Magical Words: Working the Crowd

DragonCon 2018 – from Nerd Nation Magazine

It’s convention time again. ConCarolinas, ConGregate, DragonCon, and so forth. Which means selling books, which mean working the crowd.

You know, it’s very amusing watching people used to the solitary occupation of writing and editing, nearly all by nature introverts, figure out how to work a crowd.

Gail Z. Martin gave some excellent advice related to “Working the Crowd – How to Survive and Thrive Staffing a Booth”. At one time she was a corporate marketer, so her simple list of advice is sound. The Magical Word post was published August 24, 2016.

Item 1 – Wear comfortable shoes. Concrete floors are not kind to knees and the back.

Item 2 – Stand as much as you can. It give you energy, you are more visible, you will attract more people, and it is easier to talk. I (Erin) have been told to stand at work as it conveys a welcome; you are paying special attention to the person. It also matches body language with both people standing.

Item 3 – Try not to eat in your booth. Don’t NOT eat – get food, but if you have to eat at the table, keep it hidden. Half-eaten food disturbs people. And most people don’t like interrupting people who are eating.

Item 4 – Make the booth attractive. Swag, create levels, use banners behind to create depth.

Item 5 – Smile. At everyone. Invite them closer.

Item 6 – Use the person’s name – at cons, they come with name tags. Ask questions to engage them – what do they like to read, are they enjoying the con, how is the weather.

Item 7 – Hand them the merchandise. Studies show people are much more likely to buy something when they have handled it.

are just some of the twenty suggestions. Again the URL is:

Editing Rant: All In Moderation

Photo 18528834 © Jose Gil |
LOS ANGELES – JULY 5: Robot Chicken panel discussion at the 20008 Anime Expo at the LA Convention Center, July 5th, 2008 in Los Angeles. Cameron Baity, Chris McKay, Jeanette Moffat, Mike Fasolo, and Tim Root attended the discussion. is just around the corner – May 31 to June 2, 2024. Time to start prepping for all the crazy fun!

While I’m not a guest this year, I have been one at other conventions and I often end up being a moderator. You might think “How hard can it be? Being on a panel or a moderator. After all, it is just answering a bunch of questions, and writers are good with words.”

First, writers are good with WRITTEN words, coming up with them on the fly, nowhere near as easy. Second, being on stage means it is a performance, one the audience has paid to attend. As a panelist, a speaker has an obligation to put on a GOOD performance, which requires either experience or preparation or both. Being a moderator means not only performing but, also, directing this improv entertainment. Sounds like a lot of work to do for the hope of getting someone to buy a book, and you would be right.

Now, I personally love being a moderator – because I don’t like being the center of attention, but if I can make everyone else’s stars shine as brightly as possible, I’m having a great time. Below are suggestions on how to be a good moderator.

(1) Put together 5 to 7 questions. You may not get to all of them, you might not need more. But walk in with questions ready so there won’t be a lag for the audience. (if small panel – only a couple of writers, get 10 questions ready)

(2) keep a clock out. Start ON TIME. Watch the time. Rein people in to 5 min introduction (maybe with an introduction question).

(3) know how long the panel is and when it should end. Dragon panels are 1 hour, other cons 50 minutes.

(4) Stop 10 minutes early for audience questions (be prepared for none or to manage the audience – no more than one question per person until everyone has had a chance – for the long-winded “Thank you, but I see other hands.” (if a mike person isn’t walking around).

(5) Sit at one end of the panel so you can see all the panelists easily.

(6) Be aware you will pay more attention to the panelists closer to you. In other words, self-monitor for preference and time given to ALL panelists.

(7) If the GOH is on the panel, they are allowed to ramble – but don’t let them get boring. Remember you are to make everyone shine.

(8) If you got time, look over your panelists before hand to aim special questions at them. “I remember reading your book about superheroes and menopause, since we are talking fan reactions, what sort of response have you gotten specifically for that series.”

(9) Cut people off for the following reasons (a) ramble (reword then answer for brevity and move on, (b) being rude (panelists or audience), (c) interrupting (especially watch out for the quiet and younger panelists getting interrupted).

(10) do as little talking as you can – you are there to facilitate.

(11) draw out the shy, maybe by starting questions with them.

Magical Words: Less is More

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

ConCarolinas starts tomorrow, and I will be at the Mothership helping sell Falstaff Books or at panels learning how to write, edit, and sell books, because I want to make a career of this crazy business. Selling, of course, is the key. I can create forever, but to be a career, I need to make money at that. And like most authors, selling isn’t my strong suit.

But John G. Hartness is great, not only at selling, but explaining how selling works. In the March 7, 2016 Magical Words post, “Making Money Mondays – Less is More”, he explains how to pitch a book when hand-selling at a convention. (URL –

Most writers jump into a long description, but people at a con are there to buy and buy a lot, so they need to buy quickly and move on to the next table. One needs to remember, you aren’t TELLING them a story, you want to make them PAY for it. Elevator pitch.

For example – Honestly, a novella erotic romance between a single mother and her landlord’s son. A Stella Gets Her Grove Back moment. (Honestly by Erin Penn is available on Amazon, by the way.)

Does that sound like something you want to read. Then pick it up on Amazon. Again, the URL is:

And that is an example of SELLING the story instead of TELLING the story.

Come by ConCarolina is you are in the North Carolina area Friday or Saturday (or Sunday, though I’ll be at the post office that day, *sob*) and buy some books. We’ll love to see you.

W is for What’s Your Damage

Meme created by Erin Penn

Today is the last of the SAGA Professional Writer’s Conference memes. If any of them sparked interest in SAGA, you can find out more about the annual conference at: The next one is scheduled for Winston-Salem in July 2024.

The full list is:
1. Enter Late, Leave Early
2. Give Your Characters Trouble
3. Better Verbs Make Better Writing
4. Everything you want is on the other side of fear
5. What’s Your Damage?

These were supported by other memes I’ve made: Don’t walk through doors; You are my Favorite character, I’m going to hurt you the most; Write with Style; Don’t get it right, get it written; The secret to writing fiction is always tell the truth.

What’s your damage? is a question you need to ask your hero. What is the shard of glass, the dagger in their belly, that makes them make wrong, or at least less than optimal, decisions? What makes them not perfect?

The damage which makes a person depend only on themselves, so doesn’t ask for help even when they should, because as a child they couldn’t trust their parents. The damage of a trick knee, so they can’t run, but they insist on coming to fight the monster anyway.

In Honestly, my hero has injuries making him weaker than pictures himself, and my heroine is still living with her last (ex-) relationship in her head. I really should have played with their damages a bit more, but the novelette is my first completed work. I learned a lot writing it.

You might not need to ask the point-of-view character What’s Your Damage until the first draft is done. Then you go back and hone the story, sprinkling the emotional journey throughout. Do they learn something that will heal their Damage? Do they learn a workaround to bandage the Damage for now?

The Damage is important. It makes the hero not-perfect. It makes them real. The Damage is what makes a story of Dragons and Wizards, of Spaceships and Blasters, of Love-at-first-sight and Billionaire-loving-Waitresses real. Damage pulls genre into reality.

Meme created by Erin Penn

S is for Shower

When attending a convention, three things need to be done.

Survival for health:
5 Hours of Sleep
2 Meals
1 Shower

Why? A body needs sleep for functioning, especially in a chaotic environment. Meals prevent h-angry and low blood sugar. Showers are needed for the high-contact, close quarters. People are sharing your space. The showers are a kindness for them … and a health prevention benefit for you, reducing the amount of transmissions on you during your overnight sleep. (Shower before going to bed!)