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RWA Wrapup 2007: The Community of Romance

RWA is a writer’s conference. It is about the business and craft of writing. As a non aspiring writer, I went as a fan and a blogger to see what it was all about.

While some authors were not happy to see readers and bloggers at RWA, most everyone that I met was delightful. Of course, the first question that springs to mind is whether I will be reviewing these authors in the future. Absolutely. I would think that the authors I met would expect that I be fair and honest else they wouldn’t visit in the future and neither would the rest of you. Further, all these authors deserve to be given an honest and non patronizing review. To do otherwise would indicate I have no respect for them.

Wednesday for me, and for RWA, is all about the literacy signing. When I arrived at the Marsalis ballroom, I was met with quiet and peace. I had no idea what was coming. We worked for hours, unpacking and repacking and counting the books. Then alphabetizing these hundreds of books. When I left at noon, the room was in shambles and I had doubts that in the next five hours, it would be useable. I didn’t want to leave but I had to because I was so hungry and tired, I thought I was going to pass out.

Lisa Kleypas said she was treating us to lunch that day, or rather the Spanish were treating us to lunch. I hoped that the Spanairds were really good to her because by the time noon rolled around, I was surviving on fumes and was ready to eat one whole spanish bull. Lisa Kleypas’ generosity of spirit was inspiring. She was gracious, engaging and pretty amazing. I don’t think I have enough words to describe how amazing she was. We did talk about reader reviews and she stated that her opinion was that everyone should feel free to state their own opinion. She also said that praise was harder to accept than criticism for her.

The Literacy Signing is an event that is open to the public. Anyone can come and wait for hours in lines to buy books they likely may already own for a chance to meet with authors that they love. Some authors, like Nora Roberts and JR Ward, stay patiently until the bitter and long end to greet each reader. Others signed their books and left early.

I ended up volunteering at the signing because RWA needed it. I don’t know if an event like this can be better organized but if you, as a reader, felt like we were disorganized, it was because we were. I was told different things by different people. Some were saying I had to rip a receipt to ensure that they didn’t come in again and use the same receipt to get new books. Others said to just watch and see if they paid. When I directed traffic, funneling the long line into smaller lines, I didn’t know what I was doing either. And it was just as frustrating for me as it was for those standing in line. Ironically, there were authors who wanted to buy their books and get out of Dodge. They were standing in a line parallel to the readers. Some of these authors were complaining quite loudly about standing in line. I thought that was pretty foolish given that the readers were standing in line right next to them.

Thursday started out with the Samhain breakfast. While I was there, there was little talk of the news of the previous day that may find epublished authors de-recognized. Instead, everyone was fairly upbeat. Mandy Roth and Michelle Pillow were sitting with us. It seemed like a good pairing. Mandy was the extrovert and Michelle much quieter. Angie was in person who she was on her blog. I did ask her whether she would be doing any belly dancing as she has blogged about taking lessons but either she waited until I was gone to perform or she refused altogether.

I volunteered at the book fair room which mostly had me standing around and bothering the possible customers. ::shrug:: Being in the book fair room ended up being fortuitous because I was able to meet Linda Howard and kind of embarrass myself. I was explaining to another reader that I had read Howard’s soon to be released book, Up Close and Dangerous, and that it was like Alive but that they didn’t eat each other. Pause. I stumbled on, “Well, I mean. . . ” Linda Howard then says something like, “Actually . . .” You guys get the picture right? I think I was blushing.

By this time, the announcement regarding the changes in the PAN and publisher recognition were beginning to filter from group to group. Erotic romance authors were declaring that they were being marginalized, “once again.” I had to disagree. The changes were in response to epublishing and not in response to erotic romance. Erotic romance is part of RWA and of romance and it is not going anywhere. Sub genre classification had nothing to do with the changes and the instability of epublishers that can spring up overnight had everything to do with it. If it was inspirational romances that were being published primarily in e format and there were the same Triskelion like problems, it would have come down the same way.

Friday was the day of parties. It was book signings and meetings and parties and while fun, it was completely exhausting. I had the great opportunity to meet Marisa and Maria of RomanceNovelTV. These ladies are professional producers and are doing this because they love romance. You can hear it in their voices and their body language as they lean in toward you and excitedly share their opinions of the genre. They have great things planned in the future and it is definitely something to watch in the future.

The greatest surprise was seeing Judith McNaught at the Random House party. Random House held their publisher party at the Mansion at Turtle Creek. When I first stepped into the hotel, I was greeted by an oasis of silence. The Hyatt, where the conference was at, is one non stop place of noise, unbearable noise at that. The room where the party was held was small and low lit. There was an open bar with a center table of delicious food.

The authors’ nametags were their covers which I thought was very clever. Shawn O’Gallagher, senior publicist, greeted everyone as we came in and did a great job of introducing us to her authors. Julie Kenner and I chatted about adoption. Jaci Burton looked adorable in her strapless white and red sundress. Judith McNaught took a hankering to Burton and took her around the room introducing her to various Random House authors.

