Kelli Martin: From Editor to Agent, There’s Always an HEA at RWA

RWA Conference is a rite of passage. It’s the conference to go to for the romance book world. Held in a different U.S. city each summer, the annual conference for Romance Writers of America® is always filled with firsts.

In 2008, when I was an editor at Harlequin, I attended my first RWA in San Francisco.  I remember being astounded at how enthusiastic the readers were. I’d never seen a conference like it, with energy that joyous, that gregariously energetic for reading, romance novels and HEAs (happily ever afters). It was the first time I’d ever felt truly inspired by a work conference.

The first RWA when books I had edited or acquired were nominated for a prestigious RITA Award was 2013 in Atlanta. We were over the moon to see our authors receive recognition from RWA and readers….I remember us at that ballroom table smiling and tearing up with delight and loyalty and gratitude.

I’m just now back from RWA 2018 in Denver. I went not with colleagues or as part of a publishing house, but on my own as a literary agent. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I feel lonely? Would I feel out of place? But it felt like home. A very open, new home. I think it was the sense that anything’s possible as a literary agent.

That sense of discovery being the first person to love a new story, to fall in love with a new author you know will move readers – lots and lots of readers. It’s an addictive feeling, that sense of discovery. There’s a freedom in seeing how far writers and I can collaborate to make them a published author. I feel invigorated knowing I can matchmake authors with editors and publishers who will share their vision and bring it to life. Building relationships is my superpower, and it’s crucial in the agenting business. It’s my own happily ever after.