Thursday, October 20, 2011

A little writer encouragement.

Many years ago I was a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA). I loved it. It was the first time I knew there were other people out there like me. Not just "others" but many others. A room filled with others. Just that knowledge gave me the creative boost I needed to finish my first book. It was that group who encouraged me when my book sat on Dorchester's editorial desk for two years, and that group which encouraged me to resubmit it to them when we suspected they'd lost it.

They were the ones who helped me formulate a query, and it was they who sat down with me to create my first synopsis. And they were great. They were. If you wanted to be published in the New York market.

Now I'm not picky. After two years of waiting for Dorchester and their policy of no double submissions (can't send the same book to multiple houses at the same time), I finally began writing again. I submitted both that book and the new book to an epublisher. I thought, what the heck? Maybe my writing sucks really hard and Dorchester, that huge publishing megalodon, had stepped outside of it's normal business practices to worry about upsetting me in a rejection letter. I thought (I'm ashamed to say), like most of the RWA crowd, that if the "real" publishers wouldn't take my work, then maybe it was "good enough" to sell to the "for now" publishing houses on the internet. I hoped that if I had publishing cred, ANY cred under my belt, that New York would take me seriously. I WANTED it. I would have had New York's baby if it had asked me.

Somewhere along the way, I realized something. Firstly, my writing needed a lot of work. Secondly, Dorchester wasn't doing so well anyway. Thirdly, epublishers have a labyrinth of edits they go through for every book (the reputable houses fight their stereotype, hard, and put out excellent work). Fourthly, by the time I registered that I was a published author, I was already receiving my first royalty check (for those of you who are curious, a little over $50 for 32 copies sold the first month. More than I had the month before). And, fifthly (what a weird word that is), RWA disdained eAuthors.

I was devastated.

I, and any  mention of ePublishers at the meetings, got the lifted lip sneer. I was told by supporters, "it's okay for now, but you need to get published." Because ePublishing was not considered true publication. In fact, there was an RWA war going on at the annual gathering about who would be "allowed" in as a published author. About what works were considered "published" and were they actually published if an epublisher had distributed them? Group loops and super secret off shoots of the Professional Authors Network (PAN) openly scoffed ewriters on the discussions.

And that's where I drew the line. Because I've discovered that ePublishers are awesome. I don't think New York is bad. I don't think they're better or worse, they're just different. I know that when I write a book to the best of my ability, submit it to my epublisher, it will get thorough edits and be released in roughly three months. New York takes longer.

I know my percentage of royalties is higher through epub than print, and I know that if I get steam built up behind me, I can have books out every month from a single publisher if I wanted to (which currently I do, btws), and I know that New York won't do that for me.

Why, Mia? Why are you telling us this story of internal intrigue in the publishing community?

I'm glad you asked. Because, fair readers, I moved to Michigan and found a group of writers that DARED to support epublished authors equally and actually broke away from RWA (if you didn't know, this is where you gasp loudly and dart glances around the room). Yes, RWA is changing their tune, but in the meantime, I've put out over 41 books, something listening to RWA would have discouraged. This amazing, daring group of women GRRWG (Grand Rapids Region Writers Group) is putting on a mini-conference this weekend in, you guessed it, Grand Rapids.

This talented group is made up of writers who have nearly all become published after breaking off. I say nearly, because the group continues to grow and new, unpublished authors, come in all the time. The awesome resource has roughly one book come out a week on average. And these women and men are putting on a "I Always Wanted To Write A Book" conference at the Downtown Grand Rapids Radisson on the river this Friday and Saturday, Oct 21-22. Here the LINK.

The most important thing we can do for each other as writers, is support one another. It's about encouragement when the rest of our families and friends don't get it. It's about being safe to discuss your chosen industry without judgment or condescension. It's about acceptance into an industry with a lot of prejudice on how you got there.

If you live nearby, or have a chance to, I highly recommend coming. Registration is open through the day of conference.



Molly Daniels said...

As you know, I self-pubbed my first two books and was scoffed at. BUT, it provided a springboard to a) confidence and b) joining the online community and 'meeting' you and other fab authors who encouraged me to kick up the heat level and keep going. And now look; Four years later I've got three books out and six pending, not to mention the others I've yet to subb. Hopefully next year I'll be able to attend a few conferences and meet y'all in person!!!!

Mia Watts said...

@Molly, Ah, I remember you when.... :) I'm so glad you didn't give up writing. Self-pub is a hard road to take, especially before Amazon and others made the process a little easier. But regardless of then or now, self-pub still has a stigma to some people.

And look at you now, babe. Congratulations and congrats on your upcoming release!

Molly Daniels said...

Thank you sweetie:) Just dawned on me I need to change my blogger pic! Heading over to do that now.....

And I've said this before; I go too long w/o writing and my brain nearly explodes. So yeah, giving up is NOT an option.

Phuong said...

All you writers are the best! I wish and hope that I am able to meet all my faves one day. I was lucky enough that RT 2011 was in CA and I did meet some who are my twitter friends :) Keep up all the wonderful writing because I am your #1 fan and will continue reading your books however it's published.

Unknown said...

