Thursday, 27 August 2015

Stephen's Musings: Fan Expo What I really think

Stephen's Musings: Fan Expo What I really think:             For several years now Fan Expo, Canada’s biggest speculative Fiction convention, has given free half tables to author guest...

Fan Expo What I really think

            For several years now Fan Expo, Canada’s biggest speculative Fiction convention, has given free half tables to author guests. I want to start this posting by thanking them for this largess as for many of us the economic reality is we could not attend, let along sell our wears at the con, without it. Sadly this year they had to cancel the author tables, do to fire regulations there was no place to put us. This is unfortunate but understandable, James, who runs fan expo, found himself between a rock and a hard place and did what he had to. I can find no fault in this. James has been a good friend to the local, literary community over the years and does not deserve the treatment he is getting at the hands of some members of the community.

            The one thing I do feel could have been handled better is the communication. Before James got the bad news several authors were put up as guests on the Fan Expo site, I being one of them. We were quite glad about it, as I am sure you can understand. When our names vanished from the site without explanation we were confused. The prevalent roomer was the site had crashed and they had gone back to a stable archived version and our names would be up when they fixed the new site. That was one of several roomers.

            Unfortunately when there is a lack of real information roomers abound.

            This situation was made worse because there have been years when the only notification an author got of inclusion in the authors ally was that they appeared on the official website.

            In this and this alone do I think Fan Expo could have done better. Adding a brief notification after the remaining authors’ names on the site that “Do to fire regulations we have to regretfully announce that there will be no author ally at Fan Expo 2015 and that only those authors listed above will be guests of the con.”

            I feel this would have been appropriate because there are real life consequences to attending a con like Fan Expo. People book hotel rooms, take vacation days and the like. Thus once a reasonable expectation of inclusion was established by putting names up on the site some notice would have been appropriate.

            The above is offered in the form of friendly advice should a similar situation happen in the future. It is in no way an attack.

            This said, I’m sure that everyone at Hobby Star, the company that does Fan Expo is horribly busy, so an oversight is not surprising when they are thrown a curve.

            As it was I contacted several of the official Fan Expo e-mails explaining that I didn’t want to not show up if I was supposed to, or show up if I wasn’t. James got back to me the next day, given how close the con is I thank him for that because he must be going nuts with the work load.  James’ E-mail to me is pasted next.

My apologies Stephen. We are not allowed to do the under the escalator thing this year due to safety issue with the MTCC. The problem is we have nowhere else to put an author alley, but some publishers and organizations have paid booths on the floor, so that is the cause of the confusion. So, I don’t have a free tables space for you is the short of it. Sorry.


            Now I ask, what is wrong with this? He is polite, sympathetic even, up front and honest. Is it the news I wanted, of course not, is it reason to pull my hair and scream, no, not at all.

            With this information I took it upon myself to warn off some of my colleagues who were in the same boat as me. Then the roar started. People began including me in posts that were critical of Fan Expo and James. All I did was spread the word so people wouldn’t show up the day of for a nasty surprise.

            I know it is disappointing and some people are apparently in a different boat having received an official notice of inclusion but for me, and I think most, this is really just one of those things that happens. There is no need to vilify anybody and we should be grateful for the past kindnesses.

            OK, that’s my two cents.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Could Baths and Privies save your life?

            Two things I have to give the Romans. They were good civil engineers and the baths. In the west, at this time, we take abundant water, and hot water, for granted. This hasn’t been the case throughout most of human history. The Romans, with their heated floors and aqueducts, were a marvel of the ancient world. Admittedly the Romans just soaked and the Norse used soap, so the Norse got clean and the Romans got wet, but even so it was something for its time.
            The Romans also tended to build public baths wherever they went. This opened up some interesting opportunities in Horn of the Kraken, though I will admit that Ragna is annoyed with me. It seemed her head kept finding its way to the privy.  

