Saturday, January 26, 2008

Group Mentality

Yes, I know it's only January but already the "discussion" about the RWA National Conference in July (yes, July!) is making the rounds here in Blog Land. Everything from the fact that no Internet sites will be getting press passes this year to whether or not fans/bloggers/readers should even attend the conference.

Those of you who were wading through the romance blogs last year will recall that several of "us" attended RWA in Dallas. Jane, Sybil, KristieJ, myself, those swinging chicks at Smart Bitches to name a few. Now I obviously did not spend every waking moment with all of these ladies, but I'm pretty confident in saying that none of us hid behind potted palms with tape recorders, web cams, and notebooks. Frankly, none of us are that stealth, all of us were out in the open, and lordy we were all too damn tired to play hide-and-seek-for-nefarious-information. (I had no feeling in my lower extremities for about a week afterwards)

We all had a great time, hell I know I did. It was my third conference and by far the most enjoyable experience so far. I mingled, I mixed, I met many great people. So it was a bit of a surprise (to poor naive me at least) to return home only to have Blog Land erupt after the fact that the evil blogger/readers were there. KristieJ excluded because everybody loves her and she wouldn't know "evil" if it smacked her upside the head.

Since then there's been the question in some quarters whether or not "readers" or "fans" should even attend the conference. Let me preface this by saying that RWA has in no way shape or form said "we" can't attend. They've only said we can't get in for free on a press pass. "We" are still welcome to attend as long as we pay the cover charge. And that's cool! They have their reasons, all of which involve money/cost. No, I've seen these comments elsewhere and I'm feeling verbose. So here it is:

Should "fans" attend RWA? My answer is that it depends on the fan. Just like the RT Convention with it's costume balls and male cover models won't be for everybody, neither is RWA. What "fans" need to understand is that RWA National is a writer's conference. Certainly the Literacy Signing is for "fans" and you don't need to pay the conference fee to attend that. Any Joe Schmoe off the street is welcome to walk right through the front door! But other than that? The workshops are geared towards both published and unpublished writers. There are agent appointments. Writers meet with their editor(s). It's very business oriented. That's not to say that people don't have fun - but it's an opportunity for authors to network outside of their own local RWA chapter. Also, it might be one of the few opportunities for writers to actually "see" their editor(s)/agent face-to-face.

So why would "fans" want to attend? Well, I think fans can get a lot out of the conference depending on their interests. I've attended workshops in the past that caught my eye. I know for a fact that KristieJ attended one last year on web site design. I also really enjoy the Publisher Showcases, which is where most of the major publishers spotlight upcoming titles and what "they're looking for" when it comes to queries. Although I'll admit I can only hear,"We aren't interested in westerns because westerns aren't selling in this market right now" so many times before I want to scream. Sure, finding this stuff out is great for my librarian gig, but it's also of interest to me as a "fan" because dang I'm nothing if not a major book whore.

That said, cost is a major factor. Most fans aren't RWA members, so that means a higher registration fee. Also, this year's conference is in San Francisco, which even by California standards, is a pricey city. Fun as hell, but pricey. I can afford to go, but after looking at the hotel, registration fee (and I am an RWA member) and the fact that I'll have to pay to park my car (yes, I'll be driving), I still went to The Boyfriend and said, "Uh, whatta think?" Cause it did give me pause. It's my damn frugal Midwestern blood. By the by, he told me to go because "it's good for your job and you'll have fun." What a guy.

So should fans go? I think the policy of allowing fans to attend should continue, and RWA has given absolutely no indication that they want to rethink this. The ultimate answer though is that it depends. Can the fan afford it? Will the format of the conference appeal? Does the fan think she'll get enough out of it to justify the cost? For me, that answer is yes. But that answer won't be yes for everybody. Ultimately the choice belongs to the fan. I say if you think you'll enjoy it, promise not to behave like an asshole and ruin it for the rest of us, the more the merrier. Because honestly, everybody seemed genuinely happy to have us there last year. It was only after the fact, under the cloak of anonymity that any kind of kerfuffle ensued. And ain't that always the way?


Rosie said...

I'm waffling because I hate the feeling that underneath it all I'm not welcome. For another thing I'm NOT a librarian who will be making purchases of books the RWA members are writing and I'm NOT a blogger putting up huge numbers. I AM an avid fan though. I haven't had the nerve to check out cost yet. I've been saving since last July, so I guess we'll just have to see.

Are you registered yet?

Nikki said...

I, too am waffling. I am pretty sure I will attend. My aunt lives a BART train ride away so I am thinking of staying with her. My family would come, too. They want to sight see in SF. How long do I have to make up my mind? If I want to register in April, will I be too late?

Wendy said...

Rosie: We already talked :)

Nikki: The conference fee is $500 for non-RWA members, which is a big chunk of change. You know what I think I would do in your situation? I'd take that family vacation to San Fran, and come to the Literacy Signing. It's honestly the coolest event, there's usually 400+ authors there, plus it's FREE and OPEN to anybody. The only cost to you would be if you purchased any books (which, hello, you probably would).

As for when to register? RWA could close registration if they fill up. So if you think money might be an issue, that's why I recommend just the Literacy Signing. You get to experience the best event at the conference and it's FREE! Plus, you could always hook up with me and whomever else at the bar or for dinner one night. For readers I think it boils down to expense, and if they're interested in the workshops.

Feel free to e-mail me if this makes no sense :)

Lori said...

