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.