Romance Writers of America held their annual conference in New York last week, and I thought I'd share some nuggets of wisdom I gleaned. (and give you all a picture of the free books I came home with - I was very selective this year, but it was hard. So many great titles at the publisher signings!).
~ Always wear color to a conference. In a sea of 2,143 attendees, black was the predominant color. But I wore a ruffly purple shirt one day, and an apple green dress the next. Can't begin to tell you how many people approached me to compliment me on the color of my clothes. Why does this matter, you may ask? Because it opened a conversation. Standing in line for 15 minutes at a book signing is a perfect opportunity to chat - but sometimes it can be difficult to engage a total stranger. I had lovely chats with soooo many different people, at all different stages in their career. People opened up to me in the bathroom line, the coffee line, the book signing line...you get the picture.
~ We deserve a huge round of applause. Why? Because I learned a shocking statistic. 80% of Americans say they'd like to write a book. 2% of that 80% actually start to write. And only 5% of that 2% finish writing a book. Makes us sound rather special and elite, doesn't it? Go writers!
~ When querying, always send to an assistant editor or editor. Avoid the senior editor. The newer editors are hungrier, need to build their client list, and are more likely to sign new authors.
~ Hang out at the bar. Even in Times Square, where a mojito will set you back by a steep $18. Everyone who is anyone congregates there. I had a great evening with a group of women I'd never met before. Imagine my surprise the next morning when I discovered one of them was a multi-pubbed author leading my session.
~ Sex scenes have always been the bane of my writing existence. I can do them, but I loathe every minute. So I was thrilled to attend a session by Kelly Hunter and Anne Gracie that deconstructed how to do it. Interesting tidbit: the hero thinks less about the sex going into the scene than the heroine, but more about it coming out. Oh, and the dialogue in the sex scene should reveal something unexpected to keep one of them off balance. Doesn't that give you a whole new arena to explore?
~ Everyone is approachable. Authors, agents and editors don't care if you've only written your first chapter, or if you're on the NYT bestseller list. They respect your passion for the genre, and are happy to chat. Romance writing doesn't have the clear cut cliques or power divisions as other professions. We are an empowering, friendly sisterhood. So don't be intimidated, whether in person or on a blog post - get out there and get engaged!
~ I say this to everyone I can - conventions are amazing. Do whatever you can, move heaven and earth to attend one. You will learn more in four days than in an entire year. You will make new friends. You will be able to pitch and make a strong impression on agents and editors. You will be moved to tears by the keynote speaker. You'll get to talk to your favorite writers. Most of all, your writing will take an enormous leap forward. It is worth every cent (and that is saying alot, since NYC is as expensive as it comes). Start planning now for RWA next July in CA or RT next April in Chicago.
To everyone I met, it was great chatting with you, and I hope you had as illuminating, educational and fun time as I did. To my fellow attendees from the Maryland Romance Writers, it was awesome hanging with you in the Big Apple. Now, don't forget to go online and check out all the RITA winners - and nominees. They are the best of the best, so be sure to read their books!