Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

Post RWA Post – The State of Publishing (Part 2)

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Part 2 of my impression of the state of publishing after attending the RWA National Conference. RWA is the Romance Writers of America and they have an annual conference for members. Part 1 is here.

That was Then, This is Now

Two years ago, there were no official RWA workshops on self-publishing. Amazon was present, but in an explanatory, defensive mode. There were, however, stealth workshops. By which I mean, writers agreed to meet at the bar at a certain time and talk about this self-publishing thing some people were doing. Last year, there might have been a couple official workshops. This year, there was a self-publishing track. I went to as many of them as I could.

There’s been a lot of grumbling about RWA with respect to policies about self-publishing (SP), and some of those grumblers had a point. My feeling is that RWA can’t react too quickly–they need at least SOME time to make sure their policies are in the best interest of a writer seeking a career as a professional. Vanity publishing (where authors pay to publish) have been more or less the opposite of being in the best interests of a writer. There’s a lot about SP that can look just like Vanity Publishing.

By 2012, the evidence that SP can be in an author’s professional career interest was overwhelming. And RWA DID allow SP authors to join PAN (the Published Author’s Network). I’m not totally on board with the income thresholds they set, but at least it’s permitted now. SP authors have not been permitted in the RITAs and they’ve also been excluded from the Golden Heart contest. An unfair double whammy. As of 2014 (next year’s contest) SP published works can be entered in the RITAs. This is beyond right.

So, RWA is adapting to the new world. If you’re a member, continue to make your voice heard.

The Long Arm Of the Law and the IRS

I did attend a few workshops that were not self-publishing related. I was shocked there weren’t more writers in attendance at the workshop about legal matters for writers. One of the speakers is a lawyer who does this work.

Are you a professional writer? Do you know how the provisions of the Copyright Act affect you and what steps you need to take to make sure your intellectual property is fully and legally protected? Do you have a CPA? Do you know the rules about what you can and can’t deduct? Should you be a corporation?

I see far too many writers asking legal and tax questions on email loops and I always wonder if they really think it’s wise to take legal and tax advice from writers instead of legal and tax professionals. While other authors can certainly share what they do, there’s just no way for someone to know if that person is right and, if so, if that’s also right for them.

Special Forces

One of the workshops I attended was the middle portion of a talk given by a man who’d been in Special Forces for many, many years. He had equipment there for us to look at and examine. For the record, body armor is thick and freaking heavy. So glad I went!

Librarians!

The Librarian workshop was informative. I was taken aback (but in hindsight should not have been) to see how excited they were that Smashwords is going to be working with Overdrive. They were giddy. I’m not kidding. Giddy. This tells you a lot about how badly publishers have been treating libraries.

Fortunately, I have another avenue to Overdrive and I won’t be stuck with libraries getting the Smashwords version of my files. I’ll be able to get a much better file to them. But at least now it’s possible.

A Dangerous State of Denial

I went to a workshop panel about using free digital content to support print sales. I saw that some of the speakers were editors from traditional publishers. The others were that publisher’s publicist, and two authors. I was quite interested to hear what they had to say since it’s well known that free sells books. Even publishers know this, though they’ll often deny it.

Publishers are in a dangerous state of denial with respect to how to support authors. They’re business as usual in a business that’s being disintermediated.

Let me see if I can capture my reaction to what I heard:

WTF??
::asplody head::

I came away from this panel appalled by either of the possibilities;

  1. They actually believed what they were saying or
  2. They knew it was BS and were saying it anyway.

Here’s some of the highlights — some paraphrasing.


I have never given away free content.
(an author)

Blog posts, tweets, and facebook posts are free digital content. (author)

Countdown widgets are really effective, but we only do them for big releases because if all the books have these widgets, the effect is diluted. (publicist)

Writing about anything (that isn’t the book) is free digital content. You can draw in readers that way.
(author)

We want to be careful that your message to readers fits your brand and matches the message we’re establishing for you, so check with us. (publisher and publicist in response to a question about writing a novella featuring a gay secondary character from the writer’s novel.)

