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Archive for January, 2012

Since last week’s post my adviser Tim kindly gave me some guidance as regards my future employment.  I need to think seriously about what he said.  Spending so long on that meant we didn’t talk much about future racing books.  I think I should recap my work on one subject which I stopped work on five years ago and decide what else I could do to fill in any gaps.  I can do this for the next few months while no other grand project is being commissioned.  Then I can take it to a point where I either extend its scope or bring it to a conclusion.   I am loath to say what the subject is until I know which of those avenues I’m going down, in case it gets put to one side again.

I was surprised to learn a book about Yarmouth races, another course owned by Northern Racing, was published last year.  It once again goes to show that it is very difficult to make people aware of limited-interest publications like mine. 

I found how many Days books were left at Fontwell – enough to decide I don’t need to print any more yet!  Reviews in the local Sussex papers in the next month should generate a few more sales.  There is still other marketing-chasing I should do.  Despite having three days off last week, I found no time to do any.  I can understand what retired people mean when they say there’s not enough time to do all the things they want to, and they didn’t know how they managed when they were in work.  

Several copies of the Bath book have been sent to the booksellers who operate at Cheltenham and Newbury racecourses.  Let’s hope they have some success.

At the risk of being accused of blowing my own trumpet in successive weeks (which would be true), I was amused by an email from a gentleman who bought two of my books.  He said, “I read them both on a flight to Houston last week and where I normally watch the films I could not put the books down and completed them.”  High praise indeed, or so I thought until my wife reminded me that the films they show on planes aren’t always very exciting.  Be that as it may, there’s a satisfied customer, and he has ordered copies of two of my other books.  Perhaps I should ask him to take charge of my export division.

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A Quick Return

I know I said I was going to give it a few weeks before posting again, but I had to contradict myself as a result of reading something about me.  Finding a reference to a website I had come across before, thefreelibrary.com, I tried searching for my name and came across a few articles about me that I had not seen before.  The most recent, pre-dating my last “winding down” post by a week, was a review of this blog.  I am very grateful to Robin Gibson, the Racing Post’s internet guru and reviewer of racing websites, for mentioning me.   It’s amazing what a fillip an unexpected compliment can give.

I haven’t done any of the marketing-chasing I referred to last time.  I blame “proper” work needing to be done at the office, where the pace does not lessen and, as things stand, there are only 28 working days left for me; minus six days leave.   

Three of those six days come next week.  One of those will include a discussion with a mentor about future book options.  Tim is a splendid chap who has been a great support to me since my first book.  Indeed, there are few racing books of note published these days without his generous assistance.

Another day will be spent at Fontwell, where I’ll find out how the Days book is selling.  I also hope to see Holly, the new manager, who was in charge at Bath throughout 2011.   It’s a pity she didn’t move to another racecourse which hasn’t had a book written about it, but you can’t have everything. 

Three of my books have been about courses owned by Northern Racing, who after protracted negotiations have agreed terms to take over Arena Leisure, who own seven other racecourses.  Provided there are no other late bidders, or insuperable objections from the Office of Fair Trading, it will be interesting to see how the new combine works and what plans Northern have for the other tracks.

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Winding Down

A review of Days should appear in the Brighton Argus next month, but no news from my man at the Chichester Observer means it’s time for me to give him a friendly nudge.  Ditto the local Council as regards stocking it in their libraries. 

The people who sell books at Cheltenham and Newbury have agreed to take copies of Bath to sell there.  I am hoping the racecourse can get someone to transport them to one of those places as a favour, so as to avoid profit-sapping postage charges.

With book research, writing, production and selling going into a quiet period, and sorting out my overall employment situation becoming more of a priority, I am now going to reduce the frequency of posts on the blog to every two or three weeks.  Since starting it almost a year ago I have finished two books, and it’s also been very pleasing to have met or made acquaintance with more people who are also interested in racecourses and racing history.  I hope to refresh those contacts and find more like-minded people when the next project gets under way, whatever that may be.  There is much more I’d like to research, and can do under my own steam – but it would be nice to be commissioned to do something.  In a few months time I should know which route I will be taking.

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Hard selling

I seem to have been putting books in envelopes and banking cheques this week, so business, post-Christmas,  has resumed.  The first such order for Alfred Day was from someone who’d bought one and wanted another!  That’s more heartening in a way than an order from someone new. 

One of the Sussex papers has agreed to review Alfred Day, no news from the other one yet.  Nor from the local Council, who I hope will stock the book in their libraries and the Records Office.

An approximate sales figure for Bath quoted to me was respectable, but lower than I’d hoped.  Though I have learned that sales can trickle on for a long time it is now timely to start contacting booksellers to see if we can sell copies of Bath to them, albeit with the discount I spoke of last time.  The difficulty will be getting copies to them (and, if need be, collecting unsold ones) with minimal postage & packing costs.  We have no scope to spend hard cash on advertising!  Whether bookshops in Bath itself will stock it depends on whether someone from the racecourse can walk around town to show them to buyers in Waterstones, WH Smith and two or three highly regarded independent bookshops and see if they are interested.

There are a few other racing booksellers dotted about the country but I suspect that people in the north are less interested in southern courses and vice versa.  There are a couple of places in Newmarket that might sell mine, and if I contrive another reason to visit there I could drop the books off too.  Implying the extra cost of delivery is nil rather strains the being-economical logic, though.

Also heartening is a congratulatory email I received tonight from a gentleman who has found Bath “a fascinating read, even better than Brighton and Fontwell”.  That’s a nice way to end the week, and a reminder that giving due credit to someone else makes both the giver and the receiver feel good.

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Happy New Year, everyone. 

It was fatal to mention a steady flow of orders before Christmas.  Everything has come to a halt since then!  But I have a couple of fresh outlets to advertise Days – two Sussex local papers, which have reviewed my books before.  I’ve set the ball rolling with one of them.  Fontwell had nearly 8,000 people at their Boxing Day meeting and I hope Days was mentioned in the racecard, so that a few people might have bought a copy.  

Bath has indeed been mentioned in the Avon Local History newsletter – which is an interesting publication in its own right.  Reading it reminds that nearby Bristol had its own racecourse for a very brief time.  Maybe it could justify another little book while I am pondering other options?  Second thoughts – how much will it cost me to research and produce, and how much income would I recoup?  In my batch of old pictures bought a few months ago there are a couple of panoramic scenes of Bristol racecourse.

We haven’t tried to get Bath sold by local booksellers yet but now six months have passed since its publication it’s time to start thinking when we might make it available to them.  Income is greatly reduced, as the bookseller needs to make their profit, but better some than none.  I need to discuss this with the racecourse.

I have lots of other book ideas – mostly for my own amusement, and they won’t turn a profit.  I’ve done quite a bit of work on two separate subjects over a number of years.  There are some people I would like to discuss these and other future projects with.  I hope this will become clearer in the next two months, by which time I will have left my old job via voluntary redundancy.  If I don’t get another one I will have plenty of time to write, but funds will be tight and I will not be able to swan off to 44 race meetings like I did in 2011.  If I do get some work (temporary or part time is fine) there’ll be some cash, but the pace of writing will be slower.

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