- Wait to contact panelists till two days before the event—or not at all.
- Be unfamiliar with panelists’ work: Not read author’s book (at least the first few chapters and website); not know who the literary agent represents; not know titles the editor has worked on.
- Have no agenda for the panel, or a vague one, e.g., “I will read brief introductions, and each of you should speak for 12-15 minutes. Then we will take a few questions.”
- Let panelists talk for so long that there’s no time for audience Q&A. (This happened with the panel in #3.)
- Talk a lot about yourself or read from your own book. Your job is to help the panelists shine. If they look brilliant, so will you.
- Cancel at the last minute because you just realized that the finances won’t work for you. Or cancel due to “family reasons”—but keep the plane ticket the organizers paid for.
- Author: Leave book at home, or not have a reading figured out—and practiced!—beforehand. Agent/editor: Leave business cards at home.
- Read for 15 minutes when you’re asked to read for five.
- Monopolize the conversation and/or interrupt other panelists.
- Belittle the moderator (“If you’d read my book…"), other panelists (“I can’t believe you’d say such a stupid thing!”) or audience members (“If you’d been listening, you wouldn’t need to ask that question.”)
- Leave your cellphone ringer on.
- Give copies of your manuscript or self-published book to panelists.
- Pitch your book during Q&A session.
- Ask self-serving questions instead of general ones. (“Why didn’t you answer the query I sent you six months ago?” vs. “What should a writer do if an agent hasn’t responded to their query after six months?”)
- Engage a panelist in lengthy conversation afterwards, when there’s a line of people waiting behind you.