Book Convention Survival Tips (with book giveaway)

Jesus calls His followers to be lights in the midst of darkness. If you’ve ever been to (or thought of going to an ABA book conference), the darkness is rampant.

During the first week of May, I got to hang with other readers at the RT Booklovers’ Convention in Atlanta, GA. This convention moves every year, and in 2018 it will be in Reno, NV. But despite the ever-changing city, the crowds flock to this convention for the parties and opportunities to meet with their favorite authors.


I’m by no means an expert at book conventions but this was my second RT (I went to Vegas for my first RT in 2016) and I thought I’d pass along some tips and hints to make the trip more enjoyable and worthwhile.

And if you hang with me until the end of the post, I’m doing a BIG giveaway for fans of Christian fiction (with multiple winners)!! Believe me, you’ll want to stick around and enter!!

Document Your Time

Chances are, even if the entire conference/convention isn’t enjoyable, there will be a few memorable moments. So document, document, document. Whether that simply be taking some pictures with your cell phone (selfies are OK at these events) or writing things you want to remember down in a notebook or journal, you’ll want to revisit the fun times you had while there.


Conference Survival Tips

Carrie Booth Schmidt (from on the left and me on the right with Katherine Reay (center)


Review the Full Agenda Before Making Your Decision

I’ll tell you a little secret. After my RT experience in Las Vegas in 2016, I told people I wasn’t going to do the RT convention again. It was a good experience but not something I wanted to do every year. So, what made me change my mind when 2017 rolled around? Two things: 1. The conference was within driving distance to me (3 ½ hours) and 2. The list of Christian fiction authors doubled from Vegas. If I hadn’t gone through the agenda, I wouldn’t have realized Bethany House and Revell authors were attending this year.


Book Conference Survival Tips

Bethany House and Revell authors at the Books! Chocolate! Authors! event. Top left to right: Tamera Alexander, Ronie Kendig, Dani Pettrey. Middle row: Patricia Bradley, the crowd for the party, below that is Elizabeth Camden, Lynette Eason, and Kristi Ann Hunter. Bottom Row: Jen Turano, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Rebecca Demarino


If possible, go with a friend and stay at the conference hotel

Yes, it is expensive (especially if you live or have relatives in the area) but there’s no price limit on your sanity and having a place to escape the crowds is definitely a must. Not to mention that you can run all of the books and swag you pick up to your room and save your arms and shoulders some pain.

Now, I realize this isn’t possible for everyone and if you choose not to stay at the hotel, bring a rolling cart, rolling duffel, or rolling backpack. Bring something with wheels that you can pull behind you throughout the day.

Conference Survival Tips

I got to hang out with the fabulous Carrie Schmidt Booth ( at the Historical Greeting Card party in which we participated in arts and crafts time.


Bringing that friend along will help cut down on costs a little if you share the room (plus you won’t be rooming with a stranger. Which also works. I did it in Atlanta and everything worked out well but there’s no guarantee of that).

In addition to cost, having a friend to hang out with makes the experience more memorable and enjoyable. You have someone to eat with and someone to hang out with in line.

But my friends aren’t readers? Find one of the many groups online (FB has several for RT) and get to know a few people before the conference. Once you get there, you’ll see some friendly faces. Even though I wasn’t a bona fide rookie this time around, I joined a small FB rookies group this year of about 20 people. We didn’t all go to the same events but we did pass each other throughout the week.

Make a plan, be flexible, and plan to sit or stand in line

This is extremely important for things like RT where you have lots of choices of reader parties, author panels and workshops, or publisher spotlights every hour with 15-minute increments in between (which are filled with things like Meet & Greets and Pop-up signings).

conference survival tips

This is what I arrived at RT17 with

By nature, readers are introverts and spending that much time with other people gets draining. When I built my agenda for this year’s convention, I chose the events I wanted to go to but I also pinpointed two events each day that I was completely okay with missing. And it worked fabulously with one exception. I skipped the Berkeley Books party because I saw the line and didn’t want to deal with it but afterwards (when my roommate came back to the room and showed me what she’d picked up), I realized I missed my chance to pick up Miramar Bay by Davis Bunn (but really, with all the books I got at this convention, that one book was not that big of a deal).




Along the same lines of making a plan. Think about what you’re picking up. Did you fly? Are you going to have to fit all of that in your luggage to take home? Can you ship some of it (or perhaps your clothes) home? If you drove, it’s not as big a deal but if you flew in, definitely consider whether or not you really want to haul that book or swag home with you. 

And this is what I went home with


And the lines, oh the lines!! They are long from the beginning but grow as the week goes on. So plan for at least an hour in line for events you really want to get to during the day. Ninety minutes to two hours for evening events because there is one event for everyone. And two to three hours for the events on Saturday (the FANtastic Day) when more people are able to get off work and purchase day passes for the book fair and all the parties.


Be a Light

My final (and most important tip): Show the light of Jesus to those around you. I’m specifically referencing RT as this is the only book conference/convention I’ve attended but from the subject matter of the books to the jokes and some conversations, there is a lot of darkness surrounding this event. You will get asked what you read and you will probably have some people stop talking to you as soon as they find out you read Christian fiction (aka inspirational fiction) but that’s okay!

