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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The MSFC mini-con

Yesterday I went along to the Melbourne Science Fiction Club mini-con as the invited GoH. Very nice, my first time as a guest speaker at a con!

It was a freezing day when people would rather stay at home and the audience was not very big although it was bigger by the time I began than when I arrived. I forgot to take my camera, but thank heavens, that indefatigable photographer Helena Binns was along, snapping pics, and here is one of them.

I arrived at just after 11.00 a.m. with my ten copies of Wolfborn and, seeing how few folk were there, wondered if I'd have more copies than audience! However, I found a table and set up, popping Crime Time bookmarks into them, with a special con price; I'd bought the books from Random House at author's price and could sell them cheaper than RRP and still get the equivalent of my royalties out of them.

(I've had my first lot of royalties for Wolfborn, by the way, much to my delight! It's been YEARS since my advance was earned back that quickly - since the GST, in fact. At this stage, however, the only book that hasn't yet earned back its advance is Crime Time, and that's because of the messiness of putting children's non-fiction anywhere kids will actually find it. Bookshops never seem to know what to do with them. One book store manager told me that when he put the books facing outwards, he sold them right away. It's done well in school libraries, though, and I'm going to wear my Crime Time t-shirt to Reading Matters conference and see how many can sell that way. Not that the booksellers will bring any with them. But it might remind people).

To my delight, I actually sold three copies before I even started my talk. People stopped to chat, whether I knew them or not. The first talk was by a teenage boy called Duncan, who was keen to discuss computer games, which have really become elaborate since the first few games like Space Invaders and Pacman. I can remember when Prince of Persia was a basic animated figure jumping across chasms.

I hadn't thought I should have the cheek to ask for equipment to show my very silly crude book trailer, but as they had the equipment set up I asked if they could keep it that way and they saved the thing on to the desktop so I could put away my USB stick.

I explained that I'd prepared it for my students, who will be making their own book trailers later this term. It won't be going up on YouTube, even if it was good, because I've used copyright material, but it makes a good example that they can have a laugh at and do much better. I was pleased when the audience had a laugh over my "big soppy dog" slide - you know, "Faerie! The Lord of Animals! Ruthless Villains! And a big soppy dog."

That made a good start to the talk. I talked about the background to the novel and the research and the editing done on it. One lady asked if there was anything I'd rather had not been edited out, i.e. "will there be a director's cut?" and I admitted the book looks much better for the editing, because you can't always see things when you've been so close to it, and the editors were pretty good; when I said, "I don't think this should change and here's why" they said, "Fair enough." I told them about the Year 8 students who had read bits of the novel because I wanted them to be involved, and how supportive my students were of all my writing.

I spoke of the long time it took to get the thing published and the problems with publishers who moved from one company to another and then rejected your book again! In the end, it was lucky for me that one particular publisher did move, because she was finally able to accept my book that she'd had to reject last time even though she'd liked it.

After the talk, I sold some more books. Altogether, seven copies out of my ten left the hall with new owners, which was nice. Believe me, there are ALWAYS people who just want to browse and keep you talking and have no intention of buying. Always. So you're lucky to sell everything and there were not a lot of people there.

I gave the last few Crime Time bookmarks to Sue Ann Barber, a fellow teacher-librarian who was on another stall, and left around 3.00 pm. I was lucky enough to get a lift all the way home from Bruce Barnes, a gentleman I've known for years.

I appreciate having been invited and maybe it's the first of many such invitations by conventions. I can only hope.

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