RWA Conference Recap…Of Sorts

Romance Writers of America (RWA) hosts an annual conference for its members, although the public can also register to attend. The event is always well-attended by its members and industry professionals, such as agents, editors, librarians, to name a few. Approximately 1,700-2,000 attendees descend on a city to get the latest industry news, pitch proposals, attend workshops, and catch up with fellow writers, who also just happen to be avid romance readers.

I arrived on Tuesday to beat the rush of registrants. It also provided the opportunity to volunteer set up labor for the literacy autographing session. That chore included placing the authors’ books on the table where they would sign in a room that had Brazilian Amazon humidity and temperatures. This annual bonanza launches the conference where 400 authors autograph and sell their books with monies donated to literacy foundations. Unsold books are donated to state libraries. To date RWA has donated over $770,000 to literacy efforts, an impressive milestone.

Now before I made the trek across country to Anaheim, I came up with a few goals. Armed with a focus, along with my multi-conference experience, I selectively picked which workshops I would attend to avoid being overwhelmed by information overload. Easy to do when there are over 100 workshops. However, this strategy didn’t mean that I’d actually make it to the workshops. Jet lag, daily increasing conference fatigue, and catching up with friends and colleagues affected the final decisions. Lots of times the lobby or the bar served as the meeting place of choice.

Thursday morning I rose early to get to the Published Author Network (PAN) retreat. The committee did a fantastic job putting this program together. With digital anything being a main topic of conversation these days, the lineup had my full attention.

Carolyn Pittis, senior vice president, global marketing, strategy and operations, from HarperCollins provided the Keynote address. Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, discussed the changing industry and shift in publishing dynamics with authors uprising against big publishers.

Data flew at us—fast and furious. Equations and algorithms summed up the digital trends, customer demographics, and e-reading forecasts for world domination. Class was definitely in session with all eyes on the screen of data. Everything made sense, although to summarize it days later in a logical manner is near to impossible. Maybe another colleague has done a better job on her blog.

Here are few things that stuck in my feeble memory: If you could pick the best of both publishing worlds, it is best to publish with traditional publishing for the frontlist and distribution benefits AND with the e-platform for its ease of entry and low cost to be published.  

Traditional publishing removes the burden of key administrative tasks for publishing, meanwhile the e-platform promises a rosy future with fiction books being the most favored product of e-readers. While Amazon is certainly the elephant in the room, many other players will enter the pool with tablets taking over as the preferred e-reading device.

Pricing for e-books has caused heartburn because of the downward spike in the price of books. However, there is a threshold range from $2.99 to $5.99 that seems to be the optimal pricepoint for the average customer (this depends on product size and quality/reviews/ author’s reputation).

Another important point that is more about author promotion and less about the book format is that customers are more influenced by authors recommending other authors, than by authors’ self-promotion. Basically let someone toot YOUR horn.

The U.S. market is saturated and there are growing markets overseas and also on the verge on opening. A global map of Facebook connections shows how connected we are, but you can clearly see where there are still frontiers to be embraced. Once the e-platforms have stabilized, e-books will cross borders. Current book success stories can credit their achievements to these foreign markets (in addition to the U.S. Market). Making the books available for as many e-readers is key and drives down the desire for illegal downloads.
Carolyn Pittis invites those interested to follow her on Twitter--@carolynpittis. Likewise, Mark Coker invites those to his Twitter account--@markcoker and he also has a blog.

Thursday evening I got sexy for another memorable conference shindig. One of the notable receptions that I attended was Passionate Ink’s BDSM Workshop where the history of BDSM in literature and romance was presented. An author and an academician shared their experiences and provided an orientation on the tools and toys for the lovestyle. BTW, Passionate Ink is an RWA chapter that is always ready to roll out the welcome mat.

The last workshop that I attended before heading back home on Saturday was Michael Hauge’s Using Inner Conflict To Create Powerful Love Stories. Hauge is a story consultant, author and lecturer. One of his impressive stints is working, as a retained consultant, with Will Smith’s company and working on many of the actor’s blockbuster hits.

Hauge had a 2-hour information packed lecture that spelled out the key components of a story, key questions to ask of your hero/heroine and the six stage plot structure. Head over to his website for further information.

This conference is pricey (fee, hotel, travel, general expenses) on the average broke-a$$ writer’s budget. HOWEVER, when you take a look at what you’re getting for the money, it is a bargain. I recommend those interested in attending next year (in Atlanta) to start a savings fund now.

If you have questions about the conference or writing in general, I will be happy to answer or find/direct you to the answer.


  1. Great overview, Michelle. Thanks for posting this.



Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by...hope to hear from you again.