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  • Richard Haywood

The Undead went to London and it was your fault….

I blame you. All of you. None of this is my fault and all of you are entirely to blame so go and sit on the naughty step and just think about what you did…go on…off you go….don’t look at me like that, on the naughty step with you to consider your actions. Really. I mean really! You knew what would happen if you all made those suggestions. I only asked for some advice about what magazine to use to do an advert, and it went wrong from there. Poor Brimmers, I don’t think she’ll ever quite recover. So a couple of weeks ago I posted (innocently) on Facebook to get some suggestions for magazine adverts. The responses were fantastic and now, two or three weeks later (not entirely sure as time seems to have ceased to exist) I am roughly, approximately, possibly….about…somewhere between 6 and 7 thousand pounds worse off. You see, what started as a mild idea soon escalated, increased, grew in size, became a monster within its own right that demanded to be fed and given attention. It became bigger than Cloverfield, grander than Godzilla, greater than er…um…the great Gatsby? Bugger, that one didn’t quite work did it? My intention was to push for a literary agent with a view to getting a mainstream publishing deal and getting The Undead onto bookshelves. Before I did that, I asked the readers what you thought, knowing that readers are by and large, discerning, honest and not afraid to speak the truth. The overwhelming response was yes, you did think it was worthy. I was stunned by the response, truly awestruck and I cannot ever thank you enough for how strongly you responded. Messages on this site, FB messages, Tweets, emails, messages tied to the legs of pigeons, in bottles bobbing across the Atlantic, a plane overhead trailing a big banner. Well okay, not quite that but bugger me backwards it was good, uber awesome good. Somebody (no names mentioned but get back on that step) suggested I use SFX magazine to place an advert and I had one of those moments when you slap your own forehead (a little too hard in my case) and a lightbulb blinked on as I thought why the shitting hell didn’t I think of that! SFX were contacted and a half page advert was booked in their July issue (out on 21st) and a full page booked for their summer bumper annual (also out on the 21st). I was happy with that. It cost a lot but the potential reach was worth it. Then Adrian (the advertising man from SFX) called me while I was annoying Brimmers and Dan at the cafe to tell me Paramount Pictures had pulled out of having the back cover (as they wanted a double page spread for Star Trek) and did I want it. Normally it would cost five hundred million pounds, a kidney and the promise of my firstborn. However, I got it a way lower price and was able to keep my kidneys. So by this stage, all is calm and we’ve booked two full page adverts with SFX magazine. Then I got to thinking about literary agents. They’re all in London right? So I need some sort of clever adverts being placed in London. But London is a huge sprawling massive place filled with raging cabbie drivers and people with fruit stalls stabbing you unless you buy their apples. Ah I thought, I need a clever marketing strategy (which I’d heard about while watching The Dragons Den). “Hello, I want to advertise on the London Underground.” (That’s me phoning the London underground adverts people) “What company are you from?” “I’m not from a company, I wrote a…” “I said what company are you from?” “I’m not, I wrote a book and want to advertise it.” “Which publishers are you?” “I’m not, I wrote it myself.” “…pardon?” “Er…I write a series of books which sell on Amazon and I want to advertise them on the London Underground but like, you see I was thinking of targeting the stations that the literary agents use and…” “…Sorry, I spat my coffee laughing at you…what did you say?” “I said…” “No, I heard you…right have you got ten thousand pounds?” “What! No, nobody has ten thousand pounds, that’s more money than actually exists in the whole of the world…” “Then piss off because an effective marketing strategy with the London Underground starts with ten thousand pounds…unless you want to be a cheapskate and buy two small one inch posters that will be stuck on the underside of the toilet doors?” “Oh, right I see…um…well I was thinking….hello? Are you still there?” She hung up laughing at me. But, I’m a relentless bugger at the best of times and there’s more than one company that advertises on the Underground network. I went through a few of them, who also laughed, spluttered, coughed, unashamedly took the piss and slammed the phone down while shouting across their offices about “some wanker” who wants to do a couple of posters. Then I got through to Stuart from Media Agency Group. Now I’m not into stereotyping regarding regions of habitat. But Stuart was not from London. His company were not London based, but they did have the ability to advertise in London. Stuart listened, he took it in and he also laughed. But….he laughed with me instead of at me. He loved the idea and was on instantly on board. Between us we researched the common ground of the literary agents, worked out the best tube stations then accessed the advertising potential for each of them. It would cost a lot, a hell of a lot and far more than I had. Stuart did