#RWA17: Is this ADULTING?

Peggy Jaeger~ By Peggy Jaeger Something new at RWA this year was the adult coloring wall. Yeah…I know. This phase of adults reverting back to their younger years and doing things they did as children was originated as a means of connecting with your inner child to relieve the stress of being a, well, a grown-up. I’ve never felt the urge to color as an adult – even though I dabble in painting – and this seemed a little over the top. But…. it was really cool. The walls were covered with historical book covers from AVON authors and there were buckets – literally! – buckets of magic markers available for everyone to use. I took some pictures of the images on day one and then tried to remember every day to take more to show the progress. So here’s day one, then day 4:                       Now, please remember, these were up on a wall, mural sized. Getting to the top of the picture required a ladder! But someone did, and I think this came out pretty well. It doesn’t look a thing like the actual book cover does, but who cares? The background never got filled in either, probably because a writer didn’t have a few hours to stand there and fill it in!                       This one never got finished.. .I don’t know why not. It’s a great Beverly Jenkins cover! The pictures were about 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide, so there was a lot of wall to color. Since the hero has a naked back, maybe color-ers didn’t want to take the time to fill his skin in.                       I was surprised they didn’t all get finished. I will admit one thing, though, it was a great stress reducer! Every day I stopped by and filled in a few more naked spaces on all of them and I actually went away feeling lighter. That whole adult coloring craze has peaked, I think, by now, but still, this was a cute idea and it was nice to see something new and pop culture-y done with historical romance covers. The RWA conference is usually so jammed full with workshops, networking sessions, publisher spotlights and parties, that you can get a little stressed in deciding what to choose to see and do. I had multiple times were there were 2 or three great workshops delivered at the same time and I hated missing any of them. That was one of the reasons I purchased the session Flash Drive this year – I can listen to everything I missed at my leisure. Plus, the hotel is so large and vast, jaunting from workshop to book signing to spotlight was a little fatiguing. Having this wall to spend a few minutes at was actually beneficial. I let my mind just drift, forgetting about everything, and just colored. The sense of calm and lightness that overcame me was probably the same feeling the “child” me experienced when I did exactly the same thing a millennia ago. Okay, maybe not a millennia ago (I’m not that old!) but you get what I mean. Bravo, AVON, for coming up with this idea and for supplying everything needed. And kudos to RWA for allowing it. It’ll be fun to see what the RWA board comes up with for Denver. Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children’s book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law. Peggy holds a master’s degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer’s Disease during her time running an Alzheimer’s in-patient care unit during the 1990s. In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader’s Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and is a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

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RWA Responsibilities

Peggy Jaeger~ By Peggy Jaeger

A few weeks ago, I blogged about what to do if you’re attending the Annual RWA conference for the very first time. Being a first-time attendee can be daunting and overwhelming. So many fabulous courses to choose from; the amazing publishing spotlights; the free books, oh Lord, the free books. That moment when you realize your favorite author of all time is in the same elevator as you.

It’s all heady stuff and those of us who are conference veterans know the feeling well. Which is why I want to concentrate on us old timers today and what I think our responsibilities should be when we attend the conference.

My very first RWA was in San Antonio in 2015. First timers are given an actual stick-on to place on their name badges stating they are first timer conference attendees. Like everyone else, I attached my badge banner after registration. I was standing by an escalator nervously trying not to look conspicuous and awkward in my solitariness the next day, when author Shirley Jump approached me and introduced herself. She stated she was an RWA Board Member and asked how I was liking my first conference. She asked what I wrote, was I published, what chapter did I belong to, all questions that engaged me in conversation and put me at ease. She was absolutely charming, lovely, and (if you’ve never seen her) gorgeous. She made me feel so special, I went about the rest of the day feeling less like a fish out of water.

Knowing that she took the time to reach out to me, a total stranger, to welcome me to RWA and to encourage me to take advantage of the parties, courses and workshops, gave me such a feeling of acceptance and belonging.

flower in handThe next year, as a seasoned conference attendee now (LOL) I remembered that encounter and did the same thing Shirley did: I reached out to several people who had first timer banners on their badges. I introduced myself and then engaged them in conversation about their experience the same way Shirley had.

It felt marvelous to reach out that way. I met three women who were much the same age as me, who were at that point in their lives where they wanted to devote themselves to their writing more and were attending the conference to network, see what was happening in the industry, and take advantage of some of the fabulous workshops and courses. They even asked me advice on publishing. Imagine. Me!

Ego-boosting stuff to be sure.

Every year since then I’ve made it my business to connect like that with first timers. And every year I’ve made more writing friends because of it.

Every one of us who write have at one time or another felt that solitary, awkward, what-am-I-doing-here feeling. RWA is a supportive community of writers in all phases of their publishing careers and we should embrace one another on all those levels. A smile and a word of encouragement go a long way when someone is feeling out of place or overwhelmed. So, I’m challenging all of us RWA seasoned members to reach out this year to a first-time conference attendee and welcome them into the community we all love so much. You just may make a novice writer’s day. And conference.

Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children’s book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law. Peggy holds a master’s degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer’s Disease during her time running an Alzheimer’s in-patient care unit during the 1990s. In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader’s Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and is a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

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More Tips for RWA Nationals!

~ By Mary E. Thompson

Mary E. ThompsonRWA17 is coming up fast!

If you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to get to Orlando and jump in.

It’s one of my favorite weeks of the summer, but also one of the most stressful.

