Join us as JP Barnaby goes Outside the Margins.
Every year, around mid to late summer, we start seeing the worry and anxiety of our friends on social media over their first trip to GayRomLit. Readers and authors alike look at their cherry-popping expedition with trepidation. I’m not going to tell you that you have nothing to fear, because going into a new social situation causes many of us anxiety. So here, I’ll tell you what no one else will—it’s okay to be scared.
My first GRL, that very first year in NOLA, I was terrified. It was my first conference ever and I’d just come off the heels of Hustlaball NYC where both Howard and Aubrey had to spend an hour convincing me to talk. GRL was much the same way, only at that venue it was Damon Suede. I will always be grateful for these guys who helped me to feel comfortable slipping into the skin that turned into JP Barnaby so that I could stand up in front of a crowd and give out a Grabby, read from Spencer, or answer questions about my life and my work.
So, when all you want to do is hide in your room, how do you walk into that hotel and meet the people who read and love your stories, or have only met online?
- The other authors you see around you feel just as uncomfortable as you do. Authors, in general, are not social people. We hide and lose ourselves in other people’s lives. We want to talk to our characters, but when it comes to sitting around a table with people we’ve never met, we freeze. You are not alone.
- Know what’s coming. Check out the schedule not only to see where you’re supposed to be, but where the authors you want to see are. The more events you attend, the less likely you are to hide in your room. Plus, if you check out other authors’ events, especially authors who know how to handle a crowd: Amy Lane, Andrew Grey, KA Mitchell, Geoffrey Knight, ZAM, Edmond Manning, and others, you can see how it’s done. Learn from those around you.
- You paid a lot of money to be there—make the most of it. GRL isn’t about selling books. It’s not about swag. It’s about face-to-face interaction with the people who read your books. It’s about talking to other people and getting them to read your books. All the swag in the world won’t compare to sitting down with that one person who has read every book you’ve ever written. Tell them where you’re going to be. Tweet about it. Facebook about it.
- Put together a signing kit. I have one that I take to every event. It includes:
- My square and cash for change.
- Pens of all colors, sharpie markers (especially in gold and silver) – why? Because readers will have you sign all kinds of things: bags, frames, iPad cases, and in some cases, er…body parts. 😉 Be prepared.
- Book stands – you can get these from any craft store or retail store. I got mine at Walmart. Make sure they fold down and won’t break during travel.
- Signage – Those little name plates aren’t going to help people find you. Hire a great graphic artist and have him/her design you a 3’ banner to put on the front of your table. There are almost 100 authors in the featured author signing, don’t make people looking for you work for it. Signage also includes a printed, professional sign indicating how much your books are if you’re selling books.
- Random note: this is also where I keep the pins I collect at conferences so I can put them on my badge.
- Take a notebook everywhere with you. You are either going to get a fabulous scene idea or readers/authors are going to ask you for something. I use Evernote on my phone.
- Network with other authors – these are your allies. Some authors look at it as a competition, but a lot of us look at our genre as our friends and family and will be happy to help you out with blog tours, cover reveals, etc. but you need to ask.
- Don’t get out of hand – GRL is a corporate outing for authors. This is the place where people see us in action. Don’t get so drunk that you do something you regret. Social events are there for us to socialize with readers and each other, you can do that if you’re too drunk to stand.
- Dress your branding—that means different things to different people. If you’ve seen me at events, I dress in jeans and t-shirts with corsets for most social events. I want to be approachable. I’m just JP, come and talk to me.
- You will get your picture taken a lot. It is pretty inevitable. Start getting comfortable with seeing yourself in less than flattering pictures as well as some pretty incredible ones. People don’t read your books because of your physique, but your heart, soul, and mind – don’t panic.
- Have fun. Seriously – GRL is one of the best times you’ll ever have at a conference. The people are kind, accepting, and amazing. I met some of my best friends at GRL, be open to it.
- Your authors are probably more afraid of you than you are of them. I’ve had a dozen people tell me they’ve seen me at an event, but were too afraid to talk to me. Authors pay a lot of money to be at these events (RT costs me in the neighborhood of $2000), we WANT to see you. That’s why we’re there. Please, if you see me ANYWHERE—dinner, the lobby, the hallway, just walk up and say “HI JP!”. Okay, I’ll give you a pass on the bathroom, cause, seriously – that IS kinda creepy.
- Don’t hide in your room—you paid a lot of money to be at GRL, take advantage of it. Hang out in the lobby, make friends, get out of the hotel (okay, maybe not so much in Bloomingdale, but Atlanta and NOLA were AWESOME).
