Choosing Sponsors

With less than a year to go before we all arrive en fabulous masse in Southampton, we thought you might appreciate some insight into how we pick our sponsors.

The most important thing about the relationship between UK Meet and its sponsors is that it should be beneficial to both parties, as well as to our delegates as a whole.

Our sponsors tend to be from the LGBTQ book world, simply because it’s easiest to see how publishers, bloggers, cover artists etc. in our corner of the fiction market can benefit from the publicity UK Meet sponsorship brings them. Increasingly, we’re counting individual authors among our generous sponsors too.

We have several tiers of sponsorship on offer, and the top two – Gold and Platinum – bring with them the opportunity to have a book/display table throughout the Meet, rather than just during the Book Fair. This increases visibility and allows more time for interacting with interested delegates.

The benefits of sponsorship to UK Meet are obvious: sponsorship money allows us to provide entertainment and other benefits to our delegates that wouldn’t be covered by the ticket price alone.

Do we ever decline sponsorship? Yes. We want the Meet to be a safe space for all our delegates, which means not accepting sponsorship from individuals or organisations whose position in our genre is currently controversial.

In the past we’ve made the decision to politely return money where we felt public association with the sponsor would not be in UK Meet’s best interests at that time.

If you’re interested in sponsoring UK Meet 2020, please get in touch with Jamie Merrow on jl.merrow@gmail.com. And thank you for supporting our Meet!

Being a Newbie at The Meet

It’s crazy to think the world has spun an entire revolution around the sun, and then some, since UK Meet 2018.

Before we know it, September will be back again and hundreds of us will be descending on the Grand Harbour in Southampton for a glorious weekend of all things GLBTQ fiction.

Last year, committee member Jack Ladd was a total newbie. He didn’t know what to expect, had only spoken to a handful of people via email and, as he pulled up to the hotel solo, anxiety began to swell.

It didn’t last. Ladd says the weekend flew by in a haze of laughter, learning and entertainment, not to mention invaluable insight, expert advice and hugs galore from new friends young and old.

So, to ensure you have as much fun as he did, we’ve put together a little list of hints and tips so you too can make the most of your first Meet.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Friends

Clare London used to go to anime/cosplay conventions, and it was 4 YEARS before she plucked up enough courage to ask one dear friend what her REAL name was. She’d been calling her by her pen name, Badmomma, all that time (they had a good laugh about it at the time and since).

The fact that you’re at the Meet is the first, biggest, and best step, and, don’t forget, EVERYONE is nervous of meeting new people, however confident they may appear. We’re all on the same page, so be encouraged to smile and offer your name, and you may make some true friends from the occasion.

Come Prepared

Charlie says join the delegates FB group (but please don’t request to join until we’ve confirmed your ticket) or volunteer for the registration desk or bag filling. These are all fantastic ways to break the ice and get to know your fellow delegates. And, Jack adds, if you’re passionate about a particular topic, consider putting yourself down for panels.

This might be daunting at first, but it’s a great way to meet your fellow speakers (over a cheeky drink pre or during the event, perhaps?) not to mention the bond you’ll share after speaking in front of a whole room of inquisitive minds.

Public speaking not for you? Instead of speaking in a panel, be sure to catch one. That way you’ll find yourself in a room of like-minded people with plenty to talk about over the weekend.

Join In

If you can, definitely opt for the Saturday night Rainbow Dinner and Friday social event, and try to arrive early enough on the Friday so you can register, grab a drink and mingle. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to make new friends, see the local sights and, the next night, don your glad rags for a fabulous evening of entertainment, delicious food and dancing.

Wind Down

One important, often overlooked aspect is ensuring you take a break if needed. Don’t feel like you must to be on your A-game 24/7.

There’s nothing wrong with bowing out for an hour or two to enjoy the facilities, explore Southampton alone, or simply have a much-deserved nap. We all need a little me-time now and then, and where better than a lovely hotel?

Be Yourself

And most importantly, be yourself.

The UK Meet is all about celebrating GLBTQ fiction and everyone who reads, writes, lives and loves it. Diversity, respect, tolerance and kindness are the Meet’s foundations and we pride ourselves in creating a safe-space for anyone who wants to join the family.

UK Meet 2020 Ticketing: Please Read this Very Carefully!

