Friday, May 23, 2014

Conference & Conventions: To Do & What NOT To Do - Any Questions?

This month, we attended the RT Booklovers Convention (RT) in New Orleans, LA. RT is a reader focused event sponsored by RT Book Reviews. This event is designed to celebrate romance readers and writers, and as a result agents, editors, and a vast swath of professionals in the publishing industry attend this event. Why? Because READERS, especially avid readers, do not limit themselves to one section of the bookstore. This is a unique event where the decision makers in publishing can have direct contact with customers who buy books To Read - not as part of a corporate revenue stream.

RT is a great venue for us, as marketing mavens, to connect with our core audiences. We chatted with traditional, independent, self, and e-pub authors at all stages of their careers. These are our friends, our tribe, our peeps, the people we created that first AM101 workshop to help. We also chatted with other author advocates who appreciate the simplicity and timelessness of our core message. We selectively passed out autographed books, our graphic cards, and business cards.

We also got to see good (and bad) marketing at work in real time. As novelists, we had an opportunity to talk with readers, bloggers, booksellers, agents, editors, and reviewers. Specifically as novelists, we were engaging with avid readers - we're talking readers who were willing to plunk down a nice chunk of change to hang out with their favorite authors! Plus,in general, RT attendees are savvy. They can tell you exactly what they enjoy reading and why. {And it doesn't hurt that we got to be total fan girls with our own favorite authors - Morgan met Charlaine Harris while exiting an elevator at RT two years ago.}

Often at conferences we see many examples of authors behaving badly. So in honor of our recent conference excursion, here are some Do's, Don'ts, and Be Sure To Go tips for attending conferences:

Industry Focused Conferences

An industry conference focuses on the business and craft side of the publishing industry. Only aspiring authors, published authors, editors, agents, and other industry professionals are permitted to attend.

  • DO put your best foot forward and wear professional attire that is comfortable for long days. It is better to err on the side of being too conservative than show up at an event in clothing that is too casual. You also don't want the distraction of pinched toes, rolled elastic, or scratchy fabrics. Look Good and Feel Good to present your best professional self.
  • DON'T sit in a corner or huddle with only people you already know. You are paying money to attend a conference - and publishing professionals are investing their time to meet you and learn about your projects. Try to break out of your shell and network with new people - how else are you going grow your network? If you're an introvert, stand tall beside an extrovert author friend to smile, listen and learn! 
  • BE SURE TO GO to the bar...yeah, yeah, twist your arm. All sorts of folks hang out in the hotel bar during conferences. Grab a soda, or beverage of your choice, and take a stroll around the room. Morgan typically wears steampunk jewelry - it's a great conversation starter. Therese has chatted with many agents and editors in the smoking areas but don't hang out there unless you are a smoker and understand the etiquette of that social sphere.

Reader Focused Conference

At reader focused conferences you should be fully in your author persona, but still be professional. Many of the folks who attend industry conferences also attend the reader events. Overall, the atmosphere is much more casual. Reader conferences tend to have more of a party atmosphere.

  • DO have fun with your author persona. Wear your persona specific attire and engage your audience.
  • DO take the time to reach out to bloggers. One author friend made formal appointments with bloggers who specialized in her genre before the conference. She even had little thank you gifts for them.
  • DON'T forget that you are still a professional. Do you really want to be remembered as the author who got sloppy drunk and sang "Free Bird" at the top of your lungs? No, no, triple no!
  • BE SURE TO GO to the lobby. If you have to get your word count done for the day, write in the lobby. Yes, it may be hard for you to get your words on the page, but you never know who you are going to meet. Morgan met Megan Mulry in the lobby during a reader event. She also bumped into two key editors form St. Martin's Press while looking for coffee. And of course, there is always the bar....but, see the DON'T note above.  :D

Overall Essentials:

  • DO have business cards. (See our posts here, here, and here on business card content.)
  • DO have your pitch ready. And we mean both your pitch for new projects and the answer to the question "So, what do you write?".
  • DO have some books and free reads to give to readers IN YOUR AUDIENCE.
  • DON'T canvas or blanket the conference with your fliers and bookmarks...(Canvasing would be exercising the shotgun method.) Many of these items end up in the trash. Be selective on who you give your promotional materials to, know and find your audience. A promo piece handed to me personally by an engaging author will get read (see our post on Nikki Duncan). The HUGE pile of promo materials in the conference bag often don't make it to the second day of the conference before hitting the recycling bin - this is because it is information overload. Our primary message here at AM101 is not to spend cash on what goes in the trash!
  • BE SURE TO GO to a variety of events or sessions and HAVE FUN! People will want to approach the person having fun. If you would rather be somewhere else, save your time and money and go there. <harsh, we know...but so true>
If you’re doing a reading, bring a personal copy of your book. Do not take a new book from the bookstore’s stock, crease the pages, and read from it during your talk! 
Hand people your book. This is an old bookseller’s technique. If people are holding a copy of the book in their hands, they are much more likely to buy it.

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