Saturday, October 12, was the date for this year's Super Saturday conference event organized by the Florida Romance Writer's chapter of Romance Writers of America. The theme of the conference was "The Changing Face of Publishing." The Keynote was delivered by Dianne Moggy, Harlequin's Vice President of Series Editorial and Subsidiary Rights. Moggy has worked as an editor for Harlequin for her entire career, and had much to tell us. Some of what she said we already know: Harlequin is the romance genre's most recognized brand, it's the only publisher with it's own section in bookstores and Target and Walmart, it is the most trusted by readers. What we didn't know: Harlequin publishes 1200 titles a year, by 859 authors, who write two books a year on average. Books are published in 35 languages. One of the big surprises for me was the manga. These were originally designed to be illustrated by Japanese authors and published on mobile platforms in Japan, but they are now also released in English. Take a look at a cover.
What keeps Dianne up at night is the issue of pricing. As this group has heard from other speakers, the practice of releasing books for free might not be giving the expected results. It might help an author to "permafree" (make a book available for free permanently) a book if it is the first in a series, and the first book hooks readers enough that they want to read—and pay for—the rest of the series. But it isn't a good practice for an author starting out.
As little as a year ago the average price of a digital bestseller was $9.12, but now it is two dollars less. Trying to release books at the right price is her biggest headache.
She left us with these words of advice: ignore the noise about self-published authors becoming bestsellers with their first book. Most authors need to have published at least seven books before their books really start to sell. And ignore the latest trend in writing; it will be over by the time you have written your book. So write what you want to write.
The keynote was followed by a panel of editors, managers, authors, and an agent.In addition to Moggy, panelists included:
Melissa Jeglinski, Literary Agent, The Knight Agency; Susan Boyd, Business Development Manager, Barnes and Noble; Heather Graham, New York Times Bestselling Author; Sophia Knightly, USA Today Bestselling Author
Mona Risk, Award Winning Author.
Some nuggets of wisdom from the panel: the New Adult genre is peaking but contemporary romance is doing well; expect to put as much effort into marketing a book as you did into writing it; readers love series, they love revisiting favorite characters again and again; when you reach critical mass as an author you need a "street team" to handle your social media.
The panel was followed by a "speed dating" session. As we sat at our conference tables and ate the box lunches generously donated by author (and chapter founding mother) Heather Graham, each of the panelists made the rounds and spent a few minutes answering our questions. Our table had Heather Graham autographing books, of course. Graham also told us about the workshop she organizes every December in New Orleans, which sounds irresistible. If you missed Super Saturday in South Florida, get yourself to New Orleans!
The speed dating was followed by workshops. I chose to attend the workshop on E-publishing led by Linda Conrad and Carol Stephenson. This meant I passed up a workshop on writing erotica led by Lisa Manuel and Aleka Nakis. No idea what went on there. In the e-publishing workshop I finally learned how Amazon's ranking system works and what BookBub is (how did I survive this long without that knowledge?).
After the speed dating came pitching and desserts. Melissa Jeglinski of the Knight Agency and Dianna Moggy took group pitches. Both were extremely generous with the writers pitching them, taking their time and getting into very supportive discussions.
Everyone else ate dessert from tables groaning with rum cake, brownies, cookies, chocolates, and coffee, or bought books sold by our favorite bookstore, Murder on the Beach. Baskets and critiques donated by different writers were raffled off.
When the desserts were gone we moved right to a local restaurant for dinner, and from there to the hotel for some poolside nightcaps.
I'm a new member of this chapter of Romance Writer's of America, and I was impressed and overwhelmed by how many women-hours went into organizing this event. Chapter President Rosemary Letson and Marcia King-Gamble led an army of volunteers with fabulous aplomb.