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Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

I’ve just come back from two long days at Ascot on Rupert’s bookstall.  Key rings and fridge magnets were on sale as well as dozens of different racing titles.  It was in an excellent position inside the main stand near one of the most-used routes to the paddock, and in front of a huge picture of Estimate, who won the Gold Cup for The Queen not so many years ago.

I was there from about 11 till 6.45 on Friday and 11.30 to 7.30 yesterday.  Ascot opened its doors to the public at 11 each day and stayed open a long time after racing, especially on Saturday when there was music afterwards.  That’s all potential book-selling time, hence the long days.  I had it easy compared to Rupert and his colleague Neil, who had to get all the stock inside and move their cars away to a designated area well before I arrived, and they couldn’t reverse the process at the end of the meeting until most racegoers had left, so I dread to think what time they got home.

From my catalogue (!) we were selling Salisbury, Fontwell and Windsor (reduced prices if buying two or three) and Croydon.  We sold 18 over the two days, so I was very pleased.

One sees very little of the actual racing when helping to man the bookstall.  At any moment someone might want to talk about one, buy one or have one signed.

On Saturday a couple of gigantic racing trophies were put on display next to our stall, and that helped bring browsers along too.  One book that caught the eye of quite a few racegoers was the Croydon book, which hasn’t been on public display for many, many years.  People were, not surprisingly, astonished that there had ever been a racecourse there.

I had ten fresh copies of it printed recently.  It’s 20 years since that was published, yet sales still occur from time to time and every couple of years or so I have to replenish the stock.  I’m getting very low on the other old ones and need to find out if the racecourses have any to spare.

While I was at the races on Friday a suggestion came from out of the blue about another racing history book I might write.  Even though I’ve been adamant that I want a rest from it after working on Salisbury and Ffos Las for the best part of three years, I find it difficult to say no.  I am getting in touch with the proposer to see if we can take the idea further.

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I only met John McCririck once, when he agreed to do some book-signing at Fontwell – not a course at which he was seen regularly.  We’d  already had the exceedingly successful launch, where Josh Gifford signed a hundred copies and remarked that he’d not written so much since his school days.  On a later occasion A P McCoy agreed to sign some.

McCririck was dressed in his familiar winter gear of tweeds, deerstalker and cigar.  I’m sure he completely baffled people who bought The History of Fontwell Park by scribbling a great long spidery screed on the title page that included something about Edwina Currie.  This was a few years after he appeared with her on the TV reality show Celebrity Wife Swap.  They didn’t hit it off.

People who didn’t want a book, but asked for their racecards or something else to be signed, were firmly rebuffed.  Yet anyone who wanted a photo taken with him was welcomed and he posed in his trademark wide-eyed open-mouthed style.  It was puzzlingly why one but not the other was acceptable.

I couldn’t find the Salisbury book in the Racing Post’s online Shop but I was reassured it was there, under New Titles, and it is also in the section called “Flat”.

Incidentally, when selling the book at Ascot a month or two ago a relatively new hardback “The Triumph of Henry Cecil” attracted a lot of interest from browsers.  Other racegoers who had already bought and read it commended it.  There have been other books about Cecil, but this one is the inside story about his revival from what had seemed a career-ending slump, with the glory of the Frankel years contrasting with his battle against cancer.

Now that Salisbury has been reviewed by the Post, I ought to send them Ffos Las.  I hope they treat it on its merits and don’t compare it with Salisbury, which has 400 years more history behind it.  I need to send copies of both to the British Library so that they will be there for posterity.

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The Salisbury book is reviewed in today’s Racing Post.

It’s pleasing, although quite sparing as regards comments about the quality of the book (“tales told in detail and told with devotion” is more or less all).

The writer takes the view that the older history is much more interesting than the present.  He does refer to several highlights of the course’s long-ago past that I hope will entice buyers. Racing Post review 300619

It’s a mixed blessing that the review is printed directly below one about Chris Pitt’s excellent book about the history of Warwick races.  Another course with a long history, it has the benefit of staging jump racing for the best part of 200 years, which is an activity that I feel generates more – and more interesting – incidents and anecdotes in a biography than a flat race-only course.  Presentationally the Warwick book is very attractive, there is a constant flow of interesting content and I’d say Chris is a livelier writer than me.  So, if you have any cash left over after buying Salisbury and Ffos Las, the Warwick book (titled Chandler’s Leap and Other Stories from Warwick Racecourse) is available from the racecourse for £16.50, presumably with postage and packing to add if necessary.

