By Elizabeth SaFleur
Wild horses and George Clooney couldn’t keep me from the annual Romantic Times (RT) Booklovers Convention. For five whole days, thousands of readers and authors come together to talk romance books and writing. Five whole days of no day-job talk, no meals to cook or laundry to do. Just books, glorious books.
This was my fourth RT, which this year according to rumor attracted the largest number of attendees in its history–more than three thousand one hundred people, not counting Saturday’s Giant Book Fair, open to the public.
So, what’s it like, really?
During the day, expect long wait lines, parties, workshops and seminars, more long lines, giveaways, author signings, readings, and fan-girling — all waiting in line. (Who cares about lines? Turn to the person next to you and ask what they’re reading. Let the bonding commence.)
Hot Men Book Covers Grace Every Space Imaginable
My favorite elevator door.
The registration area floor!
The hallway walls.
But . . . The Real Reason to Attend RT
Squealing fangirls show no shame in throwing loud love toward their favorite authors. I nearly lost my hearing in one ear from a Kristen Ashley super-fan when Kristen walked by. But who could blame the woman? It was Kristen Ashley. Live. In person. Looking gorgeous, by the way. Talking to her fans! I got equally giddy meeting Sierra Cartwright who is as lovely in person as she is on Facebook (a.k.a. the stalking space). Oh, and there was Shayla Black, Lexi Blake, E.L. James, Kresley Cole, Beth Kery, J. Kenner, and. . . well, I shall cease name dropping now so not to make you too jealous.
RT attendees wheel small suitcases from room to room, slowly loading them up with all the free books they’ve been given in sessions, at author events or picked up in the “goody room.” Thank God for an in-hotel UPS store. I shipped a HUGE box home full of books and swag. My favorite item from this year was a Viking rubber ducky.
I shall name you Thor.
In the evening, the hotel bars cram with writerly meet-ups, costumes are donned, martinis are poured, and ballrooms of squee-ing fans fill to capacity.
Friday night’s party, Cirque Du Punk, a steampunk, dieselpunk, cyber punk circus complete with acrobats, jugglers and contortionists, brought out the wild. Our hosts (above) dressed in costume.
Eden Bradley & Kennedy Layne
The last two days include the Giant Book Fair and FAN-tastic day, where readers meet their favorite authors and get books signed. See this crowd? That’s the
holding pen room they have us line up in before the Fair opens. Did I mention you’ll stand in a lot of lines at RT? Just turn to your neighbor and make a new book-loving friend.
Waiting to get into the Giant Book Fair
Besides partying with favorite authors and lugging home swag and books, a lot can be learned at RT. After hearing a dozen sessions, some themes emerged. I, heretofore, give you the the Future of Books’ cliff notes. Gird your loins. Things are changing–again. Let us know in the comments if the following sounds true to you . . . Here we go.
Book Trends or What’s Next?
What’s “hot” cycles—again. High demand genres include inspirational, multi-cultural and LGBT. What’s not hot? New adult, young adult, romantic suspense and military heroes, which are suffering “glut.” Yes, that’s the technical term for “we have too many of these.” However, one publisher said alpha heroes will never go out style. Whew. Also, while sex still sells in the erotic genre, readers are demanding more plot to go with all that erotic action.
Genres ‘cross.’ Romance writers are notorious for writing stories that bend the rules and cross genres. But hybrid stories that stretch the usual boundaries (i.e. breaking out of being “just” historical or insert any genre) will become more prevalent. Get ready for that dinosaur-time travelling-LGBT-space cowboy book. Or perhaps you enjoy erotic-cowboy-vampire-dragon tales? Set in an alternate universe? Never fear. There’s a story out there for you.
Expect more diversity. Or, as Sarah Wendell, co-founder of Smart Bitches Trashy Books said, “diversity is not a trend. Our world is multi-cultural and the romance world will catch up.”
Our very own LadySmutter, ISABELLE DRAKE along with ALIZA MANN and MK SCHILLER, gave a panel on diversity to a full house. What I learned: the story doesn’t have to come from a character’s ethnicity, but rather their culture informs and instructs their decisions as they navigate what we all go through in love and romance. Kind of like real life, huh?
Aliza Mann, MK Schiller, Isabelle Drake on the Developing Dynamically Diverse Characters panel
Paranormal makes a comeback. Vampires, shifters, werewolves, succubus, ghosts and more haven’t ever really gone away as the audience for such stories is huge. But the demand for paranormal has outstripped the number of books available, according to Danielle Valente, assistant editor for the RT Book Reviews magazine.
