How much we appreciate accomplishments in ourselves or others depends on our viewpoint. A vivid demonstration of this truth was the brou-haha over Harlequin Publishing's various business decisions in the last two weeks.
Readers, by and large, were entirely unmoved by the shenanigans that gave authors so much heartburn. If they're Harlequin readers, they'll continue to be Harlequin readers with unimpaired tranquility. Their interest in the inner workings of the publishing world is nil--unless they anticipate submitting to Harlequin as an aspiring author.
The same can't be said for writers who more or less fell in two camps. Inevitably, the Harlequin writers themselves had some qualms about the changes that affected their professional futures. Many of them enter the RWA's Rita contest--a contest they are no longer eligible for because of the changes Harlequin announced. Though I do not belong to the RWA, I do appreciate their unhappiness. Among the print writers, the Rita is a prestigious contest with such winners as Nora Roberts and Tom and Sharon Curtis.
The opposite camp, if you will, is comprised of those writers who've been on the outside looking in because their publishers don't pay an advance to their writers. They have a different business model that the RWA doesn't recognize and therefore, they are not eligible for such things as the Rita. The decision isn't based on quality, but some nebulous combinations of royalty numbers and methods of reaching the public marketplace. Bluntly stated, an e-published author doesn't qualify unless they make one thousand dollars or more on the title they wish to enter...in that year. Much of it depends on timing and that is not always under the author's control.
So. Two camps forever divided were suddenly united when the RWA announced their decision. The situation is fluid at the moment while Harlequin, a huge juggernaut of a publisher, backpeddles madly. Will they change their stance in order to make their writers happy and bow down to the various author's groups such as RWA, SFWA and others? Probably.
Will any of it make a difference to the readers? No. And that ultimately is the bottom line. At a time of cutthroat competion in the romance market, the readers have the ultimate vote. If they buy, the publisher stays afloat. If they take their money elsewhere, the publisher sinks.
Readers may not realized just how critical their purchasing decisions are. Especially in this day and age of limited incomes and lost jobs, their votes with their credit cards are all the more critical. Who dreamed that romance would become so powerful and respectable that at most print houses, it's the primary seller?
For that matter, who could have foreseen the way the digital market growth has exploded? Three years ago, as I carried my digital reader around, using it as I waited for the doctor or while I was doing laundry, the average citizen had no idea what it was. And they usually pooh-poohed the idea that it would ever "catch on".
Now, when I haul out my reader, the questions are entirely different. The average citizen is quite knowledgeable about brands, how many books can be saved on the reader, how long the battery life is, and whether or not DRM will be a problem. Ready or not, the e-book world is here to stay.
While readers may not care about the internal struggles in the publishing world, their buying decisions directly affect the swiftly changing landscape in the world of books. All of us are racing toward the "back to the future" era.