RWA 2012 Wrap Up

disney RWA 2012 was my fifth conference; I’ve been to the last three in a row, and before that was at Reno in 2005 and Denver in 2002. With that many under my belt I am learning that each conference has its own vibe, and some are happier and, well, lighter than others. This was an upbeat, optimistic conference. I wasn’t the only one that noticed; there was more than one comment to that effect on twitter, and several people made that observation to me in person.

Part of the reason is that last year the industry was in transition and everyone felt a little tense. Everyone knew that digital publishing was having an impact and no one was quite sure what that impact would be for traditional publishers – or for authors. In Anaheim, the general consensus was that authors (and readers, for that matter) have more freedom and more options than they ever have before. Anyone who didn’t know that when they came into this conference sure knew it by the time they left. Stephanie Laurens’ speech on Thursday really started the buzz. The basic gist was that the only absolutely essential parts of the book industry right now are authors and readers. Where we used to need publishers, distributors, and retailers, they are now non-essential. An author can self-publish relatively easily, using simple tools to make her work available to online buyers – who can snap up books without setting foot in a physical store.

That’s not to say that publishers are useless – far from it. But it did change the tenor of the publisher spotlights significantly. Two years ago in Orlando the tone was very much “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. The implication was that if you kept to very specific guidelines of what they were looking for, maybe you’d be lucky enough to get your agented manuscript accepted. I even heard an agent say that the only real future for authors was traditional print publishing (though even then I thought he had his head stuck in the sand). This year, most publishers seemed to be selling themselves to potential authors: “Here’s what ____ Books can do for you!” Some of them have specific slots they are trying to fill, and some take a more “we buy something when we like it” approach, but all of them were selling their marketing, branding, and editorial support to potential authors.

And nearly everyone who didn’t already have a digital first arm has one in development. Berkley is introducing InterMix. Pocket Star will now be digital first. St. Martin’s and Kensington are hopping on the bandwagon. And anyone who may have dismissed digital first as marginal had to stop sneering when Carina Press won its first RITA – in the Contemporary Single Title category, for Fiona Lowe’s Boomerang Bride. It’s an incredible achievement considering Carina was just getting off the ground two years ago.

What were people talking about besides digital publishing? Well, there was some grumbling about the elimination of the RITA category for “Novel with Strong Romantic Elements.” The field included some particularly strong competition this year, with lots of books that are romantic at heart and beloved by romance readers. Several authors (including one who was nominated this year) expressed some disappointment, but also had some ideas for redefining the category so it fit better with RWA’s mission statement.

As far as RITA highlights go, I couldn’t help cheering extra loud for winners Tessa Dare (Regency Historical Romance), Joanna Bourne (Historical Romance), and Barbara O’Neal (apparently the last winner in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements Category, but as it’s her third win – and seventh RITA – she was inducted into the Hall of Fame). I also loved Angela James emotional acceptance speech for Carina, and Ann Aguirre’s celebratory interpretive dance.

As is my personal tradition, I took a picture of my RWA12 workout view. At this conference I split my workout time between the hotel fitness center and (because I am a huge nerd) walking to Downtown Disney. Despite my SoCal raised husband’s assertion that no one walks to Disneyland from Harbor Blvd., I did it. Repeatedly. And I found that his statement should be amended to “No one walks down Harbor Blvd. to Disneyland if they live in South Orange County.” Other people walk to Disneyland, and even run to Disneyland when they are excited enough. I’m running home now, feeling warm and fuzzy about our romance community and the authors, publishers, readers, reviewers, bloggers, and everyone else who makes it all possible. See you all next year in Atlanta.

- Blythe AAR

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11 Responses to RWA 2012 Wrap Up

  1. maggie b. says:

    I was sad that I had only managed to read two of the RITA award winners but honestly, that is par for the course for me.

    I read “New York to Dallas” by JD Robb and “First Grave on the Right” by Darynda Jones.

