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Connecting with Readers

In today’s writing world, it isn’t enough to just write a book. (LOL! As if “just” writing a book is easy, because it totally is NOT easy.) With the inundation of daily online information readily available, modern readers really want to connect with their favorite authors, whether through social media, snail-mail, or in person (and all three). They want to know their authors, and even though we should always guard our personal information, we should also reach out to have conversations as much as we can.

Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite events where readers and writers can get together. I’m not talking about everyday interaction on FB and Twitter and all the other social media platforms. Picking at least one of those, as a gateway for your readers to reach you, is a given. I’m talking about events.

Facebook Parties:

I’ve never set up one of these, but I’ve attended many. In fact, I’m helping to host one tonight to celebrate the release of my newest Scottish Historical Romance, THE WOLF OF KISIMUL CASTLE. And of course you are all invited! End of Summer New Release Ball!

The typical FB party consists of six – twelve authors, each taking a 15 – 30 minute time slot. At their given time, the scheduled author hosts the party. They ask questions, converse, and usually give away a prize to someone who commented. Participants (or at least the authors hosting) pick a picture of a gown and a date, posting them during the party so everyone can ooh and ahh over them.

Gown I wore to the Spring Ball

My date for tonight (as soon as he finds a shirt, or…maybe not!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are one of the hosting authors, write out beforehand your hello, several questions to ask, and a thank you for letting you host. Save these responses in an electronic folder with several pictures you plan to post, so everything is in one place. This is much easier than trying to remember where everything is saved on your computer during the party.

After your time slot is over, stay around to continue to respond to questions on your posts and like and converse on other people’s posts. The next day, randomly choose your winner and announce it on the FB party page.

 

Twitter Parties:

I’ve attended one or two twitter parties. They are similar to FB parties, but instead of a page where people converse, you have a hashtag (#) to use so everyone can connect and see who is saying what.

I participated in a Jane Austen Twitter Party (#AllDayAusten) where attendees watched Pride and Prejudice at the same time and tweeted throughout the movie. I took a picture of me watching and eating popcorn in my PJs. It was fun! Like a big PJ party with other Jane Austen lovers. But expect it to be chaotic and a bit tangled. Like a twitter mosh pit : )

 

Blog Hops:

The Rubies hosted a Halloween Tick-or-Treat blog hop last year with great success. Participants hop down a list of authors, clicking on each of their links to be sent to either the author’s blog or the author’s FB page. The author had a recipe or riddle or giveaway waiting for them on the page, something related to the theme. Authors can ask participants to like the FB page or comment for a chance to win a little prize. We asked participants to “collect” the candy on each author page. If they retrieved them all, they were eligible for a big prize. We had lots of fun and numerous new people found my web site and signed up for my newsletter because of it.

***As a blog hop organizer, you will need:

A graphic that shows the theme (to use in promotion of the event)

Authors and the links to where they want participants to hop (create a list with the links)

A prize for the overall hop (authors all contribute)

A blog post or FB post explaining to participants what to do

Someone to collect the names of participants eligible for the big prize (where the participants sent their list of collected candy in the Halloween blog hop)

 

Book Signings/Readings:

I love to meet readers at book signings! I have a favorite table cloth that I bring and stands for some of my books. I bring chocolates and swag (homemade tiny books, bookmarks, pens, tea caddies, etc) and make certain to have my Square Reader working if readers are expected to buy directly from me. Make sure to have several pens for signing (sharpies for writing on bookmarks) and a place for readers to sign up for your mailing list or newsletter.

Even if people don’t line up to buy your book, you will still make connections and meet fabulous people, who just may go home and buy your book on line. For some readers, the face to face contact is extremely important. Remember to be as interested and pleasant as you can be, even if your feet are aching.

I’m excited to have been asked to read an excerpt from my new book at the Lady Jane’s Salon of RDU on August 26th. Another fun way to connect, face-to-face, with potential readers.

Authors, what are your favorite ways of reaching readers beyond the regular routes? Readers, what types of events do you enjoy as you connect with your favorite authors?

What Makes A Reader Close Your Book?

late-night-reading_opt“I loved your book. I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up all night reading it.” As writers, these comments are music to our ears.  If creating a book that readers can’t put down is the blue ribbon, we need to understand what makes a reader close a book, so we can avoid it. So I asked – What makes you close a book that you’re reading? I polled as many people as I could this past week, my book club, family members, twitter peeps, FB folks, moms at my daughter’s pre-dawn drama club festival… And here is what I heard:

 

 

There seems to be two broad categories that spur readers to close a book: if the book is too difficult or annoying to read or if the book doesn’t engage. Looking a bit closer:

Difficult to Read

1 – “When the author uses bizarre, “big” words when simpler words could be used. As if they are trying to impress the reader with how much they know.”

