New Beginnings and Inspiration

Well here I am, freshly returned from the RWA National Conference. I’m full of hope and inspiration, and I can’t think of a better feeling to have as I start my new blog on my new website.

The RWA National Conference is all about sharing. The most wonderful, warm, and accomplished collection of writers, editors, and agents get together and selflessly share their knowledge, talent, and connections. In keeping with that munificent spirit, I want to dedicate my first few blog entries to sharing what I learned at the conference. I would do it all at once, but the most important thing anyone at the conference will tell you is it’s all about writing the dang books. So I have promised myself to keep my blog entries short and my novel entries long.

Today I will cover the tips I received at the PRO Retreat:

The keynote address was given by Carolyn Pittis – SVP, Global Marketing Strategy and Operations, HarperCollins. She discussed the changing publishing industry (basically it’s still in flux and changing at the speed of light) and how the Internet is a powerful marketing tool that the savvy writer will embrace. She noted Gretchen Ruben, author of The Happiness Project, as a self-promoting powerhouse. Additionally, Ms. Pittis shared some book titles and websites of interest:

• Klout – a website that gives authors a way to measure how much market power they (or any other players) have in the market place.
• The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk – a book about the power of social media, communities, and real people on your business and brand
• Publisher’s Lunch – a free blog from Michael Cader at Publisher’s Marketplace (note: the free version is the lean version – there is a more detailed version for members at a cost of approximately $20 a month)
• – an educational and networking resource regarding the digital publishing industry
• Peter Hildick-Smith – The Codex Group – – a website used for author equity research
• Avon Impulse – A new Avon imprint; digital first

Ms. Pittis believes all authors should do/have/visit the following:

• A Facebook Fan Page
• Go out to other authors’ pages/websites and say “I love you” type stuff and they should do the same in return for you – give in order to get.
• Twitter
• Get consumer feedback
• (HarperCollins) – a site where authors may post their writing and have it rated by fans. Those rated the highest will be read by editors at HarperCollins and possibly offered contracts.
• Watch what works for other authors
• If you choose to do self-publishing, do your homework.

Next up was Michelle Grajowski, 3 Seas Literary Agency (, and Cathy McDavid (, author of several novels for Harlequin American and Dorchester. Their topic was the agent-author relationship. Here are their tips, along with questions authors should be asking themselves as they seek representation:

• What are your career plans/goals?
• How many books can you write a year?
• How do you want to work together/communicate with your agent?
• YOU are hiring the agent, not the other way around.
• NEVER be afraid of your agent.
• It is first and foremost a business relationship. Friendship is fine, too, but don’t lose sight of the business side of the relationship.
• Communication is vitally important.
• Is the agent knowledgeable of the current trends?
• When the agent and author disagree, the author should prevail (without being unreasonable). The relationship should feel good and never be toxic.

Michelle was asked what are the three top things she seeks in a brand new author. Her response:

• Professionalism
• Amazing, unique, strong story
• Networking and promotion

Lastly, both Michelle and Cathy emphasized the importance of not being negative. Don’t slam agents/editors, especially in public.

Next was a panel of four PAN authors, sharing their experience and ideas:

Manda Collins (How to Dance with a Duke,

• Hold out for the best deal you can get.

Renee Ryan (multi-published with Harlequin Love Inspired

• “Success is commitment without compromise.” (Will Smith)
• Persistence – if something doesn’t work, figure out why and fix it!
• Learn to critique your own writing.
• Love your craft.
• Act like a working writer before you become a published author – finish your manuscript, start another, and submit.

Vicki Lewis Thompson (NY Times best seller with over 100 books to her name

• You need a thick skin, plus a brave, true heart
• Be brave and keep trying
• Get the RIGHT agent
• Network and make friends

Kieran Kramer (When Harry Met Molly,

• Love yourself. Love the little girl you were – open, happy, loved life.
• Know why you write – what do you want to say to the world?
• Find your own personal joy.

