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Rom Con Day Two Summary

It’s hard to say whether this year’s RomCon reflects what next year’s RomCon will be like because this year was a first. If next year’s RomCon was like this one, I would recommend the conference to readers who want to mingle with a group of A list authors in an informal and fun environment. The very best part of the conference was meeting people who I have seen online but never met in person like SonomaLass, Insane Hussein, San-Remo-Ave, Growly Cub, and a number of readers from the blog (whose names I don’t know I can post) and getting to know just a little more about them.

I spent $125 on the conference registration as I did not sign up for any meals. In return, you are given what seems like hundreds of free books and activities organized around introducing authors to readers in a fun way. For example, I attended “Were Squares” in which we were given tic tac toe cards with trivia answers pertaining to the authors’ books. The moderator would read a question and the author would give an answer. If the answer was on your card, you made a check mark. Harlequin and Berkley appeared to have donated dozens of books and everyone won at least one, if not two books. Samhain donated a Kindle. I learned a little about the books by Nalini Singh, C.L. Wilson, Cathy Clamp, Carrie Vaughn, and Meagan Hatfield.

I spoke with a number of authors and readers about the conference. The wasn’t one reader with whom I spoke who did not have a great time. The authors were very generous, sponsoring big book giveaways and gift cards and cash prizes. One reader said she won $75 in the space of an hour. Authors’ opinions were a mixed bag. While they enjoyed the interaction, it was costly for them to be here. Much like RT, authors paid for quite a bit such as the author teas and other hosted events and had to bring the prizes and goodies for readers.

Perhaps because I didn’t attend the meals or the ball, I missed opportunities to interact with readers more. As a reader focused event, it did seem that everything flowed from the author to the reader and by that I mean that it wasn’t so much a bunch of readers gathered in a room trading recommendations and speaking off the cuff about books, but rather author directed events and talks.

If you have a group of friends with whom you will attend the conference, I think you would have fun, particularly if you are meeting up with a few online reader friends.

As with anything, RomCon experienced a few growing pains. The booksigning was quite odd with the reader having to buy books at one end of a huge conference room, pass through a number of jewelry and other sundry goods (although I hear that the fudge for sale was delicious) and then take the purchased books into the booksigning room. I think Courtney Milan bought a number of her own books and signed and gave them away to readers who passed by. The sessions, as I mentioned before, were designed to hook up readers with authors. The great majority of sessions were ticketed events so you really had to have decided before the day of the conference what events you wanted to attend. The author teas like the historical tea and paranormal tea which were funded by the author were capped at 75 registrants. The intimate chats with authors (of which there were 10 I believe) were capped at 16.

I only attended one other panel than the Were Squares one (as I hosted three panels today) and that was a panel discussion about the Perfect Heroine. This discussion was led by Catherine Anderson and authors Julie James, Sally MacKenzie, and JL Wilson participated. Catherine Anderson dominated the panel and has some fairly conservative ideas on what a heroine should be like that weren’t echoed by everyone in the room or on the panel. In fact, I was really heartened to hear readers say they did not like a whiny heroine and liked heroines who could save themselves or even the hero if necessary. In another session (but related to this topic) Julie James stated that she would like to see more strong, confident heroines who wanted to fall in love as well instead the strong, confident heroine who just wants to be alone. I had never looked at heroines in this way, but I have to say that I would like to see more of that from the heroines I read too. It’s not a weakness to want to love someone and be loved in return.

What I felt about the “perfect heroine” seminar was this. It’s easy to get caught up in what the right look is for a heroine or what the right job is for the heroine, but it all comes down to execution as Julie James pointed out. Jumping into bed with the hero on the first night can be the source of some serious conflict and done right (as I think it was done well in Liberating Lacey by Anne Calhoun). A good author can make me love and care about anyone.

Sarah and I moderated the “Reader Roundtable” with panelists Cindy Hwang (executive editor for Berkley) and Sue Grimshaw (buyer for borders). We were originally scheduled for 9 am but apparently were moved to 10 am that morning. A number of people (including us) turned up at 9 am and so we just decided to host the panel twice. The reader roundtable was designed to get readers talking about everything from covers to tropes. Because I was moderating it, I don’t have a good feel for how it played out or what readers thought of it.

I really loved to hear from readers kind of what we discuss on the blog, but only in person and that is what works for them, what books they are loving, what kind of things move them to make a purchase, what was the last great book read. Readers talked about wanting something different and fresh and wanting more emotional conflict in their books.

I do think that RomCon can be a success in the future if the idea is to host a more intimate number of readers and authors, much like this one did. The access to authors was really incredible and, of course, the authors that were present were there to mix and mingle with readers outside the panels as well as within them.

