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That Bear Ate My Pants Archives

Missing Chapter Part Three!

Hi folks!

Sorry for the long absence. Not only have Roo and I switched hemispheres again, I’ve been crazy busy trying to get my latest sci-fi book finished. I know, I know! But don’t worry, I’ve still got plans outside the realm of exploding spaceships and genetically-engineered assassins.

Here, for example, is another of the fabled ‘Missing Chapters’ – the ones that didn’t make it into the final versions of my travel books. Today we have another example from ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ For a while, Toby and I were the only volunteers at Santa Martha, and we started to go a bit stir-crazy. The big boss Johnny’s solution was to take us to see a football match…

Needless to say, it wasn’t quite what we expected. I wrote this chapter about it, and loved it – but it didn’t add to the overall narrative, and when I needed to cut almost a third of the book out, this story wasn’t strong enough to stay. Still, a bit of fun. I hope you enjoy it 😉

Read the rest of this entry

Missing Chapters Part Two

Tony with a Lemon

Guess what, folks? It’s Missing Chapter time! For anyone who missing the first Missing Chapter, it’s HERE – but hurry right back, because… um… well, I’ll miss you!

This time we’ve got a story that I cut out of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ simply because it wasn’t good enough. I know – way to encourage you to read it, right? The truth is, when the agents told me my book couldn’t be longer than 100,000 words, I cried inside. Because I’d already written nearly double that – and it had taken me six frigging years to do it!

Still. At that point I still had high hopes of getting ‘properly’ published, so with a heavy heart I dove into my list of chapters and deleted as many as I could.

The first to go were the unfinished bits – fragments of jokes and funny stories that were too short to make chapters. Next I started on the full-length chapters, cutting out any that didn’t move the story along. If I found something hysterically funny – even after reading it fifty-odd times – I generally kept it in. If not, it got the axe.

So, here I present one of those chapters. I liked it because it was a particularly odd memory, and my ideal version of the book would describe everything that happened to me in Ecuador. But even good authors have to cut bits out for reasons like pacing, and I felt that this chapter, whilst amusing (especially to me, who lived through it) – was a bit of a speed-bump.

The axe came down, and it’s never seen the light of day since.

Enjoy!

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‘The Missing Chapters’ Part 1

Okay… hands up if you thought this would never happen? Yes folks, I am here to bring you the FIRST in a series of blog posts dedicated to the fabled ‘Missing Chapters’ – the ones I cut from ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ (and all the other books) for a wide variety of reasons.

I’ve been promising to release these for what seems like years… What’s that? It’s BEEN years? Oh, right. Yes, well… um, sorry about that!

But at long, long last, here they are! And I have to say it’s been quite exciting for me, lifting the lid on all these stories I wrote so long ago, none of which have ever seen the light of day. Some are short, some have no discernable end, some ended up irrelevant in the grand narrative of the book… and some I loved dearly, but had to cut out simply because the Powers That Be decreed my book was WAY too long to ever get published… Ha!

So, here’s how we’re going to do this: I’ll introduce each new chapter with a brief explanation of what’s going on, perhaps adding some insights as to why it ended up on the cutting room floor. And then I’ll unleash the chapter in question, with very little editing…

I apologise in advance for the crudeness of the writing. I haven’t looked back at ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ for quite a while, but I hope the final version was more polished than these early excerpts. Still, I’ve written and learned a lot since those days… perhaps it’s time for a thorough going-over?

Anyway! Without further ado, here is what could have been the very first chapter of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’. Reading it, I think you’ll see why I opted for the current, cut-to-the-chase version. Actually, the real reason is: Mum convinced me it was better that way! My original intention with this start was to set the scene, to describe my journey to Ecuador and some of my encounters along the way. Whereas Mum’s opinion was, “Bollocks to that! Start at the good bit!”

Which of course I did. Eventually… Right! Buckle up. Here goes 🤗

Read the rest of this entry

*** NEWSFLASH *** NEWSFLASH *** NEWSFLASH ***

Fear not, faithful readers! There IS news in here, but no flash – so, no animation that upsets your iPad, no strobing photography, and no pictures of my arse.

Okay, maybe one picture of my arse.

But the point is – I have NEWS!

This week I had an exciting delivery. Several actually, which is one of the benefits of buying all your own Christmas presents – no, don’t feel sad! Trust me – it’s better this way. I get exactly what I want, and friends are over-rated anyway, and… and… *sniff*

Um, where was I? Oh yes. A delivery.

