It is convention month in London for genre writers and there are some things we should admit to ourselves.
Your worth as an author – and indeed as a human being – should not be
measured by the number of panels you are asked to participate in, the
subjects of those panels, or how many parties you’ve been invited to. You
are still awesome. You still worked really hard on your book(s), short
stories and flash fiction. You are still loved by your friends. You’re
still as dazed, confused and overwhelmed as the next author.
We should move at our own pace. Writers spend a lot of time alone, a huge
amount if you’re full time. Don’t feel obliged to be ‘on duty’ 24/7.
Conventions are busy, visually arresting affairs that take place in anodyne
hotels full of people hunting down a good time. Take a time out when you
need it, have a good time on your own terms. Keep an eye on the amount of coffee and booze you’re mainlining if you’re feeling anxious. Try and take some vitamins once in a while.
Not all authors and professionals are going to get along. Genre publishing
is like a very large, dysfunctional family complete with favourite sons and
daughters, weird uncles, snippy aunts and the occasional bastard, to say
nothing of overbearing fathers and passive aggressive mothers. There are
feuds and disagreements, foolishness and disappointments. Art imitates
life, so it stands to reason conventions should too. Spend time with the people you want to spend time with, and don’t feel under pressure to speak to everyone.
Being on panels is stressful. No one wants to put their proverbial foot in
their mouth (or any other foot). Do your homework, prepare ahead of time,
reach out to other people on the panel to sound them out before the day.
You may worry that you’re not terribly interesting, but there will definitely be people in the audience who will want to hear what you have to say.
We are there to have a good time. Conventions are not just for the fans,
they are a chance for authors to unplug and attempt to pass themselves off
as socialised mature adults (some us find this more challenging than
others). Kick back, stop worrying, meet up with old friends and keep your
mind open to meeting new ones.
Conventions are a good way to meet new readers, and they provide a means to solidify your rapport with your fans, but if you find public-speaking hard, or worry that you haven’t been asked to do enough don’t panic – it’s not going to do any harm to your career. Bear this in mind at all times. This is a piss up in a hotel with formalised conversations, so focus on relaxing, and having fun.