Photo courtesy of www.watg.com
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 at 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 an 8 year veteran of the RWA National Conference (and 9 year veteran of the RT Booklovers Convention); 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 conference hotel to a nearby restaurant for some down time with your chapter mates.
– Create a signature look. Donna MacMeans is known for her ostrich feather atop the black hat. Cherry Adair wears a bright colored flower pinned to her dress. Cathy Maxwell laughs out loud. 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, as virtual connection to Romanceland. Readers’ interest in Hawaii lead to her travel blog, Aloha on My Mind. 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.