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Readers Take Denver 2024: Anxiety-Ridden Disaster of a Conference

Published on April 30, 2024

The discussion around this conference that took place 2 weeks ago has been so widespread, I almost feel as if it’s overkill for me to even mention it here, but some of you have told me that you don’t often go on social media, so you may not have seen the many conversations, posts and videos surrounding what happened.

The Readers Take Denver conference was, by all accounts, an anxiety-ridden disaster for many attendees, both readers and authors.

This conference, run by author Lisa Renee Jones, was held the weekend of April 18-21, 2024, and the conference was still in progress when reports started coming out about the negative experiences readers and authors had.

The conference marketed itself as the conference that doesn’t believe in lines, promising that attendees wouldn’t need to stand in line. A marketing promise that was immediately shown to be untrue as soon as people arrived to the conference and had to stand in line for registration and badges.

This is where the trouble first started, as the conference apparently did not account for the 3000+ tickets they sold/expected attendees, and quickly ran out of lanyards, swag bags and other promised items.

Unfortunately, this was only the tip of the iceberg for the beleaguered conference, which didn’t manage to run smoothly from that point on. Issues that are alleged by the attendees include:

  • a lack of ADA accommodations
  • lack of inclusion (very few BIPOC authors signing by all accounts)
  • lack of water stations
  • losing books
  • not delivering on pre-orders/not having pre-order system set up, telling people their pre-orders would be resold if they didn’t get them amidst the absolute chaos of the signings
  • changing rooms and locations without alerting attendees (or panelists/moderators)
  • having a shortage of volunteers and overworking the volunteers/not giving volunteers what they were promised
  • separating authors into different rooms with different opportunities
  • mixing up their own system for the signing
  • not providing set up rooms
  • not getting authors into the rooms to set up until late
  • not providing the delivery and set up system for authors that was promised
  • requiring authors to carry tables and chairs to set up their own signing areas
  • kicking people out of the rooms abruptly
  • turning off the lights, not communicating with attendees (both readers and authors)
  • not delivering on promises to VIP influencers they specifically invited
  • not putting donated swag into bags
  • security issues
  • alleged physical assault (the details around these allegations are not as clear because I haven’t seen anyone directly involved give a firsthand report but it’s said to be both a volunteer grabbing/putting their hands on someone as well as some incidents involving men not associated with the conference getting into a party)
  • …so much more

In addition to all of this, there are many questions about the charity that the conference is supposed to be funding. A charity also owned by Lisa Renee Jones. Lots of questions about whether the charity exists, what the money is going toward, and if it’s being used for charitable purposes.

Essentially, this conference failed on multiple levels with an overall lack of planning, accessibility, organization, empathy, safety and communication.

I think, considering attendees paid $300–including most of the authors and influencers–that the $750,000 brought in just from ticket sales, not including all of the extra fees people paid for different things, as well as the donations from authors for food/drink, could have afforded the hiring of a professional event planner.

As someone who’s attended…I guess well over (well over) 100 conferences in my time, I can tell you this: every conference has hiccups and issues, and there’s mistakes and missteps. No conference has any excuse for this level of utter and complete mismanagement. It’s absolutely negligent not to have paid professional event planners who can plan with accessibility, safety, and good organization in mind.

Immediately upon these reports coming from RDT24, dozens of authors started pulling out of the 2025 conference, and encouraging readers and authors alike to beware of this conference.

Ultimately, as of a few days ago, Readers Take Denver was cancelled and refunds were offered automatically…except to those who had paid “nonrefundable deposits”. Yikes.

All in all, this was a costly experience, not just monetarily, but also emotionally and sometimes physically, for this year’s attendees (and for people who’d already paid for 2025), and I know it has soured many on ever attending a reading or signing again.

All that said, I have attended some wonderful conferences over the years (I’ve also experienced my share of WTF moments at conferences, with absolute disasters happening, but certainly nothing to this magnitude of incompetence).

If you’re an author considering signing, or a reader considering attending, future conferences, ask questions before putting down money. Here’s a few to start:

  • who’s organizing
  • are there professional event planners involved
  • what are the ADA accommodations being made
  • what are the refund policies
  • what experiences have people had in the past
  • what’s the communication like
  • what’s the tone in the responses to questions and pushback
  • has the conference/signing taken feedback into account in the past and made changes?
  • what authors will be signing?
  • have BIPOC authors not just “been invited” but have organizers been proactive in making it a priority to have BIPOC authors at the signing/conference?
  • what is expected of you as an attending author
  • will there be a person/people available to troubleshoot on the ground at the signing
  • what are the security measures in place?
  • does the conference have a written code of conduct for attendees and conference staff?

These are a few off the top of my head. I know that Rebecca Yarros mentioned things she would want to know in the post I linked below, and I am sure that there are other questions that experienced conference attendees and organizers may suggest as well!

Below are links to two posts and two videos that detail the attendee experiences at Readers Take Denver 2024. I encourage you to take a look at all 4 of these resources because they include firsthand accounts of what transpired there.

  • Rebecca Yarros Facebook Post: One of the things I didn’t mention above but is that Lisa Renee Jones blamed author attendee Rebecca Yarros for some of the conference’s issues, which is absolutely bananapants. We all know daggone well that Rebecca’s attendance was used as a draw to the conference to sell hundreds (if not thousands) more tickets and that the conference could absolutely have put plans in place to protect Rebecca, give readers opportunities, and manage any chaos.
  • Kristen Ashley Facebook Post: Kristen Ashley shared her experiences with the signing and pre-orders.
  • Austin Green YouTube video:
  • This video is 45 minutes long but I watched it on 2x speed and it’s an excellent overview of everything that’s happened, using screencaps and videos from attendees.
  • At the 36 minute mark, there’s also a video from author Jason Pinter that details the experience he had of being accused of stealing someone’s idea by a fellow panelist WHILE ON THE PANEL and then on social media after. It’s pretty wild and I would just remind all of you that just because you wrote a book, doesn’t mean you own an idea and you probably weren’t the first person to write that idea.
  • Kate Hall YouTube video: I’m including this video because the emotion behind it from Kate shows you more than any words can how devastating this experience was for her–the physical and emotional manifestation of the anxiety she experienced tells the story of how badly this conference treated the attendees more strongly that anything else I’ve seen.

All my best,
Angela

Written by Angela James

A #1 New York Times bestselling indie editor and author career coach, Angela James (she/her) has enjoyed 20+ years in genre fiction publishing and has edited bestselling books and authors, including the #1 New York Times bestselling Paper Princess by Erin Watt, as well as hundreds of other authors such as Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken, Kylie Scott, Autumn Lake Jones, A.C. Arthur, Alexa Riley, Ilona Andrews, Lilith Saintcrow, Josh Lanyon and more. She is also the creator of Before You Hit Send: a popular online self-editing and writing workshop as well as From Written to Recommended, a robust author community, and the Book Boss group coaching program.

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