Friday, July 13, 2007

Everyone's entitled...so here's mine.

Well, I can't imagine this is going to be one of my more popular posts. At least not in certain circles. It all depends where you stand. I have learned over my lifetime never to discuss two things...religion and politics. I made the exception for religion on my website, making a nice forum for mine in a place where I am comfortable. A place where people can volunteer to come...or not. In fact we have a lot of things like that in my forums. I find that most people have chosen to gravitate to the forums because of my free speech policy...even if it has cost me an "over 18 only please" exemptor.

So, since this is MY blog, I am going to take the liberty of getting slightly political. At least, the politics of romance. I think it is safe to say that one of the most influencing forces in publishing politics is the RWA. Romance Writers of America. At least as far as my profession is concerned it is. They started out as a place where upstarts and wannabes could learn all the tricks of the trade necessary to break into a really tight knit industry back in the day. They were trendsetters. Then they became regulators. Recognition by the RWA is apparently a big thing. Something to strive for. RITA awards are much craved and lauded. You have to be a member to get them, so they are also exclusive.

That was one of the first doubts I had about becoming and RWA member. I dislike exclusivity. I dislike being part of a group that you have to be able to afford in order to even have the right to be judged in the first place. I was advised that as a newbie author it was best to go with the flow and experience things firsthand before making decisions or fast judgments. Also a good idea. I dislike basing opinion on rumor. So I joined.

Then came RWA Dallas.

Now to make a fair comparison...I loved RT Houston, had a great time, but I will admit this had more to do with the company I was keeping in the bar than anything else. I met a slew of authors. Made plenty of new friends. Plus my two best friends were with me the whole time on top of it. I was not pleased, however, to hear about the m/m romance promo being stripped from promo lane. I don't read it, I don't write it, I am a traditional gal...well sorta ;)...but it had EVERY right to be there. It has every right to exist. I imagine homosexual people have and want romance just like heterosexuals do. So this dramatic action boded very ill and reeked of prejudice and ignorance, something I happen to abhor. Also, there was segregation in some of the parties themselves. Cliquing and all that high school mentality. I myself left the EC party after five minutes because I was so disgusted by the way the EC authors were isolated from the rest of us. All I had wanted for that party was to meet my most beloved EC authors. Being disabled (and relegated to a far corner of the room), mingling was not an option. The awards ceremony tried to isolate the winners, which I guess is traditional if you think about the Oscars and all that, but I preferred to be with my friends and got up to do exactly that. Still, I was willing to make a little leeway for the convention being unprepared for some of these issues and hoped for the best for next year. I hoped they would listen to the feedback of the attendees.

As a person of some size and disability, if there is one thing I know, it's discrimination. Whether it is passive or aggressive, it doesn't matter. I feel it and I hear it loud and clear. In waiting rooms when all the chairs have arms, it's saying "You are not welcome to sit here in comfort like those who can fit their asses in these chairs"...even though 50 percent and better of Americans are overweight, even doctors' offices and movie theatres haven't changed their ways. I hear it from stores with no handicapped parking (usually older villages) that say I will never be welcome there because I can't walk that far. Even my beloved bookstores, the smaller ones I used to love to browse for hours, but provide nowhere to sit, have forced me into large chains or simply surfing the net in order to browse in comfort. This is passive discrimination. The aggressive discrimination is worse. Laughter, mocking...exclusion...you get the idea. So I am familiar.

When RWA passed the new recognition regulations, I was appalled. The ability to be recognized by RWA or PAN was done with such distinctive purpose. Now some I agree with. For instance, the new rules about being in business three years or better, paying at least $1,000 advance to every author...rules meant to protect the young and budding writers as well as unsuspecting readers in essence. However, when it made demands about the majority of sales NOT being on a publisher owned website and, as I have heard, the turn around regulations from ebook to print that are nearly impossible for young companies to match, I got the message loud and clear, just like every ebook author out there did. They said: "You are not welcome here. Your new ideas and groundbreaking ways disturb us. Homosexual, erotic and menage romances have no place in our lauded ranks, and neither do those who write them." Not one of the current epubs meets the criteria of a recognizable RWA publisher. Not even, as I understand it, Ellora's Cave...the grandmother of all epubs. Does this mean former recognition is being rescinded, or will they be grandfathered in? I haven't found the answer to that question yet.