Links! If you have links to, say, recipes, put them on your website!
(author)

This last was followed up by a question about whether to put the links on the home page or somewhere else on the author’s website. The answer? Don’t put them in a sidebar. No one looks at a sidebar.

Did anyone mention that a home page is almost NEVER a visitor’s entry point to a website?
No.

Did anyone mention populating the website metadata tags to make your page-O-links findable by search engines?
No.

Did anyone mention giving away free books ever?
Other than the author who has never given away free digital books, No.

Did any of the editors say anything about what THEY can do with free content to support an author’s book?
No.

Are you effing kidding me?
No.

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Post RWA Post – The State of Publishing

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Part 1 of my impression of the state of publishing after attending the RWA National Conference.

RWA is the Romance Writers of America and they have an annual conference for members. This year, it was in Atlanta, Georgia, which is a lovely city. The weather is bad-ass for someone from Northern California. There were at least 3 flash flood warnings. I was happy to get back to Nor Cal and feel the fog. Ahhhh…

About Me Impressions

On a personal level, I LOVE RWA Nationals. It’s one of the rare times I get to hang with people who share my mental quirks. I get to see writers who are on-line friends and I make new friends, too. There’s gossip and rumor and dancing, a trifecta of WIN. I’m pretty sure I saw Jim Hines dancing at the Samhain party after the RITAs. That Samhain party is AWESOME and I want to issue a huge thank you to them for the wonderful entertainment open to everyone.

The Marriott Marquis hotel staff were wonderful, all of them so charming and helpful and just plain friendly. When my luggage did not arrive on the plane with me, the woman at the registration desk got me a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some mouthwash. MUCH appreciated.

Conference Mood: Trouble in Publishing on the Horizon?

In a word: Revolution.

My impression is admittedly only that, an impression. I didn’t see and do everything or see and talk to everyone. I didn’t do as much hanging out in the bar because I was coming down with a cold and, yuck. I needed the rest. That said:

Revolution is not too strong a word for what’s going on in the publishing world. Harlequin authors in particular seemed frustrated and upset. Their current contract terms materially screw them over in this new environment. Many of these authors have deep backlists that earn them very little. More to the point, that backlist is not earning them what they could earn if they were self-publishing it. So many of the authors I talked to or overheard said things along the line of: “I have x number of books to deliver and then I’m done.”

Apparently, 141 Harlequin editor appointments went unfilled. My understanding is that there were other publishers also with unfilled appointments. (At RWA, you can sign up to pitch your book(s) to an agent or editor. In the past, these pitch appointments have been hard to get. They fill up fast and well before the conference.) I know last year (or maybe the year before) when my RITA status gave me a preferred sign up status, I went ahead and took an appointment with a Harlequin editor because I had an idea… Between the sign-up and my appointment time, news hit about certain HQN contract terms that made me decide there was no way I’d ever sign with them (assuming my agent would even be on board with such a project). I kept the appointment because I didn’t want to be rude, but yeah.

Sign On or Don’t Publish?

It used to be that authors had more or less no choice but to accept some flavor of unfavorable contract terms because there was no viable alternative. How badly you were affected by those terms depended on how good your agent was and how well your last book did. But now?

There IS an alternative and it’s better than what publishers are offering. This bears repeating. The alternative is BETTER than what publishers are currently offering. Authors know this. Even if they’re not sure they want to publish on their own, they are aware.

Walking Away

The mid-list is walking. I’m not sure it matters, though. Yet. There are still enough writers looking to break in that I don’t think publishers are in any danger of not being able to find books to publish. Yet. Publishers increasingly look to self-publishers as the new slush pile. The issue here is that the indies who are getting offers from traditional publishers understand how they’re currently making money and they can compare it to how they will make money if they go traditional. For many of them, those terms do not compare favorably.