The Penguin party was lovely. A waiter met us at the door with hot crab cakes and glasses of wine. I spotted Claudia Dain chatting with Tommy Dreiling, the Barnes and Noble buyer. It was his first conference and I think he was overwhelmed by the estrogen overload. Cindy Hwang and Jayne Ann Krentz came to talk to him and then a few other authors such as Marjorie Liu, but I think he would have liked to have made more connections. Authors need to be more proactive about this. I ended up sitting with Sue Grimshaw at the Passionate Ink luncheon and there were several other places open but no one seemed to want to sit with us.

Probably the most interesting part of the conversation was when Dreiling spoke on the issue of erotic romance covers. He reiterated that Barnes and Noble was a family store and that there are some covers that are simply too explicit. I understand that there was at least one book from a NY publisher that Barnes and Noble is not stocking to the surprise of the publisher. I don’t have a problem with this. There is no reason that erotic romance covers can’t be tasteful. I thought Eden Bradley’s covers, both for The Dark Garden and the Darker Side of Pleasure are a great example of tasteful but very erotic covers.

The Dark GardenThe Darker Side of Pleasure

Friday evening ended with the Harlequin party and it was amazing. The ballroom was filled with women and happiness. As schlocky as this sounds, there was so much exuberance in the room that it was infectious. Not one person looked unhappy and truthfully why would you be there if you were? The Harlequin party wasn’t about networking or promotions or anything. It was simply about fun and joy. I got to dance to ABBA with Anne Marie Winston. She’s a pretty good partner but used to her husband leading. I didn’t take any pictures that night. I felt like to do so would be catching people in unguarded moments. It was simply too good of a time to mar in anyway.

One of my biggest disappointments was that I did not get to meet Malle Vallik of Harlequin. Next year, I am going to hunt her down so that we can talk about our mutual love of ebooks.

Saturday was all about the Nora party. The reason I say that is because I was ready to go home. I missed my family tremendously. Everytime someone asked to see my iPhone, I saw a picture of my daughter and I longed for her. Kristie J and Wendy told me it was only one more day, that Nora Roberts invited us to an exclusive shindig and they were right. I could make it.

I have to take a moment to say what a wonderful time I had with Kristie and Wendy and Sybil. They were fun and dear people with whom I wouldn’t hesitate to embark on another venture.

Laura Reeth, the protein pusher and publicist extraordinaire for Nora Roberts, asked which author or authors did not sound like their online personas and I didn’t have a good answer for her.

kcole.jpgAfter meeting Kresley Cole, I do now. Kresley Cole looks like an unattainable goddess in her promotional pictures and her emails to me have been businesslike. I wanted to meet her but was much intimidated. She is, however, completely unlike the aura her photo puts forth. She is still just as gorgeous but friendly, down to earth, and funny. More than anything, I could see her Valkyrie heroines in her. She’s a take no crap, but lets have as much fun as possible living kind of person.

I did notice that Ruth Ryan Langan has this enormous entourage following her wherever she goes, including some big name author named Nora somebody or other. When I saw them, they were either eating or drinking. I am not sure how she stays so tiny. She should write a book on that some day. How I Ate and Drank My Way to Thinness. It’s a guaranteed bestseller.

With Nora, I walked a fine line between being totally stupid and superficially in control. I think, at times, that I appeared normal and others she was re-evaluating her invitation to me. At the party, I caved and whipped out pictures of my daughter. Either to make me feel better or because she is a big show off, she returned with pictures of her family complete with her apple cheeked, slightly red haired grandchildren. Clearly her progeny. They were way cute.

The funny thing is as we were all getting ready for the party, we realized that there was no room number on the invitation. We had been invited to the party but had no idea where it was. We called a couple of numbers but the hotel front desk wasn’t handing out room numbers to any freak who called them swearing that they had an invitation. Finally, Wendy and I headed out of the room and downstairs. On the elevator we spotted someone with an invitation and she reluctantly told us the room number. Thankfully Wendy had brought her invitation to show that we had a legitimate reason for going.

Upstairs I was forced to eat plate after plate of food. If you were there and thought I ate too much, I was doing so under duress and not because the little panini sandwiches were delicious.

I think to some extent these conferences are not so much educational but spiritual as writers come to meet with other writers to get a sense of community in a largely solitary endeavor. Kristie J wrote a great post about being with poeple who know you. To some great extent that is what the convention is about. People talking the same language with you. For writers, I think that there is a sense of affirmation that they are doing something right. That for all the time that they spend, laboring over a laptop or desktop typing out the words appearing in their head, that for all the criticism they receive, either individually for their books or for aspiring to write trash, that there is a purpose and a correspondingly positive result.

