A couple of days ago, I read another 'would like to be a panelist' email. I'm not trying to be mean here. This is for educational purposes. But dang, it's hard sometimes to keep a civil tone. I know agents and editors get this way too, just because they see it so much. Have you ever seen the Palpatine on the Escalator skit by Robot Chicken? (Warning, language, politically incorrect, and, btw, Palpatine, not a good guy, right?) Anyway, the point being that, try as I might to not be, I think I'm getting jaded. Which is bad. The 237th person to query might be annoying because they're making the exact same obvious, dorky mistake that 159 people made before them, but it might well be their very first time querying, so how could they know? They're like Gary the Stormtrooper on the escalator (the one that bows his head and says aww) who gets cussed out for doing the same thing everyone else did, the thing he was supposed to do as far as he knew, btw. They totally don't deserve the brunt of someone's annoyance that has built up from the gizillion people before, right?
So, with that in mind ....
The person emailed the programming department, which is the right place/people, with their micro-publisher hat on, saying that one of their authors was local to a con and was interested in attending as a panelist. The person then asked who to contact about this, and signed with their first name, last initial, and the name of the press.
What's wrong with this, you ask?
Nothing, except that the email was phrased exactly as I paraphrased it, with no specifics. No name of the author. Last initial instead of full last name? Really? No link to the press website? (Turns out there wasn't a website, at least not one I found.) You're going to make me Google you? Seriously? Oh, and, this is the killer part. They did not mention *which* author was interested.
So, I do the Google dance. At this point I'm only mildly annoyed. The only thing I could find of any substance (and by substance, I mean something more than just a listing on a list page) was on B&N, so I click on the link. There are four books on the B&N publisher page. As far as I can tell, it's a full list. Four books, well, that's pretty tiny even by my standards, but I'm not going to knock them for that.
So, Name F. looks like he wrote two books that were authored by Name Full-last, but it could be coincidental, right? Maybe. At this point I'm grinding my teeth. Is Name F. inquiring on behalf of Name Full-last, which is probably himself? Then why the flip not say so in the email? Hi, my name is Name Full-last, I wrote a couple of books and I'd like to come to your convention. Here's a link to my stuff. Thanks for your time!
See how easy?
Sadly, this story gets worse. One of the authors of the four books is clearly a pseudonym. Either that, or a family that coincidentally has a fantasy-sounding last name decided to name their child after one of the major characters in LotR. And I can't help but think, could this be a pseudonym for Name F.? Which makes me suspect that the other author name (which looks like a traditional American name, more or less) might be a pseudonym for the same person too. At which point I'm so done with this person. Because 'one of our authors' should actually be 'I'. Anything else is a lie.
I must operate from the benefit of the doubt position, and assume that there are at least two people working together here, but that didn't stop me from developing a bias against this person. I'll combat that bias to the best of my ability, but, sorry I can't erase the experience from my brain and I don't feel I should have to. Every email I get builds the relationship between us, whether its a 'argh, more spam, I hate you!' relationship or 'yay, an email from my friend!' relationship. If there's more positive than negative, I'll look forward to our next correspondence. If, OTOH, it starts with vagueness that stinks like bullshit, and continues on to even more odiferous bullshit, that's hard to recover from.
The publisher's cause is so-not-helped by really poorly designed book covers that look like they were done by the publisher's art department, namely him again. If he hired out, he needs to change book designers and find one of a multitude of pro designers that work for cheap.
I haven't seen a response from this person yet. I'd like to think he's too busy doing publisher stuff or doing day job stuff. Hopefully he's not thinking up vague specifics to the questions the official staff sent back along the lines of which author? What creds? What experience/knowledge would this person bring to the con?
Things the staff shouldn't have to ask, because it should have been in the first email.
I hope that by writing about this stuff, more people will have a better idea of how to present themselves. Because cons need fresh ideas, new people with unique backgrounds to trot out and entertain their members. I hate to think of all the people that got passed up because they put their literary feet in their storyteller's mouths. Much of the time, I think it's like a slush pile–there isn't enough development there to be at the pro level yet. But sometimes I think the ability is there, but the communication disconnects as people try to present themselves as something more than they are.
If you think you're not enough as you are, then either grow to be what you dream to be, or accept that you may in fact be awesome enough as you are and run with that. Lying, bad. And misrepresenting or puffery is lying. Be honest, true, clear and specific, and you should be good, no matter how it breaks.
That works in writing, art ... everything.
My tweets - - *Mon, 14:56*: an interesting take on the all-white-male photos = it's on purpose https://t.co/enHRH8UBuc - *Mon, 17:55*: Whaaaaaaaaaat?!?!?...
6 hours ago