more on the RWA--who's it for?

That's the question some friends have raised. RT and Celebrate Romance have been the places where you meet the fans. But RWA has been about and for the writers.

I've only been to two RWAs and I was intimidated enough not to notice fans except at the booksigning. I think I was too busy being a fan myself. I mean, omiGAWD, a lot of my favorite writers were there.

The presence of actual reviewers bugged a couple of people. That's not why ferfe put up the pix at her blog, that was just for entertainment sake. But her blog entry did remind me of the emailed conversations I've had with other writers who've been around longer than I have, and are RWA conference regulars.

Here's their take: (and I asked if I could put this up. I got a yes, but only if it's clear they wrote to me as a kind of venting, okay? Not trying to fan flames in public. ...No, that's what I'm doing)

Oh, wait--one last thing from Kate. It wasn't just that there were reviewers present. Apparently publishers asked writers to dress up to fit a line or some book characters. Or maybe it was the writers' idea? I heard about a couple of instances, but only have managed to track down a picture of one. The writers I know who were asked were fine with it, but others who heard about it said, whattehhheffuck? Let me hide behind my computer again, please. It's the words, not the writer. Heck, did Dr. Suess have to dress up like the Lorax?

Okay, I'd be one of the hiding authors. I mean, let's face it, how many of us would look good with the thigh-enhancing stocking/mini-skirt combo look of these Shomi writers

Picture borrowed from Marianne's blog. She's into it and having fun.

Obviously if the writer says, okay! let's have fun, it's one thing.

But the promo thing...the bar is creeping up, ya know?
Show us what you can do and be for your books, publishers ask. Not just show us what you can write. Heck, what if something like those thigh-highs were your personal nightmare? That mean you couldn't write for the line? No, no, I don't mean Shomi, says Kate, nervous about getting herself banned from Dorchester. I'm just talking about some vague Future Publisher who starts to take it corporate instead of just individual fun.
/end of my own mini-rant
updated: It wasn't a publisher thing, okay? See Marianne's post in the comments section. (But some day it might be a publisher thing, right? Huh? Skeered yet? boo!!!! No?BOO!!! Now?)

Okay, back to what the writers said:

...that kind of bothered me at this conference. Stuff like [the costumed writers] and all the blog reviewers being there. It just started to feel like it was maybe turning into a fan conference rather than a professional organizations’ annual meeting.

I just think the two should be kept separate. You want to have a time for authors to meet the press (or reviewers)—like the librarians thing or the booksellers thing, great. But being a part of everything just didn’t seem appropriate to me. Like a conflict of interest. It’s our conference and a time for us to discuss our industry. Just made me kind of uncomfortable. Of course, maybe those people were just there—not really attending the conference. In which case they can do whatever they want. They were just SO visible.

Apparently they have changed things so writers who are also acquiring editors can only be associate members. I see this as the same kind of thing. But again, if those fan/reviewers were just at the hotel at the same time—they have every right to do that.

And everyone else seemed to be lapping their presence up—so, it is probably just me.

. . . .

I think this is why PAN is important. It assures at least one place where everyone has to really be a writer with a vested interest in the actual business of writing. And I looked—anyone can attend our conference, including all the sessions. They just have to pay a higher fee.

I don’t know—it was a “feel” thing. A tiny slide toward RT. I just don’t want to have to worry about that at the conference—it’s stressful enough worrying about the other authors and editors.

Huh. Final word from Kate:

A writer quoted above described herself as a bitch for feeling this way and expressing these feelings, so I think we can see she needs to be properly educated about what bitchiness means.

Another Update (sort of lifted from a comment I made at ferfe's place): Actually the whole bitchiness factor is what makes a lot of writers avoid the online world and avoid the websites, particularly ones that celebrate plainspeaking. I like Teh Bitch, but I can get why, if it makes you uncomfortable, you would be unnerved to find it at your favorite conference.

I seriously doubt that these ladies (and I use the word in the truest sense, not as snark) would ever try to ban anyone from RWA due to their own discomfort. (I love Teh Bitch like nobody's business, but I also love people who are scrupulously polite and not duplicitious. Yo, romancelandia has lots of different sorts of heroines.)


**funny thing is I would have looked better when I was fatter. Now the thigh is flab-o-la. See? Horrible enough to read about, just imagine if I was prancing around looking like that.

So does that mean some lines are only going to hire young fit writers? All part of the Frey syndrome. Books aren't enough, we need persona behind the words that'll fit the tour.


  1. Thank you Kate. I will be sure and write that black catsuit out of my Shomi proposal before anybody sees it.

    Seriously, I like the idea that I could go to one conference next year (RWA in SF) and meet everybody in the industry, booksellers, readers, reviewers. I guess I'm too steeped in SF/F culture to find the presence of non-writers objectionable. I thought it was cool.

    And hey, why not dress to represent your book? Seems like a fun idea to me, but then, I like Halloween. As long as it doesn't involve me wearing a black catsuit in public.

  2. snorting at Charli.

    It's just the ominous idea of proscribed behavior. Not even the actual ORDER from on high to Be Just Like THIS. The mere thought of possibility starts me up like a frenzied woodchuck seeing a hawk's shadow.

