Report from Authors After Dark! #Romance readers rock. #aadchar

I’m writing this from my hotel room, where I’ve ordered a burger from room service and I’m hoping to recover my voice in time to make it down to the last hour of the Leather & Lace party at Authors After Dark!
This throat irritation started Wednesday night after I got here, with just a little pos-nasal drip, but I’ve been talking and talking so much at this con it’s been getting steadily worse! Just now while ordering room service on the phone I was basically down to a whisper, and I probably should admit defeat: I can’t talk AT ALL right now. Ugh.
As long as I’m stuck in my room waiting for sustenance and maintaining silence, I figure I may as well blog about how fantastic this conference has been. FANTASTIC.
Authors After Dark, for those who don’t know it, is a conference all about putting romance authors together with readers. In particular it has a heavy focus on erotic romance, with healthy doses of BDSM and GLBT, which makes it a perfect environment for me! It’s a great opportunity for writers, who can be quite solitary creatures, to get away from the keyboard and mingle. It’s also great fun. Stella Price, the hurricane-force power behind it all (and an author herself) creates so many opportunities for folks to get together, talk, meet, expound, and bond. The Featured Author corps is limited to 100, and the reader ranks are limited to 400. The result is an intimate con, but one that isn’t lacking any of the gifts or glitz one finds at a huge con like RT Booklovers, if judging by the amount of free books and free swag being given away is any indication!
A perfect encapsulation of what this convention is all about is something that happens on opening night: The Blind Date Book Party. Every author giftwraps a book (or two) and leaves it in the party room. The readers come through and take them with no idea what book they’re getting since they’re all wrapped up with no tags or names on them. Many authors put a little note in the book with a time and place to meet, or saying to come to a specific panel or to the mass signing to get an additional gift. I put my cell phone number in mine, and a reader texted me to say she had gotten it. We met up today for a drink in the bar and to chat about books, romance, and whatever else. She and her sister were at the convention and I got to tell them (albeit in my hoarse, almost-not-there voice) about my books and why I write what I write.
Today I also had lunch with some readers I met via the AAD Facebook group, where I’d posted that I was unattached for lunch today, and the three of them kidnapped me to a nearby Panera, where we confessed our mutual love for various authors (Holly Black! <3), talked about the state of the romance biz, and laughed about reviewers who leave one-star reviews with comments like "There was too much sex in this book." (Yes, this happens to me.) [caption id="attachment_1940" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="This is only PART of the pile that came in the welcome goodie bag."][/caption]Here’s another ice-breaker that AAD organizes: the Welcome Event puts everyone together in a ballroom. Every chair has a packed goody bag on it and two premium book giveaways. Among other things, I got the latest from Christina Lauren, Sweet Filthy Boy! And a shot glass from Kiernan Kelly. And a Mastering the Marquess wine opener which will come in handy… Et cetera. But the biggest fun of the Welcome Event, after the bit where author T.J. Michaels got up and sang a song for Stella (giving voice to the appreciation of every author present) was when authors who signed up to give welcome prizes lined up and one after the other picked attendee names out of a hat. Some gave away wine and chocolate, some books, etc. Many offered a meal or drinks in the bar along with the prize to their winner. I offered tea or whiskey for up to three people and my winner chose whiskey! So we met in the bar the next day and had a great time.
I also spoke on four panels, two on BDSM, one on GLBT romance, and one on erotic romance, and all were great. The panels are mostly Q&A with the questions coming from the audience, and 7 or 8 authors answering. Many of us gave away books at the end of every panel, and almost all of us have swag of some kind. Stress balls, note pads, thumb drives, magnets, postcards, you name it. All the panels I went to had very full rooms except for the very first one — it came right after the first lunch which ran a little overtime so people trickled in late.
And I organized one meetup, the BDSM Writers & Readers Meetup. Me and nine other BDSM authors–Annabel Joseph, Ann Mayburn, Colette Saucier, Desiree Holt, Kallypso Masters, Sasha White, Sidney Bristol, Tilly Greene, and TJ Michaels–got together to do something like speed dating with readers. We arranged the room into ten circles of 6 chairs each–one author per five readers. Every 8 minutes we would rotate to another group and introduce ourselves, chat, take questions, give away stuff, etc. Each group got to meet 6 of the 10 authors, and then we had more PRIZES. I mentioned that there have been a lot of gifts, right? Each author had a gift to draw a raffle name from, and then we ALL put books and BDSM toys and other stuff into a grand prize basket. People went home with a lot of stuff! I’ve had several people come up to me today to say the speed dating was the most fun thing they’ve done so far!

All the authors from the BDSM Meetup!

Of course at every banquet or ceremony, we authors try to spread out and station ourselves at different tables, and we get to meet more readers that way, too. Sometimes they’re totally new folks and sometimes they’re people it turns out you knew online but hadn’t met yet. And sometimes they’re the legendary Viola Johnson, an old friend from my activism days in the leather community, who is here exhibiting a fraction of her equally legendary Carter-Johnson Library, an archive of BDSM books dating back to 1885. So the next time someone tells you that BDSM is a newfangled thing, just shake your head.
My BDSM meetup outfit mirror selfie.
The two other fun swag-giving opportunities were two parties: one for bookclubs and one for bloggers. I pre-packed Zip-Loc bags with various forms of swag: notepads I had made advertising Slow Surrender and sequels (which included a sample scene), “class planner” calendars promoting the upcoming re-release of Magic University, various pens with my name and URL on them, postcards with free book download codes, bookmarks, stickers. Oh, and books. My publisher (Hachette/GCP/Forever) sent free copies of Slow Surrender for me to give away, and I gave them out at every opportunity! Some bloggers are going to read and review them, while others are going to use them as giveaways.
Me with artist Geoff of Voodoo Monkey Tattoo!
There were other events, too, that I didn’t take part in, including a carnival games party, and several other things, like the ribbon hunt, that maybe I’ll do next time. Because I sincerely hope I get invited back! This has been an absolute blast. If it has been this much fun for ME, I can only imagine what it must be like for a fan of romance. Heaven.
Oh, and did I mention I got a tattoo? There are only two “vendors” here: a corset-maker and a pair of tattoo artists. The tattoo guys are booked solid for all five days and while I was getting inked, a steady stream of women, many who’d never been laced into a corset before, tried one on. Perfect.
So if a con like RT is too expensive or too far, I would say give AAD a try. Next year the toastmaster is none other than Sherrilyn Kenyon! The 2015 AAD will be in Atlanta, August 12-16. I’m not sure when exactly registration opens for next year but when it does, you’ll see the news here: https://www.authorsafterdark.org

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