not give in though, he loved the idea and then suggested how about we look at billboard advertising on billboards situated near the agents offices. Another few days of Google maps and Google Earth searching and he came back with a bloody great big list of static billboards but the cost was again far too high and the there were too many risks. If it rained then the chances of one literary agent looking up at the billboard would be greatly diminished. Also, my home town has billboards and street advertising. I walk past them all the time but I couldn’t say what was on them because to me, they are just part of the background. Then he came up with the idea of a mobile billboard. He sent me a picture that a previous company used and suggested we could book it for three days and spend the time working through a set list of specific locations. Bloody fantastic idea! loved it. I got the artwork together and sent it across to their design team. They were also fantastic and helped out with getting the right resolution, file size, length, height and a million other techie facts that went flying over the top of my head. Stuart passed me over to Rachel who then guided me through the booking procedure, where we would meet, and helped with sorting locations out. I spoke to Brimmers and between us we came up with the idea of going up to London with some flyers and handing them out. That idea evolved into actually calling at the literary agents offices and handing them a flyer. Now this is a big no no. Every agent website has a big warning telling writers to stay away and not to attend in person. They get thousands of submissions each month and simply don’t want new writers hanging about on their doorsteps. Which is fair enough but sod that, let’s go to London and call at the literary agents offices in the biggest ever game of “knock and run” – except they’ll know it was us due to the bloody great big flyer we’re gonna stuff through their letterbox. Rules are good. Rules are important. Rules keep us from descending into a country of anarchy and lawlessness where only the biggest get what they want. But some rules can be bent a little and…if you are willing to accept the consequences of your actions, then sometimes you have to bend those rules. Never write in first person present tense unless you are doing a hard-boiled noir detective book. Um…really? Choose a perspective and stick to it. Do not intertwine perspectives, it will only confuse the reader. Nah, fuck that. Readers are clever so we’ll break that rule too. Keep it lean. Do not overwrite. Tell the story in the least amount of words possible or you will bore and confuse the reader. You really don’t like readers do you? Tolkein wrote long, King writes long. Fuck it, I want to write long and have lots and lots and lots of words on my pages. Your grammar must be perfect. Your English must be perfect. You must be perfect. Anything less than perfection will upset, bore and confuse the reader. What the hell did the reader ever do to you? Onto Vistaprint where I spent many a hour cursing, sweating and trying not to beat the screen into a pulp. Finally got the flyers all jacked up and ordered a thousand but Vistaprint said I could have an extra five hundred for free due to them being utter shitheads, which was nice of them. The plan thus far was for the mobile billboard to drive about while we posted flyers. Hmmm, seems okay…but then when did okay ever work? Okay is…well, it’s okay isn’t it. It’s not great but it’s okay. So then I met Oscar from Touchdown Promotions and again what a lovely man. He listened to the increasingly stupid ideas, laughed his socks off and said he was in. He arranged three actors, a professional make-up artist, costumes and everything. Then he told me how much it would cost. Politely, sheepishly, apologetically I said it was er…um…a bit too high and er…could he possibly bring it down a little? Bless him, he got it down by four hundred quid if I provided the costumes. Into the charity shops and after walking about in a daze for a bit, some nice old ladies took pity and listened with mirth while I told them my cunning master plan to have actors be made into office worker zombies in London. Twenty quid later and I had three bags of suits, blouses, skirts, shirts, ties and all manner of amazing things. Brimmers was up for it. The car was arranged. Flyers delivered and we even got some polo shirts made up with The Undead logo on them. Tuesday arrived and we duly travelled up from the south and into London, where surprisingly there were no fruit sellers trying to stab us for not buying their apples. We met with the van, agreed the list of addresses and started off. The van driver got lost within the first two minutes due to using the first ever issued Garmin Satnav that was still being powered by bloody gerbils running in a wheel. Road works, narrow roads, roads closed, people shouting, horns a honking, more people shouting, heat rising, can’t get to any of the offices and we moved maybe half a mile in the first hour. It wasn’t looking good. It was hot. Damn hot. Hotter than a hot thing on a hot day. We were flushed, sweating and starting to snarl. We finally got to the first literary agents office where we were due to post the flyer and then leg it. But then I thought we’ve come this far and maybe we could just say hello? All the offices were situated above shops and had intercoms set to the