Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Outnumbered at the RNA Conference 2013

This is an extra post. Followers of the ups, downs, and bizarre happenings in C and I's relationship need not fear. What happened (according to Caroline) when she went to a business dinner with someone trying to sell her software will be revealed shortly. So will some of Caroline. But the reader is king, or queen, and a reader wants to know what happened when I attended the Romantic Novelists annual conference in Sheffield last weekend.

Shameless Ambition is not strictly speaking a novel. It's a factual account of what happened when Caroline met the famous German banker, Herbert Von Wolfswinkle. Some of the names were changed (see 4. below) to avoid further work for people like me. Neither is it very romantic, unless your idea of romance is a sex club in Copenhagen.

However, the RNA is a broad church and publishers have to find a label for books which enables readers to find them. Steam eReads helped me understand that Caroline's exhibitionism and the consequences of her indiscretions were in fact Romantic Suspense, even though some people laugh quite a lot.

The book having gone out into the world, I needed to know something about writing and publishing, in case Caroline agrees to let people know what happened when she tried to track down her natural mother and fell into the clutches of a dangerous, manipulative woman. Yes, there could be more Shameless titles.

That is how I came to spend the weekend with nearly three hundred women and at least two other men. Did I learn anything useful? Here's the list:
  1. Pink is a popular colour but I changed my pink shiny goody-bag for a Sainsbury's carrier for the journey home. The pink identification lanyard complemented every outfit (see below).
  2. Mills and Boon is still going strong - stronger than ever in terms of titles published, and stronger in content too.
  3. Women bring several pairs of shoes to wear for a weekend even when it's too hot to wear even sandals because the air-con has broken.
  4. When giving fictional characters a name, be careful not to inadvertently use the name of someone you once knew and is now a lawyer specialising in libel cases.
  5. The big four UK publishers are creating new imprints, digital and multi-platform, faster than you can say Bondage, Domination, Sadism, and Masochism. So fast, they've shortened it to BDSM.
  6. ePublishing means you can go all cross-genre. Paranormal steam punk meets traditional romance anyone?
  7. There are many delightful people of advanced years who have published a whole bookshop of novels and have kept up with the times. In the Q&A one speculated that dolphin sex could be the next big thing.
  8. One of the women, Gill, who has published over 30 M&B medical romances is a man called Roger Sanderson. Check on a popular search engine if you don't believe me.
  9. It is the older hands that are making money from their books. They get up at 5am, write five thousand words before breakfast and stay up all night on global social networking sites. They lunch, if at all, with their accountant, and the accountant pays. If they go on a cruise they stay in their cabin and write so it's tax deductible.
  10. The publishers are sparky and upbeat women who leap around on the shifting sands of the publishing world and smash the balls back to the other side (the writers) like a beach volleyball slam dunk.
  11. They are looking for incredible, unique fiction which is totally different, emotionally compelling and has instant commercial and mass market appeal. Got that?
  12. Everything happens very quickly now, except authors receiving any money.
  13. Transmedia publishing is a new term, but no one is sure what it means.
  14. However, when making a proposition (pitching a book, not what you do after too much wine), emphasise the transmedia potential of your dazzling concept.
  15. You have got to have a social media presence, but no-one knows which bit of tweeting, facebooking, or blogging, if any, has an impact on sales. You must have faith, it's the new religion.
  16. Julie Cohen (http://www.julie-cohen.com ) does a great workshop. (There are other good workshop providers.) She made us think even though it was 100 degrees in the hall and people were making fans out of the programme. I believe Julie could help anyone in the daily struggle to write better books.
  17. If your plot leads to integral and unavoidable sex scenes, follow Sue Moorcroft's ( http://suemoorcroft.com/ ) advice; don't call it a willy, good sex happens between compatible people, bad sex is fun to write, people sometimes speak during sex, and sex has consequences. Oh yes, yes, yes it does.
  18. The secret of instant acclaim and financial success is writing lots of really good and polished books until well beyond retirement age. Simple.
  19. What was it like being in a crowd that was one per cent male? At times I felt invisible, but never unwelcome. People were friendly from the moment I arrived, and I arrived not knowing a single soul. When I left I had met a lot of very good writers, and I met another one in the taxi to the station, Denise Barnes (http://denisebarneswriter.com/)
  20. I got some terrible stick at the pub when Caroline told the landlord where I had spent the weekend.

Back to the plot next time.


  1. Great post Robert. Very enlightening!

    1. People thought I was tweeting but was checking the test match score.

  2. A brilliant expose of the RNA at Conference!!! :) (from another male)


  3. Not exactly an expose, would you say? I'm always there under false pretences anyway, because I write crime...

    1. No, not too much exposed in case Caroline read it.

  4. You stuck out like a sore thumb! haha - exactly what every writer hopes to do!! Sorted.

  5. I should have brought my frock and heels!

  6. Can't argue with any of your points, Robert! However, the weather did prevent us from showing our true colours since it was too hot to congregate in the bar, which is where we usually do most of our networking, whilst doing our bit to support the wine trade!

    Roll on next year.

  7. I had a fab time at conference, and indeed drafted a sex scene in the bar while I was there (whilst muttering to myself "Don't call it a willy, don't call it a willy...")

    1. The dedication to your art is commendable. I shall try drafting a sex scene next time I go to The Oddfellows for a pint.

  8. Sounds like you had fun. I certainly did. It's nice to see some blokes at the conference. I imagine it must have been a bit weird, but we're usually a friendly bunch.


Who are these people?

The world is divided into voyeurs and exhibitionists... It takes one of each to make a good marriage.

Robert and Caroline Fanshaw are an ambitious young couple trying to make their way in a complex world.

What happens when their private affairs collide with world events and the big issues of our times? Drama, comedy and x-rated scenes.

email fanshawrobert@gmail.com