Monday 26 September 2011

Do literary agents have to be so rude?

A series of children’s books finished, 2 months of editing completed, the time has come to submit a few manuscripts to an agent or two. I picked up one from the Writers & Artists Yearbook whom seemed ideal for the novel I was wishing to get published. They had a good list of authors and plenty of experience. I studied their website and looked at a lot of their published work.
Please phone before you submit any work, so we can discuss it, said her website. Best time between 9-10am or late afternoon.
I phoned at 9.30, Monday morning. Deep breath....ring, ring...
A disinterested voice answered.
Author: Can I speak to ***?
Agent: Speaking!
Author: Your website says you are looking for authors from a certain area, I live in that area and have written a few good stories.
Agent: What is your book about?
Author: It’s a series about animals….
Agent: (interrupting) There is a downturn in the global is hard to sell this kind of story.  And don’t bother to send it to us if you have sent it to lots of other agents. Everyone does that, sends it to London agents first and when they get rejected they send it to us. We have a huge pile.
Author: It would fit in with your series of books about ab-xyz.
Agent: We can’t sell them in UK, only Scandinavia.
Author: What? Well how about this boy’s adventure story, it is set in a town near you, in your required area.
Agent: I am not sure, you would need to ask my daughter.
Author: Oh, is she there?
Agent: No.
Author: Oh, well the book is about a boy growing up in World War 2 and is getting great reviews.
Agent: We don’t want anything old, we are a modern agency..
Author: (shocked) Pardon?
Agent: Can I give you some advice, never phone agents before 10am, we work long hours and don’t get to work before ten.
Author (shocked again): That is the time it says on your website….?  
Agent: And don’t bother phoning this week as we (the poor agents) are off to Frankfurt book fair, everyone will be.
Author: Can I email you a submission of this book or not.
Agent: Well, you may have to wait 4 months for a reply…but don’t send it if you have sent it to any other agents…
Author: I don’t think I want someone as rude as you as an agent thank you…

I have to pose a question. Why is the publishing industry in trouble?

Monday 12 September 2011

Fake claims

   Grapes harvested, crops being sown, rugby season started, Xmas adverts on TV? Yep, the summer is officially over and it’s time to go and cut some firewood again. Wow, that soon came round, where did the year go? Fortunately this year, my neighbour has felled a lot of large oaks so, with the aid of one of our visitors, we have managed to gather a few tree trunks and cut them up into manageable sizes ready for our ever-hungry fireplace to gobble up. As you may have guessed, this year we have decided to winter in France.
   All this talk of winter does seem quite bizarre actually, because as I write it is 32 degrees and there are visitors in the swimming pool. We have had endless visitors this month and thankfully, for once, they have hit a warm spell. Our most honoured guest is my sister Sarah. For those of you who know her, Sarah is making good progress and, ably aided by her three daughters, her life is starting to gain some degree of normality again. I am sure 3 weeks in the sun will help too although sadly due to doctors orders, she is no longer allowed a glass of wine (when anybody is looking!).
   Meanwhile, Wendy and I are dusting off our supporters shirts ready for our trip down under at the end of the month. When I next write, it will be from 12,000 miles away on the bottom side of the planet, where we will be sampling some rugby and local cultures in New Zealand. For those of you who may follow the Rugby World Cup, England have to play Scotland in week three, both of whom need to win if they are to proceed to the next round. And that, as always, brings a divide in our household which this year will spread to the terraces in Auckland when my better half will be donning her kilt and Jimmy-hat, shouting for the other side. Methinks a draw would be the most peaceful result and would save a bit of sulking!
    We now have a new member in the household. I only briefly mentioned to Wendy a few weeks ago that we had a mouse problem in our pool-house. The blasted little creatures had eaten holes in the pool-floats and our fat lazy black and white feline, which sleeps all day on a garden chair, seemed pretty uninterested in doing anything about it. Perhaps she needed help, or possibly replacing with a thinner one? How about this for coincidence…within two days, some enthusiastic barking could be heard from the other side of the garden where Louis (the Pointless Pointer) was pointing to something hiding in the wood pile. It turned out to be none other that a 5 week old kitten, which had arrived from who-knows-where, possibly looking for a home. So impressed was I with his perfect timing that young Spike is now living in the pool-house and hopefully, quite soon, the mice no longer will be. Anyone got a home fat lazy B&W cat?
   While we are giving away animals, we still have our neighbour’s ram in occupancy, which we don’t want. The burly brute is not content with regularly beating up our own ram and has now turned on us. A few days ago I was alarmed by screaming coming from down the field of the female variety. I bounded down to investigate, just in time to see Wendy fending off the damn thing like some sort of toreador as it repeatedly charged at her with its head down. Fortunately, I made it just in time to defend my maiden with a large bass-broom and gallantly saved the day. It seems that the sheep was just protesting because he hadn’t been getting enough bread to eat, poor thing. I know one thing, if he tries that stunt on me he will be in sausages faster than you can say ‘rosemary and garlic’!
   This week I have witnessed some of our visitors getting that good old-fashioned holiday by-product, a suntan! You remember that? The moment when your skin tingles a wee bit while you eat your evening meal amongst the mosquitoes? Can’t beat it. But it seems that now the entire western world no longer requires the sun to achieve this effect, choosing instead to spray themselves with evil brown chemicals and then stay indoors. Not only that, but this fake tan is an all-year-round thing. It appears that white people no longer wish to remain white in the same way the late Michael Jackson no longer wished to remain his own natural colour. Maybe it is because we live in a hotter climate, but I really find this most bizarre. British women (along with their larger American cousins) spend £340m per year on getting a fake tan so that they can look like Kate Middleton (or in the American’s case, Oprah Winfrey). Why don’t they just go on holiday or at least go outside? It would be much cheaper, more relaxing and far more natural. And now we read that the latest fashion is to fake-tan your children from the age of four? How ludicrous is that? When I was four, I was brown because I played outside in the muddy garden! Maybe this new vogue is just created by those jealous women who can’t afford to buy an African baby on e-bay like Madonna or Angelina (the lips) Jolie? It is definitely wrong and should be outlawed!
   Another growing culture that annoys me, which I am afraid to say yet again stems from America, is those dreadful adverts on TV that ask you if you have had an accident lately. Because it seems that there is no longer any such thing as an accident? Cut your finger, blame the knife manufacturer. Fall down drunk? Blame the drinks company. Run out of money? Blame the government. It is criminal! Walking down Broad Street in Birmingham last year, I was approached by a spotty youth with a clip-board, asking me if I had been in hospital lately. I said, “yes thanks, I was visiting someone”.
   He said: “No, I mean have you (taps his nose knowingly) been in hospital, you know, like hurt yourself or somefing? Because if so, you could make a claim!”
   “Against whom?” I asked.
   “Always someone to blame,” he says cheerfully.
   “Would I be to blame if you were to go to hospital?” I ask him, raising my fist. He then threatened to call the police and said I was harassing him! Apparently, he has rights, but I don’t. Maybe I should put in a claim for him wasting my time?
   Ladies and Gentlemen, my revelation to you for this month is as follows: Accidents happen, get on with life!