“If you had an RT nametag around your neck, you were family.”
When I began in book publishing over five years ago, one of the first conventions I heard about was Romantic Times (aka RT). I was working in wholesale sales at St. Martins Press and my predecessor was filling me in on the world of commercial fiction, particularly genre fiction. I didn’t know what the purpose of the Con was at the time, didn’t know who it was for or why it existed—all I knew was that it was supposed to be crazy.
The years passed, I moved to editorial at Pocket Books and I heard even more insane stories of RT Con shenanigans. My favorite stories usually revolved around the costume balls and the slightly uncomfortable and inappropriate Mr. Romance competition.
Yes, that’s right: Mr. Romance. Eight or so men competing for the title and a contract to grace the cover of a Kensington romance novel. Simultaneously hilarious and awesome. Given the number of women present at the conference this year in Los Angeles (probably exactly the gender ratio you are imagining), I can’t say it wasn’t nice to see some cute boys scattered throughout the crowd. But I, myself, didn’t go so far as to attend the actual Mr. Romance pageant. I do, however, have some souvenir signed photographs that were essentially thrust upon me. And I may or may not have come back to New York with a former Mr. Romance’s number in my pocket.
But for all the craziness and fun that ensues at RT Con, there is a side to it I hadn’t been told about in my years before experiencing it for myself. There’s the strictly professional side.
RT is not only fun and games, though it sure is a great way to network! The conference is also chock full of workshops, panels, and presentations by publishers, editors, agents, authors, marketing gurus, bloggers, and more. Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or an industry person, there’s something for everyone from 10 am to 6 pm.
The panelists and presenters all had so much wisdom and experience to share, it was enlightening to get a new perspective on the industry from every person I encountered. And giving a presentation myself on Book Country here was just as enlightening. People constantly surprise me, and my audience did as well. Coming up with ideas or questions that I never would of thought to ask or suggest, discussing topics I may not have considered or may have had too narrow-minded a view on—people are so smart. It really was an eye-opening experience for me.
Perhaps the thing I liked most about RT Con, though, was the feeling of camaraderie throughout the conference hotel. If you had an RT nametag around your neck, you were family. Everyone was friendly, everyone was interested (and interesting!), and everyone was treated the same. It doesn’t matter if you are an aspiring author, a publisher, a blogger, or a bestselling novelist—you fit in. You have the opportunity to interact with anyone and everyone, sometimes under the silliest of circumstances.
My most I-can’t-believe-this-is-how-I’m-networking moment? Having a drink with author Barry Eisler in the lobby bar wearing my junior prom gown, with a pair of faery wings and a gold masquerade mask sitting beside me….I suppose the sneak attack by a romance reader in full-on vampire attire was pretty shocking also (as were the claw marks she left after jumping on my back and terrifying me). Good thing I was dressed as Buffy and ready to shake her off and turn her to dust.
[Photo courtesy of Jeffe Kennedy.]