Romancing the Capital

Romancing the Capital 2019I’ll be attending Romancing the Capital again, the fabulous reader conference organized by Eve Langlais in Ottawa, Ontario. The dates for 2019 are August 1 – 3.

There will be a booksigning open to the public on the afternoon of August 3. I’ll have a pre-order form available in the spring.

Reader registration will open on September 1.

I hope to see you there!

Home with Lists

The exciting thing about attending a conference like Novelists’ Ink is that I always end up with so many action items. Novelists’ Ink is also unusual among the conferences I attend because it’s only for published authors, most of whom write genre fiction. (A high percentage of members write either romance or mystery.) So, there are no reader events like booksignings during the conference (although Jodi Vaughn and I made an exception and met with some readers for lunch on Saturday. It was such fun – Jodi is lovely and it turned out that her fans were also some of mine!) So, NINC is about the business of publishing. In this still-changing market, there are not only new options available, but better ways evolving to get things done. I always end up making lists on the flight home. You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes.

You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes. For example, I need to review my notes from Erica Ridley’s wonderful session on newsletters, and decide what to improve first with my monthly newsletter. (There are LOTS of things to be improved there!)

Wyvern's Mate, book #1 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’ll also be changing the numbering of the Dragons of Incendium series. Amazon doesn’t allow incremental numbers on series pages and I’ve been stubborn about changing my idea of the book numbers to fit theirs. 🙂 In talking to other authors, though, it’s clear that there are tangible benefits to having all of the books on the same product page. I’ll make them the same at all portals once they’re reformatted. The short stories will be given whole numbers in this arrangement, so the book order will become:

  1. Wyvern’s Mate
  2. Nero’s Dream
  3. Wyvern’s Prince
  4. Arista’s Legacy
  5. Wyvern’s Warrior
  6. Kraw’s Secret
  7. Wyvern’s Outlaw

Love Potion #9, a paranormal romance and romantic comedy by Claire DelacroixI’m going to commission new covers for my time travel romances, and probably move Love Potion #9 over to the Deborah Cooke side of things. It is a contemporary paranormal romance, after all. I do love the cover image, but it doesn’t communicate the subgenre clearly enough to do its job well – if you love this cover and want a print copy, grab it soon!

There are dozens of other tweaks and changes to be made. I attending workshops with tips on productivity and on strategies for publishing. I learned about conferences that I haven’t attended before and revisited the idea of attending some others again. I’ll let you know when any of these items impact what you see on your end of the publishing biz.

The second exciting result of going to conference is meeting new authors. I always meet some authors I haven’t met before and learn a bit about them during the conference, then come home with a huge shopping list so I can become acquainted with their books. No matter how avidly I read, there are always new voices and new fictional worlds to be discovered – that I’ve sat with the author in a workshop or had lunch with him or her is icing on the proverbial cake. I’ve already added a dozen books to my reader and am looking forward to digging in. When I find some I particularly love, I’ll share them with you here.

The third and maybe the biggest benefit is creative. Walking the beach is certainly a contributing factor, plus I went offline for the week. I came home from NINC recharged, with my imagination full of new stories. I did a lot of plotting, which surprised me but that’s all good. I also have more ideas to connect my existing stories with each other. I have started to do this (as some of you have seen in A Duke By Any Other Name) but the possibilities multipled for me when I gave them the opportunity.

Whisper Kiss, #5 in the Dragonfire series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeIn the Midnight Hour, book #3 of the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeFor example, I need a tattoo artist based in New York for the Flatiron Five series and realized that Rox’s tattoo shop, Imagination Ink, which we encountered first in Whisper Kiss, is in NYC. Rox has a partner and friend named Chynna (as well as one named Neo). I decided that Chynna would be perfect. She’ll turn up at F5 in Damon’s book, In the Midnight Hour and become a continuing character in that series. Flatiron Five doesn’t have any paranormal elements, but Chynna isn’t paranormal. Even Rox isn’t paranormal herself—she’s just partners with Niall, a dragon shifter. This kind of cross-pollination between series is particularly fun—I went back and read what I’ve said so far about Chynna and got excited about the possibilities. I remembered writing a scene with Chynna that didn’t make it into the final book and had to hunt it down. I posted it as an out-take right here so you can meet Chynna. (She doesn’t actually appear in Whisper Kiss.)

There are wonderful plans in the works already, and I’ll share them with you as soon as I can!

Since we’re talking about conferences and reader events, tell me whether you attend any reader events. If you don’t go to reader conferences or events, is there a reason why? (Some readers like to save their money for books, which is good, too.) If you do go, where are the events located? Do you attend for workshops or signings or both? What’s your favorite part?

