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Them VS Them...Romance Writers of America

There really is no way to dive into this blog post other than just diving in.
It's no secret that over six years ago I started out on a publication journey. A journey that included joining Romance Writers of America, Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America, Chick-lit Romance Writers of America, writing a book, getting an agent, and selling to a publisher for a big six figure deal.....


. . .really it's NOT!

Making DECISIONS, and hard ones, are a harsh reality of this business~regardless of your publication journey.

Today I'm going to talk about the Them vs Them. Romance Writers of America Vs themselves.

Six years ago I joined RWA because I had to in order to join the only writers group in Cincinnati, you had to be a member of the national group which happens to be RWA. It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

Instantly I was part of a group that understood me. They understood how my comma placement was always wrong or that my run-on sentences did make sense after all. They were a group that showed me the ropes as a newbie in this crazy writing business. AND it was my drive that got me where I am today.

I even sat on the board for a couple of years as well as joined a few RWA online chapters. I sat on the board of the online chapters for two years too! I met a lot of great people, who I still consider my real good friends.

Then RWA does the unthinkable. They refuse to open their eyes and move into the 21st century. Do I sound like some disgruntled I have done all roads to publication and still believe in them. RWA does not. That is a problem for me.

I have been a long time supporter of RWA, not as a member, but as a big cheerleader for them. I have encouraged countless of new authors to join, give all they have to the group.

I have given RWA two years, 24 months, 731 days, 17, 532 hours, or 1,051,898 minutes (however you want to put it) of my life waiting on them to change. Waiting on them recognize self-published authors in some way.

Don't get me wrong. I know there is a lot of crap out there and writers who put up some written words because anyone can self-publish. BUT what about the real authors? The ones who do turn down contracts with publishing companies? Ones who drop agents? Ones who get their rights back? Ones who travel all roads to publication?

This week I got my renewal in the mail. As if not recognizing my bestselling novels is not good enough, they stick me with a RAISED membership fee. This sent me soaring!

So I had to sit down and make some really big decisions. First off, YOU need to realize that writers are NOT your target audience. I know that YOU are not going to buy my fiction novels. You might buy my non-fiction novel (which I highly recommend) because it is for YOU. It teaches you how to market and promote. This blog is for YOU, the writer, not my readers. My STREET TEAM is for my readers, not YOU!

Why am I pounding this into your head? Because writers think they HAVE to be a member of RWA even if they don't write romance. Why? Because for some great marketing reason, RWA has made writers believe that they are the end-all-be-all of the writing community.

Let's see what I get for $95....
1) Monthly magazine that has a TON of adds for books and articles that I can find online for FREE...hmmm....again....why do writers advertise in this magazine? WRITERS ARE NOT YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE. Dollars wasted!!!!

2) An invitation to their national convention. OH! They teach craft classes!! can take those same exact classes on Savvy Author for HUNDREDS of dollars cheaper.

3) BUT Tonya, I get to meet up with my writer friends. Yes you do. BUT did you also know that you can meet them anytime of the year. You have to plan it.

4) You can get an award. Golden Heart or Rita. What do they get you? NOTHING! I know a gal who has finaled in the Golden Heart four times and still doesn't have an agent....Oh and another girl who enters the Golden Heart every year but changes the title of her manuscript each year. That is sad to me.....BUT my novel, is a 2012 double finalist in The Next Generation Indie Awards and THREE libraries have already picked up my books through the final! Cool!

5) ...........(I couldn't think of another plus to being a member)

Here I sit, wondering what I was going to do. Was I going to rejoin a national organization that believes that the  $50k I have made in the last eight months really doesn't exist? Or was I going to look at an Indie organization that is really instrumental to my career?

Oh...what about that local RWA group? Yes! I do love each and everyone of them. They have become my friends. Some of them visit my blog from time to time AND I have no doubt they will remain my friends. BUT they are NOT my target audience.

Instead of joining RWA, I'm taking that $95 and investing who my target audience is. You, my blog followers are my target audience for non-fiction, AND my readers are my target audience for my fiction.

This had NOTHING to do with indie vs traditional publishing. This have EVERY thing to do with business decisions. I have several traditional published friends who will not be rejoining as well. Why? Because RWA has nothing to offer.

They have done nothing to change or nothing new to offer their members. When I got my agent, I asked her some really tough questions.

MY QUESTION: Do agents really care that I'm a member of RWA?
AGENT ANSWER: No. If you have a good book, you have a good book. I always tell my agents who I send to those conferences to make sure they take at least a partial of each pitch. 99% of the time we do not offer representation.
MY QUESTION: So if I didn't renew my membership, I'm going to be okay?
AGENT ANSWER: I'd rather you spend time writing.


