RWA Day 4

Was intrigued by the blurb of Lessons of Firefly: Learning from the Works of Joss Whedon…but not enough to attend the workshop.  Instead I went to the Ballantine/Bantam Dell/NAL signing.  Got a book by Jessica Andersen that sounded very cool, and a copy of Lover Avenged signed for CR, who loves vampires, werewolves and other creatures.  [Not sure what happened to the book between yesterday morning and this morning, because it was not to be found when I was packing, which is disappointing.  CR wasn’t expecting it, but I got a kick out of getting it for her and knew she’d be thrilled by it.] 

Anatomy of a Best Seller
Chris Keeslar (Dorchester), C.L. Wilson and Angie Fox spoke about how the two authors became best sellers with their debuts.  Each took different routes:  Fox’s series is about a demon hunter, but the hook is the geriatric Harley riders, which is unique; Wilson wrote the book she wanted to write and kept submitting it to contests until it won (forget the name of the judge who selected it at last).  Also spoke about the importance of book covers — for both authors, covers are key.  Fox’s readers expect to see the dog on the cover; Wilson’s cover (cat with wings and fire) reflects theme/content as well.

By this point (nearly noon), my attention was wandering.  I left a little early to have lunch in the bar; good thing, too, because the bar was empty when I arrived but full no more than 10 minutes later. 

The Billionaire Tycoon’s Secret Promotional Baby: Making the Most of Online Marketing

Barb Ferrer:  if you don’t like it, don’t do it.  It shows when you are blogging or Tweeting, etc. but doing it grudgingly because you feel like you ought to.  The anonymity of the web is seductive, but it really is not so anonymous (ex:  Alice Hoffman debacle last month): don’t say anything online that you would not say to a critic’s face.

Carrie Lofty:  If you blog, don’t just talk about your book.  A group blog can be good, but it needs a purpose and a clearly/carefully managed schedule.  Marketing online can be fun if you do it right and with the right people:  network and meet people through online sites in common.  Don’t be afraid to share free content, like the parody in parts done with Tumperkin, Kate Rothwell, Ann Aguirre, et al., and Saltzburg Serenade, an published book she shared online.

Jane Litte:  Power Point walk-through of creating a digital book.  Done because so many authors see technology as an impediment, but it can be a tool.  Giving away free shorts on your website can monetize your longer content.  (See J.A. Konrath’s posts on his free work; added to Kindle, people are willing to pay because it is in a format/file they can port.)

Jane’s presentation was interrupted for a fire evacuation.  The workshop was continued outside, then resumed briefly inside.

Ann Aguirre:  Be generous and openhanded.  She gives away the books of other writers, books she loves.  It seems counterintuitive but isn’t:  readers stopping by trust that they aren’t going to be bombarded by self-promo and appreciate it, but they are still aware of her name and her books when they are released.

Sarah Wendell:  Watchwords are generosity, authenticity and consistency.  People can tell when you are shilling and when you are not: don’t do it.  Also, "romance needs to get horizontal".  A high tide floats all boats.  [I’ve always heard the variation, a rising tide lifts all ships.] Doing good for you can result in good for me too.

No Holds Barred Chat with J.R. Ward and Jessica Andersen

  • Angel series is going to be seven books
  • BDB began as 10 but can go longer
  • Not catering to readers, but does respect them
  • Negative results of message board?  There’s conflict as part of any community, need to differentiate community from books.
  • Promotion has no relationship to writing; writing time is carved in stone, and promotion will NOT interfere with it.  Contrast to Andersen, who does promo work when still has energy but doesn’t have creative spark.
  • Different creations of their paranormal worlds:  sprang from head fully formed a la Athena vs. found by Google trail and personally intrigued by the Maya
  • Proud of Lover Enshrined by admits it didn’t have enough romance
  • Still considers herself a romance writer first and foremost
  • Got Lover Unbound wrong:  when trying to match a human mortal with an immortal/long-lived vampire, struggled with HEA; when found a way to give the permanent HEA as ghost was relieved, took for granted that readers would be equally relieved.  Was shocked when readers were upset, and believes that the problem was that they couldn’t "see" as she could; problem could’ve been resolved if she had added extra material to the book showing how the ghost/hand thing worked.  Was disconnected from reader and underestimated the challenge to conventions that a dead heroine was.  [Mentioned that readers will see Manny again, and he’ll see Jane as ghost again.]
  • Vishous/Butch:  wrote their relationship that way intentionally, so readers could see it or not, depending on their own slash-goggles.  Interested in seeing how Blay/Qhuinn rolls out.  (V-sexual made me laugh.)
  • Mentoring:  Ward had Grafton as mentor, who basically told her to cut the adverbs and a lot of detail; sketching picture, not painting a portrait.  Andersen met Brockmann at a community college class on writing romance.  Theme for all is pay it forward; give help to other writers as they try to break into the field.
  • Editing/balancing what goes on the page, in terms of sex and violence.  For example, the Mayan culture’s approach to bloodletting and human sacrifice has to be toned down.

Routes to writing romance very different too.  Ward always wrote, became full-time writer when moved, then got fired because of low sales for contemporary single titles.  Then came BDB.  Andersen changed career paths but wasn’t enthralled by work and wanted to be, so analyzed what she loved best: reading romance.  Began writing series, but wanted to move to single titles; struggled to get proposal accepted until she hit on something she was passionately interested in, Mayan mythology/theology.

Observation: not particularly well-attended in comparison to the Crusie/SEP/Brockmann chats.  Is this a function of writer respect vs. reader/fan love, and representative of the demographics of the convention?  Or maybe people were just interested in other stuff.

