I attended Celebrate Romance in Baltimore this past weekend. It was interesting for me because it was my first convention of that type. It’s only in the past year and a half that I’ve really discovered that there are people out there like me, who unashamedly love romance and all that it stands for.

I was particularly excited to attend this conference because I was just so daggone desperate for some adult conversation! Throw in the fact that it would be conversation about a subject I love and you have Nirvana!

Oddly, it seems that I’ve either lost some of my social skills or have become slightly introverted in these months at home with Brianna, because I found it difficult to go into a situation where I didn’t know anyone and just strike up a conversation. Not to say that I didn’t interact, because I did (quite a bit) but I also found myself sitting back and observing more than I believe I normally would. So, I’m going to share some of my observations (mostly in regards to authors and promotion)

The Good:

There were a number of “goodies” and promotional items handed out at the conference. Everything from pens to Ellora’s Cave calendars to bookmarks and cover flats. But there were a few truly exceptional items that I thought particularly stood out.

The most creative and memorable promo item (IMO) was handed out by Liz Maverick. It was chapstick, with a very lovely pink, black,and white color scheme, the name of her latest book Crimson Kiss, and SPF for vampire protection on it. Clever really. In terms of usefullness, it ranks right up there with pens but wasn’t competing with 50 other pens for a place in my purse. It gets an A+ for originality. Especially with the little SPF factor tying in with her new book.

Honorable mention goes to Madeline Oh (Rosemary Laurey) for her pocket scissors. Those were pretty cool too – and handy for a purse!

The best actual act of self-promotion I saw this weekend was done by Teri Brisbon. It was Sunday afternoon and everyone had pretty much cleared out of the room after the booksigning. CR was over. I think there were perhaps 10 people left in the room but I happened to be standing in the back talking to Joy near the table where Teri had been set up for the signing. Several of the servers were beginning to clear the tables and Teri asked one of them if she liked romance. When the reply was yes, Teri said “I’d like to give you and your two co-workers books, if that’s okay with you. Who should I sign it to?”

Those three women were thrilled, and as I told my husband, will always remember that one very simple act of generosity (and fantastic self promotion). If they like the book, it is possible that they will buy others. And that they will tell their friends and relatives about this author who gave them a book. Kudos go to Terri Brisbon!

The Bad:

Okay, we all love pens and free goodies, and since it’s free, maybe I shouldn’t be knocking it, but I think there were a few bad promotional items. I’m going to exhibit some tact and withhold names.

Probably the worst goes to an author who I personally was not familiar with but did sit next to me at dinner on Friday night. She passed out a little goody bag that was some sort of stress relief type kit. You know the one- with a hershey’s kiss, a bag of tea, a rubberband, etc. etc. And in the kit was a Bic pen that had a sticker with her name on it. And maybe the name of a book, I can’t remember. Sadly, all you had to do was look at the bag (they were clear cellophane) and you could see the stickers peeling off all the pens in all the goody bags. This is just not good promotion. First, that sticker is going to end up lost in someone’s purse, stuck to something it shouldn’t be stuck to and not on the pen providing the promotion it’s supposed to. Second, the sticker, while in the process of peeling off, got in the way of writing- so I ended up wanting to peel it off. I think this author would have been better served saving her money on all the extra stuff she had in that goody bag and just investing in some nice promotional pens.

Honorable mention goes to an author who handed out these strange little headbands. They had the little vampire heads bobbing up from them and seemed kind of cute at first glance. But there were a couple of problems with them. One- they were made for a child’s size head. Oops. Two, once they came out of the package, they had nothing on them to help remember which author passed them out (and to be honest, I don’t have to worry about being tactful because I CAN’T remember). And three- they needed batteries to make them work and they didn’t come with batteries- and really, how many people at that conference do you think had batteries on them? I give points for attempts at originality but the author fell short of the mark on this one.

The worst act of self-promotion goes to a particular author for the entire weekend. I thought she exhibited incredible rudeness a number of times. She seemed absolutely incapable of NOT always promoting herself. Every conversation was directed back to her book(s). She interupted conversations to ask authors questions about promotion. Authors who were conversing with both readers and other authors. She conversed with readers about her book(s) during speeches being given by other authors. And she referred to romantica/erotica/Ellora’s Cave books as “Porn with Plot” – while an author of said books was sitting quietly next to her and had just given her a number of pointers on promotional items. I was appalled at this author’s behavior and, yes, it does make a difference when I’m deciding which books to buy.

Honorable mention goes to the author who was rude to the VOLUNTEERS who organized the event when she was unhappy about something that didn’t go her way.

And now…the kind of ugly…

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but I thought part of the reason authors attend things like this is to get feedback from readers and to promote themselves. I’m not an author but I suppose it’s also to network with other authors, but I think you’ve missed the point of the conference if the only people you talk to are other authors- and worse yet, mostly authors from your publisher or only a small group of readers that you know from online communities. It seems to me to defeat the purpose. Why not just save your money and stay home and chat with them online? There were some authors there who seemed to have no real interest in interacting with the readers. They grouped together the first day of the conference and presented an intimidating united presence to the readers who attended. I rarely saw any readers approach them or vice versa. Quite sad really, because it’s a real missed opportunity to expand a loyal fan base and attract new readers.

But on the flip side of this were authors like Judi MccCoy, Eloisa James, Dee Davis, Mary Balogh, Laura Moore, Rosemary Laurey and others who were constantly interacting with readers and were so delightful in conversation and in the discussion groups. Guess whose books I bought?

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