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Saturday, August 13, 2005

more fun and hi-jinks at RWA.

To the Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America:

It has been brought to our attention, by several of our romance authors, that your organization no longer considers Medallion Press, Inc. a legitimate publisher according to your guidelines. We were surprised we did not receive official notification directly, but instead discovered it was posted on several RWA internet loops. Accordingly, we request this letter be published in its entirety in the RWR Report so all members may understand the nature of the process that eliminated Medallion as an RWA approved publisher. We will also send copies of this letter to all our own RWA member authors.

We are dismayed you declared Medallion Press no longer a legitimate publisher. In July of 2004 we met all of your qualifications without incident by showing sales of 5000+ copies of USA Today Bestselling author Nan Ryan's The Last Dance.

Several months prior to Book Expo America 2005, we received a call from your office alerting us to the fact that you would be sending out a letter asking us to re-qualify for RWA approval. We were also told at that time that we had done nothing to warrant the re-qualification, but that your organization was having trouble with a particular publisher and chose not to single them out. Therefore, we would have to go through the laborious process of re-qualifying.

We object strongly to this action for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the rules you use for qualification seem arbitrary. How does selling 5000 copies of a single title justify a publishing house's legitimacy? While in theory it may indicate the publisher has standing in the industry, showing orders and proof of payment means nothing at the end of the day when within a few months many or possibly all copies of said title could be returned to the publisher, meaning the author does not then receive royalties on those returns. The average return rate for fictionbooks is now at 40%.

Secondly, our small staff is devoted to running this company at top speed. We have come a long way in a relatively short time and we continue to keep our eye on the prize. It is extraordinarily time consuming to go through reams of orders to add up 5000 sold copies of a specific title; it is equally time consuming, and expensive, to have our accountants spend time locating copies of checks as proof of payment for those 5000 copies. We are an independent publisher and we do not sell 5000 copies of a single title to just one source, but to a wide variety of sources. We would not have to produce a single piece of paper, but mountains of it.

Instead of asking for confidential documentation showing 5000 mass marketbooks of a single title have been sold, you might be better off asking for proof that the publisher is a "vendor of record" at a traditional brick-and-mortar chain bookseller such as Barnes & Noble, Borders,Books-A-Million, or through national distributors such as Ingram or Baker &Taylor. This means far more to an author's career than selling 5000 books.

We are extremely proud of our authors and the books they have written. We have a diverse and dynamic talent pool at Medallion and we know every one of our authors, be they romance or horror writers, are well on their way to having successful writing careers. Their mass market novels can be found in bookstores across the country, and the world, and many of them are selling more than 5000 books prior to their book's date of publication.

To punish authors because of the way RWA views a publisher's legitimacy is an unfair practice. The burden of proof should be on the author, not the publisher. It is the author who receives the benefits of membership in RWA, not the publisher. Let the authors prove they were paid an advance. It should not matter how large or small the advance, and they should provideevidence of a contract that shows they will be paid royalties. At that point an author should be considered published. It should not matter that the publisher seeks membership with your organization or not.

In recent years publishing has exploded. There are many new publishers, small presses, e-book publishers, and independent publishers all holding their own. As long as they publish romance and do not charge their authorsto publish their books, it should be good enough for RWA.

Medallion Press will not re-apply for membership. However, we urge you to reconsider the penalties you impose on our authors simply because we choosenot to belong to ANY writers' organizations. RWA is an organization of itsmembers and we believe it is time to let your members determine how theyevaluate publishers. You know we are a legitimate publisher and know the lengths we go to for our authors. We respectfully request you evaluate your policies so they work for your membership and not against it.

Sincerely,Helen A. Rosburg - President/CEO & Editor-in-Chief
Leslie Burbank - Vice PresidentMedallion Press, Inc.

[any weirdo typos, spacing etc are my fault--kate]

22 comments:

  1. *jaw drops in amazement*

    It seems that it doesn't rain, but it pours when it comes to RWA. Could they f*ck up anymore this year?

    They say it aint over til the fat lady sings, but I can surely hear that dear lady warming up her tonsils as we speak. I'll be surprised as hell if TTQ is still there come November.

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  2. At this point I'm feeling sorry for TTQ. I mean, hell, it's a volunteer job and she worked hard. She had to think she was doing The Right Thing, cleaning up RWA.

    Granted she was trying to clean me and my erotica buddies out of there but still . . .

    I tend to say "thank you" to the types who say they're praying for my soul.

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  3. Seems ironic that Medallion's telling RWA how to recognize publishers. I'm sorry, but aren't publishers and RWA at direct conflict of interest here? After all, RWA wants to ensure that RWA recognized publishers are decent publishers who can sell at least 5K copies of ONE ROMANCE TITLE and can continue to do so year after year. Publishers want to attract as many writers as possible so that they can have a bigger pool of quality manuscripts to choose from.

