Readers Day Toolkit
05. The Panel: Famous, infamous or unknown?
Your choice of authors will be influenced by your target audience. Obviously your authors need to be appropriate e.g. young writers for a young audience. However the day should also be an opportunity to introduce new writers so don't be afraid of including first time writers in a panel especially if you know they are enthusiastic speakers. Your panel should include a gender, ethnic and genre mix unless you are doing something very specific at your event e.g. poetry only. Including local writers will keep your costs down as they won't need overnight accommodation and travel expenses will be less.
In marketing terms it is obviously brilliant if you can get a really well known writer to attend, and may encourage other writers to participate. But be aware that the most well known writers can be the most expensive and also don't necessarily deliver what you really want. The writers who are most likely to be keen on taking part are those who really value the chance to meet other writers and readers, and who want to promote themselves to a wider audience. If you are offered a "celebrity" writer it might be possible to ask them to give a keynote speech rather than expect them to be involved in the whole day.
The ideal panel would consider gender and ethnic balance and include:
- A genial host- someone who will get everyone talking and involved and set a cheerful tone for the day. Ideal if they write as well and doesn't matter if they are not well known.
- One 'name'- but that could be a local name, or someone who has a long list of publications but isn't necessarily a celebrity.
- A 'specialist' i.e. someone who writes within a specialism such as TV, non-fiction or poetry
- A general fiction writer- preferably someone with a wide reading knowledge who can talk about a range of reading as well as their own work
- A new writer
- and/or someone local if not covered by the above. This helps with attracting media interest and adds community feel to the day. They may also be able to help publicise the day for you.
You cannot start too early in selecting your panel. Sometimes it falls into place really easily but not always. It is best to approach authors directly if you can, as this makes it easier to explain the concept of the day, discuss their level of involvement etc. If you know who you want to invite but don't know their contact details (check web- lots of writers have their own sites) you need to go through their publisher. This can slow the process down significantly.
If you don't know who you want, you can approach publishers and ask them if they have any authors they would be interested in sending. This will almost always mean they send authors with a new book to promote. This can work but inevitably means you lose some control over the content of the day.