What a busy fall this has been! On the heels of my mid-August release of SLEEPING WITH ELVIS, I attended three writers’ conferences and book signings in September and October. Whew! I’m just now catching my breath. All three conferences were very different, yet informative and helpful in their own way whether connecting with readers, learning craft, or schmoozing with super star authors.
Following are the three conferences I attended:
- Ozarks Romance Authors – Springfield, Missouri
- Penned Con – St. Louis, Missouri
- InD’Scribe Author & Reader Con – Burbank, California
Ozarks Romance Authors is basically a two-day event (with a book signing for speakers the night before.) Workshops are held the following day covering a variety of writerly topics. Mainly authors attend this event. There were aspiring authors, published authors, and a few readers. At least one agent and editor took pitches. I always enjoy this smaller conference in my home town, but sadly, they’re discontinuing this one.
Penned Con was a MASSIVE event in St. Louis. Supposedly, over 900 attended (150 of whom were authors) so you can imagine there were many, many readers. And the readers’ support was astounding. They were eager to get photographs with authors. Many had books or totes they wanted autographed. Some even made photo books containing their favorite authors’ head shots. I was humbled to be in one of them! There were keynote speakers each day. Quinn Loftis spoke about why we write. Another author talked about her journey from humble beginnings to becoming a bestselling author. Her husband had tears of pride.
The readers made this event a huge success and made the authors feel like rock stars. In fact, one reader had a shirt that said: AUTHORS ARE MY ROCK STARS! Talk about making up for all of those solitary writing hours! Their enthusiasm for this conference, and for reading in general, was astounding. Many bought multiple books. I think one woman must have bought 500. She filled a cart four or five times. Another great thing about Penned Con is they raise money for a charity–Autism. Between gift basket raffles, tee shirt sales, and other items, we collectively raised over $13,000 for autism. I loved that aspect of this conference.
InD’Scribe Author & Reader Con – Bigger name authors attend this conference and they are VERY welcoming. One, Marina Adair, had the premier of her book-made-to-movie, AUTUMN IN THE VINEYARD, that weekend on the Hallmark Channel. We were all in awe of her success. Also, her BFF, Catherine Bybee, who is on every list for her Weekday Brides’ series is a hoot and a great dancer. Several Soulies attended this event and I was thrilled to meet Collette Cameron, Carol Roddy, Tami Lund, and to see Sue Berger and Alina Field again. I hope even more Soulies attend in 2017!
InD’Scribe seems to be more of an industry conference for authors and doesn’t yet attract many readers but we still had book signings. I’m hopeful it will grow each year. This was just their second conference. Also, they have romance cover models roaming around, and authors are able to have their photos taken with them. Below is Michael Foster and me. Swoon. ‘Nuff said.
I even volunteered to be on two panels with several other authors. Most I had never met and one came all the way from New Zealand. We winged it and I think offered some helpful tips. One panel was about creating villains and another was writing about best friends which was perfect for my award-winning novel, THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS (see how I worked that in?!)
Also, InD’Scribe has the coveted RONE (pronounced RONE-y) awards each year. Last year, I was humbled to win in the women’s fiction category, and this year, at least two Soulies, Tami Lund and Carol Roddy, won in their categories. I was thrilled to cheer them on. Also, Collette Cameron was a RONE finalist. Congrats, ladies! The RONE ceremony is a dressy, red carpet affair where romance cover models escort the winners to the stage, and the winners say a few words. There’s also entertainment.
At meals, it’s fun (and sometimes scary) to seek out other authors. I became fast friends with one romantic suspense author, Maryann Jordan, who is a bestseller and churns out a book every couple of months. At conferences, you’ll become inspired and motivated by rubbing shoulders with these folks. Anne Perry came all the way from England! Of course, I attended one of her workshops. Several romance genres were represented–historical, contemporary, paranormal, chick lit, women’s fiction, YA, and romantic suspense. Also, there were fun themed parties every night including a gigantic dragon!
Here are my takeaways and tips for a successful conference and book signing:
- Pack a variety of shoes (comfy and dressy)
- Take sweaters (conference rooms are always cold)
- Take part in the crazy costume parties. They’re fun.
- Force yourself to mingle. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to big-name authors. They all started with the same blank screen.
- Attend every workshop you can. We always need to improve our craft.
- Volunteer to serve on workshops. No matter how far along you are in the publishing process, you’ll have something to offer.
- Have a theme for your book signing that ties in with your novel(s). I recreated Key Lime Island, my setting for SLEEPING WITH ELVIS. I had a mini palm tree, Hibiscus flowers, shells, and gave away leis (since my hero, an Elvis impersonator, does the same during his show in my novel!)
- Think of props to tie in with your novels. I found a standing cardboard Elvis who was a huge hit. I encouraged readers to come to my table to get leid- by Elvis!!! 🙂
- Smile and be welcoming. Make an effort to talk to readers and thank them (even if they don’t buy your book).
- Offer tips of the trade freely to aspiring authors.
- Take plenty of pictures with your fans and other authors. You’ll want to use these on your social media pages and your website. Of course, ask their permission to do so.
- Offer freebies to draw readers to your table. Chocolate always works and I always give away free bookmarks and pens. I offered tote bags to those who bought two or more of my books and also had key lime and/or coconut lip balm, both of which tie in with my novels. (Yes, I get carried away with swag.)
- Have business cards with your website, email, and novel covers.
- Have either table posters or standing posters with your book covers.
- Check on the tablecloths, whether they’re offered, and what color they are so you can coordinate.
- If you can spare 20 minutes, take a nap. You’ll need it! Most conferences go from 8 a.m. until midnight.
- Don’t forget your phone/camera and charger.
- Have change available for the book signings.
- Many use a Square to take credit and debit cards. So far, I haven’t yet needed one.
- Thank the readers. Without them, we’d only sell two books to our mom and spouse.
I hope to see you at the next conference. For now, I’m back to wearing yoga pants and am writing! Visit me on Facebook, Twitter (@bethcarter007) or my website, http://www.bethcarter.com Find my books at http://www.amazon.com/author/bethcarter