2 – “A strong dialect that is hard to read, like a southern drawl spelled out phonetically or too many Scottish accent words. If I have to read it aloud slowly to understand the sentence, it’s too hard.”

3 – “Foreign words if they aren’t defined or easily inferenced based on the story.”

4 – “Who is talking? If I can’t tell who is speaking, I get frustrated, having to re-read passages to try to figure it out.”

5 – As a writer, grammar, misspellings and flip flopping POV in a scene yanks me out of a story. Yet interestingly, none of the “pure” (those who don’t also write) readers I asked mentioned these things as reasons to close the book. But at some point, if there are too many little problems pulling a reader out of the flow, they could decide that the story doesn’t hold their attention.grammar check

 

 

 

Doesn’t Engage

1 – “I’ll stop reading if I feel like the story isn’t going anywhere. There’s either no real plot or it’s taking too long to see it.” So direction and pacing are important to today’s reader.

2 – “When I read outside work, I want to escape and be entertained. So if the book isn’t providing that, I’ll close it to find another.” Hooks, pacing, and something that pulls a reader out of their ordinary world keeps them reading.

TBR pile

3 – Several readers polled mentioned that it was just personal preference, if the book dives into a subject matter that they don’t like, they will close the book. This problem revolves around reader expectations. Perhaps the cover or blurb lead a reader to believe the book will be darker or lighter than they were thinking. Maybe the author brand is different for this particular book. I worry about this factor since I write in different sub genres but haven’t used a pseudonym (yet).

If you write children’s books, my eight-year-old wants me to mention that she closes a book when something really sad happens. “Please don’t kill off moms or dads, or really anyone or anything, dogs, grandmas…”

We need to consider our audience and what type of book we are writing for them. Children don’t want to read about losing someone permanently, at least not when they are reading for fun. Adults can handle death and scary life events better. As a cancer survivor, I’ve closed numerous “inspiring” cancer books when they lack humor. Laughter is great medicine, so I look for covers and blurbs that seemed funny instead of sappy (my favorite one is I’d Rather Do Chemo Than Clean Out the Garage by Fran Di Giacomo).   

4 – A reader/writer told me they will close a book if there are “shallow characters, built on clichés but not given a twist or depth.”

Characters must illicit emotion for the reader to care about what happens to them. Make a reader identify with a character or root for them or hate them, but make them feel something.fictional groom

For example, when I drive in traffic…On the surface I can get very frustrated with the drivers around me. Someone behind a glass window who cuts me off irritates me. I don’t care about the jerk, just want him out of my way. I close the book on him. But if I knew more…if I knew that the driver was frantic, trying to get to the hospital where his child has been rushed after being in a car accident, suddenly I feel different. I want to get out of his way, root for him, help him, and follow his story. Even after the incident, the story pops up into my mind throughout the day or week. The book remains open.

5 – Trust. Even if a reader buys the first book, or even reads an entire series, but the ending leaves them feeling horrible, we lose their trust. Either the main characters die or the happily ever after a reader was expecting doesn’t happen, they may “close the book” on the author (which is much worse than closing the physical book). Readers trust that we will lead them through the conflicts, the difficulties to somewhere safe or at least satisfying. This speaks to author brand or reader expectations based on genre. Keep that in mind when writing something outside the norm. I’m all for writer prerogative and branching out, trying new genres. Just make sure it is clear to your readers if a particular book, or series, is vastly different from your usual writing. You don’t want them to close the book on you.

closing the book

So what have I missed? What makes you close a book, either for the night or for good?

Read a Romance Book Month

RARM picWelcome, weekend! And welcome to an event you as a writer (or a reader) will love – NPR’s annual Read a Romance Month!

What’s RARM? Well, it’s a fabulous month of interviews, giveaways and celebration all for the wondrous beauty of something that gives you laughter, tears and a happily ever after – the romance book! (you can read more at Read A Romance Month)

This year’s theme centers on the joy romance brings, and I noticed that lovely Ruby Vivi Andrews blogged recently on protecting the joy. As I dwell on this theme of joy, I realized that it’s more and more difficult to protect our daily dose of joy in this world full of pins ready to burst our proverbial bubble. Reality ain’t easy. Reality is dog vomit, overdue bills, no gas station in sight and an extra pound on the bathroom scales. I don’t know about you, but helping my kid with his math homework and weeding the flowerbeds do not inspire joy. Neither do the heaps of laundry and the carpool line. See, the stuff we do day in and day out can nick away at the joy in our lives leaving us at the end of a busy week too tired to think straight much less go out searching for a fill up of joy. So how do we refill our wells?

