Why Romance Writers Should Attend Author Events

Why Romance Writers Should Attend Author Events

Table of Contents

My first book event was Festival of the Book held each March in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the time, I was mostly a reader who wrote fan fiction (early 2000’s). 

When my nonfiction books published (under another name), I participated on panels at the Festival. But beyond a few bookstore signings, I didn’t attend anything in-person.

When the first edition of Drawn to Her published, a few romance authors who were repped by the same agent that represented me invited me to participate in a romance author signing event. I had no idea what this was or how it worked, but I wanted my book to sell so I sent in my money and began to figure out what I’d need to sell my books. It wasn’t long before grumblings about the event organizer had all authors concerned. In the end, the organizer took the money and ran.

Everything turned out okay as several participating authors were able to find a new location (for free) so the event went on as planned. Plus, the organizer of another event took pity on us and invited us to her event at a discount.

I was reminded of this experience as my Booktube feed filled with reactions to the Readers Take Denver event in April 2023 that has been equated to the Fyre Festival. On a recent call, I asked WWH member Sierra Hill about it knowing the event was close enough to her that she likely attended. She did and shared the tea with us.

In what appears to be a case of getting too big too fast, and poor organization and support, the event was a failure with long lines, readers who paid extra not getting to see authors, and authors having their books lost or stolen. You can learn more by Googling or searching on YouTube “Readers Take Denver.” You’ll see reports from authors, readers, and paid influencers.

Now this might not be a great way to start a post on why I recommend author events to writers, but I think horror stories like this keep some authors from going. That and costs, travel, and shyness. But events offer so many benefits that go beyond selling books.

In this article, we’ll first review the various types of events you can attend, then go through a list of benefits you can get by going. For the purpose of this article, we’ll cover group events organized by others, such as conventions and conferences, and not individual events, such as a launch party, that you set up yourself.

👉A note about virtual events: I’m not against these and when it comes to workshops, they can be an excellent option. BUT, there’s nothing like hanging with your people in person. I sell more books at in-person events than virtual ones. I get more excited and inspired at in-person events than at virtual ones. So while I’m all for virtual options, I’m also going to tell you to attend in-person events as well.

Types of Author Events

Writer Conferences: These are events geared toward writers that include workshops and other activities to teach the craft and business of writing. Some are generic, like The Virginia Writers Club annual symposium. Others are geared toward specific genres, such as the Romance Writers of America conference (it does have signings too, but the workshops are oriented to authors, not readers).

Signing Events: This is a reader-oriented event in which authors can get a table and sell books. Sometimes there are panels authors can participate on as well. SaSS, which I have been to twice as an author, is a romance signing event. Readers Take Denver was another signing event.

Book Festivals: Another reader-oriented event, festivals generally have panels and interviews with authors. Usually they’ll have an outside bookseller to sell participating authors’ books. Most have signing times for the authors as well. The Virginia Festival of the Book is an example of a book festival.

Local Book Events: Local writing groups or libraries sometimes hold events where authors can get a table to sell books. It’s a similar set up to the signing event, except that many attendees are there to browse and buy books, where as signing events generally have fans who want get signed books. I like these a lot because they’re usually more affordable than larger events. The trick is determining the most likely attendee to find out if your reader will come. It’s a bummer to go to a local event with readers who aren’t interested in romance.

Genre Book Conventions/Conferences: Malice Domestic (mystery), Romance Writers of America Conference, Thrillerfest (thriller, suspense), RavenCon (scifi/horror), etc are examples of a genre-specific book conferences. Most are reader oriented but sometimes will have author workshops as well.

Benefits to Attending Author Events

I’m going to be honest in that I rarely cover my expenses for a book event with book sales. But I look at events as an investment in my author career. Here are some of the benefits to going to author events listed in no particular order.

Sell Books

Okay, so I said I don’t sell enough books to cover my costs, but I sell some. Plus I have an email sign up and postcards with a QR code that links to my books’ sales pages so readers can buy later.

Increase Visibility and Engage with Peers and Readers

Think of yourself as a reader. Imagine seeing and chatting with an author. Does that increase the chances you’ll buy a book?

Readers today, especially romance readers, LOVE hanging out with the authors who create the stories that make them feel all the feels. Don’t underestimate how a single encounter can boost your visibility. One reader takes a chance on your book, and then does a TikTok. Others see it and buy it, and they TikTok about it. Colleen Hoover is the mega-author she is today because readers talked about her books.

Get Inspired and Motivated

I’m always itching to write when I’m at a book event. Being around other authors and readers is energizing. At Malice Domestic, I ran into a book blogger who focuses mainly on cozy mystery, but she mentioned my romance coming out next week. I didn’t realize she read romance. I’d been struggling to finish the book, but hearing her tell me she was eager for my book release boosted my motivation to get it done.

