Monday, July 15, 2013

RT and RWA

So on Tuesday I head off to the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference, and I’m really stoked about it. If it’s like last year, there should be great workshops, interesting publisher spotlights, and free books by the cartload. But a lot of the people last year had a very odd reaction when I mentioned the Romantic Times convention (RT to most of us)—they were slightly horrified at the suggestion that they might enjoy it. Now lest you think that’s because RWA is made up of staid dowagers, let me say that I got a similar reaction when I mentioned RWA at RT. More than one person assured me they would never set foot in RWA.

I think that’s a real shame on both counts. I’ve gone to RT three times now and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. I intend to be there in New Orleans in 2014. But I loved my experience at RWA last year too. I’m already thinking about San Antonio next year. In fact, I’d recommend that romance writers and aspiring romance writings attend both conferences, as long as you’re clear on the differences between them.

RT is largely a fan conference. There are workshops, but they tend to be more oriented toward readers than writers—you get to hear famous writers talking about their books and what they’d like to do in the future. And the parties are both epic and open to everybody. In many ways, in fact, RT is a non-stop party with a lot of romance writers thrown in to spice things up. And there’s nothing wrong with that! I feel like I have to emphasize this because occasionally the non-stop party aspect of RT is held up as a reason to skip it. On the contrary, I’d say it’s a reason to go. You get to meet both readers and writers in a more relaxed social atmosphere, and that can be a lot of fun.

RWA is a professional conference. That means the workshops are largely geared toward professional concerns—self publishing, dealing with agents and editors, new trends in genres, etc. It’s enormously informative, sometimes so much so that you head back to your room just to let your brain relax a little. You do have opportunities to meet famous authors, but it’s usually in a workshop setting where they may be talking about things related to craft or the profession (e.g., last year Susan Mallery talked extensively about the whole publishing process and how to make it to the New York Times bestseller list). There are parties and receptions at RWA, but they’re frequently limited to writers who are published by a particular line (Harlequin has a famous party, for example, but it’s only for Harlequin authors).

And just to take care of a couple of misconceptions: 1) RT is not a bacchanal. Yes, there are male cover models around (and they’re usually nice guys and good sports), but so far as I know there are no orgies, although maybe I just wasn’t invited to the right parties. 2) RWA is not actively hostile to digital authors. This may have been true a few years ago, but it’s definitely not true now. In fact, more and more of the Old Guard at RWA are heading into self publishing so they’re definitely interested in ebooks, and most traditional publishers have developed ebook lines.

So two conference with two different vibes. Which should you go to? Again, I’d argue for both. The professional information you get at RWA is invaluable, plus you’ll find many more publishing types there for you to network with. The social experience you get at RT is a treat, and you’ll get to network with other authors in a much less structured setting. As the great Guy Clark said (in a somewhat different context), “Long as you’re handin’ it out, Lord, I’ll take a little of both.”


Jennifer said...

I agree that both conferences are valuable, but in very different ways. I'm already regretting missing RWA this year, and absolutely intend to go next year. As for RT in NOLA? Hell yes! Can't wait. Have a great time in Atlanta!

Meg Benjamin said...

Thanks, Jenny. See you in San Antonio next year!

Skylar Kade said...

Good to know that RWA is more open to digital--now if they'd just get with the erotic romance program!

I'd love to go to both conferences next year, but I wish they were a little farther apart.

PG Forte said...

They're both great experiences. I find the RWA workshops a little more informative in general, but of course that's a really broad generalization. If I were looking for a new agent or trying to break into a new market I'd consider going to RWA more often. But I'm not and I feel like I get more out of interacting with readers, at this point.

Kate Davies said...

It's been a long time since I've been to either RT or RWA, but your assessment seems spot-on to me. Wish I could be there this week!

Erin Nicholas said...

That's my problem too, Sky.. they're so close together. with kids and work that's hard. But I'm gonna make both one of these years! Have a great time, Meg!