As an introvert, it’s hard to be surrounded by so many people, but as a writer, I love the feeling of being there.

This is my third National Conference, and I have a few tips to share with you.

Be Comfortable

Everyone says this. In all the recommendations I read, wear comfortable shoes wasboots the common denominator. But I don’t just mean shoes. I mean in general.

Try on all your clothes before you go. Let’s face it, Nationals is a business casual conference. We’re writers. Our everyday wear is yoga pants, a t-shirt, and no bra. Or is that just me? Unfortunately, that won’t fly at Nationals. So try on your clothes. Did you buy new outfits? Wear them. Make sure they’re comfortable to sit in for an hour. Or a full day. Does your skirt ride up? Do your shoes hurt after a few hours? Is your bag too heavy?

Many people say bring a sweater also. You know yourself. Yes, some of the rooms can be chilly. But if you’re never cold in air conditioning, skip the jacket. You definitely won’t need it outside, so save the room in your luggage for free books.

Don’t Overpack

My first year I packed an outfit to wear during the day and a second one to wear at night. Those second outfits never saw the light of day, or night. It didn’t make sense luggage to change before we went to dinner, and even though we didn’t go out, I know I wouldn’t have changed before that either.

If you have something planned, like a trip to one of the Disney Parks, then yeah, pack clothes for that. If you’re sticking to the conference, bring one extra outfit if you’re likely to spill something on yourself (raises hand), and save the room for more books. Yes, you will get that many.

I also always bring snacks. You can pack anything sealed in your carry-on luggage. I bring granola bars, mini bags of pretzels, and single serve bowls of cereal so I don’t have to grab a snack from the hotel, or breakfast since I’m not likely to be up before I absolutely need to be. Water is available in every workshop room so make use of that water bottle you get in the Swag Shoppe and fill it up. In addition, bottled water is included in the cost of your hotel if you’re staying at the Dolphin or Swan if you prefer that. When you’re at workshops, bring your RWA bag from the Swag Shoppe. It’ll make carrying your snacks and water, and all those free books, easier.

Put Yourself Out There

As I said, I’m an introvert. It’s hard to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Especially because the other people who are sitting alone at a workshop not talking handshaketo anyone are usually introverts also. The conversation starts with what do you write and ends with where are you from.

Think up some interesting questions ahead of time. If your idol sat down next to you, what would you ask? If one of your friends sat down, what would you ask? We’re writers. We’re good with the written word. Write out some questions ahead of time. What do your characters ask to get to know each other? There’s no reason those questions have to stay between the pages of your book.

Find A Friend

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t know anyone who’s going. How are you going to find a friend? We’re all friends! We might not know each other, but at Nationals, Friendsyou’ll find people are very friendly and talkative. Yes, it’s easier to have a plan to meet someone. So make that plan.

Reach out to someone in one of your local or online chapters. Reach out to someone you think you might connect with. Last year, a chapter mate from one of my online chapters posted that she was anxious because she didn’t know anyone. She’d gone to another conference, but commuted because it was close to her house, so she didn’t even have a roommate to hang around. I sent her an email and we met the first night. Then spent the rest of the conference together. We’re still in touch a year later.

Yes, it’s hard to make friends as adults. But we’re all scared to do it. Trade emails with your roommate in advance, and if you want, send me an email! I’ll be there. I’m volunteering at the Stiletto Party on Friday night, so grab your ticket and come cheer on the Stiletto finalists and Contemporary Romance Writers with me. Trust me, you won’t regret reaching out to someone in advance.

Set A Plan

You don’t have to be a plotter to have a plan. Why are you going to the conference? What made you sign up this year? What are you interested in learning? Know ahead of time what your goals are. For me, marketing and networking are my two big goals checklistthis year. I’ve picked workshops that speak to those topics. I’m going to chat up other authors because I’m always looking for new authors to read, but I believe in the power of networking and cross-promotion. Plus, I will never have too many author friends.

The other side of that is I’m also giving myself a break. If there’s a time when the workshops offered don’t match what I’m looking to learn, I can skip them. If I’m worn out, I’ll take a break. My first year, I didn’t give myself any downtime and ended up with an extra trip to the doctor because of it. Last year, I sat out a workshop and ended up meeting a new friend. I got a break for an hour and had a great conversation. It was definitely a win-win.

Going to Nationals, especially your first time, can be overwhelming. There is so much to see and do and learn. It’s a lot, but it’s also a great investment of your time and money, so enjoy it! It’ll be over way too soon!

Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She reenergizes every year with a trip to Nationals, and every month at her local chapter meeting. When Mary isn’t writing, she cheers on her daughter at gymnastics and her son at every other sport. Mary is lucky to have her own romance novel worthy husband to tag-team if things get too crazy. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more.

Memories from a first time RWA conference attendee. . .