Well, there are lots of ways – yoga, a nice bottle of wine, a good movie or a feel good book.

Ah, a feel good book? And what particular book can deliver exactly what you’re looking for?

Of course. The romance book.

Sometimes I get angry at how dismissive people can be when it comes to romance. Some call it fluff, others call it porn, and others call it trashy. I call it joy.

Nothing makes me sigh like finishing a good romance book. Nothing makes me look at my husband through a warm fuzzy lens like a good romance book. Nothing makes me determined to be proactive, considerate, aware or motivated like a good romance book. As an author, nothing makes me want to write a good book like reading another stellar romance book. In essence when I sit down with a good book, I’m filling myself up. It’s a time for me to do something I love so I can make it through all the meetings, grocery store lines and back to school events without having a break down or choking my child.

So do us all a favor and find your joy…through the pages of a romance. It’s much cheaper than therapy and the side effect is love.

Need recommendations? I have them. There are several lovely writers here at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. I loved Laura Archer’s Bared to the Viscount, a lusty romp through Regency England, and Lizzie Shane has a wonderful reality TV based contemporary set of romances, starting with Marrying Mr. Perfect. Vanessa Barneveld has a quirky YA romance called This is Your Afterlife and…..I could write a book on how many awesome books the Rubies have written. Take a peek up top of the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood and click on a book cover. You’ll find your joy there.

RARM also has a Q&A session with guest authors so the below are about me (if you want a peek into my weird little world)

1 – Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy.

More recently, it’s getting the call I finaled in the RITAs. I won’t go through the whole thing with you, but I will say that the honor of being nominated was much needed in my career. The writing business is such a tough business and that particular shot of confidence helped me revisualize who I am and who I could be in the future.

2 – Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.

Hands down, my favorite place that gives me joy and peace is my camp on Lake Caddo. It’s so earthy and peaceful and allows me to power down and be in the moment. There’s something about that quiet joy that allows you to know exactly who you are.

3 – Tell us about a sound that brings you joy (or a memory attached to sound — music, laughter, wind chimes… ?)

The sound of my dogs playing. I love watching them, smiling as they chase one another. Sounds silly, huh? But watch dogs (or any animals) at play and try not to smile. You can’t. It’s pure fun because they are lost in the moment of play. Their heavy breathing, yips and chuffs as they bound through the tall grass, jump into the lake and wrestle beneath our big oak make me so happy.

4 – What recent book have you read that brought you joy. (Or a book you read in your life that brought you so much joy you’ve never forgotten it.) Why?

There are so many, but recently my neighbor brought over a stack of books (as if I don’t have enough!) and on top was Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter. I started the first page and couldn’t put it down. It was poignant, had a heroine you can cheer for and the hero – can we say young, hot, Hawaiian surfer? Um, yeah. It was good.

5 – And for fun, the joy of choice ;o) ~

Pick your Chris! Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Rock, Chris Evans or Christopher Plummer (circ. 1964 aka Capt. Von Trapp?) – trying for a little diversity! ;o)

I’m going with Chris Pratt because while he’s cute and funny, I see him having a deepness he likely protects. I love a guy who is light and goofy on the outside, but strong and still on the inside. I’m guessing this about him….or fantasizing it J

Thank you to Lorelei Lit Lair for recommending me to participate. You can read Lorelei’s essay at Read a Romance Month today!

 

To celebrate romance this month, I’m doing a giveaway! Leave a comment telling me about a day in your life of complete joy, and I’ll choose one winner to receive all three of my Magnolia Bend books. US or Canada winners only.

 

To Buy or Not to Buy: That is the Question

Partial Nora Roberts Collection

Partial Nora Roberts Collection

To massacre a phrase from Hamlet’s Soliloquy beyond all earthly recognition, have you ever thought about the factors that influence you to buy a book?

This blog post started off as an analysis of authors whose work I pre-order and auto-buy, but then, looking at my Amazon Cart and seeing so few books there <wince>, I started thinking about the topic in greater depth. What alchemic combination of author, genre, length, format, price point, and release timing makes me buy a book?