Last Monday the Daily Express article by Neil Clark about me was printed.  It’s pretty good, although the newspaper’s sub-editors have deleted some text and added some of their own.  There are some baffling typos (three years were added to my age, which instantly made me feel that much older) and it’s a pity it wasn’t published during Royal Ascot, but I am happy with it on the whole.  Their decision to have a picture of the Queen rather than me was a wise one.

Daily Express article re JB with pictures

I see no sign of it on the Express website.  Perhaps I’m being greedy!  Given that it was in the general features section in the middle of the printed newspaper, I wondered whether it would go under Sport, Lifestyle or Entertainment.

We sold some more books at Salisbury’s very pleasant meeting on Wednesday and heard some more positive feedback from those who had read it.

I’ve been writing to some of my old book-buying customers – some of whom have been on the mailing list for 20 years – and was gratified to receive prompt replies, containing cheques, asking with just one exception for both Salisbury and Ffos Las.  There are more marketing avenues to follow up for both books in the next few weeks.

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Book launch days always cause me trepidation as they approach and last Sunday at Salisbury was no exception.  I needn’t have worried.   Bad weather had blown over the day before and the day was dry, and not quite as chilly as feared.  That meant Rupert the bookseller was present, with line of trestle tables selling racing books, pictures, key rings and fridge magnets.  Any racegoer he recognised was assailed with an enquiry as to how many Salisbury books they were going to buy.

The racecourse directors kindly invited me to join them for lunch.  They were very welcoming, genial and chatty, and the food was delicious.  I could get used to that sort of treatment.

There was a productive signing session after race 2.  Another after the fifth was less so, but I rejoined Rupert after the seventh and eighth races (it was a marathon card) to catch potential sales to people who were going home.  After reckoning up at the end of the day we decided sales were very satisfactory.  Once the accounting was complete and I had done all I could to help Rupert pack up (before a squadron of racecourse staff arrived to provide expert assistance), I took some stock back to my car.  An hour and a quarter after the last race, I was on the way home.

I’ll be back at Salisbury on Thursday 16th hoping to sell a few more.  Before then Rupert and I will be at Ascot this Friday and Saturday trying to do the same.  Marketingwise there is still a lot to do.  I handed in a review copy at the Racing Post’s London HQ this week.  I have yet to contact my old book-purchasing customers, but I may leave that until the Ffos Las one is ready.

As it turned out, there were no major issues with the text and it is now with the printer.  I’ve already had a pdf version back.  The main issue is, I think, is the propensity for most racing scenes to be landscape whereas a book will be portrait shaped.  There is always a dilemma about whether to have several images rotated to fill a full page, meaning you have to tilt the book sideways to look at them properly, or to have two small landscape images one above the other on a single page.  Either way, the finishing line is in sight.

I was glad to see that Hayley, one of the people who I worked with on the Uttoxeter book, was elected as a local councillor last week.  Her boss David is one already, and fortunately for the sake of workplace harmony, they both represent the same party.  I’m sure if they can repeat the success of the racecourse in their own local communities, their constituents will be well served.

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Only having signed up to Twitter a few weeks ago, I don’t suppose I’m the first to observe its ability to become a great time-waster.  I can’t help scrolling down looking at stuff that may only be of tangential interest – but there’s always the compulsion to look at the next tweet, or see what’s going on with other tweetsters.  I wasted a lot of time wondering why I couldn’t send someone a message before realising they had to follow me as well as vice versa.

Nevertheless credit to fellow researcher @charliepoteen for suggesting I tweet my blog, if that’s a legitimate phrase.  I do so partly to find out what I’m missing, and also to help increase the potential audience for my books.  Early indications are that the number of blog views has increased.

