No matter how you feel about the 50 Shades phenomenon, an undeniable trend in the surge of independently published authors of romance, particularly new adult and erotic, followed as a result of its popularity. Traced back, its author was inspired to write by the Stephenie Meyer vampire romance sensation, Twilight, which also begat a rich vein of young adult romance authors. Keeping that logic in mind, the great-great-great-great grandmother of modern romantic fiction is Jane Austen, and there is no greater gathering of her great-great-great-great metaphoric grandchildren, than the Romance Writers of America (RWA) national conference, held this year in New York City.
Romance Writers of America is an organization of more than 10,000 with the purpose of advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. Its annual conference averages 2,000 in attendance, and its members, including this year’s keynote Barbara Freethy, have trailblazed the indie author movement, particularly for the romance genre.
Sitting in the lobby, you are surrounded by a sea of women. Physical appearances range from casual shorts and tee to pressed suits and pearl necklaces. Some writers seem barely out of high school while others could pass for great-great-grandmothers. But what do they have in common?
RWA members write about love and are smart about business.
Kind of like our ceremonial mother-of-romance, Jane Austen.
While in the lobby, In a short time, I heard snippets of conversation on the following:
- How long will readers stick with a series before they want new material?
- What’s the best way to introduce a love triangle without disappointing readers?
- Is it better to claim income as an individual or to set up an llc?
- Which photo repository is best for cover creation?
- Do you prefer addressing copyedits by hand or via track changes?
More so than in any other genre, romance authors are engaged in every aspect of their publishing business from craft to career development. No hoity-toity artistes too consumed by their muse to give a thought to practical matters and even more so, to the desires of their readers. I haven’t met a romance writer who wasn’t a voracious reader first, and that outright joy at consuming the perfect novel also drives us to create it.
It’s also worth pointing out that the musings able were not solo monologues, but conversations between multiple authors – often of varying experiences – with the more successful authors mentoring new ones. While authors may complete for a fixed pool of reader dollars, they don’t let this get in the way of their support of each other.
As an author who has always championed the blend of practicality and romance, and who writes of the strong female bonds of sisterhood, I think Jane Austen would approve.*
- For the record, there are men in attendance. I just haven’t found any yet.