So I was just at the brand new RomCon in Denver, and have a few thoughts about it. A number of friends asked me for my final verdict–it’s a new conference, and so people want to know–and I started to write it up to ten people individually, but realized there was nothing I was saying that I wouldn’t mind saying to the world at large in general, so I am just posting it.
This is the first time the convention was being run, and so there were two things that I noticed right off the bat, which I think were the major downsides.
First, I think the author:reader ratio was skewed too heavily in favor of authors. I think as word of mouth spreads, there will be more and more readers, but as it was, there were too many authors. I say this as an author: I felt we were too numerous on the ground.
Second, I think that the organization was not always there. Some events were clearly planned at the last instant. Rooms were changed. Times were changed. Both happened on more than one occasion without any notification to the people who were running the events/workshops. The website was useless as a sanity check to see where things were. (Also, speaking of the website, aesthetically, the logo is ugly and off-putting.)
But this brings me to:
All the schedule changes and room changes could have made the conference a real downer–except that the people who were attending just weren’t the kind of people you could get down. The readers were really excited about reading. The authors were excited to meet readers (and, hell, each other). The people there were basically really good people, and I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t determined to have a good time. That’s not always the case, and the attitude and positivity really made the conference.
These were people who loved to read (and write in some cases) and really, you couldn’t have paid them to be negative about books. The excitement about the romance genre was palpable, and I just loved being in that environment. Even given the cons above, my overall experience was very, very positive–and it was entirely the incredibly happy, positive readers who attended who made the conference not only work, but work really, really well.
As an example: The booksigning had a weird setup where you had to buy the books before you could see who the authors signing were. The authors didn’t have the books they were signing at their tables. Anyone who’s done a number of signings knows this is not conducive to a great experience. But despite all that, readers were adamant about finding authors and books they didn’t know–I sold more books than I expected, to people I barely knew, and it was all because the people attending were excited about romance. What could have been a complete bust was actually one of the most fun signings I’ve ever attended as an author, one that had a lot of energy and almost none of that weird, “I’m afraid to make eye contact” thing that sometimes goes on.
Some Random Thoughts
The events I participated in that seemed the most successful were a “Shock the Queen!” event that combined “Mother, May I?” with etiquette questions, and a historical scavenger hunt that required people to seek items from authors of historical romance. Those two events were highly interactive, packed, and focused on the reader’s experience. I enjoyed participating in them, and the readers there seemed to be having a good time. There were lots of other such events–I don’t mention them because I didn’t go–but I heard lots and lots of positive feedback from many about the other events.
They were, however, run by authors–as were almost all of the events at RomCon. I am a reader as well as an author, but I tried to put myself in the readers’ shoes. I wish there had been more strictly reader-run events. There was a lounge for just authors; I don’t think there was a lounge for readers only, and I wish there had been, so they would have a place where they could escape and talk about books without being worried that an author (or an author’s friend) would overhear.
The events that were about celebrating readers and romance seemed to be the most successful. The ones where I heard mixed reviews were ones where the subject matter was more author-focused. This is supposed to be a reader conference, so I hope that in upcoming years they tweak that balance so that there are more solely reader-run events as well as the author celebration of reader events.
In other words, it was a really good start. I hope RomCon continues, and my final verdict is while it was not perfect, the attendees made the conference, and I think that with experience, it will only get better.
And if I met you at RomCon, you made my conference. Really.