    Also ironic is that Medallion stated that it's very difficult to prove that it sold 5K copies of a single romance title when in fact, it has to generate royalty statements for its authors, i.e. need to gather sales data. So if it can't figure out how many copies it sold, how can it generate royalty statements?

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  4. Okay, while I'm not impressed with the way that RWA is handling this, I also admit to some concern about Medallion's response.

    Surely it's in their best interests to be recognised by the main romance author's industry body? And, echoing Angelle here, surely they have an efficient record-keeping system that would enable them to simply, quickly and easily demonstrate that they meet the criteria?

    I'm sort of getting the impression here that she doth protest too much. Putting the responsibility onto the authors is not appropriate, IMHO.

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  5. I agree with Medallion that RWA acts in a capricious manner regarding recognition standards. When New Concepts Publishing applied last year, having met all the criteria, they were rejected on a technicality (physical book size--not quite up to non-existent standards by a few cm's) that was never in writing, nor was it ever considered an issue prior to that.

    And while being recognized may not be *that* important to a publisher, RWA members feel pressure to write for publishers with that status.

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  6. I lifted this from somewhere. . .

    Permission to forward granted.

    Guidelines for publishers are not new in the industry.

    Ingram, the largest wholesaler in the country, routinely makes decisions about which publishers it will continue to service and stock in its warehouses. *Ingram* decides who's big enough, who's selling enough books per title, how many titles signal a serious player, whose business terms they like, etc.

    And believe me, when the word goes out that Ingram is raising the bar again, small presses worry about their sales, their marketing efforts, etc. For a while it seemed like Ingram was purging publishers every few months.

    Qualifying for services and inclusion in business networks is a fact of life in this world. Ingram does not consider the authors when making a decision to drop a publisher from its vendor pool. The publishing industry is a business.

    RWA publisher recognition helps RWA answer the following *business*
    questions about a publisher:

    Does the publisher have a current romance title/program?
    Does the publisher require any investment by the author?
    Does the publisher distribute on a national basis?
    In sufficient quantity to generate nominal income and build an
    audience for the *career-focused* author?

    These are reasonable questions of great interest to our members.

    RWA's recognized publisher policy offers multiple methods of documenting each part of the recognition criteria. As a previous RWA board member and business person, I helped created the list of documentation that would satisfy RWA's publisher recognition policy. Is it difficult to pull the necessary paperwork? No. Remember that I'm a small business consultant and have been for 20 years. I know business operation.

    Ingram's I-Page, their web-based inventory, purchasing & ordering
    system, allows Publishers to print a record of a book's total orders for the current year and previous year. That's pretty simple--one page totaling multiple orders, all neatly arranged in a little Ingram table from Ingram's website.

    That info is free to the publisher and takes about a minute to gather,
    including logging into Ingram. Not every publisher will sell heavy
    through Ingram or B&T but there are still methods of gathering
    information that are fairly easy.

    Last time I checked, the author was able to provide documentation in the form of royalty statements and copies of cancelled royalty checks to help nail down the sales figures. I think that's in conjunction with printing invoices to confirm actual stock existed, etc. Believe me, there are choices available to the publisher who would like to become RWA recognized.

    RWA's concern is to advance the professional interests of CAREER-FOCUSED ROMANCE writers. Maintaining the RWA Publisher Recognition Program provides answers to important business questions that individual
    career-focused authors would not be able to obtain. Think of Publisher Recognition as the "USDA inspected" stamp. [grin] Not every publisher cares about applying for RWA recognition. That says nothing about their legitimacy. It simply means that the individual author must look for
    other ways to evaluate the publisher's performance because RWA does not have the information.
    ......

    --Debra Dixon

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  7. i see i'm not on your friends list anymore ???????
    i guess sox are out of the question now....right ?????
    nanza

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  8. Anonymous4:22 PM

    Isn't it possible that Medallion fits the description "Vanity Press"?

    RWA has policies that they follow. They are upfront and have sent this out to everyone.



    Notice from Allison Kelley, RWA Executive Director re: publishers

    ***********Permission to forward granted***********

    In response to policy changes adopted during the March 2005 board meeting, letters were sent to each publisher who qualified for RWA recognition based on proof of sales of a single work of fiction, requesting proof of ongoing sales of romance fiction in the quantities required by RWA. Publishers were asked to respond by May 31, however, two publishers asked for more time. The deadline to respond to RWA’s request was therefore extended until June 30, 2005. As of this date, the following publishers are being dropped from RWA’slist of recognized publishers, as they either failed to respond or they haveresponded they no longer meet RWA’s requirements for recognition (see 7.2.1 below):

    Genesis Press
    Hawk Publishing
    High Country
    ImaJinn Books
    Medallion Press
    Rainbow Books
    SANDS Publishing
    Five Star Publishing was removed from RWA’s list of recognized publishers, pending review of reported contract changes that require authors to participate in the costs of production and distribution. RWA is in dialog with this publisher.