This really can’t be stressed too much. The typical debut author had no data to compare to what was offered them. All she could do was spend time Googling, talking to other authors and learning as much as possible about the business without being in the business. Now? Indie authors are in the business and they have sales data that’s far more detailed than any traditionally published author has available to them. When a publisher says, “we’ll give you X dollars as an advance and a royalty rate of 25% of net” that author can look at her track record and do some math.

Why say yes when your data says you’ll make more money staying on your own?

Like I said. Revolution.

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RWA – Wednesday Update

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

I’m in Atlanta for the RWA National conference. Today is sort of a pre-conference day with not much going on until the Literacy signing tonight. If you’re in the Atlanta area, please stop by! 5:30pm to 7:30pm. I’m signing Not Proper Enough but I have a few copies of My Darkest Passion.

More tomorrow as the conference gets underway.

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The Coming Week

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

This weekend, I’m giving a talk to the Orange County RWA chapter. Should be fun! I’ve been attempting to polish up the talk. Boy. I’m a writer, not a speaker, and I keep making my “notes” way too long. My slides may well be epic. I resisted the urge to make them text-heavy.

Next week is the RWA National conference in Atlanta. I will attempt to blog from there.

If you’re in the Atlanta area, please come by the Literacy Signing on Wednesday July 17th (Atlanta Mariott Marquis) 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM. I’ll be signing Not Proper Enough.

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Saying Hello

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Things have been crazy here, but I was still all ready with an AWESOME post and I may have mentioned that the internet here at Jewel Central sucks. And well, I lost most of the post and that depressed me a lot. So instead you’re getting this post where I’m feeling sorry for myself.

I hope everyone who celebrated July 4th had a lovely time.

The writing is going well enough in between the chaos.

RWA is next week and next weekend I’m giving a talk at the Orange County RWA so I’ve been preparing for that. Kind of shocking how much writing you have to do for a TALK.

What have YOU been doing?

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Post RWA Blues and Yellows

Monday, July 30th, 2012

I’m back from the RWA (Romance Writer’s of America) conference in Anaheim. I drove down with author Isobel Carr. It was a six hour drive of tunes, good conversation and a window seat the whole way. Flying would probably have been a four hour trip, door to door, but I arrived at the hotel with none of the stress and upset of flying. This was eye opening for me. I walked into the hotel calm and relaxed instead of annoyed and irritated. Leaving the hotel was also less stressful, by the way. I feel sorry for airlines now. If they had any brains they’d be lobbying the government for security that works, not the baloney that’s in place.

Anyway, the conference days are all a blur now but a lot stands out. The Marriot employees were the nicest I’ve ever encountered. Wow. They were wonderful. I didn’t encounter a single employee who wasn’t genuinely nice, friendly and helpful. Other hotels should be sending spies there to see how it’s done. I want to go live there. On donut party day, the gentleman who helped bring up the donuts arranged to give us cups and a free gallon of milk, which indeed, was put in our room fridge. How nice was that? The Starbucks people learned my coffee order right away, and considering I was usually there in a line of 40 people, that’s something. My only complaint about the hotel was the internet. $15 a night to get internet in your room? Please. My phone and/or iPad did a good enough stand in, though I did miss some emails I wish I hadn’t.

The Literacy Signing – the Good and Not So Good

I was sitting with, among others, writers Lisa Hendrix and Hannah Martine and they were really fun and nice. Readers did manage to find me and I was intensely flattered by the wonderful things they said. I have a lovely card from one reader and several other gifts. Gifts! That is just so nice. Kris Alice of the German magazine Love Letters dropped off a copy of the magazine edition that has the article I did for them about the settings in My Wicked Enemy. It includes a picture I took from our kitchen window, which, admittedly, has a fairly stunning view.

