Convention Do’s and Don’ts: A Guide for Authors

Having spent all summer bouncing from one convention to another, I have learned many wise things about surviving your conventions and making the most out of the experience. With Bristolcon looming, here are my top five tips!


DON’T hold back from expressing all of your strongest views not only to panel audiences, but also to everyone at the bar. The louder you shout your fury and outrage at people (fans, authors, publishers, even bar staff) the surer you are to come across well. Your ideal audience is somebody who doesn’t really want to discuss the same thing. This makes your likelihood of winning surer, and any casual listeners will then appreciate your view even more.

DO try to get publishers other than your own to take you to dinner. This serves two purposes: (1) you get free dinner, and you’re a writer so usually dinner is a dead spider you found behind the sink, or those complimentary biscuits you swiped from an unlocked hotel room coffee tray, and (2) if it’s not your publisher, then that money can’t go on marketing your rivals’ books. By depleting their overall resource by ordering Steak Au Poivre, that’s £27.50 that isn’t going to buy half a week’s Facebook advertising. Play the long game, my friends.


(Above: Do try to switch identities with someone who has been around much longer. Especially if you both have beards. Most fans cannot tell the difference.)

DON’T avoid showing everyone your incredible singing skills at the karaoke. There is no way that this will ever come back to haunt you, or that you don’t sound exactly like Beyonce. You do. You know you do. There is no chance this will end up video’d and on Twitter.

DO make sure to listen to everyone moaning on and on about how awful publishing is, how terrible it is working with authors, and how they really wish that they could just go pick asparagus so that they could earn slightly more than the national minimum wage. Doing so will give you a better understanding of how publishing works and is a key insight into the industry. (NB: Late at night, do listen to them telling you grossly inappropriate things that they really shouldn’t. You can store these for later, in case they don’t give you a second book deal).

If speaking on a panel, DON’T let any point go unless you are certain that the audience has been forced to agree with you. The more that you can ensure that they leave with the feeling that you tenaciously stuck to your guns, the better. There is no such thing as agreeing to disagree on a panel. It’s win or lose. Kill or be killed. Usually, the author who is deemed to have been Most Right On Panels is awarded an exciting prize.

DO pay £19.95 for the hotel breakfast. Although you’ll experience a sinking feeling as you realise that, just as the last time, the sausages are only tepid, the eggs are more or less indistinguishable from damp loft insulation and you’d much rather have some of that fruit on the other table, you just paid twenty quid for this shit and you’ll be damned if you’re not going to at least have the hot bits, and you deserve it. Most author contracts have a Breakfast Advance written into them to cover these costs (sometimes equal to 20% of the full advance) so make the most of it.

(I took the picture below at Worldcon 2017. This was the breakfast of a stranger sitting opposite me, that I snagged when she went to get some coffee. Those are spicy noodles. The watermelon is on top of cheese. Nothing about this makes sense. It’s an abomination.)


DO meet lovely people and have a great time 🙂

Best of luck!


Published by EdMcDonald

Ed McDonald is the author of The Raven's Mark trilogy and the forthcoming Redwinter series. He currently lives in the UK. Find me at

2 thoughts on “Convention Do’s and Don’ts: A Guide for Authors

  1. Do you all have to wear black … or white … or BREAK OUT COLOUR pale blue …? 😉 Is this the sartorial advice for conventions? I will remember the Breakfast Clause for later.


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