Saturday, 6 October 2018

You Can't Please All of the People - by Debbie Bennett

Nemma Wollenfang, me & David Varley
So we’ve all organised something sometime, haven’t we? From big business events to a Macmillan cake sale or coffee morning, I’m sure almost everybody reading this has at some point got off their backsides and thought hey, why don’t we all …And because nobody else will do it, we do it ourselves.

And what happens? The event went well, I expect. Maybe people turned up, maybe they didn’t. You probably raised money – you probably spent money. People came, people thanked you, people complained.

That’s the thing. That old cliché You can’t please all of the people all of the time is so true. There are some people you simply can’t please any of the time and you wonder why they even came if they hate the idea so much. Maybe they have issues of their own, or maybe they just like to think they could do it all better/faster/more efficiently. In which case, why on earth don’t they?

So my local writers’ group received an email inviting us to participate in a writers’ fair in a local town on an autumn Saturday (last weekend, in fact). I’m settling down a bit after the house move (long story) and 10 days into HRT (another long story), so I think why not? I’ll sort something. So I volunteer to run a table for the group to display and maybe sell our anthologies – nice little books. You can get them here. We could also sell members’ own books and generally raise the profile of the group.

Saturday comes. I’m joined by a couple of very talented group friends and we set up a table. There are other tables; there are a couple of workshops in the morning and a poetry open-mic session in the afternoon. It was a good day – we sold a few books, did some networking and I came away with a promise of a blog interview and a slot on local radio.

But no. Somebody has to complain about the venue. True, it wasn’t smack in the town centre – it was a bit hidden away and hard to find. And we didn’t get a lot of footfall. But do members of the public actually want to drop in and sit and listen to poetry on a sunny afternoon? Probably not to be honest. Most of the audience was made up of other poets – and that’s fine. It really is.

Frankly I’m surprised we sold the books we did. But then Nemma is a hugely-talented genre writer (a rising star – watch this space) and David’s poetry is alternately moving and hilarious. But these events aren’t all about sales. The bottom line isn’t dollars (or pounds). It’s about networking; it’s about chatting to like-minded people, being away from the house and in a literary environment. Creating opportunities. You never know – that person you chat to could look you up online and buy books that way. They may know other people; they may know a film producer who’s just looking for … OK, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away now. But the point is that it isn’t about sales and money. Nothing ever is, is it?


Griselda Heppel said...

It’s something you never discover until you are the one doing all the organising - there will always be a coterie of people who love to complain. About 10 years ago it fell to me to organize a very difficult party (not for friend or family). Numbers were potentially a problem for the size of venue, so I gave all the invitees a deadline for reply; many of them ignored my repeated emails and turned up anyway. The small ticket price I and my fellow organizers asked for came as an unwelcome surprise to these invitees, who had clearly come reluctantly under a warped sense of duty, the food wasn’t good enough (but then at that budget could never have been), the venue was massively overcrowded and altogether the evening was a nightmare from beginning to end.
Your authors fair sounds an excellent idea and of course one should always take part in these things - as you say, you never know what connections you might make. And a writers’ group table laden with works by a number of talented authors is a really super contribution - I’m not surprised you made quite a few sales, as well as the blog and radio bookings. An excellent day’s work! And what with google maps and Streetmap etc there’s absolutely no excuse for people to moan about not being able to find a venue. Silly them, that’s all I can say.

Umberto Tosi said...

So true! It's about networking.There are doers and complainers. You obviously are a doer, with much to offer. Keep on truckin' as we used to say! :D

misha said...

Ultimately it's connecting with people that matters. That's how we sell our books and networking and meeting and talking to people is key. It's also, of course, given you material for your blog.