Be patient, be friendly, and be Jesus. You never know how much a kind word or a smile can mean to someone facing a difficult time in their lives.

By the way, if you’re looking for a Christian fiction event, check out the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat!! It’s almost full for 2017 (Last I heard, there were only 4 spots left and registration closes when full or on July 3, but you can get the inside scoop for 2018 by visiting the CFRR website and signing up for the newsletter).

Book Conference Survival Tips

Thomas Nelson and Zondervan We Heart Romance Breakfast with Shelley Shepard Gray, Sarah E. Ladd, Rachel Hauck, Tamera Alexander, Katherine Reay, Denise Hunter, and Colleen Coble.

With two conventions under my belt, I am in no way an expert to attending these but the above tips are my thoughts after another RT experience. For those who have attended reader events, what are some of your survival suggestions and tips?



And now, for the fun stuff!! Giveaway news. I came home from RT with lots and lots of books. I also had to clean off my bookshelves for all of the new reading I received.

convention survival tips

The stack of books three winners will each get to choose 3 titles from.


Three (3) winners (chosen randomly) will receive a Christian Fiction prize pack that includes:

  • 3 books of winner’s choice ( the first winner gets 1st pick, the second winner picks from the remainder, and the third winner chooses after 2nd place winner)1 author autographed book.
  • 1 author autographed book.
  • 3 surprise books (which you can keep or share with a friend)
  • A book tote from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan
  • Some Christian fiction swag (think bookmarks, pens, etc)


And because I am a fan of multiple prize winners, five (5) additional winners will receive 2-3 surprise Christian fiction titles.

Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

62 thoughts on “Book Convention Survival Tips (with book giveaway)

  1. I have never been to one but the Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat sounds fun! Thanks for sharing your experience. I can’t believe how long the lines were!

    • The lines at RT are insane!! The CFRR is a much more intimate setting. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with the giveaway!!

  2. I’m an introvert by nature, but getting to meet some authors I only know from their books would make me come out of my shell (just a bit though!). These are some BIG names to me, would be fantastic to meet them…unless I’d be quaking in my boots too much, HA! I’d either be Miss Chatty Patty or Wallflower Willimina or Lurking Lorie…;-)

    Fun pictures, seriously though this would be the highlight of my readers heart! Looks like you had a blast. Did you fly and if so, how did you fit everything into your bag?? Or did you have to buy another one just to fit all the books and swag! Because that’s what I would have to do 🙂

    Thanks for the chance to share in your bounty!

    • Ooops, I was supposed to answer your question! I’ve never attended a reader type convention as I live in a small town and it would be expensive for me to travel very far. But if time and money were no object, I’d love to go to the CFRR!! That would be amazing!

    • I tend to get extremely quiet in groups but made it a point to talk to a few authors this year. I drove to RT but last year, I shipped 4 boxes home before flying back. Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. I am a teacher and would love to write a book about my adventures over the years. I also love to read and would love to win more books to read during the summer!!

    • Ah, all summer to read!! But I know you work extremely hard during the rest of the year and most definitely deserve the downtime!! Good luck in the contest!

  4. I’ve never been to any book conventions! I’d love to attend the Christian Fiction Readers’ Retreat, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to afford it. Maybe next year!

    • It will be fun to see where CFRR moves to next summer. It’s so new I expect it to grow as word spreads. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I have not been to a Readers convention. I would like to attend the RT convention or the Christian Readers Retreat.

    • Both are well done events. RT is exhausting but CFRR gives you great personal interaction with Christian fiction authors! Thanks for dropping by the blog!

  6. I would like to attend any book convention especially the Christian fiction ones! There are so many authors I would love to see including Julie Klassen, Lynn Austin, Elizabeth Camden, etc!!!

    • It amazes me how many authors I still haven’t read. I’ll hear of one from other bloggers or stumble across a book from a new-to-me author and think “How have I not read this person before.” I just did that with Catherine West!! By the way, funny(ish) story–there was an author at RT by the name of Lynette Austin (and several of us confused her with Lynn Austin!! But DEFINITELY not the same author!). Thanks for stopping by and entering!!

  7. I’m so jealous!!! I love the tips you shared and I’m sure I’ll refer back to this blog post when I am able to go to a conference. I love your advice to go with a friend- that does sound way more fun 🙂 I’d love to go to the CFRR, but it’s too far away from me this year. Fingers crossed for 2018!

    • You are a little far for CFRR out there in CA. The RT convention is in Reno next year :). Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I would love to attend any conference. The interaction with authors and publishrts would be fantastic! !!!! I enjoyed reading about your experience. Thanx for the giveaway!

    • Definitely nice to network (or fan girl) a bit! Writes conferenc s are another great way to hibnob. Thank you for dropping by!

  9. I am definitely bookmarking this post. I just registered for the ACFW conference in September. It will be my first one and I am so excited about it! Thanks for the tips and for the wonderful giveaway!