Meet Authors

I’ve seen:

  • Diana Gabaldon
  • Veronica Roth
  • Kathy Reich
  • Lee Child
  • Mark Greaney (I sat next to him at a signing table!)
  • Heather Graham (who I talked to as I know someone she’s in a band with)
  • Ann Cleeves (we had coffee and cakes with her!)
  • Karen Slaughter (She’s hilarious!)
  • Louise Penny (She’s so nice!!)
  • Lori Foster
  • Hank Philippi Ryan (I chatted with her about her editing process. Great stuff! And she liked my backpack!)

Some of these people I saw from the audience as they were on a panel or where interviewed. A few I chatted with when they were signing a book. Some I had full conversations with. Doesn’t matter the level of contact. Seeing them was exciting. Like seeing a rock star!

But beyond that, I’ve met and befriended many mid-list, unknown, and emerging authors. Some I see regularly when I attend events. It’s like running into my old friends again.

There are often opportunities to hangout and talk with people who either love to read, or who are writers and understand the unique challenges of writing (if you have anyone who looks at you funny for talking about your characters like they’re real people, you know what I mean).

Get an Agent/Publisher

Some events have pitch sessions, where you sit with an agent/publisher for 5 to 7 minutes to pitch your book. When I was an agent, I participated in several pitch sessions. (I’ve never done it as an author…too scary…lol).


While I never did a pitch session, I have met authors and publishers at events that were instrumental in my getting an agent or a publishing deal.

Conferences often invite bloggers and influencers. They’re worth talking to because they talk about books and influence buyers.

Most recently, at Malice Domestic, I met an author who likes to put spicy bits into her mysteries, like I do. We’ve connected to talk about how we might help each other find the target reader and lead the way in the the sub-genre.


I’ve been at this a long time, but I don’t know everything. Especially in an industry that is evolving and changing so fast, conferences have become my go-to way to stay on top of the author business. From learning new tools, getting new ways of looking at plotting or crafting, to expanding my marketing strategy, my brain is always overloaded with thoughts on how to use it all in my writing career.

Find New Authors to Read

I never leave an event without buying books. No matter how hard I try to rein in the urge to splurge (my TBR is ridiculous), I always leave with books from authors I’ve never read but are intrigued by their stories. It’s a great way to support other authors and to get support from other authors.


Okay, so this shouldn’t be your main reason for going to an event, but author swag is definitely a perk. First, lots of it is fun. Second, you get ideas on what you can create for your brand and books.

Industry Insights and Trends

Are vampires out or in again? Monster romance? Romantasy? Is New Adult being phased out? What are agents looking for? Do readers prefer ebook over print? These topics and more are the types of things you can glean at writer events.


Some events offer critique, usually of the first pages of your manuscript, but sometimes of your query or synopsis. This can be invaluable if you’re looking to get an agent or publisher.

Speaking Opportunities

Not only can you attend a speaker’s presentation, workshops and panels, but you can be a speaker as well. I highly recommend this for reader events. I can’t tell you how many books I skipped in the bookstore, but then decided to buy after hearing the author speak. In fact, I sold most of my books at Malice Domestic after my panel appearance.

Here is a good overview of conferences by John Gilstrap (who I’ve also met).


Finding Events to Attend

Events are everywhere, likely even in your backyard. Local events are often easier to get into and more affordable. This is where networking with other local authors can be helpful. I received two emails in the last few weeks from organizers setting up book festivals in towns not far from me. One is by a library, so the table is free. There other is a chapter of a writing organization, which has an affordable $55 full table, $60 if it needs to be near an outlet.

If you belong to a writing organization, such as a local critique group or chapter of a larger writing group, talk to members about events they attend. It’s possible they host an event.

Another way to find events is through Google. Here is the Google Search result for “Romance Author Events 2024“. The top result is a list of events that aren’t far from me, suggesting Google is tapped into my location. The results may be different for you. Below that are search results for events such as Romance Con, Steamy Lit Con, Fall In Love, and more.

You can limit this search to writing events near you, if traveling too far is an issue. For example, “Author events in Virginia 2024”.

Note that you don’t need to limit yourself to romance-oriented events. I’m always applying to Virginia Festival of the Book on years I have a new release.

If you want to attend an event as an author (e.g. be on a panel), you’ll need to consider that applications go into organizations months in advance. I just got a notice that I’ve been accepted at a conference happening in August that I pitched back in February.

Affording Events

As I said, and John says in the video above, few authors sell enough books to cover event expenses. The truth is, most conferences are expensive; $300 or more. A full Thrillerfest experience is over $1,000. Same with Romance Writers of America Conference. In most cases, that doesn’t include food. It definitely doesn’t include travel or lodging.

With that said, there are so many events, some of which are free or low cost. To start out, search out local options through your library, writing group, independent book stores, Google, etc. By staying local, you avoid travel and hotel costs.

I’ve been lucky in that my mom and sister often travel with me to events, which offsets some of my costs. If you’re comfortable, find someone you can room with to save on hotel costs.

