The choices for where to do this are staggering. Conventions, retreats, book fairs, festivals—what’s an author to do when there isn’t a lot of money in the budget for travel and event costs? The answer is we have to choose carefully and consider why we’re making these choices. Sometimes you have to whittle it down. There are events for authors. There are events for romance authors. Then there are events for LGBT+ romance authors or genre authors, and while I do think it’s important that we have more of a presence in the traditional romance world, I’m going to concentrate on the events best suited to an LGBT target audience. A lot of the traditional venues are expensive, and if an author lives far from the normal convention cities, it’s a good idea to think about what give you the best exposure for your dollar.
A perfect LGBT book convention would combine the best factors of many of the existing ones: well organized, well attended, with good vending space, a good mix of panels, readings and workshops, time set aside for a signing event, with day passes and public access events along with the full weekend registration agendas. Is there a perfect convention out there for us? I can’t answer that. What’s perfect for one author may not be perfect for another. But every year there are more choices and every year many of those choices are trying new things.
So where do you put your money? I think a large part of that answer has to be concerned with what you’re looking to get out of a convention or event. Sure, conventions are fun, a whirlwind of amazing stuff so often, but the author needs to ask the mercenary question, “What’s in it for me?”
Some things to consider when you’re picking your events this year:
- Is it local? Or local enough that it won’t cost a minor lord’s ransom in plane fare and hotel nights? You might be surprised what’s available nearby. Pride festivals, bookstores and libraries offering author readings, local book fairs, even an LGBT bookstore willing to host you for a signing.
- Is any part of the event open to the public? Sometimes conventions will open up vending areas and signing events to anyone, offering more possibilities for exposure. (We had a wonderful conversation with a vacationing family in a vending area last year. Spread the love.)
- Are there day passes? Or any other passes available to someone local who can’t stay for the whole con? This encourages local traffic and allows folks to come who can’t get away from the day job.
- What do the attendance numbers look like? If this is your first event, a huge convention may very well leave you in tears. If you’re a veteran, you may want a larger potential audience than the smaller, more intimate events offer. That’s a matter of what you’re looking for—but be prepared so you know what kind of crowd you’re facing.
- How much is it? If money is no object, lucky you! But for most of us, this is an absurdly basic question, and may determine whether you can attend or not. Do you want one big con this year or several small ones? Are you looking for events targeting your specific audience or for exposure in a larger venue? What sorts of fees do you need to take into account? Just registration? A vendor table fee? Both? Extra fees for special events? Are any meals included?
- What’s offered if it’s a weekend-long or multi-day event? How many times will you be interacting with con goers and in what ways? Can you do a reading? Is there a signing? Are there panels you’d be interested in if you were going as a reader?
- On that note, how do you end up on a panel/at a reading/signing? Submit a proposal? Pay extra? Sign up for the event and they slot you into something you hope will work for you? Are you offered choices? Make sure you know the in’s and out’s of how a particular event handles appearances because they can vary wildly. Someday, you may be invited to events to speak or appear as a guest. Until that day, you need to know how your time there will benefit you.
- Will you know anyone there? Okay, from a business standpoint, this shouldn’t be a factor, but authors are humans, no matter what people say. If you’re an introvert and you’re on your own without another familiar face, you may be heading for a meltdown. Know your own limits and your own weak points and make sure you at least have a spotter.
- How organized is this event? Does it look like they have all the right things in place? Is anything contracted? If you have questions, do you get a professional, friendly response? What have other attendees experienced?
- Finally, is this a fixed location event or is it a moveable feast? If it’s in the same place every year, at a far remove from home base, you may have to put it on your “someday” list. If it’s an event that changes venues every year, you may want to think about going when it’s close and skipping years when it’s farther from you.
Rainbow Book Fair – New York
Outwrite LGBT Book Festival – Washington DC
Saints and Sinners – New Orleans: "bringing the LGBT literary community together to celebrate the literary arts."
Gaylaxicon – Site varies: annual science fiction, fantasy and horror convention that focuses on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender topics.
Gay Romance Literature Retreat (GRL) – Site varies: gay romance event
Rainbow Con – Tampa: LGBT multimedia event
Left Coast Lesbian Conference – Palm Springs: Lesbian fiction authors, publishers and readers
Bent-Con – Burbank: geared toward LGBT and allied comics and geek pop culture.
HavenCon - Austin: Texas LGBT geek convention (comics, gamin and fandom.)
FlameCon – New York: queer Comic Con, aiming to showcase all aspects of LGBT geekdom.
WinCon – Pittsburgh: LGBT comic con
Golden Crown Literary Society – Site varies: Lesbian literature convention
Euro Pride Con – Munich: LGBT fiction convention
UK GLBT Fiction Meet – Site varies: UK event for and by GLBTQ fans / authors / readers.
Queermance – Melbourne: a celebration of GLBT relationships in fiction.