Tuesday, July 15, 2014

RWA Annual Conference - Roll Out the Red Carpet for Readers

I am now published!  My article below was published in the July issue of Romance Writer Report (RWR) - the monthly magazine published by the Romance Writers of America (RWA).   RWA gave me permission to share on my blog ... just in time for next week's RWA Annual Conference.

Roll Out the Red Carpet for Readers- 
Maximizing the Author Experience at Romance Conventions

Convention season is upon us. It is prime time to meet readers, reviewers, and bloggers who can make (or break) your writing career. I’ve traveled over 2500 miles, across the Pacific Ocean, to attend conventions. So I have high expectations of the author experience. I offer several tips for you to offer the ultimate author experience for the readers you meet.

Before you go,

- Update your social media, including your website, Facebook, and Twitter. Make sure that readers can follow up their personal experience with online access to your biography, book list, and contact information.

- Offer promotional material that readers will want to take home. All materials, at the very least, must direct the reader to your online presence. It may be easy to hand out buttons at a panel discussion. The challenge is to inspire readers take the buttons home. Suitcases grow fatter as each day passes as a convention. Make sure your promotional material is relevant, informative, and useful – enough so to make the cut in the limited luggage space.

- Know your audience. Does the convention appeal to a wide range of readers or is it a genre focused? Is it large enough to attract readers from around the country or will there be a regional draw? Knowing your audience helps you pack your promotional materials and prepare your public persona.

During the conference,

- Be the rock star readers think you are. I am a four year veteran of the RWA National Conference and I still get goose bumps when I meet an author. No matter where you are in the convention area - workshops, hallways, elevators, restaurants – you will be on public display. Be prepared to sign books, hand out bookmarks, and take photos with your adoring fans. If you need a break from the fishbowl, escape the convention hotel to a nearby restaurant for some down time with your chapter mates. 

- Create a signature look. Donna MacMeans is known for her peacock feather atop the black hat. Cherry Adair wears a bright colored flower pinned to her dress. Cathy Maxwell laughs out load. These public personas invite readers to interact with the authors.

- Be spontaneous. If a reader is walking around the lobby, looking for a place to sit, invite the reader to sit with you. If your table at the book fair intersects with the overflowing line of a popular author, engage the readers waiting in line. Break away from your comfort level of being with your author friends to stand in line with a group of readers. You will not only introduce readers to your public persona, but learn firsthand what they want from romance.

- Create opportunities. If readers identify themselves as reviewers, ask for a review. If they identify themselves as bloggers, ask to be a guest. If you commit, follow through with that commitment. Nothing turns off readers more than opportunities that fizzle.

- Be prepared for all personalities. Some readers, like authors, claim to be introverts. Employ techniques to draw these readers into conversation. Other readers are in/out, maximizing their limited time at the book fair. Respond accordingly and send them on their merry way. You will also meet readers who will want to monopolize your time – I’m guilty! Find the balance of including the enthusiast reader while drawing in the introvert.

- Be gracious. I’ve seen fans give nominal gifts to their favorite authors, only to hear the authors later dismiss the gifts. Don’t gossip - remember the fish bowl. Even if you are dining away from the convention hotel, be aware of who may be listening at the next table. Save your complaints for your pet at home. Your pet gives you the opportunity to vent without the possibility of it being repeated.

- Have fun. A smile speaks louder than words.

Once you go home,

- Share your experience, and especially pictures, on social media. Readers will enjoy your musings. Even I enjoy reading authors’ perspectives of the conventions I attended. Give away some of the swag, including your own, so your fans feel a part of your travels.

- Follow up with the contacts you made. Check out the social media of the readers, reviewers, and bloggers you met. Contact them for reviews, promotion, or even just a thank you for their company at the convention.

- Take note what you learned about the convention and share with your chapter. Provide constructive feedback to the convention organizers so they, too, can improve the author experience for both the reader and the author.

Kim Lowe attended her first RWA National Conference in Washington, DC in 2009. One week later, she moved to Hawaii with her military family, stuffing convention goodies into her carryon luggage. Kim created her book blog, SOS Aloha, sosaloha.blogspot.com, as virtual connection to Romanceland. Readers’ interest in Hawaii lead to her travel blog, ALOHA ON MY MIND, alohaonmymind.blogspot.com. Kim moved back to the Baltimore area in August 2013, bringing the Aloha Spirit to Charm City. You’ll find Kim at romance events in her signature look – an Aloha shirt. 

Donna MacMeans with her signature peacock feathers

Can you offer any advice to authors when meeting readers? One randomly selected commenter wins a book choice from my convention stash. Comments are open through Saturday, July 19, 10 pm in Baltimore. I'll post the winner on Sunday, July 20.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Cherry Adair with her signature flower.


  1. Look the reader right in the eyes and be genuinely interested in what they have to say. Make them feel good.

  2. Great post with great advice and tips.

  3. I would want the author to greet me. I'm the shy fan and the first word is always the hardest. I want to feel welcome, not treated as an obligation or a pest.

  4. Some wonderful tips that you shared! Thank you, Kim! :)

  5. I would say be approachable and friendly, and be prepared for some excited talk about your books. :D

  6. I loved your article, Kim! Congrats!

    I can't really think of any advice to give the writers for greeting readers. I think they do a good job already.

    Marcy Shuler

  7. Grat article , kimh

  8. Good for you!!!

    To expect fans to be tongue tied. I know I would be.

  9. Expect to answer any kind of off the way question and when you answer make sure you have a smile on your face.

  10. I just expect author to talk a little to me. A smile would be good too!

  11. Just be yourself. If other readers are like me...they are already impressed. Smile.

  12. I've never been but a friendly smile and a few words or maybe an answer to a question would be nice!

  13. I think the best advice is to always be yourself.

  14. Congratulations on being published, Kim. This is an excellent article chock full of great tips. Enjoy San Antonio - wish I had the opportunity to come see you there!

  15. Awesome article Kim! Congrats on being published! That is all great advice.

  16. Congrats on the publishing Kim! There is a lot of great advice here! My advice would be for authors who are introverts and may not enjoy a lot of socializing with readers/reviewers/bloggers etc.; do not put yourself in a position or an area you don't feel comfortable with. Some readers can be so excited and over-zealous and may not know you are uncomfortable in certain situations and this may result in an awkward or heated confrontation. And always be respectful. Speaking as a reader and ultimate fan girl to some of my favorite authors...meeting your favorite author for the first time is a dream come true to some people (including this girl) and it would totally crush the reader to know that their favorite author was rude or indifferent to them and their feelings.