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.
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.
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
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.