Happy September, everyone.

This post explains everything ticket-wise for UK Meet, including how we’ll be administering the priority booking period in order to ensure that only newsletter subscribers can access this service during that time.

When is the priority booking slot?

From October 7th October 13th 2019 You will only be able to access priority booking with a unique access code.  

How do I get a code?

We’ll send out a ‘Thunderbirds are go’ e-mail to newsletter subscribers on October 7th, time TBC. Reply to that e-mail and you’ll be sent your unique access code.

There is no other way to get a code and there will be only one code per subscriber e-mail address (apart from in exceptional circumstances – see below*). You cannot begin registration without this code.

Please note: Places are limited as in previous years, and Unique Codes will be offered to mailing list RESPONDERS in the first instance. In other words, even if you’re on the mailing list, you MUST RESPOND to our priority booking email ASAP to request a place. You’re not guaranteed a place just by being on the mailing list.

What do I do when I get my code?

Go to the UK Meet website and register, entering your user code in the relevant box. You have up to a week to use your code, so you don’t need to rush. Once you’ve registered and paid you will have secured your place. You MUST pay at least the deposit to guarantee the place (deposit is £50 and non-refundable).

Can I book a place for my friend at the same time?

We’re afraid not. You can only book one place per code, and that place has to be for the person given the code. If you have friends who want to use priority booking, they have from now until October 6th in which to sign up for the newsletter, which they can do by going to our website: https://ukglbtfictionmeet.co.uk/ and clicking on the sign-up link.

What happens if I haven’t used my code by the end of the priority period?

It will expire, and you’ll have to go through the open booking process. This will also happen if you haven’t paid at least the deposit by the end of the priority period.

When do you anticipate that tickets will sell out?

We can’t predict whether that will be during the priority period or much later. Whenever it happens we’ll shut booking and set up a waiting list. This system worked very well in previous years and we were able to offer tickets to all people who still wanted them even if that was close to the event itself.

When does open access start?

October 13th. In past years there have been no places left by that point and the waiting list has been operational. If there are places this year, we’ll still use an access code system – information will be on the booking page of the website.

What will happen if people try to buck the system?

UK Meet peeps are generally good eggs so we expect them to behave themselves. However, we have put a series of safeguards into place to guard against anybody abusing the process, for example by giving their code to somebody else. Any misuse of the system will result in the booking being invalidated. 

Is there an early bird discount this year?

There sure is. Early Bird discount runs to 29th February 2020 @ £120 (General ticket) / £145 (Spotlight ticket). Tickets must be paid in full by this date to qualify. Then ticket prices go to £140 (G) / £165 (S).

All details about the tickets, what’s included and other terms and conditions are on the website under 2020 Event Details/Ticketing (or simply click here).

What’s the absolute final deadline for payment?

All balances must be paid by 30th June 2020. At that date, if you haven’t paid, your place will be allocated by us to the next person in line.

*Exceptional circumstances:  to be agreed with the Team in advance. Please email Charlie if you think you qualify e.g. you have a dedicated carer. If you’ve already notified us of this we’ll have you on record.

Ticketing The Meet

UK Meet started as a dozen authors in a room, from which it grew to the event we now know.

In the early days, when the organisers met to plan, we’d ask, “What do we do if we get over subscribed for tickets?” At that, we’d chortle in our Brit way and reckon it would be a nice problem to have. Only when the problem reared its head, we discovered it isn’t nice. We needed a plan, and in true UK Meet fashion, we started with a strategy.

What we wanted was a system which:

  • Was fair to everyone, not favouring any groups or individuals.
  • Gave some priority to people who’d attended or expressed an interest in UK Meet, without making it a closed shop.
  • Was easy and cost effective to administer.
  • Gave us control (we’re all a bit Sheldon Cooper).

What we didn’t want was:

  • Assigning quotas that restricted the numbers of types of delegate.
  • People being able to cheat or manipulate the system.
  • That annoying situation where you’re halfway through buying a ticket and the site crashes, leaving you with no idea whether you’ve been successful or not.