    PAN status will not be revoked for authors whose contracts were dated during a time when such publishers met RWA-recognition requirements.

    The staff continues its efforts to reach publishers who have not responded to requests for additional proof of qualification.

    For your convenience, the changes to policy are provided below:

    1.35. “Subsidy Publisher” or “Vanity Publisher” means any publisher that publishes books in which the author participates in the costs of production or distribution in any manner, including publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing and/or distribution. This definition includes publishers who withhold publication or distribution costs before paying royalties (net proceeds) and publishers whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books.

    7.2.1. To be an “RWA-Recognized Publisher,” a publisher must be a
    royalty-paying publishing house that (1) does not offer is not a subsidy or vanity publisher contracts to RWA members, (2) has been releasing books on a regular basis via national distribution for a minimum of one year, and (3) has sold a minimum of 1,500 hardcover or trade paperback copies or 5,000 copies in any other format, including print on demand, of a single romance novel or novella or collection of novellas in book form, in bona fide arms-length transactions, and continues to sell a minimum of 1,500 hardcover or trade paperback copies or 5,000 copies in any other format of a subsequent romance novel each year.

    7.2.5. Revoking recognition. Recognition shall be revoked if Publisher fails to meet one of the standards of recognition.

    7.2.5.1. Complaint must be made to the Board by the Executive Director or Member.

    7.2.5.2. Allegations will be presented in writing to the publisher, which will then have 30 days to respond to the allegations.

    7.2.5.3. The Board will make a final decision as to whether the publisher has failed to meet one or more RWA Publisher Recognition standards.

    7.2.5.4. If the Board finds that one or more of these standards have not been met, Publisher recognition shall be revoked.

    The main motion was unanimously adopted as amended on a roll call vote.

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  9. Medallion Press is not a vanity press. They meet all of the requirements for publisher recognition. I need look no further than my own contract and the distribution and sales of my first novel All Keyed Up.

    My publisher has chosen to take a stand. In July 2004 they resoundingly proved their qualifications but were then asked, less than a year later, to prove them again -- because of, according to RWA, problems with another publisher.

    According to the policy stated in Allison Kelly's letter, the procedure for revoking status involves receiving a complaint about a publisher, contacting that publisher and giving them 30 days to respond, after which the Board meets to discuss and decide.

    RWA chose to issue letters and require re-certification from all recognized publishers -- even though complaints had not been made against them. I cannot find a policy that okays this procedure.

    I support, and always have supported publisher recognition standards in RWA. I continue to do so. That's not the point for this issue with me. I believe that RWA did not follow our own policy and procedure in the way that this issue has been handled. I would think that even if I was not a Medallion author.

    I'm not attacking RWA. I don't think anyone there is the devil from hell. I believe that humans are fallible and this is a mistake that needs to be corrected.

    Even though the current decision affects me directly, I stand behind my publisher.

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  10. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Of course, it is very admirable for you to stand behind your publisher.

    However, if you read the below policy, it cannot be disputed the owner and Vice President of Medallion Press publish their own books. No matter how you look at it, that is vanity publishing.

    Allison Kelly states that these letters were issued because of policy changes within RWA. They gave a deadline of May 31 and because of requests, extended the deadline to June 30th. This should have given any publisher time to meet all requirements and re-submit.

    As for Medallion's whining about having to get figures together for re-submittal, Medallion should have these figures on hand, just as any other legitimate publisher should have.

    Regardless of their small staff that does not excuse them from having the same figures and paperwork a larger company would have to produce.

    1.35. “Subsidy Publisher” or “Vanity Publisher” means any publisher that publishes books in which the author participates in the costs of production or distribution in any manner, including publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing and/or distribution. This definition includes publishers who withhold publication or distribution costs before paying royalties (net proceeds) and publishers whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books.

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  11. Hey Anonymous - I'm almost thinking you have good points, but it's always hard to believe people who won't sign their own name.

    That said - you say the owner and VP have books published with Medallion so therefore that would make them a vanity press yeah? Well what if the VP of Harlequin decided to get published there - would you suddenly decide Harlequin was a vanity press?

