What Makes a Book a REAL Book?

I’m a member of RWA – and now I’m not sure I’ll renew. Thanks to the letter from our new president, it seems that small press and POD publishers are being kicked to the curb. That’s unfortunate. For RWA, in my opinion.

If I may quote, our esteemed leader has said that her Theme for her presidency will be “…to help her writers become career focused.” And that POD publishing houses take “…no risk” in the publishing of these works.

I disagree. Wholeheartedly. Is a working mother who stays at home stuffing envelopes not career focused? What about any other kind of cottage industry, where women and men post items for sale on Craigslist.com or slave over crafts to sell online to earn their living. Are they not career focused? Are they paid up front? or do they have to put in a little bit of work ahead of time? Does that make their income any less earned?

My publisher has taken a risk with me, an unproven writer. They’ve hired a cover designer to design this awesome book cover. They have provided me with an exceptional editor. They are laying out and designing my galleys, for Kindle, for PDF, and for a trade paperback finished product. And they are providing a distribution point, an ISBN number, and outreach to Baker and Taylor, Barnes and Nobel, Amazon, etc. for the online distribution of my book.

Due to my “day job” at R. R. Bowker, I happen to know ISBN numbers are not cheap. I also happen to know that each one of the services I mentioned above comes with a price tag. So, I didn’t receive a check for a few hundred or a few thousand or more. Does that mean I am not a writer? An author? or that my book is not a book?

I’ve seen my publications with a small press as a partnership. A learning experience. I would LOVE to have it develop into a career, but until that point, it gives me a much needed outlet for my creative fervor. Did they purchase my book up front? no. Have they charged me for the phenomenal editorial service I’ve received? The astounding book cover I’ve been given? or the encouragement to become a much better author? YES. It’s been like writing boot camp. I now have the capability to crank out a short story, conceive a novel with the knowledge that it will find a home. That is worth its weight in gold, in my opinion.

I don’t know that we so much need to bow to what RWA feels is a “real book” or a “real author.” I think we need to focus on how to prove what we do [Print on Demand Literature] is a valid, viable industry. SO, how do we do that?

One thing we have to focus on is how what we do is in its earliest stages. We are the new kids on the block, like mp3s were, once upon a time. Hmm. Download music? What a novel idea.

So, perhaps our POD publishers need to work with us to revise the contract process so that residuals are higher, more advertising is included with the publications. Or perhpas we need to develop a new romance writer’s association – for POD writers. I think perhaps a combination of all three.

I challenge you to see who the new writers for RWA are, every reported month. Half of them are Wild Rose Press authors. And, while the RWA is moving to new headquarters and giving themselves a raise by increasing our renewal memberships, have they considered who their new members are?

One thing is sure. What it means to be a POD author needs to be better defined. I see us as authors in a time like when Louisa May Alcott was just starting out, with the invention of the printing press. Many more doors were opening at that time. There were questions as to what made a woman capable of being an author. We all know what happened there. So, what about now? Where does that leave the product of our blood, sweat, and tears? Who is New York to determine who is a quality writer and who is not?

I propose that we – POD writers – find our own solutions and not throw in the towel.

What do you think?

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About Ashley Ludwig

Ashley Ludwig is an Editor for Patch News, Orange County and Los Angeles. She is also an inspirational romantic suspense author.

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