Saturday, May 30, 2009

RWA Rejects Digital Publishing Workshop Proposal

In a post at Romancing the Blog, Kassia Krozser shared her discovery that “…there wasn’t a single panel devoted to digital publishing on the upcoming RWA Annual Conference schedule.

In the comment section, Samhain Publishing Executive Editor Angela James revealed that she had submitted a proposal for such a workshop—but the powers that be at RWA rejected it.

Ms. James added, “However, as Jane said, there will be a ‘rogue’ workshop on these issues offered at RWA separate from the regular workshops because we feel that the topics are so important to authors, the info should be provided somehow. Anyone who would like more info on that can email me, Jane or SB Sarah.”

Rogue’s the word. I’m so very puzzled by the lack of a digital workshop at RWA, especially when epublishing has been such a strong focus of attention both online and at other industry conferences. Why would RWA decide against such a workshop? What does the organization have to lose? What’s the worst that could happen if one was included?

Digital publishers are strong supporters of niche genres. Therefore, I believe authors and readers (especially of the SFR persuasion, from my point of view) have a stake in their success. I think RWA does its authors a disservice in this regard because epublishers are a significant opportunity for aspiring authors who can’t obtain an agent yet have perfectly publishable stories.

They are also a haven for authors who have been dropped by their mainstream print publishers.

Do reputable epublishers not yet command enough respect? Well, where’s the respect for bestselling NY published authors who started out in ebooks? Never mind the authors who publish in both print and digital formats—a number of whom are represented by agents.

And speaking of, literary agent Deidre Knight is published with Samhain. If digital publishing is good enough for a powerhouse agent, isn’t it good enough for RWA members? What has to happen for digital publishing to command enough respect?

Better yet, how about a little history lesson?

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) followed the same short-sighted path of placing what they wanted (more high-priced CDs) over what their customers wanted (easy access to low-priced singles). The longer the music industry stalled/vexed/swore, the more customers they sent to the darkened seas of piracy—where many have remained.

The takeaway: Customers possess the collective might of rivers. You can try to stop them; you can try to avert their course; but at the end of the day, that raging water is going where it wants to go—just like your customers. Why not harness that power and benefit from it?

Sure, ebooks and ereaders only make up a sliver of the overall publishing world today, but it’s growing wildly every year and it’s where we’re headed tomorrow. Isn’t it better to prepare for that day now rather than repeat the mistakes of the RIAA?

I sincerely hope RWA reverses its position on the matter. Members are paying hard earned cash for its support and resources, not to mention the steep conference fees. They’re entitled to a variety of presentations, and while the RWA conference certainly can’t be expected to accommodate everything, they could consider being strategic about what they include given the mercurial landscape that is publishing in these times of rapidly advancing digital technology.

Joyfully yours,