I’m home from RT, I’m unpacked, and, in deference to the past 5 days I spent in heels, I’m not wearing shoes. It’s weird to go from hearing and seeing the people I talk to all day back to reading their comments online. It’s very… quiet in here.
The roundtable Jane and I led focused on where and how readers discover books. Kat from the ARe Cafe has a write-up of the session. Most readers discover books they want to read online, either by recommendations or by reviews – or even seeing what people have recently bought. I said this was sort of like checking out the discard rack when you try on clothes. I am always curious what people have already tried on and discarded, but then, I operate on the idea that everyone else knows more about clothing than I do, so I look at that as a round of selection that’s already been made by someone more knowledgeable than I – even if they didn’t want what they selected. Many readers at the panel mentioned GoodReads, blogs, Amazon and Facebook as sources of book information from other readers, and the places where they most often discover new books and new authors. Those present said it takes only one good book to land an author on their autobuy list, and one or two bad books to take them off again.
My favorite part of the session was where readers stated what they wanted to read more of. Some mentioned strong heroines were really floating their boats, and one reader mentioned how much she enjoyed romances that featured families, both by birth and by circumstance, for heroines and heroes. I agree with that one – that’s one of my favorite aspects of some of the romances I’ve read recently by Courtney Milan, Shannon Stacey, and Jill Shalvis. I love when the ancillary characters are a family made of real and complex people, not just sequel bait, not just stock characters.
Jane, Angela James, and I also let a session about digital reading devices and the various options that fit different reading styles and user needs. We passed around Kindles, Nooks, Nook Colors, iPads and Kobo readers, and gave away a Nook Color provided by PubIt!. There were a few people in the audience who were juuuuuuust about ready to buy a device, but making the decision (especially at some of the available price points) was causing them some angst. I find it fascinating that we did an identical session last year but the material we presented this year was 90% new because of all the new devices, options, and book format changes.
I attended a few sessions on marketing, branding, and an intensive multi-session educational seminar titled ‘Finding a Place to Sit at the Bar By Walking Around and Around The Lobby.’ There were many of us at that session – but then, the bar in the lobby was one big circle, and the super-comfy sofas and chairs were in high demand.
I was talking to someone about RT – I think it was Jaye Wells but every conversation I had at RT has tended to blend into one big conversation at this point and I can’t remember what I said to whom – and said that I used to have a somewhat negative opinion of the RT convention shot through with a good deal of trepidation. My first RT was in Pittsburgh, and alas, my hometown conference was probably a terrible first introduction to the RT family, from the hotel dust and asthma-attack to the limited bathrooms, restaurant options, and behavior of some of the imported talent. Every year since the RT Convention has been better, to the point where I think the LA conference was outstanding, and one of the best I’ve attended. The readers I meet at RT are fascinating. I had several long conversations with librarians and readers about the books they’ve read, and the authors they’ve discovered, and there is something unique about the type of book fan who will save up all year in anticipation of taking five days away from carpooling, parental and child care, and work life to talk books and meet readers and authors. This year there was hardly any bump and grind influence that I think marred past years, and a lot more book talk and interaction, which I loved.
RT is a mix of romance groups – much like mixing all the subgenres, you have a combination of different romance groups. There’s writers, aspiring writers, librarians, booksellers, publishing professionals, bloggers, and readers. And within those groups, there are some who really get into the silly over-the-top aspects of RT (Mangeant, anyone?) and some that are left feeling somewhat alienated and uncomfortable by those same aspects (Mangeant, anyone?). Much like romance, I think there’s something for everyone, and there was a lot on offer this year, but there are some trends that I think it’s ok to let go of, and some aspects of RT that can be left behind as well. I know a few people are very, very turned off by the Mr. Romance Pageant, and I can understand why. There’s always a part of the proceedings that makes me cringe mightily, and one part that always reminds me how RT is a family, and this year, there was more cringing than adorableness. This isn’t to dismiss the hard work of the many volunteers who present the Mr Romance pageant, as they bust their asses to get the job done. But I think that romance has changed and so has the community of readers, and it is time to let go of the mangeant. Honestly, I think if it weren’t held anymore, RT would still be as good as it was this year.
If I could be so audacious as to make suggestions, I don’t think there need to be so many panels that are ostensibly about craft but are really about meeting and hearing from the authors about their own writing. I think there need to be more panels as part of the “Reader Track” – usually there was only one per time slot, with more than 8 every hour for the “Writer Track.” I definitely think there need to be more games – if you’re an author pondering a panel for RT 2012, may I suggest games? PLEASE? They are SO fun. Last year I called a Bingo game with a group of authors offering prizes – and if you won Bingo you had to read a steamy scene from one of the author’s books. It was standing room only. This year I attended a session called Purple Prose Taboo, where audience members had to get one another to say a specific word without using any of the “Taboo” words listed below. Tessa Dare was the emcee, and Courtney Milan, Victoria Dahl, and Dare clearly put a LOT of effort into making the hour fun and silly – and it was. I think more of that romance-fan silliness is needed, more than another panel on how to write vampires that are morose and scary.
But then, I approach RT from the perspective of a reader. In fact, I had to be reminded to mention that I’m an author (DOH!) when Jane Litte and I led our reader roundtable and introduced ourselves. I look for the fun and reader-focused sessions, and absolutely gravitate toward the games, because that’s where the most fun can often be had. I hope next year brings more sessions like the Taboo session.
And of course – the pictures!
If you don’t like captions, have a look at the slideshow below – but the complete set of pictures is also available with captions and explanations for your viewing pleasure. Can I figure out how to embed a gallery from Flickr with captions? No, I cannot. Is it making me HULKSMASH angry? Yes, yes it is.
Coming soon – my favorite part of any conference wrap up: Overheard at RT!