Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Romance Conference Time!

...And now, for a change of pace - no leather at all, not even the tiniest scrap!

I'm gearing up for the Emerald City Writer's Conference (ECWC), which is put on by the Seattle chapter of the Romance Writers of America. It's just two and a half weeks away! On October 17, I'll put away my leather punch and abandon my various art projects. I'll don my writing cap. I'll sharpen up my adverbs and brush off my prepositions. I'll set off across the floating bridge and head for Bellevue Washington to attend the biggest, most wonderful Conference around.

I attended the ECWC last year, dipping my toes into the waters of the world of Romance books and Romance authors and Romance publishers - but, truth be told, I didn't have a clue what I was doing at this particular Conference. Although I was beside myself with excitement, I didn't yet feel like a bona-fide author, especially a Romance author. I had a shiny new contract for my first erotica book, Paint Job, with Ellora's Cave, but publication was still three very long months away. My second book, America's Darlings, was in its infant stage, written but not yet revised or polished. And my third, Inn on the Edge wasn't anywhere on the horizon yet. 

I sound like I'm talking about my children, don't I? 

The Conference was an eye-opener. I loved it. For one thing, it had a much friendlier feel than the other Conference I'd attended earlier in the summer, the enormous all-genre Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Why was the Romance Conference better? It took me completely by surprise. Are Romance writers nicer people? Was it because the attendees were 90% women? Or what? I still haven't figured it out, but the Romance event was just plain FUN.  Games. Raffles. Welcomes for new attendees. Sign-ups for special dinners out. Theme parties. Gift baskets. Prizes. Did I mention that everyone was friendly?

I remember going up a long, long elevator to the third floor to where the Conference was based. At the top, in front of me, was a table bursting with goodies: pens, and hot-from-the-press books, little wrapped candies, lip balm and tiny vanity mirrors, and more, so much more. I stared at the table in wonder, thinking, Who are all these things for? Certainly not for me?

"Go ahead," said a lady with a wide red smile who walked right up to me, "take some! These are people's promotional items for their books. See?" She picked up a purple pen. "This one is nice, isn't it? It has the author's name and website on it." She held it out to me. "Here, put it into your bag! Take more!" She rifled through the piles of give-aways. "Hey. This is a sweet pad of Post-it notes! You need Post-it notes, don't you? Of course you do."

I did. Very much so. More than any other moment of my life.

"Go on," she said again, tossing one into her own shoulder bag as she walked away, "take one of everything!"

Reading the lettering on each item, noting the clever titles, looking at pictures on the more elaborate items, I imagined the day I would have such things of my own to promote my own future books. Feeling like the world might actually welcome a new author like myself, I carefully collected one of each item. And I learned a new word: swag. This stuff is called swag by insiders. Cool.

A few of the promotional pens from last year. The one on the left has a USB!

Just a sampling of the many non-pen items I collected.
The "Jane Porter" oval thing is a nail file!

Last year, of course, I went to the Conference with nothing but an open mind. This year, I intend to be prepared. I want to add my own contributions to the piles of swag.

A few weeks ago, I set to work designing and ordering my promotional materials. I had no idea there were so many online-businesses specializing in conference swag! Choosing what to get and where to get it took as long as the designing. I finally settled on what I hoped would cover all my Conference needs: Posters for the Book Fair. Rack cards with images of my book covers and blurbs. Business cards. And, of course, pens. Yesterday, the first item showed up on my front porch - the posters. I was thrilled. 

I'll adhere these posters to stiff backings and set them on stands for the Book Fair. 
I love them!

I'll continue posting about my swag items as they appear. And I'll be sure to take notes and pictures at the Conference itself, and write about how this year differs from last year. Because it will. After all, I'm now a bona-fide author.

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