For readers, we should see very little change in the near term and it’s difficult to guess exactly how it will affect us later. Both houses have been reluctant to engage in the high volume discounting that HarperCollins and Hachette employs. One thing that could be improved and consolidated is the production teams. Maybe ever RH digital book will finally have a color cover! We may also see a pooling of resources to improve the technological access to books. GalleyCat
This year’s Romantic Times convention was my fourth in a row. Since my first visit, RT has underwent a dramatic change and much of it has to do with moving the focus away from cover models and toward the readers. In 2012, RT did not have a Cover Model pageant and while there were cover models roaming the halls, the overt sexuality of past conferences was not present.
This is not to say that all readers are happy with this change. Some vocal readers expressed unhappiness at the lack of eye candy and the disappearance of the Mangeant, as it is fondly referred to by some of us. (I think Heather Osborn may have named it) I overheard one reader exclaim to a friend after having her picture taken with a cover model that “it made her conference.”
You can’t really have an increased YA celebration and mantitty all over the place and thus I believe that in choosing to foster young readers, RT is making the absolute right decision as to the direction of their conference.
During the immense signing, RT set up Teen Alley. It was mobbed during the signing. There were groups of girls, some who came with their mothers and others who came with library groups. One library group had printed “Author Prom” t shirts for their readers. The readers wore the shirts and had the authors sign the t shirts. What a marvelous idea.
Even though the conference price is high, the hotels they choose are reasonably priced, some meals are provided, and a ton of swag (books and other items like bookmarks, chapstick, pens). However, I believe the most valuable thing that the readers get from this is the opportunity to meet with authors. The authors will sit in the bar and the lobby and are very receptive to readers coming up to them and engaging in them. Authors, I’ve learned, get a thrill from being recognized and acknowledged by readers. Some authors, like Beth Kery aka Bethany Kane, were anxious to meet other authors like Anne Rice. (I’m not sure if Beth ever got her Anne Rice meeting but I did hear that Anne Rice was in the elevator at some point!)
The Hyatt was really a great conference hotel. The staff was super nice and they put out signs that celebrated romance readers and had no snark! (At least none that I saw). Whether it was Hyatt or RT, there was a big dry erase board where a new question was posted every day and people were invited to write in their answers.
I attended a couple of sessions. One was the reader roundtable that Sarah and I facilitated. It ended up being a lot of authors wanting to hear from readers (dear readers, we want to hear from you!!) but listening to authors talk about their favorite books was really fun. MaryJanice Davidson confessed that she just started reading George RR Martin’s series and that she was totally hooked.
There were some RT scandals. What would RT be without scandals? J.R. Ward instigated #peegate. Apparently she twice used the restroom on Friday and both times had her bodyguards prevent any one from entering. Dear everyone there, no one but the hotel staff has the right to bar you from the restroom, particulary if you were a paying customer. Of other interest to Ward readers, she intimated in her panel that Butch and Vishous are regularly having sex. I guess that is okay for Jane, after all, she is just a ghost but what about poor Marissa? (Edited to add a link to someone who took more copious notes)
Q: We haven’t seen much of Butch and V lately–
JR: interrupts They’ve been seeing plenty of each other!
Q: — will we ever see any of that on the page?
JR: No.. [paraphrased]... I will give hints about it and talk about it verbally, but it won’t be on the page… because too many people would hate it. sotto voce Butch is getting it regularly.
I tried to pump Nalini Singh for details about the ghost but she refused to give it up. Actually, she seemed close to being broken on Friday night (I had worked her over good for three days) and admitted that she wanted to tell but was afraid that if she spilled the beans to even one person that the floodgates would be breached and she couldn’t keep it a secret anymore. I told her that I knew it was Kaleb and in the event that she choose someone else to be the ghost, I would need a legal brief justifying her alternative choice. Someone is going to have to write a lot of fan fiction for me if the ghost ends up being someone else. Nalini is a very good sport. She had dinner with Angela James and Sarah Wendell and I. I think Angie and I spent about a good hour complaining about certain aspects of Nalini’s books. (Angie and I are not fans of reincarnation stories) Nalini took everything with really good humor. Perhaps it helps that Angie and I are real fans of both series but as I look back at that dinner, I am pretty amazed at how gracious Nalini was with Angie and I.
One of my highlights and more embarassing moments came right before the booksigning. I had slipped in to take photos which I have uploaded to the new Dear Author flickr account. Loretta Chase was there. I told her that when I was in Korea, I went to a bookstore and there was Lord of Scoundrels in Korean. I wished I had brought it with me. I shared with her repeatedly, in a rush of garbled words, how much I appreciated her books and loved her writing. I also told her that no matter what grade we gave her on the blog, we still appreciated her contribution to the genre. I think I may have said that three or four times. It was embarassing. I’m glad few people were there to see me.
RT has made Saturday into a reader event. There are four or five sessions going on at one time so that there is always something that will fit a readers’ particular interest. I’m not certain what readers want out of conferences but if it is to meet with other readers and authors in an informal but engaging setting, then RT is likely to satisfy.
