Monday, 1 August 2016

On being a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association

I’ve been a member of the RNA for many years, from the time my husband bought  me Mary Wibberley’s To Writers With Love, in which she recommended joining the Association to any aspiring writer. I joined, submitted to what is now the NWS, got second reads and an interview at M&B’s Richmond headquarters - fairly new, then - and then gave up. It was several years afterwards I met Marina Oliver when I was speaking at the International Comedy Writers conference, and she persuaded me to rejoin, telling me that they’d just started a new cyber chapter.

And look where we are now. I’m sure the RNA was one of the very first writers’ organisations which embraced “modern technology”, so we adapted to its proliferation throughout our industry better than most. In the US, of course, it spread far wider and quicker, and I remember when I was one of the few online back in the dark ages seeing the E-Publishers start up. I, along with several other people, didn’t take them seriously at the time, and, I’m ashamed to say, almost regarded those published by them as little better than vanity published. Indeed, epublished authors weren’t allowed full RNA membership.

But now, not only are digital-first books appearing in the New York Times best-seller lists, but so are self epublished books. And it is these same digital first publishing companies that have given so many opportunities to the writers of romantic and erotic fiction, arguably the genre to profit most from the revolution.

For revolution it is. It is received wisdom that the old publishing model is under threat and the power is being wrested from traditional agents and publishers. However, I don’t think, as so many worry-mongers have pronounced, that epublishing and the ebook sound the death-knell of the printed book. I think, as with nearly all forms of creative media, they will happily co-exist. There will be some jostling for position, but as long as we stay calm, and keep up with all the new developments just as we have done in the past, I don’t think we have too much to worry about. But I would hope that we are all sensible enough to make sure our work is good enough to go out there. Good agents and editors currently do that for us, so let’s not throw those estimable babies out with the bath water.  We may need to adjust our positions, but we still need eagle eyes on our manuscripts, if not the “gatekeepers” of tradition.

I, of course, I don’t write romance, but I’ve remained a member because I’ve met so many wonderful people who have become true friends. And just as a little postscript, I had an email via my website this weekend, complaining that I’d spoilt the Whole Point of the books by giving away the fact that one character had married another, when this reader was avidly working through the series following their romance. Ashamed - I changed the website.


  1. As a baby author (I know I’m five foot ten, hardly classed as a baby). I joined the RNA NWS some six years ago and have submitted twice. In that time obtaining valuable feedback. But one of the ways I feel it has benefited me is sharing problems with others who don’t roll their eyes when you start talking about your book. The generosity of people like Katie Fforde, Sue Moorcroft, Jane Wenham-Jones, Judy Astley and Jan Sprenger to name but an absolute few, who take the time to listen, offer advice and encourage. Not to mention my off-shoot writing group, Tessa Shapcott, Denise Barnes and Terri Fleming.
    The exposure to agents and publishers at parties and conferences gives us aspiring writers to become authors. Giving us confidence, when we panic that we will forget out elevator pitch, or can’t remember our protagonist’s mother's name. There is always someone there to prop you up and push you forward. I have made many lifelong friends and watched so many get that cherished offer. It’s nice to feel part of such a supportive organisation. I have just gained a new critique buddy care of Imogen Howson speed dating seminar. There’s always new ideas that work well alongside the old ones.

  2. The RNA is an amazingly supportive organisation, and I, too, have made many new friends through it. Including you, Lesley!

  3. Completely agree Lesley, the RNA is great!

  4. Agree the encouragement and support offered by the RNA is second to none, Lesley.