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Jul. 26th, 2011 (UTC)

It's not just newbies determined to push their own books who can ruin panels, it's anyone with an axe to grind, whether it's the evils of big publishers, the vast right-wing conspiracy, or whatever.

And then there are special cases. I was on a panel at Balticon with someone who managed to drag her own novel(s?) into the discussion repeatedly, but in her case, it was actually interesting. Not quite enough to coax me to add her work to the tottering heaps of unread books that surround me here in my office, but close.

But she was an exception, definitely.

I confess, I'm willing to talk about my own stories when it seems appropriate, but I like to think I know when to shut up, and I definitely talk about other stuff, as well. I do understand that con-goers aren't there to hear sales pitches.

Which brings me to a point -- you say above that if one's an interesting panelist, maybe people in the audience will be moved to go find the books you didn't push. While that's true, it is not a good reason to do panels. Anyone who thinks attending conventions and being witty at them will have a significant effect on sales hasn't worked through the numbers. Writers should appear on panels if they enjoy appearing on panels; they are absolutely not a cost-effective means of promotion. Giving up an entire weekend to maybe sell a dozen books is a terrible investment.

Giving up a weekend to hang out with friends and have interesting discussions with other writers, on the other hand, makes sense to me. For one thing, I generally come home from a convention with a few new story ideas -- I just got back from the San Diego Comic-Con, and I have notes here for two new short stories, a novel, a webcomic, and a story where I really have no idea just what form it's going to take, if I ever write it. Looking at what other people are doing, or hearing them talk about it, usually suggests other possibilities to me. That's probably far more important than anyone I may have convinced to check out my novels. (A possible exception would be if someone I talked to turns out to be a Hollywood producer, of course.)

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