side of the door. We found the first, chatted and agreed to buzz and just see what happens. “Hello?” Came the tinny voice from the intercom. “Hi! My name is RR Haywood, I write a series on Amazon and we’re in London trying to promote the books. There is a big billboard parked up near your office and we’d love to give you a flyer” “FUCK OFF. FUCK OFF RIGHT NOW BEFORE I OPEN THE WINDOW AND SHIT ON YOUR FACE” “Okay, sorry to disturb you.” “Hello?” Came the tinny voice from the intercom. “Hi, we’re in London promoting a series we publish on Amazon, I’ve previously done submissions to you and…” “GET FUCKED YOU NASTY VERMIN BEFORE I OPEN THE WINDOW AND PISS ON YOUR HEAD” “Hello?” Came the tinny voice from the intercom. “Hi, I am so sorry to disturb you. I was hoping to pass a flyer to you which is a part of a promotional tour we are doing for a best-selling series we publish on Amazon….” “I’M GOING TO BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN AND SET FIRE TO YOUR FACE AND EAT YOUR PETS AND GENERALLY SAY NASTY THINGS IN A REALLY UNPLEASANT TONE OF VOICE. LEAVE LONDON RIGHT NOW BEFORE I TELL BENJI THE HITMAN TO KILL YOU” “Hello?” Came the tinny voice from the intercom. “Hi, I am so sorry to disturb you. I was hoping to pass a flyer to you which is a part of a promotional tour we are doing for a best-selling series we publish on Amazon….” “Does it have zombies in it? If it has zombies in it I will come down there and stab you through the heart with my red editing pen” “Hello?” Came the tinny voice from the intercom. “Hi, I am so sorry to disturb you. I was hoping to pass a flyer to you which is a part of a promotional tour we are doing for a best-selling series we publish on Amazon….” “Does your series involve one woman’s lifelong journey of discovery as she struggle to empathise with the femininity of the flower pot against the masculinity of the oil can?” “Er…no…it’s got zombies in it…” “I AM GOING TO HUNT YOU DOWN….” It wasn’t going well. It really wasn’t going well at all. By this time it was afternoon, we had been shouted at, sworn at, abused, patronised, insulted and generally told to piss off. It was staggeringly awful. Words cannot explain how stupid we both felt. That we had even considered doing all of these things just to try and get noticed by the mainstream publishing industry. The agents were not just rude, but fucking rude. We even talked about jacking it in and heading home and never, ever mentioning it again. We even decided that we wouldn’t even make reference to it in a blog or on FB in case an agent ever reads it and it upsets them by reading about how bloody rude, ignorant, condescending, abusive and arrogant they are which may result in being black-listed or something. But writing is truth and having the bollocks to tell the truth. This was a real experience we were having at the hands of the people who select and choose what you, the discerning and enlightened readers of the UK, get to see on your bookshelves. We trudged on. We still hadn’t seen the mobile billboard but constant phone calls assured us that the driver was deftly defending the artwork against a rioting mob of orcs as they tried to burn a witch. It did not get better. Until we called at David Godwin Associates literary agency. We pressed the buzzer with heavy fingers, red faces, feeling woeful, dejected, immature, hot, grimy and thinking we had the stupidest idea ever. But alas, the god’s decided they’d played with us enough. Eric the van driver came charging down the road, mounted the pavement, got out and beat the orcs to a pulp to get through and got the van outside their office. They answered. They laughed and cheered and invited us inside and said how wonderful it was that we were trying something new and different. They came outside and marvelled at the billboard and said how great it was. One of the lovely ladies posed for a picture with me handing her a flyer. It took them maybe two or three minutes from their lives but it lifted our spirits immeasurably and we set forth to keep going. We bloody set forth and the game was on to determine, that from all the literary agents in London, who was  polite and who who was downright bloody rude. I would love to name those that were the worst. Oh my god I would love to do. I would be sued, killed, hunted down and never published. There were some big names too, agents of very well known names that were hostile to the extreme. Frosty doesn’t cut it. Icy isn’t strong enough. I was staring at bookshelves of household names who earn millions from readers every year. I can’t even name those authors for fear of being kneecapped. DGA were lovely. MBA literary agency were fantastic. LBA agency staff were so polite and friendly. Hardman and Swainson were wonderful. Rob Dinsdale from Dinsdale Imber (AM Heath) (although we never actually got to meet) was also a breath of fresh air. Those and a few others stood out as being polite, understanding and thoroughly decent. They had heard of The Undead Series and applauded the efforts Brimmers and I were doing. So Tuesday passed and a very exhausted Brimmers and I travelled the long journey home. We were going to go back Wednesday but the cost was spiralling so we had no choice but to leave it to Eric the billboard van man to hold the fort and drive doggedly round London. Wednesday evening I popped over to the cafe to see Dan (who was making the zombie cupcakes and Brimmers