I received the FIRST EVER PAPERBACK COPY of my book ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’

paperback copy in package

Now, I was tempted to do a proof copy unboxing video, like the very awesome, uber-succesful indie author Hugh Howey does for his amazing ‘WOOL’ books.

(NB – if you haven’t bought the WOOL books already, you’re freakin’ crazy. Go get them ALL – right NOW. No! I meant after you finish reading my blog p… oh, what’s the point. You’ve gone already, haven’t you?)

Echo…?

ECHO…

But. No video. Because I’m too damn ugly. Plus I’ve spent the last week pulling 18 hour days trying to get my second book edited, so I’d look like hell even if I wasn’t damn ugly.

Instead, here is a pretty picture – of the book itself!

Paperback copy

Oooh! See, I told you it was pretty!

Here’s a less-pretty picture of what happened to me last night during the editing process. I nipped to the toilet, and when I came back to my computer the ENTIRE FILE of Book 2 had been overwritten with bold asterisks?!?!

Screen shot of computer error

If I hadn’t just been to the loo, I’d have shit myself on the spot.

To cut a long story short, my trusty MacBook had spazzed out – probably because I haven’t turned him off in the last three months – and he was fine again after a reset. The document, however, was ruined, and I had to find my most recent back-up (from the night before) and re-do all that day’s edits.

So remember kids – ALWAYS back-up!

If I hadn’t, they’d be talking me down from the top of a tall building right now.

Anyway, before this gets too long, let me reiterate: ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ is now available in paperback! So for all those technophobes in your life, who refused to read it no matter how much you whined at them – now’s the chance! Get one for Christmas. If nothing else, the paperback version makes considerably better fuel for the fire than the electronic one…

Hm. I might start an ad campaign based on that. Buy my book – burn it – save a pensioner! (From the cold of course. I’m not suggesting you normally burn pensioners…)

Burn my book - save pensioners!Sorry! I’ve got lost again. Oh yeah. Buy my book! Because at long last, it’s a real book :0)

Amazon US: ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ Paperback

Amazon UK: ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ Paperback

And now that’s all done, I hate to leave a promise unfulfilled. So we might as well end on the bottom; literally, metaphorically, and in terms of tone. Not that it is particularly toned…

My bum!

Oh, sorry! I meant to say: Look away now if you’ve got a weak stomach. Too late now, I guess…  :0)

THANK-YOU!!!

For them that’s wondering (and have been hiding under a stone for the last week while I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops) – the free promotion of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ was a huge success. Okay, that’s not big enough; it was a

HUGE

success!

In total, 22,701 people downloaded a copy of the book – that’s Twenty-two thousand, seven-hundred and one for those who prefer text to figures.

I rose as high as no.9 overall in the Amazon.com free charts, and held onto the coveted no.1 spot overall on Amazon.co.uk for most of the day!

I’m over the moon. Obviously! Which is why I’d decided to write this post, thanking everyone who helped me to spread the word, and helped made this day the incredible trip that it was.

Here’s a screenshot I’m particularly fond of:

Humor bestseller list

'That Bear Ate My Pants!' at No.1 in humour!

I took dozens of them! But this one, showing me at the top of the ‘humor’ category in Amazon.com – the world’s biggest bookshop – just blew my mind.

So, without further ado, here is the Roll of Honour:

Twitter Followers:

A MASSIVE THANK-YOU to everyone who mentioned, re-tweeted and followed me over the two days. Messages were flying back and forth, so it didn’t occur to me ‘till after it was all over to do a search for ‘That Bear Ate My Pants’ – and there were hundreds of Tweets in that list, all from people who don’t even know me on Twitter!

So here is my list of Top Tweeters, by no means an exclusive list – just a few good souls who seemed to be working hard on my behalf  :0)

@JoeVampireBlog (Steven Luna)

@fuentes_kate1 (Kate Fuentes)

@KatherynLane (Katheryn Lane)

@mad_gods (Athanasios)

@vickiejohnstone (Vickie Johnstone)

@emeraldkell (Allison Bruning)

@stantondaniel (Daniel Stanton)

@DavidAntrobus (David Antrobus)

@jacquehopkins (Jacqueline R Walton)

@unknown_templar (John Paul Davis)

@GerberMgerber (M.H. Gerber)

@FreeBookSy

@KristineCayne (Kristine Cayne)

@rennabruce (Renna Bruce)

@judith_price (Judith Price)

@christinenolfi (Christine Nolfi)

@roberto_baggins (Rob Powell)

@DavinaPearson (Davina Pearson) – Nomad!

