Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ask a Blogger: Roll Out the Red Carpet for Readers - Maximizing the Author Experience at Romance Conventions

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I have a new feature here at SOS Aloha - Ask a Blogger. Several authors have asked me what to expect at the RT Booklovers Convention, coming to Atlanta from May 3 - 7 at this link. To answer their questions, I offer an article I wrote for RWA's monthly magazine, the Romance Writers Report with a few updates:

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, Twitter, etc.  Make sure that readers can follow up their personal experience with online access to your bio, books, and contact information.

- Order 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 have been attending RT since 2006 and RWA since 2009; 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. Cherry Adair wears a bright colored flower pinned to her dress.  Jaffe Kennedy sports a large hat. 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 make fun of 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 created her book blog, SOS Aloha, as virtual connection to Romanceland while living in Hawaii. Readers’ interest in Paradise lead to her travel blog, ALOHA ON MY MIND. Kim now lives in the Baltimore, bringing the Aloha Spirit to Charm City. You’ll find Kim at romance events in her signature look – an Aloha shirt.

For the month of April, I am giving away a box of books from authors attending RT. To enter the giveaway,

1. Readers - do you have any advice for authors at conventions?

2. Comments are open through Sunday, April 30, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3. I will be offline from Monday, May 1 - Sunday, May 7.

4. I'll post the winner on Sunday, May 8.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

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  1. I'm afraid I've never been so not much help. It's on my bucket list to go to a convention!

  2. Never been to one, so don't know what advice to give.

  3. While I would know authors by name it is possible I don't know them by sight. Names displayed prominently would be helpful.

  4. I have never been but I am definitely working on making it happen. I loved your post Kim, so very helpful for the Authors. Thanks for all your hard work, and it shows how much you enjoy it.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  5. This is such a great list of helpful advice.

  6. Hi Kim! Great article! Wish I could have made it, but it's not happening this year. I loved the book signing in NY two years ago, and I found the authors to be very friendly. That is the most I could ask! And to have enough books for signing!

  7. I really have no advice for authors. Have a wonderful time at the convention.

  8. do what you can to keep things moving along, but without rushing people too much - I know that can be hard, but standing in lines can be exhausting

  9. Since I've never made it to a large signing , much less a convention, I'm not sure what else I'd add to your advice, Kim. I do like Mary Preston's advice though. Have fun!

  10. I'm not sure except keep talking to a minimal so that the line moves along at a good pace. All the ones I've been to were well organized and that was nice for all involved.

  11. I have been to RomCon in Colorado Springs and attended the RT Convention in Dallas a couple of years ago. I enjoyed meeting authors in small sessions. I know it must be hard to be surrounded and constantly having people want a piece of your time. The small break-out type sessions where an author is at a table with 8 to 12 attendees give the readers a chance together to know an author a bit better. We get to ask questions about things we would like to know and the author can get a better feel for what fans are interested in and want to know. I think that would help them in future events and with ideas for stories.

  12. I don't know really. Never been to any.

  13. Is RomCon always in Springs?

  14. I have never been, so really cannot think of any advice.
    Natty's Mama (Karen T.)