I wrote a letter yesterday to a friend and contemporary...an eBook author...and I found myself saying something in private that should be said out loud. There is a long standing bias between "New York" authors and "Ebook" authors. When I first came on the scene I eagerly embraced everyone who shared my love of writing, NY, E or otherwise. Now having become more familiar with the ropes, I realize that talent between the two is not always equal...but neither is it all that disparate. But I wasn't looking for talent. I was looking for PEOPLE. For friends. Writers who, like me, wrote because they loved to create great worlds of imagination.

I agree, there should be regulations to keep raw startups from flooding the market with subpar work. Having read more than my share of poorly edited crap and vanity projects, I can see the need to rein in new pubs and give them guidelines to adhere to. This will protect readers from buying crap, and writers from being poorly represented and abused...which I have also seen. Knowing they are answerable to someone can be a good thing.

But making the regulations so strict that it lumps everyone who writes or publishes an ebook into that category? Even EC!? No...this is not about quality. It's about fear. It is, once and for all, about erotic romance, m/m and other gay romance, menage romance, and other things that disturb convention. I saw the ripples when I heard that the lesser epubs were being singled out and delegated to the damaging and exclusionary tactics of next year's RT convention by being removed from the famous Saturday author signing to a night of their own, Wednesday. If this didn't scream "WE'RE BETTER THAN YOU!!" then I don't know what does. Of course, this didn't include Samhain or Ellora's Cave who were deemed fit to swim with the big boys. I wonder, truly, what the cut off is. What makes EC and Samhain eligible for the huge Saturday crowd draw, rather than relegated to being set up in nowhereland Wednesday night...oh, and did I mention the eBook author signing was scheduled perfectly opposite the EC party, the convention's biggest and most popular party? Knowing that, you tell me...what is the likelihood of anyone showing up at the signing from the convention? Nil. What is the likelihood of people wanting to shlep out to the convention twice, both Wednesday and Saturday for signings? NIL. The outright snobbery and prejudicial treatment...even hostilities in some instances between 'new york' authors and e-authors has always shocked and baffled me, and this becomes icing on that cake. Whether it is actual on the NY side or perceived on the Epub side, it's there and it flies as thick as crap in a shit-throwing contest.

When I first entered this scene I was like a child who has no idea its friends are black or white. I had no idea I was supposed to think differently about 'them' until it was attempted to TEACH me to think that way by my elders. I see no difference between that life lesson and the message/lesson this is sending. (Luckily, I made bunches of ebook author friends before I realized I was expected to look down my nose at them--after all, who do you think most of those authors were down in that bar deigning to spend time with the little people?) I am also lucky because my publisher never told me I could or could not align myself with epub authors. I find my publisher to be progressive and tolerant and, in the face of stories I have heard from others about having their work destroyed by other editors at other pub houses, I believe I am damn lucky they took me in and are nurturing me.

But the individual authors themselves? The behavior I have seen from some of them is disgustingly prejudicial. And since RWA is made up of mostly individual published authors, I think they just made my point. New York is white. EBooks are black. And I do believe RWA just passed the modern day version of Jim Crow laws. Separate but equal....except for the equal part. Straight and proper vs gay and alternative sex. The traditional straight romance makes us feel safe and comfy...we don't care that there is a huge untapped market out there for gay/alternative romance!! It makes us uncomfortable! We're only doing what we always do when we're uncomfortable! Therefore, we now dictate that romance is not romance unless it has one boy and one girl and all the proper connecting parts!

