Plenary session two: New York, New Directions – Panel discussion

Alison Ahern (moderator)
Helen Breitwiesser – literary agent, owner of Cornerstone Literary Agency
Monique Patterson – exec editor at St Martin’s Press
Alexander Sokoloff – thriller writer and script writer
Eloisa James – regency writer and university professor
Birgit Davis-Todd – Senior Executive Editor, Harlequin

Alison opened by asking the panel what they thought will the face of publishing look like in 2 years from now:

  • Birgit said print is still quite strong which is good news
  • ebooks are on the increase and selling more than ever
  • Monique said she didn’t know, but editors will keep looking to find the next trend

Helen (agent)

  • being contacted by people who want to develop games for the female demographic – how to reach them, how to write for them
  • the demographics show that the females who play online games – whether it be WOW or farmville or scrabble with friends – has a huge crossover with romance readers

Alexandra (writer)

  • has been innundated by requests to teach story structure to game designer classes
  • inviting readers into an interactive world, more than just one book
  • readers want more than just a book experience, they want an interactive experience.  Which is where the gaming thing comes in


  • writers are now a product due to social media etc
  • very careful of the online image, which is what sells books and makes money
  • authors are taking over the reins to some extent because they have more power now, they manage their own brand
  • her brand of Eloisa James is now getting asked by media outlets to make comments on various romance related issues, as a ‘go to’ expert.   (as a side note, she is getting a lot of misdirected comments re EL James re 50 Shades of Gray)


  • is interested in books about identity, community family
  • things that people enjoy reading about those things in an increasingly chaotic world
  • doesn’t want to read about serial killers, children endangered, anything that might have come from the front pages of the NY Times


The issue of traditional print royalties vs new electronic royalties was raised in a question from the floor.

  • Birgit said they have recently revised their royalties for published authors, and would continue to do so.
  • Monique said that she doesn’t know what will happen but it will change.
  • Helen gave an example of an author she represents who was offering a complete interactive experience – with sound files and images files to accompany an ebook.  Although the publisher initially resisted the request, eventually the agreed rate was 50%, and Helen feels that print is going to have to follow suit or miss out on first run titles
  • Note:  earlier today the example was given of Entangle, who give all their staff a percentage of sales for a title (author, editor, art team, publicists etc) so that everyone has a stake in a book being successful.  So far it has been very successful model but only since Feb 2012.  Will have to see how it works out longer term.


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