So we decided:

  • Everything would be handled chronologically, first come first served, whether that was initial ticket sales or administering the waiting list.
  • We’d use an access code system – people would need a code (allocated by us) to be able to buy a ticket but would have plenty of time to use said code, so avoiding website overload.
  • Ticket sales would initially be limited exclusively to our newsletter mailing list before going on general sale. We’d manage this by getting people to reply to a specific ‘Thunderbirds Are GO!’ email.
  • We’d administer all the process personally, which might be a lot of work, but would give us ultimate control and make it easier to troubleshoot.

This system works for us, so we’ll be using it again this year – full details of timings and administration will go out to the mailing list (and be on our blog) in September, for sales to start in October.

A few things we’d be ever so grateful if you’d note for when ticket sales start:

  • There are more people on the mailing list than we have spaces for delegates. While ‘mailing listers’ get priority, we can’t guarantee them all a place.
  • We may be superstars, but we haven’t got superpowers (believe it or not). Please don’t take to social media panicking 10 minutes after codes become available at 12 noon because you’ve hit ‘reply’ to the email at 5 seconds after 12 and you still haven’t heard back. Last time we got 80 replies within the first few minutes (being added to all the time), so just imagine how long it takes to process them all properly and keep a proper and accountable audit trail.

And remember, if you don’t manage to get a ticket immediately, don’t despair. We maintain a waiting list on the same first-come-first-served basis and in past years, all those on the list have been able to get a ticket eventually – if at the last moment – as others find their plans change.

Self-Publishing Tips and Tricks

Most of us know that all it takes these days to learn, well, almost anything is a Google search and a tenacious ‘tude. Getting to grips with self-publishing can be no different.

So, instead of reinventing the wheel or regurgitating the same how-tos topping search rankings, we’ve decided to highlight a few quick and easy tips we think really work. Or at least have worked for us!

If you’re brand new to self-publishing, before reading on, we suggest you take a look at a more comprehensive guide like this or this, for example.

Clare London says:

Find a friend who’s already been there, who can advise and reassure you during the first steps.

Keep a watch on titles being published in your genre so you can mirror the cover style / the keywords used on Amazon / the blurb and strapline style. That way you can be seen where they’re being seen!

Be prepared to keep on top of your release, after the first few heady days. Diarise places to post about it, to join in network events, to bring it periodically back to people’s notice.

Subscribe to a couple of self-publishing newsletters like the Alliance of Independent Authors who offer general advice and updates on the industry out there. You don’t necessarily have to subscribe to be a member, the advice is often freely shared.

JL Merrow on formatting:

I always recommend Jutoh as a formatting program. It cost me $20 when I bought it, and it makes life so much easier than trying to struggle with Smashwords’ meatgrinder.

Conversion results are much more reliable than Calibre, which is great for managing your ebook library and converting, say, mobi to epub, but not ideal for creating ebooks from Word docs. Jutoh has an excellent tutorial video on YouTube and you can get up and running with the program very quickly.

Charlie Cochrane adds:

I use a pal who has all the gear (and knowledge) to convert things. They get the books for free in return and my undying gratitude.

Jack Ladd on promotion:

A lot of the lists tell you to get a social media presence and promote yourself. That’s all well and good but how can you stand out from the umpteen other authors vying for attention? For me, I looked to the past. To be exact, Charles Dickens’ serialisation, Pickwick Papers.

Released over instalments, Dickens had readers hooked, eagerly waiting the next instalment of his tale. Simply put, I did the same: as I write my full-length novels, a few days a month I write a chapter of a prequel to my work in progress. I then quickly edit and publish this on my website, promoting it via my author Facebook page.

While it may be extra work, and I am no Charles Dickens, it’s a great way to keep readers engaged, drive visitors to my site and get my name out there among the throng.

Summer Reads

Though the sun certainly isn’t shining every day, there’s no denying Britain is finally heating up for another year.

So, to mark this glorious occasion of good friends, barbecues and even better books, some of the UK Meet team have shared what a summer read means to them.

CC author pic

Charlie

What does a summer read mean to you?

I always have two books on any holiday. One that’s non-fiction so I’m learning something (especially if it’s relevant to where we’re visiting). The other is always a murder mystery – nothing too taxing to read and something with a good chance of me working out whodunnit. I want entertainment and not anything that leaves me unsatisfied. I can still recall the frustration I felt at reaching the incomprehensible denouement of a much-lauded mystery book on my 2009 holiday!

