Jun 26, 2005

Some thoughts on doing panels

With Bouchercon coming up and panel assignments going out I thought I might talk about doing panels a little bit. I've been to over 250 signing events and I've seen an awful lot of panels. Some things work and some things don't. Some things work at events, but not on panels and the other way around.

These are my opinions based on my experience as a convention attendee, talking to other fans who attend and as a person who has been on and moderated panels.

The Biggest thing to remeber is that signing and reading events are to promote your book, at a panel you are promoting yourself. ( the books will sell as a result, trust me)


I totally understand that for authors this is a chance to get your name out there and that the biggest reason to go to conventions is to promote your work. The trick is not to over do it.

The people coming to the panels are paying to be there. They hope to see an informative and/or an entertaining hour with authors. It turns me off when it turns into an info-mercial for the book. I have seen quite a few panels where an author doesn't really answer the question, they just turn it in to a chance to sell their book. You really don't need to do that. The truth is if you are giving informed answers or are entertaining people will remember you and look for your books. I have actually written down author names and later decided against buying books because all they could talk about was themselves.
It's a fine line between promoting and being obnoxious.

At larger conventions panel space is at a premium. Bouchercon this year has almost 500 people to fit onto the panels. Getting on one is a good thing. And yet whoever is in charge of the panels always spends half their time fielding complaints about panel placement. People want to be with their friends, they want a different time, they want a different topic. The best thing to do is make the best of the spot you have. Get to know your fellow panelists a bit. Create a bit of camaraderie before the panel. It pays off and it makes for a more enjoyable panel.

I moderated a panel and had an author who really likes to talk. And talk bout their own work. I actually got phone calls ahead of time warning me about this panel hog.
The author in question monopolizes apanles and people dread working with them.My point? Better to be brief and entertaining than long winded and dull. People will probably equate your performance to your writing. If you go on and on and people lose interest in what you are saying, chances are they will think your writing is the same way.

Limit how much stuff you bring with you. I've seen panels where it looks ike a bingo hall with all the stuff people pile in front of them.
You really only need your latest book if you bring anyting at all. And you don't even need to stand it up, you can hold itup during your intro. The audience will remember it and if they enjoy the panel they will find the book. Too many books covering the front of the table is distracting.
You want people to watch you, not book covers.

A good performance on a good panel can sell books. Make them like you. Because if they like you, they will want to read your book.

7 comments:

Jim Winter said...

Now the big question. How to you AVOID panels. I somehow can't seem to do that. (OK, I said yes to someone this year as a favor, but even saying NO PANELS on your membership app doesn't work. See last year.)

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

Well, I guess you could just email back when you get the assignment and say no thanks.

Or maybe do a horrible job and people won't ask you anymore.
Maybe showing up in a speedo?

Bryon Quertermous said...

What I hate are moderators who spend the whole fucking panel talking and ignoring the panelists.

Mary said...

I'm with Bryon. I can't stand moderators who think its all about them. Its about the topic and the authors on the panel. Your role is to make those things come out.

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

I agree that most moderators need to let the panle highlight the authors. But sometimes the moderator is an author also. In which case it's important to make sure every one gets equal time.

The best moerator I ever saw is Robin Burcell. She should give lessons on doing a good panel.

Annie said...

I definitely agree with Bryon and Mary. At what must have been one of the worst panels ever, the moderator jabbered on and on -- intros alone of the panelists used up much of the allotted time. Lame, inappropriate jokes were made at the panelist's expense and when the panelists responded, they got cut off mid-sentence. It was to cringe...

We were there to hear what these top authors had to say, not listen to the sputterings of this unfocused moderator. Certainly, it could have been attributed to nervousness, but it was so inappropriate.

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

A good performance on a panel is to sell the author andnot the book. If people like you , they will find your books.

If you annoy people they will forget you, or remember you and never buy a book.

Good writers read a lot. To be a good panelist, go to some panels and see what works and what doesn't.

I have seen some really bad moderators and some really good ones. he good ones try to highlight the other authors.