RWA Files for Bankruptcy

Romance Writers of America (RWA) has filed for bankruptcy in Houston, citing a significant decline in membership and financial obligations from long-term hotel contracts.

Membership Decline

RWA’s membership, once robust at around 10,000 members before 2019, has dwindled dramatically. The organization’s annual conference used to attract about 2,000 attendees, but the numbers have since dropped, reducing membership to approximately 3,000 and continuing to decline.

Financial Obligations

In 2018, RWA signed contracts with Marriott hotels to host its annual conference through 2026, later extending this agreement to 2028. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 and 2021 conferences were held virtually. In 2022, RWA attempted to renegotiate or terminate these contracts but remains financially responsible for unsold rooms in the hotel room blocks.

The Marriott Austin, scheduled to host the 2024 conference, has not rebooked all the reserved rooms. The filing highlights RWA’s concern over potential member issues with the conference due to uncertain financial obligations, leading to the cancellation of this year’s reservations at the Marriott Austin.

Financial Impact

Despite being generally able to meet its financial obligations through revenue and donations, RWA’s limited liquidity has been strained by immediate payment demands from Marriott Philadelphia. Without a consensual resolution with Marriott Conference Centers, RWA sought Subchapter V relief to continue serving its members and the broader romance writing community.

According to the bankruptcy filing, RWA owes approximately $3 million to hotels and around $74,500 in other debts. The organization plans to repay these debts over three years. Additionally, RWA has eliminated all employee positions as part of its restructuring efforts.

Recent Controversies

The decline in membership is also attributed to controversies within the organization. In 2019, RWA suspended author Courtney Milan over an ethics complaint, leading to resignations of staff and board members. In 2021, RWA awarded, then rescinded, an award to a book featuring a protagonist involved in the Wounded Knee Massacre. These incidents have been cited as contributing factors to the membership decline, with the filing referencing “DEI issues” as a significant reason for the loss of members.

RWA’s bankruptcy filing marks a challenging period for the organization as it seeks to navigate financial recovery while continuing to support the romance writing community.

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Tina Pavlik

Owner of TRS since 2003

An aficionado of romance novels for many years, Tina has owned The Romance Studio since 2003 and for 20 years, has enjoyed highlighting the best books in the genre. She enjoys all aspects of marketing including writing content, book trailer design, and finding captivating new books for voracious readers. She has also written over 20 romance titles under various pen names. In another life, she writes horror and works as an extras casting assistant for TV shows and films in the North Carolina and South Carolina regions.