Today Natalie Lloyd-Evans, writing as Natalie Meg Evans, compares the RNA with the Romance Writers of America.
In July, I attended RWA14, the conference of the Romance Writers of America which this year, took place in San Antonio.
During the three packed days I spent shuttling between the Marriott Rivercenter and Riverwalk hotels in San An, it bore in on me that the RWA Nationals must be the busiest writers’ gathering anywhere. At signings, readers queue up in their hundreds to buy books by their favourite authors. There’s a bewildering array of workshops and retreats. Friendships are made and so are deals. I have an American agent because I sat in front of her for a few nerve-wracking minutes in a conference room in Anaheim Ca in 2012. Being an RWA member has not only got me through doors, it has opened my eyes to one of the largest potential markets for UK writers.
There are many differences between the RWA and our RNA and I’ve listed some that leap out at me. Please note, I do mean ‘differences.’ I’m not implying better or worse.
Difference #1 - Successful authors Stateside are loud and proud. When I became a Golden Heart © finalist and travelled to Anaheim for the awards, I discovered that you get a special ribbon and brooch, and get congratulated and called ‘awesome’ by complete strangers. Dancing in corridors is encouraged and will be applauded. The attention fades if you don’t win (I didn’t) but while it lasts it’s lovely, particularly if you’ve been writing alone for a long time.
Difference #2 - Career focus. It’s in the constitution and is one of the key driving forces. Where the RNA has probationary and full membership, the RWA has General, PRO and PAN. PRO authors are those submitting work and awaiting the call while PAN stands for ‘published author’s network’. To become PRO, you present evidence of action in the form of letters to agents and publishers. PAN requires a published novel, an ISBN and proof of earnings over a certain limit – not that different from RNA requirements for full membership. However, to qualify for its tax status with the IRS, the RWA can only allow full status to members actively pursuing writing as a business. Those who write for fun or who are gently developing at their own rate should, in theory, opt for associate membership. The RWA is tightening up on this.
|A Nationals veteran with several years' of awards behind her|
Difference #3 - What is romance? Yes, that old conundrum. The RWA board has narrowed the definition of a romance novel, affecting members who write romantic suspense, or crime or inspirational books with romantic elements. Books submitted for the annual RITA and Golden Heart awards are judged on the following criteria: Is the love story the main focus of the book? Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic? Compare this rule with the existence of the ‘Epic’ category for the RONA awards.
Difference #4 - Output. I attended six workshops and in all of them, the panel took it as a given that to be successful in the digital age, writers must produce at least two books a year, preferably four. I heard a woman behind me make a sound like a wounded beagle.
Difference #5 - Promo and branding. If you want to stock up on personalised nail files, mini torches, blister first aid kits, fridge magnets, hair slides . . . you get the picture. ‘Promote your brand’ was a constant refrain. Promotion and marketing should be 50% of your working week, I kept hearing. It isn’t 50% of mine, more like 15%. I quote: ‘If you don’t enjoy the business side, get over yourself.’
Difference #6 - Get thee to an attorney. At one workshop, a smart literary attorney invited everyone to raise their hand if they’d used one of his profession to check their publisher’s contract. All hands but mine rose. ‘Because I don’t know any,’ was my answer to his obvious question. He walked over, presented a card, and said ‘You do now.’
Difference #7 - Security. Can you imagine dodging a sex pest at an RNA summer conference? An unpleasant individual attempted to molest female guests in the main hotel. It dawned on me how vulnerable women-only conferences are when access to the building is public. Mace sprays fit in any handbag.
Difference #8 - Climate. San Antonio, Texas, is like sharing a blast furnace with mountains of wet washing. Do not go out without water, I was told. Ever. However, once inside a hotel, the air con is severe. RWA Nationals visit a different city each year, and if you’re planning to go, take a woolly.
Next year, the RWA is in New York City and I’m looking forward to being there. I’m hoping the tight definition of romance won’t edge me out. I like having a foot in both worlds. They are not the same, but vive la difference.
Natalie Meg Evans is author of The Dress Thief, a historical novel set against the background of Parisian haute-couture of the 1930s. In 2012, Natalie won the Harry Bowling Prize and in 2013, was shortlisted for a Daphne du Maurier Award. Natalie was a probationary member of the RNA throughout the 1990s, and rejoined this year as a full member.
The Dress Thief available in paperback and ebook from 29th May 2014 at www.quercusbooks.co.uk
Thank you, Natalie. A fascinating piece
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