About the Romance Writers of America and the RWA Annual Conference

Skill-Building and Networking for Romance Writers

paperback books arranged in heart shape
The RWA recognizes people who have provided exceptional service to the romance writing industry. David Malan / Getty Images

The Romance Writers of America® (RWA) is a non-profit trade association that advocates for the careers of romance authors, providing networking and writing and marketing skill-building. The main event of their year is the annual Romance Writers of America® Conference and their annual RITA, Golden Heart, and other Awards. 

History of the Romance Writers of America

The RWA was conceived in 1980, when 37 romance writers united with the intention of forming a group that would nurture and support their careers writing romance books.

The first annual RWA Conference was held in June 1981 near Houston, Texas and was a rousing success: nearly six dozen manuscripts were sold to romance publishers.

About Romance Writers of America Today

Romance Writers of America, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is dedicated to the support of romance writers (including all romance subgenres). With over 10,000 members worldwide (over 2000 of them published authors), the RWA has a presence in 31 countries. RWA's efforts on behalf of its membership include:

  • Networking - RWA facilitates information exchange and support between romance writers through it 145 local, online and RWA special interest chapters.
  • Advocacy and outreach - to the romance publishing industry, romance reader fan base and librarian communities.
  • Recognition - through its numerous awards programs, the RWA recognized excellence in the romance genre for writers and industry supporters.
  • Education - RWA supports career-focused romance authors by helping to enhance skills such as "how to" romance novel writing through general book marketing and other useful writer skills.
  • Research - Romance Writers of America provides annual academic grants which support academic research around romance novels.

    A focal point of the efforts is the annual Romance Writers of America® Conference.

    The Romance Writers of America® Conference

    The Romance Writers of America® Conference is an annual event. Often referred to in the industry as "RWA," the conference provides both established and aspiring romance authors the opportunity to network and further the skills necessary for building a book writing career. 

    Romance Writers of America membership is not required to attend the conference, however RWA members do receive a discounted price for the event. The organization's Annual General Meeting is also held during the conference, during which the membership votes on bylaws and takes care of other RWA "housekeeping." 

    RWA takes place in a different city each year (see below for a list of upcoming locations). 

    Why You Might Consider Going to RWA

    Like any Writers who attend:

    • mix with their fellow romance writers
    • meet — and pitch their romance novels to — romance editors, agents and publishers
    • mingle with librarians and booksellers critical to the romance marketplace
    • participate in educational workshops to enhance romance novel writing skills, book marketing tactics, and writer's career competencies.

    Learn how to make the most out of attending a writers conference.

    Romance Workshops and Panels

    The RWA conference is host to romance industry-related meetings, workshops and panel discussions, and facilitates meetings between romance authors with completed manuscripts and agents and editors. First-time authors wear a "First Sale" ribbon.

    The many and diverse RWA workshops generally includes topics such as romance writing how-tos ("Building the Perfect Hero"); general novel writing skills ("Uniting Plot Structure and Character Arc"); and current information on the romance book market ("The Romantic Suspense Market: Advice from the Pros" and "How to Thrive in a Changing Market"). In addition, there are more general book marketing and publicity sessions ("Developing Brand You!")

    Each conference hosts a number of "Spotlight" sessions that each focus on a single major romance publisher or imprint — Big Five, independent or digital first.

    These panels delve into what the specific romance publisher is currently looking to buy.

    Romance and Madness for Good Causes

    RWA traditionally includes charitable components.

    • The popular "Readers for Life" literacy autographing makes available signed books for sale; the proceeds benefit literacy charities. About 500 authors participate in the two-hour autographing event. "Readers for Life" is especially exciting to fans because authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, Meg Cabot, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Julia Quinn and other the stars of the romance world participate. Major romance publishers donate the thousands of books that are signed and sold.
    • The Midnight Madness Bazaar is a retail event during which the individual RWA chapters raise funds for their respective, local treasuries.

    Romance Writers of America® Awards Presentation

    The RWA Awards Gala takes place on the closing night of the conference and is known for the dressed-to-impress atmosphere.  

    The awards given include  the RITA® and Golden Heart awards and Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, the as well as non-writer awards for those who have supported of the RWA community. Those include Bookseller of the Year, Librarian of the Year; the RWA Emma Merritt Service Award honoring volunteer service to the organization, an Industry Award, and a Media Award.