Events and Expectations and Etiquette

expectations, sexy books, selling books

expectations, eventsCan’t blame it all on the football, much as I might like to. (I am completely unmoved by sport of any kind, but I have an active dislike of men’s football, especially large multinational competitions of men’s football, and everything that surrounds it. Yes, I know the players are not all racists, rapists and wifebeaters, and that plenty of people can enjoy either playing or watching football without turning into absolute arsebiscuits, but the past couple of weeks have been hugely tiresome. It isn’t the men’s football competition itself so much as the attitude some appear to take: that it’s almost a crime to be uninterested, and that there is something wrong with you if you don’t want a pre-arranged-for-ages event wrecked by attendees either refusing to turn up, or insisting that they be allowed to watch men’s football on television during your carefully planned and possibly expensive pre-booked entertainment.) Sometimes it’s the weather – torrential rain and howling gales can make all but the toughest decide to stay at home even if they’ve booked tickets, travel and accommodation, and snowstorms can stuff things up for the most loyal and determined.
Sometimes, though, an event just… tanks. After about 20 years of trading, variously, porn magazines, books, badges and t-shirts in various places, I have done my share of wandering round and round a venue counting the tumbleweeds and cursing the fact that I can’t even go to the bar as I have literally no more money than I need for my fare home.expectations, sexy books, selling books
Most event promoters work really fucking hard to pull something together. (Yes, I have also, now and again, encountered some clueless lazy sods who thought that labelling a glorified car-boot sale in some hellish estate pub ‘ADULT EVENT’ would be a matter of putting their feet up and counting the money) There’s the finding of the right venue, the paying upfront for the right venue, the cost of advertising, the time it takes plugging the event on social media and/or getting it talked about in actual local media…
Those of us who have done a few events understand this, and understand that every event is a gamble. There are times when you book a pitch somewhere and the punters turn out to be the wrong audience for you – either you misunderstood what you signed up for, or possibly the organisers moved the goalposts at some point between you putting your name down and the doors opening on the day. (The rare but delightful flipside of this one is when you are at a slow-trading, underattended show and a couple of people show up at your pitch and empty their wallets over you. I said ‘rare’…) You might have made the wrong decision about what stock to bring, or you might simply not be ready to trade at all (the indie author with a single title who spends over a grand on a pitch at an event that isn’t book-specific; the clothing manufacturer who designed everything to fit their own body and hasn’t realised that customers come in a range of sizes).
If it isn’t working, it’s important not to make things worse. Having a go at the organisers and demanding your money back is something you should really reserve for times when you are absolutely sure that there has been scammery going on rather than bad luck all round – and is best dealt with after the event has finished, anyway. But packing up and leaving half-way through is really Not Good. (Obviously, if you get a phone call informing you of some emergency at home, it’s a different matter.) For one thing, it’s fairly self-defeating: you honestly can’t know if things might be about to improve. If you’ve stormed off, you’ve lost any chance of making more sales. You’ve already laid out money on stock/travel/accommodation, as well as pitch rent. It’s not that likely, even if you think your time could have been spent more profitably working on your stuff at home, that you will use your extra hours productively if you do go home: you’ll be in too much of a strop to settle to work.event, empty, expectations
The other thing is that leaving early can be contagious enough to wreck the rest of the event for other people. Once too many gaps start appearing, customers tend to retreat, thinking it’s all over. If you have an elaborate, big pitch to take down it’s even worse, because you’re underfoot when people are trying to get past (even if it’s only a fellow trader wanting to get to the loo).
As often as not, I have found it possible to make a serious chunk of sales in the very last few minutes of an event, so it’s worth bearing in mind the benefits of toughing it out, no matter what. And there’s always next time…

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