Thursday, July 19, 2007

RWA 27th Annual Conference

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.

Deanna Ashford, Anne Tourney, Kate Pearce, Teresa Noelle Roberts, Dayle A. Dermatis

~ ~ ~

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?!

Dayle Dermatis/Sophie Monett/Sarah Dale/Andrea Dale

~ ~ ~

*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)

~ ~ ~

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!

~ ~ ~

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 . . . .

~ ~ ~

Anne Tourney: It was enlightening. Inspiring. Utterly terrifying.

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.
Next year, I'm going to find a chandelier like this one in the Pan Lounge and swing from it.


Janine Ashbless said...

Thankyou all! A really interesting, informative and useful report there.

Pity we don't have the equivalent meet on this side of the Pond.

Gwen Masters said...

This was a great read! Thanks for putting this together.

Madeline Moore said...

It sounds terrific. Thanks for giving those of us who didn't attend a glimpse into the RWA wheelings and dealings and meets and greets. Also, thanks for the info - the links to publishers and mini-guidelines are invaluable. This is a great way to stay 'in the loop' and your generous insights and comments are much appreciated.

Deanna Ashford said...

It was a great experiencence, which I thoroughly recommend for writers and aspiring writers as you learn so much about writing and marketing oneself.

Of course it means you've got to come up with the cash to get yourself there - the next one is in San Francisco- which is my excuse for considering it as I can fit in a holiday there as well. Touring round all the winegrowers in the nearby Nappa Valley certainly peaks my interest a lot.

Mostly it is women who write romance and erotic romance so two thousand women in one place at once is certainly an eyopener and an expereince not to be missed.

All the Black Lace authors as well as the other writers I met were charming entertaining people.

Thanks Anne for pulling this all together and I agree Janine it is a pity that we don't have something similar in the UK.

Alison Tyler said...

Wow, everyone, what a ride it must have been. And, Anne, love this line:

self-promotion is kind of like masturbation: everyone does it, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of

Oh, and Teresa... are you wearing leopard-print? And some beautiful deep red lipstick that I am now coveting. And that polka-dot dress... I am going shopping with you. I swear.


Olivia Knight said...

Could it be that I'm not twenty anymore? Teresa - what are you saying? Aren't we all twenty? Forever? That comment about resting and recharging hit home - to my chagrin, I actually need about ten hours sleep which is just absurd. (Although it's a good way of staying twenty forever - I don't think I've been awake for twenty years yet, so I can't possibly be older than that.) And all the stuff on ideas and tips and... oh, jealousy is such an ugly emotion, so I'll settle for some mild envy! We definitely need something like that in the UK. Who's good at organising...?

Madelynne Ellis said...

Sounds like you all had a fantastic time. (I'm not jealousy, no, not one bit :-() Thanks for the useful titbits too.

Alison Tyler said...

Oh, Olivia,

Envy. That's lovely. Really.
Because (shameless plug alert, but not for myself, really, I swear) Ashley Lister will be visiting tomorrow to talk about not only ENVY, but LUST, ANGER, GLUTTONY, SLOTH, and the other two dwarfs... I mean sins.


Kate Pearce said...

I too liked Anne's comment about self-promotion being like masturbation-everybody does it.

It was great fun to meet everyone. I love a chance to dress up and allow my LV purses out of their bags-I also had killer red shoes!

Kate Pearce said...

I forgot to mention that while I was having a fabulous time getting to know my fellow Virgin authors, I missed the opportunity to go and do karaoke at a drag queen bar...choices choices.
The naughty Ms Lilian Feisty also tried to get me to go and ride a mechanical bull with her-purely for research you know, but I know going out with Ms. Feisty ends up with the kind of photographs, drunken behavior, piercings tattoos and possibly even encounters with the law that a prudent writer might want to avoid.
Roll on San Francisco!
Alison, I might need your help for some good places to take my friends.

Deanna Ashford said...

Believe me Kate's red LV purse (Handbag to us on this side of the pond) was really cute, I wanted to grab it and take it home. The shoes were very covetable as well!

When she was on the panel with Adam and Michelle, Anne amazed me with her perfectly timed comments. Wish I could eb that witty!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post.

Glad you all had a great time.

I'd love something like this is the UK too. I know the Romantic Novelists Association have some kind of annual event - but I don't think it is on anything like this scale.

Ally said...

That was really great. Very informative.

I'm so glad you all had such a good time. I've attended a few conventions in my days and always found a wealth of information, learned so much about my profession, learned how to network, and gained a ton of business cards.

By the way, what's the date for the next one in San Fran?

Thankyou for all of the great links too.

kristina lloyd said...

Wow, Lust Bites does Dallas! What a great write up. Thank you.

I now want the DVD with extras on gossip, drunkeness and bitchin'. What do you mean there wasn't any?

