Monthly Archives: August 2014

Making you an offer you cannot refuse.

Well I’m now back from Loncon and I thought I’d write up my experiences.

Logistics were simple. To get there I hauled myself down to the South Wales lair of Will Macmillan Jones’s. From there we drove west, spending a period in tranquil meditation in an authentic South Wales traffic jam before arriving at Loncon just as the doors were opening for punters. We ignored the M25; just driving in straight across the heart of central London, and frankly, it wasn’t too bad, especially if you have someone to navigate.

The car we left in the secure car park at the ExCel centre, we stayed in the Youth Hostel at St Paul’s which was a simple Docklands Light Railway journey away.

So far, so simple.

But the event itself; I admit I just thought it was some convention. I didn’t realise that it was actually ‘the big one.’ We started at the top. The table Safkhet Publishing had provided for us, its authors, couldn’t have been better placed. Everybody had to pass us as they came in through the doors of the Dealer Hall. If we couldn’t sell them books, then it wasn’t Safkhet’s fault, they’d done everything they could.

Now then, selling.

 Not buying is never an option

 

 

People’s attitudes and abilities vary. But none of us in the Safkhet team were the shy demure types who sit silent behind their books and speak only when they are spoken to. Barrie is a seasoned professional and working with him was a master class. Will brought some mints and a bowl, and I was just willing to work with the experts.

We settled into a comparatively simple routine. Barrie caught them as they approached on their way into the hall; I lured them with sweets as they tried to leave the hall and Will backed us up and worked on any that managed to slip by Barrie and I.

Looking around the hall there were various things that struck me. If I was a publisher I wouldn’t take staff to these events, I’d drag my authors out from under their stones and get them out there. We were on our feet from 10am to 6pm, constantly charming; our day an almost continuous stream of banter with those who were passing the stand. About noon we’d take turns to slink out, buy a coffee, which we’d fetch back to drink at the stand and that was it for rest and relaxation.

 

All in all it was teamwork, once we’d lured the potential customer in whoever had done the luring would describe the books on offer. Keep it simple, Barrie as always was best at this, “At the far end we have Jim, who has written a Classic Sci Fi story, these are Comic Fantasy from Will, whilst this is my own baby, a tale of near future espionage.”

I suppose our advantage was that for that sort of convention we had pretty much all the bases covered.

 

But what was obvious was that we were really selling ourselves. Other publishers had signs up offering author signings at certain times. On our stand every sale was an author signing. And not just a signing, a dedication, a message unique to each person buying the book. If they wanted a photo, they got a photo.

 the last of the summer wine

 

I’m on the right, Barrie is on the left and Will is behind. The delightful lady in the centre is not merely beautiful, but wise beyond her years as well, as she purchased a book from each of us.

 

And boy did we sell books. In a way we were pretty much the perfect team, but a team of self employed individuals who didn’t need anyone to give them orders, and who were willing to learn from the others.

Barrie sold out; I sold over fifty copies of Justice 4.1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Justice-4-1-Tsarina-Sector-Webster/dp/1908208236/

 

And Will with five books to sell managed more. I have boasted that Justice 4.1 was the biggest selling single title at Loncon on the strength of no evidence whatsoever other than the awed looks on the faces of other dealers when I casually mentioned the figures.

 

So that’s how it’s done. Mind you, we tended to be asleep before 10PM and by the end of Sunday afternoon I was so in the groove I would have sold to anybody. It’s harder work than working for a living, but we had fun.

Slouching towards Loncon.

Next week I’ll be at Loncon 3 – the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention. Go to http://www.loncon3.org/ if you’re interested.

Ideally writers are invited; turn up in a limo with darkened windows surrounded by overly muscular minders. They then sweep through the crowd brushing aside the groupies and listen with a slightly amused expression to the gushing welcome from the star stuck organiser who still doesn’t believe his luck.

Me, I’m on the Safkhet stand in the traders’ area.

And I’ve had to get all my gear together, and it has been something of a performance.

First I need books, because you cannot sell books if you haven’t got books to sell. So I got books.

Then you need some sort of ‘display material’. What on earth am I going to display, there’s only so many pictures of the front cover of a book that you can include before even I as author find it a little too much of a good thing. So in times like this I panicked creatively and scrounged photos from Tsarina. All they need is printing out.

