In which a group of Lustbites authors share their wanton adventures, and some juicy publishing tidbits, from the Romance Writers of America conference in Dallas, Texas, 2007.
Deanna Ashford: I find writing a particularly insular occupation, so my arrival at the RWA National Conference was somewhat of a culture shock for someone from 5,000 miles away across the pond. The Dallas hotel contained at least 2,000 attendees, about a quarter of whom, so I'm told, were published writers.
There were a multitude of workshops to attend on every conceivable aspect of writing and promotion, as well as panels which gave the attendees an insight into the heady world of publishing itself. Publishers held signings for their various authors, which meant lots of freebies for one and all. There was also a huge literacy benefit signing by at least 400 authors, which the general public were invited to attend. Aspiring writers could request meetings with editors and agents in order to pitch their books or themselves. Lastly on the final evening there was a glittering awards ceremony.
It was the perfect place to meet fellow authors, especially those I had corresponded with or who shared the same editor. I met, and hopefully got to know a little, some charming and entertaining people, including a number of US members of our blog. Also I met my editor, Adam, in the flesh at last. Not surprisingly at such an event he was totally outnumbered but appeared to remain charmingly unfazed by the proceedings.
Not surprisingly just about all the Black Lace authors attended the publishing panel entitled “Never Underestimate a Lady,” which had our editor Adam Neville and two Virgin Black Lace/Cheek authors, Michelle M. Pillow and Anne Tourney discussing the erotic market. They all spoke brilliantly on the subject. Adam mentioned Lustbites and the forthcoming short story anthology of the same name, which he said was deliberately named after our blog.
The following day there was another publishing panel on which Adam participated, along with editors of three other erotic romance lines--Avon, Harlequin and Kensington. It was there Adam made an amusing comment about where he'd found Black Lace books placed in bookshops. Not only are they in the romance section, they can sometimes be found in self-help and even zoology!
Not surprisingly, after travelling such a long way I couldn't resist sneaking out for some sightseeing. I just had to see the book depository where the Kennedy Memorial is situated, which of course overlooks the infamous grassy knoll! Also with 2 dollars to the pound how could a girl resist shopping. I did quite a lot and can highly recommend the North Park Mall.
All in all it was a wonderful trip where I met some great people, hopefully made a few friends and last, but not least, learned a lot more about the profession I have chosen to belong to.
Dayle A. Dermatis: "New Erotic Romance Lines - One Year Later" was exactly as advertised--editors from Avon, Harlequin, Kensington, and Virgin (as well as two authors) discussing how their year had gone, what they were looking for, what the trends are, etc.
The best news: They all agreed that erotic romance was here to stay!
Avon Red does paranormals and historicals as well as contemporaries, 85,000-90,000 words. They also do novellas of 25,000 words and short stories/e-books are 5000 words. They want HEA* (happily ever after), but the characters can have multiple partners on their way to romantic bliss. Full guidelines can be found here.
Harlequin Spice is looking for erotic fiction; HEA is not required. Strictly M/F is also not required. That said, they're also interested in erotica romance as well. 90,000-150,000 words. They also have the e-spice line, which are online stories from 5000-15,000 words. Click here for novel guidelines and here for e-spice guidelines.
Kensington Aphrodisia wants single-title books of 80,000-100,000 words and novellas of 20,000 to 25,000 words. While darker themes are okay, hardcore BDSM and strong fetishes are discouraged. They handle gay and lesbian erotica as well, but both "within the context of a freewheeling, generally heterosexual storyline." General guidelines for submission are here.
Virgin Books (Black Lace and Cheek) is interested in manuscripts of 70,000-75,000 words for both lines. Black Lace requires a non-contrived, non-wish-fulfillment HEA, and Cheek definitely requires an HEA. Black Lace books can be contemporary, historical, or paranormal, whereas Cheek is contemporary only. Links: Black Lace guidelines and Cheek guidelines.
The editors agreed that their research indicated that readers preferred the trade paperback size. However, few erotica romance publishers are offering their books in mass market, so it's unclear how they were comparing trade paperback sales to mass market sales. Black Lace is one of the few mass market-sized left, and Virgin is contemplating moving them to trade paperback.
The final thing I wrote down in my notes was Big Spank able Asses, which is an anthology from Kensington. Because how wonderful a title is that?!
*Note: Most publishers say that HEA does not automatically mean marriage and a baby on the way, or an epilogue showing them ten years later. It means that in the end, the reader believes the characters will make it together, that they belong together.
Dayle A. Dermatis, Adam Nevill, Teresa Noelle Roberts
(Dayle and Teresa write together as Sophie Mouette)
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Teresa Noelle Roberts: While I attended the literacy signing last year, I'd just gotten off the plane and was too weary to take in the full impact. This year, I'd had had at least some sleep and so I can say with authority that it's surreal. This is frenzied author- and book-worship, like unto teenage girls in the presence of their favorite boy band, and it makes me happy to see. Hundreds of authors. Probably a thousand or more readers. I was on line for about 20 minutes to pay for my books. The line for Nora Roberts snaked around and around the room. Sherrilyn Kenyon was wearing this insane and very fun Victorian-Goth outfit, fangs, sparkly face paint, and a fabulous hat in the shape of a black swan. People had wheely suitcases to haul away their purchases. And in the end, we raised over $55,000 for literacy charities. (Grumble . . . would have probably hit $60,000 if everyone's books had arrived!)
