Posted On September 15, 2010 by Print This Post

The Benefits of “Going PRO”

Running a blog like Romance University comes with a variety of benefits, but one of the biggest is a built-in excuse to network (i.e. an opportunity to chase people down at the national conference). We like to seek out unsuspecting victims visiting professors at every available turn. Today’s VP, Cynthia D’Alba, is well known to some of you as she’s served as the Romance Writers of America PRO liaison for the past year. She’s here to chat about the benefits of the PRO designation. Welcome, Cyndi!

One of the great aspects of attending the RWA® National Conference is meeting new and fascinating people. Such was my luck this year when I twisted Amy Atwell’s arm into taking me along to the cocktail party hosted by the Romance University Co-Founders Adrienne Giordano, Kelsey Browning and Tracey Devlyn. What an incredible group of women. (Thanks again for an awesome party!)

After I returned home, I got an email from Kelsey following up on a conversation we’d had during the party about me posting a blog on RU. My reaction? I agreed to do a blog? Man! I drank more wine than I thought.

But since the topic I’d agreed to talk about is one near and dear to my heart (RWA® PRO), I was glad Kelsey had remembered and contacted me.

To explain RWA® PRO, I need to first lay some groundwork. RWA® (i.e. Romance Writers of America®) has over 10,000 members. Most are classified as “General Members” or “Associate Members.” General membership is comprised of authors who are actively seeking publication and a career in romance writing. Associate members are individuals who support romance authors and the romance genre but who themselves are not pursuing a writing career (e.g. agents, editors, book reviewers, etc.) For the discussion of RWA® PRO, we are talking only about members within the General Membership category.

Provided they meet admission criteria, general RWA® members may join one of two Communities of Practice (i.e. CoP.) A CoP is a group of people who share a common interest in a craft and/or profession who join together to share information and experiences in an effort to learn from each other and develop themselves personally and professionally. Within RWA®, there is the PAN CoP (Published Authors Network) and the PRO CoP.

The PRO CoP is made up of general RWA® members who have (at minimum) completed a 40k work of romantic fiction AND have submitted that work to a non-vanity/non-subsidy publisher or an RWA® eligible agent. Some believe that to join the PRO CoP, an RWA® member must have a rejection letter, thus PRO is made up of rejected authors. Not true! It is the submission of your work that gains your entrance to PRO. So how did this “rejection club” reputation get started?

To join PRO, you must have proof of submission. Before email submissions became as commonplace as they are now, many writers mailed off their query and waited for a response, which in many cases was a rejection letter. This letter served as their evidence of submission. While they could have included a postcard to be returned to them as submission proof, most did not. Today, many RWA® members join the PRO CoP with an email response from the publisher or agent confirming receipt of materials. That email confirmation mailed along with the completed romantic novel (of at least 40k) and the PRO application will open the doors to the PRO CoP.

But why would anyone want to be in PRO? What’s hidden behind those magical doors? Well, that’s why I’m here today…to tell you WHY you’d want to be PRO and then how to move from PRO to PAN when it’s time.

When you are accepted into PRO…

  • You get a PRO pin from RWA® National. That in itself is cool but wearing it at regional and national conferences helps identify you not only as an RWA® member but one who has achieved a certain level of success. Plus these pins help you identify other PRO members who may be at the same conference. It’s possible you’ll make connections, friendships or even find the critique partner you’ve been looking for. Not exactly a “secret handshake” but definitely alerting you that you both belong to the same RWA® CoP.
  • Access to official PRO Loops. We currently have three:
    • PRO-org, which is the main PRO loop. This is our discussion loop for PRO members.
    • PRO-Class is where we hold periodic online classes (affectionately called “boot camps.”) We may host 3-5 classes per year on topics pertaining to the period of a writer’s life after submission. Topics can range from website construction, to social media, to contract law, to how to build a book trailer. The only topic that is consistent year to year is the Prep for National Conference, which occurs the month before RWA® National. Not all PRO members are on this loop. Only those who wish to subscribe.
    • Chapter PRO Liaison is a Yahoo loop just for those individuals who serve as PRO Liaisons for their chapters. Most of the discussions there are about job duties.
  • Access to PRO News. Right now, PRO News comes as a newsletter delivered to your email box. The PRO Steering Committee has spent the past year looking at all our programs and will possibly be making a recommendation for some changes in how PRO News is delivered. Cleaner. More efficient. But you’ll have to be part of PRO in 2011 to get that!
  • PRO members get priority access to agent and editor appointments at RWA® National Conference (behind RITA and Golden Heart finalists and winners) giving PRO members the chance to snag that coveted appointment.
  • And I saved the best for last. The PRO Retreat at RWA® National Conference. This is a half-day retreat just for PRO members, set up by a PRO member volunteer committee, run by PRO members and attended only by PRO members. Speakers vary year to year but the topics are always industry business related, meaning no craft is taught. This year we had Donald Maass as our Keynote speaker and frankly, I’m a little concerned about topping him in 2011. He was an incredible speaker with valuable insights. We also had Stephanie Feagan (aka Trinity Feagan) speaking on her year-long agent hunt and her insights on what she learned. Then we finished off the retreat with separate agent and editor panels. To top it off, we had a slew of door prizes to give away. If you missed the 2010 PRO Retreat, you really missed one of the highlights of this year’s conference.

