Author Tips for Romance Conventions
I survived my first ever romance convention! I was a signing author at the inaugural Steamy Lit Con this past weekend and had an absolutely fantastic time meeting readers and fellow authors face to face for the first time in my career.
While this isn’t a full compressive guide to attending a convention, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks based on what worked well for me as well as what took me by surprise when signing for the first time. I’ll be covering a few pointers for table set up, inventory and swag, as well as socializing and mental health.
Table set up:
A flashy and unique table really does sell books, especially if you’re not a huge author whose name alone will draw in the masses. People LOVED things like my sparkly tablecloth, pride flags, and flower crown, and many people came over to the table just to tell me so and ended up staying to chat about my books.
Tie it into your brand! I used my brand colours as well as lots of roses to tie into my pen name. I went with very bright and fun decor as well as pride-themed items to convey my focus on sapphic romcoms, whereas I saw some dark romance authors do a great job of conveying that through red and black colour schemes and more formal decor, for example.
Trope cards are so fun and really draw readers in! By that I mean writing out each book’s major tropes or some fun phrases about key features in the story. I wrote mine on little note cards that I stuck out the top of each display book. People LOVED reading them, and some were even down to buy a book based on that alone.
This might be different at a more cramped convention where people can’t see the front of your table very well, but I’m really glad I didn’t shell out a hundred bucks for a stand-up banner. I don’t think it would have done much for my display or sales. I got the sign for the front of my table printed on paper for super cheap at a Staples near the convention and then recycled it after, so you can absolutely do nice and effective signage on a budget while also saving space in your suitcase!
Run a newsletter sign-up raffle, and invite everyone who stops by your table to enter! I found people needed to be invited to sign up on the clipboard I had out before they’d actually do it, so definitely point it out to everyone who stops by.
Wear something that makes you feel good while you’re signing, whatever that might be! I saw authors wearing everything from leggings and t-shirts to formalwear. I had accessories like a rose flower crown and some pink sunglasses to tie into my brand, but wearing your own merch works great too. I feel most confident when I’m a bit dressed up, so I went with a bright purple blazer dress, heels, and a full face of ‘special occasion’ makeup, but if you want to rock sweats, you will absolutely not look out of place and will have the most fun with readers when you feel YOUR best.
Inventory and swag:
Unless you are driving to the convention or are a literal superstar author, bring way less books than you think you’ll need. I’m a pretty well-known name, albeit in a still fairly niche genre (sapphic contemporary), and I brought about thirty for a convention with 1000 attendees and 200 authors. I sold almost all of them, and the remainders went into my raffle prize packs, but it was a close call, and I’m very glad I pared down from what I was originally thinking of bringing.
That said, I heard from authors who spoke on panels that it had a big effect on their sales, especially any books they plugged during their talks, so keep that in mind if you’ll be a panel speaker.
Instead of regular business cards, I got business card-sized prints of my most popular book covers with a QR code to the Amazon page on them. I think keeping your handouts as simple and sales-focused as possible is better than stuff that has a bunch of different links and information on it. Little cards or bookmarks are great to hand out to people who have run out of room for paperbacks. Also, stick them in all the paperbacks you do sell!
People LOVE stickers! I included a free sticker with each of my paperbacks, but I’d definitely bring branded stickers to hand out to everyone who stops by for free next time.
Socializing and Mental Health:
I’m a massive introvert who struggles with social anxiety, so even though the weekend was amazing, it was absolutely exhausting and often got pretty overwhelming for me. Thankfully, a convention full of writers and readers is always going to have manyyyy introverts in attendance, and I heard lots of people saying they felt the same way, so if you struggle with similar things, know that you will not be alone.
Steamy Lit Con had a quiet room for everyone as well as a green room just for authors, so if your convention has something similar, definitely don’t feel bad for stepping out for as long as you need to during your signing sessions. I think even extroverted authors would find four hours in a signing room to be a lot on their ears at the very least, so even popping out for a five minute coffee break is a great refresher.
On that note, make sure you do a lap around the signing room. I loved walking around during set-up time when it was just the authors as well as when things were in full swing with the attendees. Things go by in such a blur, and I’m glad I made time to soak it all in for a few minutes.
Don’t beat yourself up if there’s an author hero of yours you’re too nervous to talk to, if you need to skip the evening activities because you’re too tired or people-ed out, or if you fumble your way through an interaction with a reader because you’re flustered. No matter what kind of person you are, these events are A LOT, and you’re not weird or a failure if things don’t go exactly the way you hoped they would.
You’re also not a failure if you spend a long time sitting at your table with nobody stopping by. I spent the first twenty minutes of day one’s signing session panicking and thinking nobody would talk to me ALL WEEKEND. I ended up having busy surges as well as longggg periods of time sitting there trying not to look desperate. By the second day, I was way more relaxed and took the downtime to appreciate just how much talent and kindness I was sharing a signing room with and what a career milestone it was just to be there.
If you have the opportunity to bring an assistant, definitely do it. I don’t know what I would have done without my partner’s support. If you don’t have someone with you, convention volunteers are all a lovely people who will do a great job at helping you through any tricky situations that come up and will absolutely run to find you a back-up pen or track down a safety pin if you need it.
Stay hydrated and fed! You will be talking a lot, and you WILL get very thirsty and hungry. Stash plenty of water and snacks under your table.
Most of all, know that you are going to ROCK IT and that being included at a convention is a HUGE milestone you should be massively proud of. If you have any questions about my experience or just want to chat convention ideas, feel free to hit me with a DM or email :)