I belonged to a chapter that treated their epublished writers the same way and quit. Would like I to publish with NY some day - yes. But I won't lose any sleep if I don't. I enjoy the quick turnaround and large profits epublishing provides.
Wish I could be there to meet ya, Mia! Have fun.

Mia Watts said...

@Molly, I know the feelings. There was a time I stopped writing and I felt like the people in my head were friends. I'd think of something or see something and go, "So and so would think this was funny". Sure I knew the difference between invented and real, but there was definitely some blurring for a split second. Then I'd roll my eyes at myself and promise to write something.

Mia Watts said...

@Phuong, which is exactly why I write. There are people out there like you who read for the sake of enjoyment no matter where it comes from.

I feel like we should hold hands and sing "We are the world". :) I hope I get to meet you in person some day.

Mia Watts said...

@Amber, Darlin', I wish you were here too. I feel like I get to see bits and pieces of you from time to time and it's not nearly enough. One day, when we're actually at the same place, I'm buying you a drink and we're gonna have a long overdue chat.

Here's to you for having the courage to quit. It's not easy when RWA is your only support system in the business. But look how well it's turning out. !!

Bronwyn Green said...

I'm so freaking glad you're here and part of our awesome group. I don't think we could do any of the things we do without our friends. :)

Mia Watts said...

@Bronwyn, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. :) It's like I came home and got that big sigh of relief that I'm finally in the right place with the right people.

GRRWG is awesome.

Mia Watts said...

Have you ever noticed how judge-y blogger is? I mean. First is insists that you "Leave your comment" in large bold yell-y letters. Then it highlights the command that you f*ckin' "choose an identity" already. Well today, Blogger, I'm Mia. Bite me.

Harsh man. So harsh.

Harlie Williams said...

Great post Mia and I have heard that about RWA for awhile. I recently just joined RWA and my local chapter in Dallas, has many epubbed authors that are members. I haven't been to an actual meeting so I'm not sure what the atmosphere will be but I will let you know when I go and report back in.

I'm glad that you found a great support system. Mine seems to be lacking at the moment and its discouraging but I'm hanging in there.

Jenny Trout said...

I absolutely hate the "no double submission" policy. I've always kind of thought, "Who the hell do you think you are, that you can tie up my work for up to a year?"

I'm so glad you came to join us. After belonging to RWA and seeing how they treated epublished authors, and after their ridiculous "one man/one woman" policy, I got out. I'm glad to be in a group that's more... you know... not mean and lame.

Mia Watts said...

@Harlie, Well, I'm sorry to say that it's NOT better. I know of a woman who spent months and hours upon hours planning a book signing for the Dallas group. When the book signing finally came, over twenty authors were there to sign books that she'd secured for them. BUT SHE WASN'T ALLOWED TO JOIN IN, because while she had several out, they were all ePubs. And she headed up that particular committee!

I was so pissed off when I found out. I didn't even know her personally, but who cares? She was industry and just as talented as the rest of them.

I hope your experience is very different.

Mia Watts said...

@Jennifer Armintrout (THE Jennifer Armintrout. THE USA Today BESTSELLER Jennifer Armintrout), I'm glad I'm part of the group too. You and Bronwyn and Brynn definitely make the group for me. Of course there are others like Simone, who I met through the three of you, too. Cheryl, Mary, Tanya, there are just too many to mention. GGRWG welcomed me from day one and I'm so proud of the women who forged ahead without the backing of a national organization like RWA that thinks it can make all the rules.

We're in a new era. Boundaries are expanding and RWA either needs to get on the bandwagon, or suffer losses.

Cheryl said...

It's so sad that the publishing industry has been so slow to recognize the awesome potential of epublishing. The introduction of the Kindle should have made them jump into action, but only a few did. They are the winners. Anyone who ignored the "stigma" of publishing on the web (horrors) is waaay ahead of the game. I salute your courage.
Jump on the wave of the future and create your own destiny.
Hurrah GRRWG for standing up and saying, "If you've been paid for your writing, you're a published author."
I'm uber excited about the conference, not only to showcase our local authors but to be a resource for those who've said, "I've Always Wanted to Write a Book" and are now taking action.

Harlie Williams said...

Mia, thanks for the heads up. Not sure I even want to go to a meeting now... :(

Mia Watts said...

@Cheryl, Thank you! :) That's exactly the kind of support the writing community needs.

Mia Watts said...

@Harlie, your experience may be different. I know RWA is changing their guidelines constantly, so maybe they've relaxed on this since I heard about this woman. Go, do recon and let us know. :)

Terri Doezema said...

Thanks for sharing. That was inspiring for a newbie like me. :)

Mia Watts said...

@TL, so glad to hear it! I hope you have an easier time.

Jen B. said...

I was at my daughter's school today. Why is this relevant, you ask? Well, RWA sounds a little like the girl cliques in 4th and 5th grade. Perhaps, someday, RWA will mature to the dreaded teens or *gasp* perhaps even early 20s! NY Publishing and bookstores need to change on their own or the system will force it. Great post, Mia!

Tessie Bradford said...

"When will your stories be 'real' books?"
Hopefully, some day, we won't have to explain our validity in the publishing world.