(and what I learned to do- and not do - for the next conference.) Peggy Jaeger~ By Peggy Jaeger In 2014 I attended my very first RWA conference in San Antonio. Not knowing what to expect from the conference, I’d gone with the idea that, as a trying-to-get-published romance writer, I was going to go all in, attend every workshop on craft and publishing, listen to every professional chat, set up as many editor and agent appointments as I was allowed, and basically do everything and see everything offered. What’s that old saying: you make plans and God laughs? Yeah. Describes me perfectly. The reality was so very different from what I’d planned, that it was almost comical. First of all, there was no way I could attend every single workshop I wanted because so many of them overlapped or were at the same time as the others. I hadn’t realized I could see the full schedule on line before going, so I’d just assumed I’d be able to see what I wanted. Nope. Lesson learned? Plan ahead. Read through the online listing (now that you know it’s there!) and consider each class/workshop/chat for what it will bring to you as a writer. The conference is available on audio you can purchase, so if you miss classes, you can still hear their useful info when you get home. I signed up for the Agent/Editor appointments. You were allowed one of each, so I scrolled through their names, saw a few big time agent names I recognized, then the publishers I knew about and made my choices. Again, God must have been chuckling big-time at my choices. Why? Because I hadn’t done any research on the people I was going to speak with. The Agent specialized in historical romance and YA. I write contemporary adult romance. The editor was from a house that was acquiring only through agents. Double flub on my part. Lesson learned? Research. Every single one of those agents and editors had a link to their websites, agencies, and publishing houses. If I’d done my due diligence and clicked on the one I wanted to meet with, I would have known before choosing them that they weren’t going to be interested in me or my work. Along with that, do not bring twenty typed copies of your manuscript to give to potential agents/editors. They don’t want to be schlepping a ton of unnecessary stuff home with them. This is the age of email and attachments. confusedSince this was my first RWA I had no idea all the “stuff” (and by stuff I mean swag and books) you receive at the conference. Every publishing house gives out complementary books during their spotlight events; every breakfast, lunch and dinner has a guest speaker who also leave a book or two on every chair; the Goodie room is chock full of swag, free books, and just…stuff. I brought one suitcase with me that was already stuffed with my own stuff. Now I had over 6o free books and no room. Shipping them would have cost about $100.00. Lesson learned? Bring an extra bag/suitcase. You will be happy you did. Again, since this was my first conference, I wanted to promote myself as a professional, so I brought nice clothes and outfits and shoes to go with them. Because I’m short all my shoes are 4 inches or above. If anyone has ever spent 12 hours in five inch heels you know the kind of agony I was in each and every night. Lesson learned? Dress appropriately, but comfortably. Kitten heels would have been fine! You want to make a good impression, especially on agents and editors, but you don’t need to look like you just stepped out of the pages of Vogue, or like you just crawled out of bed after a binge-drinking night at the hotel bar. Realize you are going to see and possibly meet some of your all time favorite authors. It’s okay to fan-girl. It’s not okay to stalk. I stalked Nora Roberts at my first conference. The moment I saw her across the hotel lobby I simply lost my mind. She was on her way out of the building for a cigarette break. I am ashamed to admit this, but I followed her. It was like I was in some kind of trace. I knew what I was doing was illegal in 50 states, but I had no will to stop myself. When she stopped outside and lit up, I stood in the vestibule behind the glass doors just…watching her smoke. After a minute I realized what I was doing and snapped out of. Then I spotted Jill Shalvis on the escalator going down while I was going up. I jumped off and headed back down and followed her into the hotel coffee shop. Again… I was in a trance, I swear! Lesson learned? Be prepared to meet your writing idols but don’t do anything you could get arrested for!! When I spotted three twenty-somethings at the Literacy signing squeal like pigs when they met Jayne Ann Krentz, it drilled that lesson home. One of the best things I did at the first conference was attend the RWA First Timer’s presentation. It was filled with helpful hints about how to get the most out of the conference without feeling overwhelmed, or as if you missed something. I highly recommend setting aside the two hours of the class and fitting it into your schedule. This year the conference is in Orlando/Disney. In July. Florida in July is not a time frame for curly haired gals like me, so this year will bring its own set of problems and concerns! But I’m still going because I don’t want to miss the exciting, informative, and fun events and classes being offered. I’ll just need to pack an extra canister of hairspray. Or maybe more than just one extra. Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children's book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law. Peggy holds a master's degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer's Disease during her time running an Alzheimer's in-patient care unit during the 1990s. In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader's Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and is a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

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Thoughts on being an “RT VIRGIN”

~ By Peggy Jaeger

This past week I’ve been in the lovely city of Atlanta for my very first RT Convention. I’ve been hearing about RT for a long time, but have never had the opportunity to attend until this year, so I came without any expectations and a whole bag of nervous energy.

I’m that girl who spends a lot of time in her hotel room during conference downtown writing and blogging. I usually don’t take advantage of the parties or any networking prospects because I’m basically an introvert.

This year, though, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to “get myself out there” more at conferences and conventions. Talk to fans, publishers, agents, and other authors. Start up conversations, and ask questions – two things I’m not comfortable doing. I shouldn’t have been concerned about looking pushy or annoying to strangers, because at RT no one is a stranger! I just love that concept.

Peggy Jaeger with RT conference badgeRT is, in my mind, an awful lot like Comic Con for Romance Lovers. There are themed parties, where fans and authors alike go all out dressing up in period costumes. There are scavenger hunts, photo ops with the most hunky of male cover models, chocolate parties, movie nights – you think of it, and RT is doing it. Billed as a book lovers conference, I found RT was heavily stacked with romance readers. Most romance conferences I’ve attended have been heavy on the writer end of the spectrum, so it was eye-opening for me as a romance writer to actually connect with the people who put us, and keep us, in business – the reader.

I met some of the most delightful, well-read and well-rounded people I’ve ever met this week. And I met them while waiting in line for events, at workshops, and at book signings. These readers and romance fans know what they like. They move the industry in the direction they want it to go by reading, talking, blogging about, and promoting their favorite author’s work. I had one new fan to me, who was also an independent bookseller, say she loved my book so much she promoted it at her store. You gotta love that!