One very cool thing is that happened at the signing, as a cosmic compensation for our books not arriving, is that Dayle and I had a chance to talk with Emma Holly. (Emma, of course, got her start with Black Lace.) I somehow managed to avoid doing a complete Fangirl Gush (while, I think, getting across that I'd like to.) Dayle, who is less tongue-tied than I tend to be, managed to suggest we sit with her at the PI lunch and she agreed. Emma, it turns out, is not just a very talented and hot author, she's also a sweet person. (We did sit with her at the luncheon, although it turned out not to be the best atmosphere for much chatting since there was a pretty full program of speakers and it was one of those hotel function rooms with odd acoustics; you could hear the people in the back of the room better than the people next to you.)
Most of the workshops I attended involved either plotting/structuring your story or sparking creativity and overcoming blocks, because I freely admit these are areas where I've been struggling. Got some great insights in the structuring and plotting workshops. The sparking creativity stuff was more reminding me of tricks I already know but tend to forget when I'm hitting a rough spot. One interesting thing was that during the interactive part of the workshop, I was hitting a theme about rest and reenergizing. At the end, we had a chance to pull an inspirational card--I got one with a lovely picture of a woman napping and a message about giving yourself time to recharge. Hrrm, might be that my subconscious is on to something here! Perhaps I'd actually get more done if I let myself get eight hours of sleep a night? Could it be that I'm not twenty anymore? No, say it isn't so!
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Kate Pearce: This was my third RWA conference and the busiest one I’ve attended so far. Being published means you have commitments. I find its best to become ‘Kate Pearce’ rather than be boring old me. She is so much better at socializing and selling books!
I had a great time signing books at the Literacy for Life book fair and was near enough Nora Roberts to envy the long line that snaked around 2 sides of the hall. It’s still weird when people come up and ask me to sign a book for them. I always wonder if they really mean me.
Best things were meeting my online writer friends, all the Virgin authors and discovering strawberry lemon drops at the bar. I even managed to attend some workshops and learned a lot about the business side of things. Another highlight was a workshop by script guru Michael Hague entitled “From Identity to Essence: Love stories and Transformation.” We cornered poor Michael in the bar later and had a great chat with him. He nicknamed me Miss Erotica and was fascinated by the difference between my classy identity and my smutty essence.
I came away with 2 cowboy hats, one red, one zebra strip, a flashing white feather boa, sore feet and the desire to lie in a darkened room for a week and speak to no one!
Bad things? 2000 women, eight elevators and a limited amount of time to get anywhere caused a few interesting moments. I also moderated a workshop for some friends of mine and got stage fright when I stepped up on the podium. I announced my name and the workshop as “Writing the ‘hysterical’ erotic romance.” (Instead of historical)--TWICE--ON TAPE. This wasn’t quite the name recognition I was hoping for . . . .
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This was my first RWA conference; in fact, I’m not only a conference virgin, I’m a newly minted member of RWA. I hadn’t even made it through the paperwork by the time I landed in Dallas last Wednesday. I knew where I was supposed to be, and when, and I had a vague idea of why, but I was never quite sure how to get there. I went straight from the airport to the Bookseller’s Tea, which was in full swing when I arrived. There I met Jo-Ann Power, of Power Promotions. She kindly made sure I wasn’t going to faint, then gave me the task of handing out Virgin goodie bags to a roomful of strangers. It was kind of like reverse trick-or-treating, en masse. I wasn’t quite sure who was a bookseller and who wasn’t, so I handed out the bags to anyone who made eye contact with me. I also met co-authors Michelle Pillow and Mandy Roth, two inventive and prolific writers of erotic romance and paranormal erotica. They helped me get over my nerve attack, and showed me how to work the room.
Friday afternoon, I participated in a workshop panel (“Never Underestimate a Lady”) with Jo-Ann, Black Lace/Cheek editor Adam Neville, and author Michelle Pillow. We talked about the distinction between erotica and erotic romance, the future of erotica publishing, and the challenges of being an erotica writer while maintaining a “mainstream” identity. It was an interesting, thoughtful discussion, and I didn’t even choke on my water.
Saturday night, as I was recovering in my room with a cheeseburger and a horror movie, I realized that I needed this first experience just to learn how to make the most of future conferences. Here are a few of the tips I’ll use to make my next adventure more productive:
- Bring business cards. I was advised to make business cards before the conference, but I didn’t know what I’d put on them. “Anne Tourney: Geek (and Writer)” seemed the most appropriate, but I wasn’t sure why anyone would want to know my email address or phone number, so I came cardless. I soon regretted this; everyone was handing out cards, and they’re a wonderful way to keep in touch with editors, agents, and other writers, not only after the conference, but while it’s going on.
- Don’t be shy about self-promoting. I’ve come to the conclusion that self-promotion is kind of like masturbation: everyone does it, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and since it’s an absolute necessity in certain cases, you might as well throw yourself into it with creativity and joy. I got all kinds of ideas about promotional goodies to bring next year (I think I’ll print my name and the cover of my new release on trail mix bars, since food is terribly expensive and I always seemed to be hungry), and I’ll definitely bring a few extra copies of my novels to swap with other writers, or give away to readers, editors, or agents.
- Talk to strangers. As a diehard introvert, this was one of the toughest hurdles for me to overcome, but I did manage to introduce myself to a few people I’d never met. It was well worth the effort, not only for the professional contacts I made, but for the inspiration and sheer fun of meeting other creative creatures.