So these past couple of weeks have been super busy – my friend Harley came to town and I’ve been showing her all over! We’ve hit up the Quarter, Magazine Street, Abita Springs (the Abita Mystery House is SO WEIRD), seen Garbage in concert (Shirley Manson is so badass), not to mention going to a ton of places to eat. But the biggest reason she came is for Book Lovers Con!
This was the first year for Book Lovers Con (hereafter referred to as BLC). Until last year, there was a gigantic romance readers/writers con called Romantic Times Booklovers Convention (RT) that bounced from city to city every year. However, the woman who ran the magazine and con announced at last year’s con that she was closing it down. From what I understood, a lot of people who worked on RT moved to BLC so they could keep some kind of annual convention going.
Although I have been used to attending and working sci-fi and anime conventions, this was my first book con. I’d heard quite a bit about them from Harley and Allison, but never attended one. They talked quite a bit before the con about the differences, so I was kind of ready for them. Let me say now that there are some similarities, but quite a lot of differences.
The convention technically started on Wednesday, with registration opening and a Jazz-Fest themed dance in the evening, complete with food trucks at the hotel for people to eat at. The three of us all arrived to pick up our registration packets close to noon, and we were promptly shuttled into a line since registration had not actually started yet. Picking up our registration packets went very smoothly and quickly, and what we expected to take an hour or more only ended up taking about 30 to 45 minutes. The only snafu that happened was that there was a note on my registration packet for the person at the desk to verify my email address, and that was because there was a second Karen Lewis registered for the con! Since my registration was a “blogger/industry” pass rather than a “reader” pass, this confusion was handled easily and I got the correct registration. We turned around and promptly went to the back pickup where we were handed HUGE tote bags with – no kidding – at least SIX paperback books and a boatload of author swag, including a selfie stick, lip balm, buttons and bookmarks galore, and even a travel corkscrew (romance readers LOVE their wine).
We grabbed lunch at Vitascope Hall, and then headed to the Chamber of Books, where we had our choice of two paperbacks from piles of books set up around the room. Both Allison and Harley had told me that this was common at previous RT conventions they’d been to before and to expect a ton of free books throughout the con. This is something that just boggles my mind – the only freebies I’m used to getting at sci-fi cons are business cards, bookmarks, fliers – stuff like that! Nope, at book cons you get free freaking books. A lot of authors also handed out fliers and postcards with free book or story downloads, too – AND every attendee got a flash drive with over 160 e-books on them, courtesy of Smashwords! Let’s just say that I now have a gigantic to-read list now. Good thing I have some spare time. 😉
In the Chamber of Books, I snagged I Am Justice by Diana Munoz-Stewart, because I’ve seen that book on Smart Bitches Trashy Books and have been interested, and another book titled It’s Your Move, Wordfreak! by Falguni Kothari that looks very cute and schmoopy. I know, bad-ass warrior women and meet-cutes may not be similar tastes, but whatever.
We spent a little while making our choices, then headed out to a nook on the fourth floor to sit and chat in chairs. We went through all our swag books to see what we all got and Allison ended up having this book that I was really interested in reading called Feel The Heat by Kate Meader. This piqued ALL my interests, so she passed it on to me. Plus-sized main character, British celebrity chef, and food? YES PLEASE. We spent a little more time talking and then decided to head back home since we didn’t have a hotel room for that night and we were going to be con-going in earnest starting the next day.
We arrived to the hotel around 9:00 Thursday morning and were SUPER LUCKY – we were able to check in to our room early! Harley and Allison headed down to their panels while I got my stuff set up in the room, and I met them downstairs for the Martinis, Desserts, and Authors event. I will admit – I was pretty underwhelmed by this event. The drink line was super-long, the “desserts” were a single cookie that you picked up off a table, and I didn’t see any authors there (although it was held in an open area that was packed with people so I may have missed them). We did get a swag bag that held more bookmarks and tchotchkes, which was okay. Based on Harley’s description, the event that was like this at RT had little cakes and things and authors were at tables with their books. It was just very disorganized and chaotic and I wasn’t impressed. Not a good way to start my experience with the con.
However, my next panel was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits. It was “Money Makers and Time Savers: Tips & Tools for Blog Administration” hosted by Sarah of Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Jay from Joyfully Jay. This was a GREAT panel for someone like me who wanted to start monetizing a website and also talking more about books! I got a lot of great takeaways from it and cannot wait to start implementing them on this site.
