Virginia Festival of the Book. I live in the area and go to something every year. Most of the events are free to attend. I went to three panels. The first was a Science Fiction & Fantasy panel with R.S. Belcher (Six-Gun Tarot), D. B. Jackson, aka David Coe (Thieves' Quarry), Leona Wisoker (Fires of the Desert), and Colleen Doran (The Vampire Diaries). They talked about a lot about the publishing, but also offered some nice world building advice, like people are people no matter where or what time you're in. Everyone has the same basic complaints, concerns, and desires. It's sounds like common sense, but sometimes we writers can get so lost in how different and new our story settings are that we lose perspective and flounder with how people would act. Well, people are going to act like people. Simple as that.
The next day I went to the next two panels which were part of a mini-festival, LoveFest. The first one was a publishing focused topic: Publishing Alchemy: How Romance Authors Quickly Master New Publishing Trends. The panel had Tina Glasneck (Thou Shall Not), Jane Friedman, Alma Katsu (The Descent), Paige Wheeler , Laura Kaye (Hard As You Can), Madeline Iva (Dark Desires). This was a very interesting panel because Alma Katsu is a communications specialist and Jane Friedman produces a magazine devoted to this (Scratch). The talk about co-ops and how they can work, and why romance authors may have taken to the new publishing trends more quickly than other genres--The reason being, romance is the primary money maker in books now. Romance authors and publishers can take more risks because the market is so strong that it's easier to get in front of eye balls. A lot of digital first imprints started up and authors who were published by them had to adapt to being purely digital. If only have an ebook, how do you promote it? Book signings and talks aren't an option, so they went to social media and learned the best ways to reach their readers. Also, the romance community is very giving and friendly with each other because they don't have to scrabble for the money that other areas of fiction may have to because the romance share of the pie is so immense that they can be generous. (I don't think I'm explaining this well. They said it much better, but I didn't transcribe exactly what they wrote.)
The final panel was Romance: Too Young to Fight it: Why we love Y.A. Paranormal Romance with Jennifer Armentrout (White Hot Kiss), Alethea Kontis (Hero, Enchanted), Wendy Higgins (Sweet Evil; Sweet Peril), and Jodi Meadows (Incarnate). This was just a fun, high-energy panel. All of the ladies were playful and excited to talk about their books and discuss issues in YA. I really appreciated their comments on sex in YA, how sex has long been allowed in YA if the girl gets pregnant, an STD, raped, or spirals into a depressive state. I'd not noticed this but once they said it yes, this does happen and is just another form of slut shaming.
So overall, a really great time. I met a group of romance authors who've already invited me to come have coffee with them, which is really generous of them. It sounds like all of these ladies are trade published, so allowing little old unvetted, self-pubbed me in the group is really kind. I know I'll learn a lot from them. I can't wait until next year's festival!