Who doesn't love the buzz of a great conference? AC Arthur talks us through Literary Events growing in popularity in the US and tells us why they're worth attending.
What? Wait… There are events where readers can meet their favorite authors up close and personal, and for authors to network with members of the literary industry? I kid you not, when I published my first romance novel in 2003, I had no idea there was such a thing. I’d simply written a book that was (thankfully) going to be published. I really thought that was it. I could write another book and another one and just set them free into the wonderful world of readers, without ever needing to leave my desk. But then I was nominated for the Romance Slam Jam EMMA Award for Favorite New Author. I was ecstatic that my very first book had not only been read by someone, but liked enough to be nominated for an award! I couldn’t believe it and I had absolutely no idea what Romance Slam Jam was.
After hitting the internet to figure out if this award was real, I told my wonderfully supportive husband about it. Well, I tried but I’m not certain he understood my hysterical babbling on the first try. Eventually, he was able to decipher what I was saying and we packed our three children into the car and hit the road. The 2004 Romance Slam Jam was hosted by esteemed authors Donna Hill and Gwynne Forster and the Sister Friends of the Library in New York. While I did not win the award, I gained so much more—from meeting authors for the first time to talking to editors and agents, and of course meeting the many wonderful readers who were in attendance.
In the years following, the internet was truly my best friend as I searched for more events that I could attend to learn more about the publishing industry and fellowship with people who loved books as much as I did. From the Romantic Times (RT) Booklovers Convention in Pittsburgh, PA to the Fall into Fiction Brunch in Manassas, VA, I began traveling to as many literary events as I could. And along the way, I learned many things about the different types of events.
Over the years I’ve noticed that the spectrum of events and what they offer readers and authors—particularly in the romance genre—has expanded exponentially. While larger conferences such as the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Convention and RT Booklovers Convention—which officially ended in 2017 and has now unofficially been replaced by BookLovers Con—offered a greater number of authors in the genre, tons of workshops, panels and parties, readers did not always get a chance to have one-on-one time with their favorite authors. More intimate events were born by way of popular authors hosting events on a smaller scale and offering event itineraries that broke away from the formal conference-type atmosphere.
Lori Foster hosts the Reader Author Get Together in Cincinnati, Lora Leigh used to host the Reader Appreciation Weekend, Beverly Jenkins hosted the BJ Pajama Party, Brenda Jackson hosts a bi-annual Reader Reunion cruise and the newly formed Book Euphoria which hosts events in the Chicago area. After having the honor of hosting the 2011 Romance Slam Jam in Baltimore, MD, I decided to try my hand at hosting an intimate reader appreciation event. We’ve traveled to different cities, Walt Disney World and a Western Caribbean cruise. This year’s events in Houston, TX (Aug) and Las Vegas (Nov), will mark my sixth endeavor.
In addition to these mostly weekend-long events, in the past few years there’s been growth in an even more targeted reader gathering and celebration. What I like to call mega-book signings have begun popping up in locations across the nation. These smaller events may offer a party or panel, but their main attraction boils down to a day where a large number of authors are available to sign books. They are hosted by indie and traditionally published authors, as well as publishing companies. Avon’s Kiss Con, Girl, Have You Met, Indie Love Events, Shameless Book Con, Apollycon, and the Sexy and Sassy Signing are just a few.
The decision to attend literary events will boil down to a few things: location, timing, whether you attend as an author or reader, is your intention to network or meet your favorite authors, and how much money are you willing to spend? Whatever your goal or budget, there is most likely a literary event that will cater to your needs. On the one hand, the growth in these events has created more diverse opportunities for readers and authors. While on the other, there is the question of whether or not readers are being overtaxed with so many new choices of books to purchase and events to attend. I lean more toward the opinion that more choices are better than less. Now, readers and authors are able to carefully select which events might work best for them via location, timing and budget. In an effort to help spread the word about these events, I’ve started a Facebook page (AC Arthur Events) which will provide links and registration information for as many events as I can learn about. They say to spread the word about a good book, well, I believe spreading the word about great literary events is invaluable as well!
If you have a favourite Literary Event you think more people should attend, let us know where, when and why in the comments or on social media using #LiteraryEvents.
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