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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.