My cookies did get some people to stop at our table, thank goodness. The seating arrangements, which were not alphabetic, seems to have had precisely the effect that most of us worried about. Readers were stressed about finding their favorite authors. Since our table was by the door, I could see them come in, highlighted seating charts in hand, looking very intense and walking head down and very quickly. They paid no attention to anyone but their immediate goal. I’d have done the same, to be honest. I’d want my favorite authors — who were for all practical purposes randomly scattered through tables numbered in a way only a programmer could love — and only then might I wander, looking for other authors I like, had heard of or even who just had interesting covers. But by then, the readers were tired and would have already have been through the room in random fashion. The thought of then doing a purposeful stroll through tables?

Most authors felt there were fewer people, though that might be a function of the large space, but certainly fewer stop-bys, and for the reasons noted. At this point, I hope they go back to the alphabetic seating.

Carolyn gets lost

After the signing, I was supposed to meet Cybil Solyn in the lobby to sign some books and then go to my Agency dinner. I could not find either, and I waited around for 45 minutes. I didn’t know anyone at the Agency well enough to recognize them (my agent was attending a family wedding) and I did not have any phone numbers. Sigh. The restaurant was a 30 minute walk and I was too poor to want to pony up for a cab so I decided I would try to meet Cindy Dees, Jennifer Ashley and Elizabeth Hoyt for dinner at a restaurant they cheerfully assured me was “right around the corner, just go left.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Anyone who has ever driven in a car with me knows that I should never, ever be in charge of getting someplace new. I do not know left from right. I do a lot of stuff left handed, and that includes writing, from time to time. I have to be lost someplace several times before I learn how to get there and back. Even when I pull up walking directions on my phone, I have to walk some direction to tell if I went the right way.

Long story short, I was lost for an hour. An HOUR! But I met a very nice woman who was also lost. She was looking for RWA registration, and I felt that I could probably get us back to the hotel. Which I did. Sort of. We ended up in the parking garage of the hotel across the street from the Marriot, and someone finally pointed us in the direction of that hotel lobby. Earlier in the day I’d had coffee there with my Berkley editor so once we were there I really did know how to get to the Marriot and registration. Mission Accomplished!

So then I gave up hope of ever finding any restaurant ever and went back to my room where I ate a protein bar and watched some dancing competition show with Liz Maverick and Megan Frampton.

Dining with Winners

I had great breakfasts, lunches and dinners with various writers and, I’m just saying, three of them ended up winning RITAs: Jo Bourne, Ann Aguirre and Thea Harrison. To next year’s RITA finalists, I am available for meals at Atlanta if you’d like to bump your RITA mojo. Send me an email.

Workshops

I did attend workshops this year. At one point, I ended up with Liz Maverick’s conference schedule booklet in which she had conveniently circled workshops she wanted to attend. So I went to those. And they were good ones, too. Thanks, Liz!!

A certain agent gave a workshop in which he showed a disturbing and perversely hilarious cognitive dissonance. I’m afraid I did tweet that he was a fucking idiot. Here’s the disconnect he showed:

Self-pulblishers don’t have editors, covers artists, copy-editors or marketing departments. That lack of a support team is the reason writers should traditionally publish.

. . . . 20-30 minutes later . . . .

[Traditionally published] Authors have less support than ever. The lack of editorial support is a real concern.

I should hope that most of you already know that his first statement is false. Self-publishers can and do obtain all those services, including editorial. To be really clear: the woman who does my covers also does covers for NY. My copy-editor copy-edits for her day job. One of the editors I use is a NY editor. Another has a PhD in Literature and edits NYT best-selling authors. It’s true that I pay out of pocket for those services, but I have control over what I ask for and what I get. When I say, for example, that I want a tough-love edit, I will get it — because I have engaged editors who I KNOW can do that for my work.

Marketing support? Really? Most of the authors I know feel that support is only given to best-selling authors. We all know that authors have been asked for years to do the marketing and that, other than co-op dollars, there’s not much marketing departments are doing for midlisters that we’re not already doing on our own.

He demonstrated a complete unawareness of the actual self-publishing landscape, particularly as it applies to both his workshop audience and to traditionally published mid-list authors. Total fail. And yet, he was remarkably and insightfully clued in about the challenges traditionally published authors face. I found it quite disturbing that he was unable to transfer that insight outside traditional publishing. That’s the kind of denial and willful ignorance that costs people their jobs or closes down businesses down the line. We’re seeing it play out before our eyes.

