Oh my goodness – this post has been ready since the middle of June, so the tardiness is my fault. Apologies to Babs!! Anyway, it’s still always fun to hear about peoples conference experiences, so enjoy!
Do you want to hang out with hundreds of fellow romance fans for up to 6 days and geek out over books? Do you want the opportunity to meet hundreds of romance authors all in one place? Check out RT! (Maybe–see notes below.)
If you’re not familiar, RT Booklovers Convention or RT is hosted by RT Book Reviews each year. It’s a traveling convention and occurs during a April-May timeframe. Reader events run Tuesday through Sunday. The focus is romance novels but you’ll see non-romance authors there from mystery, suspense/thriller, etc. RT17 was my fifth RT and was in Atlanta May 2-7. I attended RT in:
- 2013 in Kansas City
- 2014 in New Orleans (my fave so far)
- 2015 in Dallas
- 2016 in Las Vegas
Agenda. RT can be as busy and crowd filled as you want. I am pretty selective in the events I attend. Some readers go for the reader parties with all the goody bags and free books and have complex scheduling strategies. I know others spend a lot of time socializing in the hotel bar with friends they only see at RT. I’m somewhere in the middle now. A few reader events, some panels, maybe one evening party. I leave plenty of time for food, relaxing/hanging out, and a little sightseeing. Use the RT app or the paper agenda if you’re like me and need to HAVE A PLAN. I like variety in my panels and reader events and try to hit different sub genres.
Highlights. My con kicked off Tuesday night with Cinema Craptastique hosted by fab author Damon Suede. I highly recommend checking this out if you go to RT or Coastal Magic Con. Damon spends hours watching terrible movies, researching, and then delivers an incredible, snark-filled commentary for the year’s pick. Folks at home can follow along on Twitter. This year’s movie was Mariah Carey’s Glitter. I also enjoyed large amounts of junk food and there were tons of giveaways.
Wednesday was the welcome breakfast from RT. I attended a couple of reader events. The ladies of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books held their first Reader Recommendation party last year and it was one of the best events of my RT last year. The same this year–I was not missing this one! They share their recommendations and then the audience shares their recs plus giveaways! I attended a Historical panel–Welcome to Americana with wonderful authors Beverly Jenkins, Alyssa Cole, Kate McMurray, Piper Huguley, Joanna Shupe, and Kianna Alexander. I went to one of the evening events then wrapped up for the night.
Thursday started off…frustrating. My first event was the Harlequin party. I arrived 45 minutes early and there was already quite a line. I immediately got in line for Tiffany Reisz to make sure I got a signed copy of her book. I didn’t make it any further on my list (remember HAVE A PLAN from above?) because the other authors were running out of books. Not cool. Better events Thursday–Heroines: You Can Have It All panel with Alisha Rai, HelenKay Dimon, and Sonali Dev (watch the panel here); Romance, Bollywood Style with Sonali Dev, MK Schiller, Amalie Howard, Shaila Patel, Sienna Snow (Bollywood movie clips! Beautiful goodie bags! And I talked to a lady in line who loves Sonali Dev and was so cute when Sonali walked by–“Is that her? Oh my gosh!”); Kensington Peaches & Cream party (books from Jeffe Kennedy and Alyssa Cole and an ARC from Sonali Dev).
Friday was my busiest day. I did a Meet & Greet signing with Christina Lauren first thing (and thoroughly embarrassed myself by spilling my coffee right behind them but I’m trying to erase that from my memory 😳). Right before my first panel I caught the end of a publisher showcase (for booksellers and librarians) and they were offering up tons of free books! Score (for my mom and a friend mostly, but still)! Then my day really started and I went to the Steam vs. Scream panel with Jennifer Estep, Chloe Neill, Jeffe Kennedy, Julie Ann Walker, Amanda Bonilla, HD Smith (Grace Draven and Amanda Bouchet were also in the room and it was so hard to be chill about it!). I attended Geeks Who Drink: Author Edition trivia game which was fun. Next was a huge, must-attend reader event every year–the Friday Avon party. I planned my schedule so I would have plenty of time to get a good spot in line (hopefully), have 30 minutes in the event, then run to a live recording of SBTB podcast. Yeah, that didn’t happen. The doors opened over 30 minutes late! I ended up getting out of line 30 minutes after the scheduled start because I had no idea when the doors for Avon would open and I didn’t want to miss the podcast recording. This was the ONLY event Ilona Andrews was appearing at besides the awards ceremony and they had early copies of White Hot. I also missed getting a signed book from Alisha Rai! Ugh! Two months later and I’m still bitter. The SBTB podcast recording was great though so there’s that! My last event was the annual RT Awards Ceremony. I go mostly for the big bag of books you get at the end. It’s also fun to see fave authors win awards.
Saturday was the Giant Book Fair and my last scheduled event for RT17. Hundreds of authors with books for sale and to sign. I didn’t get in line early this year unlike previous years and it was nice. Attendees who pay full registration enter 30 minutes before everyone else (including the public). I think I was in and out in 30 minutes or so. Then sightseeing at the Georgia Aquarium!
I like RT because there are so many authors, usually quite a few of my favorites, all in one spot. I also have a friend I go to book conventions with and it’s fun hanging out with her. Everyone is usually pretty friendly and ok holding spots in line, etc. I also try to meet a couple people IRL that I interact with online.
There are many opportunities for free books like reader events, evening parties, pop-up signings, Goody room, and book swap table. I don’t bring every book available home with me but you could. This year I ended up with 30 books for myself (not including what’s on the Smashwords thumb drive) and then about 10 each for my mom and a friend.
- there are lots of people. There are hundreds of readers and several hundred authors in attendance. I struggle with crowds sometimes so I try to pace myself, have flexibility in my schedule so that if I need to go to my room, I can.
- you spend a lot of time in line. You can probably miss most of the lines if you’re not interested in getting ALL THE BOOKS/SWAG or going to highly attended reader events.
- registration is not cheap. I pay for full registration for the whole week. You can buy day passes. Between hotel, registration, and airfare this is usually my most expensive vacation.
- you may be disappointed. Authors cancel. Karen Marie Moning was at the top of my list for RT17. At some point she backed out and that bummed me out. Also goody bags or books may be gone before you get to that author or the front of the line.
- the book fair is crazy. That is all.
Overall ok RT. Not my favorite. The hotel was nice with the meeting space right there (unlike Vegas). After next year in Reno, I’ll evaluate whether RT is an automatic, must-attend event for me. I’m trying out other cons and will need a big, favorite author or great location to get me back to RT. Last year I attended 3 new-to-me cons: Coastal Magic Con, WorldCon/MidAmeriCon II, and Nola StoryCon (its 1st year). This year I’m attending Nola StoryCon again and Sirens Conference for the first time. Next year I’m attending Apollycon for the first time, RT, and maybe WisCon.
Have you been to RT? What was your experience? Is there another con or reader event I need to go to? Let me know!