Pressing The Flesh & Being a Good Book Ho: Tips For Romance Writers


Deanna Raybourn is so funny on Twitter.

Deanna Raybourn is so funny on Twitter.

By Madeline Iva

Howdy fair citizens!  What a new age we’re entering in the world of books, authors, social media, readers, and the interactions between all four.  While Victoria Dahl, Deanna Raybourn, and Vicki Pettersson have won me over on Twitter with their one liners,  Grace Burrowes expresses dry wit on her website. Meanwhile, Joanna Bourne’s meticulously researched and engaging posts on Word Wenches wow me every time.

Victoria Dahl is another writer who cracks me up on Twitter.  Alas, she lives in the Rockies, far away from VA Book Fest

Victoria Dahl is another writer who cracks me up on Twitter. Alas, she lives in the Rockies, far away from VA Book Fest

How many of you are friends on Facebook with a favorite romance author? I love being friended by a big name author.  Do you ever have direct interactions with that author on Facebook–what about on Twitter? I’ve gotten to do that a few times.  It gives me a buzzing tingle that can last for hours.  So much fun! I’ve also been drawn to authors who are a riot on social media — after making me laugh so hard, I simply had to buy their work.

Yet how often do you go see romance writers up close and in person?  I organize romance panels for Virginia Festival of the Book and most of my work takes place through email and social media.

The best part of my job organizing romance panels for Virginia Festival of the Book is:

A) Seeing romance writers in action.  The women who participate in our romance panels are funny, witty, charming, and/or have such heart–I leave at the end of the day feeling all happy inside and dying to read more of their work.

B) Getting introduced to new writers who apply to the festival–which opens me up to new awesome writers like Jennifer Armentrout.

C) Seeing another charming facet to authors I love through social media.  Sometimes there’s a whole interesting side of authors that may not come through her books but comes out in social media.  Are you fascinated by this? I am.

I also love hearing about the process of writing books from authors in person.  I enjoy hearing about the ‘secrets’ that authors use to create their special brand of magic.  Most of all, I geek out on all that historical research some authors do that’s so incredibly juicy, but for one reason or another never makes it into the book.

Yet all these panels are a chance to form a dialogue.  We hear from the author and we can speak to the author.  Some authors share what a lot of their other reader’s have responded, so that’s even more of a dialogue.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned so much as a writer through the process of choosing other writers.   If you happen to be a writer, here are some things you might want to think about:

Some of the romance books authors sent into the fest.

Some of the romance books authors sent into the fest.

SELECT YOURSELF: Show us you want to be invited by applying earlier, rather than later.  By the time I start picking authors, many people–whether big names or small–have already applied and sent in their books.  It’s much easier for us to reach out to you if we know you already want to say yes.

THE AUDITION: Once we have your books, the next thing we do is check out who you are on your website. Your website is crucial.  There  are things we want to find out–and we want to find them out fast.  This is so we can get a sense of 1) the size of the audience you’ll potentially draw 2) if you’d be a good panelist 3) How far away you live from us and 4) What kind of romance do you write?

If I happen to be looking for one more romantic suspense author for my romantic suspense panel and your website reeks of romantic suspense visually–then my work is done.

Finally, if your website isn’t helping, or if we’re on the fence,  I’ll go and check you out on social media.   If you posted something recently that was engaging–by which I mean, sexy, warm, funny, brave, intelligent, or perverse — then you sound like a good panelist to me and  my work is done.

If your post is okay, but not thrilling, well…it’s harder to say yes under those circumstance.  But I might — it depends. How many friends have you got? How many people follow you? People like Pamela Palmer with strong followings will usually bring out a big crowd, so we look for that.

Writers can be huge introverts, so the reality is that some excellent authors are not the best panelists, and vice versa.  The more you can help me realize that you’re an outgoing, intelligent person who would do well in front of an audience, the more likely I am to try to contact you.

One of last year's panels: (left to right) Jeaniene Frost, Kim Harrison, Pamela Palmer, and Vicki Pettersson. I was crushing out on Vicki by the end of the panel--and so was the audience.  She's a riot on Twitter too.

One of last year’s panels: (left to right) Jeaniene Frost, Kim Harrison, Pamela Palmer, and Vicki Pettersson. I was crushing out on Vicki by the end of the panel–and so was the audience. She’s a riot on Twitter too.

I’m also more likely to contact you if I know where you live–even just knowing the state/region you live in helps.  Also an email address that’s easy to find on your website always helps, and your upbeat enthusiasm in your reply to the email helps as well.

Other tips you might not have realized:

Candace Havens is an awesome book ho.

Candace Havens is an awesome book ho.

BE A GOOD BOOK HO FOR YOUR FRIENDS: Candace Havens talks about being a ‘Book Ho’.  By this she means that while it’s sometimes hard to promote herself, she relentlessly promotes her friends and their books to everyone.  Yes a writer may sell a lot–but will she deliver the goods in front of an audience? You’d be surprised by how many people get invited to be on a panel because someone else recommended them, said they were a great panelist, or indicated that the author was highly interested in this opportunity.

YOUR LAST PANEL IS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION: God help you if you are rude to someone at another festival or bookstore –I mean really rude or emotionally inappropriate in person or over email, because word gets around.  It’s not that people who organize panels have big egos–it’s that no one wants to have an author  in front of the public who might lose it.

Also, I’ve found that people are quick to point out writers who talk on and on and on.  We’re looking for people who can share the space and be generous to other fellow authors.  I’ve been eager to invite someone to be on a panel simply because I saw her on another panel and she was good at doing the job of entertaining the audience.  I’ve been eager to invite someone back simply because they were so good the year before.

WANT TO BE ON A PANEL? THEN MODERATE IT: My observation even before I started organizing panels is that moderators make or break a panel depending on how good they are.  I’ve seen crowds won over by moderators and want to buy their books too.  I also know of people who agreed to moderate, but then when a panelist dropped out at the last minute they ended up being on a panel.  That happened last year, and funny enough, the same exact thing happened to the moderator this year at a different festival.  That’s two panels she’s been on that she originally was moderating.  Which is two panels more than people who turn up their nose at moderating.

Joshilyn Jackson: brilliant author, fabulous panelist and one spectacular book ho.

Joshilyn Jackson: brilliant author, fabulous panelist and one spectacular book ho.

What do you like best about seeing authors in person? Let me know in the comments.

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5 Comments

  • Leah St. James
    September 19, 2013 at 6:17 am

    Great post, Madeline! It’s like a how-to for us up-and-coming (or, er…hopefully up-and-coming) types! I love seeing authors in person. I always get this “sizzle” like, gee, they’re actually real people under that “author” persona! That’s one of my favorite things about social media, too–getting to “know” that person, at least a little.

    • Madeline Iva
      September 19, 2013 at 7:23 am

      Thanks so much Leah! It can sound daunting for first time authors — or even people who haven’t published yet, but would like to moderate to put themselves out there. Yet you never know–you can suddenly find yourself in the spotlight.

  • Sofie Couch
    September 19, 2013 at 7:54 am

    I love interacting with authors! Especially those who enjoy a good ol’ cuppa every once in a while! As ever, great post, Madeline! Can’t wait to see who you’ve lined up for this year’s Festival.

    • Madeline Iva
      September 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      Just found out today about a big author who’s coming–can’t say who yet, but I’m so excited!

      • Elizabeth Shore
        September 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm

        Congrats! That’s awesome!

        I’ve got to get to your romance panel soon – I hope next year. It sounds so great. I love meeting writers whose work I admire in person. It (usually) makes me love them all the more.

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