Hello, all! Thank you so much for joining me today for my monthly column. With conference season is upon us, I thought I would post a little about how I get ready for a conference, and share some pictures. My first conference of the year is Coastal Magic. Coastal Magic is lots of fun, and wonderfully laid back, so I never feel like a headless chicken trying to get ready for it, but even so there’s still a good amount of prep that goes into it.
Event/panel schedules for most conferences don’t get worked out until closer to the event since there’s a heck of a lot of work goes into who’s going to be doing what when. Generally during registration, authors sign up for promotional items such as ads, posters, goodie bags, etc. This year for Coastal Magic I’m having a THIRDS poster up. It’s a glossy print mounted on Foamboard and measures 24”x36”. After I signed up for it, I clearly had to put it together, and get it printed. These suckers are pricey, but I’m so happy with how it came out, and I’ll have it up at RT as well.
I think the shrinkwrap is giving Dex some naughty thoughts.
Now I just need to find a way to transport it so it doesn’t get damaged.
Along with this poster, I have my table banner, and everything that’s going to go on my table for my author signing like acrylic card holders, bookmark and postcard stands, containers for things like buttons and character cards. It might not seem like a big thing, but when you only have a set amount of space on your table for swag and signing, you need to think carefully about how you’re going to lay things out. For example, I also have tote bags to giveaway. If I’m not careful with my layout, I’ll have no room to sign or put anything else.
The swag I bring to each conference often varies, and a lot depends on whether I can drive to the conference or if I’ll have to fly. Driving is awesome. I can stick my luggage in the backseat and pack the back of my SUV up with as much as I want. It was one of the things I considered when I shopped for my new car at the end of 2015. I adore my little Nissan Rogue. His name is Sam. Anyway, back to swag. Flying always makes things twice as hard. I’ve shipped swag, which is expensive and has no guarantee of arriving. Last year for RT one of my boxes decided to take a vacation without me and ended up in Puerto Rico instead of Las Vegas. This sucks when you have certain items you need for certain events. Thankfully, it happened to arrive the morning of the day I needed those items for. I’ve also transported swag in a checked suitcase which weighs a ton, and is a pain in the butt.
In the past, I’ve also shipped stuff to author friends who were driving in, which meant I could ship them the stuff well in advance. Another problem with shipping your swag to a conference is that the hotel hosting the conference usually only has a small space to hold boxes. Sometimes they’ll have a package center. Either way, they’ll only allow you to ship your boxes a specific number of days ahead of time. One tiny hiccup and your boxes may not make it on time. So what’s an author to do? If I can’t drive, I do a combo of both. Take my really important swag with me in my suitcase, and ship paper stuff. If my postcards or bookmarks (which tend to be heavy), don’t make it, it’s not a huge deal.My office closet is filled with pretty boxes containing all my swag from t-shirts to bookmarks. When conference time comes around my office is littered with boxes.
For Coastal Magic, I donate a gift basket for the charity raffle, so I buy my basket, and put together a themed basket of fun, more exclusive items. Some of these items are usually a little bit more expensive because as an author you want your basket to be sought after because that will mean more money raised for the cause. The reader gets something awesome that they want, and a wonderful charity benefits.
Next to all the swag and promo items that need to be collected, organized, and packed, there’s panel prep. There’s not a lot of prep that can go into this since what you talk about will depend on what your audience asks, but it’s good to think about the topic so you’re not caught completely off guard. So for example, one of my panels at Coastal is about the two sides of shifters, so I’ll need to think about the different types of shifters I have in my stories, how they differ, along with possible questions that could come about from the panel description.
Nerves. I still feel nervous before any conference. I usually try to keep the worry at bay by busing myself with the prep and packing. I still worry about panels, about going completely blank, not knowing what to say. Usually once I’m up there I’m okay, but as you can imagine, it’s can be pretty daunting being in front of a room of people with everyone’s attention on you. Here’s something you might now know about me. When I was in college, my shyness was crippling. I took F’s whenever I had an assignment that required me standing in front of the class. It wasn’t going to happen. No way, no how.
