So picture this. Two thousand conference goers, editor and agent get togethers, two house guests, parties, booksignings, workshops, business meetings, a particularly noisy hotel and writers I hadn’t seen in years. Add this up and you get . . . exhaustion!
I just returned from the Romance Writers of America conference in Washington DC, and now that it’s over and my last guest is on her flight home, I’m assessing what I brought home with me, besides a handful of novels I received in my bag at registration.
First of all, a strong desire for a good night’s sleep. Second, pleasure at seeing friends I love. Third, some interesting state of the market “gossip.” Fourth, relief that editors are still buying books and readers are still reading them. I learned there’s an ever widening spectrum of “romantic” novels being published, from erotica to inspirational, with a strong dose of paranormal. Vampires are IN, but you knew that, right? Mr. Darcy is still, all these centuries later, everybody’s hero.
Just a side note? As usual I discovered that I am not setting trends. You will not find vampires or Mr. Darcy, in my non-erotic, non-inspirational (at least in the strictest sense) novels. Let me know if this bothers you, okay? But don’t expect it to change.
One trend that seems clear? Books are going to be shorter. Not only are attention spans narrower, paper shortages and shelf space dictate this. For instance an imprint where I cut my writing teeth, has dropped 25,000 words from its novels.
A good friend and I sat over tabouleh and hummus at lunch and tried to figure out how anyone could write the “same” kind of story we told in 25,000 additional words. My suggestion? A website with lists of basic information to go along with each book. For instance, when you, the reader, gets to the point where you need a description of the character, we, the authors, simply insert “Character D” in our text, then you go online and look up Character D at your leisure, so you can picture him or her and learn what you need most to know. We could even provide photographs, horoscopes, tributes from his/her mother and former romantic partners. The same idea would work beautifully for plot problems. Character D discovers she must overcome Problem K in order to work her way toward an important goal (Goal Q.)
Of course I’m only teasing. But only just. Because reading online and paperless (ebooks) are no longer ideas for the future. I have a Sony eReader and use it frequently. And, of course, without paper and shelf space to worry about, books can be as long as they need to be, if you, the reader, is willing to plow through them.
When did I realize that these changes were well and truly here, and the conference I’d attended for more than a decade would never be the same again? I knew for certain when this year, instead of a two inch thick packet of workshop handouts–the norm at previous conferences–we received a flash drive. The flash drive is the size of my thumb. And it holds the secrets of the conference universe.
Are you ready for the changes that are already here? While you’re trying to answer that, just don’t forget the good news. There are thousands of publishing professionals devoted to bringing you the books you most want to read, no matter the format in which you read them. Some things may change. Trends come and go. But stories that entertain and enlighten? They are a given. You can count on that.