Romance goes mainstream at MWF 2015

At our recent conference, the RWA raised over $6,000 for the nominated conference charity, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Keynote speaker Anita Heiss was very eloquent on the importance of education for all, particularly children in disadvantaged communities. Thus it was interesting to read Hachette Australia co-managing director Louise Sherwin-Stark’s reflections on her her trip to the Tiwi Islands with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Sherwin-Stark said, ‘Most of all, I witnessed a fierce determination to nurture and support their kids through reading and education, something often missing from the news coverage about indigenous communities we see in the media.’

Books+Publishing’s Weekly Newsletter of 2 September included a detailed report on the RWA’s annual conference, Get Fresh 2015 under the headline ‘Romance goes mainstream at RWA conference 2015’. The report mentioned that the conference attracted over 400 attendees, the largest in the organisation’s 24-year history and quotes RWA president Leisl Leighton as saying the response to the conference was ‘100% positive’, with many attendees claiming it was ‘one of the best conferences they had been to’. During the AGM, the RWA also announced that membership had exceeded 1,000 writers for the first time.

Leighton said the conference ‘diversified its program this year by bringing in fresh non-romance presenters to broaden the professional development opportunities available to members’, covering ‘all elements of craft and the business of writing’.

Books+Publishing’s reporter went on to say that one of the topics discussed in-depth and over several sessions at the the conference was the stabilisation of digital sales and a return to confidence in traditional formats and outlets. The report quoted Random House editor Lex Hirst, Sourcebooks editorial director Deb Werksman and US agent Courtney Miller-Callihan on the subject.

  • Lex Hirst: ‘Ebook usage has reached a plateau.’
  • Deb Werskman: ‘Print is still ‘obust, with US sales for print romance titles exceeding 30 million dollars in 2014 … a Nielsen Bookscan report revealed that physical bookstores are the most-mentioned way of acquiring new books among romance readers … while digital sales are important for many romance subgenres, authors should be aware of all potential sales channels or risk missing significant segments of their readership.’
  • Courtney Miller Callihan: ‘The atmosphere within publishing is more positive and people are more comfortable with digital as the format has stabilised.’

On-site bookseller Dymocks Melbourne told Books+Publishing that conference-goers were ‘inspired by the words of guest speakers and presenters, and keen to read outside of their genre to glean as much insight into their craft as possible.

‘The conference committee included some great speakers such as Anita Heiss, C S Pacat and Graeme Simsion to bring some great ideas to the table this year,’ said the bookseller.

The bestsellers at the Dymocks shop were:

  1. Not Always a Saint (Mary Jo Putney, Kensington)
  2. Captive Prince (C S Pacat, Viking)
  3. The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion, Text)
  4. Avoiding Mr Right (Anita Heiss, Bantam)
  5. Prince’s Gambit (C S Pacat, Viking)

You can read the full Books+Publishing report here:

In other news, Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) CEO and artistic director Lisa Dempster reported this year’s festival had the highest attendance on record. Dempster told Books+Publishing final figures are still being tallied but that the turn-out had exceeded expectations. International headliners at the festival, which ran from 20-30 August, included Naomi Klein (US), Jon Ronson (UK), Sarah Waters (UK), Daniel Handler (US), Antony Beevor (UK) and ‘Veronica Mars’ creator Rob Thomas (US), who were among more than 500 local and overseas guests who appeared at 531 events.

Finally, some Amazon ebook data

Amazon UK has released its first ever consumer report, which lists the top 20 selling ebooks  for the year to date. Crime dominates, interestingly, as do women writers who make up 18 of the 20 bestselling ebook authors. Of course, bestseller lists differ by country and format, but it is still interesting to see what is driving readers.

An analysis of the top 20 list reveals that just over half (10) are classified as crime fiction (including thrillers/mysteries); four are romances, two are women’s fiction and three are general fiction/literature. The top five lists three books that have achieved worldwide popularity – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Shades of Grey as told by Christian by EL James and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The two women’s fiction titles are family sagas with a particularly British flavour. All the books are traditionally published.


Amazon UK top 20 ebooks


  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  2. Shades of Grey as told by Christian by EL James
  3. Silent Scream by Angela Marsons
  4. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
  5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  6. The Lie by C L Taylor
  7. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  8. The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams by Fiona Harper
  9. Hide her Name by Nadine Dorries
  10. Personal by Lee Child
  11. The Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott
  12. Us by David Nicholls
  13. The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe
  14. The Year of Taking Chances by Lucy Diamond
  15. The Ballroom Cafe by Ann O’Loughlin
  16. The Good Girl by Fiona Neill
  17. Closer than You Think by Karen Rose
  18. The Letter by Kathryn Hughes
  19. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
  20. Evil Games by Angela Marsons

I confess to having read only two of the authors, and probably not the ones you would think but Lee Child and Karen Rose, and none of the books on the list. What about you? Can you share thoughts on any of these authors?