    • The ACFW conference is a wonderful boost for authors. I’ve been the past couple of years but am not going to make it this year. Both times I attended, I went feeling motivated and uplifted in my writing. One bonus of the ACFW conference is that you don’t have the lines :). Enjoy your time worshiping with and learning from other authors!!

  10. Great advice, Suzie!!! I would like to attend RT some day but CFRR makes me so incredibly happy!
    As for a tip, I’d say get out of your comfort zone and meet some people! I tried to do this last year but hopefully, this year will be easier, I will know more people so maybe it will be less intimidating!
    Thanks for hosting a fun giveaway and sharing your book fun!!!

    • Oh, your tip is such a good one. Last year at CFRR I met only 3 or 4 people (I did have to leave early to help out at ACFW). This year at RT, I made it a point to talk to several authors. Looking forward to meeting you at CFRR this year!!! Thanks for stopping by!!

  11. I’ve never been to a reader convention or a signing or anything like that so I’d like to go to the one you wrote about in this post.

    • RT is definitely convention overload. Hour-long parties with 15 minute breaks between them, long lines, loads of books and swag. It is an experience for sure!! Thank you for stopping by!!

  12. I have never been to any book conventions, but I would love to go to one someday! They seem like something I would really enjoy!!

    • RT does change the location of their booklovers’ convention every year so watch for it to come closer to you. It’s in Reno, NV in 2018. They haven’t announced the 2019 location yet.

  13. I have never never been anywhere close to a town that hosts a Book convention, but I would love to go to a CFRR some day! Enjoyed reading about your experience and tips!

    • RT is definitely expensive (especially when you have to include a plane ticket and a week’s hotel stay in there). I definitely have to plan for it. And yay!! I’ll be at CFRR this year too!! Hope to meet you in person!!

  14. I would love to go to CFRR or anything to do with books or authors. I’ve never met an author….my dream. Haha Thank you for the chance to win such a great prize. Have a blessed day.

    • I’ve really just started meeting them in person (I feel like I know some of them pretty well online) in the last couple of years. It’s great to see some of the personalities behind the words. Thanks for stopping by!

    • RT is definitely not a Christian readers convention. The majority of authors there write more graphic books than I prefer to read but I loved the large contingent of Christian authors there this year!

  15. I’ve never been to a Christian fiction convention but I’m sure they’re a blast! Someday…

  16. I would love to attend Realm Makers (a conference for Christian fantasy writers) someday! It sounds so fun! I’d get to be with all my kindred spirits! ^_^ I’d also like to attend the big Christian fiction writers of America conference. 🙂

    Thanks and blessings!

    • I’ve heard great things about Realm Makers!! I’ve been to the ACFW conference the past two years and both times left feeling renewed and motivated. Getting to sit and learn from authors who have gone before is unforgettable.

  17. I wish I had been to a convention and could leave advice. Instead, I’ll just hope I have the chance to use yours someday. I would love to go to a convention! I don’t know which one I would pick. It would be so fun!!

  18. I thought your pictures were oddly placed far apart, but I eventually realized there was black font on a dark gray background. I did find your picture captions entertaining. And how in the world were you able to bring home so many additional bags? Did you take a duffle bag along in anticipation of your return load? When we travel at Christmas time we pack light and take another bag along folded up in our bags.

    • Alright, don’t laugh at my randomness, but I brightened my screen and I could read the post. Does this mean I’m getting old? Perhaps… Hahaha…

    • Sometimes it takes a few seconds for the pictures to load. I’m experimenting with different layouts and sometimes have to go back and fix older posts. Thanks for letting me know. As far as the bags, a lot of them were given to us at the parties at RT. One of the big suggestions for people flying was to pack a smaller suitcase and put in in a bigger suitcase so they could load it up to fly home with everything.

  19. I’d love to attend any of them because they sound like SO much fun, but I have seizures due to overactive brain so crowds are out. CFRR among others sounds great. I do watch the small videos and streaming that some of them have.

    • CFRR is great because it is a more intimate setting. RT had anywhere from 10-1000 people at any given event (depending on when it was and popularity).

  20. I was disappointed I wasn’t able to attend RT this year after seeing how many more inspirational authors and events were at this year’s convention. Vegas was my first experience with RT as well, and there were definitely parts of it that made me not anxious to want to go back. I really enjoyed getting to meet you in Vegas though Suzie, and I loved reading this post with all your tips!

    • Hi, Kirby! I’m sorry you couldn’t make RT this year too. I enjoyed it more this year because I knew what to expect and there were several familiar faces around. Are you going to make it to Reno? I probably won’t make that one.

      • This year’s looked awesome with how many more inspirational events they had! and I’d love to go next year in Reno, but I probably won’t know for sure until closer to the event. I’d definitely love to attend the CFRR too, and I’m hoping it might be closer to me next year as Ohio’s a bit too long of travelling for me this year. Hopefully you’ll blog about that one too 🙂

  21. I have not had the opportunity to attend a reader’s conference yet so my advice is to keep trying to make one of the events! Sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to go!

  22. The only conferences I’ve attended were for education. My biggest tip is make sure you get the email address of the presenter, because inevitably I want to ask a question or request the powerpoint — it’s helpful to be able to get in touch!

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