The RWA National conference had a different vibe this year. For readers who might not know, (and why would you?), RWA is Romance Writers of America, and every summer the organization has a HUGE national conference attended by writers, editors, agents, etc. etc.
For the first 6 of the 9 years that I attended this conference. (Nine years? Wow.) The overall vibe used to be authors asking questions like:
- how do I submit to you?
- how do I get out of the slush pile?
- how do I land an agent?
And the vibe was hopeful. For the most part.
Then about 2-3 years ago, while the workshop topics mostly stayed the same, the overall vibe of the conference turned a tad sour, and the most commonly asked questions turned to:
- why are my print runs dropping?
- why are e-book royalties so low?
- why are you dropping authors?
- why do you say no to anything that's different?
- is it even possible for a debut author to land a contract?
- why doesn't the organization recognize small, digital-only publishers?
And the vibe was angry. And depressing. With many of the long-time authors pining for the good old days and aspiring and newer authors feeling as if they were chasing after a ship that sailed long ago...
Last year, I think, was a transition year. It felt as if the mood was more positive. But this year. Wow.
The overall vibe was so positive and empowering.
Why? This is what I think.
Romance readers were the first group of readers to move in big numbers to e-books, and romance authors were amongst the first group to have many previously-published-bestselling-already-successful authors move to self-publishing.
Recognizing this, at this year's conference there was a separate track for self-publishing, with a workshop on that topic in pretty much every one of the 20 workshop time slots.
And publishers had panels and workshops with topics like:
- what we can do for authors
- why it makes sense to keep one foot in traditional publishing
The workshops with self-published authors presenting had standing room only, while the formerly-most-popular sessions--agent and editor panels--were poorly attended.
The entire mood changed. More authors are earning a decent living than ever before.
I'm not in a position to be self-publishing at the moment, but boy, was the conference empowering!
It might seem obvious to readers that writers are the most important piece of the publishing puzzle, but boy, it hasn't felt that way since I've been in this business. And finally it does!