Last week I posted about an event for readers where you could come away with sparkle and books galore at reasonable prices and may even win some prizes and gift cards. But what about you as an author. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for you, the creative brain behind the novel?
Authors have an opportunity to meet the fans, readers and supporters of their work during these days of Penned Con. Your choice of a half or full table can be purchased about a year in advance. The hotel provides the table which comes with a skirt and topper. Over a hundred authors descended on this two-day event. Panels and keynote speakers were available.
Most of the authors decorate their spaces with enough sparkle, shine and clever gadgets to entice any reluctant reader to visit them. Contests, prizes, swag, games and of course, books to purchase are available at nearly every table. So be aware of the expectations by readers. I started working on my swag several weeks in advance. I even set my table up ahead of time to make sure I had enough room and the layout offered enough eye candy. I took a picture and referred to it as I set up at Penned Con.
Readers do expect to get a good deal on books and some go away with dozens of new reads for the upcoming winter. Don’t be
surprised if readers take pictures of your book. They are the ones who will go home and purchase the eBook and that is okay with me. Be prepared to make change, take credit cards, use PayPal and maybe even offer a coupon for eBook purchase.
Why Should You Consider Penned Con?
This particular event just completed its fourth year. Rick and Amy Miles started PennedCon as a way to bring attention to needs of autistic children requiring therapy many parents just can’t afford. The love and planning the Miles have poured into the event saw over $13,000 raised for area families. Rest assured, these kinds of conference/events have a worthy cause. I love knowing my efforts and hard work actually benefits area children. But what are some of the other reasons authors flock to St. Louis each year to be a part of the fun?
Pros & Cons
Jolanthe Aleksander, author of The Veiled Path to Destiny, offered her take on the event. “I love that this is a two-day event that has social activities outside the signing for readers and authors to mingle and meet. Cons… I wish it were longer, but the universe heard my pleas and next year they are adding an extra day. This one is a con and a pro…so busy I didn’t get to buy a single book, let alone visit the other signing room.”
Susie T. Roos, author of Girl Departs Three: Part One (Spoken For series, Book 3)
* It’s held in St. Louis, MO which is in the middle of the country, and there isn’t another conference in that city.
* Penned Con is later in the summer, early fall when there typically isn’t another conference held.
* Penned Con is very well organized by Rick & Amy Miles, husband and wife team
* The table cost is reasonable.
* The cost of the table includes a lunch and a dinner, or a second lunch.
* Tons of volunteers ready to assist you.
* The hotel has very few elevators, and worse, they’re slow.
* If you’re an author looking for craft workshops/panels, you won’t find that at Penned Con. They do have panels, but MOST, not all, are for readers.
* Although, the hotel staff is very friendly, they always seem a bit understaffed for the conference. (I.e. The hotel sports bar)
* Because of the schedule, It’s a very long day for the authors. This year, 2017, I believe the signing room was open for VIP from 8:30 – 10 am. Regular admission opened from 11 – 6pm.
* This year I had very little space behind the table.
Brandy Nacole, author of Deep in the Hollow
Penned Con is a wonderful experience for any author. It’s a great chance to make connections and get to know other authors in the industry. It’s always nice to have someone to reach out to who can relate to the highs and lows. During the event, there is an array of activity from breakfast until late into the night. However, this is also a downside to me because it makes the time fly by and before I know it the weekend is over. I hate when the weekend is over. Penned Con is an event I highly recommend for authors of any genre.
Amy Hale, author of The Shadows Trilogy, says, “Listing the pros for authors is easy.”
- Meeting new readers & increases your audience reach
- Networking with other professionals in the industry
- Making lifelong friendships
- Informative and educational workshops and panels
- Inspirational keynote speakers
- All proceeds go to the charity Action for Autism
- The parties are a blast
- Professional photographer hired to capture the event, and can often be hired for author shots while you’re there.
- Family friendly event, so all are welcome. Many authors (and readers) are comfortable bringing their kids.
- Last I heard, Penned Con brought in roughly 1000 attendees, and that number is growing with each year.
- The volunteers are absolutely the best. They keep us informed and pampered through the entire event.
- Awards – all attending authors are eligible for nomination for the award ceremony. And the awards are gorgeous!
The cons are little harder to name, because for me, there weren’t many:
- Table fees are a little expensive (but well worth it, in my honest opinion)
- Sales – This can be a pro or con, depending on what your goals are. I view these events as more a marketing opportunity than for sales. If you’re going strictly for sales, you might be disappointed (but this is true of any event).
- It’s exhausting – It’s a good exhaustion, but I still come home completely beat.
- It’s busy and loud – if large crowds and noisy rooms bother you, this might not be an event you’d enjoy. We are a rowdy, excitable bunch.
- The hotel – some love the hotel (we’ve never had an issue), but some have complained about the rooms needing updates. From what I’ve heard, updating is going to happen and will hopefully be done by the 2018 event. The good news is we get a special Penned Con rate, so while still higher than Super 8, it is cheaper than the original price.
- Signing rooms are divided. This is something that can’t be helped when you have this many authors, but it does kind of suck. It’s easy to miss people when it’s so scattered out. But again, there is only so much room in each ballroom, so I consider it a minor inconvenience for the price of such a large-scale event.
Sharon Kizziah-Holmes, Paperback-Press
“This was my first year to experience Penned Con. I went as an indie assist service provider, so I may not be as positive about the experience as if I went as an author.”
- First and foremost, the profit went to a worthy cause.
- I think it’s an awesome event for readers and author to meet, get acquainted and form bonds/friendships.
- I admire the hard work the authors put in to provide swag for the readers.
- The atmosphere was always upbeat and fun.
- Rick, Amy and the staff did a marvelous job putting things together.
- All of them were helpful in any way they could be. They worked hard.
- The lunches provided with the event ticket cost, was fair, but the food in the sports bar was good.
- The speakers were interesting and seemed to be well informed.
- My favorite part was spending time with my friends.
- As a vendor, communication from the conference coordinators could have been better. I never got an email from them until week of the event. Then I had to reach out and ask questions. I personal messaged Rick on Sunday, Sept. 24th. In that message my final answer was…”Simply, you’ll set up Friday morning.”
- I thought it was inappropriate the VIP readers were allowed inside the author area before the doors officially opened, and the authors aren’t there. The honor system isn’t always honorable and I know some authors found things were missing. If there is no security of any form, those things will happen.
- Extracurricular activities were late in the evening and geared to young people. It seemed the middle aged and older folks were not considered. (but when your old, you think that way. LOL)
- If there was anything other than swag on your table vendors in the hallway had to pack up every evening then set up again the next day. This was something one of the other vendors said they learned right away in the years past. It would be nice to know this going into the conference. An email stating such could help first time vendors.
- I felt that since there were so many attending the event, from authors to readers, breakfast should have been provided, or at least a continental breakfast. The breakfast buffet was okay at the most. The cost for two was $35.00 plus tip.
Thanks everyone for weighing in on book events. There are big ones and smaller ones so find the place you feel the most comfortable and can afford. They can get pricey if you aren’t careful.
Having said all that, everyone agreed these kind of events are never boring and have a great deal of opportunities to meet other authors and readers. You never know when you’ll meet the one person who can make your book the success it deserves. It can be pretty chaotic and exciting. If you are interested in attending one to see how things operate, Ozark Indie Book Fest will be October 20-21 in Springfield, Missouri. If you come, look me up! I’ll be there.