February might be all but over but romance is here to stay – the romance writing industry that is. It is estimated the romance writing industry is worth well over one billion dollars each year. That’s just in the US. Mills and Boon claim on their website that they sell four books per second. Per second! That’s a lot of covers with men sporting luscious flowing locks and ripped abs.
Romance writers are often called the rock stars of the literary world. Listening to New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, Kylie Scott, talk last year at the Readers and Writers Down Under Conference, it was easy to see why. Scott is just damn cool. Her practical advice for aspiring writers and her delivery is straight down the line.
The RWDU was my first conference. Understandably, I was nervous. Would I know what I was doing? Would it be obvious to everyone that this was my first time? Would I feel different afterwards?
It was fantastic. I learnt so much and now jump at the opportunity to attend more conferences.
A writer’s conference is usually filled with panels, workshops, industry talks, signings, meet and greets and an event such as a cocktail party or masquerade ball. Many also have pitching sessions where you can book in some one on one time with agents and publishers. Romance writing conferences have all this and often some of the cover models. Ahem.
There are several reasons why I love conferences:
They are about building relationships and connections
If you go to a conference, make sure you go to at least one social function. You can meet authors, fellow writers, agents and publishers. Just don’t go expecting a publishing contract. The social events are designed for you to meet people and to have a good time – not to pitch your manuscript. The agents and publishers are at the social events to enjoy themselves, not to work. Consider it more like a first date. It’s an opportunity to make first contact, to see if there’s any chemistry between you. You can later mention in your query letter that you enjoyed talking with them at the conference.
Learn industry information
Find out about publishing trends, tips on marketing, whether to traditionally or self publish, if you need an agent, what industry professionals look for and much more.
You can tailor your day to suit your interests
Some conferences let you pay for the sessions you wish to attend, others allow you to purchase a full day pass. Either way, grab a hold of the program as soon as you can and book in to the sessions you will get the most out of.
Many conferences hold pitching events where you can book one-on-one time with an agent or publisher. The advantage of this is you receive instant feedback (no months of agonising waiting) and the best part – the chance to ask questions. I had this opportunity last year with my dream publisher and while I didn’t walk away with a contract, I did get clear insight as to how to make my manuscript work so that it would be published. Be aware these sessions are usually not included in the ticket price and will cost extra. They can also be nerve racking. Would I do it again? You bet I would. As soon as I’ve finished making those recommended changes.
Meeting like-minded writers
Conferences can be a great opportunity to meet other writers and have the chance to form writing or critique groups. Writing is definitely something you can do by yourself but it’s a lot more fun if there’s someone else to join in.
Meeting an editor in person gives you the opportunity to clarify just what an editor does with your manuscript. There’s a whole lot more than picking up on spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Improving your skills
Conference workshops provide the opportunity for your to improve the technical aspects of your writing skills.
I love freebies. From the name tag lanyard to the bags full of bookmarks, conferences deliver on the swag. At RWDU I ended the day loaded up with books, bags, jewellery, lip balm, post cards, signed pictures and more. Swag heaven.
Feeling inspired to check out a local conference? Contact the Romance Writers Association in your state or country and they can let you know what is happening in your area. Otherwise, check out some of the links listed below.
Just remember the following conference essentials:
1. Enjoy yourself and relax – don’t force your manuscript on any one. Being pushy is the fastest way to ensure no second date.
2. Don’t be shy. Everyone is there to meet new people. A lot of people will not know anyone else and would really appreciate a smile and a, “Would you like to join me?” at lunch time.
3. Romance writers are generally friendly and welcoming people. At the conference you will find others at all different stages of the writing and publishing journey. Enjoy yourself, meet new friends, and be comforted in the fact that you are now part of the biggest grossing literary industry in the world.
There are HEAPS of romance writing conferences in 2016. Here’s just a few:
Romance Conferences in 2016
Readers and Writers Down Under
March 4th – 5th, Gold Coast, Australia.
The Passionate Pen
April 11th – 12th, Las Vegas, USA
The Love Letter Convention
April 24th -25th, Berlin Prenzlauer Berg, Germany.
Romancing the Capital
May 6th and 7th, Ottawa, Canada.
Romance Author and Reader Event
July 9th, Edinburgh, Scotland
Romance Writers of New Zealand
August 12th – 14th, Auckland, New Zealand
Romance Writers of Australia Annual Conference
August 19th -21st , Adelaide, South Australia.
Romance Writers Organisation of SA
September 24th -25th, Johannesburg, South Africa
Have you been to a romance writers conference? What was the best thing about the experience for you? Let us know in the comments below.