Ok. Those were the “official” benefits. Here are my personal benefits.

  • For me (and my CPA!), my PRO membership reflects that I take writing professionally.
  • I have made friends and found critique partners within the community.
  • I am with fellow RWA® members who “get” where I am in my writing career…my highs and lows, my doubts, my confusion and anger as another publisher closes, my suspicions about fly-by-night publishers, etc.
  • I like the intimate feeling of the smaller group within a large organization.

The PRO CoP continues to grow. At last count, we were 2460 members (out of the 10K RWA® membership) and always looking to add new members to replace those who get “booted out” to PAN!

To move from PRO to PAN, an author must earn $1000 on a single eligible novel or eligible novella either from a $1000 advance or a combination of advance and royalties. A more detailed explanation can be found at

If you have questions about PRO, feel free to ask me here or contact me at

For those who have read this far, I do have books to give away. Both are by Vicki Lewis Thompson, a fellow member of the RWA® Board of Directors and a staunch supporter of the PRO CoP.  I have an autographed copy of CLAIMED!, the latest title from her Sons of Chance series for Harlequin Blaze and a Harlequin Showcase with two of her books…TWO IN THE SADDLE and BOONE’S BOUNTY. The Showcase book is not autographed but if the winner wants it signed, I can do that in November when I see Vicki in New York.

To be in the running for either of these books, answer these questions…

  1. Are you a writer, a reader, or both?
  2. Are you a member of RWA®?
  3. Do you belong to either PAN or PRO CoP?
  4. If you belong to PRO, what is your favorite thing about this CoP?
  5. If you qualify for PRO but don’t belong, why not?
  6. Which book would you like to win?

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve learned at least one new thing today.


RU crew, take a minute to answer Cyndi’s questions and you’ll be eligible to win some fantastic books!

Drop by Thursday when Jeannie Ruesch of Will Design for Chocolate gives us some fab tips on friends vs. fans on Facebook.

Cynthia D’Alba (aka Cynthia D. Morgan):

Cynthia started her professional career in the medical field as a nurse, followed by nurse educator, medical researcher, and prenatal coordinator, finishing as a medical administrator. During this time she held a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction and a Master of Business Administration. She left the medical field for academia, serving as Graduate Coordinator for the College of Business at the University of Memphis and then Assistant Dean in the College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 2001, she was award a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration.

After seventeen years in the medical field and seven years in higher education administration, she embarked on writing as her third career field. Her first attempts at writing will forever remain unseen by anyone other than the dust elephants who live under her bed.

In 2006, she served as the founding president for Diamond State Romance Authors, the first RWA chapter to be founded in Arkansas. She has also served as newsletter editor, treasurer and occasional presenter for DSRA. (It’s a small chapter so they all get to wear lots of hats.)

In 2007, she entered her first writing contest (Heart of the Rockies) with The Sand Castle and was fortunate to finish first in her category – erotica. The Sand Castle, later renamed The Sand Stalker, was a finalist in five other contests (in the Series Contemporary Category) in 2007 and 2008 before she retired it. For now, the project remains under her bed with the unnamed first writing disaster.

In 2009, she was the winner of the Series Contemporary Category of the Launching the Star contest, where the full manuscript was requested by both the editor and agent judge.