Older characters have their day. More romances will feature people in their 40s and 50s who will be experiencing mid-life changes, receiving second chances and starting over. Again, like real life. And, after all, everyone ages, right? Why wouldn’t you want to read about someone closer to your own age?
“Clean reads” are in demand. With the rise of erotica and erotic romance, many contemporary romances “heated up.” This sent the “clean read” lover to inspirational and sweet romance. But it does a disservice in a way, said one panelist, because those who want Christian-themed stories don’t necessarily get that in what is marketed as “clean,” and visa versa.
Erotic romance/erotica genre plateaus. According to several panelists, sales of erotic titles aren’t growing like they used to. In fact, all e-books are selling “flat.” However, that’s not to say e-books (or erotic books) aren’t growing at all.
Let me explain.
Estimates put the Amazon e-book inventory at four million books. Oh, wait. It’s grown again—since I typed this sentence.
And, unlike print books which can go ‘out of print,’ e-books last (almost) for forever. This means the library only gets larger and won’t diminish. (That’s more choices for you, dear reader.) So, if a genre goes “flat” (meaning doesn’t grow), it simply means authors are keeping up with demand but not overtaking it. Rather, more books are entering an ever-growing pile.
Only if a genre drops, should anyone become concerned because it means other types of books are lapping another genre around the track. That’s not happening. Erotic romance is holding its own. So, never fear. Plenty of smexy stories will be waiting for you!
Book prices will drop. Specifically, e-book prices will continue to drop, which is making readers happy but authors nervous. We’ll leave it at that.
Apple becomes a bookseller contender? Heard this before? Except the iTunes/iBooks presence was (much) greater than the previous three years I’ve attended RT, and buzz was afoot that they were going to finally make their move to compete with Amazon. Yes, please. Personally, I’ll be watching this closely.
The rise of audiobooks. In the last two years, the number of audiobooks offered have doubled, and there still aren’t enough titles available to meet the demand. This is a “mammoth” trend, as people grow busier and a need to multi-task exists. Can you blame a reader who wants to get their smexy on with their favorite book boyfriend as they wash the dishes?
(Guess what? Lovely (Elite Doms of Washington Book 1) will be available on audiobook this summer. Squee!)
Watch for smaller reader/author gatherings. Social media fatigue is setting in. Many people are unsatisfied with the superficial relationships created there. In response, live events are growing more popular, especially where authors hold their own reader events. Smaller conference (think 100 people versus 3,000) provide a community feel, allowing more time for and accessibility for in-depth conversations between readers and authors.
Maybe it’s time for a LadySmut conference? Would you come?
However, let’s not do it in Vegas, okay? Because the not-so-great thing about RT was our convention hotel, the God awful Rio hotel/casino. Cigarette smoke everywhere, unbelievable food prices (larger than my hotel bill-no joke) and poor staffing were thorns in this other-wise heavenly event. At least all sessions and events happened in one compact (non smoking) area. I also managed to get in over 10,000 steps a day. My hotel room was .89 miles from the convention area. I am not complaining when I got to see this every night:
Fitbit, you’re my bitch.
If you’re planning on attending RT next year, let us know. It’s May 2-7, 2017 in Atlanta, GA. I’d love to meet up with you, as would all the LadySmutters who attend. In the meantime, give the LadySmut Facebook page a little “like” so you can be part of our ongoing scintillating book talk.
Speaking of books, check out our very own ISABELLE DRAKE and KIERSTEN HALLIE KRUM’s new releases!
KIERSTEN HALLIE KRUM’S Barefoot Bay: Wild on the Rocks (Kindle Worlds) is part of the launch of New York Times bestselling author Roxanne St. Claire’s Barefoot Bay Kindle Worlds! (Read more about Kindle Worlds here.) Driven by wanderlust and insatiable curiosity, Quinn Forrester views every new gig for her mixologist business as another chance for adventure. Until the night she wanders down the wrong hallway and witnesses a mob murder.
ISABELLE DRAKE’s Off the Rails (Make Me Over Book 1) is a delicious romantic comedy we can all relate to. High school reunion—three words that threaten to derail Madison’s life. Now she has only eight weeks to find the perfect guy, the perfect job, or a way to pretend she has the perfect life.
Until next time, my friends. Stay cool. Stay reading. We got your smut covered.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR writes contemporary erotic romance and she’s not afraid to get graphic about it — “it” being the smex, the BDSM, or Washington, DC society, which she regularly features in her series, the Elite Doms of Washington.