Writers in the Storm

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July 11, 2012

The Old Gray RWA Conference Ain't What She Used To Be

By Sharla Rae

Just my opinion but The old gray RWA Conference ain’t what she used to be. And I hope she keeps up the good work!

At first glance the 2012 RWA Conference may look pretty much as it has in the past. It is and it isn’t. And no, I’m not touting something I had a hand in. I am merely making an observation as an RWA member.

I’m not just talking about workshops that never would have happened a few years ago. I’m also seeing a new attitude.  

As late as two years ago we were still hearing nasty remarks from traditional publishers, agents, and authors that referred to self-published and indie authors as hacks who lacked the talent to publish with a legitimate publisher. OUCH!

E-book workshops barely existed at the national conference and in fact, among the powers that be, many predicted that e-readers (Kindle etc.) were a fad and that readers would lose interest in the badly written and horribly edited books.

A cautious mama, RWA was reluctant to credit authors not published with traditional publishing. I don’t doubt everyone was talking about e-publishing at the conferences the past few years, but, there seemed a sad shortage of workshops on the subject. Cautious Mama doesn’t give approval easily and in fact seemed to remain caught in the claws of the old ways.

But in the end, cautious mama did what all good mothers do. She rolled her eyes, heaved a sigh, then stood back and observed with the eye of a hawk. Never mind that some of us were gnashing our teeth with impatience. Finally, mama jumped on the E-train -- with caveats, of course.

And there was more teeth gnashing.

This year’s conference, however, already promises great strides for writers. For the first time in years, I’m excited! It won’t be the same ol’ same ol’. I’m seeinglots of how-to workshops on indie publishing and author media marketing. Of course, the online media how-tos can be just as effective for traditionally published books so either way it’s a win.

I especially like the idea that these workshops are happening in a Mama-sanctioned setting because, while I’m often impatient with her, I do trust her.

As a result of these changes of attitude, I think we’ll see at least a “slight change” from the Traditional publishers attending conference. No, I don’t expect to be wowed. Don’t get me wrong, my books were published by traditional publishers.


Traditionals went into e-publishing kicking and screaming with the almighty dollar winning out. Perhaps it’s like the old saying, if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em.

Right now, they seem to be scrambling to figure out how to maintain their title of King Of The Hill. What can I say? It’s business.

Still, I relish hearing what they have to say at conference this year! Maybe I’ll like it. Maybe I won’t. But I think they have to discuss the elephant in the room.  After all, we’ve got choices we didn’t have before. While traditionals still teeter on the mountain top they are no longer the be all, end all. That’s got to bring on some change.

And what about literary agents? Some are scrambling to reinvent themselves. Mega blogs have discussed the ethicality and now that RWA has embraced e-publishing, I'm sure we’ll hear more – the good side and the bad.  Juicy stuff!

E-publishing news that used to be ignored by RWA is now headlining news in a very good way!

And because our cautious mama has accepted that e-publishing is here to stay and that writers need and want these career choices, she’s making sure we do it right by offering workshops and opportunities that will make smarter decisions easier.

So how about you? Are you excited? What do you expect to take home from the RWA Conference this year?

0 comments on “The Old Gray RWA Conference Ain't What She Used To Be”

  1. I've been so busy with editing and the HTH AGM, I haven't even looked at the course listings. But, I'm with you. I think it's important that RWA support the new direction of our industry.

    1. Yes, we need RWAs support. Actually RWA "needs" to support the changes too or be left in the dust itself. I'm glad to see they are at last trying.

  2. SIgh I can't attend this year. I have hopes for Atlanta next year and a for sure on San Antonio in 2014.

    1. I cant attend every year either Kathy. I often wish there were regional conferences at lower costs so driving would be an option. This years conference is in my backyard so of course I'm taking advantage. 🙂

  3. I'm always excited about conference. And love how it is changing to embrace all types of publishing. Now, if they could recognize romantic short fiction authors like me....bonus!

    1. The short fiction is becoming a hot market so I believe it's a matter of time. But notice I compared RWA to a mother not Yoda! Ha! In the meantime maybe you could form a yahoo loop and/or a romance shot fiction blog and build your own community. 🙂

  4. Me too, Pat. I really want to learn more about reputable ways to e-publish. Also I'm lazy so so I want to learn how to use media more effiecintly.

