Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Diversity is Not Harming You, Unless You're a Bigot

A well-known romance author made a post on a member forum for RWA over the weekend about how the group's focus on diversity is what's causing the organization harm, and the group used to be better and yada-yada.  I am not a member of the member board she posted this to, which is why I'm not going to mention her by name because there's a way bigger issue here.  (I mean, she's a bigot and if you want to email me, I'll tell you who I've heard it was, but since I can't point you to what she said, we are going to leave it there.)
I'm sure she's not alone.  The publishing world is changing.  It's always changing, but certainly if you have been publishing for umpteen years, I'm willing to bet that all but a small few are seeing lower advances, publisher's attempting lower royalties, lower initial print runs, publishing is not the same.  It's easy to look around and say, well, the biggest difference I see is that there are more authors of color, or more people writing characters of color, or disabled characters, or LGBTQ+ characters, and I used to be a bestseller without doing that, so, this emphasis on that is hurting me. 
This is of course the equivalent of saying readers used to only have spaghetti to choose from and now there's grilled cheese and tacos too, so if we got rid of the grilled cheese and tacos, people would have to eat my spaghetti again.  
The reality is that readers do have far more choice, RWA has adjusted to that, publishers have adjusted to that, and as an organization of romance writers, I don't think less writers or less books helps us at all. 
But the other thing I know, is that there are plenty of folks who left RWA because they were self-publishing or publishing digital first and RWA wasn't offering what they needed.  I hope we can get some of them back.  I know there are authors of color, disabled authors, and LGBTQ+ authors who saw someone flip out and thought, well, where there's one there's many, I'm not giving money to that place.  I hope RWA can move to show those authors, those writers, that people In RWA have their back.  
And, the point of private member boards is in part to give members a place to talk about stuff they don't want to say in public.  But, if you don't see why being a poophead in private gets out, if you don't see that it gets out to protect those who now need to know to make sure not to talk to you at conference lest you think that's a safe space to air more bigotry, well, hi, welcome to the internet. 
To authors and writers who say this is why they didn't join or dropped their membership.  I hear you.  I can't at this point promise there aren't more poopheads.  I can't at this point promise that there won't be a workshop where an editor or agent says something silly or harmful.  I can't at this point promise another problematic book won't get nominated for an award.  I can promise there are people working really hard to move RWA in the right direction, and it's election time, so this is something that will factor into who I vote for for the board.