Hi all!

Many thanks to Coffee Thoughts, and Coffee Time Romance for giving me the chance to chat with everyone about one of my favorite things in the reading community, conventions!

Before I get too far in, I’ll disclose that I’ve been running my own convention for a couple of years, and will talk about that some at the end. The bulk of today’s post is going to be about author/reader events, in general, and what I (and others) think about them. I’ll also give some hints about how to find cool events happening in your area!

To start… how many of you have been to a multi-day, author/reader convention? A single day book signing? Author panels at a comic con? It’s getting easier and easier to reach out to our favorite authors. Some of these are big, beautiful spectacles, full of parties and costumes and meet & greets. Events like these generally last a few days, and involve travel and hotel rooms. They’re full on vacations, really, and take planning and a willingness to trade quite a few of your hard earned dollars for an experience that is well worth the sacrifice. Some (more and more every day, it seems) are smaller events, happening right in your back yard. The key is to find an event close to you (or one you’re willing to travel for), then decide what you want to accomplish there.

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Here are a few resources for finding author/reader events in your area (I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I use):

In addition to sites and groups, it’s always good to check your favorite authors’ websites for appearances. Also, publishers and book stores generally have signings or events listings. I try to check my “go to” list of sources about once a month or so.

When I was getting ready to write this, I asked some people what THEY liked about author/reader conventions. Here are a few of the responses I got…

“I love the camaraderie. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from… What your past is or where your future is headed… The color of your skin or the size of your body… At conventions, we’re all the same. We’re all readers and lovers of the written word – whether we are authors, bloggers, readers. It’s a beautiful thing.” – author, Juli Valenti

“Writing books tends to be so solitary – for me it’s a great treat to talk to people who’ve read my books or want to read them. It completes that circle of communication. like when the energy flows upon connecting a circuit.” – author, Jeffe Kennedy

Having fun! Meeting new folks and old! I went to St Augustine with a couple of lovely reviewers after the conference [Coastal Magic Convention] was over, ate on the boardwalk, and on the beach. We got to hang out with readers and reviewers and authors in a totally fun way. :-)” – author, Terry Spear

Putting faces to the online names – so essentially hanging out with my bookish friends, plus being with other people who truly share my book fanaticism. *grin*” – blogger/reader, Jackie Morgan

These all hit on different reasons that people go to cons. Authors and readers are BOTH there to connect. There are so many avenues to reach out these days, you can usually find a treasure trove of authors chilling on Twitter or Facebook, and willing to chat between deadlines. But there’s nothing quite like walking up and starting a conversation face to face. Depending on the event, there are opportunities to talk one on one with authors, some have panel Q&A sessions, which are great for discovering more about a favorite book or character. There are events that have writing/craft sessions, which can be indispensable to aspiring authors in attendance. Most all have some kind of mingle or party, where everyone has a chance to let their hair down (or put it up, depending on the theme) and just BE with each other. You can shake your booty with your favorite NYT Bestselling author, and/or share a nice chat and yummy hors d’oeuvres with a debut author who just might become your next auto-buy. In addition to the authors, the connections made between readers during these events is pretty special. It’s like mini summer camp for book lovers! Friendships made at cons (many times, online acquaintances first, but not always) tend to be full of *squeeing* and some pretty amazing memories.

So… now that I’ve given a few tips for finding an event near you, and waxed poetic about the joys of attending… here’s where I tell you why you should make plans to come to MY little shindig. 🙂

I started going to conventions in 2009, and was IMMEDIATELY obsessed with them (when one of your first cons is SDCC, it’s hard NOT to become obsessed!). I started following the tour schedules of my favorite authors, and made plans to see them when they were near. I started volunteering at DragonCon (which has become an annual gig for me). I discovered that a lot of the authors I loved were (through no fault of their own, as publishers and marketing reps design tour schedules) travelling close to Florida, but not coming TO Florida. This led to some pouting, some whining, and after a few chats with some author friends, the creation of my first convention, Olde City, New Blood.

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I had NO IDEA what in the world I was doing, but I decided to throw a party and hope my awesome friends wanted to come. (For anyone out there considering this… this was not a good strategy. Goodness gracious did I do some stuff wrong that year! Thankfully, my friends are, indeed, awesome… and I’m a very lucky girl.) A few things that started with Olde City, New Blood have stayed with me every year in planning the Coastal Magic Convention. We still have a strong urban fantasy and paranormal romance focus. In 2016 we’re expanding to include more romance sub-genres, and I think that’s going to be a fantastic addition for our attendees. I love that our Featured Authors are a blend of established and new authors, multiple publishing paths, and a wide variety of themes and “target audiences”. We still have a super casual vibe. Think about sitting on your porch with your best, book loving friends, looking out at the beach, and chatting about the last thing you read, or the characters you’d most like to go on vacation with, lol. Now… add the authors of those books, and the creators of those characters to your porch! THAT is what we do. And one of the most important things to me, as someone on a budget, our registration cost is as low as I can possibly get it (under $100 for the weekend).

All of this is to say (I’m sure you’ve seen this before)… authors are our rock stars. Other readers are our family. Conventions and book signings give us a way to connect with people who totally “get it”, and get us.

I’ll end with a few questions. Are YOU a con-goer? What are some of your favorite events? Which ones are on your wish list? What is your favorite part of attending author/reader cons? What is something you WISH happened at cons, that you haven’t seen before? (<— yes, I’ll be taking notes on this one, lol)

I can’t wait to see all of your comments. And I’d love to see you all in February for Coastal Magic! Thanks for reading!!!

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