Moments From RT: Author And First-Time Conventioneer Elisabeth Staab Shares Her Thoughts

Newbie author Elisabeth Staab is proud to say that during this year’s RT Booklovers Convention, “I was an RT Con Virgin.” In this guest post, the author hopes to help others by breaking down the things that she thinks every author should know before they attend RT for the first time.

Looking back on my week at RT Booklovers Convention 2012, it’s astonishing to think that I wasn’t even planning to go this year. My debut vampire novel, King of Darkness, had only released in February. Nobody would know who I was, right? RT was hardly on my radar screen. But veteran vampire romance author Laura Kaye asked if I’d be interested in joining her for a really fun-sounding reader panel called Name that Vampire! I couldn’t say no. Still, RT was such a huge con, and I didn’t know what to expect. I can’t tell you how blown away I am, even still, now that I’m finally home and de-virginized.

So today I bring you a little of what I’ve taken away from my very first RT experience. The good, the bad, and the holy $&#!:

 

The Good:

  • There are a lot of freaking people at RT Convention. Readers, writers, agents, booksellers, staff members … Hands down, the best bang for my buck networking opportunity I’ve ever encountered. I connected with readers on a level that I never could have anywhere else. It was almost magical.
  • The RT Staff: Holy Cow, these people are phenomenal. There’s so much going on. The panels, the promo opps, the book fairs, the parties! Literally something for everyone.
  • Hell yes, the readers!! I DID meet readers. Even as a debut author, even though King of Darkness had only been out for about a month, people came to see me, hug me, and have me sign their book. New ones bought it, and stopped me later to tell me they were already loving it, or just to thank me for being nice to them. The readers are what it’s about.

The Bad:

  • There are a lot of freaking people at the RT Convention. This means a couple of things: be careful of what you say and who you say it to. I heard a couple of horror stories along the lines of “Oops, it turns out that was an agent I was complaining to about agents!” You never know. And if you’re having something shipped for an event, be scrupulous in following instructions, and be patient with the staff, because they get an unfathomable quantity of stuff.
  • Overwhelm and exhaustion. However, what I learned as a debut author trying to network, earn readers, and get things done, was stay out of your room. As much as possible. Think about it: everyone you need to see and connect with is out in the hotel, and I accomplished so much just by making a point of hanging out in the hotel lobby or the bar during my downtime. You never know who you might wind up talking to. I know, we writers are shy and introverted. If you need a sanity break then take one. My experience though, is it’s helpful to get back on the proverbial horse as fast as you can. And for God’s sake, watch the alcohol. Editors and agents hang out in the hotel bar just like we do, and the last thing you want is to overdo it.
  • All the talking. Bring throat coat tea and cough drops, y’all. No joke. You talk SO much. I was on a panel in a very large room with no microphone. You’ve got to speak as loudly as you can without sounding like you’re shouting. Then there was all the chatting. The parties. You’re in these big rooms, with so much ambient noise. By the weekend my throat was in sad shape.

The holy $&#!:

  • There are a lot of freaking people at RT! It’s a strange kind of loneliness, flying solo in a sea of 1,200 people. The best thing I did was attend RT with my critique partner. We roomed together, so at the end of the day we could swap notes and decompress, and in the morning we’d help each other plan what we hoped to accomplish that day. Going to a con with someone who has your back will alleviate the stress and confusion of such a huge event for a first-timer.
  • The fangirl moments. Twice I realized I was standing almost within touching distance of Charlaine Harris. Later, I found I was in line for a party next to Larissa Ione (who is about as friendly and down to earth as they come, by the way). My critique partner got to dance with Lorelei James. I didn’t get to meet J.R. Ward, but I was able to talk to her assistant and tell her how much Ward’s work has inspired me. Holy $&#!

So, many thanks to all the people I met and to the RT staff for such an amazing event. I cannot wait to do it all again next year!

- Elisabeth Staab

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