I knew beforehand that certain authors were auto-buys, and that I don’t impulse buy–ever–but beyond that? I discovered that my purchasing decisions were filtered through a set of factors that were a lot more complicated than I’d realized.

Go figure. 😉

Whether?

I easily read a couple hundred books per year, so it probably goes without saying that I’m a heavy user of the public library.

When considering whether to read or buy a book, particularly by a new-to-me author, I’ll scour online review sites looking for comments about lack of editing, typos, grammar errors and the like, which are my personal Kryptonite. Life’s too damn short to read books that annoy me.   

Whom?

At the time I write this post in late October, I’m awaiting delivery of three pre-ordered books:

Sarah MacLean – Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (historical paperback, Book of Scoundrels #4)

Nalini Singh – Archangel’s Shadows (paranormal paperback, Guild Hunters series)

Nora Roberts – Blood Magick (paranormal trade paperback, The Cousins O’Dwyer #3)

While I own every book MacLean and Roberts have ever written, I prefer Singh’s paranormal work to her category and contemporary releases.

There are several “new to me” authors whose work I’m enjoying so much that I’m happily glomming their backlists. I think it’s worth mentioning that I was introduced to Marie Force, Jennifer Probst, and Molly O’Keefe via a free paperback book. For me, free can pay off. O’Keefe, in particular, with her gift for exquisite sensory description, has made the leap to my auto-buy list. LOVE. HER.

When?

My oldest Nora (1981)

My oldest Nora (1981)

While it’s every author’s dream to earn a place for themselves on a reader’s auto-buy or pre-order list—the kind of fandom that yields delighted readers, big opening week sales, and bestseller list appearances—I must admit that, as a reader, I rarely buy a book in its release week. I’m really good at deferred gratification, and my TBR pile already looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I have so many books to catch up on that I feel no rush.

I’ve also found that by waiting awhile, you have a fair chance of finding an e-book on sale, or free, at a later date. Ka-ching.

How?

Once I make a decision to buy, format and price come into play. We all have our preferences; here are mine. As a rule, I don’t buy fiction in hardcover. I don’t listen to audiobooks, I’m ‘meh’ about novellas, and I heartily dislike serials. I’ve developed anthology fatigue from the sheer number of unread boxed sets growing dust on my Kindle.

If I want to read, for example, the latest book in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, or the latest J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts hardcover, I first reserve it at the library, then buy the book in mass market or trade paperback once it’s released in that format.

I read a mix of paperbacks and e-books. If a book has a chance of becoming a keeper, I buy it in paperback, because ebooks seem more…temporary, more disposable to me, for some reason. I think the most I’ve ever paid for an ebook is $5.99—and believe me, I thought twice before hitting the buy button.  And then I got REALLY pissed off because the ebook went on sale not two months later. :-/ Talk about a disincentive to buy a book in its release week.

So, let’s open it up for discussion! Which factors lead you to either buy a book, or not buy it? Do you have format preferences? A preferred price point?

Who’s on your auto-buy list?

 

 TamaraHogan_TemptMe_100pxTEMPT ME, Book Three of Tamara Hogan’s award-winning Underbelly Chronicles paranormal romance series, was nominated for a 2014 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and for a 2014 Booksellers Best Award.  Learn more about Tammy’s books at www.tamarahogan.com.

Buy yours at:  Print | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks  | ARe | Smashwords | Createspace

 

A Tiny Gem – Small Conferences

Have you ever attended a small writers/readers conference? I used to think that I had been to several. Compared to the over two-thousand attendees at the National Romance Writers of America conference, the Georgia Romance Writer’s fabulous Moonlight and Magnolia conference seemed intimate at three-hundred attendees. But this past weekend I attended the Tasty Author’s Weekend in Wilmington, North Carolina with under fifty other authors, readers and industry professionals.Tasty-Author's-Weekend-2014-Final

At first glance I worried about getting anything out of such a micro conference. The hotel was small and quiet. There were no bunches of authors networking in the lobby, no packed elevators of badge-wearing attendees, and no lines waiting to check in with the Tasty Tours registration table. The pre-conference lunch only sat about thirty.

My mom had come along with me and we stepped to the back of the luncheon buffet line. After spending only five minutes waiting, we sat down with full plates and sweet tea. I introduced myself and my mom to the woman next to me. She was a well-known agent who had worked at Harlequin as an editor for years. Umm…wow. The luncheon speaker sat down with us. She was a multi-published author who had flown in all the way from Alaska for the weekend. Really? I gave her advice on public speaking since she seemed a bit nervous and I used to teach professionals how to give talks. She called me her angel for helping her and did a fantastic job.

