Monday, August 2, 2010

RWA National Round-Up

Hey all,

Last week I attended the RWA National conference in Disney World, Fl. I had intended to post from the conference but wifi was spotty at best. So I’ll attempt to do a round up now. Attempt -lol.

This conference was a first in many ways for me. First RWA, first time meeting my agent in person, first time meeting many, many, MANY of my favorite romance authors. To tell the truth, it was overwhelming. My agent dubbed it conference brain. Half of the time I walked about in a fog, just listening to the cacophony of chatter that was 2300 women writers.

There were writers in every stage of the game, newbies who hadn’t yet finished a manuscript, writers on the prowl for agents, agented writers on the prowl for editors, and published writers who were doing their part to keep the momentum up for their careers. What impressed me the most is that no matter what stage a writer was in they all welcomed you with open arms. There was a line down the length of a ballroom waiting to meet Kresley Cole yet it didn’t stop her from asking what sort of books I wrote. That happened a lot. Published authors wanted to know. Wanted to encourage you as well.

Can I talk about the book signings for a minute?? Crazy! I had no idea what to expect, or why all these women were toting around rolling suitcases. Uhm, yeah, because the publishing houses were giving away hundreds of books. Literally. I went to barely half of the signing booths and came away with a whopping 66 free books. Some of which haven’t hit the shelves. OMG, it was like Christmas. Especially when I could read a book a day if I let myself. My sister (another self professed romance junky) and I did a little gig at the end of the day. And with over a hundred books available for free, it more than makes up for the cost of the conference. I’m telling you, I’ve never seen anything like it!

And while this was a romance writer’s conference, you needn’t be a romance writer to get a lot out of the experience. Workshops ranged from Donald Maass’s Fire in Fiction (can’t tell you how miffed I was to miss that one!) to a workshop on CSI criminal investigations…and of course, hot and heavy heroes –how to craft them. Lol.

Agents galore were in attendance. While sitting in the lobby for a quick rest, I spied Holly Root, Barbara Poelle, Jessica Faust, and Melissa Jeglinski all at the same time. Talk about a dream scenario to practice your elevator pitch. :)

As for what editors are looking for/buying, the consensus is books that will easily fit with what is already on the shelves. If your book is not comparable to well-selling books, you’ve got a problem. These are cautious times. Editors are not going out on the limb as much as finding a sure thing. Or as close as they can get.

For instance, I attended a workshop entitled, Buy This Book. Basically, one brave soul volunteers to go up and pitch their work to a mock editorial board. They ask the writer questions such as, does the writer have a platform? Where will the book fit on the shelves? What is comparable? Can we expect film and or TV rights? How big a print run? Paper, trade, or hardcover and why? Can we get media coverage for this book?

Ack! It was enough to give me heartburn. Worse, one woman went up and had a stellar hook. So much so that agent Barbara Poelle asked for the full on the spot. This writer had a good answer for every question, she had a very decent platform and a great hook that would tie in with media coverage. The audience was pea green with envy *g*. This book _had_ to sell. Right?


The editor passed. Why? Because she said the romantic suspense market was so saturated that she wasn’t interested in acquiring anything that she couldn’t get a guaranteed 250k print run AND in hardcover. This woman’s book just didn’t sound big enough to do that. So no. A big no based on nothing more than this particular house’s current line-up and needs. Shudder.

The short of it is this: writing is a craft, an art. We writers write because we need to. It feeds our souls. Publishing is a business. Millions of dollars are at stake. Thus it is a cutthroat, impersonal business. A published writer needs to be someone who knows that while they may be practicing a craft, it is their business sensibility that will get them published. No one –except those rare, RARE few writers at the top of the NY Times list- is immune to the needs and expectations of the publishing houses.

I strongly encourage you all to write what you love but consider your stories before you get into them. Will it fit in the market? Is it too out there?

I know, I know. I sound mercenary, and pandering. I don’t like it anymore than you all do. But it is a reality we need to face. There are thousands and thousands of writers out there and only a relative handful of slots in publishing. Honestly, getting an agent is the easy part. Getting published and staying published is the struggle. Help yourself get there by learning the rules of the game.

And if you can afford it, go to a conference. Not to score and agent, or an editor. But because there really is nothing better than being immersed in a room full of people who love the same thing as you. Gabbing about writing is utterly awesome. My agent asked me if I had any “wow” moments during the conference. I can say now that my best moments were when I got to sit and talk to people who had been where I’d been and who totally understood what I was feeling, who understood the passion. For that alone, it was worth it!

All and all, it was a great conference. I would totally go to it again. Only the next time, I hope to get even more out of it.


  1. Kristen, Thanks for the insight. This is a great post. We tend to forget what sell is as important at our need to feed our passion.

  2. Excellent round-up, Kristen. And yes, finding that balance between writing what you love and writing what will sell, is a very tricky business. Something to bear in mind, for sure.

  3. Wow Kristen, thanks for sharing all this! I didn't know they gave out free books at these things! Actually, I agree with you, though I don't think it has to do with considering the market, more so than finding out what genre you're book is in and then writing to the very best of your ability in that genre.
    Would you recommend these conferences for writers who don't have agents yet? Or is it just a pipe dream that you'll pitch to someone there and sign on the spot?

  4. Deniz -- I wish is were simply a matter of writing to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately, excellent skills and voice are simply a given. Consideration in buying a book is more and more a cut and dry business decision, especially for debut authors. Here is a good article about the state of the business -there is a good paragraph or two about how and editor goes about acquiring a book. But for a healthy slap in the face of what editors do when considering a book, use the link in that article to see a profit and loss statement. This is what drives a house to buy now -profits and loss. I don't want to come off alarmist but I think that we as unpublished writers ought to know the truth of the situation. Because there seems to be a huge disconnect to what a newbie writer is told to do and what actually happens out there. Does that mean we can't write a story we love? No. But I do think we have to take certain things into consideration or face the fact that it might not sell. Then again, their is always that exception to the rule. :)

    As for going to a conference to get an agent. Yeah, it SO does happen. While at the RWA, I had lunch with Janice Hardy who has the same agent as I do and she said she hooked up with Kristin from a pitch session she did at Surrey. And I recall that Anne Rice met her agent from doing a pitch. I don't think it is ever on the spot as they still have to read the full *g* but snagging an agent from a pitch does happen.

  5. ack -I forgot the link! Here it is:

  6. Thanks Kristen! Maybe it's about time I started thinking seriously about going to Surrey next year... You think by then I'll have a final complete sellable draft of either of my two novels? :-))))
    Off to check out the article...