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The Real Cost In Time

March 19, 2009

A convention really costs me about six to eight days. I spend one day packing and getting ready to go. If I have to drive more than twelve hours—pushing past the limits of what I can do in a day—that can add extra days. At a normal convention I spend three days at the convention. Then I get to drive home—usually arriving home after midnight. I'll spend the next day unpacking and doing the books. Then the next day I spend doing just what absolutely has to be done because I am just completely wiped out. Now I'm really done in for about a week, but guess what? NOTHING got done while I was gone and I can't afford to just kick back and get some rest because now I'm playing catch up and in a big way.

I do this 12 to 15 times a year.

Now I do enjoy the conventions. (See bitch #3 above.) I love the people and they—the conventions and the fans—are an important part of the business of small press. However... I'm sick of fans and mundane alike thinking that these trips are some sort of vacation for me. I come home and all my family and friends ask about my "vacation."

Vacation! Except for the fact that I lose six to eight days of work—which by the way I then have to make up because there is no one to do my job while I'm gone—it is nothing remotely like a vacation. I'm packing hundreds of pounds of books, unpacking them, and setting them up. Every waking minute I am at the convention I am doing public speaking—which I love because let's face it I'm an exhibitionist, but is none the less tiring—or trying to sell books. If I can't sell books I'm just screwed because then I'm busting my ass and using time that could be more wisely spent, to lose money. So, if the books aren't selling I have enough stress that I'm about to implode but I can't let the public know that, so feel very sorry for the people sitting behind the booth because they are getting an earful of angst. My favorite line at these times, "I'm hemorrhaging money." Imagine hearing that fifty times in ten minutes.

You are a writer, now you have to be able to sell books. When you are also a publisher you MUST sell books. New authors… Well let's just say this isn't a good time to be a new author. It's impossible to get into the big houses unless you have money to go to New York and get and agent and have the money to schmooze an editor and all the other expenses it takes to stay in New York where all the corporate giant publishing houses are. This means you have to go to a small house and at a small house the only thing that sells books is authors pushing the books. Normally that means soft-cover trades, and that means books selling for between ten and sixteen bucks. While the average reader will shell out twenty-five to thirty dollars for a hard cover of some big name author, they won't shell out the ten to sixteen dollars for a new author.

Let me tell you all the things that make me have to smile while I try to bite my tongue right off at convention. Fans who say, "I only buy half-price or used books." Thanks, thanks a whole lot for nothing. The publisher doesn't get paid, I don't get paid, some anonymous third party makes the money, and... Well as far as I'm concerned you might as well be illiterate because you aren't supporting the authors you read and are more or less guaranteeing that their numbers will crash and they won't be able to sell their next book. You don't care, though, because you'll just read someone else's used book. Now I understand trying a new writer out by buying a used or half-price book first, but these people say they ONLY buy used or half priced books. So what are they doing at my table getting their grubby fingerprints all over books someone else will pay for so that they can know what to shop for in the used stores? Thanks, thanks for nothing!

People will balk about the price of a trade paperback, but have you seen the price of everything else lately? They'll be at a convention and think nothing of dropping twenty bucks on dinner at the hotel restaurant or two hundred dollars at the hotel bar, but they'll have a meltdown when they see a book costs sixteen bucks.

We have to carry food with us and eat and drink out of the con-suite. We eat about one meal a day out, but the rest of the time we're eating catch as catch can. I spend most of the convention hungry, working my ass off and hoping it was even worth my time to be there because for me the convention isn't a "Vacation," it's work. Which leads to another thing that makes me grind my teeth. “Work? You don't work, you play. Writing isn't work."

Good, then if it's so easy why don't you do it!?

I love writing, but the business of it, the actual selling and trying to make a living, is a constant struggle, eighteen hour days and having people tell you all the time that you have it easy because you don't have to "work hard." Like they do. That just makes my ass want a dip of snuff. I wish every asshole who thinks I don't have to work would have to follow me around and do everything I do for just one day. Then let's see if they still want to call me "easy money."

Here's another one I love. "I have this idea for a story—or—I have this D & D character—and if you use it you can keep half the money."

Yeah, that's quite the deal for me because I don't have any ideas of my own. I'd just love to bust my ass writing and promoting a novel so that I can give you half the money.

Come on... When I co-write with someone I make damn sure they do half the work because I'll be damned if they'll get half the money if they don't do half the work. Coming up with an idea is the easy part. Again, if it's such a good idea, write the fucking thing yourself! I have more ideas than I will ever be able to get down and I'm a really fast writer so that's saying something. I don't need help getting ideas.

Buy a fucking book. That's what I need you to do. Buy a book. I don't need your help writing them, I need your help selling them.

The one that makes me nearly violent is to have people walk up to the dealer’s table, I start talking to them, and they'll say, "I don't like a hard sell. I like to figure out what I want on my own." Then they'll pick up one or two books flip them over and move on.

First, I know when to hard sell and when to back off. Second, I know everything about every book on the table. If they'd let me I'd ask what they like, they'd tell me, and I'd point them in the direction of a book they might like. Third... Well, if they always walk around with that stick up their ass I doubt they'd like any of our books anyway.

Why can't people understand that we are there to sell books? There is NO other reason for us to be there. Many of them have jobs where they don't have to put themselves out there to be ridiculed and lied to, but can't they imagine how it would be to have a job where their livelihood depended entirely on getting another person to buy something?

People hear you talking about all the places you go and they'll say, "That must be so great to get to go to all those really cool places."

Ah, yes. I get to go to really cool places and see the inside of hotels. I don't have the time to do anything fun. From the time I get to the convention ‘til I leave I have to be trying to sell books. I rarely even leave to eat. It's all about selling the books. I have been to probably a dozen conventions in Memphis; I have never been to Graceland or Biel Street or even the zoo. That's just one example of a long list of great places I have been where I didn't see a damn thing but the inside of the fucking hotel.

Because if I don't sell enough books then I can't justify the real very loss of my time—days away from the computer and my work, away from my farm and my family and my life. Not to mention the huge expenditure of my energy. The truth is I rarely sell enough books to make it worth the effort. Usually it's just all about selling enough to pay for the trip and the cost of product.

So the next time you have the urge to tell me how you only buy used books, how easy I've got it, you want to give me your idea and give you half the money, don't want me to try to sell you a book, or want to talk about all the cool places I've been, please stop yourself. Take a moment to take a good look at my eyes, and if they're glowing just bite your tongue and move on because the next time, the very next time might just be the time I rip someone's head off and shit in the hole.

Selina

If you enjoy these bitches, please contact Selina directly at selinarosen@cox.net. Thanks!

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