And as for the resulting uproar since RWA Dallas and since RT announced the segregation of the signing event? Here's where I get the image of an RWA or RT child sitting on the floor, fingers stuck in the ears, eyes closed, yelling "LALALALALA!! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!"

Unfortunately, lines are already being drawn, people are choosing sides, and it's only a matter of time before the romance writing union starts experiencing ceding and starts to fall apart into the ranks of the blue and the grey. War is coming. I hope they recall that they were the ones to fire the first shot.

Then again, this is just my opinion. I am eternally liberal....I believe in eternal equality. I live in a happy mindset where we can all get along, all be friends, and all be treated fairly, if only we tried harder to be accepting and understanding.

I fully expect someone to come along any minute now to slap me in the face and say SNAP OUT OF IT! I expect fallout from this post. I am even afraid of the idea of upsetting people. But if I didn't speak my mind in spite of fear then I would be passive and sending the wrong message, just like arms on all the chairs.

I wonder what you, the readers, think of all of this brouhaha?

7 comments:

Pamk said...

I agree with you and some of my favorite new york authors are/or were some of my favorite ebook authors. IMO a great book is a great book. I was wanting to go to RT but till all this brouhaha is over I will spend my money to go to things like RAW where there are lots of great authors NY or ebook doesn't matter.

Tracy said...

I'm not too familiar with the ebooks yet, but I think any kind of discrimination/segregation is horrible. I thought this country was done with that!

Robin Snodgrass said...

It's a sad state of affairs that adults in such public positions act so childish. I read both NY and E pubs and have found awesome books from both. I've also found typos and grammer problems in both NY print and ebooks so the quality is quite often the same...good and bad.

I'm just glad that not all NY published authors feel that way. Your blog was very illuminating!

Thanks,
Robin S.

Tawanna Howard said...

As a reader who is also currently aspiring greatly to become a published writer, this information moves me especially. Not to mention that I am also a minority and a bit of a deviant when it comes to the variety of different relationships that I deem entertainingly romantic.

In just the research I've been doing in the past few months, I'd begun to realize the prejudice that exists between NY and ebook authors and am still trying to decide what I make of it. At present, I am neutral on the topic - both understanding the industry's concern in not being able to filter out the ecrap from the ecraft easily and the independent author's desire to have the right to self publish without having to facing discrimination.

But if I eventually come to agree fully with you that this isn't about quality but rather about the censorship of content - that would change my stance immediately. For now I will continue to reserve judgement until I learn and experience more about the community I am so eager to become a part of. I am however, VERY grateful that you have the bravery to share your thoughts on this so honestly and visibly. You have just strengthened this fan's admiration of you!

faerydragon said...

I think that an author should be judged solely on how well they write, how good their stories are NOT if they are "traditional" relationships or not and certinatly not WHERE they are published. It is utterly ridiculos to me. I was so excited about going to RT in 2008 but now with all this discrimination going on I really don't know if I can support it.

Marci

Jacquelyn Frank said...

Very well said, Tawanna...and I agree MArci. I was scheduled to go as you know but between all this mess and the pocket-raping entry fees/extra fees etc...I think perhaps smaller more intimate events like Lora Leigh's RAW or Lori Foster get together are the way to go.

Katy said...

Way to go Jacquelyn! Your post was both insightful and inspiring! With more people voicing their opinions, It's only a matter of time before the RWA people realized they're alienating their paying members.

I agree with Robin S.; the quality of the writing and editing from NY pubs and Epubs balances, each contributing their share of stinkers and typos and books that go on my keeper shelf or back up disk :)

I hope the RWA and NY publishers quit worrying about what's PC and realize that there is a market for erotic romance with BDSM, D/s, m/f/m, m/m, m/m/f.

Excluding people - because of what they write or publishers who have the majority of their sales off their own web site - is wrong! I thought RWA was supposed to be helping authors, but by excluding two excellent publishers (EC and Samhain among others), I can only think that they are no longer acting in the best interest of their members.

Surely their must be a way to regulate vanity publishers without cutting out reputable ePublishers?

 

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