A few things I learned this week that I wish I had known prior to attending RT, though, needs mentioning.

First of all, be prepared for crowds. Big crowds. Disney-theme-park-during-school-vacation crowds. This convention is held once a year and fans/readers/authors /industry people come from all across the globe. This isn’t some dinky little get together; there are literally thousands of people attending.

Because of these crowds, be prepared to wait in line for everything. Everything. Every book signing, every workshop, every author meet and greet, every giveaway. I thought I was being proactive getting to an event scheduled for 5:15 at 4:50. Nope. There were 500 people ( not kidding!) in line ahead of me.

Bring snacks and something to drink with you wherever you go, whether it’s to a workshop or an event. Believe me, you’ll need it.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. I know this sounds like common sense, but as an author, I still feel fans want to see you in a dressy, professional, romance-writer-like outfit complete with stocking and heels. Because I think this way, my feet hurt and when I had to wait in line, I couldn’t sit on the floor like everyone who was dressed comfortably because I had a skirt and stilettos on, and by the end of a very long days, my legs turned to jello. Flats and jeans are, truly, acceptable wear.

If you’re an author, always ALWAYS  have some kind of author swag on you. Business cards, placards, notebooks, chapsticks, whatever has your name on it and whatever you routinely give away, carry it with you. I had more readers ask me for a business card so they could remember my name than I’ve ever been asked before.  Luckily, I’d filled my purse with them, and new release promo cards.

Be approachable and open. This was the hardest one for me because, you know…introvert, here! A smile and a “how are ya doing?” went miles in gathering new readers to me. Love that.

I’m so glad I made that New Year’s resolution. RT has been one of the most intense, interesting, and rewarding book conventions I’ve ever attended. I’m already planning on being in RENO next year for RT2018.

Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance author who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can't live without them.  You can read all about her writing journey, and more about her time at RT, at http://peggyjaeger.com

Top 5 Takeaways from My RWA 2016

krisjayne~ By Kris Jayne Note: This post originally appeared here RWA’s program amazes me every year. It offers information and guidance on everything from craft to business to wellness. The worst part? I can't attend every session. So I’d love to share my top takeaways from the sessions I attended — small and large. Maybe in the comments, we can compare notes. 1) Boost your back matter ("Newsletters, Back Matter, and Other Indie Marketing Strategies,” Deanna Chase and Violet Vaughn) I self-publish, so I know the importance of back matter. I include the blurbs for the next books my series, email list sign-up, buy links, and an excerpt of the next book. But I didn't ask for reviews, and the buy link for the next book in the series required turning the page. Now, I've put both immediately after “the end." Have a separate sign-up list for each book, so you can know the source of each sign-up. I’ve now created separate sign-up pages (via LeadPages) and separate lists (in MailChimp) for each book. This way, I can target emails to my audiences to buy the next book or send them book-specific bonus scenes and content. 2) Layer scenes that hook your readers ("Frame Your Scene, Build Your Story: The Art of Layering,” Lori Freeland, handout in the RWA app) Layer for clarity so the reader can see the movie in your head. Ensure that every scene pushes the story forward. I’m in the middle of editing my next book, and I cut an entire chapter that added little to the book’s forward momentum. Each scene should flow from:
  1. Setting the stage - Does the reader know where they are? When the story takes place? Who is there? What relevant props or environment cues are there to paint the picture?
  2. Letting the scene play out - Get the basics down. What happens? Then, layer in emotion and mood with dialogue, internal thoughts/feelings/visceral responses, heightened action, and interactions with setting.
  3. Hooking the reader - Leave them asking questions that make them turn the page.
Start by writing your strength. If you’re a dialogue person, start with what they’re going to say. If internal thoughts are your forte, begin in the character’s head and reveal the emotion of the scene. Then, go back and layer in the other elements. vintage-technology-keyboard-old-largeLast, layer the emotional subtext with dialogue cues and body language and spiff up the writing with more expressive language. 3) Deepen POV ("Build a Character, Build a Book,” Christie Craig, handout in the RWA app) Link gestures, jobs, your character’s decor, clothing, what do they have in their pockets, etc. to the specifics of the POV character. Think about everything, but don't overdo it. Pick a few things to highlight and root them in the character’s psyche. Tie these elements to the defining conflict or traumatic moments of your character’s life. Make them meaningful. Another tip: the reader can get a deeper sense of your character by seeing him/her read another character. You learn a lot by how they interpret others. 4) Keep up with the industry (PAN Track) I don’t mean follow every trend, but understand some of the overarching trends and numbers and where you and your career goals fit. Here are some stats from the Data Guy at Authorearnings.com
  • 89% of all romance sales are digital
  • Of those, over half are self-published
  • 67% of romance sales aren’t tracked by any traditional metric (like BookScan, which tracks print sales)
  • 74% of paid ebook sales (all genres) happen on Amazon.com; next is iBooks at 11%
  • Top 5 genres in romance on Amazon.com by total author earnings are (in order): Contemporary, Romantic Comedy, New Adult & College, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal
  • However, the top genre earnings per title and pen name are: New Adult & College, Contemporary, Sports, Romantic Comedy, Military (with Paranormal a very close 6th)
“Total author earnings” reflects the volume sold in the category, but the per title/pen name gives you a sense of which genres make an individual author the most money. 5) Know your why (“From Mid-List to Mad Money: How to Set Yourself up for Self-Publishing Success,” Kristen Painter and Roxanne St. Clair) Why do you write? Do you want to make a living? Win awards and recognition? Just write for fun? Knowing what you want shapes your priorities, and you have to be honest and clear. The truth is: if you want to make a living, that changes your priorities. If you want to win a RITA, that changes your priorities. Since I want to build income self-publishing, I know I need to write faster. I can’t spend two years polishing a manuscript. Saying that out loud (or in print) can be scary. I want to produce quality work. I work hard on it, but I have to move fast and be willing to let the story go and move on to another. That’s a different writing cycle than someone who wants something else. There’s no right or wrong motivation, but we have to know ourselves and align our process. What did you learn at RWA? Christina—a devoted writer, reader, and traveler—writes as Kris Jayne. She spends her days blissfully sweating out the writing process in the Dallas area with her dogs, Otis the Shih Tzu, Rocco the Terrier, and Red the Foxy Mutt. Her passion for writing is only matched by her passion for the adventures of travel. In 2008, she let a friend talk her into sleeping outside for the first time in her life when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She will release the fourth book in her Thirsty Hearts series, Chasing You, in September. P.S. If you're buying her a gift, she has a penchant for single-malt Scotch and scarves.

