Today’s Brew: Is there coffee shock therapy?
If you follow me on Twitter (and if not, why not? You know I’m fun.), you know that last week I was in New Orleans for the Romance Times Convention, or as you saw it a thousand times, RT14. Simply put, I had a blast. All of us who spent time together are lamenting how weird it feels to get back in to our regular routines at home.
Tammy Farrell, a convention virgin (yes, Tammy, I outed you) asked me a lot of questions about RT, and we figured she couldn’t be alone with having questions about attending conventions. I had her ask some questions I could answer on the blog that might help you if you’re wondering why the heck we go to these things.
What is the schedule like?
During the weekdays, there are panels scheduled throughout the morning and afternoon. Because a wide variety of people attend this particular convention (writers, readers, agents, editors, bloggers, booksellers, and librarians), there were panels directed at all groups of people. I looked for ones that were about writing craft, marketing, or self publishing. The nice thing is, if a panel isn’t what you want it to be, you get up and go to another one, or just get a coffee and relax. Because your brain can get overloaded quickly at these things, there are also social events during the day that are just fun and you can meet people. At night, there were parties to attend, but I found most people stopped by those briefly and either went out to dinner with a group or hung out in the lobby and socialized. Saturday was fan day, and the day of the huge book signing. 300 authors signed at the event. I was waitlisted because I’m an indie author, which was fine with me. I attended another event that evening called FAN-tastic that I was able to connect with readers at.
I’d like to know how you get set up to do a signing, what kinds of things (materials) do you need to prepare.
Don’t quote me on this, because I didn’t get in to the signing in time. I got waitlisted. It looked like you were automatically able to sign if you were traditionally published. It seemed like there was a predetermined amount of spaces for indie authors. There was some controversy about calling the indie author room “aspiring writers.” Shame on you, RT. Do you know how many NYT best sellers were in the “aspiring” room? I don’t think there should be any segregation at all. Just first come, first serve, no matter who you are.
If you are doing a signing, obviously you need books. Bring a sign so people can see what you have from a distance. You want to draw them in and talk to them. Make sure you have something they can walk away with that they remember you and your brand, even if they don’t buy a book. Swag swag swag. LOL. Before you set foot into the signing space, you need to shout it from the rooftops you’re going to be there. Activity attracts activity and you want to make sure you’re not sitting there looking at Twitter.
What’s the best way to meet people. How do you choose which event to go to?
Go up and introduce yourself. Just start talking. Everyone is there for the same thing. Yes, that sounds scary as hell, and it is. I suggest the buddy system. I had two awesome roommates, Angi Black and Sarah Guillory, who I didn’t really know all that well before I went, and thank God they were awesome. It’s a lot less intimidating to enter a room with someone or looking for someone. Reach out to your Twitter or Facebook friends who are going to be at the event, and make sure you find them when you’re there. I spent a lot of time with Zoey Derrick, and because of her met Angel Payne, who was amazing. Anyone you really want to meet? Reach out to them and offer to take them to coffee.
The description of some events will tell you right away if you want to go or not. A YA sleepover party might not interest you, but the NA one? Hell yeah. Some things were publisher hosted, some were general events, and sometimes, you just want to hang out in the lobby and talk.
Best/Worst practices at a convention.
Have a plan. I like to print out the schedule beforehand so I know what events/panels interest me.
Talk to as many people as possible.
Don’t feel like you have to do everything. Take breaks if you need to.
Try new things.
After putting out all that money, what do you think YOU got out of it? Why is it worth it?
You might think you have a great reach on social media, with tons of followers and fans, but going to a convention is a way to really get to KNOW those people, for them to put a face to your name, and to get them invested in you, and vice versa. I talked to Angi on Twitter before we roomed together, but spending five days living with her, I really got to know her. I barely knew Sarah at all, and I was so glad we roomed together because we probably would have never started talking on social media. Other people knew my name, but didn’t really know me, and they got a chance to see what I was all about. Some didn’t realize I had any books out. Twitter moves fast, and everyone has a lot going on.
It was also a chance to get my books in front of readers, simply asking them what type of things they liked to read. The number that said paranormal or urban fantasy was staggering, so I don’t want to hear that paranormal is dead. Readers still want it. A number of people’s eyes lit up when I told them about vampire rock stars. Would they have ever found me in the millions of books available online? Maybe not.
You can also read articles all day long, but to talk to people who are doing things well and pick their brains in person is priceless. Sometimes you find out about things you didn’t even know to ask about that make all the difference in your business. You see marketing, get to see and hear what readers are interested in, and really get to fully immerse yourself into the industry as it’s happening now. I can’t do that on my couch.
Pick conferences well, break out of your shell, and absorb as much as you can.