 

Stratford Writers’ Festival

I’ve been asked to participate in a panel discussion at the Stratford Writers’ Festival later this year. This is the second year for the festival, and it will be held from October 20 to 22, 2017.

The organizer and I have had several interesting discussions. I’m not sure if this panel will be about different publication paths available to authors or about publishing genre fiction – or both!

The schedule and details are still being finalized, but I’ll share more information as it becomes available. I hope to see you there!

Home from NINC

Phew! I’m home again from the fabulous Novelists’ Inc conference, which was once again held at St. Pete’s Beach in Florida. It was – as ever – an informative and interesting conference, plus a chance to meet up with good friends and make new ones. I had a lot of good meetings, and will have lots of news to share with you in the coming months. While it was wonderful to spend the time to connect with friends, I could have spent another two weeks there, talking with authors I’ve only met online before.

©Deborah A. CookeThe beach makes this conference special – I tried to walk on it each morning, and again in the evening when the stars were so bright. I didn’t take any pictures this time, but we had the same sunny skies and warm weather as last year. Last year’s pix tell the story.

©Deborah A. CookeI did find some shells. There seemed to be more fighting conch shells on the beach this year. Last year, many were occupied by hermit crabs (like the one at right.) This year, most were still live conchs – and I saw several strike, which I’d never seen before. A little bit of research reveals that the Florida Fighting Conch, which is what I should have seen according to Wiki, looks a bit different. The shells (and conchs) I saw in St. Pete’s look like the West Indian Fighting Conch.

Here are the shells I found: three conch shells, all abandoned by their original residents and without new (hermit crab) tenants:Deborah Cooke's shells from St. Pete's Beach

I also met another visitor to the beach who was looking for shells for her son. While we walked along and chatted, I saw a piece of a lightning whelk that was about 3″ x 3″ that looked like part of a big shell. It was buried in the sand and there were a lot of broken whelks on the beach so I assumed this was another. All the same, I dug out this one, only to discover that it was almost intact – and HUGE! It was about 8″ across. It was pretty much a sphere – although the stem was broken off. I’ve never seen one so big, and gave it to her for her son. (I think she might use it as a planter in her garden. It’ll make a good one for some succulents.)

A friend and I visited the Salvador Dali Museum on the day before the conference began, and it was truly wonderful. The location is beautiful – we had a perfect sunny day – and I loved the design of the building. The visiting exhibit was the work of M.C. Escher, so it was well worth the trip to see it all.

Highland Heroes, a digital boxed set of Scottish medieval romances by Claire DelacroixAlthough I ended up being offline for the week, I found out on my way out the door that an interview I’d done with BookBub about creating multi-book single author boxed sets had been posted on their blog. It’s the result of interviews Diana did with several authors – I talked about my experience with Highland Heroes – and she pulled a tipsheet together from the various authors’ comments. You can read it on their blog right here.

Once the conference started, things got busy! On Thursday morning, I saw Susan E. Smith, who is just the most lovely person. I met her originally at Romancing the Capital in the spring, and will see her again there next year. (So can you, if you register for the RTC reader con!) She asked if she could feature me in her reader newsletter which was going out that day. Of course, I was thrilled to be asked – by the time we’d found each other again to do an interview, she’d written a post herself and sent it out. She’ll be visiting my blog in the next couple of weeks, so you can all learn more about her.

Right now, I’m glad to be home AND pretty much caught up on the laundry. The New Girl danced on her hind legs when I came home, then ran in circles of joy. Of course, Mr. Math spoiled her terribly when I was gone, but she just likes having the pack together again. I think she was too excited to know what to do next, but she’s been following me around ever since. 🙂 I was very excited to get home and get cooking again – I didn’t expect to miss it so much. I made fish tacos yesterday, then roasted a chicken for dinner. Yum!

Did you have a good week?

Home Again

Phew! I’m home again, after attending both Book Expo America in New York, and Lori Foster’s RAGT in West Chester Ohio. Although I was home for a few days in between, it feels as if I’ve been gone for ages. The garden has gone *boom* and the laundry has piled up. The best part is that I have lots of new ideas, and a new pair of shoes.

It was wonderful to meet so many of you, live and in person, and to talk about books – as well as a little bit about knitting. I met Eve Langlais, too, who is organizing the Ottawa readers’ conference next April.

Now I’m back at my desk until February with a To Do list to last well past that. Malcolm and Catriona have been impatiently awaiting my attention, and I have the scribbled notes to show for their determination that I get their story right. There are two new Goodreads contests coming up this month – the first one opens tomorrow – as well as the big Midsummer’s Dream Giveaway from fourteen historical romance authors this month. There’s a sale at the end of the month (starting the 25th) and my newsletter will go out on the 15th with more news.

