Penned Con Report

My intentions were to have this up sooner, but you know – life happens.  After 3 intense days of professional development, and family weekend at my daughter’s school, I  finally have a few moments to gather my thoughts.

I’m glad I went, it was an enlightening experience.  For someone who is torn between traditional publishing – waiting to hear back whether or not a submission has been accepted is  nerve-wracking – or Indy publishing  – where I would be responsible for paying for editing, cover design, ISBN numbers –  I was a very observant and studious little mouse in the panels.

With everything, there are pros and cons.  I’d like to say it was all fantabulous, but I think you all know me better than that to know that I have some areas that it could have been improved. I met some amazing Indy authors and made a few connections of  talented writers that I am trying to hook up blog interviews  with. There are a few that have upcoming releases, and one  that was interested in doing a giveaway!  Woo hoo!  We like stuff, right?  Free books and  swag?

I recently had a family member,  an extended family member say that they thought I was a big chicken, and that I was too afraid to express my opinion.  I got to hear this from a video that another person posted.  I have to be honest,  I think they must have had someone else in their mind because  holding back my opinion is not something I am good at.  Of course,  I am not around them very often and they don’t read my writings here or anywhere else so maybe they just don’t know me well.  Either way, holding back my honest and frank opinion here is not what I am going to do.  Keep in mind this is my opinion, and my perspectives.  I tried to be objective but I am only human despite my desires for superpowers.

Impressions from the Blogger, Author, and Fan Viewpoint:

Wow, what a crowd!  Really, the halls were crowded and walking past  people was difficult.  Authors set up in one main room for autographs, to schmooze, and  allow photo ops with their fans. There wasn’t enough room between the aisles to comfortable pass each other.  I think allowing just one more foot of space between the author tables would have helped immensely.  You all know I have space issues, and there were way too many people in my personal space.

Every attendee received a swag bag with  event information, a program with a schedule inside, and  some promo goodies from some of the authors.   Invaluable little device to carry all the additional swag and goodies that you collect as you go from table to table. Of course I realize this is common place at cons – but just thought I”d mention it .

OH, and did I mention the really awesome little nifty gift  that Mark Coker from Smashwords contributed?


Smashwords thumb drive











On this  little thumb drive are the 3 books shown on smashwords page of the  program, AND . . . . 80 e-books.  That’s right – 80 books.  At least one from every author at the event, plus a few extra!

This right here – this made the entire thing a success to me.  Yes I am a bookophile!

At  9:00 am things officially got started with  the Opening and keynote speaker. After making it down just one aisle of the authors’ tables, my husband and I got our Starbucks and  found a seat in the main conference room.  His comments after looking around at the overwhelming number of women: “This is like every man’s fantasy.  Surrounded by gorgeous women.  Outnumbered 20 to 1, I like these odds.”

So, for my male readers, next year’s event will be in July – go check it out now and register – PennedCon.  There will be lots of babes there!  I think there were maybe a dozen men total in a vast sea of women! Plus there were cover models.  I didn’t see any of the male cover models per se, I had my suspicions about a couple but there were at least 5 female cover models.

Opening  and keynote speaker:  Rick Miles gave the opening intro with a few housekeeping  bits of information, where things were, what was available for lunches, snacks and whatnot.  He made certain to point out bathroom arrangements – a must with that many women and they even offered to turn some of the men’s restrooms over to women if the need arose.  I don’t know if they ever did, that wasn’t  on my list of concerns. After a pleasant introduction he handed the mike over to fan-favorite Jasinda Wilder.  I’ve read Jasinda’s books and one of my regrets is that I didn’t get a pic with her!  DARN IT!  Jasinda was as entertaining live as in her books! Great  way to start off the event!

Coffee refills, more tables and swag,  connections with authors, my fingers are crossed for the follow-up interviews. Then  off to the first panel.   The choice was between: What’s Trendy with Indy? (Where is the Indie market heading for 2014-2015?  Will Romance still be in or will fantasy reclaim its popularity?  What will be the next craze?) and Battle Axes to Skimpy Dresses. (How fantasy authors are successfully making the transition into the romance genre.)  I chose Battle Axes  because I have written different stories in different genres, and was interested in what these authors had to say on the matter.   I learned about the writer’s habits – who writes really fast and who writes relatively slow, which are pantsers and which are planners, which authors juggle and balance their lives and which don’t. The moderator took questions from the audience. Some pertained to  pen names, some to character development.  One participant asked about the female heroine role in fantasy, and that it was a  typical characterization that a female heroine is self-sacrificing.  I’m not sure which books she is reading, but I’ve only ever read a few like that.  However,  the point was brought up that women are nurturers and will often sacrifice of themselves for the good of others especially their children.  Overall rating for this panel on a 1 to 5 rating, 1 being pitiful excuse for a time waster to 5 this was excellent and informative,  I would  give a 3.5.

More coffee, more time to schmooze with Indy authors, rub elbows and  get swag.  Several authors had some form of chocolate available – good call. Just saying!  There was a lunch menu available, and lunch was included for those who chose that option. There were ala cart items available like sandwiches, granola bars, some fruit, cookies – stuff like that but we chose to pack some protein bars in my expandable purse that weighed 25 pounds if it weighed a pound.  Yes, I had the shoulder dig marks to prove it!

