As someone who organizes readings and a large literary arts festival with workshops, author appearances, and exhibitors, over the last ten years I have developed a list of writers who I will not work with again. And rest assured, I’m not the only one who does this.
Why? Because they didn’t follow directions. It’s that simple. Who's on it? Writers who acted like the organizer/staff were their personal assistant/manager.
Take note of the following ways to avoid this blacklist and be a true professional!
KNOW YOUR OWN SCHEDULE
Double booking is such a big no-no we can’t believe you’re not aware of this already yourself. Whatever you have to do to make sure you know the days you are already booked: DO IT. Back out of our event at the last minute because you “forgot” you already had a gig? You’re on the list.
SEND THE REQUIRED INFORMATION
It should be no surprise to you that we need your bio and right away—possibly a short one and a long one. We also need a high resolution digital photo of the appropriate size with good lighting, not a selfie taken in the bathroom with your cell phone or with the light behind you. We need ordering information for your book. Possibly your dietary restrictions or lunch/dinner order. Special seating or parking needs. Have that at the ready to send right away. Don’t have them? Get them together and email them to yourself now so you will.
Have a publicity team? Great! They are usually more organized than authors. But pick only ONE person for us to work with.
SEND THE REQUIRED INFORMATION AS REQUESTED
If we ask for your short bio, we mean about 100 words. Not half a page, a full page, or two pages. Put your current, key publications, awards, job in there and include your website so people can find out more. You should not send a link to your website or write back “it’s on my website which is in my signature block.” You will be asked again to send the bio and if you again don’t comply, you won’t have a bio listed. Same with the photo and book order info. If we give you the format in which we want these and you send a link to your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your publisher’s website you will be asked again, etc. If you're a "famous writer" we will chase you for the info but you'll go on the list.
MEET THE DEADLINE
When we tell you the deadline by which we need the information we are not picking a random date. We have a deadline for ordering your book and/or getting it to the host so he/she can read it before your reading or interview. We are collecting information to layout and send to the printer for marketing materials: brochures, programs, postcards. For posting on the website and social media.
Decided at the last minute you want to change or send your picture now that it’s too late? Yeah, no. Not changing the program which is already at the printer and would incur fees.
Organizers count on participants publicizing the event they are part of, which helps extend the organization’s reach and hopefully means high attendance on the day/evening. Post our event on your website, your Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/wherever pages. Follow our social media pages and share info from them. Let people know about your part, but also share the info about other writers, exhibitors, etc. if it’s a larger event or festival.
DON’T EMAIL WITH 101 QUESTIONS
We are aware of our own schedule. We know when we want to release final details to authors, etc. Don't stalk us for weeks before asking where you’re parking, what building/room you’re in, or asking if your book has arrived yet. We will send out the logistics email when everything is finalized and in plenty of time.
Please don’t “check in.” If we wanted to check in we would have. Basic information is, by now, on the organization’s website: location, day, time, parking. Do your own homework until you hear from us. That’s what websites are for. If it’s a few days before and no email, check your spam folder, then call.
How a reading works or an interview or a Q&A is not rocket science. You shouldn’t need a minute by minute breakdown of what is expected.
BE ON TIME—NOT EARLY AND NOT LATE
On the day of the event, don’t show up two hours before your reading if you’re part of an event that runs for several hours, or a festival, wanting to check in or with questions. Check in at the appointed time—an hour before is best. Wait until the session before yours has started so it’s quieter and we can focus on you.
Don’t wander off to other sessions, to lunch, whatever, and not be there on time for the start of your event. Keep track of the time and return at least fifteen minutes before your part starts.
Always check in! Otherwise, you are considered a “no show” and we are scrambling to figure out what to do without you, sending people to look for you, spending time calling/texting you when there are ten other things requiring our attention.
NO TEXTS/CALLS WITH QUESTIONS ON THE DAY
We simply do not have time to take your call. The ringer on our cell is mostly likely turned off. If you want to reach us because you’re going to be late due to traffic or a car breakdown, text us and give us your name and ETA. If there is a host for your session, text them as well. Don’t text us and ask us to tell them. We may not see them in time and guess what? We have ten other things requiring our attention. What? You don’t have their phone number? You know my response to that.
DON’T GO ROGUE
If we didn’t offer or ask about your tech needs then please don't email asking if you can show a short film the day before the event. Or even weeks before. Tech has already been decided. We’ve had the final walk-though. We would have to hire a tech person at the venue which is not in our budget. You also may not call the venue yourself and ask for them to do this for you. We have a contract with them and you are not part of it. Put whatever you want to show on your website and have people view it on their smartphones during or after the session.
STICK TO YOUR TIME LIMITS
We probably gave you a time limit for your reading or, if you’re a host of a reading/session at a festival for us, how long your session is. If you’re a writer, choose appropriate material and practice reading it to make sure you are just under your time. So if we said seven minutes that’s what you prepare. Not three minutes. Not nine minutes. Your running under/over screws up the schedule. Minutes add up.
If you’re a host, don’t run over. Manage/track your time. If the host of the session before you didn’t do that and their session ran into yours, let us know later (they will go on the list!), but that doesn’t mean you can do the same to the session’s host and authors after you.
STAY THE WHOLE TIME – PARTICIPATE!
Go to other sessions if you’re at a festival. Stay the whole evening if it’s a larger event/reading. Take pictures. Post on social media using the event hashtag and quote writers/speakers. Tag people. Share other people’s posts.
If you just do your part and leave you were not really a participant making a contribution to our event and community.
IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, BE GRACIOUS
Organizers are juggling more than you know depending on the size of the event: partners and their expectations, venues, catering, audio/visual recording, marketing, publicity, security, tech, tables, chairs, signage, exhibitors, book orders, the schedule, volunteers, parking, transportation/hotel for visiting writers, walk-throughs, last minute changes.
We are horrified that your name was spelled wrong or the parking lot was closed or someone else took your vegan lunchbox. We didn’t do it on purpose and we can’t fix it now. Don’t call/text us asking for restaurant recommendations or the nearest parking lot. These are all accessible to you via your own phone.
We are doing our best to make everyone comfortable and happy while dealing with the banner falling off of the front of the building, microphones with dead batteries, a famous writer needing directions over the phone instead of using their GPS, volunteers who didn’t show up, the session room that’s locked so no one can get in, obvious questions from people who could answer them by simply opening and reading the program or checking the map.
There are plenty of people ready to criticize every aspect of an event with massive amounts of know-it-all disdain. People who have never organized anything in their life but who think they’d be geniuses at it. Don’t be that person. You have no idea what was discussed, promised by venue/partners/caterers/etc., not allowed or not available, or didn’t work on the day.
Be a help, not a hindrance. How? Remember that the event is not about you (unless you’re the headliner, in which case, still be gracious, not a diva). Do your homework. Do your prep. Bring your own water and a granola bar, just in case. Leave early, map out additional parking, check in, tweet about how much fun you’re having, smile.
We are excited to have you at our event! We think you’re fantastic! But be responsible for yourself. If you can’t be, hire someone who will be able to handle your needs/details or risk not being invited back and word getting around that you are not a professional or too much work.
Chris Stewart is Editor-in-Chief of Del Sol Press (@DelSolPressBks), which has a First Novel Competition deadline this Friday, May 13th. Judge is Madison Smartt Bell. Prize is $1500, 20 copies. Second and third place winners receive free tuition to the AlgonkianNew York Pitch Conference. Published already but retained the copyright? You’re eligible! Check it out:Del Sol Press First Novel Prize