I came away from the conference with a greater love for my genre. For all the petty arguments, the dark side of giveaways, the politics, the strained politeness, romance writers are doing good. They are taking us away, with their creativity, from the mundane to the magical. And if you ever go to the conference, you’ll meet these craftswomen, these artists and you’ll believe that you are reading a genre filled with vibrant, beautiful, intelligent women. And you’ll believe that you can be proud that you read a romance.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

55 Comments

  1. Maude
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 04:51:41

    What a thoughtful and beautiful post.

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  2. ilona
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 05:55:24

    Wow, what an uplifting post. It sounds like a totally awesome conference and I’m so glad that you came away with a greater love for the genre. I am deeply envious and will have to make plans to sneak in next year :P

    PS. Jane, you so totally do not look what I thought you would look like.

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  3. Danielle
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 06:05:23

    Jane, thanks for the post…I agree with ilona, you do not look like what I thought yiou would look like either. Welcome home.

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  4. jaq
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 06:29:57

    Wow, great post, Jane. For the most part the photo-laden posts- here and at other blogs–have been my favourites, to the point where I’d mostly scanned the posts with no pics, if that (depending on the post title). But this entry was worth reading every word.

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  5. Nora Roberts
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 07:05:30

    Thank you, Jane, not only for the solid wrap-up, but for getting the heart of the conference, and expressing it so perfectly.

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  6. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 07:21:16

    Jane,

    I’m so glad you were able to sift through the pressure and hassle of the conference and find the underlying connection that keeps so many people coming back year after year.

    And really glad you had a good time.

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  7. Bonnie Ferguson
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 07:24:45

    Thanks for the wonderful post! :)

    ReplyReply

  8. Jayne
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 07:26:20

    I’ve always thought Jane is bee-yut-eful. ;)

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  9. Angela James
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 07:40:28

    Jane is stunning! It was great to meet her, Sybil, Wendy and Kristie and get a chance to chat about books. In person, Jane had the same articulate, expressive way of speaking that she does here on the blog, which made her someone much in demand at the conference. Every time I saw her she was chatting up someone new and they always looked thrilled to be doing it!

    I look forward to seeing all of those bloggers, in addition to Sarah and Candy, again at RWA next year because it made the conference even better to be able to hear the viewpoint of people slightly more removed from the industry. And because meeting people who passionately love books as much as I do is always fabulous.

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  10. Jaci Burton
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 07:42:02

    What a beautiful post, Jane. It was such a pleasure to meet you at RT, along with Sybil, Wendy and Kristie J. You all made the conference that much better, and I think it was one of the best conferences I ever attended. I loved seeing readers, bloggers, PR people, as well as my fellow writers. We are a community and being together for those few days allowed us to get to know each other beyond just the little screen we stare at all year long.

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  11. Maria at romancenovel.tv
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 07:47:34

    Marisa and I had the chance to meet Jane in person and let me tell you she is wonderful. While having breakfast with Jane, she whipped out her new iPhone and I turned a shade of green – this phone is amazing. Jane was the eyes and ears of everything that was happening at the conference.

    But what is so super, special, amazing about Jane (besides being smart and pretty) – was her kindness. While we were filming the after party at the RITA’s, it was almost impossible to get to the authors to interview them — so Jane to the rescue, she helped ’round-up’ authors for our Red Carpet segment. Thanks a million Jane!

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  12. Tara Marie
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 07:48:06

    Thank you for an exciting week of blogging, capping it off with this one is perfect. Those of us who didn’t go were able to live vicarously through you and the other bloggers.

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  13. Gennita Low
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 08:57:07

    It was great meeting you at the conference and be able to put a face to “Jane.” I also want to add that anyone who loves the genre and understands it like you do is very welcome to any writers’ conventions. It’s silly to open the “gates” for TV and reporters but not bloggers and reviewers, IMHO. We’re there about the business and to promote our genre and the more interested people, the better! That said, I’m so glad that your first RWA was a positive one! ;-)

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  14. Charlene Teglia
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 09:08:41

    Of all the reports on RWA, this post is my favorite. I so have to go next year. *makes note to chase down Ilona to sign Magic Bites* Thank you for all the conference coverage, much appreciated by those of us at home.

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  15. Casee
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 09:17:56

    You wrapped RWA up perfectly, Jane. I’m definitely staying a few extra days next year (or the year after). :)

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  16. bam
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 09:34:19

    For writers, I think that there is a sense of affirmation that they are doing something right. That for all the time that they spend, laboring over a laptop or desktop typing out the words appearing in their head, that for all the criticism they receive, either individually for their books or for aspiring to write trash, that there is a purpose and a correspondingly positive result.

    Word, my sister. Word.

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  17. Meljean
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 09:57:01

    Fantastic overview. God, I can’t wait for San Francisco. :-D

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  18. Jami Alden
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 10:02:53

    Great post, Jane! I met Jane and Sybil on my first outing Wednesday afternoon, semi-retarded from sleep deprivation. I babbled incoherently and then told Jane that I loved the blog but I was scared of her… great intro. But it was great to put faces to names and meet the people behind the blogs I regularly visit.