Really was done in by then, so I dropped my bag at the hotel and went to see The Hurt Locker, which is about as far from genre romance as you can get.

The RITA stuff was twittered all over.  I left early, feel conferenced/conventioned out.

Saw several people at the train station this morning with their Harlequin bags.  My suitcase weighed a thousand pounds…or felt like it.  Ended up bringing ~40 books home, and I was selective about the books I chose at the publisher signings — books/authors I had read before or was interested in reading; not just picking up books in order to have them.  Also got a few cool chapter excerpts, like that of Laura Kinsale, Courtney Milan & Tessa Dare, etc., and a dvd with a bunch of first chapters from Zebra.  Will probably be giving a bunch of this stuff away, because in retrospect, while I love having autographed books, I don’t need them and am reading fewer paper books every day.

ETA: meant to add that the general consensus wrt the WaPo article about the RWA conference was that it was a backhanded slap.  At least that’s what it seemed to be when the subject came up during the Ward chat and in conversation between workshops.  All about money, formula, and yeasty mother figures?  WTH?

When Ron Charles accepted his Veritas Award, he said something about trying to cover romance with more respect and more fun.  Fail.  Sure, this article respects the money romance is earning, but not much else IMO.


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14 responses to “RWA Day 4

  1. Holw cow. It’s a good thing I live too far from all those conferences to attend any, because it would cost me a ficking fortune in books. 40 new books? My mom would so kill me :-D.
    It’s too bad JR didn’t say a single new thing in that chat :(. The closest to it is the line about Blay and Qhuinn, which seems to indicate she hasn’t made up her mind about what’s going to happen to them yet – which means there’s still hope of them getting together :). What I really want to know is about V’s reaction when he finds out he has a twin sister his mother hid from him for 300 years, learn whether Payne knew she had a brother, know how Payne and Manny are gong to meet, the Darius/JM dilemma, etc.
    And IMHO anyone who doesn’t see slash when looking at Butch and V is wearing blinders – but I admit to being biaised about that :-).

    • The 40 new books were free from the publisher signings. 😀
      I haven’t followed Ward and don’t visit her message boards, so all of the stuff she shared during the chat was news to me. Which was fine. As a reader (not a writer), I was not interested in the craft workshops as much as the author Q&A sessions.
      Re: Butch and Vishous, it seemed clear to me, but I wear thick-lensed slash goggles. The person who asked the question about it says she didn’t see it at all and was surprised that other readers did.

      • Well, to me Butch and V is so obvious too that it feels like anyone who doesn’t see it must be slash mypoic. :-DD They are the cause fo rthe slash goggles I have on today :).
        And maybe it would have been better not to know there are so many free books at conventions. Now I’m going ot want to go and I definitely don’t have the room for any more books. Not after the 20 I bought on vacation 2 weeks ago, and the 20 a few weeks before. *g* Oh, well.

  2. Anonymous

    “Ward had Grafton as mentor, who basically told her to cut the adverbs and a lot of detail; sketching picture, not painting a portrait.”
    This is kind of funny given the length of Ward’s latest, but in general I think it’s horrible, horrible advice. In fact, I think it’s this etch-a-sketch philosophy that’s forced the genre into more shorthand, readers into more work filling in blanks, and resulted in a general lack of *pop* among alarmingly SHORTER novels.

    • Robin,
      The sketching vs. painting description was mine, not Ward’s, and was probably a poor choice of words. The jist of what Grafton told Ward (I think) was that she did not need to describe every single action and emotion, and to write tightly, without wasting words.
      Although I do agree with you that the etch-a-sketch writing has led to a lot of sloppy shorthand that leaves books stranded in terms of characterization and depth.

  3. I would have been hard pressed not to go to the Firefly session.
    I have to google Angie Fox to understand hook of geriatric bikers 😉
    And thanks for summing up the Ward/Andersen session as it’s nice to see that authors can take a step back and see where they made a mistake. And I’m all about V and Butch – I think their HEA is yet to come 😉

  4. I’m amused that Dorchester peeps were the ones talking about the importance of cover art. Every single cringeworthy cover on my shelves is a Dorchester title — it’s my personal opinion that they do some of the worst covers in the business.
    OTOH, some that they’ve done for Marjorie M. Liu are pretty, but still, when I think Dorchester/Leisure, I think “books I have to get out my cloth book cover to read.”

    • Yes, I thought it was funny, too, especially since I thought the Wilson covers were…not very good. But she said she picked the cat photo and gave it to the art department.
      Unrelated: I have a signed copy of Butcher’s Small Favor in my haul of RWA books. It’s yours if you want it. Am going to have to figure out how to get rid of some of these books. I don’t know what I was thinking.

      • LOL! I’ll take it off your hands if you really want. Let me know what else you don’t want. 😉

      • Actually, I’d planned on sending that one to you from the start, it’s even signed to you — two n’s, right?
        I’m embarrassed to admit that I still have the first Harry Dresden book tbr.

      • You DO?!?! Tsk, tsk!
        Actually, it took me ages to read the first book from when a friend recommended the series to me. But once I started, I was hooked.

  5. Anonymous

    What did you think of “The Hurt Locker”? I will be watching it – either in theatre or later on DVD. I’ve read a lot of good press on it.

    • It was very good. Think I need to see it again. It looks like a war movie but isn’t: set in Iraq, but not really about Iraq, instead is about the macho, sort of cowboy-western character. Actually, the more I think about it, the more the cowboy motif, especially for old westerns, becomes clear. [Am slow to pick up on these things in film, often distracted by the shiny pretty.]

  6. Anonymous

    I thought the CD that the Zebra authors were offering was a really great idea. So many readers love excerpts, and you get a boat-load of them on this one CD.

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