The workshops that covered legal issues are all ones that writers who aren’t buying the conference DVD should consider buying individually.

Other Stuff

I had 13 books left over after the lit signing. I bought them all and gave them all away at conference. At the Berkley signing, my books were gone in half an hour. Grand Central was awesome enough to provide copies of all four of the My Immortals books. If you got my my line (and there was one!) you got all four books. I didn’t think I’d run out of books, but I did.

At the post-RITA party, I dipped Courtney Milan.

Cover model Jimmy Thomas came to the donut party. About an hour later, another cover model (whose name I have now blanked on) also showed up. He stretched out on my bed. Fun times, good donuts and just fun conversation. Be there next year if you missed it.

Philosophie

At the Berkley cocktail party Liz Maverick fetched us Stephane Marsan of Bragelonne, a French publisher who is branching out from Sci-Fi and Fantasy translation into translating Romance. He was charming and funny. We talked about the state of French publishing, the translation business, eReaders, smart phones and other publishing matters. And then we talked about Paris, food and Michel Foucault and I say any conference where you get to talk about Foucault is a major win. We are now planning a Paris writing retreat. Who’s in?

Conclusions

My impression, which I have heard others express as well, is that this conference was less stressed out. Most authors are now well aware that we have choices we didn’t have before. I met several authors who have already walked away from contracts that only offered more of the same and they were completely at peace with the decision. And that, people, is transformative.

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RWA: Day T-1the fun has started.

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

My road trip to RWA12 with fellow author Isabelle Carr was uneventful. We left Nor Cal about 6:30am and arrived in Anaheim at 12:30pm. No traffic problems, though taking 99 is probably the reason for that.

We immediately ran into several other authors: Cindy Dees, Jade Lee, Anne Aguirre and others. We talked and solved the world’s problems. (You are welcome!) Then, since we had a car we ran some errands and brought along author Delilah Marvelle.

We had dinner with MORE authors, including Olivia Gates and her beautiful daughter. Olivia gave me a cute clutch purse AND an Egyptian pound. I counted out 55 cents US in change for her because I am awesome that way.

We ran into Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks and author Grace Burrows, too. Now I am back in my room and kind of tired. I have a breakfast date and would like to get some sleep.

The concensus is the hotel Internet is not worth the money they want. I am hugging my iPad close. The staff is really nice and helpful though.
To bed with me

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Cookies, Literacy Signing, RWA 2012

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

I will be at the RWA Literacy signing from 5pm to 8:00pm, Wednesday Jul 25: Anaheim Convention Center, 3rd Floor Ballroom.

Here are the two things you need to know:

  • Table 600
  • Cookies
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RWA Roundup Post

Monday, July 4th, 2011

I’m back from RWA in New York and still a bit jet-lagged. Here are some initial thoughts and observations.

Three stories

I heard a lot of people tell stories about encountering rudeness. If you’re ever at the Times Square Coldstone, for God’s sake DO NOT GO INSIDE. The tale of hostility encountered over the simple act of buying ice cream chilled my blood. Good Lord. Ice Cream should be a happy experience. I guess you walk out of that store happy that you escaped with your life.

I myself was in a cab hurtling toward my destination — this was nothing new, by the way. I have been in cabs in San Francisco and I assure you, San Francisco traffic can make New York traffic look like Sunday morning at 7:00 am. — Anyway, my driver suddenly pulls over to the curb and stops and I’m thinking, hey! there’s no one in front of us, why the heck are you stopping instead of seeing how quick you can punch it to 70? He bought a hot dog. Two of them. On my dime. Which if he’d asked would have been totally cool with me. But he didn’t.

To counterbalance the tales of rudeness, in the Times Square Walgreen’s where I was buying band-aids, the line was long, the store was crowded and there were youngsters in the line. And the clerk charmed those kids to pieces. You could watch them all fall in love with her and her New York accent and every kid in that line couldn’t wait until she talked to them. She was wonderful.