Registration can still be expensive for bigger events, so I limit them to two or three a year. I just returned from Malice Domestic and plan to go to Creatures, Crimes and Creatives in September (it’s one of the few conferences in which registration includes meals!). I room with someone (usually mom and sister), which saves on hotel. Sister drives.

When choosing these larger events, think about your goals. Is it an author event where you’ll learn from successful authors and are those authors writing books similar to you? You’d rather have expertise from Colleen Hoover than Stephan King in terms of becoming a romance author. In other words, pick the writing events that will best help you with what you want to write and achieve.

If it’s a reader oriented event and you hope to sell books, think of other ways to maximize the experience for an ROI down the road, such as having email sign up list, postcards with links to your books, being on a panel so readers can see you and learn about your books, etc. Also, make sure there are other authors who sell in your same genre. Again, you don’t want to go to an event that doesn’t have readers who want what you write.

Preparing for and Having a Successful Event

I’ll be honest, romance reader-oriented events require the most prep and stuff. But boy are those readers eager buyers. Other events simply require I bring my books. Here are a few things to consider pulling together before you attend your event.

  1. Follow the event on social media. This is a great way to find out from previous authors the best tips for a successful event. For example, I learned that many books are sold in advance at SaSS though the author Facebook group.
  2. Order your stuff. Most romance events I attend, I bring a banner (I got a two-sided banner at Vistaprint.) Other stuff to order:
    • Books. Unless you’re a traditional published author AND the event has a bookseller, you’ll need to order books to sell at the event. If you’re an indie author, if there is a bookseller, you can usually consign your books, but you’ll need to bring them.
    • Postcards – I usually have one for each book, and one with the series. All have a QR code to the sales page or lead magnet page for free book. I use Canva to create the cards and Vistaprint to manufacture them)
    • Business card for networking. Again, Canve and Vistaprint are great tools for this.
    • Swag. I don’t like wasting money which is easy to do with swag. Most authors have bookmarks with their books. That’s probably the most affordable that might be saved by an author. When creating swag, I like to think about what a reader might keep. Romance readers like stickers. I have doorhangers that say, “Go away, I’m reading about hot men.”
    • Merch. This optional but can be a fun way to make extra money. I sold several tumblers and mugs at last years SaSS event. The ones that sold the most had generic content as opposed to my books. I had one that sold out that said, “I still love fairy tales, they’re just spicier now.” Note that I have a craft room and the tools/equipment to make much of my merch, but you can easily make merch through Printify. Here is an article on author merch to learn more.
    • Payment processing gadget. If there isn’t a bookseller, you’ll need to take payments. Square and PayPal offer the devices needed to swipe/one-tap credit cards. Be sure to read the instructions and enter your book inventory with pricing plus sales tax rate into the app before hand. Also, make sure it’s charged.
  3. Promote the event. Tell your social followers and email subscribers about the event. Some events will have posts that you can share.
  4. Set up presales if applicable. I’ve only seen this in romance events, but maybe others do it. You can have readers order AND pay for books before the event. This allows you to make a few bucks in advance and have an idea of how many books you need. The readers pick up the books from you at the event.
  5. Become friendly. Writing is a solitary activity, perfect for introverts. But many of the benefits from events require you to talk to others. Know your genre and subgenre. Have a quick pitch about your book to hook readers. “I write a sexy romantic mystery series in which a sleuthing couple stumbled over dead bodies by day and into bed at night.” Have a pitch to hook agents, if you’re doing a pitch session.
  6. List your talking points for panels. Most panels have a moderator that will let you know the topic and often the questions that will be asked. You need to be conversational on the panel, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few talking points related to the topic/questions, especially if you’ll be nervous.
  7. Participate in activities beyond your own. Attend other panels and the keynote. Some places have a hospitality room where people hang out for a break. It’s a great place to meet writers/readers. Plus, there’s often free swag.
  8. Go to the bar. You don’t have to drink. If you do drink, partake in moderation. I haven’t been to a conference yet in which I didn’t hang out and chat with other authors and readers in the bar. It’s fun!
  9. Find a buddy. If you’re attending alone, work to have someone you sit with at lunch and dinner. It doesn’t have to be the same person for every meal. The goal is to not eat alone. If the event is offering food, don’t be afraid to sit at the big-author table, if allowed. I once sat at a table with Charlaine Harris and Sujata Massy!
  10. Don’t be obnoxious. Be graceful to the support staff. Many are volunteers. If you’re on a panel, don’t dominate. You don’t want to have a reputation of not being respectful of other authors. If you find an opportunity to chat with an author you admire, don’t hog their time, especially if there is a group or line waiting for a turn.
  11. Soak it in and have fun! Seriously. Events are a highlight for me. I get so energized being around authors, readers, and books!

I’m a big fan of events. They’re fun. They’re inspiring. They’re educational. They grow my readership.

Do you have events you like to attend? Let me know, as I’m always looking for new ones to go to. 

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