Code of Ethics for Members

The Romance Writers of America® (RWA) Code of Ethics serves as a code of professional conduct for RWA members. It is designed to cause RWA members to exhibit integrity, honesty, and other good professional practices, thereby enhancing the romance writing profession.

Violations of the Code of Ethics may result in punishments imposed under the Disciplinary Procedures of Robert’s Rules, which provides "due process" to RWA members and protects the integrity and ensures the efficacy of the Code of Ethics.

The principles of this Code are expressed in broad statements to guide ethical decision making. These statements provide a framework; they cannot and do not dictate conduct to cover particular situations.

  • RWA members support the preservation of authorial and intellectual property rights.
  • RWA members strive for excellence and integrity in the profession of romance writing.
  • RWA members strive to treat fellow members, RWA staff, and others with respect.
  • RWA members observe and adhere to all of RWA's Bylaws, policies and other rules.

An RWA member shall be subject to disciplinary action if the actions of such member are determined to constitute one or more of the following:

  1. Intentionally making false or misleading oral or written statements about RWA where such statements are injurious to RWA, its reputation, or its purposes.
  2. Intentional copying of the written works of others (including but not limited to books, articles and/or manuscripts) with an intention to claim such work(s) as the member's own.
  3. Unauthorized use of another member's intellectual property, including but not limited to such other member's name, logo, trademarks or service marks, and/or copyrighted information.
  4. Intentional misrepresentation of RWA membership qualifications or credentials to RWA or to the public.
  5. Unauthorized use of RWA and/or RWA Chapter property, including but not limited to RWA's name, logo, other trademarks or service marks, copyrighted information, and membership listings.
  6. To the extent not otherwise addressed above, repeatedly or intentionally engaging in conduct injurious to RWA or its purposes.
  7. To the extent not otherwise addressed above, repeatedly or intentionally engaging in conduct with the intent of harming a member's career, reputation, or wellbeing. Specifically excluded from this section are exchanges of business information, true statements, personal disagreements, and honest discussions of books, social media posts, or marketing materials.
  8. To the extent not addressed above, repeatedly or intentionally making a member's personal, private identifying information public with the intent of harming the other member's career, reputation, or wellbeing.
  9. Recommending author services on RWA forums, through RWA chapters or through any other RWA resource while failing to disclose commissions or finder's fees that have been offered specifically to the member by the provider of said services in exchange for finding future business.
  10. A violation of the Harassment Policy for All Conference Attendees addendum.

Code of Ethics Violations - Members

Code of Ethics for Industry Professionals

General Principles

Romance Writers of America is a nonprofit professional association whose mission is to advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. As Romance Writers of America is one of the largest genre writers’ associations in the world, publishers and agents who are included in RWA’s Market and Agent Updates and/or who are invited to present workshops to or take pitch sessions from RWA members are afforded significant credibility, because the members naturally expect such publishers and agents to conduct their businesses in a manner that can be described as honest, fair, transparent, and professional.

Code Standards

The following Industry Professional Code of Ethics (“Industry Code of Ethics”) serves as RWA’s code of professional conduct for Industry Professionals. Violations of this Industry Professional Code of Ethics may result in loss of privileges such as (but not limited to) listing in Market and Agent Updates, participation in workshops and pitch sessions, and the opportunity to advertise in RWA’s publications.

  • Confidentiality. Author’s financial affairs are private and confidential. Industry Professionals may not share this information except for that customarily disclosed to interested parties as part of the process of placing rights, that required by law, or information for other purposes, if agreed upon with the author in advance.
  • Compensation. An Industry Professional who represents an author in the grant of rights in any property owned or controlled by the author may not accept any other form of compensation or other payment from the acquirer of such rights. Industry Professionals shall not represent both buyer and seller in the same transaction. An Agent’s compensation for all transactions shall be derived solely from the author. Editors/Publishers shall not require authors to participate in the costs of production of their written work in any manner, including but not limited to publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing, preparation, and/or distribution.
  • Funds. An Industry Professional takes responsible measures to protect the security and integrity of authors’ funds. Payments for money owed to the author are made in a timely manner. Books of account, with respect to transactions concerning an author, are opened to that author upon request.
  • Honesty and Integrity. An Industry Professional shall perform his/her duties with honesty and integrity. The Industry Professional shall not mislead, deceive, dupe, defraud or victimize clients, members of the organization, the general public, or any person with whom RWA does business as an Association.
  • Inclusivity. An Industry Professional shall not refuse to work with any member on account of that member’s race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, or religion.
  • Information. An Industry Professional shall keep each author apprised of all matters relating to their agreements and promptly respond to the author’s reasonable requests for information.

Code of Ethics Violations - Industry Professionals

          Filing a Code of Ethics Complaint - Industry

          To file a Code of Ethics complaint, a member must send a signed letter stating which provision(s) of the Code of Ethics have been violated to Deputy Executive Director Carol Ritter at or fax to 832-717-5201. Members must also provide supporting documentation for the complaint. E-mails are acceptable as proof if they are forwarded complete with header.

          Upon receipt of the complaint, RWA will send a letter notifying the publisher/agency of the alleged violation of RWA’s Code of Ethics for Industry Professionals and request the Accused to provide a response within 30 days.