The long and the short of it~my local RWA writing group was the best thing I could've done as a new writer six years ago. That was six years ago. Now you can join so many groups online or even find writing groups in libraries. Times have changed, and it's time RWA does or they are going to keep losing GREAT writers left and write...right!


  1. Hi Tonya--

    I followed my intuition into the RWA (about 10 years ago), then followed intuition out of the RWA. It's a great learning ground and I made some connections. But, it got to be a shoe that fit too tight. When I quit I had no idea the Indie world would open as it has, but it was time to move on.We're in an age when out-of-the-box thinking leads the way. Hopefully the RWA will continue to nurture authors and figure out how to lead in the digital, Indie age.

    Dana Taylor

  2. Being a new romance writer, I've wondered many times if RWA was a good place for me. One thing I thought was they didn't really offer much more than I could already get from my writing community online. Like you said, that's $95 I could spend towards my book.
    My friend pointed me towards this post... thanks for writing it. Makes me not feel so bad for joining.

    1. Also I just purchased Tricked Out Toolbox... I sure hope it helps! Thanks!!

    2. Thanks, LONI!! Let me know what tips and tricks you use from the toolbox!

  3. Good advice, Tonya. Everything they offer and more can be found online and it doesn't cost $95. If I recall correctly, the last time I checked RWA's website you could only join by snail mail or fax. Talk about out-of-date! I dropped RWA and Sisters In Crime two years ago shortly before I self-published my first book.
    I replaced them with two groups that I am enjoying, The Alliance of Independent Authors and The Association of Independent Authors. I've already gained so much just from networking with these folks. Times. Have. Changed.

    1. Connie, I just joined AIA. I'm hoping they are a good fit.

  4. I was in Sisters in Crime, another waste of money.

    1. Yes! I heard the same thing from previous members. They are a chapter of RWA....

  5. Tonya, I just found out that RWA also does not recognize several small presses, one of which is my publisher. I also have several friends who self publish and have replaced their full time job income with it, yet RWA won't recogize their accomplishment. I hear what you're saying and I couldn't agree more. I'm in there this year, but your article gives a lot of food for thought. Thanks.

    1. Nope, they sure don't. I'd LOVE to be able to replac my full time job. That is my goal! Good for your friends and we can celebrate their accomplishments here!

  6. Great post (I found this from the #myWANA tag on twitter). I just joined RWA a few months ago because of attending a local conference, which really impressed me. The new member letter advised me to check out the online forums, and being somewhat of a longtime web forum junkie, I was excited! What I found was a lot of tumbleweed and one or two very heated topic threads about RWA refusing to acknowledge the success of self-pubbed authors. I'm a lurker and an information gatherer, so I read and took lots of mental notes.

    Prior to joining RWA (and earlier this year SCBWI - the children's book society), I admit I had a negative view of self publishing. Then I met authors who are using self-pub in a professional way; they attend (and even teach!) writing workshops, work with editors and hire professional graphic artists so their covers don't look like Windows 95 Paint projects. I read a self-pubbed YA that was better than some of the big HarperTeen titles. I understand RWA's hesitation to change, but it only took me a few months of knowing published writers to get it, why can't one of the industry leaders recognize this as well? The RWA forum commenters made good points -- establish criteria for a self-pubbed writer to become part of the published network. I really hope they get with it.

    As for anyone considering joining, I think it heavily depends on your local chapter. I have 2 available and I first attended a conference, which I loved, then visited the closest local group twice before committing. I already feel it was worth it. However, maybe a new writer can glean everything she needs in a year or two of membership, then move on. I can't comment on long-term membership since I'm so new myself. But I've found my local chapter to be wonderfully helpful.

    I view it kind of like Weight Watchers -- of course you can lose weight on your own with the help of websites and apps and good old determination. But weighing in during the meetings is what motivates people. Regularly connecting with a group of writers serious enough to invest time and money is something I personally needed. It works for me now. I hope RWA embraces the changing industry so I can stick with them.

    1. I believe that new writers should definitely join a writers group, even if it is RWA. I think the information they provide is very valuable. You learn the craft. You learn the in's and out's of publication. BUT when you are a little more seasoned and know your publication journey, it would be nice for them to be able to cater to those. But they don't.

