So this week is the National Romance Writers of America conference. This year it’s being held in Orlando (after some major scrambling when Nashville flooded). Romance writers, editors, agents and aspiring writers will converge to meet and mingle and talk about all things romance in the publishing industry.

And I won’t be there. 🙁

In fact, this is such a large conference, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to manage the crazy running around that authors do at these types of events. My mobility has become problematic. I’m having trouble moving around even small venues these days. I know I’m not the only disabled author. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised at the number of prolific authors with disabilities. Which means, chances are, they’re not attending the conference either.

And let’s not limit this to disabled authors. There are many romance authors who just don’t have the ready cash to shell out for this type of event. TRUST me when I say … these things ain’t cheap!

Does this put us at a disadvantage?

I’m not sure, but part of me worries it does. I belong to several online chapters and they’re all having their general meetings along with the RWA general meeting. There is a PAN tract for published authors that I understand is outstanding. Now, I know, you’re going to tell me I can order the disks and listen to everything on CD. But there are a couple of problems with that, not the least of which I’m not really interested in listening to workshops on tape. What I like is the interaction that happens in the classroom setting. (Yes, that’s totally the teacher in me.) I have no doubt I’d go crazy because I’d like to ask a question but I can’t.

But even IF I did do that, I’m gleaning the wisdom of others, but I sure as heck won’t be sitting at the bar shooting the breeze and rubbing elbows with friends and/or one of my favorite authors. I won’t be bumping into an editor or an agent just “to get to know them”. I won’t be hooking up with like minded authors and get invited to be part of a great new anthology. Nope. Zip. Zero. Zilch. None of that is available to me. Which then makes me ask again, does that put me behind the eight ball? Do I have to work harder because I can’t schmooze with the rest of the romance writing world?

I don’t know the answer to this. I’m wondering what you’re thinking. I’m sure there are LOTS of romance authors out there who aren’t even members of RWA. There’s no law against it. But do you think sometimes you may be missing out? Let me know how you feel.

And if you’re a reader, have you ever attended a reader/writer conference like Ellora Cave’s Romanticon? Did you ever find a new-to-you author because you had a chance to meet them in person and just had to have their books?

0 Responses to Conference Woes

  • This is the first year I have ever attended a convention. And I did two within two months. Both RT and Lori Fosters RWR.

    RT was a mad house. So many people packed into one little space does a hot room make. I was so hot I literally shaked most of the time. Most of the isles were bearly big enough to fit inbetween so you were constantly getting bumped. I was happy to see all the authors who I have made friends with online and or just the ones I have read. And i came out with most of my books signed, which was awesome. However if I had the chance there is no way I will go to something of the magnatude again.

    Lori Fosters Reader Writer Retreat is a whole other experience entirely. It was so laid back that they didn’t have a formal signing you just went to the same table that author had been sitting at the entire time. And its so great to sit at the same table with all the authors that you adore and just talk to them one on one. That was something I missed at RT because there was so many people you didn’t get to converse very much.

    I am thinking about going to RomanticCon because its only a couple hours drive for me. But I would only go for the signing and then off again. The one thing about the whole convention is kinda expensive.

    • Drea – The cost is what stops most people. They are very expensive. I’ve never attended RT, but I understand it’s a crazy time because there are so many people. I did go to Lori Foster’s get-together for the first time this year and I LOVED IT! Like you said … relaxed. It’s so easy to chat with readers. Thoroughly enjoyable. Romanticon is very much the same. Very laid back and easy to chat with your favorite EC authors. It’s still small, around 200 or so. But even if you can only make the book signing it’s a lot of fun. Hope to see you there!

  • You’ve overlooked another disadvantaged group, Nina. Everyone not inside the USA borders.

    RWA takes a stab at supported non-USA groups but it’s really not set for it, and it’s ego-centrically oriented. If you’re not living in the continental United States, forget it. RWA is not an event worth attending as the association as no value.

    Ditto, if there’s no local chapter for you and you’re only electronically published.

    Which is me, twice over.