@sandranorval (Sandra Noval)

@Flickimp (Imran Siddiq) – Nomad!

Please share the love by following these awesome people!

I’d like to say a specific thank-you to ‘Joo’, a reviewer and active member of the UK Kindle Forums, for being a one-woman promo army!

http://www.kuforum.co.uk/kindleusersforum/

 

Facebook Groups:

(that didn’t kick up too much of a fuss when I posted my link on their Wall! – please note, if doing this yourself – I checked all their guidelines and/or websites first, where I could find ‘em)

http://www.facebook.com/iauthor?sk=wall

http://www.facebook.com/pages/UK-Kindle-Book-Lovers/175617412524192

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Top-Travel-Tips/188870634488744

http://www.facebook.com/readingkindle

http://www.facebook.com/pages/IndieKindle/106911752752245

http://www.facebook.com/weloveebooks

http://www.facebook.com/eReader1

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kindle-Finds/217115528350246

http://www.facebook.com/freeebookdeal?sk=wall

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Authors-on-the-Cheap/202517513144047

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kindle-Author/168316526565998

http://www.facebook.com/earthsbooknook

http://www.facebook.com/allthingskindle

http://www.facebook.com/IndieBookLounge

http://www.facebook.com/kindle

http://www.facebook.com/TheKindleObsessed

 

And finally, the Big Guns:

(When these people say they’ll tell everyone – they really tell EVERYONE!)

Melissa Foster of the World Literary Cafe

Steve WindTalker of Kindle Nation Daily

Anthony Wessel of Digital Book Today

Phil Torcivia of the Kindle Daily Deal

Elizabeth Trudgeon Brown of the Frugal E-Reader

Ricci of FreeBookSy

Holly Bourque of Bargain eBook Hunter

Jack and Shaina of IndieBooksList

Sharon Rosen of Pixel Of Ink

Greg of Ereader News Today

And the team at Kindle On The Cheap

If you’re about to do a free day and you need the world to know – THIS is who you’re gonna call!

Thanks for reading folks. I know this isn’t my usual style of blog post – no swearing for starters, AND no pictures of me naked – sorry ‘bout that. Business shall resume as normal from next week  :0)

I love you all!

Tony

Something For Nothing

It’s okay! I’m safe. Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Rumours of another kind, however, are completely and utterly true:

My book, ‘THAT BEAR ATE ME PANTS!’ – is now FREE!

For the next couple of days, at least (February 15th & 16th).

So, if you’ve ever been even remotely tempted – but perhaps put off by the fact that the other is obviously an idiot – NOW is the time to buy get one FREE!

UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

US:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

Book coverAnd here’s the link to the free Kindle reading software, for anyone wanting to read the book on their Mac, PC, iPad or Smartphone:

UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_ipad_mkt_lnd?docId=1000425503

US:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=sa_menu_karl3?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

My aim with this promotion is to make a huge splash – by the end of it I should be wetter than… um… okay, I’ll let you finish off that sentence. In case there are children reading this. (In which case, Oi! It’s okay, you can carry on reading, but still – Oi!)

So. Wetter than a Welsh Wednesday, which in fact it is. Wednesday, that is, not Welsh or wet – I live in Perth Australia for gawd’s sake, we haven’t seen rain since the continents shifted. If water fell from the sky here, thousands would adopt religion on the spot.

Right. Went a bit off track there. Sorry ‘bout that.

This is what happened the last time I did a promotion for the book – during its launch on July 1st, 2011:

Best seller list

MY BOOK on the travel best-sellers list - just ahead of Bill Bryson!

Best seller list 2

...And just behind 'Eat, Pray, Love!'

SO! I have a task for you, my minions…

In fact I have TWO tasks! (Yes, I am a demanding evil overlord. But my health plan is worth it.)

1)   DOWNLOAD MY BOOK! If you haven’t already. Did I mention, it’s FREE? Hell, if you have got it already, get it again! Oh wait – Amazon doesn’t work that way. D’oh. Well then, tell someone else to get it instead.