One last thing I got from the PRO Retreat, and I believe this came from Cherry Adair (multi-published NY Times bestselling author, as she accepted her award for PRO Mentor of the Year: 80% of Americans say they want to write a novel. Of that 80%, only 5% actually try to do it. Of that 5%, only 2% actually finish a manuscript (I’m not sure if all of that 2% actually submit it to a publisher). But, wow, wasn’t that an inspirational piece of information? So for those of us who have finished our manuscript, congratulations! We are in elite company. For those of you who haven’t finished one yet, keep going! We can’t wait for you to join us!

Wow. See how long this entry turned out to be anyway? And that was just one session! Granted, it was a long one, lasting all afternoon. My next entries, focusing on workshops I attended, will be shorter. I promise!


18 responses to “New Beginnings and Inspiration

  1. Beppie Harrison

    Not having been at Conference this year, I am drinking up all the miscellaneous bits of wisdom imparted there — thanks for sharing!

  2. Maura, the blog/site is gorgeous! And thank you for sharing what you learned at the PRO retreat. I couldn’t stay; I had to catch another workshop and then get to the literacy signing to help a friend there (and meet Diana Gabaldon; squee!). Great job! I’m looking forward to hearing more from you! I’m kinda glad NY survived our visit, but I’m sure it was touch-and-go there for a bit, wasn’t it? 🙂

  3. You’re welcome! Hope we can both be there next year! 🙂

  4. Thanks, Carla! Absolutely touch and go – even NYC is no match for the power of 2,000 dedicated women!!

  5. Great stuff, Maura!

  6. I, too, had to duck out of PRO retreat early, so thanks for the summary! It was great meeting you at Nationals.

  7. Great post, Maura! Congrats on your new site. Thanks for sharing the conference scoop! I wasn’t able to make it so I really appreciate it!

  8. Maura, Renee is in my chapter and she’s such an amazing woman. I hang on to every word she says.

    Met Cherry Adair last year and it was my favorite conference experience. 🙂

    • Renee is great. Aside from the PRO panel, she was on the panel of one of the workshops I took, and she was the moderator of another session. I didn’t get a chance to speak with her personally, but I was impressed by her presentations and generosity of spirit.

      This year was the first time I met Cherry Adair. Besides hearing her speak at the PRO Retreat, I had the opportunity to chat briefly with her at the St. Martin’s book signing. She is a delight to talk to, and is also blessed with a generous heart.

      This is what I love about romance authors – the wonderful way writers of all levels can learn, interact, and share.

  9. I loved Cherry’s numbers at the PRO Retreat. While listening to everyone else was informative and inspiring, Cherry’s numbers really wowed me.

    Love the site!

    • Thanks. I loved that statistic, too. Very inspiring. It reminded me that even though we’re still chasing the dream of being published, we have already accomplished so much. Yay for us!

  10. Yay! I’m so glad you were able to attend the conference! I’m still jealous. I do plan on getting my work out there one day. There has got to be some way I can combine a PhD and a novel, right?? 🙂

    Anyway, it sounds like you had a ton of fun and learned a lot. I know I’ve been off the map lately, but I’m still thinking about you and your success! I can’t wait for your novels to be in my hands! I will use my pitiful grad allowance to buy everything you write!

    I get to say I knew her way back when….we played Mafia Wars (alas, that had to end for me 😦 ) And you, me, and Shae would write, read, critique, and dream of the day we’d go to the RWA conference and become famous novelists. Ahhh… You’re there, baby!

  11. Thanks so much, Dyann!! I am so glad we found each other (and Shae, too!) on that loop. I miss our blogging exploits, but I’m also glad that we have all moved on to our next stages. We are following our dreams and we will all get there. I know I’m going to see your name in print and I also know i will be first on line to buy my copy!

    Hope your studies are going well – I plan on you being one of my major resources if I ever decide to dabble in writing historicals!! 🙂

    Miss you so much on Mafia Wars, but I know what an awful time suck it can be, so i understand. Someday I will be strong enough to walk away…..

  12. Hi Maura…I just stumbled on your PRO Retreat review. NICE! Am proud of your nice comments. The speakers really raised the roof, didn’t they? And Cherry? What a gal!

  13. It was a great retreat, Cyndi. You and all your volunteers/committee members outdid yourselves. Bravo!!! 🙂

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