Contest Results from the Gala Dinner, Get Fresh Conference 2015

Once again, our conference organisers hosted a wonderful conference dinner and glorious award presentation.  Ask someone who was there about our lovely ‘butlers’ (who were present entirely to support the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, honest), the almost impossibly limber ‘Gene Kelly’ (Matt Mitchell) who opened proceedings and Paul Fennel and partner from You Can Dance Studio with the swing dancing.

Thank you to our conference committee, and especial thanks to Frano Graco, Patsy Poppenbeek, Leisl Leighton and Helen Katsinis for organising and managing such a great event.  We must also thank the very lovely Jane Porter, who MC’d the evening for us, very beautifully (and with the admirable crowd control skills of someone who used to teach 13-year-old boys).

We started by congratulating the winners of the Ripping Start, Selling Synopsis, First Kiss, Little Gems and Little Gems Cover Awards, all of which were decided and announced during the year.  (If you would like to revisit the winners and finalists, they are listed at the end of this post.)  Thank you to Anita Heiss, Claire Boston, Kate Cuthbert, Jo McAlister, Ali Wattas, Margaret Midwood, and Lis Hoorweg for presenting those awards.

Then we moved onto the awards that are saved for the big reveal at the conference, which this year included The Valerie Parv Award, The Emerald, The Emerald Pro, the ROMA, The Ella, The Ruby, the Lynne Wilding Meritorious Service Award and a Life Member Award. We also announced the covers from our members’ books that we voted as our favourites in several categories.  Thank you to Sarah Fairhall, Valerie Parv, Erica Hayes, Pippa Roscoe, Marnie St Clair, Kerri Lane, Leisl Leighton, Raewyn McGill, Courtney Miller-Callihan, Margie Lawson, Michelle Laforest, Annie Lynch, Graeme Simsion, and Angela Ackerman for presenting these awards.

(Please note that I may have left a couple of presenters off this thank-you list – I will update as I confirm that, but if anyone knows one I’ve missed, let me know!)

I must also take this opportunity to thank Erica Hayes and all the volunteer members of the contest team of RWA, without whom, our contest season could not happen.

And now, for the results, drumroll please…

The Cover Contest competition, judged by our members.  As authors, we often have very little control over our covers, so we are always grateful when the cover fairies (otherwise known as the artists and publishers who create the art) bless us.  This year, our most blessed books, as judged by our members, were:

Favourite Contemporary Romance Cover:

Luna Tango – Alli Sinclair – Harlequin MIRA

Favourite Historical Romance Cover:

Road to Ruin – Bronwyn Stuart – Harlequin MIRA

Favourite Paranormal Romance Cover:

Circus Escape – Lilliana Rose – Less Than Three Press

Favourite Romantic Elements Cover:

Shooting Butterflies – TM Clark – Harlequin MIRA

Favourite Rural Romance Cover:

Red Dirt Duchess – Louise Reynolds – Destiny Romance, e-Penguin

Congratulations to all these members for having great luck with the cover fairies and to the publishers who commissioned and artists who created these gorgeous covers.


The Valerie Parv Award (VPA) 

Highly Commended:

Believe in Fairy Tales – Dee Scully

Reciprocal Chemistry – Kat Colmer

Alpine Kisses – Laura Boon

3rd Place: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades – Dave Sinclair

2nd Place: The Norman Bride – Anna Romaine

And the winner and the new minion is…

1st Place, VPA – Momento Mori – Carly Main


The Emerald Award

3rd Place: Polly’s Patisserie – Kerrie Paterson

2nd Place: At First Fight – Joanne Robertson

1st Place: The Hermit Next Door – PJ Vye


Emerald Pro

3rd Place: Twined – Morgan Cole

2nd Place: Bound for Eden – Tess LeSue

1st Place: The Soul Weaver – Heidi Catherine



The Lyn Wilding Meritorious Service Award.