At this point the printer plays silly beggars. Personally I suspect it is physically worn out, the paper feed is erratic, its attitude to ink so profligate it would regard a premier league football manager as tight-fisted. So I swore at it. I fetched the copy of Which magazine which does the comparison of printers. I studied it carefully and then, when I had to get back to doing some proper work, I left it draped over the top of our printer.

Not only that but I emailed the pictures to a mate who printed them out for me.

So our machine not only knows it’s not indispensable, but that we now know how to dispense with it. If this fails to convince it to mend its ways, I’ll just have to buy a new one.

And then there were the business cards etc. I went onto the Vistaprint website and did myself some business cards, something to hand out, slip into books as bookmarks, that sort of thing.

Others, less tight fisted than I, would have been overwhelmed by the goodies on offer, baseball caps, fliers, bookmarks, carrier bags, mugs!

OK I admit I was tempted by a mug, especially as it would only cost about three pound something and post free with the business cards.

But then when I went back onto the site to do a mug for someone it was going to cost me four pound something plus damned near the same again postage! I confess to not understanding the Vistaprint system. But their business cards are good.

And then there were the shirts. I decided I’d have a couple of shirts to wear; something a little distinctive. But I didn’t just want yet another t-shirt. So I looked round locally and there is a firm with a workshop barely three miles from me that will sew your logo on. So I had a word with them and have acquired two polo-shirts to wear when I’m on the stand. I’ve not asked them for a quote but I think I could supply Tsarina themed Polo-shirts for about £17. Obviously if you want a cheaper polo-shirt we can do it cheaper. But I told them I wanted something decent because I would be wearing it.

So all in all there’s a lot of fuss getting ready for one of these events. But it should be fun.

Anyway I’m looking forward to the trip.

 

 ship and sunset

And the rain came down

Yep, it’s wet. I got soaked to the skin taking some feed three hundred yards to a bunch of bullocks. The water is running down our drive like a river, and all in all, it’s the start of the Cumbrian Summer Monsoon.

 Winnie-the-Pooh-and-the-Blustery-Day-winnie-the-pooh-2022176-1280-960

 

It’s been wet for the last few days, on and off, but what struck me has been how dusty the ground is, just half an inch down.

But anyway, we’ve had a decent summer, it’s still warm, grass is still growing and that is what matters.

It’s funny, in spite of all my best intentions I’ve got dragged into discussions on the web about Israel and Gaza and all that sort of stuff.

I hadn’t intended to, I firmly resolved to keep out of it. But you know what it’s like, there’s only so much asinine stupidity a chap can put up with without coming over all ironic.

I suspect it’s the level we’ve degenerated to. It’s no longer necessary to actually know anything about the subject any more. All that matters is that you have an ‘opinion’ and you’re ‘sincere’ and that means you’re right.

 

Bullocks!

 

Which brings me on to the other day; I dropped round to see friends. For environmental reasons Natural England want cattle grazing some of the fells. Fair enough, they’re willing to cover the cost because it isn’t really an economic activity. But because the fell has roads across it they want the cattle to have collars with fluorescent bands on them so that drivers, who might otherwise miss seeing half a ton of somnambulant bovine, might at least catch the flash of light as the occasional ray of Cumbrian sunshine falls on the collar.

So he was putting the collars on. This isn’t quite as easy as you’d think. You’ve got to get the animal into the crush where its head is ‘sort of held’ and then you put the collar on. So I ended up putting the collar on as he put them in the crush, which made the job go faster.

And it was good to be back doing something I’m good at. Just burble away cheerfully to them, in a voice that lets them know that you’re not worried so why should they be upset. Then as they stand there you carefully learn over them and gently put the open collar under their throat and charily fasten it. All the while being ready to drop everything and get out of the way if your honeyed words don’t keep them pacified.

 

It went well. One memorable moment was when I was dealing with a limi heifer, to whom the technical term ‘radged’ might be applied. I got the collar on and opened the crush gate. She hurtled out of it, crossed the yard, still accelerating and shot out of the gate, only to stop abruptly when faced with over six thousand acres of fell.

After all what’s the point in running madly, crashing through fences and making your break for freedom if the nearest fence is a bus ride away?

So outfaced by reality she stopped, stared at it and then wandered quietly off to join her mates.

 

Funny how many people cannot cope with the reality, when faced with it they just ignore it and wander of and stand with their mates, telling each other what nice people they are because they’re ‘sincere’ which means they have to be right.

 

Me, I suspect I’d probably just stick to doing what I do best, apparently this involves sticking collars on bullocks so sensible people can avoid them.

 

But doing what you do best can be fun.

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