    And I can relate about missing the kids – even though I had my husband and 8 week old in tow, I missed our two year old like you wouldn’t believe.

    We’ll look forward to seeing you in SF next year – all of us from the Bay Area are really excited.

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  19. Leslie Kelly
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 10:14:12

    Jane what a marvelous post. Your last paragraph really hit home and reminded me again of just why I was so bereft at not being able to attend RWA this year. I need that feeling you wrote about, if only once a year. San Francisco is definitely on my calendar!

    Thanks not only for this recap but also for your Rita coverage Saturday night. I was going back & forth between you and SBTB refreshing the screens to see who came up with the next winner fastest…lol!

    Great job!

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  20. EC Sheedy
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 10:31:56

    Fabulous post, Jane. And re the conference, you just *got* it! Summed up the why of it perfectly.

    It was interesting to follow your blog–this from someone who wasn’t able to make the conference–and enjoy the pix and parade that is National.

    Thanks!

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  21. bam
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 10:42:15

    Fantastic overview. God, I can't wait for San Francisco.

    Seconded.

    And it’s going to be doubly awesome for me ’cause I’m moving there in Feb. MWAHAHAHA. frickin’ awesome.

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  22. Jackie
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 10:46:31

    Thanks so much for this, Jane — terrific post. Definitely looking forward to next year’s conference.

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  23. Jessica Inclan
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 10:57:40

    Jane, thanks for presenting so wonderfully your time at RWA.

    I appreciate the views on this blog, and would hate to see it any other way. I don’t think any writer would expect you to “play nice” if you or Jayne or any guest writer didn’t feel it was warranted.

    Thanks for all your kind words about romance writing.

    Jessica Inclan

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  24. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 12:05:33

    This was an awesome post. After two days of reading the complicated posts about the new RWA guidelines, I was beginning to wonder what else went on. Thank you for this.
    I’m hoping to be in San Francisco next year and I hope that Dear Author, The Smart Bitches and others will attend. To me, it IS a community and blogs,such as this one, are a part of it.

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  25. Robin
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 14:07:05

    I came away from the conference with a greater love for my genre.

    I know that people talk about how the RWA is all about the business of Romance (as opposed, for example, to RT), but seriously — how many people go to industry conferences and conventions because they’re primarily about business? IMO there’s a reason these meetings are held in nice cities at nice hotels: they provide plenty of grease to get everyone in the mood to play nicely together and go home with a renewed sense of optimism and commitment to the work/politics/business that can wear you down over the course of the year. I hope that the authors who attended National left with a similar sensibility as you did, Jane, because I would think that given all the challenging stuff we hear about the Romance *industry*, the *genre* still depends on the spirit and the commitment and the talent and the passion of its authors. If it takes 10 conferences a year to keep the good vibes coming, then I think the RWA should plan more of these shindigs.

    As for the question of whether readers/bloggers/reviewers should attend RWA, does that same sentiment apply to all the fans who show up to buy books and have them signed, or just to the folks who dare to have critical opinions? If folks want this to be an authors-only conference, it seems to me that it would be a VERY different type of event, devoid of signings and other events. And again, I think this goes back to the question of what people want from the genre and the industry, and how both authors and readers are perceived relative to one another. IMO if authors want the reviewing attention of reader bloggers, they should welcome said bloggers at National, because the more a part of the community said bloggers feel, the stronger the commitment they will feel to the genre. Of course that doesn’t guarantee gushing reviews for every book, but as Jane said, aren’t bloggers who have integrity in terms of their reviews part of the answer to the insistent cries for more respect for Romance? Who wouldn’t want to encourage that, and what better place than RWA National to support those extended networks?

    Also, a comment on Lisa Kleypas. The only times I have seen her interact with readers online she has been incredibly gracious and respectful, even in the face of some harsh criticism. Personally, I think Avon was stooooooooopid beyond stupid to have let her go, and I hope St. Martin’s values her as an articulate voice for the genre who writes well (and keeps improving her craft) and is an ambassador of incredible poise, intelligence, and grace.

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  26. Robin
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 14:46:30

    By this time, the announcement regarding the changes in the PAN and publisher recognition were beginning to filter from group to group. Erotic romance authors were declaring that they were being marginalized, “once again.� I had to disagree. The changes were in response to epublishing and not in response to erotic romance.

