I really enjoyed this conference, not least because once again I got to meet in person some of my long-time blogging friends or fellow authors attached to the same publisher as I am. And the good thing is, they were all recognisable from their photos! The campus itself has a lovely rural setting, although there was quite a walk between the accommodation and the main RNA hub. One plus was the fact we stayed at the hub for the whole working day once the sessions began. Breakfast and dinner were served in the Barker House Farm building which was only a hop, skip or jump from our comfortable student rooms.
On the Friday after our not so far train journey, my friend Joan and I had an hour to kill so we strolled through the campus to the very acceptable Costa for a much needed coffee and cake. The students are very lucky at this campus as it's quite self-sufficient, with Post Office, shops and a Health Centre - I think I even heard someone mention a Spa! The danger is they might not want to leave for the big wide world at the end. We passed this lovely lilypond with goldfish on the way and it's one of the few photos I managed this year as I was enjoying the talks too much to remember to take any.
These are the sessions I attended to give you a flavour of what was on offer:
|Liz Fenwick and Brigid Coady|
I learned a few new things here, or at least a reminder of what is possible, including using key words around our writing, keeping the essential essence and values of the author across all platforms and social interaction, using consistent brand on book covers. Much of it was about this idea of brand and knowing how to describe our own type of writing. Much to read over and digest.
Building your Writing Career: a panel with Carole Blake, Iona Grey, Freda Lightfoot, Felicity Trew and Alison May
I didn't take many notes during this session as it was more a case of absorbing the discussion points, including the possibility of changing an author name for a new start, learning from failures and believing in ourselves.
Writing a Commercial Novel: Kate Bradley (Harper Fiction) and Aex Brown (one of their authors)
I really enjoyed this talk and came away quite inspired and encouraged when I heard that fiction with older heroines is now popular, as is vintage/cosy fiction at the moment. Kate mentioned that sagas were even beginning to come back but the location was important. Harper also have their digital first imprint, Harper Impulse, and they are actively seeking submissions.
The Business of self-Publishing: Tracy Bloom, Katy Haye and Ian Skillicorn
Another interesting discussion about the growth and respectability of self-publishing, including the importance of studying other books (covers in particular) promotion through book bloggers, Facebook Ads, proper keywords on Amazon. They also mentioned Public Liability Insurance and Indemnity Insurance (check the Society of Authors for their offers now and then).
|Friends Joan and Gwen|
Always good to hear about current or future plans and members' opinions.
Film: Love Between the Covers: Directed by Laurie Khan
I was looking forward to watching this documentary style film about mostly the American romance market, authors and readers and I really enjoyed it. In fact some of the authors' stories were so moving that I welled up a few times and it made me proud to be a romantic fiction author. Most of the women showed how empowered they became when their work started to be published and, as you would expect in the USA, the readers were incredibly supportive of authors, not to mention the number of books they consumed!
Reaching the Top in Commercial Fiction: Clio Cornish and Charlotte Mursell (HQ)
Another fascinating talk by two of the editors from the huge Harlequin stable - now part of Harper Collins with their vast number of sales people! They covered positioning your book by genre and audience, the one-line pitch sell, what makes it unique, the necessity of the main character's journey, connecting with readers on social media (use hashtags), the submission process and some of their preferences - includes Psychological suspense, a dash of speculative fiction, commercial literary fiction, older characters/wisdom, but it sounded as though they cover everything.
Murder Investigation - fact or fiction: Stuart Gibbon and Steve Wade
I was looking forward to this as it was a great change from purely romance and was delivered by an ex DI (who also works with authors) and a crime historian. In the event, it was excellent, with lots of details that could be incorporated into romantic and historical fiction as well as crime novels. They also provided links and book lists for further reading. One of my favourite sessions.
The Importance of Cover Design: Jane Dixon-Smith
Since I now self-publish a couple of books, I was most interested in hearing more about the importance of design. Very useful, although I already knew the theory of some of it and now need to learn how to actually do it a bit better! It covered typography, colours, communicating correct message and good quality images.
|Me, Gwen and Joan at Gala Dinner|
One of the advantages of being further north this time was the quicker journey home by train and I'm so pleased I managed to attend. I also got to meet the new Publishing Manager at Magna Large print in a wonderful moment of serendipity and being willing to speak to strangers (in a welcoming way). So lots of ideas, things to do and encouragement to keep going in this uncertain but exciting writing world.