As you might have seen in my haul post earlier this week, I attended Blogger Day at the Romance Writers of America Annual Convention last week! In addition to hauling way too many books, I also had the chance to meet a bunch of authors and other bloggers!
Before we get into Blogger Day, let me first give a recap of Avon’s Romance and Rosé event at The Tattered Cover the night before. This event was purely a reader mixer with authors, and I really wanted to go when I realized Meg Cabot would be there and I could get her to sign a copy of the very first romance I ever read (although that first copy was a library book, so I had her sign one I just bought). So of course, she was the first author I talked to!
They also had copies of A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole a week and a half before its official publication date, so of course I had to buy one of those and get it signed! And I brought my copy of A Scandalous Deal for Joanna Shupe to sign, too.
As part of the event, The Tattered Cover gave us handouts with the names, headshots, and book covers of all 20 authors in attendance (though in reality, three couldn’t make it) and asked us to collect all of their signatures in order to be entered in a giveaway. I wasn’t planning to participate; I don’t know a lot of the authors and I’m probably not going to read their books, so I didn’t want to bug them for an impersonal signature. But I wound up with a number of signatures without even trying, so I decided to just go for it and collect them all. Since the authors knew what to expect, it was no problem to ask them for their signature and just walk away. Plus it was actually a really good excuse to go talk to authors I enjoy but didn’t have a book for them to sign.
For instance, I just saw Beverly Jenkins at The Strand this past winter and already have a few of her books signed, so I wasn’t planning to talk to her even though I enjoyed her so much at The Strand. But I had a reason to go up to her with the signature sheet, and I took the chance to tell her how much my book club enjoyed her panel and what a great Twitter account she has! One of these days, I’m going to make it through her entire backlist.
I also got to talk to Lorraine Heath, who I’ve been reading since high school, and Mia Sosa, whose books I haven’t read yet, but I really want to! I also went and said hi to Alisha Rai, whose books I also have signed already, and wound up talking to her for 15 minutes or so about Fargo! I almost never run into any North Dakotas in New York or people who have actually been to North Dakota, so it was great to discuss it with her (she lived there for a year growing up). Seriously, Alisha Rai is the best!
When I wasn’t talking to authors or fellow attendees, I was taking advantage of the rosé, cupcakes, and swag they had out! While I was a little skeptical about the style of the event going in, I wound up having a lot of fun, and I’m really glad I was able to make it.
That detour into describing the Romance and Rosé event got a little longer than I expected, but now on to Blogger Day! We started the day bright and early with a mixer with the RITA Award finalists and winners. For those who aren’t familiar with the RITA Awards, they’re basically the Oscars of romance, so this was definitely a big deal! I didn’t know anyone at that event, though, and without a signature card to fill out or something, it was a bit overwhelming to try and talk to a bunch of strangers. Ultimately it wound up going really well; I got to talk to a bunch of lovely authors and I met Tessa Dare’s assistant, who gave me a button and a signed bookmark as soon as she heard that Dare was the author I was most excited to meet at the literacy signing! But I really could have used some sort of introduction card like they had at The Tattered Cover, both for the authors and my fellow bloggers.
After the mixer, they moved us into another conference room for the panels they had lined up for us. And in that room were tons of books for us to grab! It was so hard to hold back and not take one of everything, let me tell you. But once we had a chance to peruse the books and get settled in, we were in for some great programming.
The first presentation was titled Discover and Reviewing #Ownvoices and Diverse Romance, and it was amazing! The presenter did a great job hitting the different points of why reviewing #ownvoices and diverse romance is important, how to find it, and how to review it. I took soooo many notes. And my fellow bloggers had a lot of great insights, too! Honestly, I could write a whole post just about that session alone, but one of the main takeaways for me is that it’s important to describe characters’ physical aspects to help with searchability, and to describe all characters and not just diverse characters in order to challenge the idea that white and straight is the default. Some other helpful points are that if you have a criticism, be sure you’re critiquing the craft of the book and not the author as a person, and be conscious of including diverse books in book lists, especially if you are white, straight, and cis, because you have the power to talk about these things and increase awareness. So yeah, definitely an amazing and impactful session that I’m so glad I had the chance to attend.