    I had the same response as you did, Jane, especially because I don’t think of, say, Samhain, as an “erotic Romance” publisher. In some ways, I think Romance is like academia — full of people who are used to being outsiders who then form a community of their own, where all sorts of new hierarchies form. Unfortunately, once one group feels marginalized, IMO there’s a fine line between legitimately seeing discrimination and perpetuating one’s own discrimination by shutting oneself out. Anger can catalyze change, but it can also perpetuate self-marginalization and even a stronger investment in feeling marginalized than in facilitating change. How difficult is it, anyway, to get elected to the RWA BOD? Is there a lobbying function? Although despots do exist in the world, my own experience has been more that people are fallible and that they are guided by their own experiences, and that power balances shift over time when the people who want change continue to actively advocate for it. Is that totally fair? Who knows — but it is, for better or worse, the reality of representative democracy. WIth so much erotic Romance and erotica in the market now, it’s difficult for me to see that prejudice behind the new regulations. As for a move against e-pubs, maybe it’s time to take a long look at how paper and e presses are comparable and different, and to figure out if the organizational mission of PAN and the RWA apply effectively to epubs. Does the RWA need to be more expansive in their view, or do epubs need to start their own advocacy group? I’ve always found it a little strange that RWA is the only game in town when so many people feel so negatively toward it.

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  27. Julia Quinn
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 14:55:09

    Add my voice to the chorus. It was so lovely to meet you, and I loved going back to my room to read the “twittering.”

    I don’t know was exactly that made this year’s conference so special–I mean, obviously it was a great week for me, personally, but there was something more in the air. I returned home truly feeling that I had reconnected with friends in a different way.

    JQ, tired but happy

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  28. Emma Wayne Porter
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 15:24:27

    Great, great post.

    Almost enough to make me want to drag my borderline-agoraphobic butt to SF.

    Thanks for taking the time to write all this out.

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  29. Janine
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 15:25:39

    Awesome reportage from RWA, Jane. And great post here. The love you have for the genre really comes through.

    I have just one question — can you (or other attendees) tell us more about what publishing trends we can expect to see coming up?

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  30. Jane
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 15:42:33

    Thanks for all the kind words. I met so many authors there so I was thinking that if you wanted an individual impression, you might ask me in the forum rather than me cluttering up the blog and forgetting people.

    As for the publishing trends, unfortunately, I didn’t make it to one single spotlight. I did talk to a couple of editors: Cindy Hwang at Berkley and Heather Osborn at Tor. Essentially they told me the same thing that they said in their interviews. Cindy is looking for original voices and Heather is looking for good urban fantasy. Both sound great to me.

    Maybe I can get the publishers to come and give us a spotlight summary for the blog.

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  31. Nora Roberts
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 15:48:03

    I must hang with the right people. None of those I interacted with had anything negative to say about reviewers/bloggers attending the conference. In fact, exactly the opposite. My writer pals were delighted to meet Jane, Sybil, Wendy, the SBs.

    Reader reviews and blogs are part of our industry–and an important part. I think it’s great these ladies took the time, and spent the dough to come to Dallas and see what National was all about, met with writers, gave their free time to volunteer. Enjoyed themselves.

    I hope I see them all–and more–in SF next year.

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  32. Nora Roberts
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 16:22:29

    I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of epublishing. But I know something about publishing in general. And when I pop around the blogs and I hear some e-authors, angry with RWA’s decision, calling the organization a group filled with dried-up old hags–and more inflammatory terms–I’m not much inclined to listen to those writers’ side of things. I’m a member so I’m being called a dried-up old hag–and so are many, many women I love and respect. I hear them claim RWA is irrelevent. It’s very relevent to me.

    You won’t get my ear or my interest by blasting insults and obscenities over the blogs.

    I did read a few very reasoned and articulate opinions by other e-authors or editors. Makes a big difference.

    As I said, I don’t know the ins and outs, but I don’t believe RWA made this decision to shove erotica into the corner. It strikes me as creating a benchmarks for publishers, to protect writers.

    Who got shafted when Triskelion and Venus went under? The writers.

    Yes, I’m sure the entire business must be studied more carefully, and the BOD must educate themselves on this area of the business.

    But a thousand dollars doesn’t seem out of line to me. I sold my first book 27 years ago–a 55k category Romance. And my advance was 3k. Yes, that was paper, and this is e, but–admitting I know little about it–a thousand dollars seems like a reasonable amount to expect.

    There are many books in the erotic area in Romance publishing. So I can’t buy the argument this is aimed at erotica–making RWA and its members those dried up old hags. But if ebooks are, as I’ve been hearing for years, the wave of the future, maybe it’s time to bring the publishers of ebooks closer to industry standards that help a writer earn a reasonable wage for the work.

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  33. Stephanie Feagan
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 16:32:52

    What a lovely post, Jane. Thank you. I regret I never had the opportunity to meet you. I had to make haste at the book signing so I could run off to a quiet room and assume my alter ego of Count deMoney. It makes me glad you were able to attend, that you enjoyed yourself, and most of all, that you ‘get it.’ :)

    And Nora, maybe we should start the Dried Up Old Hags Club. You can be President first.

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  34. Jessica Inclan
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 16:35:01

    Having spoken to a couple of Triskelion “former” authors, I know that what happened at that publishing house effected writers a great deal. And what has recently also gone on at Simon and Schuster with rights should remind us that authors are often unprotected.