            Ah, the privy. Something so essential but so often overlooked. John Glen, the first American in space, had to ask permission to wet his space suit because the engineers hadn’t thought of this simple, biological function. This blind spot tends to be more pronounced with the wealthy; who can pay someone to deal with their waist. The Romans, with their baths, had a form of public washroom that worked well enough. In medieval castles there was often a hollow wall that would be cut back as the floors went by. These cut backs were used to create shelves that served as drop toilets. The refuse was either collected into a wagon every few days by a scat man and hauled away through a special gate made for that purpose, or a water course was diverted to sweep it downstream. Trust me you didn’t want to swim in a medieval mote.
            In my version of Avaldsnes I included the medieval castle version of refuse removal. I’m not sure if this was done before the twelve hundreds but the fortress of Avaldsnes was supposed to be a magnificent structure advanced and wondrous; possibly made by dwarves, so I exercised some dramatic licence. The important thing is this type of drop hole carries sound from one privy to another offering a perfect opportunity for a Maiden of Ratatosk to snoop on let’s say a Jarl who talks to himself when he gets frustrated.
            I use privies and baths in Horn of the Kraken for several things. No one ever wants to look too closely at a scat cart.
            A final note on the modern world. Have a look at methane composting sewer treatment plants. If we want energy for our grand children we need to start using the resources we have now.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Book Pricing the Real Story

            I do a number of personal appearances and a common question is, ‘why are the books so expensive?’ This is often combined with someone trying to dicker down the price. So to answer this complaint I am going to take you into the finical world of one small-time, Indy writer, namely me.
            To start writing a book will take three months to six months. That is research, rough draft, edit, finished rough draft, edit, polish edit, writers group, edit, editor, edit then did I mention edit. This is a lot of time and effort but not the main thrust of this article.
            Next comes marketing where you might send out to twenty or more potential publishers before you get taken on. Each one represents an investment in time and possibly money, in the form of stamps envelops and the like, depending on the submission requirements of the various publishers. But that is still not the main thrust here.
            Now your book has been published and you want to buy copies to sell at your table. With most contracts you will receive 40 to 50 percent off the list retail price. But wait, to get that discount you have to give up your commission on the sale. Thus you don’t get the 15% that is typically paid to the author with a sale. By the way, if the books are sold to a book store the author will get fifteen percent of the wholesale price. It’s only direct retail sales from the publisher that will yield fifteen percent of the retail price.
            But you order your books. Let’s say you buy five hundred dollars worth.  So with a retail price of fifteen dollars we’ll give it a whole sale price of seven fifty that should be sixty six books right. Wrong! Off the top of your 500 comes a 3% fee from PayPal leaving $485.00. Next there is postage, this ranges but the last shipment I got in it was $70.00 so now we’re down to $415.00 to actually buy books. Now, lo I hear the distant rumble of government. Free trade only applies to big corporations; they clobber the little guy with customs’ fees. These normally are paid at time of delivery. The last shipment I received was $57.00, so that our mighty governments can guard us from ideas that might be contained in books. For sake of convenience I’ll take the $57.00 off the 500 though it normally is paid in addition. So that leaves a grand total of $358.00. So now we finally buy some books, but no. Now we have the exchange. I’ll be generous and set the Canadian at 75 cents US. That leaves 250.60 for a grand total of 34 books. This means the real wholesale cost of a book it 14.70.
            Now this is before I start calculating in the cost of a booth or fly space, which often runs into the hundreds, and my standing costs for a fly, if it is an outside event, and a table not to mention table clothes and the price of getting to the event and parking. Some of the events do give a space to author guests for free. I must thank Fan Expo:  for their aid in helping up and coming Canadian literary talent, but simply put, most conventions can’t afford to let a single space go for free because they are barely scraping by themselves.
            All this expense means that I can stand at a table for hours on end and sell something I have already dedicated months of my life to creating. Please note, crafts people often have a very similar dilemma and I’m not whining. I’m letting people have a glimpse at the reality behind the Canadian price in my industry. The big book stores deal with some of these issues as well.
            I will quickly add that if I take my books to sell at a show in the USA there is an additional government charge and paperwork. Even though ‘Printed in the USA’ is stamped on each book. They get you both ways.
            So please, before commenting on the price of the book on that author’s table consider this. Often that author is spending a day behind a table at a con or fair working in a way they really would rather not be and actually coming out at a loss. This is epically bad right now with the week Canadian dollar. So please, you don’t have to buy, I know money is tight for all of us, but at least don’t try to haggle because frankly; there is no fat on those bones to cut away.
            Thank you.