The second panel was all about marketing our blogs, and what blogger isn’t interested in that? This session was a little bit trickier because the presenter had a lot of great insight and tips (she does these things for a living and definitely knows her stuff), but I’m not sure my blog was the target audience. I mostly blog for personal reasons and have accepted that I’m never going to make money on it, but a lot of my fellow bloggers at Blogger Day have serious reviewing sites, often with multiple reviewers, and I think this information was a lot more helpful for them. That said, my main takeaways for marketing a blog are to make sure your product is excellent and to not be afraid to pay a professional to help with different aspects of your blog, i.e. design, analytics, social media, etc. It’s depressing to hear, but she’s right when she says that it usually takes a serious investment to get a profitable blog. I’m not at that stage just yet, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind in the future.
After our sessions, we went to another mixer with authors and librarians. I apparently didn’t read the schedule and thought it was just going to be with bloggers and librarians, so I was surprised there were so many authors there! And the books! There were tables and tables of books out for you to grab and authors walking around handing out copies of their books. I’ve never seen anything like it! And that’s when I really caved and wound up snatching up all the books. Seriously, though, it would be so easy to come home with a whole suitcase full of books from RWA. Probably even more than at Book Expo, and it was way easier and less stressful to get them, too.
Again, it wasn’t exactly my idea of fun to be unleashed in a room with a bunch of people I don’t know, especially when a lot of them already know each other from having been at the full conference all week. I would have personally preferred more one-on-one time with my fellow bloggers to learn more about their blogs and learn as much from them as I can, but I did get lucky and wound up talking with a bunch of really nice authors, and I’m really excited to check out some of their books! And it was a good reminder of how important bloggers are in the marketing process of books.
Eventually, we were shepherded into the luncheon, where Sonali Dev gave the most kickass speech! Seriously, I dare you to listen to that speech and not cry. My whole table was in tears by the end, it was so emotional and moving. RWA has a lot of highlights on its Twitter account here, and I will definitely be retweeting and sharing the audio once it’s released! (Update: IT’S LIVE!!) I also included one of my favorite quotes below. You need to listen to this speech, and then go out and buy all of Dev’s books.
After that, it was time for the literacy signing! Actually, there was an hour between the end of the luncheon and the signing, but I didn’t realize that and headed straight to the signing, where I hung out in line since I didn’t have any other plans for that hour. The signing features well over a hundred authors signing select books, the proceeds of which go to various literacy organizations. Unfortunately you can’t bring books from home to get signed, but it is for a great cause! I saw after the fact that they raised more than $38,000 for ProLiteracy Worldwide and the Literacy Coalition of Colorado.
My first stop was, of course, Tessa Dare’s table, where I gushed about how much I absolutely love her books and got a signed copy of The Duchess Deal. Then I made my way to Courtney Milan’s table, where I continued gushing, this time about how much I love her Twitter account and her dog (and also her books!). Since I had her sign Hamilton’s Battalion, which is a short story collection, and the author two authors were there, I stopped by Alyssa Cole and Rose Lerner’s tables to have them sign my book, too. And last but not least, I swung by Maisey Yates’ table to tell her how I’ve been racing through her Copper Ridge series because of my friend Holly even though I don’t consider myself a cowboy romance reader, and I had her sign a copy of her latest book.
I was seriously tempted to buy a bunch of other books from authors I’ve heard of or enjoyed, but since I had so many books by that point, I decided to skip. The Colorado and Washington, D.C., author organizations were also running giveaways if you collected signatures from their authors during the signing, which is a great idea to raise awareness for different regional authors, but at that point I was pretty worn out and ready to meet up again with my husband, so I headed out.
And that was my day! It was not at all what I anticipated it would be, but I had so much fun! I am officially overwhelmed by all of the books I’ve accumulated lately (so much for that zero TBR, I guess), but I’m glad I was able to go. And can I get major kudos for miraculously stuffing all of those books into my suitcase and backpack? Because that took some serious packing skills. Hopefully I can go to Blogging Day again in the future, and next time I will be prepared for how many books I’ll acquire!