~ By Melanie Greene
My journey to today started back in 5th grade…. Well. It’s a long story, and probably a familiar one to many of us (great teacher, ambitions, writing classes, life, determination, etc.) Point is, a couple of years ago I realized that Romance Writing + Melanie = HEA, so I joined RWA and my local chapter, found critique partners, revised my book, began querying and revising and entering contests and writing and writing and writing. The usual.
But it wasn’t until I was on my way to Nationals in Atlanta last summer that I realized I was a PRO. Well, that I qualified for PRO. First, I had to figure out what that meant. I’d never spent much time on RWA’s site, feeling more than adequately bombarded with information just from my local chapter meetings, local conferences, and the demands of writing. But I used the RWA forums to find a roommate for Atlanta, and as she and I emailed about the conference, she mentioned the PRO retreat. So I asked, “What’s PRO, anyway?” I’d heard the terms PRO and PAN bandied about, but never figured out what they meant.
So, in case you, too, don’t know: PRO means you are actively pursuing your career as a romance writer. It means you’ve finished a book (or more) you consider good enough to publish, and have taken steps towards publication. You’ve queried agents or publishers, or maybe you’ve self-published. (More on that in a minute.) You aren’t rolling in cash from your writing (yet!) but you aren’t dilly-dallying. You’re serious about your writing. (And three cheers for you! It’s quite a leap, letting your words out into the world.)
Registering myself as a PRO was easy. Well, first I had to find a blank CD, but we’ll leave the deplorable state of my office out of this. I had a novel-length manuscript, I had email exchanges with agents, I had the PRO application (http://www.rwa.org/p/do/sd/sid=1624&type=0). I sent it all in, and a week or so later, had my PRO pin.
The RWA site doesn’t mention self-publishing in the PRO definition. There’s no way to technically qualify for PRO with just your self-published novel. Here’s what I advise: query an agent or publisher about your indie book, get a response (an acknowledgement from an online submission portal counts), and use that to qualify for PRO. You’ll still have to find a blank CD to burn your novel to, but it’s worth it.
There are several pros to being a PRO. (And I’m not even counting all the puns my husband gets to make about being married to a PRO.) There’s the earlier access to editor and agent sign-ups at Nationals. There’s a nifty pin. There’s the fact that it acts as a signifier of your dedication to industry professionals.
Above all, to me, there’s the PRO community. I’m still wary of bombardment, but I have the daily digest of the PRO-ORG Forum emailed to me, and whenever I have a random career-type question float through my head, I can go there to find that someone’s already answered it. Or if they haven’t, I have but to ask. It’s terribly convenient, this one-stop shop for info about various publishers, about self-publishing and promotion, about contests and queries and conferences. And there’s a great fly-on-the-wall aspect, seeing people in a similar stage of their career (or perhaps the stage you’re hoping to achieve, any minute now), sharing their triumphs and their setbacks.
Of course chapters like RWA-CR offer a great deal of support and community, but I still find it comforting (and less intimidating) to play with people who are on a relatively level field. Knowing they’re out there inspires me. One of the reasons I started PROlific Thursday was to bring that same sense of camaraderie and motivation to RWA-CR; I hope to publish my own news some Thursday, but meanwhile I want to encourage more of our members to go PRO.
After all, we’re writers, and are therefore bound to encounter obstacles – rejections and critiques and reviews that aren’t what they could be. Trouble finding time and mustering perseverance. Recalcitrant characters. But having the support and encouragement of fellow writers helps the blows land more softly. Knock me down, but I’m a PRO now, and that means I’ll be getting up again, ready to keep fighting the good fight.
Melanie Greene writes sizzling contemporary single titles (http://melaniegreene.com / https://www.facebook.com/MelGreeneBooks) and tweets @dakimel. She’s RWA-CR’s PRO Liaison & newsletter editor, and lives in Texas with her husband and kids and probably too many large dogs, considering she’s a cat person. She also reads far too much, and writes about books at http://dakimel.blogspot.com.