    And as for shoving erotica aside–my editor at NAL asked me a couple of times to go into erotica! Since I have been with NAL and Kensington, erotica lines have come forth. So I’m not sure about it being pushed away.

    Jessica Inclan

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  35. Angela James
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 16:48:39

    I'm not familiar with the ins and outs of epublishing. But I know something about publishing in general. And when I pop around the blogs and I hear some e-authors, angry with RWA's decision, calling the organization a group filled with dried-up old hags-and more inflammatory terms-I'm not much inclined to listen to those writers' side of things. I'm a member so I'm being called a dried-up old hag-and so are many, many women I love and respect. I hear them claim RWA is irrelevent. It's very relevent to me.

    You won't get my ear or my interest by blasting insults and obscenities over the blogs.

    I did read a few very reasoned and articulate opinions by other e-authors or editors. Makes a big difference.

    I have been saying much the same thing on message boards and blogs in the past few days.

    But a thousand dollars doesn't seem out of line to me. I sold my first book 27 years ago-a 55k category Romance. And my advance was 3k. Yes, that was paper, and this is e, but-admitting I know little about it-a thousand dollars seems like a reasonable amount to expect.

    You’re exactly right when you say that a thousand dollars is a reasonable amount to expect–from a NY publisher. But epublishers work within a different business model. I’m going to sound very repetitive of myself, because I’ve used similar wording often the past few days, but the allure of epublishing is its ability to give a larger number of books a chance because we have less risk involved in publishing them. Please note that I didn’t say no risk, only less. Advances are the major overhead that the epublishing business model cuts out.

    For some authors, this is unaccepatable, but very many find this works for them. They collect a larger royalty (35-40% of the cover price) on ebooks and get paid those royalties much more quickly than NY can afford to pay. At Samhain, our authors get paid monthly for their ebook sales of the previous month, and bi-annually for their print sales of a six month time period.

    However, there is still overhead and still risk in running an epublisher, and publishing those books, so the business model shouldn’t be discounted as one of a vanity press or of benefit to the publisher. We pay for marketing, advertisement, cover art, editing, copy editing, travel to conferences and many other things. Money is always going out.

    I don’t think that the epublishing model being different from the NY business model, in not offering a large advance (we do offer an advance but it’s nominal) means it’s not a legitimate publisher that can offer a career-minded author an opportunity. I would point to Mary Janice Davidson, Lora Leigh, Angela Knight, Jaci Burton, Linnea Sinclair and a number of others as authors who began their careers as epublished authors and who were, one might argue, discovered by NY and had previously established fan bases to boost their numbers, because of their beginnings in epublishing.

    As you can tell, this is a subject I feel passionately about (with good reason, lol) and one I can expound on at length, but essentially, I feel that epublishing operates on a legitimate business model which I hope can eventually be recognized and welcomed into the RWA, for the benefit of its members who choose to take that avenue in pursuit of a publishing career. I think the board members of RWA have taken an excellent step in proposing the task force, as Stef explained on my blog, and I hope to see changes and better understanding develop in the coming years.

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  36. Nora Roberts
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 17:01:57

    Angela, I understood more in your single post than in a dozen rants I passed through today. Thanks.

    Let me ask–apart from the publisher benchmark, there was a qualifying writer’s one for PAN. Is that right? 1k earned on a book. I hope I have this right. If so, and going by what you’ve just told us, then it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for an ebook author to routinely earn 1k–not in an advance, but in royalties?

    So the writers would be reasonably protected–if I have it right. And the process and culture of epublishing is something that needs to be better understood in order to make things fair and equitable in RWA land?

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  37. Nora Roberts
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 17:03:20

    Stef, I’ll be President, but you have to be Treasurer. You have experience. I’d like to have Pat Gaffney as Secretary as she was a court reporter in a former life, and should be able to handle it. I want a sock puppet as VP.

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  38. Angela James
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 17:59:24

    Angela, I understood more in your single post than in a dozen rants I passed through today. Thanks.

    Thank you. In another lifetime, I worked on a treatment team in a psych hospital. I learned quickly that to be a good advocate for the patients on that team, I needed to be able to speak rationally and calmly while presenting facts. The psychiatrist and/or psychologist was rarely impressed if I drove myself to tears in impassioned pleas or arguments. This is just another form of advocating, same principles apply.

    Let me ask-apart from the publisher benchmark, there was a qualifying writer's one for PAN. Is that right? 1k earned on a book. I hope I have this right. If so, and going by what you've just told us, then it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for an ebook author to routinely earn 1k-not in an advance, but in royalties? So the writers would be reasonably protected-if I have it right.

    Let’s say the book sells for a cover price of 5.50 (for us this a book of 60-100k words) and the author makes 40% of the royalties. The author would need to sell around 450 copies of the book to earn the $1000 benchmark, in I believe 18 months was what the board set as the term. That’s definitely doable, in my opinion.

