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C.R.! 1999 Panel Discussions

Each panel is scheduled for 40 minutes. Each one will be held in different rooms, with groups small enough that we can achieve true interaction. They will run 4 times, so all readers will have a chance to attend each one.

Please note that our goal is the exchange of ideas; these panels are not meant to be "workshops", such as those found at professional conferences.

  Panel 1: New authors

Reader questions: Why did you start writing? How did you get a publisher to pick you up? How long did it take to be picked up? Did you market your manuscript on your own or did you go through an agent? Was the first book you ever wrote the one that got picked up? How do you do your research, and how extensive? For example, you want to use a certain piece of equipment, say a cannon. Do you make a note to research it later before finalizing the scene it's used in, or would have already researched everything before you started?

Author questions: Are you willing to try a new author? If so, how do you decide to do this? Does the price of the book (new) make a difference in this decision? Does personal contact with the author, such as email, make a difference? Do you read reviews, and if so, how heavily do you rely on them? Which ones influence you the most? The least? How does an author become an auto-buy? What I would have done differently, things I wish I'd known.

  Panel 2: Inside the Industry

(One of the panel members could start this by walking through a book from start to finish, a bare bones explanation. Mention time frame from manuscript to product. *This could also be a topic for one of the speakers*.)

Panel member topics:
Publishers - The various departments involved with producing a book. Who are the decision makers? On what do they base their decisions as far as themes that sell, how many books to print for a new author and for a known author.
Marketing - What kind of marketing is done for new authors? Midlist? How is it decided?

Reader questions: What is an editor's role specifically? Does it include researching facts? Grammar and spelling? In other words, why do some things slip through?

I'd really like to ask about the concept of "trends"; i.e., the secret baby or cowboy books that seem to inundate the market. Why do publishers do this? What do they do for market research? Do they view online groups as anomalies in terms of their tastes and interests? How much do publishers really care about input from readers? Does a comment sent via a webpage mailer really make it to the key editorial staff, or does it just go to the lowest marketing person? What can we as readers do to make our opinions known?

Covers and back blurbs - inaccurate, misleading, don't contain the true gist of books, especially any serious content - any hope for changes in these?

What does the industry think of the recent promotion of online reader sites, such as the A- ratings that Entertainment Weekly gave to The Romance Reader and All About Romance? Do they feel these sites have value? What is their position relative to print romance publications?

  Panel 3: The romance novel

Author questions: What defines a romance novel? At what point does a book stop being a romance for you? How about flaws - technical, plot, etc: it seems some books are loved despite their flaws. How much are you willing to overlook as far as: Grammar/spelling? Historical inaccuracies? Why?

Reader questions: Are authors given "formulas"/conventions to follow when writing for their specific pubs, or do they pretty much write what and how they want? If the latter, do editors still provide some kind of "guidance", and, if so, what?

  Panel 4: Plots - "Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down"

Reader questions: Where do plot ideas come from - personal experience or local events or imagination? Do all authors have little people in their heads talking to them as they are writing, dictating changes in direction?

Author questions: How do you define "the big misunderstanding"? How far can TBM go before it turns you off the book? What do you consider as overdone plots? (MOC, beauty/beast, Cinderella, for example.) What plots do you enjoy, no matter how often they are used?

What do you think of the current trend of suspense?