Friday, June 01, 2018

Farewell to the RT Booklovers' Convention


The RT Booklovers’ Convention has been a large part of my professional life for over ten years now. As soon as I could afford it, I visited the convention, and every year since. Now it is no more, I will mourn it and be grateful for what it meant to me and others like me.
I live in the UK, but I found my publishing home in the US. At first with tiny e-publishing houses, then with larger ones, I saw the convention grow, and my role with it. I met a lot of people who helped me with my career, and I had fun doing it.
RT was the first to acknowledge the importance of the e-publishing movement. While many readers today can’t imagine a world without it, at first the romance community rejected it as a valid form of publication, a red-headed stepchild to the behemoths of the great publishers, who, back then, ruled the roost.
My first RT was in 2007, in Houston, Texas. I went across the pond myself. Terrified and excited, I checked into the hotel, and from the first moment met a fantastic group of people. I had found my tribe.
From then on, as RT grew into a huge convention with more than 2000 attendees, I grew with it. With the esteemed Kathryn Falk, owner of the convention as my mentor, I got more book contracts, became better known and sold lots and lots of books.
Kathryn is my friend, and a woman I admire enormously. She has always championed the cause of romance, whether it’s indies, erotic, or any other unusual variety. She ‘got’ us, although I once asked her if she’d ever considered writing a romance. “No,” she said. “But I love reading them.”
So we kept writing books for her to read.
Her ranch in Texas is a model of a smallholding. She bred chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and deer. Some of them have gone by the wayside, but many have stayed, and while she’s the same optimistic, confident self whatever she does, she tailors her approach to her interests. No wonder her staff (and the animals she cares for) love her.
Kathryn’s confidence and ebullient personality was reflected in the convention she created. Quirky, huge fun and experimental, Kathryn was the first industry person to see what erotic romance meant to the community, and paved the way for the huge success it experienced in the early 2010s. She saw the indie community struggling, and worked out ways to help.
But she never abandoned the other side of the industry, the traditionally published authors who go through similar struggles to everyone else, but aren’t as noisy.
Everyone had a chance to connect. That, in the end, was what the convention was all about; making friends, the kind that last.
I’m going to miss the RT Booklovers’ Convention more than I can say.

However, the convention lives on in the new Booklovers’ Convention, run by one of Kathryn’s stalwarts, Jo Carol Jones. Next year it takes place in New Orleans, and plans are already well advanced. So onward!