I'm back from DC. Fully a quarter of the email awaiting my return can be summed up as, "We're in the hotel bar/hotel restaurant/conference center. Where are you?" I made it into the hotel bar twice all week, and I had a couple of brief meetups here and there around the hotel, but for the most part, I was off playing tourist with friends and family. DC is one of my favorite places to visit. I took advantage of it. I was everywhere -- even, briefly, in one of the slummy parts of town. And if you heard the fabric of the universe tear on Saturday, that's because I was inside actual churches lighting candles for my sick granny. They've got some extra-fancy churches in DC, so maybe that will grant her some extra-fancy relief. Apologies to those of you who were looking for me.
I did manage to pick up some industry news. Not sure it's really news, though, but perhaps more just confirmation of what we already knew was going down. A NYC print publisher has slipped under RWA's stated "$1,000 for all books" requirement on a recent 2-novel contract (yes, in print). This is the second NYC house to do so, though RWA may not know about this one yet. Keep watching. This is far from a dead issue. Advances are falling almost everywhere, and I expect they'll continue to fall as long as we have this economy.
There's a definite shift away from trade size to mass market. Trade has taken hard hits in this economy. People seem to be returning to cheaper mass markets or are switching to digital formats. If they're willing to pop for a big-ticket book, it's usually hardback. Over and over again, I heard about lines cutting trade releases or shifting them into mass market formats. Will this be the end of the trade format? Hmm. I keep thinking about that one, and I'm just not sure. We'll have to give that one another six months, I think, but trade is certainly on the decline.
The erotic romance market is also in decline, but this is not a bad thing. The market has been oversaturated for probably two years now. Scaling back means that quality should improve across the board. Readers aren't going to stop wanting to read books with sex in them, but we may see fewer titles with typical erotic romance premises. (Think: girls weekend with flings, one-night stands turned serious, revenge sex plots, "she's just experimenting" plots, and the like.) We were never big into those kinds of premises at Red Sage, so it doesn't affect our submissions guidelines. We have published that type of thing on occasion, but only if the surrounding story was rock solid.
The buzz was mainly surrounding contemporaries with a women's fiction feel. The same authors kept getting namechecked -- Susan Wiggs, Kristin Hannah, that sort of book. My feeling for some time now has been that we're turning into bigger book territory, and that women's fiction feeling fits right in with where I think we might be going.
So, what kinds of things did you all hear in DC? Got questions about particular things?