2012 Romance Writers of Australia conference – Impressions
Brief impressions and tidbits from the 2012 RWA conference at the Gold Coast. You can find photos on Flickr.
I didn’t officially attend RWAus12—I just attended the ARRA signing and R*BY Awards dinner—so I can’t pretend I have any particular insights on what was discussed at the plenary sessions, keynotes, publishing panels and various launches that occurred at the conference. But I did speak to various attendees and stayed at the conference hotel, so I was able to form some impressions of the event and, yes, overhear a few things, which I wanted to post in case other readers find them interesting.
Authors had very positive things to say about her speeches. I’m told her breakfast speech should have been a keynote, because it provided so much value for writers. I can’t actually say much about her, personally, because every time I was near her I had severe brain malfunction due to my severe author crush. As in, I think I was actually blushing, which, if you’ve met me you’ll realise isn’t something my cheeks would normally do.
Anyway, she was super gracious and as lovely as you all think she is. Maybe more. Her new book was available from the conference bookshop, so I’ll be reading it soon. Also, I hugged her. You can all die of envy now.
Okay, it wasn’t a full hug. I took advantage and half-hugged her while posing for a photo. (Sadly, I forgot to turn the camera on!)
She was the toast of the conference, I think. Her R*BY win was just FANTASTIC. If you’ve read my review of Boomerang Bride, you’ll know that it didn’t completely work for me, but I’m incredibly happy for her. What an amazing achievement. Lowe’s success with this book is the perfect fairy tale ending for pretty much every aspiring author in the conference, I think. (Although when I congratulated her on her RITA—at the ARRA signing, prior to the R*BY awards—she jokingly said that Angela James might have even been happier than she was when she won the award.)
I do wonder, though, if her book would have done as well had she been published by an Australian publisher. Is it me or does that seem unlikely? Australian publishers have a long way to go to become visible internationally in the ebook space. I’m glad Lowe got to be a pioneer. I’m looking forward to reading an Australian-set single title romance from her. (A clarification: This isn’t to imply that her next book will be set in Australia, and Lowe tweeted that her Carina Press trilogy is set in the USA. My comment was just to say that I’d love to read an Australian-set single title written by her one day.)
The most significant difference I could feel between RWAus12 and last year’s conference is the love and mutual admiration between writers and publishers. Last year, there was a lot of under-their-breath muttering at the lack of appreciation of romance from mainstream local publishers.
This year, it was the complete opposite. Publishers seemed to be falling over themselves to woo authors—not surprising given Momentum’s planned series of erotic romance short stories, Penguin’s launch of Destiny Romance and the announcement of Harlequin Escape. (I’ll go through the publishers separately. I didn’t hear about any other publishers, so I’m going to focus on those three.) I think this sense of enthusiasm on the publishing side made for a very festive and optimistic atmosphere throughout the conference.
Penguin’s launch of Destiny Romance during a pre-conference event seemed slick and, at least from the outside, they seem to be promoting their launch authors heavily. Great timing, too, because they got the jump on Harlequin.
I didn’t notice it until it was pointed out to me, but if you look at their launch titles, you’ll notice that even though the covers have a consistent branding, the title clouds are different colours. The colours will denote the subgenre, and I think there are six planned at this stage. From the first four titles, I’m guessing black cloud is paranormal romance, grey is romantic suspense, blue is contemporary romance and yellow is outback romance. And I’m guessing they’ll be adding historical romance and erotic romance to the mix eventually. (I’m guessing, because although someone mentioned the subgenres to me, I didn’t write them down and now I can’t be sure.) The pricing seems to be $3.99 for a novella, $4.99 for category length and $5.99 for single title.
Of the titles available so far, only the novella by Kelly Hunter has previously been published (she self-published it in 2011). The Jennifer St George title came second in the Emerald Awards. As well as the four titles already available for sale, Destiny plans to publish a free short story by Anne Gracie. I think this is a good mix of established and upcoming authors, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the imprint has to offer.
Destiny plans to release two titles per month and, according to Hunter, they’re aiming for worldwide simultaneous release as soon as possible (though it doesn’t seem to have kicked in yet). DRM, however, remains a problem for readers. I suspect this is a consequence of being a Penguin imprint rather than a decision championed by editors Carol George and Sarah Fairhall or by the authors. I’m hopeful that with pressure from their authors they can convince Penguin to do away with DRM.
I’m not sure what the royalty rates are. No one volunteered the information and it felt too rude to ask authors directly. (That said, if anyone knows, you can email me. :D)
I’m excited about Momentum’s plan to release ‘Hot Down Under – 13 red hot stories by 13 talented Aussie authors guaranteed to make you sizzle’ for two main reasons. First, their main audience is not romance readers, and I think there’s great potential to attract new readers into the genre. Second, Tracey O’Hara gave me some background on how the project came about, and what these authors have done is very interesting. Apparently, these stories were workshopped together by the contributing authors, with established authors mentoring the unpublished writers. I love this publishing (or maybe editing?) model, because it seems like the (potentially) happy medium between traditional and self-publishing.