          If the Accused fails to respond or is unable to prove the accusation as false, the publisher/agency will be placed on probation and will be required to resolve the complaint within a reasonable time period as stipulated by RWA.

          • Probationary status will be part of the publisher/agency listing in RWA’s Market Update/Agent Update.
          • During the probationary period, the publisher/agency will be barred from advertising in the RWR and attending RWA’s annual conference as an Industry Professional.

          If, at the end of the probationary period, the violation has been resolved and no other Code of Ethics violations have been reported, the probationary status will be removed from the listing.

          If the violation is not dealt with in a satisfactory manner, the publisher/agency will be removed from RWA’s Market Update/Agent Update. If the publisher/agent is an Associate Member of RWA, membership will be forfeited.

          Once a publisher/agency has been removed from RWA’s Market Update/Agent Update, it may reapply for inclusion after three years providing it has dealt with the prior Code of Ethics violation to RWA’s satisfaction and that no other Code of Ethics violations have occurred.

          Publishers/agencies with a history of unresolved or repeated violations may be permanently banned from participation in all future RWA sponsored activities.

          General Policy and Timeline for Disciplinary Procedures - Member

          A finding of liability against an RWA member by a court of competent jurisdiction or an administrative tribunal, or a public admission of a code of ethics violation by the member that falls within the parameters outlined in the Code of Ethics for Members will result in termination of membership.

          Allegations of violation must be presented in writing, must specify which part of the Member Code of Ethics have been violated and must be mailed or delivered to RWA’s Corporate office. Supporting and verifiable evidence must be submitted along.

          Complainant/s must sign the allegation. Anonymous allegations will not be presented to the Ethics Committee.

          Upon receipt of a properly documented claim, the ED must notify the Board of the allegation and forward the allegation and evidence within five business days to the Ethics Committee for investigation.

          The Executive Director (ED) must notify the Accused of the allegation, including names of Complainant/s, and copies of the supporting evidence within those same five business days.

          The ED will notify the member that a motion to revoke membership will be presented at the next regularly scheduled board meeting.

          The member will be allowed to present a defense to the board prior to the vote.

          The Ethics Committee, including the ED as a non-voting member, is expected to conduct a thorough investigation as quickly as possible. As part of the investigation, the Committee shall make every reasonable effort to communication with the Accused, and the Accused has every right to provide verifiable evidence to dispute the allegation. At the end of the investigation period, the Committee must decide whether to exonerate the Accused or to recommend specific punishment.

           If the Accused admits in writing to the allegation(s) set forth by the Complainant, then within 5 business days, the Ethics Committee must forward to the Board the member Code of Ethics allegation(s), the supporting proof, and the accompanying admission of guilt, along with Ethics Committee's report recommending a penalty, for the Board's decision on an appropriate action.

          If, after a thorough investigation, the Committee finds for the Accused, the Committee has five business days to prepare and submit to the Board a report recommending exoneration. If the Committee finds against the Accused, the Committee has 5 business days to prepare and submit to the Board a report recommending a penalty.

          After the Board receives the Committee's report, it shall vote to accept or reject the Committee’s recommendation/s. Deliberation on the matter shall be conducted in Executive Session. If the Board is not meeting in person, all voting Directors must have copies of all documentation and full access to discussion before voting. Once the penalty is decided, the Accused must be notified within two business days.

          Revocation of membership requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the entire voting membership of the Board of Directors.

          Directors, RWA Staff, the ED and the Ethics Committee members involved in the investigation must hold all information, including the results of an investigation, in strictest confidence.

          The Ethics Committee and RWA Office will keep records of all aspects of investigation, including copies of all correspondence.

          Any Ethics Committee members, Directors, and RWA staff with a conflict of interest in an investigation cannot participate in the investigation or vote on the outcome, as applicable. Any Director who is either the Complainant or the Accused in an investigation is encouraged but not required to recuse herself or himself from the portion of any Board meeting that concerns such investigation; such Director shall not in any event participate in the discussion or vote on the question.

          The Board liaison to the Ethics Committee and the President (as ex-officio member of all RWA committees) have no vote on the Ethics Committee. No Director shall participate in investigations.

          Notification of the Accused of any Member Code of Ethics allegations or decision, any and all submissions of evidence, and acknowledgements from the Accused to RWA must all be in writing and sent via a delivery service that provides delivery confirmation and within established time limits.

          Individuals who refuse delivery of a notice of Member Code of Ethics allegations, or who fail to respond to one, will be deemed to have waived their right to provide a written response. Thirty days from the sending date in the case of a delivery refusal, or 30 days from the verified receipt date, otherwise, the Ethics Committee shall declare a default judgment against the Accused. In this instance, the Member Code of Ethics allegation and the verifiable proof provided by the Complainant, along with the Ethics Committee's report recommending a penalty, shall be forwarded to the Board for a decision on an appropriate action. Once a penalty is decided, the Accused must be sent notice of the default judgment within two business days.

           On the basis of newly discovered exonerating evidence or the overturning of a court decision on appeal, the Accused shall have the right to appeal the Board’s decision to the Board within 10 days thereafter.