Up late this morning and late writing my blog about the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference last weekend. Trying to shape so many thoughts is a challenge. There was so much to see and hear, lot of old friends to meet and lectures to attend. My hand ached as a result of all that note-taking. I haven't written longhand intensively since...oh, since last conference!
Harper Adams University is an agricultural centre and across the car park from our reception, cows queued for the milking parlour. Sheep wandered up the road and associated aromas and flies followed. I didn't see any pigs but was a little piggy myself when it came to the fab food and generously donated wine (by Amazon KDP - they certainly know how to charm). It was gloriously hot again but unlike last year the air-con did work.
As for conference content - wow! The main problem is not being able to do everything. At any one time, there are three sessions to choose from. Aaargh! It's so difficult. One aim I had this year was to find out how the mainstream and self-publishing industries were faring in these changing times. I also wanted to learn more about historical fiction, as I so enjoyed writing the Renaissance thread in my last book. Then there was the one-to-one appointments - I'll jump ahead to those and tell you that I received huge encouragement and praise for my writing as well as some excellent advice about how to tweak it for commercial success. Wheee!
Also good is that I've come home with plenty of new ideas about how to dip into the historical sea without drowning. Carol McGrath gave us wonderful insight into the life of Medieval women and although not my period, her approach gave me so many ideas. I look forward to revisiting the Renaissance which featured in my timeslip novel, Madrigal. At the gala dinner, I was fortunate enough to sit next to Richard Lee - founder and Chairman of The Historical Novel Society and we chatted about all things historical.
Regarding the future of the Industry and Romantic fiction. It's booming! And so is self- publishing. I went to a wonderful session led by Dr Alison Baverstock during which she confirmed that self-publishing has become not merely acceptable but often the most sensible way to go. She has done considerable research into the who, what and why of self-publishing and her results were not merely encouraging, they blew away any notion that self- publishing was only for no-hopers. Apart from those statistics, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests mainstream publishing houses are looking to self-published books as the new slush pile to sift. If that's the case, then it's vital to prepare a professional standard of manuscript before loading.
I will go into more detail in another blog but it certainly confirmed what I suspected. When Margaret and I published The Creative Writing Student's Handbook we didn't know what to expect but our experience has been so positive, we are now beavering away at the companion Workbook.
Back to writing it now. Hooray!
I'm back from the conference and my bag was bulging with goodies: great books, chocs, soap, pens for England and all manner of bookmarks, postcards and badges to let me know about amazing books by members of the Romantic Novelists' Association.
Of course, a bag wasn't all I came back with. The conference brings the author and the publishing industry together. How we are dealing with the fast moving changes brought about by ebooks, Amazon and all the social media platforms was at the heart of this year's programme. I learnt a fantastic amount and feel very encouraged. Yes, the scales are tipping in favour of ebooks, but there is still a huge market for print books as well. The excellent news is that people are reading more than ever and that's what really matters.
For me personally, and for others in my position, trying to break into the industry, it's somewhat dispiriting to hear that a mainstream publisher may only publish two or three debut novels a year. What is encouraging is that they are throwing their weight behind digital imprints, using their expertise to maintain the quality expected of a traditionally published print book.
Apart from the lectures, workshops and delicious social side of a conference, it is also possible to make appointments with the editors and/or agents in order to pitch your book. I will be sending in my book as a result of mine. Who knows what might come of it? Maybe nothing, but the echo of the words 'you're really talented' is still here in my ear. I thought I should write it down, in case I forget.