    Cheers,

    Tracy

    • Tracy – I have to plead ignorance in this arena since I don’t know much about it. I have friends who live in Canada and are members of RWA. They have PAN status (Published Authors Network) and have recieved some prestigious awards through specialty chapters of RWA. They attend the RWA conference. But beyond that I don’t know about their experiences. I think in general RWA has a veeeery long way to go before all romance authors feel supported by them. Me included.

  • I’ve been to RWA, RomantiCon, and RT. I prefer RomantiCon and RT. More “people-friendly” and fun. RWA is a more formal experience and I’m waiting for them to become better at accepting epubbed authors. Their actions over the past few years has left a bitter taste in my mouth.
    As a PAN member, I found their “workshops” geared toward print-published authors and felt like the red-headed stepchild, tolerated but not really accepted.
    I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not going to RWA except maybe a chance to meet agents…and that’s not high on my list right now. The “send me your stuff and if I like it I’ll respond” attitude many have chosen to take doesn’t appear professional…and I’ve come across some very unprofessional agents/editors at RWA with whom I’d never again pitch to.
    I will miss seeing people at RWA…and may go next year because of that.
    RT and RomantiCon offer more interaction with readers and other authors. The fun is mixed with business, and I definitely will miss all that this year.
    Next year, I hope to do all three…and assume RWA will shift their attitude to accept the fact that epubs are as viable as print pubs.
    Marianne/April

    • Marianne – I think many epubbed authors feel the way you do. RWA hasn’t “grown up” enough to handle the epubbed author who’s making a darn good living and is a “professional” writer and not just a “hobbiest”. Interesting what you said about the PAN portion of the conference. It wouldn’t occur to me that it would be about that part of the profession, but of course that’s what it would focus on.

      Ya know … even RT seems a little overwhelming to me though I’ve heard some great things about the conference. I think I’ll stick to the smaller venues like Romanticon. 😉

  • This is the second year in a row that I won’t be at RWA’s national conference, due to cash flow. You’re right, it’s a HUGE con – 2000 people. Yes, there is the bar, and elbow rubbing, and writer discussions – luncheons, dinners, breakfasts even where you can glean information and share stories with other writers.

    But with that many people around, I find it takes a strong will to break away from my roommates and people I know, and spend time with people I’ve never met. The bar is expensive and everyone is talking to their own group of friends – rarely can you slip into a conversation with people you don’t know without it being awkward.

    I LOVE conferences and get a huge mental charge out of them; it’s like a buzzing in my blood that fires me up and gets me motivated again. But I’m also finding that as I continue to grow as a writer, conference is less important from a motivation and learning standpoint and more important as a way to reconnect with friends from distant chapters.

    I am still unpublished at this point, too; and I’ve had conferences steer me wrong and upend my writing process. So that for me is a potential downside. Not waiting until July to get fired up and excited about writing again has forced me to stay committed throughout the year. And in the two years I haven’t gone to Conference, I’ve gotten twice the writing done. I’m no longer waiting for that pitch appointment with that one agent or editor; I’m sending out my work to agents all year long. One of these days, I’ll actually find someone who is excited about my work, too, lol!

    At any rate, it’s all just my opinion. Are you missing something? Yes. And no. Smaller conferences are just as exciting and a lot less stressful. And as you’re published, you have avenues of conversation not open to us unpublished folk that don’t depend on a meeting face to face. Those anthologies can be born via email or Skype, they don’t depend on harried between-session meetings and your agent or editor’s jam-packed schedule. In fact, it’s my belief that the percent of business that actually gets done during a conference is small due to overscheduling and general craziness. But again – just my opinion.

    I couldn’t tell from your post whether you’d ever been to a National Conference. If you haven’t, save up your money because it’s definitely an experience you won’t regret. Do I wish I were there? You bet! But I’ll be writing what I want to write this week rather than have my vision changed (and perhaps not for the better) at conference, and that provides its own satisfaction, you know?

    Oh – and there are always disabled people at conference. They usually have someone with them to help them, but every access is provided and planned for. Just wanted you to know!