The LWA is named in honour of RWA’s first president, Lyn Wilding, and honours our wonderful volunteers.  In this sense, it is not won, as all our volunteers and all the nominees are winners in our eyes.  It is awarded and this year it was awarded to a very deserving recipient, namely:

Diane Curran


The Roma Award for Media

The finalists for the ROMA Award 2015 were:

Danielle Binks  “Things No-one Tells you About Romance Readers”   (

Evana Ho “Interviews at the 2015 ARRA Convention” (ArtSound FM /

Stephanie Pegler Romance Novel Explores FIFO Love  (The West Australian Newspaper/

The ROMA is an award to recognise professional, positive media coverage of the romance industry. It was launched by Romance Writers of Australia (Inc) (RWA) to help recognise and acknowledge those members of the media who reach beyond the cliché in their reporting on romance writers, releases or industry. In determining the winner, the award selection panel look at the angle of the article, the quality of research, the representation of romance and the ‘reach’ of the piece.  Any RWA member can nominate a media piece that they feel stands out as particularly worthy.

And the ROMA was awarded to:

Danielle Binks  “Things No-one Tells you About Romance Readers”   (


New Life Member

In honour of her work as a volunteer, but especially for her part in the committee that saved RWA during a very dark time for our organisation, we are delighted to announce our newest Life Member:

Jennifer Brassel


Ella Contest for Published Novellas

The Finalists Were:

Her Christmas Earl by Anna Campbell

Home for Christmas by Fiona Greene

Beneath a Trojan Moon by Anna Hackett

Sympathy for the Devil by Kelly Hunter

In a very exciting result, we had an equal first, so the Ella was awarded to both:

Her Christmas Earl by Anna Campbell


Beneath a Trojan Moon by Anna Hackett



Ruby Award for Romantic Book of the Year

Short Sweet Finalists:

Dr. Perfect On Her Doorstep – Lucy Clark

Waves of Temptation – Marion Lennox

A Little Christmas Magic – Alison Roberts

The Maverick Millionaire – Alison Roberts

The Tycoon and the Wedding Planner – Kandy Shepherd

And the Ruby goes to:

Waves of Temptation – Marion Lennox


Short Sexy:

Wanting What She Can’t Have – Yvonne Lindsay

Romance For Cynics – Nicola Marsh

Tycoon’s Temptation – Trish Morey

Damaso Claims His Heir – Annie West

And the Ruby goes to:

Damaso Claims His Heir – Annie West


Long Romance:

Risky Business – Amy Andrews

Deadly Secrets – Sarah Barrie

Moonlight Plains – Barbara Hannay

Attraction – KM Golland

And the Ruby goes to:

Risky Business – Amy Andrews


Romantic Elements:

Flight to Coorah Creek – Janet Gover

The Trader’s Reward – Anna Jacobs

Outback Ghost – Rachael Johns

The Lace Balcony – Johanna Nicholls

Riverboat Point – Tricia Stringer

And the Ruby goes to:

The Lace Balcony – Johanna Nicholls


Finally, here are the links for the previously announced competitions:

Ripping Start Results

Selling Synopsis Results

First Kiss Results 2015

Little Gems and Little Gems Cover Results 2015


And then we all boogied and photo-boothed our celebrations at the Escape after-party till they kicked us out!

Congratulations to all the winners and recipients and to all those admiring them from afar, make sure you enter next year.  You have to be in it to win it!





An OWL a month keeps the skills rolling in

Do you know about RWA’s Online Writing Courses, the OWLS? They are fabulous, open to RWA members and non-members, and an excellent value way to improve your writing skills from the comfort of your own desk. RWA uses Moodle for the communication so that you can pose questions to your lecturer whilst watching her presentation on your computer. Lectures generally take place once a week for a couple of hours but if you have to miss one, don’t worry. They’re available as downloads.

The September OWL course is Magazine Feature Writing for Authors. It will be run by the dynamic, energetic and fabulous Laura Greaves, former fulltime journalist, magazine writer and published chick-lit author. It’s only $25 for members and $35 for non members. Best hurry to sign up because the first of four session is next Tuesday 31 August! You can book here or email your enquiries to


Laura Greaves online course in magazine writing

Holocaust Romance Fuels Fiery Debate in the US

As my critique partner says, ‘only eight more sleeps to conference’. All around Australia romance writers are dusting out suitcases, making last minute wardrobe adjustments and praying that Vistaprint deliver on time!

In the run up to our conference, the RITA awards shortlists at the Romance Writers of America conference has stirred up some hotly debated controversy in the book world. Influential blogger Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books criticised RWAmerica for short-listing Kate Breslin’s novel For Such a Time in two categories, best first book and best inspirational romance. The book is about a relationship between a Jewish prisoner and a Nazi officer in charge of a concentration camp. Although it didn’t win any awards, the book’s premise offended many for a number of reasons including the imbalance of power hanging over the relationship and the fact that the Jewish prisoner converts to Christianity by the end of the story.