Will you all forgive me if I have a little wank - I mean, do some promo as recommended by Anne? The Lust Bites collection Deanna mentioned is a Black Lace vampire novella volume - 3 hot novellas from me, Portia Da Costa and Mathilde Madden. It's the first in a spanky new line of paranormal novella collections and there'll be more to come in 2008 - from Madelynne, Janine, Olivia, Anne ... umm, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure who's got what coming out. But I do know vampires kicks it all off. It's published in November (UK), and you can check it out - and pre-order! - right here.

I'm thrilled we got a mention in Dallas.

OK, wank over. Thanks for watching.

Alison, does that count as a shameless plug? And what dwarf would it come under? Greedy?

Deanna Ashford said...

I don't know the date of the RWA con in San Francisco yet,but as far as I know they are always held about the same time of the year.

Jeremy Edwards said...

And what dwarf would it come under?

Yeah, Alison--you edited Naughty Fairy Tales from A to Z--which dwarf did the heroine come under?

Alison Tyler said...

See? It's what I always say. Never try to get in the last word when Jeremy is in the room.

Hmmmm... but based on the wide range of medical toys available on Extreme Restraints, I'm going with Doc. She came under Doc. And remember, for the next 24 hours or so, you can get 13% off any of them, um, devices available on Extreme Restraints. Just enter "elliott" at checkout to receive the discount!


TeresaNoelleRoberts said...

Alison, that was leopard print all right--a fabulous thrift-shop find. It's my tribute to the American cover of Cat Scratch Fever. Was supposed to be the book signing outfit, but my luggage didn't arrive on time.

I have five or six different vivid red lipsticks and decided that this year I would be "the woman with the red lipstick."

Would love to go shopping sometime, although since we live on different coasts, picking a location would be tough. Next year in San Fran?

And we need to bring Kate Pearce with us because she has amazing accessories!

Alison Tyler said...


You can't just say, "I have these five totally killer scarlet lipsticks" and leave it at that. You must give me names. You must. I have spent too many hours on the quest for the perfect red lipstick to have it slip out of my hands so quickly.

No, wait. You said, "vivid."

What a perfect word. Thomas is always on about "cocksucker red" lipstick. But vivid is really a better description.

Will you share? Even one? I'll trade a name... Russet Moon. Chanel. And Blackberry. Revlon. And I know I'm boring the I-don't-wear-make-up, I-wear-birkenstocks crowd to tears. But you've just touched on such a guilty pleasure....

Kate Pearce said...

Ooh can I come along?
I LOVE lipsticks!! I am always on the quest for the perfect shade-I believe I have approximately 200 lipsticks to choose from and I'm still looking!

And yes-my accessories-who can beat a red cowboy hat, a flashing white feather boa, LV red purse (and matching wallet) and kick ass red patent shoes? I think I surprised the hell out of my fellow lusties :)

And Teresa's lipsticks were FAB!

Anne Tourney said...

Kate definitely won the title of "Accessory Cowgirl," with her matching red sandals, purse, cowboy hat, and wallet!

We had a wonderful time. I have so many good memories of that weekend . . . plenty of warm thoughts to sustain me through the chaos that was waiting for me when I got back home.

Portia Da Costa said...

What a splendid post on RWA! I too wish I'd been there, although it sounds very tiring!

Fascinating stuff about the trade paperbacks... I would never have thought that. Aren't they more expensive than mass market pbs?

I am making tentative plans to attend RWA in Washington in '09... zimmer frame permitting! LOL

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

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.

Teresa, apparently you haven't caught the kerfluffle that's raging across the Internet right now about Sherilyn, and the manga girls, &tc. I won't beat a dead horse, but it's been discussed at Romancing the Blog and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, among other places...

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

By the way, what's the date for the next one in San Fran?

July 30-August 2, 2008.

More info here.

Eden Bradley said...

Thanks to Dayle and Teresa for my Sophie g-string-I've worn it already!
Great seeing you at conference! And great info here on what the erotica lines are currently looking for-thanks! I'm sending tons of people to your blog to find out!

Lillian Feisty said...

"The naughty Ms Lilian Feisty also tried to get me to go and ride a mechanical bull with her-purely for research you know, but I know going out with Ms. Feisty ends up with the kind of photographs, drunken behavior, piercings tattoos and possibly even encounters with the law that a prudent writer might want to avoid.
Roll on San Francisco!"

I have no idea what she's talking about. I'm as innocent as the driven snow. What? You want a definition of driven?

Well, anyway. Can't wait 'till San Francisco! *wink* I have my a tattoo artist on call.

I love this blog! And I loved the spotlight on the new erotic lines-very informative! I'm going to submit something to Virgin. They are putting out great stuff!