Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why I Don't Do The Red Room

Red Room is an online community for writers, publishing industry people, students and avid readers: sort of a bibliophile MySpace. Red Room’s tagline is, “where the writers are,” and sure enough, there are many famous authors listed there. The site contains links which allow visitors to join Red Room, either as a “Red Room Author” or “Red Room Member”. The “Red Room Author” application page opens with, “Red Room encourages writers from all walks of life and all areas of the globe to be a part of our community,” and one section of the About Us page says:

Red Room was named after both a place and a literary tradition. The famous Red Room of the White House is an extraordinary place where revolutionary behavior occurred in a small parlor. For example, when Franklin Roosevelt wouldn't allow female reporters at his press conferences, Eleanor Roosevelt held her own press conferences at the same time for the women. The conferences were so popular that the male reporters started attending, and the President had no choice but to integrate his press conferences in order to get any attention. A tradition of civilized revolution on behalf of disenfranchised writers is carried on in the modern-day Red Room.

Based on that bit about ‘civilized revolution on behalf of disenfranchised writers,’ I figured Red Room must be a place accepting of the ideals of indie authorship and applied to become a Red Room Author. Imagine my surprise when my application was denied due to the fact that I’m self-published—though of course I was welcome to be a Red Room Member. It seemed incredibly hypocritical to me, and I thought that whoever had reviewed my application might just need a little enlightenment. So I wrote back to present my usual case about why indie authorship is every bit as valid a path in authorship as the mainstream route, and received a reply that more or less said Red Room was totally on board with that idea, and that’s why they were preparing to launch a new, ‘Self Published Author’ level of membership, and they looked forward to my participation with that. If you’ve been following this blog for any period of time, you can guess how I felt about it. Here are some excerpts from my response to that notice:

I'm very disappointed by your response. What Red Room is proposing would relegate indie authors like myself to a ghetto neighborhood of Red Room, as you should well know if you know how the term "self-published" is received in the publishing mainstream. This is why I refer to myself and others like me as "indie authors", because to my mind, we are operating much the same as indie filmmakers and indie musicians, and for the same reasons: our industry has become far more interested in making huge quantities of money than in producing a quality or original product...

...I can appreciate that what you propose to do is a well-meaning attempt at inclusion, but so was school segregation. So is the don't-ask-don't-tell policy of the U.S. military. I could've formed an imprint for my books to "pass" for mainstream (as I'm pretty sure some Red Room Authors have done), but because I'm trying to raise awareness and foment a true indie author movement, I've chosen to be "out and proud" about my indie status. It's a shame that Red Room doesn't want to support my efforts…Not only am I not interested in becoming a Self-Published Red Room Author, I would advise any authors I know against it.

I also suggested they at least consider re-naming this proposed new level of membership to something like “Red Room Indie Authors,” “Red Room Independent Voices,” or similar—anything but that prejudicial label of “Self-Published”. Here are excerpts from their response:

…we absolutely agree with you that due to the current nature of the publishing industry, there are too many talented writers who get rejected for purely commercial considerations. Just as frustratingly, these same publishing houses seem to publish many books with little or no artistic merit.

I really appreciate the fact that despite not opting for traditional publication you’ve chosen the “Indie” route. (I like the moniker too!) I’m also sure that your book, The Indie Author Guide, is a great resource for writers, and I think our Members would really benefit from exposure to it, so I truly hope that you will reconsider staying with us on Red Room so you can spread your message.

Our reason for building out a separate Self-Published Author section is to further the same ideas—it will be a place for authors to showcase the fact that they have made their own careers, and to demonstrate that being a self-published author is a visible and viable option for aspiring writers...

But the bottom line was unchanged: at this point I could only be a Red Room Member, and at some point in the future I might be able to apply for Red Room Self-Published Author status. Indie authors may be welcome at Red Room, but not quite as welcome as mainstream-published authors. And since I don’t want to be a part of any community that treats indie authors with less respect and less inclusion than their mainstream peers, I am not a Red Room Member and will not be applying to become a Red Room Self-Published Author.


Joanna Penn said...

Hi April, I am with you on this one! I am a proud self-published "indie" author! It seems very strange for a site to discriminate so obviously when does not. My page on Amazon is the same as a "traditionally published" author. The Red room should do the same. I will join you in abstaining!
Thanks, Joanna - Writing, self-publishing, print-on-demand, internet sales and promotion...for your book.

April L. Hamilton said...

Thanks for your support, Joanna. I think the 'indie' camp is growing by leaps and bounds these days, so sites that discriminate against us are making a big mistake.

Rhiannon Frater said...

Well, that was a disheartening exchange. They're so close to "getting it", but swerving away at the last minute.

Hopefully, they'll come around someday.


Jarucia said...


You're 100% right about the hypocrisy of Red Room. To claim that their inspiration is revolutionary writing/thinking and then look down their noses at those who are trying to spearhead the newest writing/info revolution, is baloney.

They are just as revolutionary as Fox news claims to be (weird analogy, I know).

What a shame...they should call themselves "The Old Red Room"...and someone should start "The Real Red Room."

April L. Hamilton said...

Rhiannon & Jarucia -
Some people just won't get it until after the ship has sailed. It's a pity, though.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why they couldn't just call it "indie authors" or "independent voices" or something FLATTERING.

Hell if they want to segregate, whatever but do it in a way to actually highlight good indie work, not tar it with the "self published" brush.

I swear I hate that word. I use it on my site some, but for SEO purposes only, I also mix in the term "indie" and hope it catches on.

April L. Hamilton said...

Zoe -
In one of my emails to Red Room I explained that sometimes, semantics must change to reflect a new reality. Apparently, they disagree.

What irks me most about the whole thing is the way they describe themselves as being open to writers from all walks of life and based on a revolutionary spirit, yet their minds are essentially closed when it comes to dealing with an *actual* revolution in authorship that's happening all around them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up about this.

"I can appreciate that what you propose to do is a well-meaning attempt at inclusion, but so was school segregation. So is the don't-ask-don't-tell policy of the U.S. military."

Excellent analogies.

April L. Hamilton said...

Thanks for reading, rj! =')

Robert McClellan said...

Groucho said it best to the very exclusive Friars Club:


From "Groucho and Me, his autobiography

Kamy said...

Hi there! Great post, April. I just started a new social network for women writers called She Writes (, and there is no "indie" ghetto. :) Come check us out! We'd be honored to have you.