I attended fewer workshops than in previous years, but did hit a couple of publisher spotlights (Pocket and Avon), as well as a Harlequin workshop about worldwide sales and distribution. I learned some things that I probably could have guessed: The average age of a direct to consumer subscriber (you know, those Harlequin book clubs?) is 68. They prefer traditional and Inspirational stories, as well as westerns and Christmas stories. Does anyone even know who subscribes to those? Younger readers prefer sexier stories with fewer weddings, stories that concentrate on the power dynamic between the hero and heroine. That makes sense. What didn’t I guess? That Japanese readers love Harlequin manga, and do most of their reading on their cell phones. Apparently the market for romance manga is huge.
Publishers and agents also seem to say the same thing again and again: Don’t follow trends or waste your time making 5,000 book marks. Write a great book and the rest will follow. Easier said than done, right? In some ways, it seems like publishers are more open to unique settings than in the past. But reading between the lines, I’d say authors need to write that fabulous Regency or Victorian in most cases before they can go crazy with a book set in Renaissance Italy. And the prospective author whose book was set in 1628 Virginia did not exactly get a lot of encouragement.
I was able to meet several authors at publisher book-signings, which also explains that big, heavy box of books currently making its way toward Denver. I stocked up on category romances at the Harlequin signing – mostly because I love a quick read sometimes, and AAR only gets them if authors send them. I’m thinking about trying more Inspirationals, if only for the different settings (Does anyone sense a theme here? I LOVE different settings). I met Kristan Higgins and snagged one of hers; believe it or not, I’ve never read her. Every time I think I might grab one of hers to review, one of our reviewers begs for it.
We hit a number of publisher parties this time around. Avon’s was at The Living Seas in Epcot, which was totally gorgeous (Sharks! Sting Rays!). We caught up with Laura Lee Gurhke, who made my evening when she said her next few books were Edwardian (Dusters! Motor Cars!). The Harlequin party was beautiful, and I’m such a nerd that I took a picture of my drink. In my defense, it had a hibiscus in it.
Saturday morning the AAR crew sneaked off to Epcot with two very fun authors. I missed some workshops and book-signings, but had a fabulous time Soarin’ over California and getting stuck on Spaceship Earth. I also wandered the World Showcase, spending money like a drunken sailor, pausing only to get my picture taken with Alice in Wonderland (seriously, I squealed like a six year old and ran right over there. This is apparently what happens when you go to an amusement park without your children – which I hadn’t done since before I had children).
The RITAs provided some great people watching (there were some fabulous dresses) and heartfelt stories. One Golden Heart winner thanked Diet Coke (“Couldn’t have done it without you!”). The AAR contingent was particularly thrilled to see Julia Quinn inducted into the Hall of Fame – and to see Sherry Thomas win for best historical romance. Celebrations followed afterwards (I hope everyone tipped that over-worked bartender).
My favorite thing about he whole RWA experience is meeting and spending time with people who love romance as much as I do. I’ve been talking about books on the Internet since 1998, but opportunities to do it in person are still relatively hard to come by for me. There was lots of “What are you writing?” and “What have you read that you LOVE?” Another observation: There were a lot of younger women there. I am thrilled to see a whole new generation writing and reading romance. I also truly enjoyed meeting fellow bloggers and reviewers; they get why one might want to spend so much time writing about romance novels. And of course, catching up with Sandy and Lynn was wonderful. I’m convinced that they both read more than I do, and I left with a list a mile long of everything I should be reading.
All and all, RWA was a lot fabulous and just a little tiring. And I can’t wait to do it all again next year.