What a difference a year makes? By Cally Phillips
Last year, for Learning Disability Week in June I came up with a good idea. This year I planned to do the same. But when I ‘googled’ to check dates I discovered something a bit strange. This year in Scotland it’s 17th-24th June, but in England and Wales (where it is co-ordinated through Mencap) it’s in August from 19th -25th. The cynic is me suggests that this illustrates a small part of a very large problem. Lack of co-ordination and co-operation. When people can’t even agree what date to have a ‘week’ in support of something it doesn’t surprise me so much that the actual ‘people’ supposedly being supported don’t always get what they need. On the other hand I suppose I should be happy. I want Scottish Independence and maybe these two ‘weeks’ are just a way of showing that we really can organise our own piss up in our own brewery.
Moving on. Last year I launched No Labels (Fictional) Drama Group on the world. For (the one true) learning disability week 2012 in June I had the cracking idea of putting out one free ‘episode’ per day as an ebook. I did. I got worldwide downloads of 561. I’ll confess that while I alerted both SCLD and Mencap (the people who bring you Learning Disability Weeks one and two this year) no one from there seemed in the remotest bit interested in what I was doing. That’s not unusual for ground roots advocacy though, but it’s a shame because it means that far fewer people get to hear about something that might a) interest them and b) give them an insight into the world of the learning disabled label. But I can’t fight city hall. I can just write what I write and put it out there – give it as much effort as I have in the promotion and hope that other people get on board.
Anyway, after the ‘free giveaway’ success, I then added a couple of extra episodes and packaged it as A Week With No Labels. For quite a few months I kept up the individual episodes as well (now I’ve just got Monday up as a cheap ‘taster’) Total worldwide sales for the year –cue drum roll - 49.
If I was a glass half empty kind of person I’d say that this is piss poor. But as a glass half full kind of person I’d say that a worldwide readership of 610 (let’s assume that all the downloadees read it!) means that at least 600 odd people have some more insight into the world of people labelled with learning disability. Which was the aim of the whole thing in the first place.
You can’t escape the fact that advocacy goes it’s not exactly setting the world alight now is it? Guerrilla Midgie Press was founded as an ironic comment on the fact that when the Dalai Lama (or Anita Roddick – the quote has been attributed to both) talk about the possibility of the ‘small’ influencing the ‘large’ people listen – but when one small person actually tries to influence the larger arena the reality is that they have much less influence than the quoted mosquito. With 49 sales in a year I think I’ve proved that point at least to my own satisfaction! However, I refuse to be downhearted by the fact that the last year has proven to me that I have considerably less impact on the world than the mosquito – or even a midgie. All I can do is write the stuff, tell the story, voice the unvoiced and hope that others spread the word.
I published a paperback version of A Week with No Labels in the autumn of last year. Sales (to myself) have been brisk as I have bought copies to give away to various ‘worthy’ causes and to encourage those who don’t ‘do’ ebooks. Sales to the rest of the world – less than 3. (I find the sales data hard to follow. I think it’s possibly only 1 but I don’t want to be sued if 2 people come on here and say ‘I bought yer damned book what are you whining about?’)
Reviews have been few but positive. Julia Jones described it as ‘possibly the most significant book I’ve read on Kindle this year’ and other comments included ‘not just entertaining, but truly inspirational.’ But reviews (in my case) don’t sell books. In my case, NOTHING sells books. I am pretty resigned to the fact and most of the time I don’t even mind. I do mind in the case of A Week With No Labels though because it’s in no part an ego trip. It’s the most serious and important piece of work I’ve ever written. Even though it’s ‘funny’ or shall we suggest ‘humorous.’ Mostly I care about it because it’s the lived reality for many people. The people who are so badly served by society, social policy and yes, you and me by our ignorance and complete apathy to their circumstances. And who have done nothing to deserve such poor treatment. Except not fit under the ‘Bell curve’ of ‘normality.’
However, the good thing about publishing is that like a dog, it’s not just for Christmas, or indeed for Learning Disability Week. (Though my sales figures do suggest that giving it away free during Learning Disability Week is the way to get most potential readers) and so I’m hoping that by flagging it up again this year, more people may find out about it, more may share and read the story and more people may learn (and laugh?) about the label.
I had hoped that for this year I’d have completed another ebook of stories to launch on an unsuspecting (and uninterested) world for learning disability week (or as it is now ‘weeks’) BUT you know, life gets in the way. All the counting of sales. All the spending of profits (hollow laugh) All the marketing and promoting and ‘telling people’ and ‘hoping’ that people might notice the one creative work of mine that is really the least ego-driven and the most ‘important’ in terms of communication and advocacy. Well, dear reader, I have to tell you, I just haven’t got there in time this year.
However, since people do like a free gift I’ve decided to put together the first two stories in JOCK TAMSON’S BAIRNS for FREE on either kindle or epub format HERE. They’ll be free from today right through till the end of Learning Disability Week. You are more than welcome to download them. They are not available on Amazon because I’ve not completed the collection and I’m not selling something that isn’t complete. They are not available on Kobo because I’ve only sold 1 ebook there in an entire year. (That’s one ebook out of 20 titles!!!) so I consider the law of diminishing returns suggests it’s better me writing this blog than publishing there! And they are not available in the Apple Store because I’m engaged in an ongoing dispute where Apple tell me my address doesn’t exist. I know it does. I live here. That’s not proof enough for them! But the long and the short of it is – you can get a free PREVIEW of JOCK TAMSON’S BAIRNS for your reading pleasure with just a couple of mouse clicks. Of course I hope that when you do that you might do a couple of other things. And I’m asking you not for me, I’m asking you for all my labelled friends whose voices I am trying to get heard. Here’s the ask:
* Give an ebook copy of A Week with No Labels to a friend/colleague/family member
* Buy a paperback copy, or indeed give one to a friend/colleague/family member as appropriate.
And if you really can’t put your hand in your pocket to the tune of £2.99 ebook or £6.29 paperback you might try the following:
* Tell people about it. Through social networking, through word of mouth, through shouting it from the rooftops or tweeting or whatever your means of communication is. Word of mouth is only as good as the mouths doing the wording after all. And I’m sure there’s more than 600 people in the world who want to know something more about the ‘labelling’ issue of learning disability – or indeed who just want a good laugh while they think about the way the world is. You can write reviews. You can blog about it. You can pass on this blog. I’m sure there are many things you can do to support No Labels. If you want to.
There’s no pressure of course. I’ve done what I can. I keep doing what I can. I’m still working on more stories. And keeping as many irons in the fire as possible while juggling those spinning plates. A little help from my friends wouldn’t go amiss. So if anyone has a really good idea of how to get more people reading these stories – don’t tell me how to do it – just do it!!!