This week I'm attending the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Anaheim. (Yes, a two-block walk from The Land, as So Cal calls that magical chunk of Disney real estate...)
Okay, even though I do write a paranormal romance series, I'm not at all what anyone would think of as a romance writer. And yet every year since I have been published, I have attended one or usually both of the two main romance conferences of the year: Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, or the Romance Writers of America National Conference.
And I'm hardly the only thriller writer who does so.
I feel the need to repeat this fairly regularly in my posts on the business of writing: ANY
writer in publishing today ignores the romance market at their own
peril. Industry insiders openly admitted that romance kept the book
business afloat during the bleakest times of the recession, and
continues to. And it’s no longer the case that mystery and thriller
writers are just outsider guests, mere curiosities at these
conferences (even though people there still refer to me as "That thriller writer"). Just in the last couple of years that I’ve been a published
author, I’ve seen the huge tent that romance is take in more and more
subgenres, some of which tilt darker and darker - and I’m talking dark
like in zombie apocalypse stories, some very edgy dystopian tales – to the point that I’m not sure you
can realistically call romance ANY kind of genre at all, as much as it
is simply a marketing strategy.
(Okay, all right, I can hear romance purists howling out there, but I’m looking at this from a mystery/thriller perspective.).
ALL the publishers are here, some of them with dozens of reps, from
divisions all over the world. You can’t walk two steps without
tripping over an editor or agent from a major company. And not to be
crass, but you can tell how romance ranks with our publishers not just
from that overwhelming presence, but also from the sheer amount of money
the agents and publishers spend on parties, marketing, and book
giveaways to librarians, booksellers and fans (it's staggering…).
Because of that overwhelmingly professional slant, RWA is not the
free-for-all that Thrillerfest and Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime – and
Romantic Times – tend to be. (Although nothing beats that Harlequin
dance party – I'm looking forward to being too sore to walk on Saturday!). It’s a
working conference; many, many aspiring authors come to pitch to agents
and editors (and many, many do come away with representation and book deals), and
the very cool thing is that RWA chapters all over the country prep their
chapter members for conferences with practice pitch sessions and
conference how-to in the months before “nationals,” as they call the conference. No one preps writers for the business better than RWA does. Seriously - if you're an aspiring author in any genre and you're NOT a member of this organization and your local chapter, you are MISSING OUT.
One feature I really love about RWA (besides being able to wear all
my dressiest clothes and change outfits three times a day) is the
daily luncheons with keynote speakers. Not only do they feed us (which
means I actually eat, something I often forget to do at other
conferences), but there’s always a fascinating keynote speaker at the
lunches. I missed yesterday's because, well, I was the keynote speaker at the Young Adult RWA (YARWA) chapter's "Day of YA", an all-day event that included a stellar panel of editors and agents, a really wonderful Asian fusion lunch, my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshop with a YA focus, and an inspirational talk by YA author Simone Elkeles, plus some really cool raffle giveaways. Two of the agents at the event offered every workshop attendee a read of a ten page submission. That's a golden opportunity, but typical of what happens at this conference.
But the greatest thing for me about this conference, as really any of
the good ones, is hearing aspiring writers all around me say in a way
that makes me know they mean it – “That’s it - no more fucking
around. I’m finishing this book by ----“ (Oh, all right, it’s
Nationals, they’re not saying “fucking.”) And they mean it. I’ve
seen it happen over and over and over again – a conference like this is
what gets people past those last internal blocks and gets the book
finished, repped and out there. It's almost as if committing to the conference is telling the Universe, "Yes, damn it, I really am ready to DO this now."
And the Universe ALWAYS responds to that kind of declaration.
Something to think about.
Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.
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- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)
- Barnes & Noble/Nook
- Amazon UK
- Amazon DE