As many of you may be aware, Diane Pershing, president of the Romance Writers of America, published a response to an article posted by Deidre Knight of the Knight Agency (here's the link to Ms. Knight's article and a link to Ms. Pershing's response). I have to take offense at the fact that the RWA doesn't feel that those of us who are electronically published are career minded authors. So after deliberating for a few days, here's MY response, for what it's worth. Please remember that this is only my opinion based on observation and research.
I am a member of the RWA and Passionate Ink. I am an author of several e-books. I have only been published for a little over a year, but I have five books out, one in print. The majority of those are novellas, something the NY publishers aren't in the market for, which limits my distribution options. My first full-length novel has been finished and submitted to an electronic publisher, as the majority of my market is in e-books. I am also the daughter and daughter-in-law of people who own their own businesses. I have learned quite a bit from both men on how to look at the business side of my work.
This IS a business, something we tend to forget as authors. Each of us has a choice in how we wish to sell and distribute our products, whether that be electronically or in print.
Now, forgive me for what I am about to do. I am going to list something that the majority of us already know who are electronically published.
In the e-book model, I produce a product (novel). Once the product is complete to the best of my ability I begin shopping it to corporations (publishers) in the hopes that my product is something that fits well within their product line. When a corporation decides that yes, it can sell my product, the polishing process begins (editing and cover art) to make my product ready for distribution. During that time advertising and promotions begin to let the marketplace (aka the readers) know that this new product will soon be available for purchase. Reviewers test my product to see if it is something their readership would be interested in and will suit their needs, and give their opinions. Then my product goes on the market. From the sales of that product I receive a percentage, the editors and cover artists receive a percentage and the distributor (publisher) receives a percentage. All are happy with what they receive.
In the print book model, I produce a product. Once the product is complete to the best of my ability I hire someone to shop that product to corporations (an agent). The agent sends my product to corporations in the hope that it will meet their criteria. If it does, I receive a payment in good faith that the product will make a certain number of sales, a payment that will be deducted from future profit. The polishing process then begins, readying it for distribution. During this time advertising and promotions occur, informing the marketplace that my new product will soon be available for purchase. Another good-faith payment is made to me, one that will be deducted from final sales. Then my product goes on the market. From the sales of that product I receive a percentage,the agent receives a percentage, the editors and cover artists receive a percentage and the distributor receives a percentage. A certain amount of those sales are held back in reserve against returns, and I receive my final good-faith payment. All are happy with what they receive.
Frankly, I fail to see how either business model is wrong. Both have good and bad points. Both are equally valid. Neither, to me, can be said to be better than the other. Where failure comes in is with a) the product (it was shopped to the wrong market or was somehow inferior to a similar product) or b) distribution (a failure that has caused more than one book to fail, print or e). It's simply a matter of supply and demand, and whether you prefer your money at the front end or the back end of your contract,and what your preferred percentages are.
I like being e-published. Would I turn down an opportunity to be print published? No. Would I give up e-publishing?
No. It's a business decision, pure and simple. You need to find your marketplace, do your research, ask questions, and hope that organizations like the RWA will steer you away from the bad publishers, be they print or e.
Based on this, yes, I consider myself to be an informed, professional businesswoman. I know my market, my distribution channels, and am willing to work with corporations to improve my product for the marketplace. I am aware of my options re: front-load payment with smaller returns vs larger returns with no front-load payment. I consistently research my competitors (you should see my e-book and print shelves, they bulge with past and present romances) and trends in the marketplace. I try to maintain my own brand while meeting the needs of the marketplace to the best of my ability. And I respectfully request the same recongition and respect that is handed over to other businesspeople within this community.
Dana Marie Bell
Memeber of the RWA and Passionate Ink
Passionate Plume Finalist
P.S.: Please, if I'm wrong on any point of the print model feel free to correct me. I've written this up based not on what RWA educated me on, but what I was able to glean through research and listening to those with more knowledge than I on that particular business model. Something I wish more people would do concerning the epublishing business model.
P.P.S. I am willing to put my royalty statements where my mouth is. I haven't joined PAN despite the fact that I am eligible several times over due to the stories of other electronic authors who did so and were treated with a great deal of disrespect.
For those of us who wish to make changes within the RWA, be you print, e, or both, please consider joining this group and letting your voice be heard: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RWAchange/