I just returned from the RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas. I was interested in the event because they offered a robust selection of craft and business sessions taught by NY Times Bestseller authors, Indie Authors, Publishing Houses and Literary Agents. This is primarily a fan convention but it has grown into a hybrid fan and craft convention for the Romance genre. A serious Romance reader consumes anywhere from 20 to 50 books a month so it is a very vibrant and profitable market place. The convention is a great place to engage readers, bloggers and authors. There are trends and fashions in the marketplace and the Convention is a good place to get a sense of what’s hot. Most writers just write what they like and trends will come back to them eventually, though some authors will try their hand at new trends. It’s fairly cyclical.
I was surprised to learn that the sub-genre – Romantic Suspense – has the biggest slice of the pie in traditional publishing this year. There is a lot of cross genre stuff happening, like YA Paranormal or Sci-fi/Fantasy Romance. This is being fueled by eBook sales and cross tagging of books, so, no longer do you have to fit neatly on one shelf in bookstore. Publishing houses seem to be seriously retooling to meet the growing challenge of huge eBook sales and indie eBook sales.
Everyone was amazingly generous and open with information and suggestions. FREE BOOKS everywhere with offers to have them signed constantly. The fans were funny, diverse and excited with people discussing books everywhere. I read a lot of Paranormal and Fantasy and that group of fans tend to be Sci-Fi/Comic-Con nerd bleed-overs, so we had some interesting and rambling conversations.
Some highlights from the beginning of the week –
A workshop with Madeline Hunter who rolled up her sleeves and talked a million miles an hour, cramming our brains with practical ways to get your first manuscript polished. From openings, pacing, scene length, POV and conflict. Somehow explaining everything as a guideline as opposed to a rule. It was a Master class. A super smart author with a PhD and teaching career and somehow she has also written 24 books. Romance writers tend to be workhorses. Some of the top writers produce 4 books a year. Historical Romance genre tends to take longer which is what Madeline Hunter writes and usually either once a year or every other year.
Pop-up Signings – suddenly an author is there with a huge pile of their latest release, which they sign and give to you. Oh hello Christine Feehan, yes I will take a copy of your latest release.
Breakfast Event where I chatted with Nalini Singh extensively and held her purse while she greeted fans. Umm ok – you know you are not in New Zealand anymore? Some fans were shy and laughed and hung back and Nalini waved them forward and gave them a big hug. People brought their own books to have them signed. I got hungry and the writing team of Christina Lauren (Beautiful Series) and I figured out how the bagel toasters work. They are Christina (Hobbes) and Lauren (Billings) two ex-fan fiction authors who met each other online and collaborated on stories. We chatted. That sort interaction with authors was constant and lots of fun.
I attended a great session called Amazon and Beyond about taking advantage of all the platforms and maximizing profits and working with those platforms to market your books. Three successful Indie published authors gave lots of specific details on maximizing sales. High energy – very exciting – two of the authors were focused on Multicultural Romance, which is a growing trend and the entire panel were the most Tech savvy people I heard at the conference.
Someone needs to give Kresley Cole a cable show but basically every time she opened her mouth, it was hysterical and slightly inappropriate. Her Immortals After Dark series is amazing and intense paranormal writing while being witty and funny at the same time. Someone asked her at a panel whom she related to in her books, she said Nix. Aka: Nucking Futs Nix. True. I believe it. I went to a session on Humor in Romance books where the most hysterical Alice Clayton (Wallbanger) had me laughing a lot.
There was a great session on how to write a summary of your novel to submit to a publisher given by a Publisher. Yes, I slowly shredded my summary in my hands while listening to them because basically I had made every rookie mistake possible in mine.
All the publishing houses held sessions on what they are looking for currently, how their imprint works and how to submit. The Harlequin/Carina presentation was awesome and so was the Penguin Berkeley presentation. You ask a question and they gave you a book. MORE free books. I built muscles hauling my bags all day. I didn’t need a stinking gym. I was carrying huge bags of books around a large Convention center.
I did Pitch Practice session – I sat down and babbled and sweated. The author, Elizabeth Briggs gently asked me specific questions and helped me figure out what things to bring out and mention. PLUS I won the raffle. YAY. More free stuff.
Then there was Pitch-a-Palooza: It’s a huge room with agents and editors at tables and you have 3 minutes to pitch before the bell rings and you move on to the next. Wow. Like Speed dating. Awesome. The first agent cut me off and turned me down cold. Ouch but oddly being rejected by the first person out of the gate relaxed me and by the 3rd pitch, I was totally comfortable yacking up a storm.
Julia Quinn and Eloisa James, two great Historical Romance authors, talked about writing. Eloisa James told us about why she based a series on fairy tales. It was a sweet memory of her father. Her real name is Mary Bly and her father was the American poet Robert Bly. He loved to discuss classic fairy tales with his children and which characters they liked and why. She said he was very proud of her and used to show up to her university lectures that she gave as Prof. Mary Bly and tell everyone she was the author Eloisa James who wrote Historical Romance novels.
Stay tuned for another brain dump.