Plenary Session: And they lived happily ever after

December 28th, 2011

Next was actually the Panel session: the Next 20 Years, which I posted at the time.

And finally there was the last Plenary by Jane Porter.

This was fun, and at times quite moving.  Jane read excerpts of the rejection letters she got for 14 books over a 17 year period.  During this time there were 4 comments that stood out that encouraged her to keep going.

– one said she had a good plot

– one said it was competently written

– one said it was a good premise

– one said she had a ‘crisp and enjoyable writing style’

Despite all the rejections, Jane perservered, because she believed that she was meant to write.  Eventually her 15th book was accepted for publication.  Jane now has more than 30 books published since the late 90s – from her website it looks like 22 category romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon, and subsequently another 10 single title books she has classified under ‘classic romance modern lit’. Flirting with Forty was even made into a movie.

As the closing session of the conference, it was a in inspirational way to finish.  It was positive and encouraging, and for those who have had rejections before, it was a sign that it is not final, if you persevere.  And Jane left us with the following thoughts:

  • we don’t write for those who criticise us
  • we don’t write for the glory
  • we write because we are driven to
  • we write for those who want the story

That brought the formal proceedings to a close.  After that there was a confirmation that the 2012 conference will be held on the Gold Coast, and the organising team was announce (I of course didn’t know any of them).  The 2013 conference will be held in Fremantle, and the 2014 conference will be held in Sydney.

I had a great time, I took copious notes.  I met lots of people and learned about the mailing lists (which I have joined, but goodness they are high volume, even in digest mode).  My computer problems and subsequent lack of time mean that some of the sessions were quite delayed in getting up here, but at least they are all done now.  I hope that my friends who read this have got something out of it, and I’m sure that I will find it a useful reference for myself too.

Now I have about 8 months til the Gold Coast conference is on!  Anyone interested in that?



Plenary session: My Staffroom with Steamy Bits

December 11th, 2011

Marion Lennox, a former university academic, and writer of more than 90 published romances, gave a very entertaining talk on what she has learned as a writer.

– sex is fun

– snakes don’t necessarily replace underpants (that was an editor’s suggestion in one of her early novels!)

– your editor is not your friend

– the editor is there to buy the best book they can for the best price

– treat your editor professionally and they will treat you professionally

And below the cut is the sealed section 😉


Breakout session: The Publishing Business for the Bewildered Writer

December 11th, 2011

I did switch to this session by Bob Mayer after all, and I’m glad I did as it was very informative, even if I don’t have anything ready to publish right now.  At least it has made me more aware of what options are available.  There is a lot of information here under the cut, I have tried to group it as best I can!

Bob is a NY Times best selling author who was having issues with getting his back catalogue published / marketed.  I’m not sure of all the details of how it came about, but he eventually set up his own ePublishing company, Who Dares Wins Publishing.  I gather he has been systematically buying up his back catalogue as the rights became available again, as well as putting some of his new works through the company. He also has a blog called Write it Forward, ‘for those interested in writing, reading, publishing and the future of books’.

And so to the conference:

When it comes to books, the main focus has always been on publisher and reader, the writer was considered not important part of the process.

Bob is currently selling more of his Area 51 series in a day in ebook format than Barnes & Noble was able to sell in a year.

“I’m convinced fear is at the root of most bad writing” – Stephen King

Writers have been treated badly by the publishing industry for a long time, but this should not be the case:

  • Writers produce the product
  • Readers consume the product
  • Everyone else is in between
  • Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way


Break out session: Living with the first draft

December 11th, 2011

A good crafting session presented by Lisa Heidke.


  • If you don’t have any words coming, then research / work on setting.
  • At least that is progressing the story.
  • You might come up with inspiration which helps you to get writing again.
  • Sometimes you might just need to step away from the digital world – step away from computer and think.  Maybe take some longhand notes.
  • Write a letter in character to their best friend who they haven’t seen for 10 years.  It may not appear in the story, but it is getting you back into the character and back on target.  Some of the words may actually appear in the first draft anyway.
  •  Set reasonable goals – 500 words per day is fine.

