Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Are Conventions Worth It?

Hello everyone! So just in case my gratuitous selfie posting on Twitter hasn't tipped you off, I'm going to the Romantic Times Book Lover's Convention in Las Vegas next week!!! That's right, we're going to party with a bunch of Romance Authors in Vegas.

If it happens in Vegas, it has to stay in Vegas, right? I mean, that's a Nevada state law now, right?!?
Take it from me, no one parties like Romance Authors. Those ladies be crazy!

(Also, if you're going to #RT2016 and want to hang out, I TOTALLY WANT TO! DM me on Twitter or send me an email and we will make plans to be nerds together! It will be awesome!!!)

So why am I going to a Romance Convention when I don't actually write Romance? Well, as you might remember from last year's con report, I went to the con knowing nothing about it purely because it sounded like fun and Ilona Andrews invited me to be on a panel...and I LOVED it!! I met a ton of amazing people, had a marvelous time, and learned more about both the craft and business sides of writing than I'd known was left to be learned. It was hands down one of the best writing education and networking experiences of my life...and did I mention fun? SO MUCH FUN! More fun than should be legal to write off on your taxes.

I also won an award this year, but I was already planning on going to the con, so that was the delicious, delicious icing on top of an already perfect cake!

With all that, it's no wonder that I'm back again in 2016 and bringing my husband along for the ride because A) I need someone to help me divide and conquer because RT has more good panels than any one person can physically attend, and B) because I want to make him take pictures with the cover models have him with me while we learn more about what is now our family business! Yeah, that's what I meant!

Thankfully for me, he's pretty excited about it, too! Everyone's excited!! And that actually brings me to the actual, non-Rachel-squeeing-about-her-fun-trip part of this post. Because fun as they are, conventions are stupid expensive. This goes double for a major industry con like RT where all guests have to pay ~$400 to attend in addition to travel and hotel. Add in the time a convention takes out of your schedule, and you're looking at a serious investment. We already know it's going to be fun because conventions are always fun. (Seriously, even bad conventions are usually still pretty awesome). But all fun aside, is a convention worth it from a business case perspective?

This is an equation I've wrestled with personally for many years now, and the answer I've found is that, like everything in writing, whether attending a particular convention is "worth it" or not depends on you, your situation, and what you want from the experience. If you've yet to finish a book, then you don't have to worry about this stuff. Just treat a convention like a vacation that might also be good for your writing and have fun! But if you do have a book out or if you're looking to publish one soon, conventions are something you're probably already thinking about.

So let's break it down!

Writing Wednesday: Are Conventions Worth It?

Giant book signing from RT 2015. Believe it or not, I'm in this picture somewhere!
First up, a universal truth: conventions are absolutely not necessary for a successful writing career. As stated above, they're a ton of fun and a huge perk of the author gig (especially if you get invited as a guest!), but you do not have to attend a single one to have a long and successful writing career. But the fact that they are not necessary is what makes the financial decision of whether or not X convention will be worth your time/money that much more important.

Every convention you attend is an investment of your time and money. If you're a writer on a budget, rushing into any random convention just because that's what you think writers should do is a bad business decision. Like all investments, you need to do your research first, so let's take a look at the types of conventions out there for writers and what you can expect from them.

There are three major types of conventions writers attend/get invited to: craft conventions, reader conventions, and industry conventions.




Craft conventions are conventions for writers, particularly unpublished or recently published writers. Often, they're hosted by a professional writing organizations such as RWA, and tend to focus on teaching craft and publication skills, networking, and hooking writers up with industry professionals like agents and editors.

Should You Go? If you're interested in writing and publishing, or if you just want to meet more writes, these kind of conventions can be a lot of fun and very educational. That said, I've never personally been to one, so I can't really comment on whether or not they're worth it. I have hear a lot of good things, though, so if this sounds up your alley and you've got the money/time to spare doing something that will probably be really fun and/or you really want to meet a particular writer or agent in person, I'd say give it a shot! These sort of cons tend to be very affordable and many switch locations every year, so you're not risking too much by giving one near you a go.


Reader Conventions are, as the name implies, centered around the fans. At these events, the author is the attraction, the guest brought in to convince people to sign up for the con. Unlike craft conventions, I've done a lot of these both huge and small, and they are really fun. Even if you have't published a book yet, most of them most of these conventions offer unparalleled opportunities to talk to published authors, most of whom will be more than happy to talk shop with you as their schedule permits. (I know I always am!)

(Note: If you're looking for a list of reader conventions to attend, simply google conventions happening in your area or by your genre. It won't be complete, but it should give you a good idea of what's happening in your area)

Should You Go? I think reader conventions are the most fun of all the cons. If you've already got books out there, getting to go to a convention as a guest and actually meet people who've read your books in person (or make new fans) is A.MAZ.ING. It's also a great chance to get to know other authors since you'll be on panels together, and if you're not big enough yet to get invited as a guest, you can still sell your books as a vendor and do pretty well if you're a good salesman. Personally, I HATE hand selling my books (most awkward thing ever, imo), but if you're the sort of person who enjoys it, you'll have a great time and a captive audience of people who (assuming you did your homework and picked a good con for your stuff) are in to the same things you write about!