Also in 2009, she was elected to the PRO Liaison position on the RWA National Board of Directors, where she has served for the past year. Her current term ends October 31, 2011. The past year has been one of hard work mixed with periods of joy. The PRO Community of Practice has been open, welcoming, and supportive, and for that, she will always be in debt.

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29 Responses to “The Benefits of “Going PRO””

  1. Hi Cyndi,

    It was such a pleasure to meet you in Orlando. I’m so glad you twisted Amy’s arm! 🙂

    Just wanted to pop in to say hi and to thank you for blogging with us. I’ll answer your questions later today.

    Thankd, Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | September 15, 2010, 8:00 am
  2. Morning Cyndi!

    Thanks for such an informative post! I can imagine how hard it would be to top Donald Maass! =) Good luck!

    Thanks again!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | September 15, 2010, 8:20 am
  3. Gee, now I really want to get cracking and become eligible for PRO.
    My answers:
    I’m both a writer and a reader.
    Yes, I belong to RWA.
    I don’t belong to either PRO or PAN.
    So far, all my submissions have been novellas, the longest of which was 34K. But that one sold to TWRP (w00t), kind of makes up for not qualifying for PRO, hehe.
    I’ll take anything written by Vicky Lewis Thompson. I recently finished “Chick with a Charm”, and had to read it again!

    Posted by Luanna | September 15, 2010, 8:31 am
  4. Cyndi: Great post and so much info. Here are my answers –

    Are you a writer, a reader, or both? Both! I need to feed both beasts continuously!

    Are you a member of RWA®? Yes

    Do you belong to either PAN or PRO CoP? I am in PRO

    If you belong to PRO, what is your favorite thing about this CoP? The people. I have never met a nicer, more open, and giving group of folks in my life. Which is funny when you figure that we are all “competing” against each other in a way. The members are the biggest selling point.

    Which book would you like to win? What I really want is to meet the cover model of CLAIMED! 😉 But, I’ll go for the gusto – autographed please!


    Posted by Robin Covington | September 15, 2010, 9:58 am
  5. Hi Cyndi!
    Although we’ve never actually met, I feel like I know you! (Scary, huh?) I was at the RU cocktail party at national. (Great time ladies!) I was at the Pro retreat. (Wonderful program……Donald Maass…WOW!) I’ve read every one of your e-mails since I joined the pro loop last year. Thank you so much for all the time you dedicate to us Pros! I feel my writing career really turned the corner since I joined Pro. I’ve learned so much.

    To answer your questions: I am a writer and a reader and a member of RWA and I belong to Pro. My favorite thing about Pro is the classes….but I also value interacting with other members, answering their questions and having a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips when I have a question. I’d love to win Claimed.

    Posted by Wendy Marcus | September 15, 2010, 10:05 am
  6. Good morning, Cyndi –

    We RU gals are wily when it comes to recruiting visiting professors :). Feel free to warn other unsuspecting folks.

    As for your questions:

    1. I’ve been a reader since I could string together letters in my mind. I read my first romance when I was about 11 or so and haven’t stopped since. I tell people I will read the back of a cereal box if nothing else is available. I began writing seriously in the spring of 2007.

    2. I joined RWA summer of 2007.

    3. And had applied for PRO by December of that same year. I saw it as a great accomplishment.

    4. I like that PRO is oriented toward the business side of writing, trying to teach unpublished writers what the published world will be like. It’s great to have a group that assumes you will make that next step.

    Again – we’re so happy to have you at RU today!

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | September 15, 2010, 10:28 am
  7. I didn’t know I was eligible–I thought PRO was for published only! I’m going to join up tomorrow–thanks for the insight!

    Posted by Sarah M. Anderson | September 15, 2010, 11:38 am
  8. Hi, Cyndi!
    Thanks for sharing this information. I wasn’t aware there were so many benefits to joining. I’m not a member of PRO. I am a writer, and a reader too. I’m not happy unless I have at least one but preferably both in my life.

    I guess I’m eligible for PRO since I submitted a novel way back in the mid-90’s, but I have no proof of it. I threw away my rejection letters. Sigh. Oh, well, I’m on my way to finishing a couple of books, so I should re-qualify soon.

    I’d love to read Claimed! The title alone is enough to intrigue me. 😉


    Posted by Tori Minard | September 15, 2010, 12:12 pm
  9. Hi Cyndi,

    Thanks for the info! Definitely something I’m working toward.

