For those that don't know, RWA is Romance Writer's of America. But it's so much more. It was almost a week long and filled with top-notch speakers, agents, editors and writers from all over the place. I went with the amazing Louise Fury. That woman gets it done and apparently needs no sleep. I was taunted endlessly for needing my pillow at all over the conference, but all the 5-hour energy shots I took were worth it. I learned so many things.
First - I learned once again, just like at RT, there is no better place to get your mojo cranking and your excitement about writing and reading back up to Ludicrous Speed than a writer's conference. Everyone there loves words just like you. And many of them love your words. And they all encourage you and cheer you and you return the favor and at the end of your time together, you're certain that the next year's best seller shelf will consist of books written only by all of you! (For me - I'm sure this is true because I have amazingly talented friends!)
Second - I met more people I only knew from Twitter. And as in the past, they were just as awesome in person. Actually, more awesome. I've found out this about writers: None of have time to be something we're not online, because we're really busy working hard on our art. I have to think that's why, out of all the people I've met in real life, only one has turned out less than stellar. And the signs were there online. I'm just someone who looks for the good in people so I chose to ignore the signs. This leads to being crushed once in a while. But it's who I am.
But meeting my friends, in person, having laughs and creating great memories? That outweighs any chance of finding one bad apple in the bunch.
But here's what everyone wants to know - what did I learn?
So I've compiled a list of my learnings below. I hope you find them helpful and they
1) Your cover matters. You have to have a great cover. You could have an amazing book on your hands, but if your cover doesn't make it jump into reader's hands, it doesn't matter. "Don't judge a book by its cover." Yeah, no. People TOTALLY judge it by that. I heard it over and over and I watched it in action at the signings for Avon and Harlequin.
2) Your title matters. As writers, we often pick a title because we use this logic. "Once they read, they'll get it." This is true and we're very clever for thinking it. It's like a speical gift to our readers that people outside the club won't get. BUT NO ONE IS IN YOUR CLUB IF THEY DON'T READ YOUR BOOK. Your title has to convey something about the book and draw in the reader to convince them to read it. Clever titles will have to wait for sequels or novellas. But while you're building your brand, your title means everything.
3) Say my name, say my name, say my name. Well, really your name. Say your name. Hi, my name is ______. I wrote this book. Here's the high concept. You know what matter's most? YOUR NAME! It's your brand. Don't be afraid to say it. I'm terrible at this. I went to bat for some of my friends' books at RWA. I could tell you the hook, what it is about, why you should read it, and I must have said their names a hundred times. But my own? Well, I'm Angi but I did this and the description of my book is *turns into unintelligible mumbles until I'm kicking rocks* You know what that gets you? A great seat in the cheerleading stand while your friends books climb the charts.
That's not a bad place to be. At all. I love it when my friends succeed. But I want a career, too. So it is important to make sure you know your own work as well as others. It's more important that you believe in your own work as much as you believe in others. But the most important? Say your name. Have business cards. Makes sure your name on your book is either the biggest thing or just as big as the title. It's your brand. You must market it just like the story you tell. This is a big one, people. Take note!
Okay, now, I know you're thinking, but I don't self-pub or design my covers. Fine, but you have final say. If you don't, get a new deal. Tweak it and make sure your name stands out. Don't believe me? Go to your book shelf right now. Look at your favorite author's books. There names are front and center. They might even have the same font for their name for all the books. Branding is important. You're making a career. Think of your self as a movie star.
Let's say you love Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Just off the top of my head). Five movies are playing. You know very little about any of them but it's movie night. You're going to pick the JGL movie because he's in it, not because of content.
Now think about release day. Five books come out. Someone goes to the book store with the goal of leaving with a book. They see your name based on the brand you've built. They're leaving with your book, because of you, not the content. (Side note: Obviously content is important. But I'm talking about branding.)
4) Everything you do online and in this community follows you, precedes you, and might even speak louder than your writing. When you build someone up and are good to people and give back to the community, it matters. If you're a force for good and you say, my friend wrote this, look at it, it actually carries weight. On the other hand, if you do mean things like all take-no give and bad mouth people, even if you think it doesn't get around...trust me, it does. I saw it in action, first hand.
If you lie about offers you're getting or someone being your agent when they are not or referrals you didn't receive, people know. And pretty quickly, your name falls off the good radar and in to places you don't wanna be. Be honest. Be nice. Be thoughtful in what you put online. Be mindful of what you say to who in this community because guess what? A lot of us are friends and not just on Twitter. Hurt our friends and it'll come back to haunt you.
Do you really think agents and editors don't talk just because they're at different agencies? Do you think because they vie for the same authors and MS's that they aren't friends in real life? Then you might want to think again.
5) Things most asked for - billionaires, ranchers/cowboys, more LGBT stories, and new adult.
6) Passionate Ink parties are amazing. Drinks, bondage tape, a spanking, gumbo. It rocked.
7) Smart Bitches party - blues, mustaches, drinks, great food serve in champagne glasses, Mina Vaughn. It was a highlight.
8) Have I mentioned that I love Louise Fury? Because I do. It was so, so, so wonderful to see her in action and I learned so much from her. She is a force and so damn positive. Wow. And does she ever believe in her clients! You want someone like her in your corner. The biggest thing I learned is what people mean when they say "My agent is so excited about my books! That's how I knew!" I totally get that now.
9) It's subjective. I know. That word. It's an awful word. But oh my goodness, is it ever true. Even people on the same panels had differing opinions and thoughts about books, ideas, genres, the industry. It was so fantastic to see it in action vs. through email from the other side of the glass. But I'll tell you something, when you see someone show their passion for a project and a writer, wow. There's nothing like it. And you're grateful for the subjective nature because it helps to guide your words into the right hands.
10) You're never too old to start. You're never too old to write. If you ever doubt your talent, think about giving up your craft, still care what you're writing day after day, give up one day and go back to it the next, have a story to tell, are willing to follow the rules, are willing to break the rules, and you won't rest until your story is in the hands of readers - then you are a writer! Everyone wants to write a book. A tenth of those do it. A tenth of those make it past the first round of revision/rejection. A tenth of those make it through the entire process. Even less hold on for publications and paychecks. The only difference between failure and success? The writers didn't quit. They kept writing. They kept working. They never gave up because they had a story to tell.
And that's the biggest thing I learned at RWA. I AM a writer. I'm a story teller. I have things to say and want people to read them. And until I've told every story I have to tell, I'll be out there working my way to the goal, cheering on my friends and holding on to my writing family with everything I've got.