who was staring daggers at me for putting her through hell the previous day. On the way to the cafe I got a rejection email from an agent. By this time, I had received a whole host of rejection emails from agents who had plucked from the slush piles and emailed. Rejections are par for the course and you can’t take them personally. It hurts but such is life. Move on and keep going, but this agent was one I so wanted to sign me and I had secretly crossed my fingers and toes for. He was very polite and lovely about the whole thing. On arriving at the cafe I got another email – this one from one of the lovely agents we had met the previous day. She loved the work, her assistant loved the work, she wanted to meet and discuss being signed!!! Two years, over a million words and we finally had an agent giving serious consideration. The feeling was incredible and Brimmers even stopped trying to throw heavy things at me for a few minutes for still not getting “the correct use of, commas and apostraphe’s’s” Thursday came. Armed with cupcakes and high energy we travelled back up to the city. We had arranged to meet “near” the National Theatre. However, somehow we managed to blag our way into the grounds “of” the National Theatre. God knows how that happened. A giant billboard, a make-up artist, actors, my blue van full of costumes, mentioning Covent Gardens and “getting ready for the tour” seemed to assert the fact we were meant to be there. Gangs of school-children were traipsing past us taking pictures while the lovely make-up woman from Touchdown Promotions got Mark, Emma and Emily into make-up. They took pictures and helped shout advice as we poured the fake blood. Security strolled by smiling and nodding at us. Some serious looking bloke even came out and got into conversation with Brimmers about how long we were going to be because the next lot were due to arrive shortly and they also needed to get ready for the tour. We still don’t know who the next lot were or what their tour was. Brimmers handled it deftly, nodded seriously, rubbed her chin in a big-Chris kind of way and bluffed her way through. Getting out was the hardest part. A security guard was at the mechanical bollards and started asking some difficult questions. I sort of mumbled about the actors were now ready and we had to get them into Covent Garden for the show. At which point he pretty much snapped to attention and got the bollards lowered. Just prior to leaving the National Theatre, the agent that had previously rejected me called my phone. I could hardly hear him due to the noise but I think he was saying that he had made a mistake and wanted to sign me, or at least he wanted to meet to discuss being signed. We were ecstatic. This was now two serious, mainstream, recognised proper agents taking us seriously. But the noise was too much, the stuff going on around me was too much, I couldn’t hear what he was saying and the zombies were ready to go before the make-up melted off them. Brimmers and I were cheering as we headed off. Three hours later and we had given out pretty much all of the 1500 flyers, fifty eight cupcakes (I did ask for sixty but two went missing, possibly eaten by Dan during a taste test) I thought sixty would last. They lasted less than five minutes. Luckily, we sort of took over M&S loading bay in Covent Garden and once again sort of assumed and asserted the proper right to be there, and we also emptied the shelves of cookie, shortbread fingers and raspberry shortcrumb creams. The reactions from people were brilliant. The actors worked their socks off. The make-up lady came along and had a ball. We hijacked one of those cycle rickshaw things and took the actors round. We didn’t get told off by parking attendants, nobody got shitty about having permits or licences, shop managers were coming out to smile and laugh and the feedback from the cupcake / cookie/ shortbread finger munching people walking through the area was lovely. Apart from one older refined looking lady who told one of the actors to fuck off in a screeching tone that would have had Cruella DeVille weeping. Another agent has since been in contact today saying she wants to talk about signing too and has arranged to talk next week. So here we are. I am knackered, broke but grinning from ear to ear. It looked like a monumentally stupid thing to do that cost a fortune. But I now have three proper agents who want to meet and who are mentioning serious things about being signed and how “we should approach the publishers” It paid off. Even if nothing comes of it. Even if by the end of next week all the agents decide not to go any further and change their minds, even if the whole thing comes to nothing – it was bloody worth it, eye-opening, expensive, sweaty… but worth it. We had great fun and hopefully we’ve picked up some new readers amongst the smiling crowds in Covent Gardens, and maybe even an agent!!!!!!!! Holy shitman batman! An agent!!!!!!!!! To go back to the opening part of this blog. I blame you. If The Undead does ever get onto book shelves then don’t go looking at me with your suspicious and narrowed eyes of distaste. You made me do it so get back on that naughty step. Seriously though, from Brimmers and I, thank you for the support and encouragement. We had a blast. Day Sixteen is underway and as ever, I will keep you updated. Take care RR Haywood
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