One of my first tweets was a blurry photo of four heavy, large cardboard boxes full of old copies of The Sporting Life cluttering up my hallway as an example of Research.  They were kindly donated by Simon Holt, top man, top commentator and top provider of Foreword to my Brighton book.  A few racegoers leaving Fontwell the other day will have seen the transfer between his car boot and mine of these rare yet probably unsellable documents, most of which date from the mid-1990s.  I’m going through each newspaper to see if I can spot anything interesting about Salisbury or all the old courses I’ve written about – or indeed any other subject that takes my fancy.  You might think it pointless to look for material about the courses I’ve already written about, but I cannot stop myself from wanting to discover more about their history.

It is incredibly laborious, though. Each newspaper is folded in half and it takes roughly an hour to reduce the thickness of the pile by an inch.

The feature of last week was a visit to the best racing library in the country, if not the world, where the fruits of others’ research about early racing at Salisbury were generously made available to me.  More digging, closer to home, next time.

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Achievements

I had a very enjoyable break in Uttoxeter a couple of weekends ago.  It hardly seems possible that a year had passed since that book was launched.  It was good to renew contact with some old friends on and off the course.  I remember the book-signing day there last December, when most of the copies I was asked to sign had already been purchased by the annual members.  On this recent trip I was very pleased that the first member of staff I met on the racecourse had a colleague with her who was carrying a copy of the book, which is proving useful for the behind-the-scenes tours on which racegoers can enlist.

While there I was asked to sign more copies to top up their stock.  They’re not resting on their laurels, which is good as it’s the time of year when people buy more books.  Furthermore, I was reassured by David, the top man there, that he really does read this blog.  In response I signed up with Twitter in order to Follow him and congratulate him on his ten years in charge there.  Nowadays ten years in any senior job is a real achievement.

It’s easy to follow someone on Twitter, but quite what I can usefully lead on is another matter.  I’ve never taken the plunge and invested in a smart phone, so I can only tweet from the laptop at home.

I’ve finished the ad hoc work I mentioned last time, a series of articles about the Top 10 Welsh Grand National winners.  I drew a great deal from a book about the race’s history by the south Wales journalist-author-historian Brian Lee.  He’s written around 25 books – that’s some achievement too – mostly about Cardiff or racing, and still turns out regular newspaper columns at the age of 80.  His most recent publication Racing Rogues has a subtitle “The Scams, Scandals and Gambles of Horse Racing in Wales” which explains it perfectly!  Read more about it at http://www.gwales.com/goto/biblio/en/9781902719313/?session_timeout=1

My backlog of handwritten Bromley notes has been typed up, and though I’d like to complete my scrutiny of one particular source of material before putting that course on the back burner, it would require about 10-12 hours of work when I should be concentrating on Salisbury research.  Can I do both for a while?  I have started on the latter, and I expect the pace to pick up in the next few weeks.

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My second book review, about a very different and much shorter publication, needed quite a bit of time to be spent on it arising from queries on my first draft raised by the books editor. I hope it’ll appear in next Sunday’s Racing Post.

I’ve also been composing a review of The Blood Is Racing, mentioned here six weeks ago. The only place it might appear is here, but as the author has asked me to write it, I will discuss it with him first.

I’ve spent some time on Bromley finding maps of the district around the racecourse before and after its existence. Will these help me to establish its location?  I speak only of the principal course, which lasted only fifteen years, not long enough to catch the eye of map makers.

I was at Newbury last week, where two book signings were advertised. One for me, after the third race, attracted rather less attention than the second one, which was Jilly Cooper signing dozens of copies of her new hardback Mount!  Hopes I had of us sitting together and swapping one of hers for one of mine were dashed.  It’s good that it will have increased awareness of my books, for all of them were on display and I chatted to quite a few people about them.  Buyers, however, were elusive.

I looked in on Bath racecourse about ten days ago, and my goodness it has changed since I was last there in July 2015.  The plush new stands look top-notch inside and out, although to enjoy all of them – and I’m thinking of the new Roof Garden – racegoers do have to pay a premium.  It was great to meet the staff there, even more so as they gave me an impromptu guided tour and were complimentary about the book.  I was pleased to see they had used it to give names to various parts of the new facilities and are keen to play up the heritage aspect.

 

 

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