After lunch Mark Coker spoke for Smashwords – Apple Merchandising.  This was the most informative talk, and I learned a great deal from Mr. Coker.  I took notes, and paid close attention.  If there is any one factor that may sway me to go Indy – it would be Mr. Coker’s presentation.  *Points to thumb drive above*  AND he gave us free books!  A LOT of free books!  Seriously though,  his talk on the apple market was invaluable.

The next panel choice was: Wings, Fangs and Fur (Is paranormal a dying breed or is it still in our blood?) or  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly  (Getting real about editing, beta readers and dealing with book reviews.)   I chose the latter because I thought it would be more helpful.  I didn’t find their discussion on editing or beta reading exactly helpful at all.  It was  all a matter of their personal tastes  but I did learn  a few things about reviews which I am working on for a separate post.  I’d rate this as a 3.0, wishing I’d gone to the other panel.

More time to cruise the author tables, and schmooze.  Got a hug from an author that I adore – and will hopefully have on here soon.  The last panels for the day were: Let’s Talk About Sex (Behinds closed doors or letting it all hang out? The nitty-gritty of writing a killer sex scene.) or Judge a Book by its Cover (How to create an eye-catching cover without breaking the bank and the hot cover models we all want to drool over.)

It was a hard decision and after much persuasion to convince my husband that it would be worthwhile, we went to  Let’s Talk About Sex!  I expected so much more.  This isn’t an area that I feel I struggle with.  One suggestion was to write more sensual – using the five senses.  I already do that.  One of the hottest sex scenes I have written describes the sensual details and  there is never actually the consummating act.  I’ve had beta readers tell me  the scene was smokin’ hot leaving them fanning themselves and the act was  implied.  I’ve read telling scenes and I hate those.  I have read books in which those scenes are mechanical, or use purple prose, or seem to be anatomically impossible.  These things weren’t addressed – but it was rather a telling of how each author does it.  Or at least writes about doing it.   I’d give this one  2.75.

It’s difficult to separate my blogging viewpoint from my author’s viewpoint.  It was a fun and exciting event.  I loved seeing  authors which I have read their books – yes, I did some fan-girling.

It’s awkward to try to fenagle an interview or blog piece when the author’s don’t read your blog and don’t know who you are.  Who are you? What is your blog?  I’ve never heard of you.  Are you associated with a magazine?  In that light,  I would suggest that if they are going to invite bloggers, then there should be a venue for author/blogger connections.  I don’t have Michael Hyatt’s following, but I’ve built a steadily growing audience over the past 2 years.  My followers according to my dashboard information is roughly 450 people.  That’s 450 people that may be interested in reading a guest author’s post.  Why would you not want to increase your exposure?

As a blogger, I saw some classy authors that I would love to interview and host a promo for.  I don’t charge for any blog tour – never have, never will.  Some day I hope and pray that some of my friends will return the favor – but if they don’t, oh well.  I don’t get a cut of their sales, I don’t get a fee for hosting and I don’t charge per word for a guest post.  I think those are all ridiculous.

I saw some egos that  were unfounded and a few that  have reason yet weren’t egotistical.   We are all human after all, and some people are genuine and real while others are big faking fakers with a dose of arrogance.  NOT naming names so don’t even ask.  OK, well Jasinda was real and down to earth.  Other than that not telling on anyone else.  Alright fine, Annalise Grant and her husband  (He took the time to chat with my husband and ask his thoughts on the event and being a minority there. They were cool people!) made a great impression on us.

  1. A couple of quick improvements to the  event next time –  a larger space so that thing arent’ so crowded.  I have space issues people – I need the personal bubble, respect the bubble!
  2. An easy way for bloggers and authors to connect and schedule interviews or perhaps even do  video interviews on the spot. Impromptu works well most of the time!
  3. Instead of  panels and a keynote speaker – a combination of panels, speakers, and workshops would be tres magnifique!
  4. Possible author/aspiring writer track; blogger track; and reader/fan track with  scheduled thing available for each. I’m sure readers/fans didn’t really see much value in Mark Coker’s presentation but as an author –  it was the BOMB!
  5. A wider  selection of genres represented.  Not every Indy author is a romance author, and that was the primary genre represented.  If that was the intent,  then  it should have been stated more clearly.

This was the itinerary for Friday. Saturday had its own panel selections and Abbi Glines was the morning keynote speaker.  The awards banquet was Saturday evening but I was unable to attend that  as we had  family commitments.  I would have liked to gone, and I have checked the website for updates as to who won which category but I haven’t seen it posted anywhere yet.

There was an evening concert after the awards that sounded like it would be a blast, maybe next year.  OH, next year  is supposed to be a masquerade themed awards banquet and ball!  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

So there you have it folks,  my  brutally honest feelings of the event.   Keep in mind  that it’s just my opinion, and  my view may be different from yours.  Huge thanks go to Aedan Byrnes!

For a first year event,  I think that Rick and Amy Miles did an amazing job –  I wouldn’t have the foggiest of how to put on an event like this – so kudos to them.

Did you find this helpful at all?  Will it influence your decision to attend Penned Con in the future?

Write on my friends, and consider an author event in your future!