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RWA Nationals (and Penguins. . .)

casey~ By Casey Clipper Books ordered. Check. Swag. Check. Flight booked. Check. Wait, where’s the conference and hotel reservation confirmation emails? I didn’t print those out, did I? Crap. I hope I can locate them. Kind of important. Ten cardigans, because you know, I might change them out twice a day. Check. Twenty pairs of shoes, you know, for the pop-up club party that’ll occur. I need to bring these stilettos and five pairs of running shoes, ‘cause I do plan to hit the gym. At some point. Maybe. Probably not. But just in case. Check. Three outfits for each day. One for morning, before dinner, and before hitting an open house or party. Certainly can’t wear the same outfit all day. And what if I spill something down one of my six white shirts I've packed? That is inevitable. I mean, it’s me, mouth klutz. Check. Sunglasses for when I leave the hotel. Check. Ten notepads because each year I misplace the thing after a couple of hours. Don't ask. If it's not attached.... Check. Volunteer for the literacy signing so I can be put in the glamorous job of hanging with Nora and/or Sylvia, who will fall in love with my stellar personality and we’ll become BFFs and travel the world together, all the while plotting. Check. Download the RWA2015 app and choose five workshops each hour of each day to be added to my overbooked phone calendar. Check. Maybe I should order the recordings. Probably. Still waiting on the lab about my clone. Can't be two places at once, no matter what type of mind-telepathy I try to call upon. Hey, plot idea? Separate suitcase for the goodie room raid...wait, where will I put my supply of three different style business cards? I have a two bag airline limit. What can I leave behind? Do I need my laptop? Seriously, the RWA2015 National Conference is upon us. Social media is a buzz amongst authors. Meet-ups are being arranged. Newbies are excited and nervous. Seasoned attendees are trying to figure out how not to over pack. Again. (Still haven't figured that one out. Maybe I only need two different business cards.) Here are a few First Timer helpful packing tips: 1. Cardigans. Each workshop room is well air conditioned. Trust me. Even if you claim you're always hot, at least take one. 2. Comfortable shoes and/or flats. Heels are for the awards ceremony (think cocktail hour, unless you're nominated, then it's formal dress). 3. Dress attire would be considered business casual. Why? Because you never know who may strike up a convo with you. Think four day business interview. 4. Do not over pack. You will leave the conference with loads of books and swag. Unless you're willing to pay FedEx to ship your items home, you'll need room in your suitcase. 5. Make sure to attend the First Timers welcome workshop. You'll get fantastic conference advice. 8. Say hello to Casey. I hear she's kind of cool. She loves penguins and chocolate. Just sayin'. With this my third year attending, there are a few new activities I plan to do for the first time. Volunteer, attend the general meeting, "accidentally" bump into Barbara and hope to have some of her success rub off. (Okay, okay, I won't touch Barbara. Boundaries, I get it...maybe Bella?) My biggest piece of advice? Go in recognizing that the conference can be geared toward you. First Timer or Seasoned Author, what is your conference goal? Make that decision now. Knowing what you want out of the conference will enhance your experience and help choose workshops best to suit your needs. Do you want help with craft, marketing, research or all of the above? Even for those who've attended more than once, it can feel overwhelming, wanting to take in as much information as possible. But no matter how you choose to work your individualized conference, appreciate the fact we've been granted a fantastic opportunity to learn from the best of the best in the romance industry. A community where we get to spend days surrounded by and rub elbows with like-minded industry professionals, who embrace our passion for penning romance novels and some who are gracious to share their successful insight. Not everyone understands our world of romance, but here our writer world quirks are accepted and celebrated by all. Come Monday when you're back home, and the reality of what happened over the course of four days hits, you can smile and say you were there, and you walked away with a better appreciation and knowledge of everything romance. Personally I know there's no other place I'd rather be mid July. Have fun and did you know rock hopper penguins can jump 4-5 feet? Contemporary Romance Author Casey Clipper is from Pittsburgh, PA. She's a noted sports fanatic, chocolate lover (all right, maybe that could be classified more as an addiction), and is slightly obsessed with penguins (seriously, they're forever dressed in tuxes!). Like you, she's an avid romance reader and loves to lose herself in a good book. Casey is an active member of the Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, the Three Rivers Romance Writers, Passionate Ink, ASMSG, and IAN. Casey is preparing to release her fourth and final novel in The Love Series, Taken Love on July 21, 2015.

