What I think is graphic, someone else might think is tame. With the other categories, there are clearcut boundaries (though they are a bit muddier nowadays as well. What's historical? Before 1900? Before the 1950s?) It's not as easy as it seems to simply come up with a new category, unfortunately. Hell, RWA can't even quite figure out what the definition of romance is...

If nothing else, they keep life from getting too boring, I guess.
 

Irysangel

She of Many Names
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 19, 2005
Messages
1,711
Reaction score
936
Yes, there should be a category for erotic romance - so they should create one. But then you have the problem of what makes it erotic? Is it graphic-graphic-graphic sex? graphic-graphic sex? Well, then what defines graphic. What I think is graphic, someone else might think is tame. With the other categories, there are clearcut boundaries (though they are a bit muddier nowadays as well. What's historical? Before 1900? Before the 1950s?) It's not as easy as it seems to simply come up with a new category, unfortunately. Hell, RWA can't even quite figure out what the definition of romance is...

Jersey, you said it so much better than me!

I think part of the problem is that the amount of sexuality in romance is changing. If you look at stuff published 10-15 years ago, the sex was extremely vague and people 'crested to passion' rather than actually have intercourse. I remember the first time I read the word c*ck in a book - I was scandalized! Now it's so common I barely blink at it, but I do notice when someone says 'manhood'.
 

jennontheisland

the world is at my command
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 17, 2006
Messages
7,269
Reaction score
2,121
Location
down by the bay
Interesting take.

Can you expand on that a little?

If an organization is going to promote the acceptance of the romance genre as something besides 'soft porn' they need to acknowledge that yes, sex occurs in these books, and yes, it is at times explicit, but that does not diminish the value of the stories, the authors, or the genre.

To hide erotic romance away, to not include it, implies that there is something wrong with it, and it maybe should be considered 'soft porn' and not worthy of acknowledgment.

To tell your kid that those other kids, with the different coloured skin are nice kids but no, you should never play with them sends a distinctly mixed message.
 

veinglory

volitare nequeo
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
28,686
Reaction score
2,863
Location
right here
Website
www.veinglory.com
There is a degree of tension in that making an erotic category can ghettoise rather than normalise sexual content, but not having one can suppress it and cause it to be under represented.

I think the specific policies are less a cause of a problem, and more a symptom of the overall climate. A general disinterest or disengagement from ebook/erotic/small press/gay etc can be self-fulfilling if it causes members involved in these areas to not join or not to take part actively.
 

Sakamonda

...
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 21, 2005
Messages
641
Reaction score
47
Location
Chicago, Illinois
And just to show how important gay romance is, the top 2 bestselling books at Ravenous Romance right now (which is primarily a heterosexual publisher) are both M/M romances by author Ryan Field. I think RWA is foolish to ignore those markets, esp. since the primary readership of M/M romances is straight women, not gay men.
 

Susan Gable

Dreamer of dreams, teller of tales
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
3,110
Reaction score
754
Location
Pennsylvania
Website
www.susangable.com
There was a recent Superromance that had a very "soft" bondage scene.

We've come a long way, baby. :D

So, seriously, I don't know that seperating erotica into its own category is the way to go. Because as Jersey mentioned, how do you seperate it out? What is erotic and what's just "steamy?"

Would we then have some judge who reads that Superromance, entered by the author in the standard "Series Romance" category, and the judge rates it "Wrong Category" because it had a really soft bondage scene in it? And she thought because of that it must be erotic romance? (I'm not at ALL claiming a little B makes an erotic romance. I'm saying somebody out there MIGHT think that while judging.)

I see more muddy waters coming up. <G>

Susan G.
 

Sakamonda

...
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 21, 2005
Messages
641
Reaction score
47
Location
Chicago, Illinois
Susan, Erotic Romance is a category unto itself. Harlequin has 2 category lines that say "Erotic Romance" on their spines. The Kensington Brava/Aprhodesia, Avon Red, Berkley Heat, and Berkley Sensation lines all have "Erotic Romance" on their spines, too---just like "romantic suspense" books and "paranormal romance" books and "contemporary romance" "historical romance" books all have those designations on their spines to set them apart on the bookshelf.

And every one of those spine designations have a Rita category----_except_ Erotic Romance. If historical and paranormal and romantic suspense and contemporary (all spine designations) have their own Rita categories, it makes absolutely no sense for there not to be a Rita category when the booksellers are making erotic romance a distinct enough category for those books to have spine designations.
 