What is your favourite, classic summer tale?

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. Still funny 100+ years after it was written and a story full of sunshine and friendship. It also includes the immortal line, “I never saw two men do more with one-and-twopence worth of butter in my whole life than they did.”

Why does it speak to you?

The self-deprecating British humour. The depiction of turn of the century life. The deep friendship between the three men. I know it’s influenced my writing hugely.

Have you ever written a summer story? If so, what was your inspiration? If not, would you?

I’ve written several set in summer. Tumble Turn (which is about to be reissued) was inspired by the London 2012 Paralympics. What an amazing year of sport that was. On a similar note, Lessons in Trust, which is book seven in the Cambridge Fellows mysteries series, was inspired by the 1908 London Olympics and the Franco-British exhibition that preceded them. Oh for a time machine to be able to go back and enjoy that!

And finally, if you could go on a dream summer holiday anywhere in the known or imagined universe, where would you go and why?

I’d make an amalgamation of all my favourite holiday bits, either previous or planned. The house we rented at Cohasset in 2006, with the same beachside location, but transported to the island of Jersey (so we can benefit from the restaurants and food markets). And to be able to get there by cruise ship from Southampton – via a tour of the British Isles. Would that work?

 

squiffy_Jamie

Jamie

What does a summer read mean to you?

For me, a summer read is a light, relaxing read, something you don’t have to concentrate too hard on. It can be thought-provoking, but ideally not outrage-provoking. It’s the difference between a chat with friends, and a political debate. I’m not one for lying on the beach in the summer—the sun and I are not best buddies—and I prefer to do and see stuff when I’m on holiday, so my summer reads are definitely for relaxing.

What is your favourite, classic summer tale?

I love old-fashioned tales, such as Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries. Many are set in exotic locations, a lot of them based around Christie’s own experience of archaeological digs, and they have a wonderful atmosphere.

Why do they speak to you?

I’ve never been to Egypt, or Mesopotamia, or many of Christie’s other locations, and like the rest of the world, these places have changed in any case since her day. I love the feeling of being a virtual tourist not only in space, but also in time, looking back to an age that was in some ways more relaxed—at least, for those with the money to travel!

Have you ever written a summer story? If so, what was your inspiration? If not, would you?

I’m writing one right now! It’s set on the Isle of Wight where I grew up, and was inspired by a visit to the alpaca farm. It’s called Alpaca My Bags (I’m so sorry.)

And finally, if you could go on a dream summer holiday anywhere in the known or imagined universe, where would you go and why?

That’s a tough one—there are so many places I’d love to go, but I just can’t take the heat. On a recent summer visit to Italy, I was a small, localised waterfall. Then again, if it’s a dream, I can control the weather, right? I’d love to visit the pyramids in Egypt, and Petra in Jordan, just as long as someone can arrange for the temperature to hover around the low twenties (that’s around the low seventies in old money) 😉

 

sheep

Elin

What does a summer read mean to you?

I read the same sort of books all year round, mostly as they crop up in my TBR pile. But back when I used to do holidays I used to take a crate load of books for us all to read. There might be a couple of new ones but generally I’d visit charity shops and get a bunch of second-hand thrillers/military history/sci-fi and maybe a few romances if my mother was coming with us.

What is your favourite, classic summer tale?

Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson. I’m not sure it would stand up to a re-read, but over the course of a couple of weeks in France, the whole family read it and were blown away by it.

Why does it speak to you?

Sci-fi thriller with a slightly super-human mary-sueish hero and an improbable plot, no deep consideration required. Just the thing to read in the shade.

Have you ever written a summer story? If so, what was your inspiration? If not, would you?

Not deliberately. I suppose the closest is Alike As Two Bees which has a beach in it and is suitably sun-drenched. If I recall correctly it was inspired by a trip to Poppit Sands in west Wales and watching people from a local racing stable exercising horses on the sand and in and out of the sea. OK on Poppit that day it was cold AF and blowing a gale but sensory data was superb. I just thought “Ya know what would make this even better? Sunshine and gratuitous nudity. No, not gratuitous – nudity that is inconsequential because the culture doesn’t care about it. Ancient Greece might do.” And bingo.

Would I write a summer story? I’d have to be sure what one had to include first.