  5. I printed out the list of workshop descriptions and spent the weekend mulling over my choices, marking up the pages, changing my mind, and altogether feeling *thrilled* that there were so many choices that I couldn't decide! In the past, I've found it easier to choose. This year, I want to go to almost everything!! LOL! I, too, am glad Mama is cautiously helping us make smarter decisions among our new choices in publishing. 🙂

      1. We'll definitely see each other, Sharla! It was a lot of work to figure this all out and get a book out, but so worth it. Learning how to do it better, easier, faster is the new challenge. Glad to share information with you anytime!

  6. Sharla ... this only proves that you can "teach an old dog" ... it also gives respect to the many indie authors who have been pioneers in the print and e-market. I am a traditionalist myself, but I love and respect the hard work done by so many truly brave souls in indie publishing.

    Wish I could be there. I look foward to all those at WITS to bring back all the news so I can at least get a vicarious thrill reading about the conference events 🙂

    1. Thanks Florence. We haven't worked out all the logistics yet but I'm taking my i-Pad so we hope to facebook from RWA. All of us at WITS write in different genres so we'll all obtain info from many areas. Should be interesting.

  7. I won't be attending the conference, Sharla, but I'm always excited about the news that comes out from it. So let's hope it'll be a great one. 🙂

  8. Hi all...this is my first American conference since 2001 and how the world has changed. When I was first epublished in 2007 I ended up resigning from RWA in high dudgeon because of the negative attitude to epublished authors. We were being treated as if we had been infected with some noxious disease. It is interesting coming back a few years later. The PRO group now seems to be the "home" for those published authors who are published by unrecognised publishers and indie authors - which makes us half pregnant apparently...published but not "published". There are a lot of us out there so it is encouraging to see RWA coming around to recognising the needs of its members. I think there is a way to go yet and I'm glad our own Australian Romance Writers organisation did not follow down the same road.
    I'm looking forward to Anaheim!
    Alison Stuart (Australian!)

    1. Alison, it's true that indies were sneered at but thank goodness many brave souls persevered. It's ironic that some of the nay-sayers have now embraced the new market. But that's progress for you. At one time, the horseless carriage was believed to be a passing folly too. 😉

    2. Hi Alison! I think we might've met at the Coogee conference in 2010. I'm a member of the Paula Roe/Shannon Stein/Jen Brassel/etc group there, as well as an OCC member here in CA. I'm also a member of the PRO group - and it's become so much more than the holding area before you get published. I love it! Are you going to the PRO Retreat? If so, let's look for each other. 🙂 So many great things are happening in our industry, and it's such a great time to share the experiences with our old and new friends! 🙂 Hope to see you in two weeks!

      1. Hi Kitty...there's no hyper link so I apologise for the public reply...yes! Please email me off line at alison@alisonstuart.com. I am looking for friendly faces at the Conference! I remember how HUGE New Orleans was (and that was a small conference). Easy to get lost in the crowd.

  9. I am unpublished and still hoping to go the traditional route, but I appreciate the fact that the RWA is moving to educate about and support all publishing venues. I can't attend this year, but I'm seriously considering purchasing the conference CDs.

    1. Ally, the CDs are soooo worth it! I buy them every year, regardless of whether I go to the conference. I listen to them in the car or when I'm exercising or cleaning. You only miss out on the few workshops that were unrecorded. It's the best $120 I spend every year!

  10. Hi All, I'm Maris Bennett (joined your chapter in May, but have been a "lurker"!). This will be my 2nd conference; went to the Orlando one and loved it. Have been plugging away at my WIP since I began it for NANOWRIMO several years ago. Have decided to do it as an e-book when I'm done, since some of the women in my RWA Black Diamonds Chapter have done this and I like what I hear regarding their experiences, I don't have the inclination to begin the whole trad process: lengthy, discouraging, exhausting. As a writer friend put it, "Not to offend you, but you're not getting any younger!" Such true words! I don't have lofty goals. No desire to make the best-seller lists or any of that. Just want to write the best book I can, put it up, and hope that readers will find and enjoy it. I am jazzed that RWA has finally gotten the hint: e and indie authors are every bit as "real" as the trad-published ones. Which is as it should be. But, of course, the work must be quality. Thanks for your chapter. Looking forward to the mini-conference.

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