    • Christine – Thank you so much for your insightful comments. I have been to conferences, but nothing as big as Nationals or RT. Again, it’s hard to explain my reticence about my disability, but it just makes things much more difficult (and twice the cost to bring a care attendant). But that aside…

      You hit on a couple of points I wondered about. People do tend to stick with their friends or their own agents and editors which means it’s difficult to squeeze yourself into the conversation. Which means meeting new people is difficult.

      And as far as the workshops, I’m finding I’m at a plateau. TRUST me when I say “I don’t know everything”, but at this point I’ve got so much information rolling around from the conferences I’ve attended that I need to get that assimilated before I can take in anything new. *sigh* My critique partner wants me to save my pennies for NY next year. I’m still thinking about it …

      • Nina,

        I hear you about assimilating all the past information! At times it takes me five or six repetitions before I get that “ah-ha!” moment, and the lesson absorbed. And that can take years for me…I think it’s hearing it rather than having to do it that slows the process, if that makes sense?

        This year I’ve made more and better strides with online classes in areas I need to improve. (Query letters, synopsis writing, etc.) Workshops at cons are fun, but I learn so much more from the online intensives because of actually having to DO something, rather than just listening to a lecture. Maybe if you move to online workshops, that’ll break the plateau you’re on faster than anything else?

        Cheers, dear! Hope you have a great week!

        • Christine – I’ve taken several online classes and I really enjoyed them in the begiining. But now I find I peter out about 1/3 into the class. Then it’s no longer worth the money.

          Someone (much more seasoned than I) said it has to become second nature. You just do something without having to think about it. There are so many things I’m trying to “think about” while I write that it’s quite overwhelming. Until those become second nature I’m afraid anymore information will spill out with the overflow no matter how it’s presented. LOL!

          Enjoy your week as well!

  • My problem is money. Sad, since my one eBook is up for the Prism, but that’s the breaks. I like to go to Dragoncon too, as we used too. But money-wise, not at this time. One day, I will go to Nationals. I did RT some years ago–to get my name out there, so to speak.

    Right now I have a budget each year to do a conferece and conventions (mainly as a writer guest–so con membership is free).

    But I do think attending some kind of conference is good for any writer–pro or not. There are smaller ones more feasible to afford and there are conferences put on by other writer groups (like EPIC(electronic publishing organization)–I am working on committee for EPICon 2011 one in Williamsburg. I paid for my membership–much cheaper to afford.

    • Sapphire – The money is just such a huge deciding factor for me as well. Sometimes it’s hard to justify the expense of the larger conferences. When it’s a writer’s conference I’m just not sure it helps to get one’s name “out”. I mean in reality it’s getting your name out to the readers that we want. And it’s not that writers aren’t readers, because we most definitely are, but it’s really not the market we’re looking for. And I started doing the same thing … teaching workshops so I could attend conferences as a guest author. Certainly helped ease my budget woes.

  • It’s money. I went to NYC in 2004 and it cost me $2000 US. The loonie wasn’t that high that year so it cost me mega Canuckbucks. Almost $3000. I remember more the little diner we ate at then the conference. I left behind all my freebie books because I simply couldn’t take them on the plane. I also found it really clique-y. If I wasn’t published or even a “name”, I found noses going up to the point. I also hate the fact that they won’t bring the big one over the border. We have hotels big enough for 2000+ writers. Heck Harlequin is stationed up here. But the energy of all those writers…they need a find a way to bottle that up. And no way would I do a booksigning at that thing. I felt so bad for authors who had no one standing before them and my fear is that would be me.

    I prefer smaller, intimate conferences where you talk to people. I don’t recall talking to anyone at RWA. It’s less blood-thirsty at a smaller conference. I remember the talks I went too, I remember the people I met. You get more bang for your bucks because all meals are included, unlike RWA hence my huge dollar tally at the end.

    I do want to RT just to experience it. Only once has it come to Canada and I wished I had gone. Am contemplating LA next year as the flight is cheaper for me (yay Westjet).

    It all comes down to money and me saying “Would this conference be worth every penny I spend on it?” I factor in every talk, what I’d want to see on my down time, the hotel, the flight. If there’s even one “Not really”, I don’t go. Not that I’ve been to one in 5 years but maybe it’s time to return to my conference attending lifestyle…when I have the money.

