RNA Conference day 2

Up with the lark and over to the college in good time for my editor appointment. I re-read my chapter and synopsis and made some notes of things I thought I might want to emphasise that didn’t really come out in the synopsis. And tried not to panic.

Reader, I babbled. I babbled about cows and piglets. I babbled about my previous publishing career. I babbled about the book. Eventually I remembered to stop talking and let her say something. She said she liked it! She liked my writing. She thought it was exciting and hooked her from the first page. She pointed out that most of the conflict in the first chapter is external, and she felt that the hero in particular needed more backstory to beef up his emotional conflict. And she wants me to email her three chapters. So hooray!

After a cup of tea, during which I managed not to break any cups, I went to Jessica Hart/Pamela Hartshorne’s session on writing in two genres. She doesn’t write in two genres of romance, she writes in romance and non-romance historical time-slip. It was fascinating to hear about her career. She started writing category romance to fund her PhD… She’s written 60 M&B’s and 2 mainstream novels, and she was very honest about the differences between the two, including some of her assumptions about writing mainstream books that turned out not quite to be the case. I waited to talk to her at the end and she kindly signed the book I’d brought to send to Miss Bates.

We walked over to the plenary session on ‘The Future of Romantic Fiction’ featuring a panel which included the presidents of the RNA (Pia Fenton), RWAus (Nikki Logan) and the Historical Novel Society (Richard Lee). Also Katie Fforde. Mostly this was a Q&A session. Mostly it was a bit disappointing and discouraging, with quite an overtone of defeatism. The person who was really impressive was Nikki Logan. Australia, you are lucky to have her!

After lunch, I spent an hour wandering round the site to find someone who could tell me the security code for the swimming pool, during which time the sun disappeared behind black clouds. Eventually I did get the code and I did swim and it was nice, but not quite the warm, sunny time I had hoped for.

I made it back in time for a session on ‘The Future of Bookselling’. Apparently the panel were expecting this to be a Q&A session, though there was nothing to indicate that on the programme. No one was chairing the panel and as a result, the discussion was a mess. There were some great questions from the floor which the panel sometimes were unable to answer and at other times appeared not even to understand. If the future of bookselling really were in the hands of people like this, I would be worried. Oh, wait. The panel consisted of an agent, a Big Five editor, a small press publisher, and a major bricks and mortar UK retailer. Terrific. I was quite shocked, actually. I can get personal anecdata about reading an ebook and then going out to buy it in print anywhere. I was hoping for a bit more actual data from industry professionals. I don’t expect everyone to have precise numbers at their fingertips, but some ballpark understanding of the market would have been nice. The insightful comments mostly came from the floor – selling through subscription, through Blinkbox, bundling ebooks and paperbooks, and so on.


I caught up with a couple of people over tea and finally got an answer to a question I’ve been asking on and off for ages: why should I become a member of the RNA? Apparently, you get good discounts on rooms at the In and Out Club in London. That’s worth knowing. Also, they’d all been to much better sessions while I was swimming. Ah, well.

So, I’m glad I made the decision to go to the conference. I think two days is plenty for this introvert and I’m glad to be home in the quiet of my shed tonight. I met some great people I’d previously only known online and had some fun and very useful conversations. I had a good outcome from my editor appointment. I learned things from several of the sessions I attended.

I admit, I am still not really sure whether the RNA is worth joining. If I thought they had a vision and strategy for where the organisation is going, I would be more inclined to support them in that. I know it’s run by volunteers, but I don’t think that means it has to be amateurish. But as it is, money is tight and that £50 could be well-spent on other things, and I think I’ll be happy to pay the non-member supplement if I want to go to the conference again.