Afterwards I hurried up to the conference room where I would give my first industry talk: Juggling Scissors and Glue to find Focus by Collaging your Next Book. I had four attendees. Sigh…

PROPHECY_collage1

Collage Book Example

But, it was fabulous! The conference organizer attended, a reader from Upstate New York, one of my own chapter mates who’d I’d never really met before, and an award winning author of over sixty romances (Joanne Rock). Whew! We had so much fun clipping, gluing trading advice and learning about one another.

 

I met up with my mom for dinner and we ate in the hotel restaurant with several of the attendees I’d met already, including the agent. We talked about everything not industry related: families, health, vacations, movies, etc.

The cocktail party that evening had about thirty attendees and I made it a point to sit with people I didn’t know after waving to my dinner friends (yes, after learning about their families and laughing over our own failings I was starting to consider them friends). I met some more authors (one who’d flown in from Washington State), the editor at another publishing house, the multi-published author to speak at Saturday’s dinner, and then finally sat down at a table with a fun group of Indi erotica authors who showed me all their tattoos.

Book Signing

Book Signing

The three workshops I attended the next day were exceptional and allowed for constant audience participation and questions. The talk, Scene CPR by Laurin Wittig, may have saved my next book which is due to my editor in less than a week. Not only did Laurin save my book, but we found out that we write in the same sub-genre (Scottish historical paranormal romance) and now hope to travel to the northern Scottish isles together some day. I attended Joanne Rock’s talk on self-promotion, taking generous notes from her and the various bloggers in the audience. One blogger stayed after to help me figure out how to run a big contest (giving away two One Direction tickets!) for my next book release. She knows everything about contests and I had known nothing (FTC terms and conditions? What?!).

That night we had another wonderful buffet meal together with an inspiring talk and a small awards ceremony. Apparently when hotels make food for small groups, it doesn’t taste so much like “hotel food.” I even went back for seconds. And my book won a prize! Yay! Instead of hurrying, exhausted back to our hotel rooms to pack or trying to network in the lobby or bar, we all just stayed and talked in the banquet room. By the end of the night we were hugging each other goodbye, making sure we had each other’s contact info, and begging the conference organizer to put on another one in the future.

I never would have thought that a tiny conference could be so huge in benefits. I may have learned more over those two days, with under fifty people, than I learned at a four-day conference with thousands. I connected with an editor/agent who I now consider a friend (we plan to meet for coffee after realizing how close we live). I got personal help from an experienced blogger. I found a possible writer soul mate who wants to travel in Scotland with me. I became good friends with a published author who has more than sixty books under her belt. I had fun meeting nearly all the attendees and I digested important information from the workshops in small enough segments to allow me to remember nearly all of it.

Joanne Rock TT conf

Heather & Joanne Rock

Bottom line – the mini conference can be a fantastic, HUGE experience. I now recommend them with my whole heart. Look in your area. Look around the country. See if you can find a small and intimate writers/readers conference. It may just be the best one you ever attend.

Jennifer Bernard & Heather

Jennifer Bernard & Heather

If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear about them!

 

RT Booklovers Convention Recap

Romance readers, industry representatives, and authors of all ages and subgenres recently gathered in Kansas City for the 30th annual Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. As a first time attendee, I went in with a mind (and eyes) wide open. The Ruby Sisters who attended agree that meeting readers (and visiting with each other) was the best part of the convention, but if you’re looking for more details and opinions, you’ll find them below. (Beware: This is a long post, but we wanted to give you a good feel for the adventure that is RT.)

 

PROMOTIONAL OPPORTUNITIES & SWAG

 

Authors and readers alike are there for a common purpose – to celebrate books. In particular, romance books. So it’s the perfect environment for promoting yourself as an author, or, as a reader, meeting your favorite author and picking up some goodies. As Addison Fox points out, “RT is wonderful because it’s a group of people who love books. Everyone there celebrates the written word and it’s just such a fun environment to be in for days on end.”

Some of Kim Law's swag.

Some of Kim Law’s swag.

Got swag? Boy, I hope so. If you’re an author at RT, bring a LOT and ALWAYS have some on you. This felt different from RWA, where I was hesitant to “push” things on fellow writers and usually opted for leaving items in the goody room. But at RT, even the postcards went quickly as I met readers and authors who wanted something that would help them remember my name.

