This is a round-up of ARRC09 and is not in chronological order. If you want to read more anecdotes, check out the liveblog. Click here for a list of ARRC09 posts and liveblogs .
I missed the speeches on Sunday morning because we had an informal Cellie breakfast at the cafe next door. It was a lovely way to start off the day, and I was told of a ubiquitous photo on the Lora Leigh forums that I must go and check out, but NOT while I’m at work. The search term is “King Neptune”, in case you’re curious.
The morning panels all sounded really good, so I had a difficult choice to make. In the end, I opted for the ebook panel since I had friends going to the others. The session was sponsored by Torquere Press, and the panelists were Helen Woodall, Jordana Ryan and Jess Dee. Most of the discussion was around the benefits of ebooks and the publishing process. It kind of felt more author-focused than reader-focused, but it would’ve been useful for readers who were thinking about writing for an epublisher. I suspect there were quite a few in the audience.
The panelists talked about their experiences in being epublished, and the personal attention they felt they were given by their editors. The quality of editing largely depends on the publisher’s editorial team. In terms of covers and titles, epublishers give their authors more leeway and allow them more input. The panelists talked about knowing the market that the publisher sells to, and making sure that you write to that niche if you’re an aspiring author (or find an epublisher that works in the niche you’re writing for).
I wish we’d had an epublisher in the panel. Better yet, I wish the panel had included a rep from, say, Harlequin, which does both print and epublishing. Because some of the comments that were made (not necessarily by the panelists as there were a lot of comments from the audience) didn’t strike me as altogether accurate. For example, someone said that ebook covers can often be better than Harlequin covers. I’d have to disagree. On average, and considering HQN books have to be decent enough to sell through Target and K-mart, HQN covers still win. And let’s face it, for every gorgeous April Martinez cover out there, there’s a handful of WTF?!? covers, too.
I asked a question about piracy and was a little disappointed with the discussion. It mostly centred around how to stop piracy sites. Apparently, readers are quite helpful in reporting new piracy sites, and authors/publishers can then take action against the pirates. I pressed the issue by asking about filesharing among friends and talking about generational issues. It was interesting that a few audience members spoke up about their own experiences—either of their own use or of the way in which they see the younger generation sharing files (whether ebooks or other kinds of files).
I’ll be honest. I didn’t get the feeling that the panelists fully understood the generational issues with filesharing, or that they had anything other than an author-centric view of the issue. In the end, one of the panelists said she’d written some points down and will raise it with her publisher, but I’m not sure that’s the outcome I was after. Really, I just wanted a robust discussion and maybe an acknowledgment that readers sharing ebook files are not all teh evol.
It’s interesting that when I read the more well known romance blogs, there’s a very strong sense that ebooks shouldn’t be shared. But even just chatting to random people at the book signing line, it seems to me that many readers are perfectly happy to share files and see it as akin to borrowing books from the library or buying secondhand. They don’t seem to be afraid that their friends will upload the files to a piracy site. I didn’t get any sense of guilt, nor did I feel any sense of entitlement. Readers just want to do with ebooks what they’ve always been able to do with print books.
In the afternoon, I attended the series romance panel with Melanie Milburne, Annie West, Carol Marinelli, Paula Roe and Haylee Kerans, Publishing Coordinator for Harlequin Australia. Even before the session began, it was clear that this was going to be an engaging panel.
I was very, very impressed with the series romance authors, generally, in every session I heard from them (whether as panelists or audience members). They seemed to know their target readers very well, and were very savvy about marketing. (Stephanie Laurens also gave me this impression. Very attuned to her market.)
Basically, readers buy series romances because they know what they’re getting—they’re not in it for the plot twists, they’re in it for a quick, comfortable read that delivers exactly what they expect. There’s no formula to series romance, but it does come with a very rigid set of reader expectations. This doesn’t mean that authors can’t be innovative, and over the years, they’ve slowly tested the boundaries and evolved with changing social values.
Someone mentioned that it’s been easier once the authors could write from the male POV because they could then justify the hero’s actions better, especially in darker novels when they can be “real bastards”. Heroines are also getting stronger, and we’re getting a bit more ethnic variety.
I can’t remember if it was Marinelli or Milburne who said that women shouldn’t be devalued for their reading hobby—it’s just part of a balanced diet. I love that.
Kerans talked about the demographics of series romance: mostly female (1% male), aged 45-65. I’m not sure if that includes Blaze and some of their edgier lines, but since the authors on the panel mostly wrote for Sexy/Presents/Modern Romance, Sweet, and Medical, I assumed it was true for those lines at least.
Harlequin is launching a Young Adult line in July. Kerans talked about wanting to target the younger market so that they had a way to transition them from YA to adult romance. Harlequin is conducting focus groups prior to launching the line. Kerans mentioned that they need to be careful of content when marketing to younger readers, and that this is a big issue for them. Huge.
Kerans asked how we readers got into HQN and what they can do to get young readers to try romance. Personally, I think HQNs have become a less accessible. I used to buy them from newsagents and train stations, but now I literally have to hunt around for them at a bookstore (or Target and K-mart).
I asked how they choose which lines and titles are published in Australia. Kerans answered that it was all about marketing and what sells in our geography. For example, when they put together special Mothers Day collection sets, they must include Australian authors or they don’t sell.
She said that editors get a lot of feedback from readers, and readers don’t mince words. For example, she had a reader complain about a book with a short female and a tall hero because “the logistics just aren’t right!”
Silent auction for the bushfire appeal
I ducked into the silent auction room to check out what was on offer. I’d been hesitant, thinking I couldn’t afford anything, but because there were so many donated prizes, there were a few that were within my budget. I ended up winning a prize, which I’ll reveal in due time when I have all the details.
Stephanie Laurens was offering her entire backlist, signed, and I think her prize got the highest bids of the lot. Also very popular were signed series collections by JR Ward (BDB), Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling), Laurell Hamilton (Anita Blake) and Kerri Arthur. The Smart Bitches prize for authors also gained a lot of bids.
Q&A with Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love
I’m not sure I can say much about this session other than it was hilarious and endeared me to Kenyon and Love. They were very warm, gracious and terribly down to earth. Kenyon cracked so many jokes about her family—particularly her brothers—that had us in stitches.
Questions were a bit slow at the start—I think the audience was caught unawares because there was no speech. Wandergurl asked Kenyon what was the weirdest thing a fan ever did for her. Kenyon told us a story of a fan who, during a signing, asked her if she wanted to see her Dark-Hunter tattoo, and then proceeded to drop her pants … which resulted in other fans lined up for the signing also dropping their pants to show their tattoos. Kenyon looked shocked even thinking about it now. LOL Then she mentioned getting a knock on her front door from a fan, which was less funny and a whole lot more creepy.
I had to admire Dianna Love. She was gracious the entire time even though most of the questions were for Kenyon, and she piped in without missing a beat when Kenyon needed time to think about her answer.
My favourite quote, though, was about Zarek. When Dianna Love said that Zarek was her favourite Dark-Hunter—and the audience murmured in agreement—Kenyon laughed and said, “Pitch that to an editor and watch your career die: My hero’s from the shit pit.”
When’s the next convention?
The convention ended with a huge round of farewells. Truly, the organising committee did a fantastic job. I can’t say it enough. It went way beyond my expectations, and I think everyone got fantastic value for money. (Much love to the sponsors who helped keep the costs down for readers.) Word has it that the next convention may be in 2 years’ time in Sydney. I cannot wait!