So I got back the other day from the Romance Writers of America Conference in New York. To be honest, I felt a little trepidation about going. Romance is not my primary genre (although all my works have romantic subplots in them, and I am considering writing something more romance-centric). Furthermore, going to the conference meant I had to miss going to the beach with my boyfriend and his family, which was great fun last year, so I was kind of bummed about that. To be honest, the main reason I decided to go to this—as opposed to another writing conference—was because Nalini Singh, who is one of my favorite authors, was going to be a keynote speaker.
I’m so glad I went.
I already live Tweeted many of the workshops, so I think, for this blog post, I’m going to keep to the highlights, for me.
I got to meet Carolyn Crane! I became “online friends” with Carolyn years ago after I interviewed her for CC2Konline.com. But I was a fan of Carolyn’s long before I was her friend. I had read the first two books in her Disillusionist urban fantasy trilogy, and I was so blown away by them that I sucked up my courage, wrote her an e-mail, and said, “Can I pretty please interview you please?”
Anyway, after I stopped tripping all over myself, we actually became pretty good virtual friends, and she’s been incredibly supportive of my writing career. We got to spend several hours talking about writing, books, the romance community, and our cats. It was so cool spending time with someone I’m not only a huge fan of, but someone whose career I’ve come to admire and respect. I love that Carolyn has managed to jump seamlessly into a new genre. Her latest book, the RITA-nominated romantic suspense novel Behind the Mask, is awesome. Romantic suspense isn’t a genre that I read often, but I love that Carolyn can make her books both sexy and action-packed, and that her heroines are just as intelligent and badass as her heroes. No damsels in distress here! This book is a perfect example of that.
At the signing on Wednesday night, I got to meet Jeaniene Frost, who was nice enough to take a picture with her phone and Tweet it to me because mine had died. I also got signed books from Kristen Callihan, whose Darkest London steampunk books are completely amazing, and Thea Harrison, whose Elder Races novels made me fall in love with a dragon. Literally. I didn’t think it was possible to lust after a reptile, but it is.
And to top it all off, I got an autographed book from Nalini Singh at the signing! And a picture! She was so nice and gracious, and asked me about my own writing. I’m afraid I pretty much fangirl vomited all over her.
That was all amazing. But here’s the main thing I took away from this conference.
This was the first conference where I’ve spent more time at the career- and marketing-oriented workshops than the craft- and getting published-oriented workshops. The authors who spoke were successful in their genres—not runaway successes necessarily, but steady, hardworking authors who had been writing and publishing for a long time, weathering the changes in the publishing world, and still making a living at it.
And after hearing them speak, I thought: I can do this.
This is the first time I’ve felt like success in the publishing world isn’t some magical, alchemical formula, or random luck. Yes, there probably is an element of luck associated with J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer-type success. But for other authors, it’s just a lot of hard work, flexibility, and devotion to your craft.
Here are some of the main points I took away.
*The publishing world, for better or worse, is changing very quickly right now. Be flexible, be willing to try different things, and be prepared to misstep sometimes. When all else fails, come back to the writing. That’s why you’re in this business in the first place.
*Figure out where your priorities are, where and how to best spend your time. You can’t do everything. Once you have some success as a writer, consider hiring someone to assist you on things like marketing and publicity. Your main focus should be on the writing.
*One thing you should not hire someone else to do is fan interaction. Fans in 2015 expect a genuine connection with the authors they love.
*As far as social media goes…some of the authors/bloggers there liked Facebook, some liked Twitter, some liked Instagram, and some liked Pinterest (which I still have no idea what to do with). Use what works for you, and leave the rest alone. Set aside time to spend on publicity/fan interaction on social media, because it tends to be a giant time suck.
*Put together a newsletter, but don’t abuse it. Make sure your subscribers know when they’re going to get a newsletter (e.g. once a month, only when a new book is released, etc.)
*For slower writers (i.e. me), you can use your website to promote other authors and books you like, or post excerpts or blurbs from upcoming books. That way, you don’t fade out of readers’ memories.
*Find good critique partners! (This is a big one. I’m still working on it.)
*Writing is a very solitary profession. Build a community of people who can cheer you on, stay positive, help you, and give advice.
Overall, it was a great conference, and a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. Next year’s conference will be in San Diego. I’m already planning to be there.