BUT (you knew that was coming, right?) as fun as they are, reader cons are expensive both in time and money. Even if you get your badge for free as a guest, you still have to pay for food, lodging, travel, and any giveaways/swag you bring with you. Also, I get sick every time I got to a con, which means that the days immediately after one are a write off for getting work done.

Any one of these costs can be small, but all together, they add up to a major investment. And whether or not that's worth it for you is going to depend a lot on your personality and expectations. If you go to a convention expecting to get a good ROI, sell a bunch of books and rack up tons of new fans, you might as well forget it. I love them to death, but I've never seen a bump in sales from a convention, and if you don't have a book out yet, then going to a reader convention with any hopes other than meet some cool authors/other fans and have a good time, you're going to be very disappointed.

Long story short, Reader Conventions are lots of fun. If you get invited as a guest, that's a huge thrill and definitely worth doing at least once for the experience alone. But as a business vehicle for selling books, I've always found them to be not worth the cost. Maybe that's just because I suck at selling my own book. I know plenty of authors who work the convention circuit like it's their job, make tons of money, and love every second.

To those authors, I tip my hat, but just speaking personally, I know I could get a much better return if I take the money I was going to spend on a convention and use on advertising instead. Because of this, I've taken to looking at reader conventions as just a really fun vacation I get to write off on my taxes. That said, though, you can't put a price on the first time a fan squees at you, so if you publish a book and land a guest spot at a reader convention, totally go. You don't have to go to every convention like it's your job to promo a book (in fact, unless you LOVE conventions, I'd say this is a horrible waste of your time and money), but if you ever get the chance, you should try at least once. You might not make your money back, but you will have a really good time!


Finally, we have Industry Conventions. Like craft cons, these are conventions for people in the book industry. Unlike craft cons, though, which focus entirely on the writer, Industry Conventions are gatherings for publishing professionals. RT, the convention I'm about to go to, is one of these for Romance, and it is jam packed with everyone who's anyone in the genre: bloggers, editors, publishers, agents, reviewers, big time authors, small time authors, medium time authors, the Amazon KDP team. You name it, they're there, and they're all talking shop.

Should You Go? This is a tough question, because industry cons are hands down the most expensive conventions, and every one is different. If I was a Romance author and I could afford to go to RT, I would totally do so because the con is just so packed with stuff to learn about writing and publishing! (So packed, in fact, that I'm going and I don't even write Romance! IT'S THAT GOOD!) But RT is a special animal. Another big industry con is BEA or Book Expo America, which happens every year in New York. Like RT, it's a big, expensive industry event packed with a focus on publishing professionals. Unlike RT, though, which also has a ton of stuff for for both reader fans and writers of all experience levels, BEA is very much a business con where agents, editors, librarians, and book buyers go to see what's new and make deals. They're not there to talk about writing, and if you are, then BEA is probably not going to be what you want (but would still probably be amazing and I totally want to go some year just for the experience!)

More than any other type of con, the question of is an Industry Con worth your money and effort depends on the con itself. If you're considering attending one, my advice is to use your google-fu and find con reports written by people who've attended in previous years. Many people who spend the time and money it takes to attend one of these suckers are going to write a report about their experience like the one I wrote for RT last year, and these reports can help you decide whether or not this con is going to be worth it for you.

And don't limit yourself by genre, either! Like I said, I'm not a Romance author, but I am an indie author, which is an area where Romance authors are on the cutting edge. I learned so so much about my industry that I never would have known if I'd dismissed RT because I didn't write Romance. So keep an open mind and look around. You might be surprised how many amazing conventions are happening right under your nose.

I hope you enjoyed my post about conventions. As I said up top, if you're going to RT and want to meet me or Travis IRL, DM me on Twitter or send me an email! It doesn't matter who you are, if you read this blog, I automatically think you're awesome and want to meet you! Drop me a line and we'll figure it out!

I'll have a new writing blog up next week, but if you want to hear my live report of the convention (and see tons of pictures of me with awesome people!) follow me on Social Media (Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Google+) to get it all in real time!

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you guys in Vegas!!
❤ Rachel

3 comments:

Veronica Scott said...

Good post! And of course we're doing a panel together at RT this year :)

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I'll be at RT again this year- and nope- I don't write romance either (shhhh-don't tell anyone-I'm also in RWA ;)). This is my 4th one of these- second as a published author. They are a blast, and many of the writing panels are excellent! I'm co-hosting my first reader party this year, and will be pasting on a grin for the Book fair :).

That all being said, this will be my last RT for the reasons you site- it is too dang expensive! And, technically, not my genre. Now if there was a F/SF party---er convention-- with the same energy as RT? I'd be there in a heartbeat! I might go back to RT (after Vegas) if it came here to San Diego, but I think I'm finished for now.

I'd love to meet you and Travis in person! I think I owe you two drinks (from your NaNo questions section ;)).

GAH- at day job and can't log in as myself!

Marie Andreas

Travis Bach said...

Yay! DM us on Twitter and we'll see if we can get together. We are going to be at panels during the day but free in the evenings