To put it mildly, I don’t see this set-up as an imbalance of power that could possibly be redeemed in a romance narrative, nor do I think the setting and characterisation remotely romantic. But I think this issue is much broader than my individual opinion,’ wrote Wendell.

In response, RWAmerica’s board said that ‘Censoring entry content is not something the board supports … If a book is banned from the contest because of its content, there will be a move for more content to be banned. This is true, even especially true, when a book addresses subjects that are difficult, complex or offensive.’

The line between ethical behaviour and freedom of speech is a fragile one. I understand the outrage of my Jewish friends. However, I can also think of other topics aired in romance novels that certain conservative groups would like to see banned, such as issues of gender, sexual preference and sexual activity preference. Where does one draw the line? What do you think?

RWA Melbourne Conference Car Parking Information

The Park Hyatt has generously agreed to provide DISCOUNTED valet parking at the venue (I know! Great huh?!)

  • They are offering a reduced price of $40.00 per night for all attendees of the RWA event who use valet parking. They can accept a maximum of approximately 180 cars in the valet car park (subject to availability), so you may like to consider this option if you are staying for the whole weekend.
  • Alternatively day parking is available at Wilson Car Park @$22/per day for Friday, $24/day for Saturday & Sunday.

Please be advised that street parking is extremely limited and usually only two hour limits. Melbourne parking inspectors are extremely efficient and you will most likely be fined if you overstay in a two hour spot.

Not long to go now delegates! We can’t wait to see you all there!

August New Releases

It’s conference month, whether you’re attending Get Fresh ’15 in Melbourne or the Clayton’s Conference online. If you can’t make either this year, never fear: our members have made sure you won’t lack for entertainment with a host of new releases!

RWA  member new releases


Bookmarks: News and views from the publishing industry

US Authors Guild wants 50% ebook royalty rate

As part of its fair contract initiative, the US Authors Guild is campaigning for publishers to pay net ebook royalty rates of up to 50%. The Guild says some bestselling authors are already receiving 50% but only on condition that they sign a non-disclosure document about the terms of their agreement. Most publishers currently pay ebook royalty rates of 25% of net receipts. Some publishers have initiated such a policy, but at the expense of lower advances.

In the UK, new digital publisher Canelo is offering authors 50% – 60% royalty rates although they do not pay advances. Canelo is signing titles on a five-year licence period, offering authors the opportunity to take back their titles at that point if they wish to. Industry veteran Michael Bhaskar launched Canelo last week, publishing two thrillers.

Kensington to publish Swedish romance author in English

Kensinton has acquired the rights to Swedish romance novelist Simona Ahrnstedt’s three book series in what it says will be the first time a Swedish romance author will be published in English. They will publish the first book Only One Night in Summer 2016. The series has already sold over 70,000 copies in Sweden, where it is published by Forum. Literary agent Anna Frankl has sold rights in eight other countries as well, including France and Spain. The books’ heroine is Natalia De La Grip, a young woman born into wealth who has a budding career in finance. She is expected to marry someone of equal social status but falls in love with a venture capitalist who has been plotting against her family.

Ella Finalists announced!

We are delighted to announce the finalists in the 2015 Ella, RWA’s reader-judged contest for published novellas.

Drumroll for and congratulations to:

Her Christmas Earl by Anna Campbell

Home for Christmas by Fiona Greene

Beneath a Trojan Moon by Anna Hackett

Sympathy for the Devil by Kelly Hunter

The competition for a spot on this list was fierce, with 40 entries in a range of genres.

The winner will be announced at RWA’s national conference in Melbourne in August.

Thanks to all who entered, our judges, and contest manager Raewyn McGill.

ROMA Finalists!

The finalists for the ROMA Award 2015 have been decided. They are (alphabetically):

Danielle Binks  “Things No-one Tells you About Romance Readers”   (

Evana Ho “Interviews at the 2015 ARRA Convention” (ArtSound FM /

Stephanie Pegler Romance Novel Explores FIFO Love  (The West Australian Newspaper/

The ROMA is an award to recognise professional, positive media coverage of the romance industry. It was launched by Romance Writers of Australia (Inc) (RWA) to help recognise and acknowledge those members of the media who reach beyond the cliché in their reporting on romance writers, releases or industry. In determining the winner, the award selection panel look at the angle of the article, the quality of research, the representation of romance and the ‘reach’ of the piece.  Any RWA member can nominate a media piece that they feel stands out as particularly worthy. The winner will be announced during the Gala Dinner at the 2015 RWA Conference in August.


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