 

Kinds of swag? There were a lot of pens, bookmarks, lip balms and candies. Kim Law’s beach balls were a unique and popular addition. Jeannie Lin noticed that dressing up her bookmarks (for a minimal cost) created a big hit. Says Lin: “I didn’t have very expensive stuff (other than the Ruby playing cards) but my bookmarks stood out because I wanted to make them pretty and different. Who would have thought those 1-cent red tassels would make them such a hit? I had booksellers and just random people come up to comment on how beautiful my bookmarks were.” She also recommends choosing swag that makes readers feel special and is strongly branded so they’ll remember you.

Elizabeth Essex describes having tiers of swag ready for any occasion. “Carry your swag with you at all times. You never know when the top reviewer from RT is going to come up to you while you are dressed as a saloon girl and ask to see your latest. Have that ARC, or PDF, or whatever hidden in your purse and ready to give out. And carry your minor swag—every time a reader asked me what I wrote, I passed out my character cards. Every time a reader said she had liked something I’ve already written, I gave her an autographed bookplate to stick in her book. And even if she had read it on an e-reader, she was happy to get that little bit of something personal.”

 

Bring a pimp. Several authors brought grown sons, spouses, or a friend to help hand out items, both at book signings and in the general assemblies. Perhaps when my daughter’s of age, I’ll put her in a cute T-shirt so people will ask about her mom’s books. *wink*

Heather McCollum and Addison Fox mingle.

Heather McCollum and Addison Fox mingle.

Pimp yourself. Talk to people! There is no better promotional opportunity at RT than talking to the people around you—in line, on the elevator, sitting in a workshop, or wherever. Tamara Hogan says: “The most valuable part of the conference for me was networking: connecting with other writers, of course, but also chatting with book bloggers, reviewers, and librarians. A lot of these opportunities are kinda random – you never know who you’re standing in line with!” Rita Henuber also suggests reaching out to people you don’t know, asking them questions and they’ll start asking about you.

 

 

AUTHOR VISIBILITY 

 

Tamara Hogan and Jeannie Lin at the Jazz Breakfast

Tamara Hogan and Jeannie Lin at the Jazz Breakfast

Attend workshops and events. In addition to swag, the workshops and reader events were ways to connect with readers. Kim Law advises authors in attendance “to expect any workshop you attend to possibly turn into a reader workshop. And that that isn’t a bad thing! Always bring freebies to the workshops, and assume you’re going to be answering reader questions.” The after-hours parties with food and drink were also big draws. One thing I did was tweet during the “Readers Know Best” workshop, which resulted in several new followers and retweets.

 

Kim Law poses with cover model Harvey Gaudun-Stables

Kim Law poses with cover model Harvey Gaudun-Stables

Make friends with hot guys. The cover models were everywhere, appearing like co-hosts of events in addition to generating excitement among the attendees, who enjoyed a bit of eye candy. Don’t be afraid to talk to them and get your picture taken. I met some fabulous new people this way, and many authors generated a buzz by posting their pictures with cover models on Facebook.

Liz Bemis with Scott (one of the handsome cover models).

Liz Bemis with Scott (one of the handsome cover models).

 

Make friends, period. As Elizabeth Essex recommends: “My philosophy/best advice for large conferences like RT is to tell yourself it’s just an opportunity to ‘make new friends,’ both with readers and with authors. I had a fabulous, if exhausting time, by telling myself that RT was just one big sleep-over party, and that everywhere I went, elevators, parties, workshops and bars were just opportunities to say ‘Hi’ to other people and ask them if they were having fun. I met so many readers that way, and I also met fellow authors and established common ground and mutual fan-girldom. At least one of those authors I met and hit it off with, gave me a shout-out on a big, national blog as a result.”

 

Advertising options. Personally, I didn’t find the smaller posters that lined one specific portion of the event space as eyecatching as the window clings that were something like 7 feet tall x 4 feet wide and lined the walking areas we passed through every day. The clings on the elevator doors were captivating as well.  There was also “Promo Alley.” For the low price of $25, authors could reserve a square of space in which to place promo items for attendees to pick up. Jeannie Lin highly recommends this option. “Put up a poster with your book cover on it as well as other giveaways  like bookmarks. It’s SO worth it and the cheapest promo you’ll find at RT.”

Laura Navarre in costume at the book signing.

Laura Navarre in costume at the book signing.

 

Elizabeth Essex dresses the part for the Rosie's Gulch party.