    •Best Paranormal Romance – “Dragon Bound” by Thea Harrison
    •Best Romance Novella – “I Love the Earl” by Caroline Linden
    •Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements – “How to Bake a Perfect Life” by Barbara O’Neal
    •Best First Book – “First Grave on the Right” by Darynda Jones
    •Best Historical Romance – “The Black Hawk” by Joanna Bourne
    •Best Inspirational Romance – “The Measure of Katie Calloway” by Serena Miller
    •Best Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure – “Soldier’s Last Stand” by Cindy Dees
    •Best Contemporary Single Title Romance – “Boomerang Bride” by Fiona Lowe
    •Best Regency Historical Romance – “A Night to Surrender” by Tessa Dare
    •Best Young Adult Romance – “Enclave” by Ann Aguirre
    •Best Contemporary Series Romance – “Doukakis’s Apprentice” by Sarah Morgan
    •Best Romantic Suspense – “New York to Dallas” by J.D. Robb

  2. LeeF says:

    Each year when I read about the RWA conference, it sounds like a fun interesting trip. Maybe next year……

    maggie b. thanks for the list of winners. Like you, I have only read two so will have more on my growing TBR stack.

  3. Maggie AAR says:

    Enclave by Anne Aguirre is only $2.99 on Kindle so I bought it. My poor TBR mountain – never have I had so many books to read (and so little time to read them).


  4. Mary Beth says:

    I loved, loved, loved How to Bake a Perfect Life. In fact, I was so delighted by Barbara O’Neal that I went and bought all of her back list, which wasn’t exactly cheap in e-book format!

    I felt like I was reading a romance, so I am a puzzled by the elimination of this category. How exactly does it not address the RWA’s mission statement?

    Well, I am delighted to hear that this splendid book and author won a RITA and furthermore, it was great to read that Ms. O’Neal was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    Thank you so much for your entertaining summaries of your ‘daily doings’ at RWA. I especially enjoyed your obvious enjoyment of Disneyland, a place that I have never been and never really desired to go, until I read your daily wrap ups!

    Mary Beth

  5. Renee says:

    Thank you, Blythe for the update. I, too, have only read a few of the award winners and was not familiar with many of the authors such as Barbara O’Neal, Fiona Lowe, Darynda Jones and Serena Miller. Are they new to the romance world?

    • LeeB. says:

      Renee: Thank you, Blythe for the update.I, too, have only read a few of the award winners and was not familiar with many of the authors such as Barbara O’Neal, Fiona Lowe, Darynda Jones and Serena Miller.Are they new to the romance world?

      Renee: Barbara O’Neal has also published books under the names of Barbara Samuel and Ruth Wind.

      Darynda Jones has had two books reviewed on this website. And in the latest annual poll, she received an Honorable Mention for Best Debut AUthor.

  6. Excellent wrap up, Blythe. You are quite right about the optimistic tenor of the conference. I was too busy enjoying myself to define it. Great chatting with you and Lynn.

  7. Elaine C. says:

    I’m a historical romance reader and I was so pleased that Tessa Dare won Best Regency Historical and Joanna Bourne won Best Historical Romance. Both books were excellent and a joy to read.
    “You go, girls”!

  8. Blythe says:

    Thanks for the compliments, everyone. @Mary beth: The elimination of the category happened during the national meeting (and I’m not a member, so I wasn’t there). But my understanding is that they were defining romance more narrowly because they thought it fit the vision better of the organization better. But really, there aren’t all that many categories in the RITAs. I think they probably could have just left well enough alone.

  9. Lilly says:

    Last four romances I read:
    Marriage of Mercy, Harlequin, $6.25: cover picture and back cover blurb have nothing to do with the story inside.
    On the Island, Penguin, $15.00: Typos
    50 Shades, Vintage, $15.95: Misspellings, typos
    Bed of Roses, Berkley, $7.99: Typos, grammatical errors

    I don’t think publishers are trying to be relevant anymore.

  10. J.R. Newell says:

    Thank you Blythe for such a great summary of a great conference. This was the first time I had been back to the RWA conference since 2005 and I was very impressed by how EXCITED everyone was to be there and to be part of something so special. I believe that there has never been a better time to be a romance author and/or reader. I am curious if anyone has attended both the RWA conference and the Romantic Times convention? I would love to hear a comparison (I can only afford to go to one next year).

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