There are a number of author cons that are popping up like Lora Leigh’s RAW and the New Jersey’s Authors After Dark and so forth that provide a similar type of meet and mingle with authors that RomCon is providing. Probably what differentiates RomCon is the number of A list authors that were here.

What I think would be really great, although I doubt this would ever happen, is if RWA & RomCon could be married with reader events taking place the first two and half days of RWA ending with the literacy signing. Not every author would need to participate in the RomCon portion of it, but it could have the reader chats, the intimate author chats, with Reader Crown awards before the RITAs. It would allow readers to have contact with a great number of authors, get to chat with them in an informal setting, and then the authors could go off and have their professional meetings. I think that there would be a much larger crowd of readers there because of the number of different authors (aka Nora Roberts and the like) that would be present and it would be one way to maybe succeed in having a more national reader conference.

Next year, I’m going to try to attend some of the author cons.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

27 Comments

  1. Tweets that mention Rom Con Day Two Summary | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 08:48:41

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  2. Vi
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 09:16:49

    Do you think you will attend RomCon next year? This is the first year and hopefully there’s enough feedback given to allow the event be more successful next year.

  3. Jane
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 09:24:18

    @Vi No, next year I am going to RT in LA and I am going to try out an author con. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about these events and I want to experience a number of different events.

  4. Vi
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 09:30:06

    I have learned so much from you about the different e-readers. I wish you could lead a discussion at one of these events with hands-on play of the the devices.

  5. Jane
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 09:32:13

    @Vi Sarah Wendell and Angie James and I did something like this at RT. What device are you using or leaning toward?

  6. Vi
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 09:49:22

    The Kindle. The price has dropped dramatically and I am sure there will be incentives galore around the holidays. My main concern is the Agency 5 pricing structure. Very aggravating.

    Btw, I have the new iPhone 4. Of course, I don’t use it to make phone calls ;) I have all of the e-reader apps on it. The crispness and clarity of the retina screen has inspired me to buy some books. I am constantly swiping to the next page because of the small screen. (The 1-click button on Amazon is the devil!) This has whetted my
    appetite for true e-reader.

  7. Jane
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 09:58:14

    @Vi I love the last place read sync feature that the Kindle has. If you are reading iPhone 4 with the Kindle App and then get the Kindle, I think you will be pleased. I recently bought a refurbished Kindle for 139.

    Malle Vallik, with Harlequin, said a long time back that multifunction devices like the iPhone would serve as a gateway to a larger, dedicated reader.

  8. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 10:44:15

    Checking in from RomCon, I’ve had a great time as a reader and blogger. Like Jane, I enjoyed connecting blogging names to faces. I’ve also strengthened old friendships and gained new ones.

    I arrived on Thursday night and bumped into Anna Campbell, Pamela Clare and two readers from NJ (their first book convention). We dined with Lucy, a bookseller from Australia. Even though I have attended 4 RTs and 1 RWA, I still shared the excitement with the other readers who are meeting authors for the first time.

    RomCon sent an email to attendees for the ticketed events. I signed up for everything to increase my chances – I won 4 intimate chats, 1 historical tea, and 1 early bird breakfast. These events were more readers than authors. Every author I met – from different genres and many who I have not read – were friendly and eager to chat with readers. And I kept seeing the same readers from the early bird breakfast, so we continued conversations from two days ago.

    Jane didn’t write about the blooger panel that she, Sarah Wendell, Sue Grimshaw, and Elizabeth Boyle hosted. I enjoyed hearing how each developed their blog. Likewise, each encourage the audience to start their own blog as “there is pleny of room on the internet for readers to share their excitement of romance” (paraphrase).

    Thank you, Jane, for your excitement and encouragement.

  9. Ridley
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 11:27:27

    Between the RomCon updates here and my attempt to read Phantom Waltz last night (which ended in me all but dousing the book in gasoline and setting it on fire) I have to say I am never reading a Catherine Anderson novel again. We clearly inhabit different realities.

  10. Courtney Milan
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 13:29:26

    I think Courtney Milan bought a number of her own books and signed and gave them away to readers who passed by.

    I had thought about it when I saw the set-up–it just wasn’t something I thought would be conducive to interacting with readers–but after having the thought, I had a bunch of people, some of whom I barely knew, buy my book of their own accord, and so I didn’t end up doing it.

    There were enough enthusiastic readers that it more than made up for the weirdness of the setup.

    But I do think that aspect of it (as well as others) will be handled differently next year now that they’ve seen how the logistics played out.

  11. Sarah
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 14:17:29

    As a reader attending, I will admit I loved the personal access to some of my favorite authors. What made me buy into the conference to begin with was that so many of my A list authors that I read appeared. NALINI SINGH! Seriously, I was willing to go for her alone.