Elizabeth Essex dresses the part for the Rosie’s Gulch party.

Identify yourself (and your subgenre). Rita Henuber suggests wearing something that indicates what you write. “If your books are about weddings wear a veil. If you write historicals wear at least the top part of a costume. Wear a pirate hat and eye patch. Have a parrot on your shoulder. I was immediately drawn to authors who did this.”

 

Go big or go home. Either prepare to promote yourself as a big name readers should want to know, or spend your time at home writing the next book that will make you bigger. RT is about making a splash. Elizabeth Essex found dressing up to be fun and rewarding. “Be professional, but surrender your dignity: RT is all about dressing up and going to the parties. So I became a saloon girl, even if I was mutton dressed as lamb. I had fun, and made new friends, and those friends tracked me down at the signing and bought books. All because I had a fabulous velvet corset.” Jeannie Lin found this to be true as well. “It’s like any other ‘Con.’ It’s about stepping out in costume and interacting with other fans and readers. I think I was easily recognized because 1) I actually really like dressing up 2) and I’m Asian and I write Asian books  3) My covers and SWAG were really easily identifiable.”

 

WHAT WOULD I CHANGE?

 

I had a blast at RT, but there were some things I would have done differently…and definitely some lessons learned.

 

Club RT. This was a scheduled time to sit and let your readers come find you. For me (a relatively new author who doesn’t have a huge following), it wasn’t that helpful, though I had fun spending that time chatting with cover models and the other authors who were there.

 

FANtastic Day party. Mass hysteria. Dogs and cats, living together. Okay, this event might not have been that crazy, but it was the one time I truly felt overwhelmed. Thank goodness I had Kim and Addison to glom onto. I don’t know how readers/attendees were expected to locate authors, or how authors were supposed to match up with readers who might like their books. Unless you had very visible freebies (especially free print books) to give away, readers were likely to pass you by in the crowd.

 

Heather McCollum at Saturday's Book Fair

Heather McCollum at Saturday’s Book Fair

E-Book EXPO and Giant Book Fair. First, I was thrilled to be part of the E-book EXPO on Thursday afternoon. But, well, it was scheduled from 4-6 p.m. on a work day in the middle of a week…and it snowed. Sideways. I certainly don’t blame RT for the snow, and participating in the event was a lot of fun, but when compared to the BIG print book fair on Saturday? There were, maybe, a fourth of the attendees (and that’s probably being generous). Saturday was the granddaddy of events for readers. People could buy a day pass just for that. Readers turned out in droves.

But Jeannie Lin, who participated in both signings, had a different experience. “Surprisingly, I think I had more people approach me at the ebook expo than at the Giant Bookfair. Maybe it was because the expectation at the ebook Expo was you were browsing and would buy later? Or maybe just because it was first on Thursday and the Giant Bookfair was Saturday.”

 

Kim Law at Saturday's Book Fair.

Kim Law at Saturday’s Book Fair.

The signings. The biggest thing I learned from my E-book EXPO signing is how to better promote myself in the crowd. People don’t know my name, but when I wrote my subgenre under my name on my sign, more people stopped to talk about that with me, as we bonded discussing the books we loved. Conversation usually led to them taking a postcard and swag items, so maybe they’ll look me up again. Using a stand-up poster with an eye-catching cover also had a lot of people stopping to say hello. Basically, having a conversation starter was key to luring people to the table. Also, as I learned from the author next to me, bringing a pashmina or some other cloth to add color or background (other than the bright white that lined the tables) made my station more appealing. Next time, I’ll remember to bring a Sharpie for those hard-to-sign items. I also wrote “Take One” on my sign to encourage people to pick up swag, and it worked. Readers are shy and can be elusive unless you use bait.

 

I thought Jeannie Lin had a great take on what measures “success” at a signing, and how the RT bookfair is useful, even if you don’t sell a pile of books. “RT is not a bookselling event – There are so many book giveaways that readers aren’t usually there to buy from authors they don’t know. Expect to give away a lot of books. But that’s a good thing. Imagine when you blog how hard it is to get readers to come by and even comment to get a book? And then you have to pay postage to ship it to them. Here, readers and bloggers are clamoring for books.”

 

Sponsor something. At my next RT, I’d try to sponsor the bags, a party, a panel, or invest in advertising via the window clings. Or host a reader event. As Jeannie Lin, a second-time RT attendee this year, learned, “I did panels that were totally brainy and heavy. Forget that. For next year, I’m only going to do fun reader panels with prizes and games and feather boas.” RT 2014 is already accepting proposals.