Finally, I have a contemporary romance couple that just won’t leave me alone – I’d wanted them to wait until 2015, but they just might jump line. They’re pretty passionate and quite charming. I might not be able to resist them after Malcolm and Catriona are happily-ever-after. 🙂 Now, there’s work to be done! I hope you’ve all been good while I was away.

Home Again

Well, I’m back from Atlanta and the RWA National conference. As always, it was wonderful to see so many friends and to make some new acquaintances. I’m excited to have a list of authors-new-to-me to read, as well as a reminder to check back with my favourites. (There was, for example, an advanced reading copy of Mary Balogh’s August release, The Arrangement, which I inhaled one night. It’s a wonderful book and was a treat to read. I’ll leave a Goodreads review for it this week.) I’ll introduce you to those authors on my Facebook pages over the next few days.

First, though, I thought I’d share some impressions and observations with you. The tone of the conference this year struck me as subdued. This is probably a mirror of a very tough market, especially for debut authors. (It’s been a tough market for midlist authors for a while.) Writers seemed to be fairly emotional, and the sharing of war stories was a popular choice of topic in the bar. Fewer champagne corks were popping, and many writers seemed uncertain as to their futures. I had the sense that the majority of published authors in attendance were still working with traditional publishers but feeling a lack of enthusiasm from the house, and seeing tepid sales.

Given that, here are a few trends and focal points that stood out for me:

• the forging of new relationships
It was exciting to see new connections being made in the bar. There’s always some of this, of course, but it was more emphatic this year. A number of authors were talking about creating anthologies and collaborative series, about doing cross-marketing and cross-promotion, about sharing resources to gain visibility.

• the reassertion of existing relationships
To define the way forward, many authors are looking at their history. There was a great deal of discussion about the changing roles of agents, and how authors with good agent relationships can use that relationship to mutual benefit in future. There were similar discussions about editors and authors in good partnerships, and changing balances in their respective roles. I met a great bookseller from Florida who has a lot of Dragonfire fans amongst her customers (quite possibly because one of her employees loves the series and handsells it). We’re working on figuring out how to get my self-published Dragonfire novels (beginning with the Dragon Legion Collection) into her store. I know there’s a way to do this, but haven’t walked through it with anyone before. Once we have, I’ll have a pat answer for other indie stores. Since she sells Kobo readers, we will also be able to ensure that she benefits from her customers buying my digital books from Kobo, through Kobo’s program with the ABA. I’m excited about ensuring that the bookstores who have supported me in the past can be part of my future.

• the notion that print book sales are recovering
This was interesting to me. The indie bookseller I mentioned above has expanded to a second store. She sees uptick in print sales, and sees an increase in the number of indie booksellers in ABA which convinces her that her sales data isn’t unusual. She’s encouraged by the restructuring of B&N and sees print coming back. That was an exciting conversation.

• the disappearance of opportunity for debut authors in traditional publishing
The options for new authors in traditional publishing appear to have dwindled almost to nothing, particularly outside of hot genres like New Adult. There was a lot of talk about rejection and commiseration over ways to survive it. As I anticipated last year, new authors will need to prove themselves in digital-first, either in digital-first programs run by traditional houses (like Carina, Impulse or a host of others) or by self-publishing in digital and using indie success as a stepping stone to traditional publishing (if that’s the goal of the author in question). There’s an interesting twist on that strategy, though, which is my next point.

• the emergence of contracts for projects instead of contracts for authors
Once upon a time (i.e. two years ago, in the dark ages of digital-first) an author who found success in digital self-publishing could expect editors at traditional publishing houses to come knocking. That author could also expect those editors to want to buy not just the successful work in question but the next work(s). Essentially, the house would want to build the author from that point. About a year ago, we heard about the first splitting of rights, with print-only deals negotiated by several successful authors with traditional publishers, giving those authors’ books print distribution. At this conference, I heard about deals for specific projects—i.e. the title sells well in indie, so the house buys that title for digital and print distribution, and encourages the author to continue self-publishing. I’m not sure what exactly the house is contributing in these deals beyond print distribution, and I’m less sure why authors go for it, but it’s a strong trend.

• less acceptance of rebranding
It’s a typical strategy for midlist authors to rebrand themselves, at the request of the publisher, in order to continue to do business with the house. So, the author of one kind of work who hasn’t achieved success by the time that subgenre fades from popularity might be asked to try something different. This only happens if the house likes the author’s work or feels the author has missed their chance. Once upon a time, it was very common for authors to comply, probably because there were no other choices in terms of going forward. The assumption was that the current house was the only one likely to give the author another chance (and it wasn’t an unjustified assumption.) But this year, I met more authors at this conference who had declined to be rebranded and chosen to become indie authors instead.