- GRL may seem a little cliquey because the people who have been going for years already know each other, but it’s not. As an author, I can tell you that I’m usually with the same people because I’m scared and these people (William Cooper, Rowan Speedwell, Jodi, etc) keep me calm and focused. If someone you want to talk to is standing with a group of people, be respectful but just tap them on the shoulder and say “Hi, Amy Lane, I’m Gina and you’re amazing.” Trust me, you’re going to get her attention. How do I know that? Because I’ve done just that. I was lucky and I met some of my favorite authors at smaller events like the Dreamspinner author conference, but it’s no less daunting for us. And I totally flipped out when Jordan Castillo Price was the first one in line for the body painting last year. We’re fanboys/fangirls too. We totally get it.
- Tweet/Facebook what’s going on – the people who weren’t able to go want to see what you’re seeing. They want to experience it with you. They’ll appreciate it.
- Have dinner with a different group each night. I’m going to be totally, painfully honest here – normally, I have dinner either by myself or with Jodi at an event. It’s not because I want to get away, but because I’m too shy to inject myself into someone else’s group and because people assume I’m busy and don’t ask me. At RT, I did manage to invite myself along with a group of sweet and amazing bloggers who probably didn’t even know how much their acceptance meant to me. So if you’re in a conversation with someone and dinnertime rolls around, say – hey, want to get something to eat? You may be surprised how many say yes.
- Pack flat rate boxes in your suitcase. You don’t get as many free books as an event like RT, but you may get them. You’re also going to get an avalanche of swag and books are for sale EVERYWHERE. Overage fees on your luggage suck. It’s REALLY easy to pop your extras into a flat rate box or two, go to the business center and print the postage, and drop it with the hotel (or a local friend) to send out. You paid for this event, you deserve to take everything you want back with you.
- Don’t drink to the point that you do something you regret. You’ll notice this is also on the author list, because it’s important for all of us.
- There are three types of spotlights for authors at GayRomLit. The first is a reading – your favorite author introducing themselves, maybe talking a bit about the book they read from, and then reading from their book. Remember that we are not voice actors and being in front of a room full of people reading is pretty daunting. The second type of spotlight is a Q&A – come prepared to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to put your hand in the air. I’ve done Q&A sessions and they’re amazing—readers come up with questions I never would have thought of. The third type of spotlight is theme-based. Last year, I did a spotlight with Amy Lane and KA Mitchell on writing angst. We talked about why we write what we do, told stories about our characters, and started a yarn riot. Okay, KA started the yarn riot, Amy and I were just caught behind the lines. It’s a more in-depth look at the authors and the type of fiction we write. It’s not RT – don’t be intimidated by how many people show up or don’t. Just come in, sit down, and have fun.
- Go to the evening events, even if you’re scared. There’s no rule that says you have to get out on the dance floor at the junket or dress up for the costume party. The nighttime events are a place to talk to authors in a social scene when they’re not freaked out about being in the spotlight. And remember, if you ask an author for something—to post a picture of their cat, whatever, follow it up with an email. I promise, if you ask me for something while I’m stressed out, I won’t remember—and most authors are the same way.
- Have fun. I know this sounds simple and rather obvious, but there is so much to do in that four short days that sometimes we forget to have fun. You have your checklist of authors you want to see and you get so caught up in your scavenger hunt that you forget you’re there to relax. It IS a retreat, after all.
That’s it – my top 10 tips for authors and readers going to GayRomLit. This will be my 4th year. I’ve been to each one, and they’ve all been amazing. Again, I can’t stress enough—don’t be afraid to walk up to someone and say hi, especially if you are a friend or fan. Whether the author is there under general registration or as a featured or supporting author, we want to see you. We wouldn’t be there otherwise. I’ve met most of the authors who will be at GRL – trust me when I say, if they appear standoffish, it’s almost certainly because they’re shy. Get them talking about your favorite book and they’ll open up like a flower in springtime.
My only other piece of advice is this—a lot of the authors and readers at GayRomLit are part of the LGBT community. GRL is our safe place. It’s one of the few conferences we feel truly accepted and loved. While we’re all together, be good to each other. Don’t say mean or rude things just because you think no one can hear you. Trust me—everyone at GRL talks to everyone else and what you say will get back to them. GRL is a place of community and acceptance—be a part of that community and help us make it strong.
See you in October. <3
~ JP Barnaby
About JP Barnaby
Award winning romance novelist, J. P. Barnaby has penned over a dozen books including the Working Boys series, the Little Boy Lost series, In the Absence of Monsters, and Aaron. As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.
Web site: http://www.JPBarnaby.com
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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