 

Laura Navarre and Heather McCollum at the Disco Party.

Laura Navarre and Heather McCollum at the Disco Party.

Participate more. As a newbie, I confess I was a bit intimidated by some of the evening events, especially where costumes were encouraged. I wish I’d gone to more of them, especially the publisher-sponsored ones. But as a Carina author, I did participate in their cocktail party on the last night, which allowed readers to enter a drawing for an iPad2 (which turned out to be two iPad2’s!). To enter, they mingled with authors, searching for the one who wrote the book that matched a blurb in their hands. It was a great way to mix authors and readers as well as get them intrigued about books from the blurbs. I’d definitely do something like that again. And I admired Entangled’s author-hunt scavenger hunt, and how it took place over days and days, probably putting those authors’ names and covers in front of readers at least a dozen times over the course of the convention.

 

WRITER VS. READER CONS

 

I’m coming from only having attended national RWA and regional RWA conferences – i.e., writer-focused conferences. Having said that, the workshops at RT were okay, but some lacked a professional polish that RWA presenters and award ceremonies are known for.

Tamara Hogan suggests if you’re a writer looking for workshops with a writing/craft focus, that RWA might better suit your needs. Workshops at RT, even the craft ones, still had a “fan” slant. However, though she was able to connect with her readers, she wondered what the ratio of writers to readers was this year. “It seemed to me there were a LOT more writers there than there were the last time I attended, with every single one of us there to promote our work. Whether this is a positive thing or a negative thing for reader attendees, I have no idea.”

Still, there was an entire workshop track dedicated to self-publishing, including a couple of workshops presented by Mark Coker from Smashwords. And in a thriller panel I attended, Bob Mayer and other authors explained what an “espresso machine” was. I’d never heard of this tool for printing books from digital files. Sounds like the future of publishing to me!

Jeannie Lin, a second-time RT attendee this year, has observed an “RT culture,” saying that there are readers who’ve approached her saying they remember her from the past RT, or have read her books because they picked one up at the event. “There are also super-readers who scan the authors attending list and bring all the books on their bookshelves that match up. I got a couple of those wanting autographs of my backlist books that they had bought from Walmart or B&N. I’m not a big name famous author, I really believe these readers do it for ALL the authors they read. Don’t you love that there are readers like that?”

 

Ruby Dinner! From front right to front left: Heather McCollum, Laura Navarre, Rita Henuber, Anne Marie Becker, Addison Fox, Liz Bemis, Jeannie Lin, Tamara Hogan, Sara Ramsey (taking the picture is Kim Law).

Ruby Dinner! From front right to front left: Heather McCollum, Laura Navarre, Rita Henuber, Anne Marie Becker, Addison Fox, Liz Bemis, Jeannie Lin, Tamara Hogan, Sara Ramsey (taking the picture is Kim Law).

Like with any conference, stamina is the name of the game. Rita Henuber recommends eating a good breakfast every morning. Jeannie Lin reminds authors to bring a cup of coffee or bottle of water to the book signings. Addison Fox recommends finding time for a quick nap. Elizabeth Essex balances it all: “Lather (go to the bar), rinse (short time alone in room), repeat!”

Hope to see you in May 2014 in New Orleans at the next Romantic Times Booklovers Convention!

Have you been to RT, as a reader or a writer, or both? Have you attended other reader cons? What were your experiences, and do you have any tips or tidbits to share?

SPOTLIGHT: Boudreaux’s Bookworms

bookwormLast year I was invited to participate in an online Facebook book club by my sassy Cajun friend Karla Boudreaux. As thrilling as it was to be invited (because I LOVE to talk about books) I had reservations as a published author. I didn’t want anyone in the group to feel as though she HAD to read my books or feel uncomfortable by the fact someone who has a vested interest in books would be entering the fray. But because these ladies weren’t going to be dissecting and ripping apart literary works but instead squeeing and oh-my-goshing at fun, fabulous books, I put out a disclaimer and waded in. And I’m so very glad I did – it’s been a fun year of discovering new books and celebrating the ones I love. And as an author, because I live in the industry daily, I constantly share Dear Author and SBTB links for the kindle sales. I’m pulling my weight as a member and love being part of these fun gals.

So last week, one of our members posted this:

Why do you read books?….I do because I like to get in the sack with vampires…oh and Jamie Frashier!!! Hahaha just saying 😉

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