    I mean I'd be just as outraged (more, maybe) if someone told Arianna Hart she couldn't dress up like a fairy or RT or you may not wear that black catsuit of yours. Especially if it was like, you know, that shiny PVC stuff.

    I love it when other people play but I would really, really hate to have to dress like one of my characers. I can't even read the damn books aloud.

  3. and I should actually find out about the events in question before I blog about them, shouldn't I? The book character stuff was second hand. . . third hand, come to think of it.

    I should find out.

  4. Just wanted to set the record straight and say that our publisher (Dorchester) did not insist we costume up for the conference. It was totally Liz and my idea. It's something we enjoy doing because it's fun and makes for a great icebreaker. We were able to introduce new people to the Shomi line when they came up to comment on our outfits and had a blast doing it.

    There were three other Shomi authors at RWA and they chose not to dress up. It's a Rebels of Romance, Liz and Marianne thing - not a Shomi thing.

    In any case, it's all about building a consistant author brand. And what works for us may not work for others and vice versa. Costumes are only a tiny part of our Rebels of Romance brand. It's just a very visible part in a setting like RWA. At a sci-fi/fantasy con it's much more common.

    But again, totally our own doing. I doubt any publisher is going to insist their authors wear thigh highs anytime soon. Or a swan hat like Sherrylin. My guess? Wasn't a St. Martin thing! :)


  5. well, that's a relief. Thanks for letting me know! (btw, I thought you look pretty cute in the costumes).

    Now I suppose I should dig more and discover about the other writers?


    Turns out all I have to do is sit here and the Authors bring all the Answers right to my blog.

    The Promo Panic--it's part of the Fear of Future because sometimes the past looks like it was easier, therefore the future must be scarier and scarier.

    Listen about the past, hear the stories about writers getting those 3K advances, yes, but when 3K bought a used car that ran. A time when the editors were willing to spend a lot of time polishing a particular book, when an author just wrote a book and didn't have to do more than sign copies for promo.

    "Ah, Manderley...."

  6. The thing is, Kate, that these online bloggers/reviewers just may think they're romance writers...especially those that delight in tearing books apart.

  7. Anonymous1:36 PM

    This mentality of "escaping" the public, or the press (which is how reader/reviewer blogs should probably be viewed) is troubling to me.

    The reviewers/bloggers were there to cover an event of interest to a large portion of the authors' audience. It's not unlike bloggers attending a political party's nomination convention. To even consider barring them from the convention would be unthinkable to politicos and should be the same for authors. These are the people who speak almost solely about the industry that the authors are involved in. Overlap and convention attendance is inevitable, as it should be.

    For the authors who feel that bloggers/reviewers "delight in tearing books apart" fall into one of two camps in my opinion:
    - they're writers of the book being torn apart; or
    - they're friends of the writers of the book being torn apart.

    It is an inescapable fact of life that some reviewers are going to be misanthropic, and probably envious, people who like nothing more than ripping an author's hard work apart. However, I would like to think that those folks are a rarity. The vast majority or bloggers/reviewers are people who have honest, measured opinions and who aren't afraid to share them.

    Get some perspective, folks. As an author, you should use what you can of the criticism to make your art better and ignore the rest.

    "We might remind ourselves that criticism is as inevitable as breathing, and that we should be none the worse for articulating what passes in our minds when we read a book and feel an emotion about it, for criticizing our own minds in their work of criticism." - T.S. Eliot

  8. Irene, Smart bitches have a book contract. Not fiction. And Bam, another reviewer, has a fiction contract too. (I'm really looking forward to that book. The woman is a good writer)

    So the lines blur. Must be weird to switch hats, particularly if a reviewer didn't mind shredding books (I don't think any of the reviewers I follow actually shred writers. Just books.)

    Gwen, sure, you've got a good point. But you're coming from the POV of what you want from RWA conferences and I get their point, as well. For a lot of people RWA has meant pure writerly support without a lot of outside interest and that feels eroded.

    It's interesting because when I first joined RWA people were always defensive about the press at the conference because they didn't want to deal with the mainstream view of Romance as froufrou nonsense writing. This is a new thing.

    Always something new to whine about.

    I think they're not fighting the change (not my pals, anyway) just sighing about it. I made it public because I thought it was an interesting perspective. Another sign of changing times--another shift because of the internet, come to think of it.

  9. I think that a lot of writerly types are bookish, small-group people. Self-promotion is tough if you're not the sort of person who likes to be the center of attention. That's one of the things that makes the Internet great--it lets writers communicate in the medium at which they excel.

    When speaking to people I don't know, I'm a mile-a-minute nervous chatterer, easily distracted and prone to jumping from one topic to the next. I will always choose writing over speaking when I need to get an idea across because writing gives me the time and distance I need to put my ideas in order. I can only imagine what a mess I'd make of things if I had to promote anything by talking to people.

    these online bloggers/reviewers just may think they're romance writers...especially those that delight in tearing books apart

    Isn't 75% of RWA membership comprised of people who "just may think they're romance writers"? That is, romance readers who would like to be published by large NY publishers. Online reviewers are readers, just like the rest of us, the only difference is, they let people know what they think of the books they read--a service I, for one, appreciate.

