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Friday, July 27, 2012

And the Conference starts - RWA12 DAY 1

Your Anaheim correspondent has a confession to make. After three days of going like a steam train, I hit the wall today (of all days) so I probably don't have as much to report as I should have.

Unlike our Australian conference, there are no "plenary" sessions" to kick off the conference. It is straight into Workshops and for every time slot there are up to 10 different choices covering topics relevant to career, craft, publishing and research, writers life interspersed with author chats and spotlights on different publishers. Spoiled for choice? To make it even harder I am a member of the PRO Community of Practice...this is for the "almost published" (as I don't YET qualify for PAN - the Published Authors Network).

As an alternative to the workshops, I attended the "PRO Retreat" this morning.  The keynote speaker was a Chicago lawyer, Jon Tandler, on the topic of "Publishing Contracts Demystified". Those who know will know that I am a lawyer myself (although I've recently turned in my badge). We lawyers have a saying...if you act for yourself, you have a fool for a client and when it comes to publishing contracts, I paid for professional advice. Key issues he raised:

  • Term of Contract: Length of copyright is not unusual (given this is life of the author plus 70 years  seems a very long time)
  • Understand what rights you are giving to your publisher 
  • Registration of copyright (we don't have this in Australia but my Australian lawyer advised me to register my work with the American Copyright office)
  • Obligations and Indemnities of both parties
  • Make sure you check your royalty statements for errors.
  • Out of Print and Reversion Clauses
  • Competitive works and First Option Clauses
In summary READ your contract carefully and get independent advice. Do your homework with your publisher.

Following Jon Tandler was a panel of Publishers:  Michele Bidelspach (Grand Central), May Chen (Avon), Debra Dixon (Belle Books) and Lindsey Faber (Samhain). This when I had begun to nod off but I don't think that I heard anything from them that was new or startling:  Only 5% of submissions get picked up/ Looking for great story and voice - a submission that is less than perfect is fine / role of publishers in the self publishing world - they are there to do the heavy lifting and leave the author free to write the next best book.

A sit down lunch for 2000 people followed. I met up with Kandy Shepherd but it is a good  opportunity to meet new friends. An interesting presentation on an RWA sponsored initiative called Love Between the Covers - a documentary on the Romance Industry - writers, readers, publishers and agents by documentary film maker Laurie Kahn (who I met). The little bit we saw looked like a positive contribution to the industry and we had one of the participants on our table, Golden Heart finalist and Aussie, Joanne Lockyer. Fortunately she kept her video camera in her bag!
Stephanie Laurens gives the keynote luncheon address at #RWA12

Keynote speaker was Stephanie Laurens. I've heard Stephanie speak many times on her favourite topic...the Business of Writing but this time was different. Her emphasis was on "Weathering the Transition and Keeping the Faith". Her main point was that the revolutionary changes that are going on in the publishing industry are about the means of transmitting the story from writer to reader. It does not alter the essential paradigm that a writer's success is measured by her readership, not which publishing house, self publishing vehicle etc. she has signed up with.  We must keep faith in our calling and concentrate on writing great stories. "Take your passion and make it happen". She was so inspiring in her passion that it was hard not to feel caught up by her own emotion. Her conclusion..."There has never been a better time to make to be an author".

Oddly this was a theme echoed in the next workshop I attended after lunch, Ethan Ellenberg the agent who's topic was New Paradigms in Publishing. Like Stephanie he spoke about the impact of the changes to on line publishing, particularly self publishing. The message I took from him is that Self Publishing is a legitimate alternative BUT it is turning the author into a business with all the distractions that go with it (Stephanie would say it is distracting the author from writing the best book). It takes time, energy and money to self publish, limited print distribution, an overcrowded internet and the lack of interaction with editors and agents limits your ability to grow as an author.

At this point your roving reporter could no longer stay awake so I'm ashamed to say, it is no reflection on Ethan that I sidled out of the workshop. 

So glad I am staying across the road which forces me out into "fresh" Los Angeles Air and sunshine. The conference facility is freezing and of course I had packed for summer!

No activities tonight...just a quiet dinner and an early night. I must be getting old.