Okay, so obviously (or not so obviously), I didn’t count all the writers versus readers who descended onto Atlanta for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention last week, but it was a lot. So many that, people stood in winding lines for two plus hours although few seemed to mind it. Par for the romance-lovers course, and all that.
Despite being in the romance writing business for over a decade, RT was my first big convention. Before, I’d been to a few cons here and there for queer socializing purposes, but I’m not a joiner and so hadn’t done much in the larger writing/romance/erotica world. But a well-meaning friend and trusted Virgo said I needed to see the world beyond my lesbian feminist bookstore. And so, off to RT I went.
First, let me say the conference was utterly overwhelming. I don’t think I’d ever been in the same room with so many women in my life—and I’m including massive NYC post Pride parties. The waves of women were occasionally broken by inappropriately over-dressed male cover models, beleaguered hotel staff in their dark uniforms, and lots and lots of roll-y bags. Part of the RT experience is getting a ton of “free” books throughout the week. And let me tell you, people came prepared. Those who didn’t take advantage of FedEx to mail their boxes of books back home, just rolled them around the hotel. Needless to say, quite a few shins and heels were battered during the week.
I learned a lot at the convention, including what business practices I’d gotten wrong, what I could be doing right, and that the modern writer does indeed have to wear a dozen hats – or at least pay people wearing those necessary hats – if they’re to succeed in the business.
The convention was a smorgasbord of literary luminaries – Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson, Karin Slaughter, Charlaine Harris, just to name a few – so it took everything in me not to totally fan-girl out and actually get to the business of why I’d paid to be there. It seemed very much on purpose that the Marketing workshop was at the same time as the “Maple syrup, Mounties, beaver tails”* trivia game. I felt a lot of resentment until I got my head back in the game.
I’d heard over the last few years how popular man-on-man romance was getting, but it was never clearer to me than when I got to RT and saw that most of the LGBTQ romance books were actually just G. And mostly written (as well as devoured) by straight women. At one point, I saw a woman with a rainbow patch on her dress/shirt/thing and approached to talk about the queer only to find out that though she writes gay romance she (isn’t bi and) has a husband and three dogs at home. Total mind f#ck.
Overall, it was great to attend the conference – and it was relatively cheap for me since it was in my town – so I do see myself going to more industry related gatherings like it. The 2018 RT convention will be in Reno and then it’s San Francisco (I think) for 2019, if you’re interested in checking it out. It’s absolutely a romance book readers’ event but I found tons of business/marketing/publishing sessions well worth my time. Now, I’m back home with a gazillion business cards, tons of advice to ponder, and marketing ideas to put into action. The work never ends…
*actual trivia session.