    I do wish that there had been more reader orientated events. Instead of just a book swap table way far away from many of the main events, perhaps a book swap event with readers only giving recommendations, changing books, etc. And I wish some of the sessions had been held more than once a day because there were other things I wanted to attend, but because I had won tickets to several events that I also wanted to attend I was very torn.

    Also, I have to say all the authors I met were absolutely lovely however, I cannot abide Catherine Anderson. I haven’t read her in several years at this point but she’s off my list now. I thought she was rather crabby and demanding/controlling of all the events I had her in.

    That is my one main quibble however. Overall, I had a great time and it was such a positive environment for romance, which as a reader, I don’t get a lot.

    (I was also totally excited to meet you Jane and probably babbled when I introduced myself.)

  12. teebee
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 18:39:21

    I am one of the readers who won my ticket on Dear Author, and I flew in for the conference from San Francisco. I had a really nice time, better than I expected, and I am planning to go back next year. In fact, I am noodling on an idea for a panel that I might suggest to Elaine & Michele.

    I loved meeting Nalini Singh, I am such a fan girl. But the real surprise for me was Cindy Gerard, I may have fallen in love with her, and can’t wait to start reading her stuff.

    Meeting Jane and Smart Bitch Sarah was also a treat and I am sad to hear Jane won’t be at RomCon next year.

    I echo the wish for several of the more popular panels to be held more than once.

  13. Pamela Clare
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 18:44:50

    I just drove home from the conference, where I had a fantastic time. I got to meet so many wonderful readers, as well as other authors I’d never met in person. Although I tried to pay attention and keep an eye out for you, Jane, I didn’t get to meet you. So that sucked. But I did meet you, Kim, and that was as wonderful as it was unscripted.

    I live in Boulder so I commuted to the conference -‘ in retrospect a mistake. Because I wasn’t feeling very well (am having spinal surgery next month) I ended up leaving early every day.

    What I liked about RomCon was the intimate nature of it. Writing is an isolating experience. Being in a place full of readers and writers was just plain fun.

  14. Jane
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 18:58:49

    @teebee It was awesome to meet you. I am so glad we connected. I’ll be out in LA for RT. Maybe we can hook up on the West Coast. If more readers run panels, I think RomCon has the potential for being even greater and that would definitely be a draw for me.

  15. Jane
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 18:59:36

    @Pamela Clare I saw your nameplate at the Build a Hero session but understood you were still on your Reality tour which was reportedly fabulous. I wish we could have connected as well.

  16. Diane/Anonym2857
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 22:42:45

    I was very pleased to meet you, Jane, and having shared a table with you and SB Sarah at the Perfect Heroine session, I am in awe of your electronic toys and mad multi-tasking skilz! LOLOL How you two could be fully involved in the conversation while reading emails, texting, blogging and tweeting and whatever else at the same time was truly awesome to behold. I bow to you.

    I only attended for one afternoon, going to the signing and a few events. I originally didn’t think I’d be able to attend at all, due to work commitments. By the time I knew I’d be free, the registration period had passed. Most of the things that I thought would be interesting were, naturally, ticketed. I did enjoy the handful of things I did attend, tho.

    I agree that the logistics of the signing could have been better. In fact, from what I heard, a lot of the logistics could have been better – but hopefully that was just because this was the first conference, and they'll have learned from their mistakes and gotten some of the kinks out (or not LOL) by next year.

    One thing did stand out to me. However since I was only there for an afternoon, I may have read it wrong. Considering this was supposed to be a reader's con, it seemed awfully author-centric. According to the program, the vast majority of panels were led by authors, usually with IMO a specific agenda to best support the authors. Things like ‘how can readers help writers' (by posting favorable comments all over Amazon); ‘how to write a review' (by saying only nice things, what to leave in, leave out, etc); how publishers come up with a cover (and it's not the author's fault when it sucks), etc. I'm not a lemming and will rebel just on general principles, even if I agree with the premise being pushed, if I feel like I'm being manipulated into acting a certain way. I didn't abdicate free will and common sense when I elected to become a fan. Just tell me an excellent story, and I'll take it from there.

    In the ‘perfect heroine,' the authors, at least some of them, seemed to be on the defensive about who, what, and how they wrote their characters – what would sell, what the publishers wanted, what a reader expected, etc – and many of the readers appeared to be almost ordering the heroines ala carte… I'm not sure which POV was more disturbing to me, really. Again, I am not writing the story. The author is (or should be). Just tell me your best story – the one that comes from your head and your heart. Not the one that you think will sell, or the publisher wants to use to target a specific demographic. If you don't believe in your story, I won't either. And no, I may not always like it, but that doesn't mean someone else won't love it. Just tell the story.

    I didn't attend any of the more ‘game-like' events, and it sounds like I missed out. I can tell you that Jane, Sarah and company did an excellent job with the blogging panel. :o)

    And Courtney, I was one who actually bought your book and sought you out, tho I didn't stay and chat.

