Recently I saw – again – a dismissive comment about authors who “obsessively pile their books in front of them at panels”.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this particular complaint. It is often paired with the one of authors who obsessively use examples from their own work when discussing the topic at hand.
Both are always in the context of condemning authors who are overeager to sell their works.
And both comments make me cringe.
Because I do put books in front of me on the table. And I do use examples from my own work.
This might be the difference, though: I’m not doing either explicitly to sell my work.
I put books up because I’ve just barely begun to hit the point where people have heard of a book I’ve published (let alone anything I’ve written). My experience is what differentiates me from the people in the audience – that’s why I’m on the panel, after all – and those books serve as a sort of bona fides.
Likewise, I use my own work when it’s the best suited example. When fielding a question about the process of writing, I almost have to use an example from my own work. But again, it’s not because I’m wanting to sell books… it’s because it best serves the goal of the panel.
But – and I think this is perhaps most important – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an author on a panel letting people know their books are for sale at the dealer’s room, or at a particular table. A quick mention to let people know at the top and bottom of the panel, and that’s all.
Especially in speculative fiction circles, it’s rare to get any kind of a speaking fee. We’re usually only getting a comped badge to the convention – and not always that.
Those panelists are there offering up knowledge and expertise. In return, giving a few seconds for an author to simply say “My books are available at X” is no big deal.
There are plenty of bad examples – such as this guy I talked about back in 2013 – so I’m not going to harp on them here, other than to point this out:
There’s a difference between sharing what you’ve done and promoting what you’ve done. That difference is the key.