    I’ve always wondered one thing about going PRO–how much do you need to have submitted to apply? A query? A partial? A full?

    1. Are you a writer, a reader, or both? Both.
    2. Are you a member of RWA®? Yes.
    3. Do you belong to either PAN or PRO CoP? No.
    4. If you belong to PRO, what is your favorite thing about this CoP?
    5. If you qualify for PRO but don’t belong, why not?
    6. Which book would you like to win? Either.

    Posted by Sally Bayless | September 15, 2010, 12:32 pm
  10. Hi all! Sorry for the late check-in. I headed out into the yard to get a little yard work done before it got too hot!

    Sally – You have to have a completed 40k manuscript. Submitting a query for this manuscript is what you need for PRO. Proof of submission for consideration from an RWA eligible agent or non-subsidy/non-vanity publisher. Good luck and let me know if I can answer any other questions.

    Hi Tori. Do you belong to RWA? As soon as you have a book ready for submission, submit and join PRO! I should have admitted…the CLAIMED book has been “gently read” by me! and I can tell you…very good. The other good news is that there are 2 book before this one. I would get those too. WANTED! and AMBUSHED!

    YAY Sarah! I look forward to welcoming you into PRO.

    Hi Kelsey! I was so thrilled (and flattered) when you asked me to blog here. This is such an awesome site. 🙂 Umm…should I warn you that I’ll be looking for PRO volunteers for 2011? Naw…I think I’ll sneak up on ya!

    Hi Wendy. I’m sorry we didn’t meet face-to-face at Orlando. But I’m thrilled you enjoyed Donald Maass. I ADORED him! 🙂 Fabulous speaker.

    Hi Robin. So nice to see you here. I agree with you. The PRO members are truly wonderful and giving.

    Okay Luanna – here’s my whip cracking over your head. Let’s get you ready for PRO! We can also use an excellent member like you.

    More later. I have to run a dog to the vet.

    Posted by Cynthia D'Alba | September 15, 2010, 2:30 pm
    • Cyndi –

      I think lots of folks out there are confused by what “proof of submission” means. Can you give a few more details. For example, I know it doesn’t have to be a rejection letter, but what are other forms of proof.

      Thanks so much!

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | September 15, 2010, 4:13 pm
  11. Hi Cyndi,

    Thanks! Look for my application in early 2011!


    Posted by Sally Bayless | September 15, 2010, 2:41 pm
  12. Hi Cyndi!
    1) I am definitely a reader and a writer!
    2) I am a member of RWA.
    3) I do not belong to PAN or PRO.
    4) No Response.
    5) I do not qualify for PRO.
    6) Surprise me!
    Thanks for the article. It answered some of my questions.
    Have a great day!
    Amy Fendley

    Posted by Amy Fendley | September 15, 2010, 2:41 pm
  13. Hi Cyndi,

    I am a reader and a writer.
    I am a member of RWA.
    I am a PRO.
    My favorite thing about being PRO is the loop with all the support it provides and also the PRO retreat.
    I do qualify and I am PRO.
    I’d like Claimed but I’d be happy with any of the books.

    Dottie Reyes

    Posted by Dottie Reyes | September 15, 2010, 2:52 pm
  14. 10,000 members–wow! No wonder you need to break down into acronyms. That’s fabulous, Cyndi, and I love that you and 2,460 of your closest friends get to go to boot camp. 😆

    PRO sounds great. Anything that helps writers finish work and take the brave step of submitting is a worthwhile endeavor.


    Posted by Ramona Long | September 15, 2010, 4:49 pm
  15. Hey Cyndi!
    I had not looked at the RU site until just now. I’m so excited about it. Here are my answers:
    1. Are you a writer, a reader, or both? Both.
    2. Are you a member of RWA®? Yes.
    3. Do you belong to either PAN or PRO CoP? PRO
    4. If you belong to PRO, what is your favorite thing about this CoP? Learning about this business.
    5. If you qualify for PRO but don’t belong, why not?
    6. Which book would you like to win? Either is great.

    Posted by Brinda Berry | September 15, 2010, 5:48 pm
  16. Okay, here are my answers…

    1. Are you a writer, a reader, or both? Both.
    2. Are you a member of RWA®? Yes.
    3. Do you belong to either PAN or PRO CoP? Yep, I’m PRO.
    4. If you belong to PRO, what is your favorite thing about this CoP? If I have questions, PRO has answers. Especially the business side.

