I just got back from another great MidSouth Convention held in Memphis, and as usual I took away a lot of good and some bad from it. Today I’ll talk about the bad, because I still haven’t had enough coffee as I sit down and write this post, and the 13 hour ride home Sunday into Monday is still kicking my ass…
There are a few bad things I saw on panels, and not just this weekend. It seems like every convention I go to, or anytime I talk with another writer who’s done quite a few conventions like I have, these things come up, so I’m here to be a jerk and point out what you really shouldn’t be doing if you’re lucky enough to be invited to speak on a panel with your peers. Luckily, only a couple of these came up this past weekend, and for the most part I enjoyed every panel I was on or sat in the audience for.
6. Don’t be a dick.
You’d think this one would be obvious, but there is sometimes so much attitude on a panel. And all it takes is one jerk trying to run the panel or argue with another panelist. Back in 2005 or so, I attended a con and sat on two panels in a row where guests actually argued about some minor point. It was not fun to be sitting between them. I thought they were both dicks. People in the audience want to be entertained and learn something about writing. Often they are new or wannabe writers and want some guidance, not see an argument or someone who feels they are above answering their petty commoner questions. Trust me, no one has ever heard of you outside your family and the Facebook groups you troll, posting ‘buy my book!’ posts every hour.
5. No one came to see you specifically on a panel except your friends and family.
I saw a panel last year where the Guest of Honor of the convention was ignored because one idiot kept talking about themselves. An audience member asked the GoH a question and this idiot began answering, as if he had been asked the question. Again… no one cares about you, and you pissed off a few people. Be respectful of the other panelists and let them have their turn. Please don’t go into a ten minute explanation about how your dragons or elves or serial killer or demon villain is so cool and why they want to eat/kill/have sex with/rap battle with your main character. No one (except your family and your friend who came in support) has read the book, and you’ve turned everyone off about it now.
4. If you aren’t on the panel, stay off the panel.
It drives me nuts when I’m on a panel and some ass-hat in the audience starts talking about their books or answering audience questions. They’re usually the people who only had 2 panels all weekend and felt they didn’t get enough face-time with their potential audience. So they try to jump into my panel, or a panel I am in the audience trying to listen to. If the con team wanted you on this panel they would’ve put you on it. It really isn’t that hard to understand, is it? You’re pissing off the other guests and everyone in the room. Just shut up already.
3. Books on the table.
This is bound to piss off a few people, but I don’t care. I have to say it before I take another sip of coffee. I can give you some slack if you bring your latest book with you to the panel and prop it up before you as a reference or just because you’re proud of it. But dropping a shoe box on the table and then rifling through it while other panelists are answering questions so you can find something you wrote in third grade (and this really happened) is boring and rude to everyone else. Having a stack of your nine-volume series in front of you, or having the books spread out across the table and into the person next to you’s area is also rude. I haven’t brought a book to a panel in years. Watch the bigger guests (the guys and girls with their names on the back of the con shirt not lumped in with the rest of us). They don’t usually do it because they’re there to have fun, answer questions, talk about writing and book selling, and not push their books down your throat.
2. No one cares about your catalog.
No one wants to hear about all seven stories you have written, especially about the six you haven’t even published yet, and probably never will. Unless you’re lucky enough to be a best seller (and not just one of those insecure ‘Amazon Best Seller’ thanks to a rank in an obscure list where there are only 12 books) talk about YOU. Answer the questions from the moderator and/or the audience to impart knowledge and show off your stellar personality. Every answer doesn’t have to talk about why someone should buy book 4 of your Were Rat series. Chances are, no one in the audience and none of the other panelists have heard about you before this moment. And they definitely haven’t heard of your Were Rat books. Sell yourself and maybe someone will buy a copy. Unless you’re George RR Martin, the audience isn’t there to see you. They just want to be entertained and enlightened about writing books.
1. Seriously. Stop being a dick.
Luckily, the authors who do most (if not all) of the things on this list don’t last too long in the business. They don’t see a spike in their sales over the next few days after the con and don’t pick up too many new fans because they are only remembered as the jerk who talked about themselves. They have no long-term plan in place and that’s a shame. Maybe their Were Rat series is brilliant. I’ll never know, because I would never read a word they wrote after their selfishness all weekend. And I have a feeling neither will anyone who came in contact with them.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll be in a better mood with much more coffee and I’ll write about the good parts of con panels…