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  12. Anonymous6:30 AM

    Walter Zacharius, owner of Kensington, also published his own book. Granted it was years after Kensington started, and I think the hardback copy came out with another publisher. . .

    Jaid Black of EC is another example of an owner publisher.

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  13. Anonymous9:36 PM

    Whether I write anonymously or not is hardly the point. I am giving my opinion and a different insight.

    As for the Vice President of Harlequin or any other officer of Harlequin publishing their own books,I highly doubt this would happen.

    As for Walter, he specifically went to another publisher, because he did not want anyone calling Kensington a Vanity Press. He also wanted the accomplishment of having another publisher publish it.

    I am not saying it is bad to be a "Vanity Publisher". I was trying to point out the fact that RWA's policy 1.35 would seem to have Medallion Press fall into that catagory.

    In my humble opinion, I did not think Medallion's letter to RWA was anything more than a self-serving piece of papyrus.

    Other Publshers re-submitted their paperwork without causing such a stir. If Medallion is keeping the proper paperwork to show sales and royalties for their authors, then there would be no need for as Medallion wrote:

    "We would not have to produce a single piece of paper, but mountains of it."

    This next sentence from the Medallion letter seems to have been overlooked:

    "To punish authors because of the way RWA views a publisher's legitimacy is an unfair practice. The burden of proof should be on the author, not the publisher."

    Is it not true that authors take on much of the burden of selling their books? Now Medallion wants to add more to the author's plate.

    I think Debra Dixon says it best:

    "RWA's concern is to advance the professional interests of CAREER-FOCUSED ROMANCE writers. Maintaining the RWA Publisher Recognition Program provides answers to important business questions that individual
    career-focused authors would not be able to obtain. Think of Publisher Recognition as the "USDA inspected" stamp. [grin] Not every publisher cares about applying for RWA recognition. That says nothing about their legitimacy. It simply means that the individual author must look for
    other ways to evaluate the publisher's performance because RWA does not have the information."

    As I stated in the beginning, these are my opinions and I derived them from reading Medallion's letter, Debra Dixon's letter and Allison Kelly's letter.

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  14. Anonymous9:44 PM

    I thought he went to another publisher because Kensington doesn't do paperbacks? I'm not sure--but isn't Kensington going to publish the paperback copy of the book?

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  15. Anonymous9:47 PM

    that particular anonymous was me, Kate, who can't seem to sign in on my own blog.

    I really don't know the answers to the Walter question, btw.

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  16. Anonymous11:05 PM

    Kensington publishes Zebra books, and he went to another publisher for a number of reasons.

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  17. Kensington publishes a whole bunch of lines, not just Zebra (I know from Zebra--I wrote a couple of them)

    I'm curious where you saw the info about Walter Z. I was intrigued by the fact that he went to Atria for Songbird. I'm still wondering if Kensington will do the paperback version.

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  18. okay, I answered my own question. This is from RT: When he finally felt the book was ready, Zacharius showed it to Owen Laster of the William Morris Agency, a top literary agent, and asked him to read it as a favor. "I knew he would tell me the truth," Zacharius says. "Owen was excited about the book, especially when I explained that I had written the book with a motion picture in mind."

    So Laster took him on as a client and began shopping the book to various publishers. Yes, even though Zacharius owns his own publishing house, he didn't want to publish his own manuscript. "I wanted the book to stand on its own merit," he says. Atria, a division of Simon and Schuster, bought it . . .

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  19. Anonymous1:28 AM

    Thank you Kate.

    Goes to show there's always a story within a story. If you dig deep enough you'll find the answer.

    RWA is not trying to penalize authors or publishing houses. RWA made policy changes in March.

    There was absolutely nothing wrong with asking publishers to re-submit to make sure the new criteria was being met by each house.

    From my point of view, Medallion was the only publisher to not only try to make RWA look bad, but Medallion was also trying to tell RWA how to run its business.

    Do I think RWA or RWA's officers are perfect. No. But I do think they really try to follow RWA's policies and that they want to do the best for the membership.

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  20. You're welcome for figuring out the Walter thing (I wish I knew about the pb rights), but I'm sure medallion is more than a vanity press. A lot of good, prestigious publishers have begun business as a way for the publisher to get himself/herself in print. What matters is how they do business, not how the business started.

    I also think that anyone has a right to tell RWA where it's going wrong, even non-members. That's what happens when you turn into a big important organization--anyone affected by your policies are going to have something to say.

    As for the rest of the post? I agree with that last paragraph.

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  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  22. I need coffee.
    "anyone affected by your policy IS going to have something to say"
    and there are plenty of other mistakes I bet. Tough. I'm outta here to go to a bar mitzvah. (Why do they tend to last even longer than weddings, I wonder?)

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