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | September 15, 2010, 7:23 pm
  17. Hi all! I’m back. Vet visit done. Nice dinner out with hubby and my parents. So back to the questions…

    “Proof of submission” can take different forms.
    1. Obviously a rejection letter shows you have submitted.
    2. Some writers enclose a self-address stamped postcard with a mailed submission so the card can be mailed back to them showing that the submission query was received.
    3. With an email query, it is common to get a email response stating that your submission query has been received.
    4. If someone has a contract for a 40k work of romantic fiction but there is no advance, this contract can be used to show submission and qualifies the writer for PRO. If this publishing contract DOES have a minimum of $1000, then this contract qualifies the author for PAN but NOT PRO. If an RWA member qualifies for PAN, she/he cannot be on PRO.

    Does this answer your question, Kelsey?

    Posted by Cynthia D'Alba | September 15, 2010, 8:14 pm
  18. Carrie – Don Maass…I could really use a great suggestion for next year to top his keynote at PRO Retreat! BUT we did record the PRO Retreat so get your hands on the National Conference recordings and hear what he (and all the others) had to say.

    Well Ms. Amy, I see I have some work to do with you!!! (Amy is a chapter mate so she’ll be getting private nagging.)

    Hi Dottie. Great to see some of our PRO members here. Glad to know you find PRO as wonderful as I do.

    Yay Brinda is here. Brinda is another of my wonderful Arkansas Chapter mates. Thanks for dropping by BB.

    RU Ladies…thanks for having me here today.

    Posted by Cynthia D'Alba | September 15, 2010, 8:20 pm
  19. 1. Writer or reader? Both.
    2. RWA memeber: yes.
    3. PAN or PRO? Neither.
    5. I should, and I will apply to join. Before I read this article, I didn’t realize I qualified.
    6. Either book! 🙂

    Posted by Kelly Whitley | September 15, 2010, 9:29 pm
  20. Cyndi –

    We may still have more comments to come since it’s still early here on the pacific coast, but I just wanted to say thanks for being at RU today!


    Posted by KelseyBrowning | September 15, 2010, 9:40 pm
  21. YAY Kelly! Can’t wait to welcome you to PRO too 😀

    So glad you found the information here helpful.

    Posted by Cynthia D'Alba | September 15, 2010, 9:50 pm
  22. Thanks for the great info Cynthia! I shared the link with my chapter so they can hear someone else talk about why PRO status is great besides me. 🙂 And you did a great job of explaining everything.
    Rae Ann
    MCRW PRO Liaison

    Posted by Rae Ann Parker | September 16, 2010, 8:33 am
  23. This was very informational and helpful – Thanks!
    I am a full time writer (pre-pub’d and not making any money yet) and an avid (possibly rabid) reader. I am a member of RWA but not eligible for PRO/PAN yet – but I will be sooner than later. I recently read ‘Claimed’ – it was terrific. I read anything and everything I can get my hands on. I’m so glad RWA and all of its extensions, forums, CoPs, and chapters exist. This has truly been the most welcoming and helpful group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet and work with.
    Thanks, Clancy

    Posted by Clancy Metzger | September 16, 2010, 10:30 am
  24. 🙂
    Great blog post, Cyndi! I’m a staunch supporter of PRO and, especially, the PRO Boot Camps, which, IMHO are the best!

    1.Are you a writer, a reader, or both?
    I’m both a reader and a writer.
    2.Are you a member of RWA®?
    3.Do you belong to either PAN or PRO CoP?
    I moved from PRO to PAN a year ago.
    4.If you belong to PRO, what is your favorite thing about this CoP?
    When I was PRO, I loved the Boot Camps!
    5.If you qualify for PRO but don’t belong, why not?
    Anyone who is serious about writing romance should join PRO.
    6.Which book would you like to win?
    Anything by Vicki Lewis Thompson would be wonderful!

    Posted by Leigh Duncan | September 16, 2010, 10:45 am
  25. Thanks for the (more complete) explanation of PRO. Yes, I’d like to be in the drawing for one of the books. If I win, I’d like “Claimed.”
    Here are my requested answers:
    Writer (for several decades)
    RWA member (for nearly 4 yrs.)
    PRO CoP member (for less than a year)
    Favorite thing: networking


    Posted by Jeff Salter | September 21, 2010, 11:46 am

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