Friday, September 14, 2012

Five Observations from a Con Virgin

Hm. That title could mean so many different things, most of them quite...interesting.

But I digress. It has been an exciting month for me as I attended my first convention and my first trade show as an author. The first week of August, I was in New Orleans for the very reader-oriented Authors After Dark, and the first week of September, I was in Naples, Florida, for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show. (The number of book deadlines I was juggling during this time is the subject of a whole 'nother blog post. Let's just say I survived.)

A few lessons and observations, in no particular order.

1) Expect the Unexpected. It isn't just the "Big Brother" motto. On the first day of AAD, the first session, I was scheduled to be one of five authors at a reading/Q&A about paranormal New Orleans. We'd been told to read for five minutes, max, from our work of choice, so I'd spent a lot of time picking out a passage from my upcoming November release and timing it to exactly five minutes. I get to the session, and....none of the other authors showed up. And there were a good fifty people in the room. O.M.G. Did I mention I'm terrified of public speaking? I rambled. I babbled. I have no earthly idea what I said. But it ended up being fun, and I had a captive audience for an hour.  There was also the woman in the audience whose cell phone rang as I got ready to speak...and it was a goat bleating. And the Katrina driving tour I took readers on that ended up in the middle of a monsoon complete with badly flooded streets. I told them I arranged for special effects. This photo was taken on the way back to the hotel.

2) Think you'll get some work done between events? Hahahahaha. I had a new manuscript due two weeks after AAD, it wasn't even approaching the halfway point, and did I write any? That would be no. I had a full novel revision due two days after the trade show, I had tons left to do on it, and did I open my document? Yes. And then I closed it. Don't fool yourself. Stay in and work, or hang out with people like Leanna Renee Hieber? (And I now know some of her costume secrets.)

3) All Swag Is Not Created Equal. So, AAD was an interesting con because it is really geared toward readers. (Think of a much, much smaller RT, only focused exclusively on paranormal romance of all heat levels. About 80 "official" authors and 350 readers, or something like that.) This year, the organizers asked authors to NOT bring paper swag because there were bags and bags of discarded bookmarks, postcards, flyers, etc., the year before. Swag, of course, can get really expensive, especially the non-bookmark variety. I made 400 freaking gemstone bracelets in a frenzy of pre-con madness (my character infuses gemstones with magic), created a postcard tying the bracelet to the book, and stuffed both into a small zip-loc bag. (The photo is of said bracelets before I got them into said bags, about 2 a.m.). The stuff I saw discarded? Little mirrored compacts were left everywhere, fake Mardi Gras beads, and, yep, bookmarks and postcards that people slipped in anyway. What was most popular? Tote bags, flash drives, pens. My favorite: Author Jade Lee had some of those lens-cleaning cloths you can use for your glasses or computer screens imprinted with her book covers and logo. Very cool. (Not so cheap, though.) And Joey Hill had some deleted scenes and collected stories from some of her books printed up and bound as a giveaway. Very, very cool. Maybe one day I can afford such things...but not now.

4) Mass Book Signings...They Are What They Are. I have yet to attend a big multi-day event geared toward authors with a monster book signing (although I am signed up for RT next May), but both the SIBA trade show and AAD had pretty big author signings. I had sort of thought there would be rhyme or reason as to where authors would be placed in relation to each other--by genre, for example. Noooooo. It appears to be a random act of randomness. At AAD, my PG-13-rated urban fantasy and I were sandwiched between two erotica writers--one BDSM and one exclusively M/M. Both were lovely authors and I enjoyed chatting with them. Same readership? Not so much. SIBA was really a mixed bag, but I shared a table with a YA paranormal author, so it was at least in the same zip code.

5) Go Ahead and Be a Fan. I'll admit it. It was freaking cool to sit on panels with people like Jeaniene Frost and Dakota Cassidy and Judi Fennell and pretend I was one of them. And find out how incredibly funny and smart and nice they are. Yeah, I probably gushed. I couldn't help myself. I'll be cooler and much more suave next time. Really.  So, who's in the photo? This was the urban fantasy session with, from left, Jess Haines, Kelly Gay, Moi, Jeaniene Frost, and Kristen Painter.

Any good con stories or tips you can share?


Mary Frances Roya said...

I love it, 'Expect the Unexpected'. Sound like you did ok. I know that I do like the Author pens. I got a great magnetic clip. Don't use bookmarkers anymore thanks to my kindle & nook. Some Authors gave away flash drives? Wow!

Suzanne Johnson said...

Yes, people were practically fighting over the flash drives! A magnetic clip is a great idea. And I always keep pens, too.

miki said...

i would like pens yes but i won't discard a bookmark! Never! precious book need the best so not dog earred or anything.

I thought and still think you did create a great swag, it was linked to the book and really personnal for me those are the best because it's bnot just something ordered like that without any of the author touch.

i would have loved to attend such a convention but i'm not giving up^^ one day^^ i will or you will have such a great success in europe that your editor will send you here^^

Suzanne Johnson said...

I personally like bookmarks too, Miki--I'm not sure I'll ever reach the point where I'm only reading on an e-reader. I still like paper. And I have some gorgeous bookmarks my publisher had done for me...might have to send some of those out :-)

Lexi said...

Swag always intimidates me! I never know what to buy, don't have the money, and don't want to WASTE money, so I end up doing nothing! Epic fail on my part.

Suzanne Johnson said...

It can run into money, for sure. I buy from Vistaprint when they have free shipping or sales, and their quality is nice. But the best place I've found for non-printed swag is If you sign up for their flash-special alerts, you can get some deals. Dakota Banks suggested them. The only thing I've bought from them so far were some heavy cardboard coasters printed in color on one side, and they were pretty cheap on one of those flash deals.

Lisa Kessler said...

Wow!!! You braved the storms at AAD!!! Way to go Suzanne!!

I love going to Cons and meeting readers! I even met readers in line at Comic-Con this summer! :)

Keep having fun and I can't wait to see you again at RT next year!


Lisa :)

Elf2060 said...

I think of reader conventions as a way for you authors to 'recharge your batteries' meet crazy fans (such as myself) who drool and gush over you and remember the other reason you write (the first being to shut up the voices in your head). guilt, just absorb the good vibes and work twice as hard when you get home (after you catch up on your sleep, lol).

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Elf2060...It was great battery-recharging time, and I had SO much fun at both events, so no regrets at all even though I had to work harder when I got home. AAD was SUCH a blast.

Cari Hislop said...

I can't believe you made 400 stone bracelets. I'm in awe! I'm thinking you deserve some magic after all that.

Dawn Chartier said...

Hi Suzanne!

Well I atttended AAD as a fan, and it was overwhelming. The room was so tiny and crammed with authors wall to wall. The fans filled the room and I could barely find my favorite authors. Thank God, I found you! lol

I did have a wonderful time having lunch with my Heart to Heart book club, and with Barbara Vey. I hear RT will soon be in New Orleans. I can't wait!

Awesome braclets! And I can't wait for your class to start in Oct. Woot!