Okay, so you’ve been invited to be a guest at a convention. Maybe you want to attend, but can’t, or maybe the con just doesn’t interest you. Either way, you’ve decided not to attend.
So that’s it, right? You let it go, because, hey, you’re really busy and if you don’t respond, they’ll just move on.
Here’s why that’s a bad idea… You may have just “blackballed” yourself, from not only this con, but others as well. Yes, cons do talk to each other. As matter of fact, there are several Facebook pages out there, some public, some not so public, where cons share information about everything from hotel issues to guests (we assume there are similar forums for guests as well – and I, at least, try to keep that in mind when interacting with any guests).
The best practice is to be honest with the con. And, if possible, also try to be prompt in your reply. Yes, it’s best if you’re not brutally honest. Responding with, “Your con sucks and I would never attend a con like yours if my life depended on it” might not be a good approach. However, you can convey your message with, “I’ve reviewed your webpage, and while I’m certain it’s a great con for your attendees, I’m not certain I would be the best fit there. Thank you for inviting me, though, and best of luck on your convention!”
Con runners will get the idea, at least the smart ones will. And frankly, those that aren’t smart don’t tend to last long in this business.
Now, what if the guest is a major player? Someone in high demand? There’s little the con can do to impact the guests’ future revenues, so why should the guest care if you’re not happy with them?
Well, here’s the deal. The good con organizers can last a lot longer than the demand for a guest. Seriously, I’ve seen it. The con might not survive, but good organizers are rare and tend to get recruited by other cons.
Now, consider this experience from my past: One very popular writer was extremely nasty to a con I was involved with back in the 90s. Said author could schedule personal appearances as often as they wanted, and was willing to brush aside any con that didn’t fit their criteria, or desires.
Guess what, 20 years later I’m still running cons, and that guest is now selling a lot, a whole lot, less books than in the past. Said individual will likely never be booked by a con I’m involved with because they “burned that bridge” many years back. And let me tell you, I’ve shared that story many times at other cons. It is, after all, harder to unmake a bad reputation than it is to create a good one to start with.
So, please, try to keep all of this in mind if you’re invited to be a guest. I promise, a polite no is an okay answer, even if yes would make us happier.
And if you run cons, try to remember that the opposite can happen to you just as easily. You don’t want to find yourself receiving a lot of polite, “thank you, but no” responses.