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Event Tradecraft – Jupiteer

The day was Thursday, the time was roughly 7:30 p.m., and the Iceberg team was in the final packing stages for Polaris 21. We were also waiting for a special courier delivery of two new Defense Command books –– The Gallant Few and The Jupiter Patrol –– scheduled to be released at that event. The printer, who we’d worked with only once before, was late, but we had our contingency plans. If the books didn’t arrive that evening as promised, one of the vehicles heading to Toronto the next day would take a detour to the printer to pick them up. The other would head to the venue and start setting up for the 5:00 p.m. start time. No problem.

Contingency plans are vital when you’re prepping for events, but as it turned out, we didn’t need to execute the ones we’d come up with –– the books arrived.

I was on book-packing duty (you’re gaining some important insights into the glamorous life of a small, independent… or enterprise, as we’ve been called… publisher). This meant I was sitting on the floor in the middle of our ‘circle of chairs’ room surrounded by boxes and duffles. I had packed the required number of Gallant Fews into their travel boxes, gotten up to stretch my legs for a couple of minutes, and returned to the floor and The Jupiter Patrol.

When we pack books into their travel boxes, they’re placed with the spine facing upwards. That way, when we have to open the boxes during an event to restock, it’s very easy to locate the books needed. I had just placed eight TJPs into the first box and was about to close it. Then I read their spines. I can’t say for sure my eyes opened to twice their normal size, but it sure felt that way. I uttered a couple of words I refuse to repeat here but which I think you might be able to imagine. And then I yelled for Kenneth, who was on another floor occupied with some other pre-event organization tasks.

Because the spine I was staring at didn’t say The Jupiter Patrol; it said The Jupiteer Patrol. Two ee’s, not one.  Holy beep. How did every set of eyes that had proofed that cover miss the extra ‘e’!? How did every single person and proofreader who had checked the cover miss something so obvious!?

I’m not sure I should admit this, but as I sat there on the floor, with my son standing next to me, we both started to laugh. That kind of deep, uncontrollable laugh that wipes away any tension and sends tears down your cheeks. You know that saying, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry? I think that might have had something to do with the spontaneous outburst, but whatever the reason, it served an important purpose. When we got ourselves under control, we were ready to tackle what was obviously a problem.

You see, the people who love Defense Command really love Defense Command, and while you might think the solution would simply have been to sell just one new book at the Con and release the second one later, we knew there would be a line-up of customers expecting both installments. We didn’t want to disappoint.

Whoops indeed…

But could we sell a book with a pretty obvious typo on the spine?

Yes, if we pointed out the problem and they still wanted to buy them. But only at this one Con, because we’d be back on press the following week with a corrected file.

Our new contingency plan ready to execute, we got back to work. I finished the packing while photos were taken and new signage created.

As it turned out, we had a great many delightful conversations that weekend with people who were more than happy to pick up The Jupiteer Patrol. The general consensus was it was a collector’s item… a show-only special… not quite one-of-a-kind, but close.

The event tradecraft lesson in this story, of course, lies in the importance of planning for every eventuality. Chances are you’re not going to have to use those pre-arranged plans. In fact, the odds are you’ll face something entirely unexpected, and need to come up with new ones. The example I’ve shared is obviously on the extreme side, but the one constant with events is that there will always be problems to solve, some small, some big. It’s vital to be flexible, creative, and have a clear head (even if you have to laugh yourself silly to get one).

There is an upside to this story (apart from the new systems put in place around cover proofs). It gave Ken Barron, the narrator of the Defense Command series, the leverage he finally needed to convince his rather stingy publishers to include his long-requested map in the next book, The Sinope Affair.

I have it on good authority they were going to do that anyway, but he doesn’t need to know that.