We first got involved with the RNA at the beginning of last year, with a series of events in the shop in the run-up to Valentine's Day. So when we were approached earlier this year to sell books at the conference, we jumped at the opportunity.
Like a lot of events we get involved in (the Children's Food Festival last year springs to mind, but there are others), our initial idea of what might be involved was slightly off the mark. Thinking initially we might have to get a couple of dozen author titles in, we started receiving calls and emails from attending authors in April, and by the time we received the final list in May it became clear that out of the 120 (ish) delegates, approximately half were published authors. In estimating the number of books we would need, we discovered that many of the authors were published by specialist publishers (some of whom are not distributed in the UK). Authors were coming from Australia and the US.
We consequently threw ourselves into getting hold of everyone's books, and although we screwed up on a couple of the US publishers (apologies to those authors who had to bring their own copies), we did manage to get at least two titles for most of the authors attending (including all the Mills and Boon titles - thanks to the splendid efforts of Emma Skilton at Harlequin, Mills & Boon even though we only gave her a very short amount of time to track down titles for the author list we'd sent).
Friday morning two cars loaded with romantic fiction (and a few how-to books) made the trip down to Chichester. We set up on the Friday afternoon. What I hadn't appreciated was that we would do this in full view of everyone arriving and registering for the conference: cue a few anxious authors asking where their books were, or organising the display for us as we unloaded the boxes. Or indeed the hardened book buyers demanding books from the get-go (note regency-style resplendent waistcoat - or perhaps not).
The rest of the weekend proceeded at a cracking pace. I was giving a "Shelf Secrets" seminar on the Saturday morning as well.
So who was there during the conference? Here's a few of the names - some very well-known, others less so - from the photos I took once we'd set the stall up:
The Little Black Dress titles proved popular over the three days. This was because we'd managed to get a few titles ahead of their publications dates, and also (I got the impression) there is lots of desire from wannabe authors who want to be published by LBD. Here are a few more:
We recently invested in some display racks for events - stupidly I had left said racks back at the shop on the Friday, but thanks to a dash down the A34 from James on Friday evening, we got the racks set up on the Saturday morning. Check out the Mills & Boon display, plus the hardbacks:
Whaddya think. Saucy, eh? OK, I'm being a bit sad...
Thanks to everyone who came and supported the bookstall over the weekend, it did seem to create quite a buzz, and we appreciated the comments on the range of books.
The combination of plenty of energizing talks and sessions, and awards for new writers, really made the conference come alive - and the RNA committee (led by the redoubtable Catherine Jones) are a large part of this success. They are all novelists, and they campaign tirelessly and passionately for their genre (not to mention taking part occasionally in a few crazy stunts such as getting to the final of University Challenge The Professionals).
This is RNA chairman Catherine Jones awarding the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy. I'm hoping someone will post a comment about who it was who actually won (sorry, I was focusing on taking the picture!)
A special mention must go to Jan Jones who organised the conference, and helped move the entire stall away at the end of each day - and helped put it out again each morning. There were others who helped in this regard - which was a big help.
To all those authors who came and signed copies of their book - we now have a great display in the shop. I'll try and take a few piccies for my next entry...
I'm hoping for a few more RNA conference report from other authors, but for a flavour of the conference Susie Vereker was quick off the mark, and there's more from Kate Walker, Kate Johnson, Nell Dixon (our first sold-out title), Debs (who posted copious notes from the sessions), and Jane-Wenham Jones (who gives a hint at some of the fierce drinking that goes on in the evenings)...that should give you a good start!