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. Continue reading

RWA 2012: News From Anaheim

literacysigningRWA 2012 began early yesterday for Lynn Spencer and me; we started the day at Disneyland (first time for her, umpteenth for me). Only one thing could tear me away: The annual literary signing. I only got to ride Space Mountain once, but I did get to catch up with lots of authors and find out what they’re up to. Here’s what’s new and exciting:

I caught up with Tessa Dare first. Her latest Spindle Cove book (featuring Kate and Thorne) is out in August. After that, there’s one more…featuring Pauline, the serving girl at the tavern. I asked if she’s really a serving girl. Instead of, you know, a secret countess or something. Yep, she’s the real deal.

Kate Noble’s next book is about Bridget, the sister of If I Fall‘s heroine. But she’s also working on The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, a modern web video and interactive adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Sounds like fun.

Carrie Lofty has several balls in the air. She still has a couple of books to write in the Christie series, but is also collaborating on a contemporary erotica series with fighter pilots in Las Vegas. They’ll be released under a new name – Katie Porter. I couldn’t help asking whether her unusual historicals were a hard sell. She said she had a supportive editor at Pocket who enjoyed unusual settings (and signed both her and Meredith Duran). Vive la Difference! (And if you’re not reading her books yet, you should be).

And speaking of unusual settings and characters, Delilah Marvelle’s next project has a heroine who stutters and a bare-knuckle boxer hero. It’s called Forever a Lord. after that she’ll turn her attention to the French Revolution, with a series of books set in both England and France.

Molly O’Keefe is looking ahead to a contemporary series set in a small Southern town. I had to ask whether anyone marries the sheriff…apparently not. So you can write a small town series sans sheriff. I knew it! I told her our reviewers fight over her books, which is true.

Victoria Dahl’s new series is set in Jackson Hole, with cowboy heroes. Apparently they all live in an old farm house that’s been turned into an apartment building and appropriately named The Stud Farm (because of the landlady’s propensity to accept only hot tenants). Obviously, this apartment building should be closer to my house. And yours.

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My Personal Rita Reading Challenge

I have a long-term relationship with the Ritas. I had no friends who read romances (or at least admitted that they did) when I began reading romances in the 1990s. So soon after I finished Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick’s complete backlist, I began searching the Web for ideas about which books to read next. Among the first resources I found was the Romance Writers of America’s Web site. Imagine my delight to discover the “best” of romance in their listing of recent Rita winners.

I was convinced these must be the best romance had to offer and began selecting romances to read from recent Rita winners; the process was a bit hit or miss. I discovered some winners that have become favorite romances, while others quickly went into my DNF pile. Still, I was – and remain – fascinated by the whole specter of the Ritas. I can remember sitting in my living room, with an old AOL dial-up connection (I did say this was the 1990s), watching as the Rita’s were presented live over the Web. This was a big deal for me; I felt as if I was actually part of the romance community.

Obviously things have changed. There are many, many online resources available to locate great new romances. And of course I now have many online friends and AAR colleagues who are also romance readers. But still, I look forward every year to the announcement of the Rita nominees and the eventual awards.

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The Buzzword? Digital.

NYC Workout View

NYC Workout View

If there was one word we kept hearing last week at RWA, it was digital. We heard it from excited people, disillusioned people, scared people, and confused people. Digital options are opening up a Brave New World, but no one seems to be sure how that will change the current landscape, only that it will.

The most immediate change seems to be that most publishers are open to new ideas. If you follow either Lynn or me on twitter, you may have seen us live tweet from various publisher spotlights. We attended Spotlights for Avon, Carina, Harlequin Series, Pocket, Tor, and Berkley. There was only one (Pocket) that didn’t say they were looking for Westerns. Last year, I’m pretty sure no one was looking for Westerns, because I would have noticed.  Last year, the message was, “Here’s what we already publish; if you want us to publish you, please submit more of the same.” This year was, “We’re open to all kind of new possibilities.” (I think my favorite may have been the editor at Tor, who said she really wanted someone to submit a book about a ghost ship. Can someone get on that one?)

Why is that tied to digital? I think a large part of the credit goes to Carina Press, who started publishing digital first books last June and is showing all of us that it can be successful. They’re taking chances on different settings and niche books, and by and large it’s working. Avon Impulse is  - from what I understand – starting out with novellas, some of which are tied to other full-length print/ebooks that are coming out later. But they’re accepting full length books for digital first publishing, and that’s where they’ll take most of their chances on unusual settings.

And how will digital self-publishing change things? Many authors seemed to think it just might give them another option for their bag of tricks. I think a lot of people will be watching to see how Connie Brockway’s book does.

I met her at the Avon party, by the way. She’s very nice, though she told me as we all took yet another tiny but calorie laden dessert, that you pretty much have to plan on eating 10,000 calories a day at RWA. That is probably true, though in all fairness we chowed down at parties because they cut out dessert from both luncheons (and in one case, severely underfed the vegetarians). Nonetheless, I don’t think anyone was in danger of starving to death in New York. Which is why, like last year – I included a picture of my spectacular workout view. In this case, it’s from the 23rd floor of the conference hotel. Not too shabby.

RWA – And the Conference Begins in Earnest!

