imageFirst of all, if you don’t know what RT is, don’t worry. I didn’t know what it was until I’d been reviewing for several years.  Basically, the romance community has two big conferences a year: Romantic Times and Romance Writers of America. The former is sponsored by Romantic Times and has a strong fan component. The Romantic Writers of America conference is more targeted to professionals in the field.

I’ve never been to either but this year I’m attending both.

RT2014 is being held in New Orleans which everyone here seems to love. Most of the events are at the Marriott and many of the attendees are staying here as well. The lobby is full of authors, publishers, bloggers, and fans, all of whom look thrilled to be here.

The actual conference began mid-day on Tuesday. I arrived on Monday to attend a pre-conference conference for Bloggers. There were forty bloggers there from all over the world and we heard presentations from Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Jane Litte of Dear Author, and publishing representatives from Berkley, Harlequin, Montlake, and Carina Press.

As I listened, I thought about what issues would be relevant to AAR readers. Two stood out for me. The first was reader engagement–how do review sites best connect with their audience. We discussed the importance of meeting reader expectations when readers visit a site, connecting with the readers who more or less “live” on Facebook, and how things like comment streams and forums shape the readers experience.

The second was how readers and authors respond to negative reviews. The presenters stressed that reviews are for readers, not for authors, and that authors, by in large, understand that. Everyone in the on-line Romance community is struggling with how best to deal with the few authors and readers who use comments and forums in ways that aren’t inclusive. Some sites don’t publish comments they consider inappropriate, others let the readers self-police.

It was fun to hear the upcoming books the publishers there were excited about. Most were debut novels, several with unconventional themes.

After the conference, I was ready for a calm evening and did not attend the Cover Model Sock Hop, the big social event for the conference’s opening night. AAR Reviewer Pat Henshaw did, however, and reported that, yes, those hot guys on the covers of your favorite books can dance as well as they can pose. The attendees were given place mats that the models could sign.

Pat and I are both here through the weekend. Today we are interviewing authors and should have some fun things to share later in the week.

Dabney Grinnanimage