Power publishing

Westminster is the power borough. I don’t like it. That was where the group was meeting.

The visits to Westminster that I remember usually involved a demonstration. Once it turned into a riot. I was in a crowd that was charged by the mounted police. It was ugly. Four of us had to link arms to avoid getting dragged under the horses’ hooves.

There are other icons of power that I have seen in Westminster that are perhaps not so frightening. They can be ugly. On one occasion I walked round a corner and almost walked straight into a policeman in motorcycle leathers with a .38 strapped to his thigh. I am of a generation that is still shocked when we see policemen in this country openly carrying arms. And the leather gear was weird.

We were due to meet in the cafeteria of the Methodist Central Hall, which I wasn’t too keen about. I don’t like groups that ‘squat’. I would rather put a couple of quid into a whip to pay for a room.

I also wasn’t too keen on the size of the group. On the website it looked as if twenty-four people had RSVP’ed yes. One or two had dropped out, but it still felt unmanageably large.

As it turned out it all worked quite well. The cafeteria of the Methodist Central Hall was large, and on a Saturday it wasn’t too busy. The self-publishers had pulled two tables together in a corner, and were partially screened by a pillar. And there were only eleven of us.

On-line a minority of self-publishers are militant evangelists with all the social and personal finesse of the Donald Trump campaign team. The way the evangelists, all the other self-publishers are failures, losers and dopes.

Face to face, if the little group I met are representative, self-publishers are not like that at all. They are grown up. One woman was definitely under forty. One guy was on the cusp. The rest of us were greying, balding and wrinkled.

About four of the group had already published. Only one had a history of sales. A couple of people were struggling to find the right way, and a couple of others didn’t know what to do. One man hadn’t finished his book. He needs to start thinking about the market, so it was probably a good place for him to come.

The focus – and this won’t surprise anybody who knows anything about self-publishing – was very much on marketing. Nobody had got very far.

The organiser, Philip, is putting in a lot of energy and probably keeping it happening. He is a good chair. We went round and talked about where we are. People spoke well and had interesting projects. Philip is a good chair. He is good at summing up each contribution as it ends.

People had interesting backgrounds and had done different things. They had different skills. There were two musicians in the room and one dancer. Some people were very concerned about getting paid for what they do. One lady, sadly, had fairly obviously been scammed. Not badly, but she still hadn’t noticed.

Philip is keen on setting up some kind of cooperative. The idea seems to be that if there was one person who was good at sales it might be catching.

I don’t think I will be ‘hard core’ for that kind of project. I want to meet some other non-commercial and hopefully non-realistic novelists. It would be good to co-operate in some ways. I don’t see a way of making joint marketing work at this stage. I think it’s for the future.

About half of us went to the pub. I gave a couple of people my card. It was worth it. I will go again. I don’t think it’s the kind of group that I’m going to learn anything practical from. But I liked the people.

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