    • Jenna – There’s the foggy gray line … is it worth the huge dollars? I’m not sure. I guess it’s weighing what you expect to get out of it with what you actually get in return. I totally agree with the smaller, more intimate conferences put on by local RWA chapters. But even those are getting more and more expensive … and there’s so many of them! I’m not in Canada, but right on the border so of course traveling is an issue. I’d love to see something up your way as well.

  • I’ve attended 5 or 6 national conferences (all non-RWA) and aside from making some great friends and seeing some of the country, it actually did little for my career. I did get an agent, but she was never able to place my work in the narrow field in which I wrote. I did eventually sell a novella in an anthology to a traditional publisher but that was it.

    I spent countless hours perfecting pitches, printing out author sheets and business cards, networking, setting up appointments with agent and editors and paying for professional critiques. I found out later that since you make the effort to show up at a conference, that editors and agents automatically request you send your work–as a courtesy. So I came home bristling with excitement at all the requests for my materials, spent tons of money perfecting and mailing out submissions only to be rejected 99% of the time–about the same percentage as cold-emailing query agents/editors. But I had all the deflated hope to deal with as well.

    And in the group I was in at least, the only people who were getting published were the conference directors, the chapter presidents, etc–people in the higher positions. They also won all the contests. Sometimes the books that won were appalling next to truly talented writers who were passed over. Blatant cronyism.

    And I wasn’t the only one who noticed it. Others came to the same conclusion. And once I found out I could buy the handouts out afterwards, I quit going to conferences, saving THOUSANDS on airfare, hotel rooms, updated wardrobe, fancy author handouts, etc.

    Of course I always had a blast at conferences–I was with excited, like-minded people–but I netted next to nothing in regards to my writing career. Now maybe my writing just sucks. It’s possible. However I’m a paid writer for a news site, so I must not be a total disaster. I came away from the conference experience feeling I didn’t have the right credentials, and I wasn’t willing to push my way into inner circles and brown nose in hopes of schmoozing my way into publication.

    So I quit and I have never regretted it. I think the only way I would go back is if I already had a publishing deal, so I could go for the fun stuff. I hated the pressure of feeling like I had to ‘deliver’ to justify the expense of going in the first place.

    So that’s my story. And it’s not everyone’s. I’m sure people have made their breakthroughs via conferences. I guess I just don’t want you to feel too bad if you can’t go. It doesn’t mean your writing career will take a hit, although you might miss some great parties 🙂

  • I don’t think not going to RWA National is a deal-breaker, per se. I’m not going this year due to day job issues more than anything else, and I’m heartsick over it. I wish, wish, wish I could’ve been there this year. Will my absence damage my career? I doubt it, but IMO, not being there won’t improve it, either. I’ll get the CDs as soon as they become available, of course, but it isn’t the same. I loved how National challenges and inspires me, love the people I meet (friends, mentors)…I’ll be in NYC next year with bells on. 😀

  • I don’t think it’s a deal breaker. I do think if you are looking for an agent who is attending RWA National or a publisher, then it’s a great way to get face time. However, if you aren’t, RWA is a lot of money for a good party or two and some networking.

    I attended in 2006 (Atlanta) and 2007 (Dallas). I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything but all I got out of the conferences was fun meetups with online buddies and a little face time with a couple of editors.

    I had more time for chatting with editors/agents at smaller regional RWA conferences like Dreamin’ in Dallas (DARA), Written In The Stars (NOLA) and Put Your Heart In A Book (NJRW). Not only were the conferences more intimate and less hectic, but the time spent with individual editors/agents was exceptional.

    RomantiCon is more a readers conference. Time to spend with people who read what we write and it’s an absolute blast. I’ve heard RT is a huge version of RomantiCon but I’ve never attended RT.

    Now to be perfectly honest, if I won the lottery tonight, I’d be at every writing conference there is. Money is the final say-so in my household. Getting together with so many like minded individuals is priceless.

