Monday, June 27, 2011

Historical Novels Society conference

Recently I attended the Historical Novels Society conference in San Diego, and can't say enough good things about it.

There was an amazing slate of authors, so many great panels that I had a hard time selecting which to attend (typically, four panels per hour), and a great collection of agents and editors who generously shared their insider look at the business.

The high point for me was meeting Heather Lazare, Crown editor, and Michelle Moran, Crown author. Heather's actually my editor (I was very happily assigned to her after Allison McCabe, my editor for The Witch's Trinity, left publishing) and I had never met her. It was fantastic to have that opportunity, and to meet Michelle as well, whose career I heartily admire, over delicious fish tacos.

I was also thrilled to meet Vanitha Sankaran. We share an agent and I was delighted to have been able to blurb her lovely debut WATERMARK. Vanitha did a great job presenting on the Marquee Names panel, and I sat next to her at the booksigning where she signed them hand over fist. Nice work, Vanitha!

I also enjoyed meeting fellow witchcraft authors Mary Sharatt and Suzy Witten, and Sarah Johnson, the guru behind the conference, and Richard Scott, the genie behind the conference, and Gillian Bagwell, who did a great job in a nighttime reading session with Diana Gabaldon and CC Humphreys, and Christopher Cevasco, who I sat next to at dinner, and seeing again fun and wry Christopher Gortner.

I had great conversations with many folks and apologies if I'm not remembering names. I loved talking to the publishing attorney who is very close to finding representation (and thanks for buying multiple copies of my book! hugely appreciative) and the woman who wrote the Goddess tarot. Many other great interactions; sorry if I'm forgetting anyone.

I learned so much that it would be impossible to blog it all, but here are a few highlights that stick in my mind:

  • Sourcebooks editor Shana Drehs talked about cover art decisions, and said that most options for a single book she's ever seen was 124!
  • Heather Lazare and Michelle Moran also talked about cover art for MADAME TUSSAUD and the many iterations it took to come up with something everyone could live with (I love that cover and would adore seeing the also-rans)
  • Someone said it was integral to join Goodreads, and so I have!
  • Persia Woolley told of a online seminar in how to use Facebook better as an author
  • Someone spoke of the importance of being able to boil your novel down into a one-sentence pitch, and then a one-paragraph pitch. I do that with my mediabistro students, so it was confirming to hear that.
  • Shana Drehs talked of the exponential growth of ebooks, with a huge jump just between November 2010 and January 2011
  • She also said the point of writing is for the reader to feel "I'm awesome" while reading it. That generated a lot of reflection for me. How do we get a reader to feel like they're cool for reading our book?

The conference alternates between England and the U.S., so the next one will be held in London. Although I'd love to visit, it's far more likely my next foray will be the 2013 conference. Hope to see you there!

P.S. Amended later to add some more thoughts:
  • It was great seeing Cecelia Holland get a standing ovation for her keynote address. She said something in that speech that really got me thinking: "We'll never know more about this particular moment than we do right now."
  • Enjoyed speaking very briefly with Susanne Dunlap, Bethany Latham, Christy English, Susan Higginbotham, the two fabulous bloggers Heather of Maiden's Court and Allie of Hist Fic Chick and the nice aspiring author from the Crusades era who brought his dad (awww)
  • And finally, wanted to say that while I was happily reassigned to Heather Lazare, it was with great angst that I "lost" Allison McCabe, an incredible editor who shares my love of all things morbid and dental, and made my book so much better than it was before.

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