How to Approach & Talk to Authors: A handy guide

Guys, I don’t know if you know this, and there’s no easy way to say it, so I’m just going to say it clearly here:


Now, understandably it’s difficult to approach your favourite authors at conventions. You’ll normally find them nursing half a pint of warm Guiness, gathered together in an author-huddle for mutual protection. The technical term for this is a Coagulation Authoria, from the Latin. You may also see other formations, such as the fairly common Griping Circle, and the Why Aren’t I Rowling Yet Hexagon. These formations can be intimidating to advance upon, but fear not, young fan. I have come up with a brief guide that you can use to shmooze your favourite authors in any situation.

If you are purely intending to use the human you meet to advance your own writing career, then these will probably work particularly well.

Above left: a moderately common author formation, a Coxing of Fantasists.
Above right: the exceptionally rare Grimdark Quadrangle.

Without further ado, here are my top three tips, each of them a sure-fire winner. All of the quotes are genuine lines people have said to me, leading to highly successful author engagement.

TIP ONE: Tell me how I could have improved my book!

“I really like it all, except for the main character who I really hated.”
Authors have to be critical by nature. If they don’t, how can they possibly write good books? And why shouldn’t they be objective enough to take honest critique face to face. When I’m chilling with a pint there’s nothing that I want to hear more than a breakdown of all the things you hate about my life’s work.

I’m particularly interested in hearing from those who hated my characters, loathed the pacing, thought it should have been more like a TV show they like, or don’t normally read fantasy and think that they probably won’t continue after this experience.

TIP TWO: Explain your kinky side!

“Fantasy is only my second favourite genre. I mostly write furry erotica.”
It can be awkward to know what to say to an author after you’ve told them how much you enjoyed their book. So instead of boring them with asking them how their convention is going or what panels they’re on later, you can break through that initial awkwardness by going balls-to-the-wall-go-for-broke and just lay it out there. It’s probably safe to assume that whatever pervy stuff you’re into, I probably am as well.

There is no circumstance in which explaining your own kinky prefernces is going to be inappropriate. This is a strategy that will work well for you not just in terms of meeting authors, but in job interviews as well. Don’t let society repress you.

TIP THREE: Tell me who’s books you would prefer to read!

“You’re my third favourite author.”

Dealing with mega-fans gets pretty exhausting. There’s only so many pleasant conversations about books, the city you’re in, your own job, the interesting panels you’ve been to, and so on, that any author can stomach before we begin throwing our shoes at people. And of course, authors are ultra-secure megastars, and mostly are in need of reminding of their own transient appeal.

I’d heartily recommend making sure that each author at a convention is aware that while you may have enjoyed their books, they aren’t your favourite author. In fact, they’re not even your second favourite. It’s important that we all know where we rank on any individual person’s laminated list of who they think is best (typically after a convention most authors will collate this information in a list and identify where they currently stand in fan popularity).


Alternatively, if these tips aren’t going to work with your own personal mojo, then you could try asking the author about what they’re working on, telling them that you enjoyed watching the panel that they were on, relating to them through a shared interest, asking them what they think about something you have a shared interest in. Being a genuine and interesting person is a fairly radical gambit, but it’s one you can go for in a time of desperation. If all else fails, the “Can I get you a pint?” gambit is generally pretty effective.

Author’s Note: This entire blog was in no way just intended to get to a point where I suggest that you should buy me a pint. But you should.

And if all else fails?


Above: Nineworlds 2017



Published by EdMcDonald

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

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