    I’m really looking forward to RomantiCon this year. It’ll be great to see you again, Nina!

    • Shayla – I can’t wait to see you at Romanticon as well. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m currently enjoying reader/writer conferences much more than writer conferences at this point. I’m finding writer conferences are becoming more a social time with online friends as you mentioned. Which is wonderful, but an expensive lunch! LOL! I’d rather go out and meet the readers that are looking for new authors.

      I’d certainly like to attend both RT and Nationals just to have the experience.

  • I know I’m missing a lot. I’ve been to 4 or 5, but haven’t been for a few years. The experience itself is incredible and being with other authors and absorbing the information, ideas, brainstorming and friendliness of other authors is priceless.

    There are writing workshops that are universal, whether you write for e-pub or traditional. Learning your craft is the same before you hit the publishing end and finding new ways to bribe my muse or organize my thoughts is wonderful.

    There is always something to new to learn and my muse likes to be with like minded people.

    Nina, my father also has mobility issues and found that he could rent a scooter at these large hotels if arranged ahead of time and it was well worth it, made him less tired than anyone else. Think about it, but we might have a DUI provision for you.

    • Donna – For whatever reason my muse curls up in a ball and sucks her thumb for several days after we attend a conference. It takes me awhile to coax her back to work. I’m not sure why because I agree with you, it’s amazing to be around like-minded authors. Thanks for the suggestion on the scooter. Believe it or not they’re harder to arrange than you might imagine. But I’ve got that in mind.

  • I don’t think you’re behind the 8 ball for not going to the RWA National Conference. I’ve been to more than I want to count, but my last one was 2008 in San Francisco. And I really don’t miss them.

    Yes, it’s fun to get together with friends I only see at conference, but the cost is getting higher each year and until this year, the small press/e-publishers were not invited, so there was no reason for me to go.

    This year was really a combination of location, cost and time. While I wanted to go to Nashville, I knew I couldn’t handle the heat. Then when they moved it to Orlando I knew there was no way for me to go.

    RT is in Los Angeles next year and I’m planning on going, I can drive so I don’t need to worry about flying, and I can buy all the books I want without having to worry about how to get them home.

    I buy the CD’s from National, mainly because there’s always several workshops I like to listen to.

    • Marie – Cost seems to be one of the determining factors for everyone (that darn money thing, sheesh). I really just need to pull things together for next year since it’s driving distance for me. At least I can say I’ve been to one.

  • Nina,

    It’s funny you say that about your muse crawling up and sucking it’s thumb. My muse gets fed, but like anyone after she’s fed she demands a nap. I’ve never been able to come home and work after a conference, even small conferences. It really freaked me out at first, but then I realized this is just the way it affected me, so I take it in stride and unpack, do laundry and organize my thoughts. When the muse is rested and ready she pushes the covers down and crawls out of bed.

    I usually find when I’ve allowed her to get enough sleep she works better than when I have to haul her out by her feet. Of course she always demands a pot of coffee and plenty of chocolate.

    Maybe we can travel to the NY RWA. You have your mobility and have my navigational and mind issues. You can keep us on track and I can push you around if we can’t find a motor, at least that way I won’t get lost.

    • Seriously … you and I traveling to NY Donna? … you’re just looking for some comedy for your stories aren’t you? LOL! With our luck we’d end up in New Jersey on scooters driven by a couple of marines! LOL!

  • I’ve been to one smallish event, Epicon, in 2007 because my first novel was nominated for an Eppie. Interesting workshops, opportunities to talk to e-publishers and agents, all in all a good experience (but a warning to vegetarians — the hotel had one meatless meal–greasy stir-fry on rice–that it served at every event, and the con people did nothing about it.)

    RT/RWA? {Shrug} No, thanks. There are bound to be advantages, if you know someone who can introduce you to people who might help your career, and I understand it’s a great opportunity for free books (if you consider them free after deducting the cost of the event). But frankly, I’m not likely to even think about going for the foreseeable future.