I had written an entire blog post about RT 2010 and lost 10 paragraphs because of the [insert your own profanity] WordPress blogging app on the iPad. I think my tongue is bloody from biting it to prevent the rage from spilling forth. Probably, though, it was for the best. I will now be ultra concise (and given the length of the post, that’s a very good thing).
I attended two panels:
- Vamps with Charlaine Harris, Kerrilyn Sparks, Cathy Clamp and Mario Acevedo
- Demystifying e Book Contracts with Ethan Ellenburg, Elaine English, Raelene Gorlinksy
Both of these panels were summarized for RT and the full reports can be read at the Romantic Times website sometime in the near future. The highlights of those are as follows:
Harris enjoys reading Sparks but isn’t writing that kind of story. There were no hints given regarding the future of the Sookie relationship status but it sounds very tenuous. Don’t look for an HEA from Harris.
Sparks writes about what she finds romantic which means men that are gentleman and treat the heroine with kindness and gentleness. She also tries to write funny stories.
Clamp tries to write about two equals even though she thinks that many readers like a strong heroine but want the hero stronger. She says that the readers who write to her represent a small minority of the overall readership. She realizes that there are many dissatisifed and satisfied readers who will never communicate with her.
Acevedo spent most of the time blushing about the sex talk (which is really mild).
Don’t be afraid to negotiate but don’t be an ass about it either was the message from the panelists. Get a publishing attorney, not a general attorney, to review your contract if you have questions. Understand that publishers are writing the contract that best suits their needs and purpose. Definitely use Google and other resources but understand that book contracts are confusing and complex. Don’t kick yourself if you don’t understand it. If you sign with a new epublisher and are concerned about terms, bring those up. New epublishers may not be sophisticated in the contract drafting but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are are trying to cheat you. Conversely, don’t hold your nose and sign when you aren’t sure of what is going on.
I also participated in two panels
- Save the Contemporary Reader Roundtable
- EReader Panel
Save the Contemporary
This was a small but fun panel. We had three authors: Julie James, Louisa Edwards, and Victoria Dahl. We really engaged the readers and asked them to share with us what they liked and didn’t like about books. Most of the readers liked small town settings but it the books represent a sanitized version of the small towns. One person wondered whether small towns was code for white, Christian.
Another person shared that a submission of hers was turned down when she wanted to write something much darker with racial implications.
We talked about covers. One reader mentioned she really likes it when the covers include plot elements like the cover of “On the Steamy Side” by Louisa Edwards.
Sarah Wendell, my co moderator, prompted Julie James to tell the story about the dress on the cover of “Something About You.” In the story, the heroine wears a backless fuschia dress exactly as it is depicted on the cover. This is no moment of serendipity. Instead, James had written the character as wearing a sexy black dress but when she received the cover image, she changed the dress of the heroine to match the cover.
It was a great time and I hope that we have more of these in the future. The readers were so engaged. I could have talked for hours with everyone.
The comment I heard after the panel was that they were more confused than ever about what ereader to buy. It is confusing. We brought Sony, Nook, Kindle, the new Kobo Reader, iPhone, iPad, and netbooks. We brought up 8 things to consider when deciding on what ereader to buy (I’ll post those next Sunday). The easiest device to use was determined to be the Kindle. The cheapest is the new Kobo Reader.
There were things I liked about the Kobo Reader and things I didn’t. The Kobo is lightweight and I loved the quilted matt back finish. For $149, it’s a good eink reader but the software program could definitely make it better. Sarah and I thought the screen resolution was not as good as the Sony Pocket Edition. I was suprised that though the Kobo has bluetooth capabilities, it is only for the purpose of connecting Reader with a blackberry. I couldn’t tether it to the Macbook for over the air syncing of content. Weird.
All Romance Ebooks gave away a Sony Reader Touch and offered up three coupon codes. For each book listed below you can get a 50% discount. The codes are case sensitive.
- What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss -janeRT2010
- Instant Attraction by Jill Shalvis – sarahRT2010
- Stray by Rachel Vincent – angelaRT2010
RT is a day/night conference. By day, it is mostly a writer’s conference with five or six writer panels for every one reader event. By night, it is a spectacle of fairy wings, vampire teeth, pleather, leather, and latex. There were the not very original coterie of non romance readers there to gawk and draw conclusions about the romance readership as a whole.
There were only 6 Mr. Romance contestants. I heard four didn’t show up and at least three were last minute additions including one who referred to this as another “dance gig.” One of the contestants was a guy who had come to the conference to learn to write romances. Andrew (whose last name I can’t recall at this moment) had written a book on the love lives of philosophers and apparently it was 30 stories of tragicly bad romances. Andrew began reading romances for the positive endings and would like to see his name on the cover, not necessarily his face.
The winner, Jamie, seemed like a sweet boy for whom a cover modeling gig seems perfectly suited to his skill set. Read into that what you will.