• the language of collaboration
Editors said “we” when they talked about the process of bringing a book to market, even going so far as to say “we write”. Authors who are successful in traditional publishing talked about their “team” at the respective publishing house and the house’s support. I was interested by how quiet editors were overall, and how much they stood back from authors. They’ve always done that to a certain extent, but the postures were more pronounced this time.

• increased acceptance of self-publishing as a viable option
Previously “vanity press” was very much outside of the definition of “publication” for RWA. This year, self-published books could be ordered for the literacy signing, there was a new self-publishing track of workshops and there was an indie booksigning. On the upside, these workshops were standing room only and the booksigning was very well attended. On the downside, the fact that self-publishing was an option was such a revelation for so many attendees that the workshops tended to get bogged down with very basic questions. I didn’t find them as helpful as I’d hoped—even though the presenters had tremendous expertise, they had little opportunity to share more than the essentials. These writers who found the notion of self-publishing a revelation were excited by what they learned. Unfortunately, the over-riding talk was that they would “toss up some content and see what happened”  which is exactly how digital self-publishing does NOT work. (The even more unfortunate choice of verb was “throw up a book”. Ewwww.) I suspect we will see a little explosion of DIY covers, edits and formatting in the near future, and then these authors will give up indie publishing.

• increased opportunities for some self-published authors at various portals
The various self-publishing portals are listening to requests from authors and have exciting tools in beta. (They didn’t get a lot of chance to talk about this, unfortunately.) Pre-ordering tools and merchandising options are going to proliferate over the next year, even for indie authors, and this is a good thing. Overall, I have a sense that digital-first publishing is becoming more like traditional publishing every day.

• changing role of RWA
RWA is in the midst of a number of bylaw changes which redefine their relationship with the individual local chapters. Of primary interest to me in all of this is the fact that Canadian chapters may not be acknowledged by the national organization in future, due to one particular suite of changes. Those of us from north of the border had a number of casual chats about this, but there’s not yet consensus as to how we will go forward. Will there be a new organization, Romance Writers of Canada? Or will we simply become local writers’ groups unaffiliated with any larger organization? Will we become cross-genre writers’ groups organized locally? And if our local chapters can’t be RWA chapters any longer, will we individually remain RWA members? At this point, it’s tough to say how it will shake out.

• changing role of writers’ groups and writers’ conferences
At the airport, another writer asked me if I would attend RWA’s National conference next year in Texas. My reply was an immediate no. I actually doubt that I will ever attend another RWA National conference. That got me to thinking about why. I have never found the workshops at RWA’s conference very helpful. There is a tendency to reduce strategies to a recipe “Easy as 1-2-3” which never made as much sense as people believed it did, and makes less sense in our current market. What worked yesterday is not going to work tomorrow in the rapidly changing digital-first market, so there’s no point in deriving a formula. RWA National is expensive to attend, because it is long and there are costly events included in the program. The most valuable thing to me is always the five minute conversations – but this time, those chats weren’t with editors and agents. I was most interested in talking to various vendors, booksellers, service providers, and other authors. Granted, they were available because they attended the conference, but I believe that in future, authors like me will be more likely to go to smaller conferences that facilitate this kind of networking instead of a large track of workshops and gala events. (No more convention hotel chicken!) Such conferences would also be shorter, I’d expect, as no one can spare an entire week. They also will have complementary WIFI for all registrants.

How’s that for a preliminary round of impressions? There’s a whole lot of laundry calling my name today as I play catch-up. In addition, Aura made a very interesting observation when I was working on hers and Thad’s story one day in my lovely hotel room. She stopped me cold, because I had to think about the implications, but now I have writing to do. Finishing Kiss of Destiny, #3 of the Dragon Legion novellas, is on the agenda for this week, even if the dustbunnies have to wait.

They’ve waited this long, so another couple of days won’t let them get that much bigger.

Did you attend RWA National this year in Atlanta? What were your impressions? What did you learn? Will you attend again?

Be Vewy Vewy Quiet…

It’s going to be quiet on the blog this week, as I’ll be away and probably offline. I’m going to the Novelist’s Ink conference in New York and doing some research in the city as well. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, making some new ones, talking far too much and maybe drinking a little bit of wine. So, behave yourselves and I’ll check back in before I go to the World Fantasy conference in Toronto next week. (Then I’ll put away my suitcase until the RWA National conference in Atlanta next July.)

Here’s a little something to keep you company while I’m gone…

Coming Soon!
No Halo Required is a novella linked to the Prometheus Project – it follows that trilogy – and is Tupperman’s story.
Read more right HERE.

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In 2013, Dragonfire continues with the Dragon Legion Novellas. Read more about them, right HERE.