Boost your reading experience with conventions! – by Jesi Lea Ryan



image001For most of us, reading is a solitary activity–something we do to at the end of the day to unwind, or to pass the time waiting for the train.  If we want to be social with our reading, we might join a book club or go to a local book signing.  While all of these activities are wonderful, why not kick your reading enjoyment into high gear and attend a book convention?  Book cons take place year round and all over the world, and offer readers many benefits.

Meet your favorite authors and discover new ones

Conventions offer much more than a meet & greet with your favorite authors.  The fun, laid back atmosphere really let’s you get to know them as people.  Remember, writing is also a solitary activity, so for authors, cons give them an excellent opportunity to discuss their work directly with readers. While the big name authors might draw you in, sometimes the most exciting part is discovering new authors and books to read.

Whether it is in workshops, panels or through one-on-one conversations, these interactions will create memories.  After all, how many of you can say that you’ve played Apples to Apples with a bunch of erotic romance writers?  It’s also super cool to watch the authors interact with each other.

Tiffany Reisz and Andrew Schaffer - RT2013

Authors Tiffany Reisz and Andrew Shaffer – 2013 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention


Network with other readers 

The best way to find your next read is often from word of mouth.  Readers love to talk about the books and authors that excite them.  I first heard of Graceling by Kristin Cashore while at a sci-fi convention.  As soon as I got home, I ordered it, and boy was I glad.  Cashore is one of my favorite authors now. 

Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, conventions reward you for stepping outside of your comfort zone.  If you open yourself up and speak to other con attendees, you can not only get recommendations, but make new friends.  I recommend always wearing your name badge and carrying business cards to facilitate quick introductions.  People who recognize my name from Twitter will come up and hug me like we go way back.  (It just supports my belief that Twitter friends are real friends.)

Supplement your reading through learning

Panels and workshops are the heart of conventions.  Most cons offer a wide variety of programming to suit every interest.  I attended a workshop recently led by historic romance author Deeanne Gist on Victorian women’s clothing.  She started in her bloomers and ended up dressed for dinner out, explaining the history of the garments and how they are put on along the way.  It was both fascinating and exhausting to watch.  Later that same day, I went to a program on Scotland where we sampled whisky and haggis.  Yes, I choked down a bite.  It was gross, but now I can relate to the characters in my “hunky highlander” novels on a whole new level.

2013 RT haggis

Nasty haggis at 2013 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention

Free books!

I’m not going to lie, some conventions are pricey, but many of the smaller ones are very affordable.  Something that helps to offset the costs is all of the freebies!  Author swag, t-shirts and free books can be found in abundance.  In my experience, the larger the con, the more free books you get.  These are the free books I picked up last week at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention:

2013 RT books

This doesn’t include the several free ebook downloads I received as well.  The really cool thing is that most of these books are signed, and several are advanced reader copies, not even for sale in the bookstores yet. 

So which convention is right for you?  Well, that depends on what you like to read.  Below is a list with links to several of the large conventions in the United States, but if you are looking for something a little more local, you can always do a Google search or check with your local library/bookstore.

Romantic Times Booklovers Convention

 Book Expo America

 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention

 World Science Fiction Convention


  World Horror Convention

  utopYA Con

 Authors After Dark

And if you happen to be in the Madison, WI area, feel free to come see me speak at WisCon (The World’s Leading Feminist Science Fiction Convention) on Memorial Day weekend. 

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Jesi Lea Ryan grew up in the Mississippi River town of Dubuque, Iowa. She holds bachelor degrees in creative writing and literature and a masters degree in business. She considers herself a well-rounded nerd who can spend hours on the internet researching things like British history, anthropology of ancient people, geography of random parts of the world, bad tattoos and the paranormal. She currently lives in Madison, WI with her husband and two fat kitties. On Twitter? Feel free to say hi! @Jesilea