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Reader Cons

Have you ever attended a reader-oriented conference? One that is centered around readers instead of writers? For the first ten years of my writing career, I only attended writer conferences (Moonlight & Magnolia, RWA, etc), but recently I’ve branched out to reader conferences. They are so much fun! Really, they are a weekend full of parties, but they are also so much more.

Last weekend I attended my first Shameless Book Con down in Orlando, Florida. It was a blast! A cocktail party Friday night, an all-day book signing on Saturday, a huge after-signing gala on Saturday night, and a fun Candy & Spoons event on Sunday.

This was a time to meet and get to know readers and to network with my fellow authors and book industry folks. Now that I am published, these reader-centered conferences are an extremely important part of marketing me as a writer. I came away with new friends, readers, and fabulous memories. I was able to get to know the people at my publishing house with whom I work. I was able to find kindred spirits in my fellow authors and set up ways we can help each other promote. I met book bloggers and sold twenty-eight books at the signing. All of this in a space of three days!

Okay – so here is the key to success at these types of events. You need to step outside your comfort zone. Unless you are a comfortable extrovert, all of these events can take their toll.

So I:

  1. Brought my husband with me and asked him to wear his kilt to the cocktail party and his stilts to the Saturday night gala (the theme was Side Show Carnival, and he ended up winning the costume contest!).
  2. Practiced my makeup for the gala (I was a human rose) at home several times and created our costumes.
  3. Brought fun outfits for each event and props/swag for the book signing.
  4. Put together and lugged a huge giveaway basket down with me to Orlando on the train.
  5. Made it a point to go to everything, smiling and chatting. I walked up to people I didn’t know and sat next to complete strangers at breakfast and lunch.
  6. Helped my publishing house set up their event and made certain to leave each person I met feeling a bit better about themselves (everyone deserves a compliment or a show of interest). 

For a closet introvert like me, this took its toll. I am now sick with a horrendous head cold. But I’m back in the comfort of my home behind my computer screen wearing comfy yoga pants and drinking chai lattes. And I have fond memories, networking contacts, a new signing-table BFF for next year’s conference, fifty-one new readers for my newsletter list, more followers on FB and twitter, and fabulous new readers of my books. All-in-all, the conference was totally worth the exhaustion and head cold! And I’m already signed up to attend next year where it will be held at Disney World!

Have you ever attended a Reader Conference before? Which ones? Do you feel it was worth it?

13 responses to “Reader Cons”

  1. How fun, Heather! I love the costumes. So creative! I’ve been to a couple of the bigger reader cons – Lori Foster’s RAGT and Romantic Times – but I’ve been hoping to try out some of the smaller ones where you get more of a chance to get to know people. I think I’m more a quiet con kind of girl. 🙂

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    • Heather McCollum says:

      Thanks, Vivi!
      Yes, Shameless is best if you’re not afraid to be a little wild – LOL! I won’t tell you what the prize was that my hubby won for me .

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  2. Tracy Brody says:

    Thanks for the write up and insider tips. Looks like you had a blast with dressing up. Hope you feel better.

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    • Heather McCollum says:

      Thanks, Tracy! I’m still hacking and sniffling today, but I’m taking care of myself. Yes, it was a blast! So worth the exhaustion : )

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  3. Addison Fox says:

    This looks like so much fun, Heather!!!

    I love this post and I always find conferences to be so invigorating. I love being with others who love books as much as I do!!!

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    • Heather McCollum says:

      Thanks, Addison!
      Yes, I felt like I was with my “tribe” of book lovers. They had fun book shirts and swag and would lug around stacks of them. Definitely my type of people <3

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  4. Jen Gilroy says:

    I haven’t attended a reader conference, Heather, but have wondered what they’re like. Thanks for the ‘insider’ information and helpful tips.

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    • Heather McCollum says:

      Thanks, Jen!
      Shameless is one of the wilder reader book cons. I also HIGHLY recommend RAGT with Lori Foster, but the tickets sell out fast and it is hard to get into as an author. But more reader cons are popping up all the time.

      I’m going to a historical reader con in March in Colonial Williamsburg that Victoria Vane is putting on. It’s geared more toward historical romance and I’ll wear my new 1690s gown that Victoria is creating for me. You should check it out!

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  5. Hope your feeling better today.

    A few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend Lori Foster’s Reader event along with three other Ruby Sisters. It was so much fun being with the sisters and with readers. I was awed by the bloggers and the work they do to promote authors. Die-hard reader fans. Loved them.

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    • Heather McCollum says:

      Thanks Autumn!
      I went to RAGT18 for the first time, and it was sensational! I met so many wonderful readers, authors and book industry people. It’s just hard to get into. I think more reader cons are popping up because authors are realizing how valuable they are for meeting readers, etc.

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  6. How fun!!! I love readers cons. They are so creative!

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  7. Sounds fun but totally exhausting. Thanks for sharing your experience, Heather. Your husband is a saint and deserved the prize!

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  8. Tamara Hogan says:

    More power to you, Heather, and what a clever idea to bring along a kilted husband! Chronic pain and sensory processing conditions render most large events rather excruciating for me – I much prefer one-on-one interaction, and workshop environments – but it’s fun to see people having fun! 🙂

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