I was foxed.
All of the conferences I've done in the past have been aimed at writers where I've networked with other authors, learned craft, and met people from the business of publishing books. Sure, there are some book signings at these events but they are pretty limited. Being largely self published these days, I wasn't about to send myself on a book tour (although the concept has merit :)).
The next email I received was about Lori Foster's Reader & Author Get Together looking for a lunch sponsor.
So, I have this problem (aside from the habit of starting sentences with "so."). I like being in the background. I do not like jumping up and down and saying "Hey, look at me!" A lot of it is cultural. I grew up in Britain and you do not brag. Ever. So (ha) the concept of hosting lunch for everyone made me kind of nervous. At the same time I'm one of those authors who happens to be doing pretty well (thank you, God, the Universe and everything), but no one has ever heard of me. I'm not talking about people in the street :). I'm talking readers who love Romantic Suspense as much as I do, and other big authors (Lori Foster LOL). I mean I've sold about half a million books and they have never heard of me, at all. That's fine in terms of everyday life, but it's not great when I need to be expanding my fan base.
I'd already decided 2016 was the year I was going to put myself out there. So I bit the bullet and offered to co-host the Saturday lunch for RAGT16 along with one of my best buddies, Rachel Grant. Rachel was an obvious choice because--one, I was rooming with her in the near future in Hawaii and I could make her life miserable if she said no (just kidding, Rach!!). The real reason is we both write plot heavy, sexy Romantic Suspense stories with smart heroines. RAGT16 was small enough not to feel too daunting (500 people about 80 of whom are authors), relatively cheap, and I'd heard it was well-run and very friendly.
After much planning, last week I found myself on a flight to Cincinnati. (I should mention I was sick as dog--why does that always happen? A cough and laryngitis, just what I needed.)
The first surprise was the ride system, where volunteers pick you up and drop you off at the airport. How fricking GREAT is that? A reader called, Joni Anderson picked me up. What are the chances of that happening? Toni Anderson/Joni Anderson? Seriously I felt like I'd met my twin.
Next I tracked down the elusive Rachel Grant and met the lovely Jenn Stark (though I never got a photograph). Nor did I get photos with Lori Foster, Karen Rose, Darynda Jones, Karen Marie Moning or JR Ward. I'm an idiot (this is not news).
Why is Jenn Stark so lovely? Because she lived nearby, she let us to mail her all the books and swag we planned to give away at our lunch. Can you imagine trying to bring that on the plane? Lifesaver.
|Me and the wonderful Rachel Grant|
Like I say, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was a little worried readers might expect me to entertain them in some way, but this isn't the case at all. Most readers want to chat but they have groups of friends they want to hang with. I had to laugh when me and Rachel bumped into Karen Rose at Friday's lunch and when we tried to sit at a table we were all told in no uncertain terms the seats were taken (it's KAREN ROSE, people!). I did laugh.
I met reviewers and people I'd interacted with online.
|With the wonderful Cindy Overton|
|Waterproof Kobo and awesome swag we donated!|
|Amazon Echo (donated by Montlake Romance) and some amazing books and swag donated by us and other wonderful authors like Melody Anne, Nancy Herkness, Sandra Owens, Lena Diaz, Krista Hall.|
|At the Saturday signing|
The signings were a lot of fun but I learned a valuable lesson. If your book #1 in a series is FREE, and you give away book #3 with lunch, then make sure you have book #2 for the signing. I made the mistake of bringing my newest releases and thought one woman was going to shout at me. :) Lesson learned. One of the sweetest things that happened was being presented with this personalized wine glass made by a fan. The quote on the back is from A COLD DARK PLACE :) She made them for a lot of authors!
What else...they had a pajama breakfast, but I swear to god only me and Rachel showed up in our PJs LOL. They also had a costume party with a Disney theme. Believe it or nor I was supposed to be Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean. My husband actually said to me, "But she weighs 10 lbs soaking wet." We're still not talking ;) Rachel was Rey from Star Wars. Look at that awesome costume courtesy of her daughter. Wow!
Karen Marie Moning and JR Ward were both there and I heard they were a blast to hang out with.
I was also able to catch up with author Sharon Hamilton whom I adore.
So, was it worth it?
YES! I had a ball and it's always worth it to meet new readers! The event usually sells out within a day. If you want to attend and want to know when it opens, sign up for the newsletter on the website.