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Many reams have been used up writing about the various conventions this summer, but it was only as I sat at the BFS awards banquet that I felt inspired to write a post. Peter Newman, who will see his debut novel, The Vagrant released next year mentioned that he’d sat in on a panel I took part in. I had placed a copy of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade in front of me, face out to the audience. It’s something I’d heard American authors do, and I’d seen Django Wexler displaying his novel while moderating at LonCon.
It’s not something we really do at UK conventions, and Peter suggested we need to invite authors to do more of this. I suspect there’s a feeling of embarrassment about promoting one’s own work among us Brits that is absent in the majority of US writers. ‘Making art is all well and good, but marketing? Now, that’s just uncalled for,’ seems to be the unspoken rule.
Panels are rare times when an author has an audience staring at them for an hour or more. This is weird enough without factoring in that said author is required to say interesting things. Just about every other platform in the world would have a commercial break – television, cinema, radio, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook and so on. Why not panels? A book with a good cover is an advert all by itself. It doesn’t make you wait thirty seconds before seeing the video you selected. A book does not blare out music you don’t care for. A book won’t repeat and repeat and repeat. A book will simply stand on the table and provide shy authors with something to hide behind. And maybe, just maybe, it will pique the audience’s interest enough to buy a copy.