RWA 2013 Reflections

photo (23)I look forward to RWA all year long. Admittedly, a large part of it is the sheer fun. This year I kept gleefully telling my colleagues at work that I was off to spend a week going to cocktail parties and talking about books, and that they should feel very sorry for me. But beyond the parties, friends, and chatter, I enjoy the vibe of the conference itself, which is different every year. Since I’ve been able to attend the last four years in a row, I’ve enjoyed seeing how that changes. Where do we pick this up? Well, Lynn and I make a huge effort to attend as many publisher spotlights and tweet them when we can. We also watch our tweet streams to see what other attendees are talking about, and talk to authors at the literacy signing and publisher book signings. Here’s what was “in the water” this year:

Branding and New Adult: I believe we heard both of these terms at every single spotlight we attended, without exception. Last year, publishers seemed to be scrambling somewhat (especially after Stephanie Laurens’ evocative speech) to explain their relevance in the current wide open market. This year, they all seemed to by quite clear on what they brought to the table: Branding, packaging, and marketing. They are making coordinated efforts to turn each author into her own distinct and recognizable brand. All of them said they want multiple contracts and series. Now, to be clear, several clarified that “series” does not have to mean six shape-shifting brothers who all live in each other’s pockets; series can mean books set in the same world, even if that means they are more loosely connected. What publishers clearly do not want is an author who genre hops like mad. You can do it, mind you, but that probably means you have two distinct brands, and perhaps that you have them at different houses. If you are a newbie hoping to break into the field, you are better off picking something and sticking with it.

As for New Adult, my sense is that publishers are scrambling to hop onto this bandwagon and ride it while it’s hot. How long will it be hot? Who’s to say. But I did tell my 21 year old writing daughter that since she is writing about characters her age she should be submitting them now…while everyone is looking.

Paranormals are on the backburner: I admit to thinking I might never hear these words, and since I am not really a huge paranormal fan I admit to being pretty happy to hear these words. After several conferences spent hearing about how readers were clamoring for more vampires, shapeshifters, succubi, and just plain othersI’m a little glad that the enthusiasm has run its course for now. This also helps me out as Managing Editor of AAR. I’ve spent the last several years with a list full of complicated paranormal series books that reviewers struggled to follow because they could not always read the previous 37 books in the series.

Publishers still want paranormals. But if you’re a new author they are looking mostly for paranormals with humor, for which there is still more of a demand, or something very high concept (another big conference buzzword). However, if you love to write and read more traditional paranormals don’t despair, because…

Digital publishing makes nearly anything possible: Every traditional publisher has a digital arm, and many publishers who started out digital and gaining traction. The digital arms (and small but growing e-only or e-mostly pubs) are willing to take a chance on nearly any setting or subgenre if they think the writing is good enough. This is where they’ll publish your vampire book or your Colonial romance if you are not Christine Feehan or Pamela Clare. They’ll brand you and (hopefully) let you take off in a more niche market, which is much cheaper to do in the digital milieu. This can only be good news for readers who crave variety (if a little challenging at times for those of us who are trying to find all these great books and tell you about them). The other interesting thing that more than one publisher noted is that the digital market and print market are really not the same. Different types of books can perform better in each market, and what takes off digitally does not always translate to print (and vice versa).

Indy and e “friendly”: And speaking of e-publishing, I personally was thrilled to see the conference becoming more e-friendly. A few publishers – most notablyAvon – had their authors hand out ebooks as well as print versions. Those of us shipping books home to, say, Colorado – and who might have husbands who complain about the possibility of being killed in a book avalanche – were very grateful. RWA also held its first indy book signing, which was well attended and popular with both indy authors and conference attendees.

Usually, this is the spot where I talk about my conference workout photo, but working out at this hotel was kind of a drag and the view was not inspiring. I am more of an outdoor girl in the summertime, and this hotel in the heart of downtown Atlanta was not really situated in a good place to run outside (though the weather was really not bad). I took photos from the gym, but they were depressing. Instead, you can enjoy the cheery picture of our hands (Lynn’s and mine) – sporting the glowy, sparkly rings they were giving out at the Avon party. We’ll be reporting to you next year from San Antonio. Dare I ask if anyone runs along the River Walk?

