If you missed Romantic Times in Atlanta this year, or just want to reminisce, settle in for a recap of a wonderful week.
This year there was an entire Audiobook category at the convention center, thanks to the 30+ members of RomanceNarrators.com, a boutique casting site for romance and erotica audiobooks. In addition to the panels we proposed, we created a home base in the RT Bazaar where authors and listeners could stop by, chat, and pick up free audiobooks and narrator swag.
Wednesday morning began with the Introvert Scavenger Hunt, organized by Teri Schnaubelt with the participation of a couple dozen narrators. Participants had a list of tasks to complete, such as asking a narrator to do an accent, or learning a fun fact about a narrator. When time was called, those who had completed the most tasks could enter a drawing for some of the many prizes, including a great pair of rose gold Beats headphones. The winner was actually actress Meg Tilly, who has been writing romance under a pseudonym. I wasn’t able to attend, but everyone said it was a really great time, and the room got loud and boisterous as the game progressed.
Just after noon, there was Swoon-Worthy Audiobook Voices, a panel organized by Audible.com with narrators Jeffrey Kafer, Tanya Eby (and me), and author Kristen Ashley. Moderator Kat Lambrix, who is often my contact when I’m cast for new projects, asked all kinds of questions about how narrators approach our work, the joys and the challenges of narrating, and also asked Kristen Ashley about her experience having her books translated into audio. We had a lot of laughs on the panel, and I really appreciated hearing an author’s perspective.
Dinner Wednesday was with a bunch of narrators, and we had Tiki drinks and dinner at Trader Vic’s. Chris Ciulla, Tanya Eby, Amy McFadden, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, Megan Tusing, Maxine Mitchell, and Greg Tremblay were there, along with Samantha Cook. So nice just to have time to get to know people better.
Wednesday night was the big giant soiree in the grand ballroom, with a rockabilly theme. There was a raucous atmosphere, some people dancing, others waiting to have books signed by favorite authors, and I spent quite a bit of time at the Audible Swoon-Worthy Voices area. They set up such a neat experience for listeners. As you waited in line, you got an Audible logo-printed bandanna to wear, then went to one of three listening stations. You could choose “Sweet” or “Naughty” audiobook excerpts, and after hearing each of six excerpts, you gave each one a 1-to-10 rating. I actually chose the “Sweet” track, because I wasn’t familiar with any of the titles, and Kylie Scott’s “Lick” was in the Naughty track–I didn’t want to vote in my own category. Lick held its own in 3rd place for much of the time I was hanging out there, with Sebastian York, Shane East and Grace Grant vying for the 1-2 spots. While we were listening, Audible’s photographer was snapping pics, which were then shown on a big display screen. Fun to watch people’s faces as they listened, and you could forward some shots to yourself (which I did). Finally, Audible’s team asked to do a brief interview about my work. When you spend as much time working alone as narrators do, it’s really a treat to get to interact with people who enjoy your work! I took selfies with listeners and talked some shop with the Audible team. It was a great night.
Thursday we had two more audio-specific programs. First, there was Audiobooks 101 for Authors, with Aiden Snow, Jeffrey Kafer, Tavia Gilbert and Janet Metzger. I moderated this panel and we had a full house, very actively participating audience of authors. We covered topics relating to casting, timelines, budgets, project workflow, and the author-narrator working relationship. One thing I think is important to say again here is that being successful in audio does NOT mean converting your current print readers into audiobook listeners (though that may happen) but understanding that there is a listening audience that overlaps with but is not the same as your print audience. There are book lovers who ONLY listen to their books, for a variety of reasons, just as there are those who only read.
Our second audiobook program of the day was Meet Cute: Author-Narrator Speed Dating. This was an opportunity for authors to meet many of our RomanceNarrators.com narrators. This was really fun, and the room got really raucous as authors and bloggers got to know different narrators during 5-minute speed dates. I am so curious to see what collaborations and opportunities result from that intense hour.
The rest of my Thursday was spent interacting with authors and publisher reps. I enjoyed catching up with A.L. Jackson, for whom I’ve been narrating since nearly the beginning of my romance narration career. In fact, I start her latest book on Monday (Stand), can’t wait. I also met Aly Martinez (Retrieval / Transfer), Helena Hunting (we have lakes in common, always nice to find a fellow lake person), T.M. Frazier, and this morning I had a quick coffee chat with Laurelin Paige and her assistant Ashley, who also works with CD Reiss and Lauren Blakely. I really enjoy meeting authors in person. I think it changes the way I approach their books, in subtle ways. When I have a sense of a writer as a person, different things in their books jump out at me.
Late Thursday night, fellow narrators Xe Sands, Christa Lewis, Amy Landon and Donna Postel and I went up to Polaris, the revolving restaurant atop the Hyatt Regency. We decided to just have champagne and dessert and watch the world go by, have a few laughs, come down from the day. It was really special.
Today was a FANTASTIC panel organized by narrator Karen White, called “Where Is Your Listening Audience?” It was all about how authors can connect with and market to their audiobook fans, through reviewers in AudioFile Magazine and bloggers like Viviana Izzo and The Geeky Blogger. I learned so many valuable tips and tricks that I can’t wait to share with the authors I narrate and produce for!
The other fun thing today was that Australian author Kylie Scott posted on her fan page that anyone who found me at RT and took a selfie with me could win signed copies of some of her books! I’ve never been a scavenger hunt item before, and it was fun to meet Kylie’s fans. I can’t wait to see those photos online.
I hung out at the RT Bazaar at our RomanceNarrators booth the remainder of the time today, and Ava Erickson and I gave out digital downloads and lipstick, talking to authors about the audiobook biz. I have to give mega-kudos to Xe Sands, who designed and organized the bazaar booth, displaying all the cards and swag in a gorgeous setting. Narrator Karen Commins and her husband Drew helped us get a stand set up for our banner as well.
My traveling companion for the to and from has been my good friend and fellow narrator David Brenin. We have gone to so many of these events together, and it’s always great to compare notes on the way there and debrief on the way home.
The non-audiobook highlight of RT Booklovers was definitely my introduction to Passionflix, which is a whole other blog post! I had several opportunities to chat with the founder, screenwriter, and director of this exciting new venture. It was while I was in their session Wednesday that I realized what it means to have a nearly 100% female environment, something that’s rare for me when it comes to business meetings. I’m sure plenty of people have described it better than I can, but there’s just a directness and ease that happens when it’s no longer a co-ed discussion (and I’m sure this is true for men as well). I love the romance community, and I’m honored to be a small part of it. My fellow narrators are some of the coolest people I know, and the time, energy and investment they put into this convention was really inspiring.