    I would be interested in attending again, for more than an afternoon. Given a choice, tho, I would space it out further from RWA, as the timing just seems cramped. I do think Jane’s idea of having it alongside the RWA has potential (tho living in Denver, I selfishly want it here all the time!)

  17. Keira Soleore
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 22:44:54

    “…if RWA & RomCon could be married with reader events taking place the first two and half days of RWA ending with the literacy signing.”

    Yes, this! While RWA is a business conference for writers, connecting authors with their readers should very much be a part of their charter, too, for building and expanding the romance community and authors’ careers. So a combination of RomCon followed immediately by RWA would benefit authors AND readers.

  18. Carolyn Jewel
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 23:29:58

    I attended RomCon and had very good time. I think there were things that could be improved for next year, but the games! Oh, my those were really really fun.

    I agree with the commenter who thought many of the panels seemed very author centric, but perhaps what is needed is balance– some panels that, perhaps, could be all about what readers think authors might do for them.

    The signing was odd, but Sue Grimshaw came by toward the end and apologized because the books were, in fact, supposed to be on the tables with the authors, so I think that was just a glitch. Author Ammanda McCabe did end up purchasing her books and giving them away at the signing. As a non-A list author, I would have felt much better having books at my table. I feel I would have had the opportunity to tell readers about my books instead of simply being a face and name no one really knew.

    I also did not purchase the meal plan and I also didn’t (couldn’t afford) to participate in the panels that required payment from authors — it was simply not in my budget, especially with RWA being so close. I brought a bunch of energy bars that ended up serving for most of my “meals.” I got a little tired of them, but they got me through the con and under budget.

    The opportunity to meet up with the readers I know from twitter (limecello, growlycub and others) as well as other readers was fantastic. Several times I sat around after a panel and just talked to people– readers, authors, agents, editors etc. That was lovely.

    Also, the vendor room had a really wonderful and tempting variety of things to buy. I do wish I’d had more money in the budget.

    I would love to attend RomCon again. There was a lot that, for me, was a total win.

  19. Terry Odell
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 07:16:21

    Jane, I enjoyed meeting you at RomCon. I hadn’t heard about it until Sue Grimshaw mentioned free tickets on Twitter. Since we’d just moved to Colorado, it was a do-able conference. I enjoyed the mingling, and the exchange of ideas. I agree the book signing set-up was totally backward, and really cut down on my purchases.

    I went as a reader, but since I’m also an author, I was looking at things differently. I’d go again (especially if it’s in Colorado).

  20. Jane
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 09:10:59

    @Terry Odell It was great meeting you. I appreciated you taking off your author hat for the reader’s roundtable.

  21. Jane
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 09:11:52

    @Carolyn Jewel I think a reader’s lounge would be great as well as more reader panels. The game panels sounded the most fun.

  22. Jane
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 09:13:29

    @Diane/Anonym2857 I’m super glad that you decided to stay for the afternoon. I agree with the notion that talking about specific traits of a heroine and whether that is good or bad in a heroine was a bit odd. As Julie James said, it’s all in the execution.

  23. Terry Odell
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 09:37:14

    @Jane:

    I’ve never been much into hats!

  24. SueG
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 11:51:15

    Hey Jane! Thanks for attending & heading up 2 awesome sessions at ROMCON — it is always great to meet up with you & I really do appreciate your candidness. Hopefully you completed the survey with your great suggestions for ROMCON’S 2011 event.

    Like most firsts ;0, there were bumps in the road . . . but I don’t think they negatively impacted anyone — at least the ROMCON team knows what to improve upon next year.

    Love to get you to do another post for Borders True Romance Blog — R U game?

    C U soon,
    SueG

  25. Liz Talley
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 14:23:14

    Thanks for the post, Jane.

    I’ve been following the reports with interest wondering if it might be a better alternative for a new writer looking to connect with readers. You mentioned plenty of big name authors, what do you think the value would be for someone just starting out as a category author? Any comments from other writers who weren’t on panels?

    Also, I love the idea of more reader-centered panels. After all, I may write but I inhale book after book. I’d love to have input as a reader. I’d love to know what readers want more of.

    Thanks again for the reports :)

  26. Shelia Goss
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 14:36:38

    You and Sarah did a great job moderating the Romance Reader Round Table. Although I was a few minutes late (because I was attending another session during the same time), I liked the fact that I was given a chance to voice my opinions. Again, great job ladies.

  27. Fifi Trixibelle
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 22:35:53

    I was torn between RT in Denver and Lora Leigh’s RAW. W.Va. won out, probably my only chance/excuse to travel there.

    I heard that last year’s was too free form, no events, etc. So let’s hope this year’s is a winner.

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