Conference Season

Sarah Vance Tompkins~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's conference season! I always look forward to go to writing conferences even though these events are overwhelming to me. I'm an introverted introvert. (That may not be the official diagnosis, but no kidding. I'm shy.) Sure, I know how to mind my Ps & Qs at a conference. I can put on lipstick and chat with the best of them...but I have to force myself to be social...even in a group of writers, many of whom I'm sure are suffering from the same kind of social anxiety. I returned from the most recent conference with a jumble of information on my computer and sketched in the margins of my notebook:
  • Handouts from every session at the conference.
  • Titles of must-read romance novels recommended by people I admire.
  • Titles of must-read writing workbooks recommended by speakers.
  • Titles of must read romance novels written by people I met.
  • Names/FB pages/Twitter handles of authors I met.
  • Names/FB pages/Twitter handles of authors I should meet.
  • Names/FB pages/Twitter handles of agents & editors I met.
  • Names/FB pages/Twitter handles of agents & editors I should meet.
  • Manuscript wish lists of the agents & editors who spoke at the conference.
  • Manuscript wish lists of agents & editors I met.
  • Email addresses of author, agents & editors I met who requested my MS.
  • Email addresses of authors I met with whom I'd like to stay in touch.
  • Ideas for new romance novels that popped into my head while daydreaming during one particularly boring session.
  • A killer recipe from someone I chatted with at the opening night session.
  • Detailed (and mostly illegible) instructions for how to do fool-proof plotting.
  • A broken link to a website detailing how to get 1,000s of new Twitter followers quickly.
  • Detailed (and mostly illegible) instructions for how to create a website in under an hour.
  • Photos of old and new friends at the conference.
  • Photos of every dessert I ate at the conference. (Seriously!)
notebookI found myself getting anxious as I tried to process and prioritize all of the new information. I wanted to put it all into action immediately. I became a whirling dervish of activity, but I wasn't really getting anything done. My husband noticed I was struggling to find my focus. I told him about the sense of urgency I felt to use all of the information I had been given at conference. "I thought this was about writing," he said. "Why don't you just sit in your chair and write?" And here all this time I thought I'd married him for his good looks. He and I made a pact that day. Whenever I return home from conference, full of overwhelming tidbits information and inspiration -- he's allowed to remind me that the real reason I'm sitting alone in the spare bedroom every day is because I'm a writer. Just write. Sarah Vance-Tompkins is a social media consultant for small businesses. She earned an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and worked in feature film development. Prior to her attempts at writing fiction, she has been paid to write everything from obituaries to the directions for use on bottles of personal lubricant. She is a member of YARWA and CRW-Online. She welcomes your questions and comments.  Email her at sarahevance@gmail.com

RWA Conference Bootcamp

Mellanie Szereto~ By Mellanie Szereto Attending the RWA National Conference for the first time is a bit scary and overwhelming, but some planning and research can go a long way in easing those butterflies, especially for those who have never attended a professional conference. Take a deep breath and read on to find out what to expect!