Jersey Chick

Up all night to get Loki
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
12,320
Reaction score
4,278
Location
in the state of carefully controlled chaos
Website
www.kimberlynee.com
The problem isn't solved just by creating an erotic romance category though because the waters are too muddy. Like I said, there are fairly clear-cut boundaries as to what constitutes historical romance, or paranormal romance. I don't know if it's possible to do that with erotic romance because eroticism (for the most part) is based on personal choice. And what judge A considers erotic, judge B might not consider erotic enough. And then how does that help?
 

brainstorm77

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 16, 2006
Messages
14,627
Reaction score
2,057
So ok ... bottom line what does the RWA do for the romance author?

Oh and how and when did they form?
 
Last edited:

DeleyanLee

Writing Anarchist
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 6, 2007
Messages
31,502
Reaction score
11,226
Location
lost among the words
So ok ... bottom line what does the RWA do for the romance author?

Oh and how and when did they form?

www.rwanational.com

I believe they still have their history up there.

I know what they did for me when I was a member in the '90's: They got Harlequin to back down on owning your name and change their contracts in other ways. They did more to educate the unpublished about the real business of writing, how publishers and agents work, etc (invaluable). They printed actual standard contracts from each of the major romance publishers in the newsletter (one each month for about a year) and had their lawyer analyze and explain them (also invaluable). They ran their own predators & editors service (including agents). Twice annually the newsletter included all romance publishers and agents, listing contact names, adresses, what they were looking for, turnaround ETA and tons of great info like that. Back then, you had to be an RWA member to participate in RWA chapter contests, which (if you finaled) usually got your entry in front of an agent or an aquiring editor and getting around the slush pile.

They used to do a lot. In this decade, they started getting into petty, stupid arguments that reminded me a lot of high school hysterics to the point where it all became public knowledge among non-romance people. It was pretty embarrassing to see RWA smeared all over the web and even at some of the local chapter meetings. Not pretty.

I'm not really sure what they offer now, honestly. My membership ended about 4-5 years ago (unemployed for almost 3 years will do that) and I haven't bothered to keep up with what's going on there. It used to be a really stellar group, something I got a lot out of and highly recommended. Now, I'm not sure I want to rejoin since it seems like the high school hysterics are still at the fore and the good they were doing for the writers is somewhere in the back forty. I'm seriously hoping someone will tell me I'm wrong at some point.
 

Deb Kinnard

Banned
Flounced
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
2,382
Reaction score
311
Location
Casa Chaos
Website
www.debkinnard.com
Now, I'm not sure I want to rejoin since it seems like the high school hysterics are still at the fore.

Thank you. "High school" sums it up pretty well IMO.

That said: if I did rejoin, I would do so simply for my chapter (Chicago-North). I can ignore the high school hijinks at the national level, in order to enjoy good writing experiences and good company locally.
 

jennontheisland

the world is at my command
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 17, 2006
Messages
7,269
Reaction score
2,121
Location
down by the bay
So ok ... bottom line what does the RWA do for the romance author?
Adds padding to the bottom of your query letter.

All of the things DeleyanLee noted are great things, but most of them are now available on line, for free. And you don't have to be a member to enter most of the contests, or to go to the annual conference.
 

Sakamonda

...
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 21, 2005
Messages
641
Reaction score
47
Location
Chicago, Illinois
bottom line what does the RWA do for the romance author

Well, if my experience is any example----NOTHING. All I got for my $125 was 12 issues of the Romance Writers Report, which I rarely bothered to read since there was never anything in it that interested me. $125 for an annual subscription to a magazine I didn't read is money down the drain. I was thoroughly unimpressed with the "services" RWA offers, and the PAN email loops were pretty much useless.

I also had a thoroughly miserable experience attending a local chapter meeting (Chicago-North) where I was treated with marked hostility by almost everyone there. The only people in the chapter who were nice to me are no longer members, either. What does that tell you?
 

Irysangel

She of Many Names
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 19, 2005
Messages
1,711
Reaction score
936
There are online chapters that are fairly active and friendly, I hear. I honestly have not checked them out, but I intend to.

From my perspective, RWA is very focused on getting their members published. I joined after I got a book contract, so thus far it has not done tons for me, but I have met a lot of great people and the networking is nice. People share things like editor shuffles, what this line is looking for, past issues with a different publisher, etc. Basically it's a club where people discuss romance and publishing. You don't need to be in a club to discuss either, but it can be a lot of fun and helpful if that is what you are looking for.

Also with a membership to RWA you get the RWR monthly (eh) and you can pay an additional $50 to get the Top 100 Bookscan Romances subscription. I find that pretty interesting.

