Karen recently attended the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne, Australia and was given the opportunity to pitch to an agent and editor while there.
Here is what she has to say about the experience.
It‘s hard to think of a writing genre that gets more scorn heaped upon it than Romance. Literary texts and writers fill the Arts pages of the major dailies and the big prizes are doled out to writers who are far less likely to make a living from their work than a Romance writer. I wonder sometimes if it’s because it’s women’s business; that because most Romance writers and readers are women, the whole thing is devalued. And while it might have an element of truth in it, it’s also a tad simplistic. My experience of raising the topic of Romance writing with students invariably gets a scornful response from both male and female students. Then again, it might be because of the sometimes lurid covers and sometimes over the top titles. Go to a Romance writers’ conference, or Romance readers’ conference, both of which I’ve attended recently, and you’ll discover that most writers have no choice over either. It’s also generally true that marketers not authors decide on covers for other genres as well.
Romance titles and covers are sometimes greeted by both the writers and readers with a great deal of good natured hilarity, but it’s worth remembering that titles and covers brand books as being of a particular genre and are key to getting books off the shelf or website, and into the reader’s hands. On the topic of conferences, it is again indicative of the vibrancy of the genre, and of the writers and readers who practice their craft in this area, that they are able to run both a Romance readers’ conference (in Bondi last year) and a writers’ conference (in Melbourne this year), and that this year’s was the Romance Writers of Australia’s 20th conference. This is no mean feat for any organisation.
So, why as a fantasy writer, do I attend these conferences? Well, for one thing, I’m probably not going to be in a room with so many New York Times best-selling authors at a fantasy convention! And Romance writers are incredibly friendly, supportive and generous with their advice. As well, fantasy, like most genres, has elements of romance in it and it’s worth looking at how practitioners in the actual genre write it. I also run NMIT’s Bachelor of Writing and Publishing, which is a vocationally oriented degree and I am keenly interested in areas of the writing and publishing industry where people can actually live off their craft.
In addition, the conference gave me the opportunity to attend a pitch workshop and to pitch to the Kristin Nelson Literary Agency and to Belinda Byrne of Penguin, the former more successfully than the latter. And of course, all conferences give you priceless titbits of information about all sorts of things relevant to the life of a writer. For instance, the Kristin Nelson Literary Agency receives around 650 queries a day. Yes, a day. They then request an ever diminishing number of partials and complete manuscripts, resulting in Kristin offering 3 authors representation last year—all of whom declined. Information like this can be incredibly depressing or liberating, but it certainly explains why writers are becoming increasing keen to bypass this whole process and launch their work directly onto Amazon or similar. The issue then of course is quality, which is a subject for another day and another blog.
Karen Simpson-Nikakis can be found at http://www.ksnikakis.com/ and her fantasy trilogy The Kira Chronicles is available now from Allen & Unwin.