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BUDGETING Besides conference registration, hotel, and transportation expenses, attendees need to plan ahead for other costs. Since RWA2015 is my sixth conference, I have five years’ worth of expenses to help create a fairly accurate budget for myself. RWA Conference 2015 (Budgeted) Conference Registration (Actual) $450.00 Transportation /Airfare (Actual)   383.70 Hotel/6 nights (Estimated)   500.00 Baggage Fees (Estimated)     50.00 Transportation to/from hotel (Estimated)     50.00 Chapter Receptions (Estimated)     60.00 Airport Parking (Estimated)     54.00 Meals (Estimated)   200.00 Shipping (Estimated)     75.00 Books (Estimated)     50.00 Total           $1872.70
  • Register early to get the best possible conference fee.
  • Reduce hotel expense by finding a roommate(s). I have two roommates this year to cut my expenses.
  • Compare flying vs. driving expenses and advantages/disadvantages
    • Flying—gas to/from airport, meals, long-term parking fees, airline tickets, baggage fees, transportation between airport and hotel, less travel time. Share a cab or car service to reduce that expense.
    • Driving—gas, wear and tear on vehicle, meals while traveling, tolls, hotel parking expense, more travel time; rideshare to reduce expenses.
  • Avoid hotel room internet expense by bringing a portable wifi device.
  • Avoid going over budget on book purchases by choosing Literacy Signing authors ahead of time. In addition to the free books in the conference bags, more will be available from publisher signings and at the Indie Book Signing. Shipping books home adds an additional expense.
  • Spend less on meals by researching nearby food options ahead of time. Remember to budget for coffee/drinks with friends. Three breakfasts and dessert at the RITA/GH Awards are included in the registration fee.
  • Budget sightseeing expenses by checking out local attractions online before the trip.
  WARDROBE
  • RWA National Conference is a professional event. Attendees should dress business casual to business professional for all workshops, spotlights, chats, and functions, except for the case of costume parties. The Literacy Signing is more casual, but remember that publishing industry professionals will be attending as well. The GH/RITA Awards Ceremony is dressy to eveningwear. boot campAll rooms will be air-conditioned. Bring a sweater, blazer, pashmina, etc., if you get cold easily.
  • Business casual consists of khakis, casual skirts and dresses, capris, etc. paired with nice tops, work-appropriate shirts, sweaters, etc. Do not wear T-shirts and jeans if you expect to make a professional impression. Wear comfortable shoes, but avoid athletic shoes if possible. Dress flats, walking shoes, and sandals (not flip-flops) are fine. If you prefer heels, go for it! For guys, khakis and button-down shirts work well.
  • Business professional consists of pantsuits, skirts and jackets, dresses, etc. for women or suits and ties for men. This is my preference for daytime conference events like workshops, the AGM, etc. because I’m comfortable in this look—and I like to wear nice shoes. :)
  • Downtime—Unless you’re in your room, headed to the exercise facility, or away from the hotel, plan to be “on” at all times. Industry professionals will be in the restaurants and bars and at parties and other functions in the hotel. Sweats and ratty jeans are not a good choice if you’re in the conference area.
  • If you want to be viewed as a professional, present yourself as one.
  BEHAVIOR
  • Again, if you want to be viewed as a professional, present yourself as one.
  • Wait times at the elevators may be long with about 2500 other conference attendees in the hotel, so be polite and patient. Plan ahead and allow an extra 10-15 minutes, especially on Wednesday evening for the Literacy Signing and Saturday night for the RITA/Golden Heart Awards Ceremony.
  • Some editors and agents are receptive to pitches outside the scheduled pitch appointments, but interrupting conversations or cornering someone in the restroom is rude and can leave a lasting (negative) impression. If asked what you write, you can safely assume you’ve been invited to pitch. Otherwise, ask first to be on the safe side.
  • After a day of workshops, many attendees congregate in the bar area to socialize. If alcohol makes you say/do stupid things, consider the consequences before you order that fourth margarita!
  • Private conversations are not private in public areas during the conference. If you need to rant about a workshop, editor, agent, author, etc., do it in the privacy of your room where you won’t be overheard and cause hurt feelings or a grudge.
  • If you notice an attendee who seems to be alone, introduce yourself. Conferences can be overwhelming to first-timers and those who are by themselves. This event is a great way to make new friends and connections.
  SAFETY
  • Do not leave your room keys in the envelope with your room number. Memorize your room number and discard the key envelope in your room trash. Lost keys could mean someone knows which room they open. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to endanger you or steal your belongings.
  • Remove your nametag when leaving the Conference hotel.
  • Know the way to the nearest emergency exit.
  • Use the safety latch when you’re in your room so hotel employees and/or guests inadvertently assigned to your room can’t enter without knocking.
  • Use the designated driver rule if you’re drinking. At least one person in your group should be sober enough to get everyone back to the hotel/their rooms safely. Only accept drinks from the bartender or wait staff and don’t leave drinks unattended.
  • Be careful when sharing your number. Don’t shout it across the ballroom or lobby. See the first tip in this section!
  • Use common sense. Other guests besides RWA attendees may be staying in the hotel. Don’t assume you’re safe in the company of romance writers, agents, and publishing industry professionals.
  WORKSHOPS AND EVENTS
  • The conference is offering 136 workshops on career, craft, industry, marketing, research, self-publishing, and writer’s life topics as well as six special topics this year. In addition to workshops, attendees can also participate in four author chats and learn more about publishing with fourteen publisher spotlights. A complete list of all workshops, chats, and spotlights with dates and times is available on the RWA Conference Workshops page.
  • An RWA2015 app is also available for viewing the schedule, creating a personalized calendar, and much more. For more information, contact Erin Fry at RWA (erin.fry@rwa.org). Users must have a login ID and password to download and use the app.
  • Workshops are first come, first served to registered conference attendees, so be sure to plan ahead for high-priority workshops. While many will be recorded for the conference recordings, some will not. PAN sessions and a few other workshops noted in the conference program will not recorded. Only PRO members may attend the PRO Retreat and only PAN members may attend PAN sessions. Conference ID badges are designated with PRO and PAN, when appropriate, to allow entrance to these workshops.
  • Many events are held during the conference, including annual meetings for online chapters and their members, publisher parties for their authors, and the RITA/Golden Heart Awards Ceremony. The Literacy Signing takes place Wednesday evening and is open to the public. This event draws a very large crowd, so line up early to see your favorite signing authors. All monies raised will go to local and national literacy charities.
  • The Indie Book Signing is open to registered attendees, as are numerous publisher signings. While these books are free, remember that they have to be carried or shipped home!
Conferences are a great way to learn about writing and publishing, make new connections, and advance your writing career. So, make the most of the experience and have fun! When her fingers aren’t attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. She is multi-published with Siren-Bookstrand and is self-publishing her foodie contemporary series, Love on the Menu, in addition to her nonfiction Writing Tip Wednesday handbooks based on her informational blog series. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of twenty-eight years and their son. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and FF&P Romance Writers. Visit her website at http://www.mellanieszereto.com for information on book signings and her upcoming release, Iced Latté. Sugar and spice and everything…naughty! Social Media Links:

HELP! WHAT IN THE WORLD DO I WEAR AT NATIONALS? [REPOST]

SJeffery~ By Susan Jeffery I know, I know – the RWA national conference is just a few weeks away. If you’re a nominee, you may be stressing about what you’re going to wear to the awards ceremony. You might still be uncertain of your ensemble for Harlequin’s Black and White party, or whatever party you’re invited to. When the finalists for the RITA and Golden Heart awards were announced on March 26, I believe the earth shifted on its axis. And I am pretty some writers jumped up and down, screamed, cried, and called everyone they know.  If they dialed the wrong number, they shouted the news to a perfect stranger and hung up.