And finally, if you could go on a dream summer holiday anywhere in the known or imagined universe, where would you go and why?

If it was a ‘reality no object, absolute safety assured’ scenario, then I’d like to see the seven wonders of the ancient world and/or Hobbiton. But realistically I’m more likely to stay at home with my library and do my travelling on page.

 

JackLaddUKMeet

Jack

What does a summer read mean to you?

Simplicity. Not the content, per se, but more style. For example, the last book I read on holiday was Confessions of a Sociopath by M. E. Thomas, which, on the surface, seemed a little meaty for a no-stress read. But Thomas’ writing style kept me hooked even during the more science-y, intellectual bits. Basically, if I don’t throw the book down in a sweaty huff because I can’t follow, it’s a winner.

What is your favourite, classic summer tale?

Maybe some people wouldn’t classify this as a summer read, but Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City always reminds me of summer.

Why does it speak to you?

So many reasons: masterful comedy, colourful San Fran settings and even more vibrant characters like Mouse and Anna Madrigal. But, most importantly, the summer I had my first kiss with another boy, was the summer I first discovered Maupin.

Have you ever written a summer story? If so, what was your inspiration? If not, would you?

Not intentionally, but I’ve had a few reviews of my debut fiction novel (inspired by the five years I lived in Sydney), Oscar Down Under: Part One, mention how it makes for good summer reading. The second in the series, Part Two, is actually set in Australian summer, but it’s Christmas for Oscar so does that even count? 😉

And finally, if you could go on a dream summer holiday anywhere in the known or imagined universe, where would you go and why?

Such a tough question – there are so many places in the real world I haven’t been, let alone the fictional universe. But, if I had to narrow it down, I want to tick off the great wonders of this world before exploring the others.

Money Money Money

So what’s the behind-the-scenes magic about the UK Meet money?

Like all of you, we’re interested in value for money. We know everyone has a million demands tugging at every pound/dollar we earn (or it feels like it!). The aim of the UK Meet Team is for us to have a great time, with everything available to all, without breaking the bank.

We’ve never sought to make a profit, though it’s not always easy to juggle things so the receipts and payments match up exactly. But, overall, at the end of the day? We’ve had a few years’ practice, and they usually do.

The only leeway we allow ourselves is to leave enough in the bank to pay the early deposit on the following event’s venue, as this is billed to us before we even start selling tickets.

Our general strategy goes like this!

  • The attendee fees pay for all the meeting room facilities, and the daily refreshments including lunch.
  • The Saturday dinner, and any Friday entertainment we arrange, is funded separately, and has to cover its own cost. That’s why we offer separate tickets, and make these events entirely optional.
  • The money from sponsors covers the other running costs of the Meet.

Yes, it’s not just the free-flowing coffee and those free pads, pens, and mints! We have to cover a lot of other housekeeping things.

  • The PayPal fees we are charged on all receipts.
  • Event insurance, as extra security in case anything goes wrong on the day.
  • Printed programmes.
  • Site visit expenses, when we’re exploring potential venues for the next event.
  • Planning meeting(s) expenses. Team members are scattered miles apart, and even though we deal with a lot of the organisation through email, there’s no substitute for getting together occasionally and thrashing out the details (ouch!).
  • The souvenir memory sticks that authors and publishers so kindly contribute to.
  • The AV equipment and displays – hotels will usually only offer the basic and we like to have our own arrangements to rely on.
  • The branded and different coloured lanyards / badges / ID cards.
  • Website registration (the minimum, as daily maintenance and updating is done by us).

Some of our treasured sponsors also fund specific items like the goody bags, the branded lanyards, and programme printing costs.

Then, once tickets go on sale, Charlie and I keep a monstrous spreadsheet of the tickets that are allocated and to whom, and I match up the money when it arrives in PayPal.

(If I say that quickly enough, it sounds like a complete breeze LOL).

This system for attendee payments works well enough for us, and at the moment we don’t envisage automating things any further. We like the personal touch of staying in contact with attendees as and when their payments arrive, and being on hand for any queries. We’ve kept the attendance at a similar level over several years, partly because we know what we can deal with efficiently and comfortably.

And like I said at the beginning – then we can all have a great time at the event itself!

Clare London, May 2019