This past week I attended my first Romantic Times convention in Kansas City with my fellow Princess Sylvia McDaniel. RT has always been billed as a readers convention, where avid fans of romance can meet the authors whose work they love, but in recent years the con has added a craft track for writers as well.
All in all, I had a wonderful time. I found the vibe at RT to be playful and exuberant. There were parties and games and all sorts of give-aways. There were dress-up parties of every sort, from the Western Saloon Girl party I co-hosted with a fabulous group of historical writers, to Steampunk and Regency Soirees, and a Vampire Ball. Writers and readers wore a variety of costumes throughout the week, competing for prizes for the most elaborate and convincing get-ups.
Despite all the cos-play, I did manage to learn a thing or two professionally. As a whole continues to be a dynamic, rapidly changing industry, and that no one approach (traditional NY publisher, independent small publisher, digital publisher or self-publishing) is best, nor desirable. The authors who seemed the most content and confident, were those who are publishing their works across all formats (trad and self), at a variety of price points, and in a variety of lengths (collections of stories, novellas & novels).
There were some genres that are ‘hot’ (hello “New Adult!) and some genres rumored to be losing steam (Urban Fantasy and especially Historical always seems to be rumored to be ‘dead’ when the NYT and Amazon lists clearly show both are alive and well.)
But the greatest common denominator is that those authors who are the most successful, across a variety of publishing formats, are those writers who are passionate about their genres, and deliver GREAT stories to readers.
For me personally, the highlight of the week was the huge author signing that took pace on Saturday. There were hundreds of authors, thousands of readers and hundreds of thousands of books! I sold books to readers who had never heard of me, and I sold books to readers who had loved my previous books, and I even managed to sell a book to a reader who took the time to find me, and tell me that she didn’t like one of my books! (She didn’t like that she had to “wait until France for them to have sex” in Almost A Scandal) But the loveliest moment was when I had the honor of signing a copy of my debut novel, The Pursuit of Pleasure that an avid reader brought from home with her.
The best ‘takeaway’ from the conference is that I made new friends (just like we were supposed to do when our moms sent us off to school at the beginning of each school year). I made new friends who are authors, I made new friends who are readers. I connected with both authors and readers who are my friends on Facebook. I reconnected with old friends I only get to see once or twice a year and deepened those friendships.
All that socializing may seem like a frivolous waste of conference time, but writing and publishing can be a fraught, soul-crushing business, and the people who are going to see us through it are our fellow authors. Gather your friendships close and cherish them. And then form a group like the Plotting Princesses. :)