Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When Conferences Drop the Ball

I'm supposed to speak at a writers' conference this weekend.  Specifically, the Southern California Writers' Conference.  And I want to apologize in advance to anyone who expects me to be there, since it really looks like I won't be there.

You see, I wrote to the conference director back in September, offering myself as a speaker.  I got back an email asking me to attend and also saying I'd be getting some sample pages to read and then I'd be doing some one-on-ones with authors.  The sample pages, I will admit, I completely forgot about.  After all, I'm not the organizer.  For this, I was told I'd receive an honorarium of $250 (I didn't ask for such, but it was offered).

Yesterday, Monday, February 13th, a package with 14 sample chapters arrived in the mail.  The conference starts Friday, February 17th.  As I reported to the conference organizers, there is no way I am going to be able to read 14 sample chapters by Friday.  I should have had them a month ago, at least by February 1, since their deadline for submissions was January 28th (far too close to the conference, in my opinion).

I also have no idea on what topics I'm expected to speak.  I offered to talk about more than one, including the following:

1.   How to write a great query letter
2.   Introduction to the book publishing agreement
3.   Should I self-publish?
4.   Should I get a book doctor/author coach?

So, now I sit here three days before the conference is to begin, with no time to read 14 sample chapters and with no idea what I'll actually be doing at the conference.  I have no schedule.  I have no information.  Oh, wait!  I just checked their website and found that on Saturday, from 2:40-4:10, I'm supposed to do a presentation on "Should I Self-Publish?"  Nice of them to let me know.  And apparently I'm supposed to be doing one-on-one consultations all day before that and an agents panel after that.

Listen, given proper notice, I'd be more than happy to do all that.  But given notice on 2/13 for something that's happening on 2/18, which includes hours of reading and hours of presentation prep time, I don't see how I can.  And since I'm local and they haven't spent money on a plane ticket or hotel room for me, I'm going to bow out, guilt-free.

It's a shame when a conference isn't organized and doesn't pull it together.  I did all I could to be a good guest in anticipation of the event, but with a young family, two companies to run, and a new intern I'm training, I'm simply not in the position to drop everything to prepare for a conference that should have gotten me information and materials much further in advance.

My apologies to those who hoped to meet with me there.  I trust the conference will refund your funds or arrange for a new reader.



AM Lyvers said...

Bummer. Well that kinda sucks. I'm one of your would've been advanced submission reads. I was excited to see you were included for SCWC because SF/F agents don't come by often. I've been attending this conference for a number of years and it's always seemed like a laid back, social environment. Maybe too laid back? Sorry to hear about your grief with them. It does sound overwhelming. We writers are definitely going to miss out on what you could've brought to the conference which, again, sucks.

AM Lyvers, Yorba Linda, CA

Andrew Zack said...

I can't comment on what happened on their end. This was my first experience with this conference. And I hate to disappoint authors. Had there been better communication and the materials received further in advance, it would have been no problem.


AM Lyvers said...

An easy way for anyone to avoid disappointment at your not being there is to query you the old fashioned way, via your submission guidelines. Oh well, miscommunication happens. If you can't go, you can't go. We'll have a moment of silence for you at the bar.

AM Lyvers, Yorba Linda, CA

Andrew Zack said...

Of course. Queries are always welcome.


M. Dunham said...

It constantly amazes me how unprofessional convention organizers can be. And I'm not talking about just writing ones. At the very least, it's professional courtesy to be timely when asking peopel to do things for a project, and I applaud you for bowing out. It isn't fair to the people or you to have a hastily prepared talk or notes.

Andrew Zack said...

Thanks. Yes, my concern was that I would simply show up unprepared, given the time constraints.

Thank you for your support.


S.B. Donaghy said...

I agree with your decision 100% although disappointing for those expecting you, it is completly unrealistic to send a speaker materials at the last minute. I am in education and we plan, organize and host many conferences-a presenter should have their itinery and any prep materials well in advance- I applaud your taking a stand...not always an easy position to be in.

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