In about two and a half weeks, Mr. Ashbury and I will be leaving, destination New Orleans and the RT Booklovers’ Convention. This will be my 7th, and my final, attendance at this event.
The first time I went to RT, I was an aspiring author, with an appointment to pitch my novel—the first I had written specifically to sell, but in fact the 10th novel I had written—to the publisher of Siren Publishing. I was by turns excited and nervous. I had never pitched a novel before. My husband and my daughter made the trip with me, and once there in Daytona Beach, I was in the company of good friends, including Kelley Armstrong.
This was at the ‘dawn’—or within a few years of it—of e-publishing. E-books hadn’t yet taken off. But I thought, here was an opportunity for me to realize my life-long dream of becoming a published author.
Of course, after getting home, sending my manuscript, receiving it back and fixing something known as “head hopping”, and then returning it again, Siren offered to publish it.
A lot has happened since that first RT. The publishing industry continues to evolve and change, and those involved in the industry—either directly or on the periphery—must change with it.
When I first attended this convention as a published author I had only that first book and I felt on top of the world (that feeling lingers). With every subsequent convention, my backlist has grown, as has my readership. And as an author, I began to notice subtle differences between my career in e-publishing, and what I could see of the careers of the traditional “print published” authors that I knew.
I think the biggest difference would have to be the readers we attract, themselves. My books are published on line, as it were—and are available not only through my publisher but also through Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other e-book sellers. One can read my novels on their PCs, kindles, nooks, kobos, ipads, and tablets and even on their phones!. They are also available in trade paperback, and I do have some loyal readers who prefer the printed book. But even those wonderful souls found me on line. I have a Face Book page for me, and my “alter ego” Cara Covington has a “fan page”. I have a street team, which is a “secret” Face Book group.
I am blessed to be able to tell you that I have an active, and caring relationship with many of my readers, and that happens on line. They ask me questions, and I answer them. We chat, and while I don’t spend a lot of time doing that, it’s a vital part of being an author of e-books— and a vital part of my program.
In the beginning, I attended RT in order to make contact with readers. This convention was in fact major “promotional” effort of the year. Attending this convention is not for the faint of wallet. And while I can write the expenses off my taxes, it is still a considerable amount of money to come up with. Those first few years, we traveled there on my husband’s vacation pay. It’s not just the cost of registration, which is about mid-range for a convention of it’s kind. There’s also the cost of the hotel room, our meals, and my scooter which I rent so that I can get to where I need to be during the event.
This year, in New Orleans, we’ll finally be meeting face to face with some of my fabulous readers who are on my street team. We’ll have dinner, and hang out, and I will cherish every moment of that. These are people who are coming to RT so that they can meet me. How incredibly cool is that?
But this will be my last time to attend RT as a function, because it no longer, on its own, accomplishes the purpose of bringing me to my readers. The average attendee still tends to read only, or primarily print books.
I have a global online presence and it is there—in the hallowed halls of cyberspace, where my readers and I connect. There may be other conferences and conventions for me down the road at some point. There will most definitely be more trips to Texas, and more writing retreats. I am open to new experiences.
I’m grateful to the organizers of the RT convention, because it was attending that first one that brought me to my publisher.
But the time has come to say good bye to traditions that are no longer working for me.