    And the process and culture of epublishing is something that needs to be better understood in order to make things fair and equitable in RWA land?

    Yes, I believe I attempted to explain this to Allison Kelley and Stef Feagan during our brief chat at RWA, but I strongly feel that much of the uproar you’re seeing across the internet comes from something which seems simple, but is a loaded term: vanity press. Had the attempt not been made to define it quite so broadly, and in terms which have never been used before (namely the one small portion about publisher primarily selling their books from a publisher-generated website) then I believe a huge portion of this upset could have been avoided. From what I’ve been seeing, it’s that in particular which has epublished authors feeling targeted and segregated. Vanity Press publishing has always carried with it not-so-positive terms and many authors felt was a serious blow from an organization they’d previously felt a part of, under the publisher recognition policy.

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  39. Crystal Jordan
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 18:57:19

    Vanity Press publishing has always carried with it not-so-positive terms and many authors felt was a serious blow from an organization they'd previously felt a part of

    I would have to agree with Angie on this. One of the things I talked about with Crissy Brashear at the Samhain breakfast at RWA (okay, maybe harped on is a better description) is that a legitimate, royalty-paying epublisher does not meet the basic definition of a vanity publisher.

    Vanity Press: a printing house that specializes in publishing books for which the authors pay all or most of the costs. –dictionary.com

    The kind of epublisher Angie described (Samhain) does not make authors pay for their books to be published. So, not only is the term less than positive, it’s also inaccurate. Hey, I’m a librarian, forgive me for being anal in the area of describing/defining/categorizing–this is what they pay me for in real life.

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  40. sherry thomas
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 20:28:24

    I’m running out of superlatives, so I’ll just say good post, Jane. And it was good meeting you.

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  41. Kat
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 21:55:43

    Great wrap-up. Sounds like you had so much fun!

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  42. Jess
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 22:26:25

    *grumbles* Y’all I’m not going to remember this in 2013. It’ll be good to remember the convention next year. *sighs* Heck, Dragon*Con is my back door every year and I just learned about it a couple years ago, and attended last year.

    Memory like a broken colander, man. *shudders* Also? Gonna be the Marriott Marquis. *eye twitches* Y’all, I went there last year. I’m skeered to go trekking again as it is. On the plus side, maybe all the construction’ll be done by 2013.

    That is to say, Jane, I’m quite envious. Very, actually. It sounds like a place where, for the most part, everyone felt like they belonged. Like a crazy family reunion where you see people you haven’t seen years, and makes you all giggly. Where the muckity muck thinks you’ve been sipping the wine a bit too much. ;) I’m glad you had fun. You do a lot for the site, so it’s nice to see that you get to bear the fruits of it.

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  43. TeddyPig
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 22:32:42

    Dang, I am glad I read the comments here.

    All I can say is Angela James you are all that and a bag of chips.

    No one will ever convince me otherwise.

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  44. Shannon
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 06:39:59

    All I can say is Angela James you are all that and a bag of chips.

    She is, and Doritos at that. :) It’s always a relief to read Angie’s calm, professional, informative comments in the midst of hysteria. It was also a relief to have her home to explain what was going on because I thought the changes (other than the vanity wording) were positive for authors and I couldn’t figure out why many of my fellow e-published authors were frothing at the mouth and spewing the anti-NY/RWA vitriol again. I thought I was missing something.

    I’ve never been to a National conference, but I’m going to seriously give it some thought in the future. Not San Fran because I can’t be a coast away from my kids and enjoy myself, but I might try for DC. It sounds like this year was awesome, and it’s the first year I’ve really regretted not being there.

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  45. Angela James
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 09:22:14

    All I can say is Angela James you are all that and a bag of chips.

    No one will ever convince me otherwise.

    Well. Thank you :) I hope that I never manage to convince you otherwise!

    She is, and Doritos at that.

    Whoo, feeling the love now!

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  46. Malle Vallik
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 10:14:57

    Jane,
    I, too, am sorry we missed connecting! Next year for sure. Thanks for a great recap of the conference. I am sending around the link so that my debrief is so much shorter!

    I did go to the librarian’s day organized by the phenomenal Cathie Linz on Wednesday and had a great discussion about eBooks. Libraries and eBooks is still a frontier (to be well not just conquered, but entered!)

    Malle

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  47. Jeaniene Frost
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 12:19:07

    Jane, what a lovely recap of RWA, and I just wanted to second how wonderful Marisa and Maria were from RomanceNovelTV. I was lucky enough to meet them when they interviewed me and two other authors (Kathryn Smith, Kerrilyn Sparks) for a “paranormal” segment. Both Marisa and Maria were funny, witty, and seemingly tireless! What great ladies. I hope they come back to the next RWA.