Conference is the same price if you are a member, or if you are not a member, to be honest. There's a $100 difference, but it costs $100 to join, so six of one, half a dozen of the other...
 

veinglory

volitare nequeo
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
28,686
Reaction score
2,863
Location
right here
Website
www.veinglory.com
I think the erotic romance category is just as clear as existing categories for those that read or write erotic brands like Red or Blaze, or for erotic romance only publishers like Ellora's Cave. I run a website for erotic romance epublishers and there his been less confusion about who that covers than there is about exactly what year consititutes "historical" IMHO, or what is paranormal versus horror versus supernatural versus dark fantasy etc.

And I say that as a person that sees 'MM' and 'erotic' as themes, not sub-genres--but I am clearly in the minority.
 

jensoko

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 3, 2007
Messages
61
Reaction score
12
Website
www.athenagrayson.com
RWA's biggest problems stem from the dual need it has to both encourage its members in their careers (providing markets, growing readership and increasing visibility for the genre, etc.) and act as a guardian/advocate against the career paths that take undue advantage of authors. For starters, there's just no real good way to do that except on a case-by-case basis. RWA's best intentions are setting up an environment where the organization "norms" include a career path that enables a writer to earn decent money, see his or her books in places where they can be bought by customers, and retain reasonable rights to his or her intellectual property.

What this does is sets up a tacit approval of the "proper" way a career should progress. What this fails to do is take into account new markets, emerging markets, or "breakout" situations where an author can expand the reach of romance, grow her audience, or explore new methods of getting stories in front of people and getting money for said stories.

It's not inherently bad to say, "authors should be paid at least X for their time and effort, and should be able to keep Y from their publishers without penalty." But it all goes pear-shaped because firstly, RWA doesn't have the kind of muscle needed to enforce the norms they set in place--the thing where RWA advocated with Harlequin over the ownership of pen names wasn't something that happened overnight. It took *years* and it depended on a lot of agents and authors and editors, too, having good will towards working together. And RWA couldn't do much if the results were different. Harlequin would have done what Harlequin was going to do for business, period.

But by the same token, RWA is dropping the ball on things like electronic rights. Instead of making their members fully aware that electronic publishers offer somewhere in the range of 35-50% royalties on a title, while traditional/NY/mainly-print publishers are offering the same royalties on electronic editions as their mass-market paperbacks (somewhere around 8-10%), the RWA is busy nitpicking over how many pennies make a "srs bzns" writer, and why a book is only a real book if it's sold by bookstore Z. RWA should be warning its authors to negotiate e-rights separately, and to pay attention to "worldwide" rights and their presence or absence (see "Hachette Book Group" and "no more ebook titles" en la Google).

Upthread, someone mentioned that members should push for an erotic romance RITA category. I've been a member of Passionate Ink (the erotica/erotic romance) chapter since its inception, and our board members have been pushing for an erotic RITA category from the word "go." And every year, we've been stonewalled. There are good and bad points on both sides, as other posters have pointed out (if romances aren't just about "the sex" then the sexual content and heat level shouldn't matter, versus how can an erotically-focused novel be accurately compared to one that is not when the points of the two books are different). Efforts were shifted into providing RITA judges with an option to either opt-in or opt-out of judging explicit content, that also met with a dead-end. So on PI's part, it's not for lack of trying.

I'm a member of RWA for at least another year, because I think the organization can change, and it's still a really good value for the unpublished writer, or the writer just starting out. There's a lot out on the internet about writing, but there's a lot of crap out there, too. RWA is one of the places that can weed out the crap about writing (even if it engages in its own crap-manufacture in other ways). My own local chapter brings in editors and agents periodically, so my membership gets me access to them on a more intimate level than the slush pile. My chapter also embraces e-published and non-traditional published authors, erotica/erotic romance writers, and even mystery writers if they're open to romantic subplots. National membership buys me access to my local events and Passionate Ink, and it's still within the realm of "can afford even if I'm not crazy about some of the stuff going on." It may edge its way out of there in the future, but it's still there for now.
 

veinglory

volitare nequeo
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
28,686
Reaction score
2,863
Location
right here
Website
www.veinglory.com
That is a very good and fair summary. I think it is important to realise that RWA does want authors to have profitable and reputable careers. Their approach has just become so overly pat... maternalistic? Whether they are worth it for an author depends on the type of career they are pursuing, how far along they are, how many alternatives they have access to, and how willing they are to hang in there and hope for (or strive for) change.
 

Irysangel

She of Many Names
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 19, 2005
Messages
1,711
Reaction score
936
jensoko - thank you so much! I thought you made some excellent, excellent points.

That being said, would you recommend the Passionate Ink chapter? I admit it's one I've been eyeballing (tangent, I know!)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Featured Book