  7. Hi, Tonya. Great blog, BTW.

    I left RWA five? six? years ago. Ironic, because the longer I've been away and indie publishing, the more romance I write! LOL

    I received a similar renewal letter recently from MWA, the mystery writers' organization. I eagerly read through the letter where they talked about how much they wanted me to rejoin. They missed me! Awww. Touched, I scanned the materials for some sign of recognition for those who are indie published and working hard at actually earning income from their books. But not. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Only traditionally published authors were eligible for "real" membership. I tossed it! Nothing there for me.

    I am only in my second year and building my titles list, so no big money numbers yet. But I'm making a lot more from my writing than I made during the thirty years I pursued the traditional route! LOL

    Thanks for your honesty and your information.

  8. Tonya ~ I was just debating over joining RWA, as many of my author friends are members, but the timing of your post was really amazing. I appreciate your candor and will have to really think about membership.

    All the best, Lauren

    1. Good luck with your decision, Lauren. Let me know what you decide. I think you have to weigh what you want out of joining. Unfortunately at my stage of publication, my dollars are spent better elsewhere.

  9. I left RWA a couple of years ago. I wish they could've changed with the times--and not been so expensive. They really didn't give much for the 'pleasure' of their company.

  10. Hi Tonya, This is a great blog post. I visit your site a lot because A) you tweet a lot, and B) your blog posts are good--honest, insightful, no BS. I left RWA a few years ago after I got b*tch-slapped for writing a mainstream romance in first-person (it was the one that one first place in a chapter--not mine--contest). As a marketing whiz, I'm sure you know the old marketing 101 story about why the railroads failed--they lost sight of their mission. I think the same is true with RWA.

    1. Hi, JoAnn! I'm so flattered. Thank you for you nice compliments. OH......yes, they have lost sight of their mission. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  11. There are many places to get good info. Marketing for Romance Writers is a Yahoo group that's dedicated to sharing knowledge among writers. We just held a two-day online conference with 14 presentations, plus handouts, giveaways, and all sorts of discounts. Cost: $0.00
    Congratulations on seeing the truth.

    1. AWESOME, Kayelle! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Great food for thought that really puts things in perspective! BTW, recently finished The Tricked Out Toolbox--seriously the best book I've ever read on marketing and promotion!

    Speaking of free info, I just created a "Help For Writers" page on my blog. Links are included to your blog, as well as The Toolbox;)!

    1. Thanks, Maria! I know we are in the same RWA local chapter. It's a shame I just can't be a member there so I can be with my writer friends.

  13. I feel your pain. I just spoke at Thrillerfest, and it was the first organization (ITW) to start recognizing the contribution of indies. It floored me. I have had two #1 best-selling social media books. My books are not traditionally published--DUH--namely because publishing moves so slowly my books would be outdated before they hit shelves. Time and again, I've essentially been told that I am not a "real" writer. The times are a changing and the indies are gaining more and more traction.

    Everyone is having to reinvent, and the writing organizations are not immune. I've actually gotten a rather warm reception from RWA this year, and am even the keynote for the pre-conference in Anaheim. So we just hope. They need to retool because traditional publishing is contracting by the day.

    Great post!

    Kristen Lamb

    1. I do love that! I love that my best sellers aren't recognized either. BUT their recognition doesn't matter to me. I just think it's a shame that they are the biggest writer's group and can not promote all forms of publication.

      Pre-conference...not THE sad....well, it's a start. Maybe this is a first baby step and next year you will be included in the main conference. Good luck!

  14. Science Fiction Writer's of America are just as biased. I hope they all pull their collective heads out before they become completely irrelevant. Great post!

    1. Again....they are part of RWA...just a genre group. Thanks for sharing, Todd!

  15. Wave of the future--Indie Romance Ink Yahoo group and local Indie writer groups. Our little KYRW group is still going, but a small portion of us have branched off into an indie writing group that is open to all genre. Let me just say, it is increasing with members like our KYRW group never will because we are helping each other grow in our careers. In my opinion, RWA is holding writers back until Trad pubs find a way to catch up. I'm still a member of RWA...for now. Next year, who knows?

    1. Hi, Cherie! Thanks for sharing. I was a member of KYRWA and loved that group of ladies! The local chapters are great and sort of do their own thing. I know at my local chapter we celebrated every single self pubbed word!

  16. I'm so glad you wrote this. I was considering joining the local RWA group here in Arizona, and I figured it would require me to join the national one. I also was unsure if they were okay with self published authors, which I happen to be. I was appalled they didn't even have a facebook page or a twitter account. That seems really backward to me, or maybe their website is so poor I couldn't find that information. Either way, I'll save my money and time and not bother. Thanks again.


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