image001

And, once that was over, they’ve been struggling since then with that dull, ugly lump of dread blooming in their innards: WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO WEAR? image003 If you’re like the majority of us, you’re not a nominee, but you are still welcome to stress! Because, it’s not just the awards ceremony, people. It’s the parties, and more parties happening during the week. Cocktail parties, workshops, evening events, signings, or themed parties, whatever – it’s like a family reunion gone wild. image005Back in the day (1986, to be specific), the events were fewer, and the dress code was easier. The finalists knew in advance if they were winners. Was it calmer? Oh, yes. I don’t even know who was in my finalist class for the Golden Heart, because Houston informed the winners in advance. This finalist/winner wore a chic white cocktail dress she found in a bridal shop, and some very nifty gold-and-black jewelry. For the Harlequin party, I wore a blue silk maid-of-honor dress I’d sewn for my sister’s wedding. The white dress is long gone - thank goodness shoulder pads went out of style. The blue dress lives in a storage closet. The necklace is still in my jewelry box, a beloved and respected treasure. The medal has changed since I received mine, and no one really recognizes it anymore. Do folks still wear cocktail dresses when they final? I wouldn't know, since that hasn't been a blessing for me since re-activating my membership in 2009. What I do know is, you'd better get your Oscar vibe going as a finalist, You'll be expected to be wearing some serious flash when you're at the awards - and before! Still, let's not forget: New York is a shopping capitol of the world (if not THE shopping capital). I know it's late, late, late to be thinking of which dress to wear. But we can dream, can't we? Which is why you want to browse this list before you land in the Big Apple. image008New York Magazine lists the drool-worthy shopping destinations. I know you're going to be super busy chasing down editors and agents and making appointments, and maybe you can fit in one more workshop (thank goodness for Starbucks!), but seriously: make time to hit just one of these icons. Personal favorites: Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany. Not like I go buying things there all the time, people. I mean, really? I can look, though. And you can, too! (Another FYI I heard from a cabbie during the last New York conference: New Yorkers take cabs. Tourists walk. Don't be shy, take a cab.) Now that you've had to stop off in some going-out-of-business dive somewhere off Broadway to buy a second suitcase, let's not forget the ultimate Mecca of all that is good in the pursuit of loveliness: Sephora After all, you're at image009Nationals! Hie thee to this website before you’re in the Big Apple: http://www.sephora.com/stores/new-york-times-square You can make an appointment for a tutorial. Or, you could cross the street if you have a spare moment, to admire the wonders there – promising to make you a sultry vixen or a stylish know-it-all or just... You, But Better (my personal favorite). And, just an FYI, makeup containing SPF doesn't photograph well. I wore an SPF 35 tinted moisturizer and finished it with dusting power for RWA Atlanta. All my photos include happy people and one ghost. Take it from me: don’t. Finally, what do I *wear* at Nationals? Good question! I'll leave you with this list – a wonderful post on www.makeupalley.com by a kind and organized (and fashionable!) member named Asphalt. Her answer to my Help! What Do I Wear? post was this: makeup i would bring +
  • bright pencil skirt
  • white jeans
  • pretty silk blouse
  • nice t-shirt graphic t-shirt
  • button down (chambray, cotton, whatever)
  • cocktail dress (2 of them)
  • linen blazer
  • scarf
  • sandals
  • neutral heels (or flats)
  • evening heels
  • and whatever fun jewelry you have
then you could wear:
  • day 1: bright pencil skirt, pretty silk blouse, scarf, neutral heels
  •  day 2: bright pencil skirt, nice t-shirt, linen blazer, neutral heels
  • day 3: white jeans, button down, neutral heels
  • bar: white jeans, pretty silk blouse, neutral heels or sandals
  • party 1: cocktail dress 1, evening heels
  • party 2/dinner: cocktail dress 2, evening heels
  • bar: white jeans, pretty silk blouse, neutral heels or sandals
  • playtime 1: white jeans, nice t-shirt, scarf, sandals
  • playtime 2: bright pencil skirt, graphic t-shirt, sandals
  • playtime 3: white jeans, button down, sandals
Voila! Change out one of the cocktail dresses for an evening gown, and you’re ready to show up at the awards ceremony. PS, I used this list for Anaheim and Atlanta, and had a blast. Although, in Anaheim, I broke down and visited a Skechers shop to replace my incredibly impractical sandals. On the big day, after all, we want to still be fresh enough to look like this: image014 And, about packing?  There are, of course, plenty of videos on YouTube. Take your pick and see if you can glean some tips. image017I created a master packing list on my iPad’s Trello app, with categories for clothing, lingerie/sleepwear/ makeup, shoes, hair, medications, electronics and power cords. See you there! I’ll be at Check-In on Wednesday morning. Stop by! Love, Susan Susan Jeffery (irl Susan Andrews) writes contemporary romance. A romance reader since the early 1970s, and a writer since 1982, she won a Golden Heart in 1986, and published Fair Game with Harlequin in 1987. She’s a high-school librarian who loves working with her students (all boys? you’d want a pseudonym, too!). A member of CRW, CTRWA, TGN, and WRWDC, she’ll be at #RWA15. She will also be wearing of the outfits organized with the list in this article. Susan Jeffery is online at www.waterworldmermaids.com, on FB at https://www.facebook.com/SusanJefferyBooks, and on Twitter @susannjeffery.