So there. I choose to remember her the best.

Also, the staff in the Starbucks on the first floor (not the one on the 8th floor) were really nice AND they were organized about how to take orders and keep things moving. The staff at the 8th floor Starbucks was the complete opposite.

The Mood

Most people seemed to think the mood was substantially more optimistic than last year. I do think that’s so. My own mood was . . . hard to explain. Ups and downs, but unlike any other time in my writing career, the down bits were accompanied by my conviction that I have real and substantial alternatives. This was bolstered by the fact that the 2nd installment of my ePub direct deposits (representing the first full month of sales) went in while I was at conference and $9,000+ felt damn cheerful and substantial to me.

I have never, ever before had conversations with editors, agents and other publishing professionals where the potential for “No” didn’t also bring with it the specter of an ending career. But that’s the case right now. Not that there was no angst, there always is. But the truth is, the world has changed and savvy writers can now diversify their careers in ways that detach them from traditional publishing. A writer who can do both is in a good place and, for the first time ever, that applies to the mid-list author.

Rumors and Speculation

There were lots of rumors most of which had to do with Harlequin’s recent contract changes. It seems that the rumor about a non-complete in the contracts is false. However, I remain concerned that the math I’ve seen pretends that the overhead is limited. Harlequin, it seems, uses a distributor. See this Dear Author post.

Series: on a $5 book, a series author receiving 6% of cover would earn royalty of 30 cents per copy; at 15% of net receipts, she’ll earn 37.5 cents per copy ($5 x 50% discount to distributor = net receipts of $2.50. 15% of $2.50 is 37.5 cents).

Single Titles: on an $8 book, a single title author receiving 10% of cover would earn royalty of 80 cents per copy; at 25% of net receipts, she’ll earn $1.00 per copy ($8 x 50% discount to distributor = net receipts of $4.00. 25% of $4.00 is $1.00).

The net receipts calculation is transparent and we are comfortable moving to a net receipts model for digital sales.

Emphasis added. The above math assumes the only cost is that 50% to the distributor. But is it? I don’t have any contracts with Harlequin, but one of my contracts has this language regarding things that are deducted before arriving at net:

Taxes, handling or processing fees, customer refunds… commissions or fees payable to third parties (such as web hosters and digital rights management providers). . .

It’s pretty easy to imagine that 7.5 cent (30 cents vs. 37.5 cents) increase for series and the $0.20 increase (80 cents vs. 100 cents) for single title being eroded by things like the above expenses. I remain skeptical and continue to believe that 25% of net is not competitive enough in the current environment. See above in re my self-pub income for the month of June.

Other Stuff

There were representatives there from Amazon and iBooks. Last year, to my knowledge, there weren’t. The guy from Amazon ran out of cards. Think about that.

My News

I don’t have much I can share yet. Sorry. However, you can expect to hear news fairly soon.

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RWA update

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

As I write this, I’m still at the conference hotel since my flight doesn’t leave until later this afternoon.

I chatted with Grace Burrows, author of the awesome The Heir and The Soldier. She’s a really lovely woman and very, very smart and interesting.

I also met a gentleman from Amazon who gave a workshop about digital publishing. I missed his talk since I had a conflict, but now I have his email. SCORE. I have a feeling his head is spinning. Apple sent a representative from iBooks. She was very nice.

The donut party was a success:

Picture via @LauraCurtis

The RITAs were thrilling. I presented the Golden Heart for Best Paranormal Romance which was won by Trisza Ray. I kid you not, at the beginning of conference, we were in the same elevator and I saw her GH finalist ribbon and told her congratulations and that, hey, I was presenting a GH and maybe I’d present hers! And heck if I didn’t! She’s an ER doctor. Romance writers are smart, amazing, accomplished women.

When I get home, I’ll check my notes for more things I can blog about. There’s lots I can’t mention yet . . .

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