    Readers don't just blindly follow reviews. I'm aware that all of my favorite reviewers have likes and dislikes that differ from mine. Ultimately, my decision to buy a book is my own. I've never been turned away from a book by a single bad review, nor purchased a book based on a single good review. I have, however, declined to purchase the work of authors who berate and belittle readers who don't like their work, and purchased books by authors whose online writing intrigued me.

  10. Is the concern over having reviewers at RWA about having "fans" involved? Because if so, why have the signings? If the conference is only for authors, why allow non RWA members to attend at all? Why the booksellers? Or non-published authors, for that matter, since they're not part of the industry yet? Have these same concerns been raised in the past when some of the more prominent reader bloggers weren't in attendance?

  11. It's my blog and I should be able to answer, but I don't want to keep speaking for other people.

    I guess there are specific times etc where the whole thing is open to the public? I remember there was the literacy signing. And I do remember there was a press room too.

    I don't really know the ins and outs of RWA meetings that well. It's been three? four? years since I last gathered together what it takes to go to the conference.

    When I went, I know there were blogs, because I wrote about my trip back in my old blog. What's changed? Maybe the big bloggers weren't so Very BIG? I think it's sort of a compliment to them, if you think about it. They're a view for the public that gets noticed.

    I don't particularly want this to turn into a big outragefest, btw, but tough noogies on me.

    I just think it's worth noting how the conference changes and how those changes look to someone who's been going for a while.

  12. "I just think it's worth noting how the conference changes and how those changes look to someone who's been going for a while."

    I know for a fact there were readers there who aren't writers, reviewers or booksellers. They were there to meet friends and authors, get signed books, etc. They weren't just at the literacy signing, either. And I met them on the internet. That's something that wouldn't have happened to me 10 years ago at my first RWA. It was great to see them.

    It was cool to meet the online bloggers. I don't understand why anyone would have a problem. It didn't detract me from meeting with my editors and agent or hanging out with friends. And I liked the enthusiasm I saw about romance, which is what RWA is all about to me. It isn't about the rubber chicken, that's for sure, though this time I think it was a little less of Goodyear tire quality. :-)

  13. I just think it's worth noting how the conference changes and how those changes look to someone who's been going for a while.

    Given the incredibly positive feedback the bloggers have come back with -- and have disseminated publicly -- I'd say that at least some of those changes bode well for greater appreciation of and respect for Romance.

    OTOH, I can understand how some authors might not feel comfortable outside an authors-only event, and if RWA wants that kind of convention, then IMO they should have one. But they will have to rescind the standing rule that non-members can attend and ultimately the conference will look very different -- and, perhaps, will have a very different purpose.

  14. Anonymous9:43 PM

    I can't say that I would mind. Granted, I've never been to Nationals. And granted, I'm not much into 'group' things.

    But editors are there, agents, authors I don't know at all, or authors I don't know well. So I'm going to have my professional face on anyway. I wouldn't act any different if it was all authors, versus readers, etc etc etc.

    I'll save my non-professional moments for when I'm with close friends.

  15. Oooo Kate R, you stirred up some shit, girlfriend! I've just been hopping around Blogland and this little post of yours is getting some serious spotlight.
    And the comment strings -- Lordy! I dream of the day La Nora and I share the same topic of discussion (squeeee)

    You got a new book coming out? ;)

  16. Stuff like [the costumed writers] and all the blog reviewers being there. It just started to feel like it was maybe turning into a fan conference rather than a professional organizations’ annual meeting.

    Just for the record: members of the Beau Monde, RWA's Regency special interest chapter, have been dressing up in Regency dresses at their soiree and the literacy signing for years -- and nobody seemed to have been bothered by that.

    As to the reviewers' presence: I thought it was lovely to get to know people whom I've only ever met online and to put faces to names. In addition, saying that some people like to tear books apart misses the point: I've yet to meet a reviewer who is bent on disliking a book when she opens it. Normally people want to like the books they're about to read -- I mean, what would be the point otherwise? Yes, there are reviewers and blogger reviewers out there who post harsher reviews than others. If you don't like that, or if you're an author and find reading these reviews too painful, stay away from these sits and blogs. And, most importantly, learn to separate yourself from your book, because when somebody criticizes a novel, it's not seldomly a personal attack on the author.

  17. Oh duh, I'm jetlagged. In the above post "sits" should be "sites" and the last bit should read, "it's seldomly a personal attack on the author."

    Need more chocolate.

  18. Or is it "of the author"? Grr. Prepositions ...

  19. Anonymous6:55 PM

    I can certainly understand why some authors would feel like they do. But, from my perspective as a reader, who will more than likely never get to got to RWA, it is awesome for bloggers/reviewers/readers to attend. They write about their experience and it's almost like I did get to attend, I just didn't get any free books.

    Pam Adamson

  20. Sandra and Pam, I think it's becoming clear that almost everyone agrees with your POV.

    Hey Sandra! Congratulations on the great reviews. I still can't get over the fact that you write so beautifully in a language that isn't your native tongue.


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