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.