I’m told that Momentum is pretty open about its terms. Some royalty rates were mentioned, but I’m not sure they were accurate and there was some confusion over what the terms meant, so I’ll err on the side of caution and say: I’m not sure what the royalty rates are.
As far as I could tell, Momentum made a very favourable impression on the attendees. Publisher Joel Naoum managed to charm a roomful of authors to the point where they created a hashtag on Twitter just for him. I hope this means we’ll be seeing more romance genre stories in Momentum’s pipeline.
The most exciting part of Harlequin’s annoucement for me, personally, is that Kate Cuthbert is the managing editor for the imprint. They don’t have titles lined up yet, but I think they want to release titles before the end of the year. (Update: First titles should be out in October, according to Harlequin publishing co-ordinator Lilia Kanna.) I don’t know what the royalty rate are, but I’d be very surprised if they’re much different to Carina Press.
The biggest differences between Harlequin Escape and Carina Press seem to be the focus on Australian voice (though not necessarily Australian setting or characters) and the focus on romance fiction only. Harlequin Escape has committed to replying to submissions within two weeks of receipt. They’ll accept 5000 to 250 000 words (although the website only says 100 000+), so that covers pretty much all types of stories, I would think.
Works in progress
Bronwyn Parry is working on the third Dungirri book. Fingers crossed, everyone!
Anne Gracie plans to write Marcus’s book…eventually.
I heard about an unpublished manuscript with some intriguing twists on a well-known fairy tale. I know that’s quite popular now, but this one didn’t sound like anything I’ve already read or heard about. Again, fingers crossed for the writer!
A group of writers have adopted a co-op style framework to publish an anthology of their work. I’m told that some authors will be dabbling in other subgenres of romance, which delights me, to be honest.
A number of established authors mentioned WIPs in mainstream commercial fiction with female protagonists. I love that authors are considering branching out from the romance genre, because I think it will expose their work to a more mainstream audience, some of whom might be tempted to try the same author’s romance books. As long as they don’t lose the optimistic endings, of course.
(These tidbits were from various conversations I had with different people.)
Mills & Boon UK Riva covers are being rebranded. (Thank goodness!)
This is a bit random, but I had a funny conversation with authors about covers. Apparently, they all have their preferences between heads/headless and shirts/shirtless. I must admit, I never even thought of this as something authors could request!
I heard of an instance where an author chose to tone down her story to match the cover, which I found so interesting because I’m struggling to think of any other genre where this would even be a consideration for authors. I guess it’s a consequence of romance readers being so attuned to cues set by titles and cover images. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does highlight the reader-centric view that romance authors tend to have and which I don’t think people outside the romance genre truly appreciate.
Other random stuff
- The ARRA signing was the most successful to date, with the largest number of authors and also of readers attending.
- It’ll be interesting to see who the official bookseller will be for ARRC13 in Brisbane. Rosemary’s is the logical choice, but I’m not sure the arrangement at the signing worked this year. (This year we had to buy books outside the room before taking them in to be signed, unlike previous years when we had books for sale next to the author, to be be paid for as we left the room.) As a reader, it was a little more effort to actually buy books, and if I were an author I’d be very disappointed if I had to sit behind a bare table. Also, there was almost zero chance of an impulse buy.
- The bookshop wasn’t as prominent this year as it was last year —last year they had bookshelves, table displays and sitting areas.
- Google hosted a Hangout from the conference but participants had to log in from their own laptops and rooms. I thought this was a bit odd, given that we were all in the same location, but I guess having us all in the same room wouldn’t fit the way Hangouts work. I asked one of the authors about what she thought, and aside from any technical difficulties, she was very enthusiastic about it and especially the potential to reach international readers.
- It was strange meeting authors whose work I’ve reviewed (and didn’t exactly love) because I know that if they visit the blog and search for their name, it probably won’t make them happy.
- QT Gold Coast (the official hotel) was one of the best hotels I’ve stayed at. My stay was hassle-free, the service was fantastic, the breakfast lasted us almost the entire day and the bed and pillows were so heavenly that I actually wrote to them to ask where I can buy my own. Not sure everyone’s experience matched mine, though, as I heard from a number of authors that they ended up having to share beds even though they booked twin bed rooms. As you can imagine, that made for a lot of hilarious out-of-context conversations, which I’m not allowed to share. :D
- My overall impression of the conference was a very positive one, and even though I’ve seen it all the conferences I’ve been to so far, I’m continually amazed and delighted by how supportive RWAus members are to each other.
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