Being in charge of a large book fair and writers conference like Book 'Em North Carolina has placed me in the position of working with a large number of authors, from the New York Times bestselling authors to those published traditionally as well as those who choose to self-publish.
Around this time each year, I receive a few cancellations from authors who have been scheduled to participate in the upcoming annual event. Some do it graciously and some behavior is simply rude. So I've put together a list of how - and how not to - cancel an appearance that you've been scheduled to participate in, especially if you are a featured author.
1. Provide as much notice as you can. If you've known for months that it's unlikely you'll be able to participate, don't wait until the last minute because you're dreading that email or phone call. During those final weeks before an event - especially a large one - the organizers are dealing with dozens of last-minute details.
2. Explain why without going into a lot of detail. Things happen. People get ill, whether it's you or a family member. Funerals are often unexpected and catch everyone off guard. Work commitments (if you're working a paying job in addition to your writing) often have to take priority. Letting the organizers know the situation is beyond your control goes a long way if you are ever anticipating being a part of that event in the future.
3. Don't cancel because you think you've gotten a better offer. I've had authors cancel our event (which brings in an average of 3,000 attendees per event) because a book store offered to have them sign their books the same day. Word travels in this industry and when you cancel one event to participate in another one, count on it getting back to the organizers. I've also had authors cancel because they decided they "just didn't feel like doing it", which is completely unprofessional.
4. Ask what you can do. With Book 'Em North Carolina, authors are scheduled to participate in panel discussions and conduct solo talks. Especially if you cancel an event at the last minute, the organizers are often so busy that they don't have the time or the manpower (especially when there are no paid employees but only volunteers) to figure out which panel you were on and notify the moderator. Too often the author who cancelled at the last minute simply becomes known as a no-show. Offer to notify the panel moderator or anyone else involved with your appearance.
5. Don't assume someone else will take your place. When an author applies as a featured author at Book 'Em North Carolina, a lot of work goes into processing their application. The website lists their bio, links to their websites, and their photographs. They are assigned to the Talks Schedule. Their name badges, table signs, and promotional materials are printed with their names on them. Because we have centralized cashiers, the titles, ISBNs and retail prices of each of their books are entered into the cashier database. The envelopes and accounting mechanisms are put into place to pay the author. The RSVP for their meals (which is provided free of charge by area restaurants) are submitted. Unless another author is willing to assume your identity, sign your books and substitute for you throughout the conference, then no one else is going to be taking your place. With Book 'Em North Carolina, we only substitute authors during the summer months before the conference - after that, it's too late.
We've all had things happen unexpectedly and outside of our control; event organizers understand that. Be considerate of the organizers, their time and their efforts; they'll remember it and they'll thank you for it.
This post was written by author p.m.terrell, the co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation and founder of Book 'Em North Carolina. For more information, visit www.pmterrell.com.