It’s taken me over a week to recover from the RWA national conference in Atlanta. I’m still struggling to get caught up with everything at home and everything social media. I’m hoping to be back on my regular schedule come next week. Fingers crossed. The conference in Atlanta was amazing. The speakers were awesome. And the opportunities for networking were astounding. I had a great time and I learned a lot. While I came away exhausted–because the days were long and the nights were short–I also came away recharged and encouraged about the book industry and my place in it. Maybe it’s because I went into this year’s conference with a different energy and expectation that I got more out of it. But I think it was more than that, too.
The landscape is entirely different than it was even a year ago. The most popular workshops seemed to be those directed at learning about indie publishing. There were still our old favorites: regular spotlights on traditional publishing, craft-oriented workshops for beginner to pro, an arena sized book signing for traditionally published authors, PAN workshops, pitch sessions, and networking parties. But this year RWA shifted the focus slightly and allowed indie publishing to take a place at the table. Successful indie authors shared their secrets about their success and RWA sponsored a book signing & giveaway for indie authors. The energy was high, and the mood was collaborative and positive.
The clear message? This is the best time to be a writer because of all the options available to us. We can traditionally publish, we can publish with a small press, we can publish with an e-publisher, we can indie publish, we can hold our digital rights and sell our print rights, and so on and so on. Or, we can be a hybrid author who does all of the above. If we want. We have choices. Writers hold the power card.
The trick is knowing what you want. What brings you the validation that you require to continue writing what you want to write? Is it seeing your book in print? Knowing that readers are reading it? The distribution? Is it being able to make a living from your book sales? There’s a lot of self-discovery necessary these days to make your way in the book industry. You need to know what you want and why you want it. But if you’re honest with yourself and willing to work hard and write, write, write, there are no limits, and there’s no single pathway to success.
Cathy Maxwell’s keynote speech opening the conference was one of the best I’ve ever heard. She’s an amazing motivational speaker. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, go. You won’t be disappointed. She talked to us about writing as a gift, and really, what a gift it is to be part of a group like RWA, where we’re all pursuing a similar dream. She had has laughing and crying. But most of all, she called us to action–to write and keep on writing and to never give up on our dreams.
Agent/Editor Pitches – I had three excellent pitches during the conference. One with Soul Mate Publishing, one with the Knight Agency, and one with Harlequin Blaze. This year I went in to the ptiches with a different tactic–I asked my questions first, then I gave my canned pitch. I hate pitch sessions. I don’t feel I pitch well, and the whole pitch setup seems so contrived and forced. I wanted to feel like we were just two people talking. It worked. I walked away with requests from all of them, but better yet, I walked away knowing I’d connected on some level and I’d made industry contacts that I hope to build on in my future career.
Courtney Milan/Lilianna Hart/Bella Andre Workshops – These were three of the best workshops I attended all conference. Is it surprising that they’re three best-selling indie authors? No. In each of these workshops–many of which were not taped–the presenter shared her secrets to success. And by success, we’re talking “life-changing money” as I think Nora once dubbed it. Over the past few years, the talk of making it big or making significant money within traditional publishing for the newbie author had become somewhat depressing. The only authors who could command the big bucks were Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovich. That’s pretty discouraging for someone starting out who wants to make a living writing. However, this year, listening to these three women, I have hope once again that there is “life changing money” to be made if you work hard, write a lot, and are business smart.
Nora’s Party – One of the highlights every year is the party Nora Roberts throws before the Rita/Golden Heart Awards. I’ve been privileged to attend several years. And it’s always a nerve-wracking, delightful time. Nora is always so gracious and generous. The suite is filled to capacity, and by ton standards, it’s always a crush. The room is filled with big-name authors and industry professionals–the movers and shakers of the romance industry. It’s all rather inspiring and a bit intimidating. But I hold my own and don’t get sick. It’s a lovely time.
The Indie Book Signing was a huge success! Honestly, I expected five people to show up. I underestimated the numbers by far. We had a line that formed outside that rivaled the Bantam-Dell signing next door just an hour before. The power of free stuff. Who knew? Yay! I gave away a hundred coupons for a free download of To Have & To Hold, the first in my dragon shifter series. All in all, I’d say the experience was awesome and really lots of fun.
My Tribe – This (RWA Nationals) is one of the most valuable conferences, as is my local WRW Retreat, for getting together with my tribe. The first time I noticed this tribe thing was last year in Anaheim. We were walking down the street to dinner and all around us were small groups of people talking about writing and reading books I knew–YA books, romance novels, romantic suspense, etc. I understood their language, their drive, their purpose, and direction. They were my people. Since then, every time I’m in a situation where I’m surrounded by other romance writers or readers, I feel like I’m home, I’m among my people or my tribe. It’s invaluable to feel part of a bigger group, a group of women with the same goals and struggles, with whom you can relate. There’s an energy and a connectedness that goes a long way in keeping me motivated and focused when I’m sitting all alone at my desk at home dripping those words onto the page to craft a novel. It’s hard work, but I know there are others like me doing the exact same thing, day in and day out. It keeps me going!
If you attended RWA in Atlanta this year, what was your favorite part?
If you didn’t attend the conference, what keeps you going as a writer? Where do you find the power to keep writing, even when it’s hard? Or if you’re not a writer, what keeps you pursuing the dream?