Monday, October 29, 2012

Author Interview: Trista Ann Michaels

A while ago, I started a project called The Author’s Bar. Being one of the most unorganized and clueless kinds of writers, I created the page to help others like me. You see, I rarely knew when events were going on, if there was a book festival down the street from me or a workshop within fifty miles. I wouldn't find out about it until way after the fact. And I kicked myself for it. Vowing to try to tackle my lack of staying in the know, I set out to actively collect all of the information I could on events, services, types and opportunities that I could find.

In my research, I heard about a convention called “Romfest,” not to be confused with Romcon. While scanning over the page, I noticed the name of the founder of the event, Trista Ann Michaels. Now there is a special place in my heart for events created by authors and the fact that I had read a few of Trista’s titles only amplified the enthusiasm.

I looked through the pictures of their 2012 event and was blown away by the success of Romfest’s first year and simply had to know more. You see, I’m sure there are authors who would love to throw their own event, but what Trista has achieved and what I’m sure she will achieve with the next event is phenomenal. I couldn't imagine all of the hard work, time and effort that had gone into such an event. So, I wrote to Trista with all my curiosity and graciously, she accepted the offer for an interview which I will now share:

Give a brief description of the Romfest event?

  • Romfest is a conference for everyone. We have both reader and author events, food (wow do we have a lot of parties, a band, raffle baskets, workshops, a book signing. It’s a four day weekend of learning, making friends, eating, drinking, dancing, and just having fun.

    When and how did you know you were ready to sponsor your own event?

  • When I kept coming home from other conferences and telling my husband, “This is what I would've done.” LoL. My husband encouraged me to have my own and even went so far as to call my best friend and get her to talk me into it. Once she was on board, it didn't take much convincing after that.

    Had you had any experience in event planning prior to the first Romfest?

  • Some. I had helped Sharon (my co-coordinator for Romfest) plan several other events in the past, but this would be the first event where it was my name on the contract line. Talk about

    How long was Romfest in the planning stages?

  • Probably about 18 months.

    Have you done massive writers’ conventions in the past? Do you currently attend large conventions?

  • I’ve done RT several times and still love to go when I can.

    Did you have help planning your first event?

  • Yes. I had several friends’ help, and some authors I know also offered some suggestions.

    What if any difficulties did you have starting Romfest?

  • Lack of a history for the conference. I had to put up a much bigger deposit with the hotel since it was our first year. Also getting the word out about the conference. That’s tough when you’re starting from scratch and not on a lot of loops.

    What if any difficulties do you have during the event considering you are the spearhead of Romfest?

  • We didn't have any difficulties this year…knock on wood… My only concern for me was by the end of the day my energy was fading fast, so more volunteers and helpers will definitely be on the list for 2013.

    How many years has Romfest existed?

  • 2013 will be its second year.

    What was the hardest part about planning Romfest?

  • Working out the schedule and making sure the authors had enough time for their workshops. Usually more authors want to do workshops than you have space for and I really hate telling someone no, so we seriously had to work a little magic with that schedule…lol.

    What effect has Romfest had on promoting your work?

  • It’s all about exposure and getting your name out there in this industry and I think having a successful conference helps with that. Plus, being the host gets you in front of the readers and I always love meeting readers.

    How did you advertise your event? Did you start with your mailing list and work outward?

  • I put it out on Facebook first, then begged and pleaded with the authors I knew to spread the word…

    Did you call on other authors to help with the event?

  • Oh, yes. And the ones we asked were more than happy to help.

    How do you decide on the programming and events for Romfest?

  • Other than the meals and the Dr. Bass workshop, we let the authors decide. They offered up suggestions for reader events, workshops, games. Once we put the word out we were looking for authors to do an event, the ideas came in pretty quick. As the schedule began to take shape, we realized that 2012 ended up being a romantic suspense themed event and it looks as though 2013 will be a cowboy themed event. It’s weird how that seemed to work out.

    Do you have a conductor/moderator or staff to assist you during the event?

  • My friend, Sharon helps me out a lot with the preparation work. When we get to the conference, there are several authors who chip in, as well as a few readers. For right now though, it’s mostly just me and Sharon.

    What if any items, gifts or memorabilia do the attendees receive?

  • In 2012 everyone got a travel coffee mug that had Romfest 2012 printed on it, a registration bag full of books and goodies from the attending authors, and there were several events in which prizes and baskets were given away. The truth or dare game on Saturday night was truly a blast. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time, plus we gave away a lot of books that night.

    Do you set registration by a reader to author ratio?

  • Last year we were about half author/ half reader. A 70% reader/30% author split would be ideal. Since we’re new, we just need word to spread in order to get more readers in so for now we’re not setting a specific ratio.

    Is there a percentage of programming and events dedicated to readers and authors?

  • I think for the most part we’re reader oriented with a few workshops for authors and aspiring authors. Something for everyone is a good mix.

    Was it hard to get guests of honor and speakers for the event?

  • Not as hard as I thought it would be. For 2012 we had Sherrilyn Kenyon and Mary Janice Davidson. For 2013 we have Jacquelyn Frank. So far we've been lucky to have such great names and all of them got back with us very quickly. Now I just need to find a breakfast speaker…

    How did you decide on the cost of your event?

  • The food. We figured out our food budget, and then added a little to cover advertising, registration bags, printing and all the other little things that add up that you don’t think about until you’re hit with them.

    How do you see Romfest growing in the future? What do you see it becoming?

  • I would like to see it grow much bigger. Although Sharon tells me if it becomes as big as RT, she’ll kill me…lol. I’m not sure I could handle one that big, either, but I definitely would like to say that I give RT a run for its money.

    If you could give advice to other writers thinking about creating their own event what would it be?

  • It’s not as hard as you think, but definitely watch your expenses because they can get away from you if you’re not careful. Have one person in charge of the money and always keep your eye on the bottom line. There’s a lot of little things that add up when planning a major event like this so come up with a figure, then add 15%. Just to be safe.


    Check Out Trista Ann Michaels' Latest Release!!

    Lost Without Them

    Trista Ann Michaels is an award winning author that resides deep in the hills of East TN. A frequent sufferer of nightmares, it’s often from the ashes of those bad dreams that her stories will unfold. As the wife of an airline pilot and the mother of three, Trista is often struggling to balance writing with family and just like family, her characters are always in her thoughts, screaming for attention. One of these days she’ll get around to gagging them…but not today…

    Trista Ann Michaels' Website:

    Romfest Event site:

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