The above quote was from yesterday’s meeting of LARA RWA, the Los Angeles chapter of the Romance Writers of America.
I was there to
whore out my play inform the lovely men and women of that organization that I’d written something that they might enjoy watching. (I had postcards with discount codes and everything. I was very impressive.)
And because to just show up, tell people I’d written a play, and jet out immediately afterwards would have made me a total douchenozzle, I stayed for the entire meeting, listening as the members discussed the month’s business — contests and anthologies and please complete your profile for the member directory.
All that was interesting from an anthropological standpoint. Then, they started talking about self-publishing.
Specifically, the creation of a position to serve as a representative on the organization’s board for authors who are primarily self-published. In proper Stringer Bell-approved fashion, they proposed adding the position and opened the topic for debate, which is where that quote comes from.
Self-publishing in the romance novel world, it turns out, can be a pretty lucrative business — working with a publisher means giving up a pretty big cut of the profits from your work, but e-distribution on your own can make you thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, if you know how to properly leverage the platforms and your audience. New authors are getting a chance to put their work out there. And established authors are getting back the rights to their older books, distributing them through Amazon and making BANK.
I am writing this post for people who are not romance novelists, because it is so so important for everyone to remember this: DISRUPTION IS HAPPENING EVERYWHERE. Romance novels are literally the most popular books on the planet — romance fiction sales were estimated at $1.368 billion in 2011, according to the Romance Writers of America — and their writers are having these discussions, are rethinking their medium, are reapproaching the fundamental nature of how they do business.
These men and women (and let’s be clear, these are, on average, not tech-native people) are talking about building audience. They are examining how to partner and collaborate with each other in meaningful ways. Holy hell, later they mentioned the great gigantic problem that is DISCOVERY. In over five years of paying attention to this stuff, this meeting was what really revealed to me the scale of these seismic shifts.
And here’s the most important bit: While the web video world may be less conscious of the fact that this disruption has an expiration date, romance novelists are very much aware. They’re aware that at some point, the major publishers and distributors will figure out how to control ebook distribution, and that now is the time to move in terms of developing their own brands and selling their books on their own. Now is the time to carve out their place in the industry, because never before has the independent creator had this level of power, and they never might again.
When creating the SPA board position was called to a vote, it passed with a resounding majority.