Somehow this year’s RWA conference seems to be flying by. Perhaps it’s the pace of New York City; I always feel so energized whenever I’m here. Whatever the reason, there’s a liveliness about this year’s conference that has been very fun. I’ve enjoyed getting to see authors whose work I admire – there’s too many of those to give an exhaustive list here, but I will say that it was a special thrill to meet Loretta Chase for the first time. Another thrilling thing about this conference has been the sheer number of first sale authors I’ve been meeting. There’s a lot of new voices out there and I’m curious to see what it will do to the market.

Speaking of the market, since Blythe shared news of upcoming books with you yesterday, I’ve been keeping note of all the news I hear on the book market and publication trends and here’s what I’m getting from a variety of authors, agents and editors who would prefer not to be named:
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RWA Literacy Signing – Start Spreadin’ the News

At some point, I have to get rid of the Sinatra ear worm, which has been in my head for days. But anyway, here we are in New York! The New York Marriott Marquis is full of women and full of news. This is the fourth literacy signing I’ve been to, and it was easily the most crowded. The author were packed to the gills, and readers could barely get past each other in the aisles. The good news? Lots of news! I managed to check in with lots of authors about various topics – including the question greedy readers always want to ask: What are you working on next? Here’s an admittedly eclectic sampling of some books to look forward to:

Lauren Willigs new book, coming out in February, is her first featuring an American heroine. The hero’s a poet! Hopefully a good poet. She also has a short story coming out in a Jane Austen anthology.

Karen Templeton has her first release in a continuity series, Fortunes of Texas. It’s due out in January. She’s also working on a three book series.

Maya Rodale is working on the third book of four in her Writing Girl series (I read and reviewed the last one, and thought it was great).

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is writing the story of the runaway bride from Call Me Irresistible.

Mary Jo Putney is working on her fourth Lost Lords book and could see the series running to eight or nine books. She’s also writing YA, and her third YA, Dark Destiny, is on the horizon.

Delilah Marvelle (she who wrote the book about the Polish heroine with one leg, which I really enjoyed) has a new series called the Rumor Series. It will be out in January, but there’s an e-prequel (e-quel?) coming in December. And it’s set in New York City.

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RWA Coverage: What’s Your Pleasure?

In a little over a week, Blythe, Lynn, and I will be at RWA in New York.

The three of us certainly plan to blog that week and provide coverage day by day.  We also plan to live tweet the Ritas.  But at this point we don’t plan detailed session coverage as AAR provided in the past – usually days after the event.

So, here are my questions:

Does this sound like the level of detail you’d like?

Any authors you’d like to hear from?  Any gossip you’d like us to track down?

- Sandy AAR

Going to Extremes

virginriver I love going to RWA nationals for a variety of reasons. However, one of the major thrills for me comes from getting to hear about upcoming books and forecasts for various subgenres of romance. This year, hearing about the various trends in publishing really struck me because many of the types of books listed seemed to hit at opposite ends of the spectrum.

On the one hand, we seem to be inhabiting a period of sweetness and light in book choices. Small-town romances with home and family themes seem to sell quite well. Indeed, some authors with small-town series such as Robyn Carr and Debbie Macomber have almost a cult following among readers. Similarly, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen stories about the astounding popularity of Amish/Mennonite romances. Their focus on the simple life and strong family ties again seem to speak to a lot of readers. And in historicals, the light, wallpaper Regency/Victorian is not exactly hard to find either.

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RWA – Blythe’s Report

disney sign

I’m back in Denver, all the laundry’s done, and I have had a little time to reflect on RWA.
First of all, I had a fabulous time. I’ve been to RWA twice before: Denver 2002 (my own backyard) and Reno in 2005. So it had been a while for me. This was by far my best experience. First of all, I loved the hotel and the surrounding area. I am a person who needs some solitude occasionally, especially during a non-stop conference where you are meeting people all the time. Orlando provided perfect opportunities for scenic morning work-outs and quick escapes. I also noted that people were much happier at this conference. The two previous ones I attended both involved upheavals of one kind or another. This one was more about parties, fun, and celebrating the romance industry. Who wouldn’t want to get behind that?
I’m back in Denver, all the laundry’s done, and I have had a little time to reflect on RWA.
First of all, I had a fabulous time. I’ve been to RWA twice before: Denver 2002 (my own backyard) and Reno in 2005. So it had been a while for me. This was by far my best experience. First of all, I loved the hotel and the surrounding area. I am a person who needs some solitude occasionally, especially during a non-stop conference where you are meeting people all the time. Orlando provided perfect opportunities for scenic morning work-outs and quick escapes. I also noted that people were much happier at this conference. The two previous ones I attended both involved upheavals of one kind or another. This one was more about parties, fun, and celebrating the romance industry. Who wouldn’t want to get behind that?

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.

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RWA 2010 – My Take

swandolphin Most important personal lesson learned this year? Even if it might be cost-effective, taking a 5:30 a.m. flight home that requires one to check out of the hotel by 3:00 a.m. is miserable. Aside from that, however, RWA 2010 was a wonderful experience.

I came in a day earlier than Sandy and Blythe, so I took the time to play at Epcot and to meet some of the wonderful folks I see online. One of the first people I saw upon arriving in Orlando was former AAR-er Megan Frampton, who is very funny in person. I also enjoyed spending time with blogger/author Keira Soleore and it was a thrill to meet Amanda McCabe whose novel, Countess of Scandal, got a DIK from me earlier this year. And then I got to meet Cara Elliott and AnimeJune and Kristie(J) and… You get the idea.

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