I had planned to come as well. No plane fare is a very exciting propsect. I really hate the idea that fans would be unwelcome, but I've come just for the literacy signing before (and for the Suz Brockmann fan dinner), and had a fabulous time.

Of course, I would definitely welcome the opportunity to meet up with anyone who is planning to go, as well!

Kristie (J) said...

I've been a) internetless and/or b) out of town when this news broke. But my thoughts are I lucked out last year. Jane included me on her press pass. I fully expected that if I attended again, it would be by paying a hefty sum by either getting an RWA membership and/or paying the conference price. I'm not sure if I will be attending the next one or not - not because I didn't have The Best Time last year, but because I've sunk a boatload of money into a total kitchen overhaul. So I have no problem with the fact many of us 'bloggers' are supposed to pay the 'cover' price. As for readers/bloggers attending, at the risk of *chuckle* putting on my 'nice' hat, my feelings are similar to yours in that this is a WRITERS conference and it's their time. They are there to network and meet fellow craft people. It concerns their business and their way of making a living. If they want to mingle with readers who attend - great - those of us who go would love it because we obviously go because we love the genre. But if authors don't want to mingle with readers, that is too be respected and understood as well. Because it's not a readers conference - it's a writers conference and that should be understood by readers.

Carolyn Crane said...

It really seems to me that more central, heavily trafficked blogs really are some of the most important press and review engines for the romance genre. If press has a place there, blogs like yours should go free.

Wendy said...

Kristie: Some readers are naturally curious about the business, craft, or are interested in writing themselves. One of the cool things about RWA is the resources it provides to unpublished/aspiring writers. But if you aren't interested in any of that stuff? It might not be worth it. Although I highly encourage everyone to go to at least one Literacy Signing in their lifetime.

Do you think I described the experience well enough? Gah! And good luck on the kitchen renovations. I've been thinking of you!

Wendy said...

Carolyn: Ha! My blog is teeny tiny. Plus, I barely cover industry news. I did inquire about a press pass last year because at the time I was still affiliated with The Romance Reader and figured the worst RWA would say was "no." Which they did. And I was fine with that, but figured it didn't hurt to ask.

I like the conference and get a lot out of it because they do traditionally host a librarian event. Also, it's a chance for me to touch base with publishing reps. I love it as a fan as well, but admittedly the cost might be more prohibitive to me if I didn't get so much out of it for my job.

Jane said...

I'm so glad that you are going Wendy. It is expensive and it does give me pause, but I had a great time last year and definitely want to reconnect with others that I've met.

Jill D. said...

Do you know where the conference is next year (2009)? San Francisco is to far for me. I am all the way down in Florida. I think the literary signing sounds like a lot of fun. Basically, the reason why I would want to attend is to meet everyone; writers and bloggers. Actually, I hate to be the one to admit it, but the RT readers convention, sounds more like my cup of tea :)

Last summer I just loved the commentary that was done by Dear Author, Smart Bitches and Sybil and Kristie. I was glued to the computer for those couple of days. I absolutely LOVED, LOVED seeing the pictures and the minute to minute coverage on the RITA awards. If there was media coverage from a "national" publication. I was not aware of it.

Wendy said...

Jane: And I'm glad you're going too! Are you going to volunteer again this year?

Jill: RWA has a list of future conference sites on their web site. 2009 is D.C. If you can wait until 2013, they'll be in Atlanta! LOL

And there's no shame in admitting that RT is more your speed. It obviously appeals to many people or else they wouldn't host an event every year!

Publisher's Weekly did run the RITA winners, but it was after the fact. The only place I know where you could get "real time" results was Dear Author. KristieJ text-messaged the results on Jane's iPhone, and then Jane posted the results. Good thing too. RWA had planned to do something similar on their site, but they ended up having web site complications due to increased traffic....

Kathryn S said...

Well, as far as I'm concerned, you bloggers/readers are more than welcome at RWA! How else will everyone else in internet land find out that some of us are super cool, fabulous people? :-)

I go to RWA because I love seeing my author friends and meeting all the industry people. But the biggest reason I go is because it's the one time out of the year where I can dress up, talk about work and meet people who think my job is really cool. Seriously, all the fans that show up make me feel like a supah star. I'd be bummed if that stopped.


Wendy said...

Kathryn: And RWA has given no indication that they plan on stopping "fans/readers/bloggers" from attending - we just gotta pony up like everybody else. While I might not entirely agree with their definition of "who is the press?", I totally understand how/why they came to that decision.

It is a pricey event, and if you're "just a reader" it might not be worth it. But that's naturally up to the individual reader. I always endorse the Literacy Signing though cuz frankly that's just the coolest thing evuh.

And I have made it my mission this year to read through some of the TBR - which means my embarrassing backlog of your books! Honestly, I keep collecting them, but I've only read two. Gah! I really do have a sickness.

Kathryn S said...

Wendy, as long as you keep collecting, I'm happy! lol.

And yes, I'll agree that RWA is costly if you're not someone who will get something out of the workshops other than hearing your fave author speak. I think that's why a lot of publishers organize things like signings and appearances outside of the conference.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I would love to go because I love San Fran and to meet fellow bloggers and authors would be my dream!
I would be behind a plant, but probably from major shyness.
But Wendy, that is a good idea to just go to the literary signing and just get the word out that you will be in SF for a few days and meet up with people.
And 2009 in DC!! I WILL BE THERE. Love love DC :)