Doesn’t have to be perfect first go – just write it!

Writers need ‘me’ time – away from tv and people.


Plenary session: Publishers and Editors round table

December 11th, 2011

What publishers are looking for.

This is where all the ‘literary’ publishers had to admit they are chasing after the Romance dollars.  Except they didn’t really want to admit they were after anything so unliterary as money, and most could still barely bring themselves to use the word ‘romance’ even on the final day of the ‘Romance Writers of Australia’ conference.  It was ‘Women’s Fiction’ all the way.

Random House – Beverly Cousins

  • was previously a crime and thriller specialist
  • looking to expand into women’s fiction

Penguin – Belinda Byrne

  • expanding commercial fiction range
  • interested in Women’s fiction / romance
  • moving into eBooks (longer titles)

Curtis Brown Australia (Agents) – Clare Forster

  • spoke a bit about the state of the industry and using an agent

Avon – Erica Tsang

  • new digital line called Impulse
  • currently taking submissions

Harlequin Mills and Boon (UK and US)  – Lucy Gilmour

  • do research
  • read what you want to write
  • knowning category romance is good but not required
  • editors can help

Allen & Unwin – Anette Barlow

  • Expanding into women’s fiction
  • looking at eBooks

Hatchette – Bernadette Foley

  • publishes fiction, non-fiction and children’s books
  • expanding into women’s fiction
  • also moving into eBooks


  • quite a few publishers are starting to move into this area in Australia
  • requires a lot of reediting and reformatting
  • requires new author contracts for new rights
  • very slow process, but starting to happen
  • Dymocks is setting up an eBook program
  • current distributors available in Australia are Apple, Kobo and Kindle

Literary Board Grants program

  • funding for Literary Board grants has recently changed
  • genre fiction ha not been deemed ‘literature’ in the past
  • this may change with the new rules, so keep an eye on submission guidelines if you are interested

Harlequin Single Titles:

  • HQN – romance single title *
  • Mira – commercial literary finction *
  • Harelquin Teen – young adult fiction *
  • Luna – fantasy / sci fi / high concept paranormal (100,000 words – 120,000)
  • Nocturne Cravings – erotic paranormal ebook fiction (15,000 – 25,000 words)
  • Harlequin Historical Undone – sensual historical romance ebooks (10,000 – 15,000 words)
  • Carina press – digital imprint for all genres of romance

* Agented submissions only

All in all, a very interesting discussion, and one with plenty of new opportunities for Australian writers.

Plenary session: the Unpredicatable route to Happy Ever After

December 11th, 2011

Presented by Lucy Gilmour, Editor at Mills and Boon UK.

This was part of the Sunday plenary session, following on from the Susan Wiggs session.  I had intended to post it earlier but due to computer issues and also putting my notes in a ‘safe’ place, I am only just getting around to it

Lucy said that Harlequin bought 44 new authors in 2010, and will exceed that number in 2011.  15 of those are in Australia.  There is a strong editorial focus on:

  • strong emotion
  • relevance (for today’s women, not the women of 10 years ago)
  • a happy ending (which means different things for different lines)
  • variety
  • a unique voice
  • unpredictabiity

A reliance on the same conflicts and themes can lead to stories feeling the same.   If these conflicts are used as short cuts to emotion, then they don’t drive the story and characters forward.

An unpredictable story delivers a compelling happy-ever-after that takes the reader on an unanticipated, cliche-free emotional journey.


Plenary Session: Susan Wiggs and the Writer’s Journey

September 25th, 2011

Presented by Susan Wiggs.

Here are the 12 steps to being a writer, presented as a form of the Hero’s Journey.  I mentioned it in an earlier post, and have had a chance to write it up now.

She also made the point that while it is nice to have a career as a writer and lots of readers, sometimes the work of writing has to be its own reward.


