Rendezvous with Readers


barb with fan

Barbara Stewart, avid Mah Jongg player

For an author new to a genre like cozy mysteries, I’ve discovered one of the best ways to connect with readers and find new ones is reader conferences. This spring, I attended two such confabs. This post is about Left Coast Crime, which took place March 28-31 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The location was an incentive for me to venture out of the country on my own for the first time. After working my way through Customs, the rest of my journey was a breeze.

barb with Pamela Beason

Pamela Beason, my author speed dating partner

I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate on both an author panel and a “speed dating” event where authors were allowed two minutes to pitch their work at eighteen tables of readers and other participants. I was paired with Pamela Beason, a suspense author, as we made our way around the room. The organizers of this event were quite serious about the two-minute format per author, ringing a bell when each author’s time was up. I quickly learned to zero in on the high points and skip describing the plot in any detail.

This speed dating event is a great opportunity to get your swag in front of potential readers. Most authors shared bookmarks or business cards or candy. To promote Connect the Dots, the newest release in my Mah Jongg Mystery series, I gave away post cards with the cover on the front, my contact information on the back AND, here’s the kicker, a mini-box of Dots, the candy, attached. From a conceptual perspective, it truly was inspired. From a functional standpoint, not so much. First, I had to travel with 150 mini boxes of the candy plus that many postcards; you wouldn’t believe how heavy that candy was. Next, I had to make sure I could get it through Customs, so I had to research what I could bring into the country. Finally, I had to put them together once I got there, a time-consuming task. barb with fan 2

barb with fan 4

Fan, Connie Gilman

But that was only the beginning. Since I was staying in a hotel a block away from the conference hotel, I had to devise a way to transport my goodies. It took two full book bags. Then I had to lug them to each table and distribute them (I left one bag on the sidelines until needed). To my dismay, many of the participants immediately ripped the boxes from the card, ate the candy and maybe kept the card. I’ll file that one under the next-time-I’ll know-better category. Still, I had a great time.

Even though the moderator for the Cozy Mystery panel, Susan C. Shea,, had sent each of the participants the questions in advance, I was nervous beforehand. We were the last panel on the Saturday afternoon schedule. I worried that attendance would suffer; participants were probably resting before that night’s banquet or off sightseeing. I was pleasantly surprised that the room was almost full. There are a lot of cozy mystery fans out there, and I love them all. I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with the audience. Panel participants included: Julia Henry/J.A. Hennrikus,, Janice Peacock,, and Angela M. Sanders,

barb with Cindy Sample 2

Author Cindy Sample

Besides the opportunity to meet readers, the conference also afforded me the chance to network with other authors who write in this genre.Mary Lee Ashford

The Left Coast Crime conference changes locations every year. It will be held in San Diego, California in 2020. I’m already planning to be there!


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