I think I’ll think of RWA 2014 as the “Can’t we all just get along?” conference (subtitled, “of course we can!”). Or, to paraphrase a Zora Neale Hurston quote, there are conferences that ask questions and conferences that answer. This one answered.
In what way? Well, Carolyn Crane’s self-published Off the Edge won a RITA, and that’s significant. I talked to authors who love self-publishing, and authors who love their publishers. I talked to authors who self-publish and traditionally publish simultaneously. The general consensus is that writing and publishing is still a challenging business, but the challenges have changed over the years; now one of the biggest challenges is finding what’s right for you in a world of so many choices. But there was also a general feeling that whatever your choices are, they’re okay. Self-publishing or digital only publishing are not the romance ghetto; for many they are the smartest financial decision.
What else is afoot? Well, when I attend RWA my primary goal is basically to have my ear to the ground. I want to know what’s happening, what publishers are looking for and not looking for, and what people are working on that they’re excited about. I tweet as many publisher spotlights as I can get myself to and talk to authors formally and informally. Oh, and go to the type of fun and glamorous cocktail parties I rarely attend in “real life”, and talk about books with some of the most interesting women you could ever hope to meet. It’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it.
I felt like the publisher requests this year were somewhat similar to last year. People still see Paranormal Romances as being in somewhat of a downturn (although witches and shape shifters still sell). Virtually every publisher still wants Westerns, and most absolutely want to see unusual settings. Digital publishing has made the business so much more flexible. As for New Adult (which seemed like all anyone could talk about last year), publishers still want it, but they didn’t have last year’s tone of desperation. And at least one publisher said they wanted New Adult, but could we get past college and do something different? At the end of the day, there were fewer hard and fast rules. If your vampire book is well-written and manages to bring something new and different to the table, you can probably find a home for it. And if you can’t? You can always publish it yourself.
On a personal note, I just love connecting with the fabulous group of (mostly) women who write romance, write about romance, and publish romance. I had both serious conversations on how best to help someone who has a child with cancer and less serious conversations about possible sex techniques when your hero’s/partner’s penis is not exactly…straight. I found out that there is a boom in heroes named Trenton, that the fabulous Sarah Wendell has the distribution of surplus review books down to a science (and is clearly the most popular person at her nail salon and pediatrician’s office), and that many of us still have a love/hate relationship with Fifty Shades of Gray. Yes, we talked about the trailer. I sorely missed our own Lynn Spencer, who had to sit this year out, but had a fabulous time with Dabney Grinnan – who was a first timer at RWA and found out that the RITAs are fun. Oh and my favorite image of RWA 2014? Molly O’Keefe with a beer in one hand and a RITA tucked under her arm.
And I am happy to post my workout view photo again this year – I had no luck with that one at Atlanta because my view was from the hotel gym and it was terminally boring. This year I ran all along the river walk and absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s warmer than Denver and sort of smells like a zoo in places, but it’s beautiful and shaded, and you get way more oxygen when you’re not running at 6000+ feet (something that came in handy when I got lost and ran six miles instead of my usual three). Thanks to all for a fabulous conference. See you next year in the Big Apple!