Last Thursday, I headed up to London for an Industry Panel organised by the Romantic Novelists' Association. The panel was chaired by Christina Courtenay and on the panel we had Gillian Green, Editorial Director with Ebury Publishing, Cathy Rentzenbrink who works for Waterstones, and Carrie Kania, an agent with Conville & Walsh.
First of all, I will apologise for the fact I didn't take notes and this is all from memory, so I will miss some points that were made on the day. You just have to hope my brain isn't depriving you of any gems. If it makes you feel better - it's depriving me of said gems as well.
Advise for new writers
- Write from your heart.
- Don't try and guess what the next big thing is, just write a good story.
- Just keep going. Don't give up!
- When approaching publishers and agents it's best not to label yourself, especially with a mix of two authors. For (really bad) example, I'm somewhere between J.K Rowling and Stephen King.
- It it up to the publisher/agent to decide where your style sits, don't decide (and add an unlikely comparison to the current best-sellers) in your cover letter.
The Power of Book Clubs
- Book clubs over in America have been behind the success of books like 'The Help.'
- It's good to get involved with book clubs and worth joining one as a writer.
What do readers want to see in Women's Fiction?
- The panel said it's not so much about the traditional boy meets girl anymore.
- Readers prefer the heroine to face a dilemma. Carrie Kania called this type of work Moral Lit.
- It's still all about good stories.
What makes the panel pick out a book/story?
- Cathy from Waterstones pointed out how author interaction can make a difference. She receives a desk load of books every week, but had selected one out and popped it in her handbag for three reasons. The book was A Cornish House by Liz Fenwick. Her reasons for selecting it were her own connection with Cornwall, the cover and Liz's personable interactions on twitter.
- Carrie mentioned that it is the sentence that stands out for her. All the things like character and plotting can be advised on, but it is how the author forms sentences that makes a piece stand out for her.
Paperback vs. ebooks
- They talked about ebooks and how that is changing, but they believe this will still exist alongside paperback books. The UK market continues to evolve and is playing catch up to the US market.
- There was talk about Amazon and the role it plays. The panel was asked if they are worried about Amazon starting their own publications, but they all said they would wait and see.
Agents as publishers
- The panel was asked about the fact that some agents are trying to become publishers over in America and whether this is something set to continue. They agreed the roles of agent/publisher/editor are separate.
Like I said, I've included the bits I've remembered. There was more, but I've never been one for noting things down as I prefer to take it all in. I'd never make it as a journalist, but there you go.
There was not an ounce of doom and gloom. I came away feeling very optimistic... or was that because I was heading to the pub?
|Photo taken by Liz Harris|