Mr. Romance 2009, Charles Paz?, got up on stage and began lamenting the mean girl bloggers of 2009 who posted his picture and made comments about his person suggesting that perhaps he was not their vision of a cover model for romance books. Apparently this affected Charles so adversely that he was unable to get out of bed. Fortunately, the facebook fans were wholly encouraging and gave him a reason to rise in the morning. Charles then broke down and started crying, sobbing almost. In fact, there were more tears shed on stage of Mr. Romance 2010 than at the last Miss America pageant (more cogent answers at the Miss America pageant as well). You mean girl bloggers, ruining everything. (As an aside, no one I talked to even remembered seeing posts about the winner from 2009. All I could remember was that he was short in 2009 and he is still short today).
Everyone agreed that RT has become more subdued and less sexualized. I attribute that to the fact that the Ellora’s Cavemen no longer roam the halls, barechested and eager. EC did hire local strippers for EC party. The rumor is that they are holding back the real cavemen for the fall EC Con.
Probably the best reason to attend RT is for the fellowship of readers. There isn’t anything more fun than talking with others, in person, about your favorite book, is there?
Update: The Wyndham is preparing a statement that will be posted at RT (and I’ll repost it here) that will have additional contact information.
Many (possibly hundreds) of people who attended RT convention in Orlando and stayed at the Wyndham have been the victims of credit card fraud. The hotel has launched an investigation and is asking that any victims contact them, and RT has been asked to be notified as well.
Wyndham contact information:
8001 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
RT via Jo Carol:
jocarol at rtconvention dot com
Saturday was my last day and there were no panels for the day, only events. The two events that I attended were the booksigning and the Mr. Romance competition.
The booksigning was really large, although not as large as the RWA literacy signing. There were digital authors with their print books and traditional published authors placed side by side. Smart Bitches was sent with 25 books and sold out. Alyssa Day brought cookies for Sarah and for me!
Sarah and I met with Sue Grimshaw after the signing and before Mr. Romance. Borders is doing well. They had great sales numbers for romance last month and she feels like they are in a good position for the future. We talked about Borders.com and how she wants to make Borders a place for readers, focused on what they are interested in and providing a platform for readers to interact with each other. Sue is a very reader centric person.
Maybe in a nod to past criticism, Mr. Romance was surprisingly free of naked man titty. There were only 7 contestants this year. All of the expenses including the costumes the men wear are born by them. Some are able to get sponsors, but it really raises the idea of why. Mr. Romance is a title conferred by judges associated with Dorchester as the winner goes on an actual cover for a book at Dorchester. The attendee choice winner gets $200.
So why would you come to a conference of women to work your butt off for 4+ days in anticipation of winning $200? It seemed odd to me. There is no question that these gentlemen were nice guys but I would think that there are other ways to get cover contracts that don’t include this constant glad handing. Maybe I am wrong.
I think the whole event is one that every romance reader should attend because it’s such a different experience. I ran into one reader and asked her whether she would come back. She said she would because it was a way for her to connect with one of her favorite authors.
RT does make it easy for you to have access to authors in a variety of ways. The social mixers place you, the reader, in close proximity to the author. It’s a far more casual atmosphere than at RWA and in comparison, I would say that RT is more suited to the reader than RWA.
But there did not seem to be alot of discussion about the books, at least not panel led discussion, by authors. It’s much more of a constant social event for readers which can be fun and rewarding.
I spent some time attending panels on Friday.
The first “panel” I attended was actually a reader party hosted by Ann Aguirre, Lauren Dane, Megan Hart, Anya Bast, and Cynthia Eden. It was very popular. When you entered, you were handed a soft tote bag (one of those recyclable kind) full of swag. I think that each bag contained 5 or 6 books, several bookmarks, and a t-shirt. The party activity was answering 25 questions about the authors. In order to get the answers, you had to go and interact with the authors. I thought it was a very clever way of engaging the readers.
After the morning party (which did have food and drink for those who follow my twitter feed and now know that I am fairly obsessed with eating), I attended the Dorchester Spotlight. For those who enjoyed the Shomi line and were wondering what happened to it, the line has been folded in Lovespell and Leisure. Leah Hultenschmidt has more information on her blog.
Some highlights include:
- Dorchester’s current releases are available in Sony & Kindle digital formats but the goal is to make them available in more formats and to digitize the backlist.
- Dorchester encourages authors to send in unagented, unsolicited work. Marjorie Liu was found in the slush pile.
- Dorchester publishes contemporaries with a humoristic bent.
- From the time of acceptance to time of publication is usually 9 months to 1 year.
- Bookstores are only placing orders 6-8 weeks in advance and not the 12 weeks in advance as they did before.
One title that fascinated me was The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker set in the Victorian time period and steampunk-ish but without gadgets. Anne Marsh is writing a very steamy series about shapeshifters releasing in the fall with the first title called The Hunt.
After the Dorchester panel, I attended the editor panel. The message is that it is a good time to be a romance author but that they are still being selective about what authors they are picking up. It sounded like the authors they are looking for must have a good hook and be marketable. I’m not exactly sure what that means. Most publishers acknowledged that their numbers were up.
I think that the best advice that came out of the conference came from agent Lucienne Diver who stated that you want to be the name that is used to describe the trend, not following it.
I attended the vampire ball which was hosted by Helen Rosburg and Heather Graham. There was singing! and dancing! and dramatic acting! and also food! A good time was had by all.