After that, Harley and I popped into the SBTB live podcast recording where we played Cards Against Romance Tropes, which was hilarious and super-fun – until I started feeling really cramped and warm, which is a sure-fire way for me to say “nope” and skip out on something. We left the panel early 😞 and headed back to the room to get ready for the big nighttime event, the Faery and Fantasy Gathering.
Y’all, this event. I can’t even. They had decorated the entire ballroom, had stilt walkers with LED fairy costumes, giant sculptures, a photo booth – not to mention this entire thing was a three course meal! Everyone was decked out in their fairy finest and they had a costume contest that you could participate in, although my outfit was not on-par with some that were up there, so I passed. We ended up having some great people at our table, including authors Diana Munoz-Stewart (which I kind of fangirled over considering I had just picked up her book the other day), Maria Vale (who writes about werewolves so you know my paranormal-loving butt is gonna read her) and Jennie Marts (who was super bubbly and made cowboys sound REAL appealing). A lot of great conversation was had and I went back up to the room tired as all get-out, but in a great mood and ready for Friday!
Friday’s panels started off with “All About Newsletters” panel by Sarah from SBTB and Mel from authorrx.com. This was a lot more focused towards authors who were wanting to get their newsletters set up and off the ground, so it wasn’t really targeted towards me, but it still had some really great tips and content that I plan on utilizing!
I then headed downstairs to the 1001 Dark Nights Sparkler author event. Harley and Allison were already in line, so I just joined them and headed in once they opened the doors. This was another larger event similar to the martinis event from the day before, although this was definitely more organized. We picked up a glass of sparkling wine when we headed in, and there were over 15 authors there that were signing books and meeting fans! I chatted with some of the authors for a second, but it got WAY too crowded so we decided to head out.
We grabbed lunch at the hotel’s big buffet restaurant so we could catch up, and then I headed to Danielle Norman’s “From Super Fan To Having Fans” panel. This was a very good panel for new writers or readers looking to get into writing, who may have the ideas for stories but may not be familiar with the business side of things. Her presentation was pretty funny and it definitely piqued my interest in her books! Unfortunately, I was struggling with a headache so I headed back up to the room to rest and read for a bit.
Harley and I briefly went to check out that evening’s Voodoo Vampire Club event, but decided that maybe ordering some pizza and relaxing in the room was more of our thing, so we headed out. Not before I got all dolled up in my vampire LARPing best, complete with fangs!
We checked out of the hotel the next morning and headed out to Magazine Street and then girls’ night karaoke Saturday night, so I didn’t attend con events that day or Sunday.
So like I said earlier, this was my first book con. These were some takeaways that I noticed while there:
- Both Harley And Allison said that in previous years at RT they would literally have to pack a second suitcase for all the books. I felt like I came away with a lot of stuff but apparently that was not the case. Considering this was the very first BLC, perhaps a lot of publishers didn’t want to invest in freebies in case the event wasn’t well attended? I have a feeling that in future years they might get more.
- The only event where you could actually buy books was the Saturday Book Bash signing event. I was actually kind of disappointed in this! I would really love to see a full-on “Dealers’ Room” setup where not only could authors sell their stuff and offer signings all weekend, but other crafters and dealers could sell book-themed items too! It would also have made it a lot easier to meet authors or publishers and check out their stuff. I kept seeing people with buttons and other swag that you could only get if you chased the authors down, which I would have totally done by going table to table. I guess that’s just me coming from a nerd con background, though.
- I LOVED that there was essentially a blogger-specific track for development and learning, and I really, really hope they keep that in future years.
- The next time I attend, I’m going to make sure I participate in a lot more of the socializing events! The biggest reasons why I didn’t was that we had to cut our hotel stay short since I lost my job, but the next time I go I’m definitely going to make sure I have a room for the entire duration of my stay.
Next year’s convention is going to be in Nashville, so I’m sitting out this one, but you bet my interest in book conventions is now sky-high! Hopefully I’ll have the chance to attend another one soon, and I’m definitely going to look for some local ones!
Also, as you’ve probably gathered, I’m going to be changing up my blog format a bit. I’ll still have a focus on plus size fashion and body/fat positivity, but I’m also going to be blogging book recommendations! BLC was my official start into book blogging, and I’m really looking forward to talking good books with everyone. My mother can verify that I’ve had my nose buried in books since I was a little girl; reading has been a passion of mine from a very young age. I’m really looking forward to showing off this side of me and I hope you’ll enjoy the ride too!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. I only promote companies and/or products that I personally have used and would recommend.