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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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).
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.
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.