Talking to someone I didn’t know was not something I did or could do no matter how much I wanted. As life would have it, I spent some time as a freelance artist, which thrust me into the world of teaching drawing techniques to first kids then adults including standing in front of a class. It was either do it or starve. Or continue in a crappy job I hated. So what did I do? I jumped into the deep end with both feet knowing I couldn’t swim. Did it scare the bejesus out of me? Oh yes. But I’d given myself no choice. It was sink or swim. I learned to swim. Not literally because I still don’t know how to swim, but that’s a challenge for another day. Now I can walk up to someone, smile, say hello and chat. I can stand behind a microphone and have dozens of people watching me and asking me questions. The more I do it, the less intimidating it becomes. I totally turned this prep post into a pep post. Just roll with it.
Okay, so after I’ve sorted all this then I have to pack little things like what I’m going to where. For me, this never involved just throwing stuff in a suitcase. Most of the time, I plan what I’m going to where for each event as well as down time, from pajamas to shoes, to jewelry, and makeup. I’m a writer. I spend most of my time at my desk in yoga pants and a T-shirt. When I get the chance to dress up and wear makeup, you bet your booty I’m doing it. Is it necessary? Of course not. You should do what feels comfortable for you, and this is what feels comfortable for me. Which is why you’ll rarely see me in high heels. I wish I could walk around in two inch heels or higher for hours on end, but it’s just not going to happen, so I embrace my shortness.I travel a lot, so I have a plenty of luggage and bags. I adore Vera Bradley's matching pieces. They're not only pretty, but functional, durable, and lightweight. I have an outlet store near me. It's very dangerous.[/caption]
I think I’ve rambled enough. Hopefully you’ll have a better idea of what kind of prep work is involved for a conference. If it’s a conference the size of RT then we’re talking triple all this. If you’re new to conferences, the most important part of all this is to do what’s comfortable for you. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Don’t think you have to do everything. Attend as a reader, get a feel for everything. Hang out, attend panels. Believe me, it helps a lot.
Below you’ll find my schedule for Coastal Magic. These are events that I’ll be participating in, but you’ll also be able to find me at events I’ll be attending like Cinema Craptastique, and other author panels. You’ll also find me at the Dreamspinner Press table. Feel free to stop by, say hello, or chat.
Charlie’s Coastal Magic Convention Schedule
Friday, February 3rd
9 – 10 am: The Ink In Our Ink- Tattoos In Fiction: Are they always the “obvious tell” for a “bad boy” character? Are there different connotations for male and female leads with tats? How much research goes into the creation of fictional character tattoos? J Kenner, Kait Ballenger, Amy Lane, Charlie Cochet, Tonya Burrowns, K C Burn
4:45 – 5:45 pm: Meet & Greet: (Military, Warrior, Protector) Becky McGraw, Katie Reus, Charlie Cochet, Paige Tyler, Kait Ballenger, Nancy Northcott, Tonya Burrows, Dee Davis, Gail Z Martin”
Saturday, February 4th
10:15 – 11:15 am: Gay Romance Does Not = Erotica (Except When It Does!): A common misconception about gay fiction is that it’s ALL about sex. While erotica is popular – it’s hardly the only game in town. A “101” discussion for readers looking for a variety of “heat levels”, subjects, and themes. Tere Michaels, Charlie Cochet, Julia Talbot, K C Burn, Amy Lane, T C Blue
11:30 am – 12:30 pm: Beauty And The Beast: The Two Sides of Shifters: Authors discuss the human vs. animal (creature) sides of their shifter characters. Is it like writing two different characters? How much does each’s “humanity” effect their shifted self, and vice versa. A C Arthur, Charlie Cochet, Paige Tyler, Terry Spear, Larissa Ione, Kristal Hollis
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm: Public Book Sale / Signing
Dreamspinner Press Authors Attending Coastal Magic:
TC Blue, KC Burn, Mary Calmes, Charlie Cochet, Poppy Dennison, Kiernan Kelly, Amy Lane, Kate McMurray, Tere Michaels, Stephen Osborne, Damon Suede, Victoria Sue, Julia Talbot, Ba Tortuga, Rayna Vause
Meet Charlie Cochet
Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!
Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.
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