This week many of my writer friends are gathering in Atlanta for the annual Romance Writers of America conference. With approximately 2000 people attending it’s a huge event. While there is a reader-oriented book signing the night before the conference starts, “Nationals,” as they’re often referred to, is a writer-based conference with workshops on the craft of writing as well as research-based workshops. For writers, Nationals is a time to hook up with your fellow authors, to finally meet your agent or your editor face-to-face. To find an editor or an agent. It might be at a pitch session scheduled during the day, or it might be at one of the parties sponsored by the various RWA chapters such as the Kiss of Death Suspense Writer’s Death by Chocolate party, and publishers – like Harlequin’s Pajama party, and later in the week, their ball where we all get dressed up to the nines and party the night away. The finale is the formal RITA awards where nominees vie for the title of being best books in their categories.
Earlier this year I attended two reader-based conferences – the RT Booklovers convention put on by RT Reviews magazine/website, and Lori Foster’s Reader and Author Get Together which you’ll often see attendees referring to as RAGT. Both of these conferences allow readers to mingle with their favorite authors. While there are workshops for writers, there are also workshops for readers too. Chats with your favorite authors, question panels, demonstrations of various things you’ll read about, discussion about tropes or genres. Publishers or other sponsors at both conferences ran all sorts of games for contestants to win piles of books. Like Carina Press’s Romance Pictionary game or the Match-the-Pet-to-the-Owner (my own pets were a surprise feature in that one) at Lori Foster’s.
And just like Nationals, at night there are lots of parties too. For some parties attendees are encouraged to show up in costume. (Sometimes they wear their costumes during the day too. I saw some spectacular steampunk outfits in Kansas City this year.)
But you have to plan ahead. The hotel rooms for next year’s RT conference in New Orleans were snapped up within ten days when they opened the hotel booking,.even though registration for the conference itself hasn’t started, and it’s one of the most expensive conferences to attend.
When I registered for Lori Foster’s event three years ago, I did so only a few weeks before the actual event, months after registration opened. This year it filled up just days after registration opened. So you have to know well in advance if you want to go to a conference next year.
And then there’s the money. To register for some of the bigger conferences, you’re going to have to fork out over $500—that’s just for the registration, not counting hotel, transportation, meals, etc. Generally the smaller conferences cost less because they don’t require a bigger hotel with all the amenities. Lori Foster charges $50 for readers and $100 for authors to register. That includes many of your meals. Of course, you can always share a room with a buddy and save on expenses.
Then there’s the transportation cost. I had to fly to RT in Kansas City this year—I could have driven down to Buffalo, which is at least 3 hours away, and caught a flight from there, which would cost me about half of what it would cost me to book an international flight from Canada. Don’t forget to add in the cost of getting from the airport to the hotel—limo? Taxi? Shuttle? Or rent a car?
Luckily I can drive with several friends from Toronto to Cincinnati for Lori Foster’s event—split up evenly between us, it costs me less than $60 instead of the $500 or so it would cost me to fly.
I have a ton of fun meeting my readers, and I get to play star-struck fangirl with my favorite authors too. But like everyone, I have to juggle my schedule with my pocketbook when I’m deciding what conferences to attend (if I can afford to attend any) and what I think I will get out of them—does the cost balance out with the benefits?
Are you going to any conferences in 2013 or 2014? What helps make your decision? Price? Distance? Who else is attending?