 

16 thoughts on “RWA 2013 Reflections

  1. Very interesting news.
    Paranormal has never been my kind of book, so I don’t care about them.
    I like the e-friendly tendency. I hope they start working on backlists.
    I have yet to read some NA book to find out what they really are.

  2. Yeah! I am so excited the conference will be in sa next year. i can help with san antonio info. The River Walk is a place to jog (once you walk out of the restaurant area, you can jog along the river to the old pearl brewery…artwork is under most bridges). You can access map of downtown trails (bike and running/walking) at http://www.sanantonio.gov/sabikes/mapsandtrails.aspx

    In the morning, it is pretty quiet. Of course at 6:30 am, it was 81 degrees so you might want to make it an early start.

    • Good to know! I’ve been to SA and the River Walk but it was in April 1994. And I was eight months pregnant, so I wasn’t a big runner at that moment.

  3. I only made one spotlight so it’s interesting to hear your take overall. Big difference is # of print books I’m taking home, only about half the number as previous years, but I will be GLEEFULLY downloading a whack of ebooks I got from Samhain.

    One thing I did notice this year that was new to me was the number of Indie authors and the welcome they got. They even had their own signing where I did pick up quite a few. Quite a change over previous years. I am so glad for that because while there maybe some real clunkers, there should also be quite a variety of genres I’m thinking.

    • Admittedly, this is only my 5th RWA, but I noticed the welcome given to indie and self-pubbed authors. That seems to be a first, but given the state of the market, I think it makes a lot of sense. And I was happy to see that self-pubbed books can now enter the RITAs!

  4. Like you, the conference wasn’t local for me and I had to ship books back. Besides that, my TBR Mountain Range is long overdue for a weed – so I’m at the point where I’m trying to keep my print book consumption in check. I was SO happy to see the number of ebook downloads offered by Avon and Samhain. I was also pleased to see many authors (Carina mostly) selling their ebooks at the Literacy Signing on CDs. I would love to see more of this option – as while I still happily read print (I would say I’m a 50/50 reader between digital and print) – the less money I have to spend on shipping at RWA, the better!

    Great to see you and Blythe – as always. Always nice to talk to folks who remember the “good old days.” (And I really need to wrap my mind around a blog post on that subject!)

    • Loved seeing you too, Wendy. Every time I start reminiscing about the good old days I feel like Grandma of the internet, but I’m only 43 for God’s Sake. Maybe I’ll just give us both a pat on the back for sticking with Romancelandia for the long haul.

    • Don’t worry about it. Maybe we’ll catch you at next year’s Indy signing – which I bet will be even bigger.

      • Another pass through my pile of cards, Blythe, and I did meet someone from AAR at the indie signing. Maybe not you. :-) I have some AAR info but not a business card. We were talking about getting my indie books reviewed on your site, so please shoot me an email and let’s work it out.

        The indie booksigning was awesome and will only get bigger.

  5. “. . . paranormal series books that reviewers struggled to follow because they could not always read the previous 37 books in the series.” Too funny!

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  7. *Sigh* It is my life-long dream to attend an RWA Conference. But since I am not living in Mainland USA, I guess that would be difficult.

    I would just like to ask if the RWA has non-American members? Some authors that I love like Lynne Graham (UK), Miranda Lee (Australia) and other authors who write for Mills & Boon- Harlequin live outside the US. Do they have a separate organization as well?

    • Yes, there are non-american members. Olivia Gates comes every year from Egypt! There is a big Australian contingent as well. And yes, I know that at least some countries have their own RWA-like organizations. The conference in Australia is a big deal too.

  8. Thanks for the information. As someone who struggled to sell humorous paranormal, I was thrilled to hear you say it’s something publishers are now looking for.

    Chris Cannon

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