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  48. Teddy Pig
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 12:27:10

    “I couldn't figure out why many of my fellow e-published authors were frothing at the mouth and spewing the anti-NY/RWA vitriol again. I thought I was missing something.”

    Well see, I can respect that reaction. It was a BIG deal to the writers when the ePubs finally got recognized. People started to feel they were being seen as professionals. It did give a sense of validation.

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  49. Bev(BB)
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:01:20

    The funny thing is as we were all getting ready for the party, we realized that there was no room number on the invitation.

    I think this is the funniest thing in the entire post. What a way to weed out guests. Invite them and then hide the party. Hehehe.

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  50. Nora Roberts
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:20:56

    Must explain. No room number because the hotel will not give a confirmed room number on making reservations. Frankly, a pain in the ass every year.

    WHY when we book can’t they just say you’ll be in room whatever? But they won’t. So every year I have to go around telling people, or taking calls from the front desk so they’ll tell people.

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  51. Bev(BB)
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:56:46

    I figured it was something like that, Nora. Jane’s description of them frantically trying to convince everyone they weren’t kooks trying to crash the party . . . really . . . had me in stitches, though. ‘Cause we all know they looked sooooo innocent doing it. Especially Sybil. ;p

    Still chuckling. ;)

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  52. Emily
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 09:00:38

    re: routinely making $1000 from ebooks. I would estimate that most authors at the top 5 epublishers would make $1000 per book within two years more often than not. With the rest it might well be rare and very low sales are routine at the tail end. This is an issue that would be well worth discussing if raised with helping the authors in mind. Many authors do not think analytically about earnings when they select and approach an epublisher, and many do sell themselves short. But the RWA hotsheet raised this issue in a way that is more likely to entrench the problem than address it.

    I also agree with TeddyPig that the magnitude of the reaction has to do with the way three eoresses were given the RWA recongition many of their writers craved, or at least appreciated, only to lose it scant months later. In a reversal fo the old adage it would be better not to be recognised at all, than recognised and dropped–and the whole vanity issue is a hot button.

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  53. Liddy Midnight
    Jul 20, 2007 @ 23:58:39

    Thanks for the RWA National Conference recap, Jane. You almost make me want to go next year. To tell the truth, RWA’s a bit too big for my taste. I have come to prefer regional conferences and the RT convention. (You do all know the difference between a conference and a convention, don’t you? At a conference, you diligently attend workshops, take notes and network to advance your career. At a convention, you throw glitter in your hair and dance with cover models.)

    Very interesting discussion. Let me weigh in with another perspective, this from a small-press published author, who has made most of her royalties on digital sales from her publisher’s website. And one who has no intention of resigning from RWA. Why would I leave the organization that has helped me so much just because of a blip in the organization’s policies? This controversy doesn’t pass my 5-year test, as in, will it matter in 5 years? Not a bit, IMHO.

    The furor was raised by the definition of vanity presses that encompassed all epublishers. The later clarification, to the effect that “primarily” was not the intended word and “exclusively” should have been used to describe sales from the publisher’s website, does sound ludicrous coming from a group of people who make a career out of carefully selecting their words. Add to that the fact that only now is a task force being organized to study the epublishing portion of the industry, and the situation gives every impression of a BoD that formulated policy in total ignorance.

    “Publisher recognition” never made sense to me and I’m pleased to see it fall by the wayside. However, the argument that RWA intends to protect its members from publishers that do not meet RWA’s standards is questionable. As the guidelines for participation in editor appointments at National were presented, publishers who do not meet RWA’s criteria may still participate at the national conference by paying a fee. How many members who wouldn’t do their due diligence before signing a contract – or even, heaven forfend, before submitting! – will bother to pay attention to, or be put off by, which publishers had to pay to participate and which didn’t?

    As for royalty income, to date I’ve made at least $1K on every one of my ebooks – some of them have brought in a lot more than that in the first month. That’s with my current publisher. When I was with LTDBooks (years ago but who’s counting?), and before that the pioneer Dreams Unlimited, epublishing was in its infancy and such an ROI was inconceivable. Times have changed, and the industry will change with it. ‘Tis the nature of the beast.

    Oh, and I’d really like to see a royalty rate of at least 30% on digital sales added to the RWA expectations of an acceptable publisher. Given the low overhead and minimal cost of sales for digital copies, I see no justification for a publisher paying authors the same royalties as for print sales.

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  54. Ruth Ryan Langan
    Jul 21, 2007 @ 13:48:57

    Jane
    Great wrap up of RWA Dallas.

    And here I was thinking nobody noticed my entourage. Next year I’ll be more discreet, at least while in the bar.

    It was great meeting you, Jane. (For those of you who haven’t seen her – She’s tall, slim, elegant, and oh so pretty.) Can’t wait to see you next year in SF.

    Ruth

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  55. Kate Pearce
    Jul 25, 2007 @ 22:09:46

    Thank you for a great summary-and for a reasoned discussion about the epublisher debate!

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