    Both these organizations discriminate, big-time, against what I write–mostly gay historical romance. I know there’s a “Rainbow” chapter, but to me that back-of-the-bus status isn’t worth the price–in dues, in aggravation, or in accepting their judgement that my love and marriage (we moved to Canada for equal rights) is somehow “less than” and love between same-sex couples is “Not Romance”–the blackball judgment that will kill any nominated book. Oh, we can enter the contests–RT will happily take advertising money for same-sex books, too, as long as one does not expect the review that other paying advertisers receive.

    I respect the “work within the system” approach these writers take, but as far as I know, erotic romance has had a similar second-class status for over a decade.

    Britain has the RNA – the Romantic Novelists’ Association – which does not discriminate.

    http://www.rna-uk.org/index.php?page=article&id=162

    I have friends who go to their conferences and they’ve been singing RNA’s praises. I wonder if they’d consider a North American chapter… after all, Canada is part of the Commonwealth.

    • Lee – Thank you for taking time to comment. As an author of erotic romance available only in electronic format I feel your pain with the lack of support by RWA. You know, I don’t really pay attention to the umbrella chapter. It’s the smaller chapters, like my local one, that support and feed my muse.

      I am however extremely frustrated that e-books can be entered in many RWA chapter contests IF you have your book professionally printed and bound. Ummm … so not worth the money or the hassle. I wish all published contests were like Epic’s and you just submitted via email.

      I can’t imagine adding the GBLT to that formula. I have no doubt they relegate you to the kiddy table at these events. I hadn’t heard of RNA. It would be interesting if they did begin something on this side of the pond. It sounds like they could definitely give RWA a run for their money and I think that would be a very good thing. Again, thanks so much for stopping by.

      • No pain, really–I’ve never been a big-group person. In many ways I think RWA has grown to a size where it might do better if it were divided, like a clump of hosta that’s overgrown its bed. As I understand it, many local chapters are held back from declaring independence by the fine print that says if they leave, RWA keeps their money.

        Having your e-book bound might be practical at some point–I know a few people who’ve produced print books through Amazon or other self-pub companies, and with Amazon’s monster sales machine it could eventually show some returns, or at least cover the cost.

        Good luck on getting to a point where you can participate if you want to, though. I once had to spend two days at an event while suffering from a sciatica attack–running my own massage therapy booth, no less–and people often don’t understand that a condition that keeps you from walking around may also be painful and exhausting. I hope your health situation improves soon.

        • Lee – Actually I have MS. Just something I live with. At this point my publisher does own the print rights to my books. I’m crossing my fingers some of them will eventually go into print.

  • When I attend DragonCon in Atlanta every year, I carry a cane. The con has between 60k-90k people each of the four days, and it’s all within a four block area, across six or seven hotels. Black Friday seems like a quiet tea party after a turn at DC. I have impaired balance, and only need the cane in crowded conditions, where I’m likely to be nudged or bumped. Or crashed into by someone late for a panel. ;o

    DC provides a handicap badge, and one person to go with me. Seats are in front so I can sit closer to the panel and both see/hear better. Honestly, of all cons, this is the biggest I attend, and it’s also one of the friendliest. No one’s ever been rude, or pushy. In the crush of people, it’s hard to stay upright, but this con is too much fun to miss.

    It’s easier if you are staying in a major hotel, but with hubby in school right now, and us living on my royalties… I can’t swing that this year. I’ll be commuting the 45 miles each way by train.

    Outlantacon is much smaller and quite laid back, and I’ve been a guest the last two years. They treat you like royalty there, and I feel welcomed like family. It’s a GLBT-themed SciFi con that is soooo much fun! I sat on a panel with some of the finest writers in the world, including Kiernan Kelly, and wow did I learn a lot. I’ll also be at Gaylaxicon this summer.

    Hope this answers your questions. I go even though it’s more difficult, and it would be great if there were gatekeepers on the elevator stops who made sure handicapped folks can get on. That is the only real problem. It took almost 30 minutes to get an elevator one day last year because the main hotel was packed, but none of the folks with me could do stairs. In a fire, that would be pretty scary.

    • Kayelle – Wow, you seem to have a system that’s working for you. I definitely need to figure something out so I don’t keep missing out on all the fun!

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