Breakout session: Writing the Emotional Rollercoaster

August 14th, 2011

Presented by Joan Kilby, a contemporary romance writer.  She is from Canada but lives in Melbourne, and many of her stories are either set in Australia or have Australian characters.

This was a good, practical crafting session.  Some of it covered ground that was similar to Valerie Parv’s session yesterday, but it was still good insight into the creative process.

The Emotional Journey



Plenary session: The Next 20 Years

August 14th, 2011

Panel discussion with authors Kelley Armstrong, Stephanie Laurens, and Bob Mayer, and also Angela James (Executive editor, Carina Press) and Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency).

This was really interesting, particularly in terms of where ebooks are going.  The consensus seemed to be that more and more technology would come into the publishing process, and as the price point of e-readers comes down, there will be more take up within younger demographics.  One surprise so far has been that more older people have purchased them than originally anticipated, but they are often the people with more money to spare than those in the 25 – 45 age group.

Stephanie Laurens made a really good point, that in 20 years a lot of the currently front list writers that are underpinning the traditional publishers will no longer be writing, for whatever reason (retirement, no longer living etc).  While back lists will still sell, there is currently no concept of succession planning from publishers to replace these writers.  Stephanie also raised issues with the way author’s rights are traditionally handled by publishers, and how they should be staying with the author rather than the publisher in perpetuity.

At the moment, ebooks are massively restricted in Australia due to regional licencing (not available here even though they are available elsewhere – even if the author is Australian), and due to the complexity of the way authors have licenced their work in the past.  Kristin said that at the moment agents are trying to get better royalties from publishers for ebooks.  Also her company has set up an electronic publishing platform for her existing clients to self publish if they wish – her staff will edit and format the work and help promote the work, for 15% of the sales.  However the author retains full rights to their work, which makes it an attractive  prospect for them if they don’t wish to go with a traditional publisher.  And Kristin said that no author should EVER grant their writes to a publisher in perpetuity.  She also said that some of the contracts for the new boilerplate editions are so bad that agents have to spend months fighting to get a fair deal for their clients (but what about those agents who don’t fight?).

Bob Mayer said that publishers are dictated by fear right now, but he doesn’t know why authors are feeling that too.  It is an amazing time for writers with an unprecedented range of options and opportunities now available.  Writers can write about whatever they want, they can publish on a variety of platforms.  They can go with traditional publishers or self publish (as he does now).  Stephanie said that the audience is out there – even if you have never published before – so there is no need to feel fear as a writer.

(Everyone) For published authors:  There is a market out there for back catalogue, but you may not want to publish all of it.  It may not fit your current brand.  If you decided to go on that route, make sure you invest in an editor and good cover art (even for an ebook version).

Bob Mayer mentioned that he had an idea of independent authors banding together online to cross promote each other.

All in all, it was a really interesting, informative session.  It was not patronising like the publishers session was yesterday, and even though Angela said she felt it was a bit like being someone who pulls wings of butterflies to be the only publisher on the panel, she was informative and gracious in her information and her replies.  And she said to look out for hologram books in the next 20 years (or so her boss thinks)!

Writers’ Conference – Day 3

August 14th, 2011

These are my sessions for today:

  •  8.30am – 10.15am – Plenary session, Keynote address by Marion Lennox.  Panel session ‘The Next 20 Years’
  • 10.45am – 12.15pm – Breakout session 4 ‘Writing the Emotional Rollercoaster’
  • 1.15pm – 2.15pm – Breakout session 5 ‘Sense and Sanity – Living with the First Draft’
  • 2.25pm – 3.25pm – Breakout session 6 Behind the Badge (although I might switch to Bob Mayer’s session on Publishing Business for the Bewildered Writer, so I can attend at least one of his sessions).
  • 4pm – 4.30pm- Plenary session, ‘And They All Lived Happily Ever After’.
  • Launch of 2012 conference.  Close of proceedings

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