Which leads me sneakily on to Mission Two:

2)   TELL SOMEONE ELSE TO GET IN INSTEAD! What I’m getting at here is, spread the word people! You all know how utterly awesome my book is (unless you don’t, in which case let me tell you this: it is utterly awesome). Imagine how grateful your friends/family/pet gerbil/chemistry teacher/that nutter that always sits next to you on the bus will be, when you tell them about an awesome book they can download for free – and it will make them wet themselves!

*Note: certain species of Bus Nutter are already adept at wetting themselves, and should NOT be encouraged. Tell the driver instead.

To help you spread the word, I’ve put together a couple of Tweets and Facebook messages that you can copy-and-paste if you want – because I’m a lazy, lazy man, and I can’t exactly complain if my minions are the same, can I?

TWITTER:

Best-selling #travel #comedy THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS! by @TonyJamesSlater is FREE TODAY on #Kindle – grab it quick! http://amzn.to/thatbearus

FACEBOOK (If you’re from the UK):

Hey everyone! My friend Tony James Slater has made his awesome book ‘THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!’ available for FREE on Amazon Kindle! It takes one click to download it and it’s pants-wettingly funny. Even if you haven’t got a Kindle, you can read it on any Mac or PC, iPad or smartphone with free Kindle software!
What are you waiting for? Here’s the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

FACEBOOK (US/Everywhere else):

Hey everyone! My friend Tony James Slater has made his awesome book ‘THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!’ available for FREE on Amazon Kindle! It takes one click to download it and it’s pants-wettingly funny. Even if you haven’t got a Kindle, you can read it on any Mac or PC, iPad or smartphone with free Kindle software!
What are you waiting for? Here’s the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

Please feel free to alter any of the above however you want, or tell people about the book in your own way – you can even send ‘em to this blog, like this:

‘Some idiot is rambling on about his book being free. Have a look if you can be arsed: http://www.AdventureWithoutEnd.com

Right! Thanks for that folks! I mean it when I say, I really do appreciate all the help you give me. I’m literally doing this on my own otherwise, and honestly I don’t think I’d stand a chance.

The OTHER GOOD NEWS – is that, once this is over you’ll never have to worry about me pushing my book on you again! Because anyone who doesn’t get it when it’s free – well, there’s a good chance they just don’t want the damn thing. So rest easy folks! The end is in sight…

From next week: Business As Normal. So stay tuned for an exciting story about… ah, who the hell knows? I haven’t written it yet. Watch this space.

I love you all,

Tony

Ps. If you come late to this post and have missed the free days, go to the ‘Contact Me’ page and send me an email. If you ask me nicely I’ll probably send you a copy – because I’m nice like that and, ultimately, a sucker.

Ever have that feeling that a year has passed quicker than a dodgy Thai curry?

Yeah, me too. I had that thought again, that if they keep going by at this rate I’m be drooling into a care home pillow before I get to do half the things I want to do.

But then I looked back and thought – yeah. Not too shabby. I did good this year.

So, in celebration of that fact, I’m finally going to do one of those smug bastard ‘How Great Was My Year!’ type posts… oh, yes! Revel in the knowledge that I, a mere mortal (and a pretty rubbish one at that), still managed to do something in 2011. And if I can, so too can you… No, wait a minute. I did it. 2011 is over. So if you didn’t do it already, you’re pretty much screwed. Ah well. Better luck next year…

January: Okay. So I didn’t get off to a flying start… um, let’s just gloss over this one shall we? No-one ever does anything worthwhile in January anyway. That’s a fact.

Bloody January.

February: 1) Learnt to spell ‘February’. Actually I did that just now, so it doesn’t count. Hmmm. February, February, must have done something…Snow Angel

Oh yeah! I went to France. My sister Gill and her hubby Chris were working there (they have ‘jobs’ you see. How strange!). So the missis, the mother and I headed over to do a spot of snowboarding. It was a great trip – Gill introduced us to the Ski (and après ski) culture, which was new to us (New Zealand not being much for culture of any kind, unless it’s rugby ball-shaped.) I then got KILLED by an irate, uncultured New Zealander! With a rugby ball.

Okay, I didn’t. I did ride insanely fast down a mountain (possibly drunk), fall badly and hurt myself, rendering me unable to do much more than drink for the rest of the holiday. Oh, and I ate fondue.  Because, y’know, I’m not cheesy enough already  :0)

MarchI went to Jordan. In the same company – Mum having paid for the entire trip due to fears of going alone. Jordan was an incredible place, with history literally lying around on the floor for you to pick up, take home and give as presents to horrified (yet secretly pleased) archaeologists you may know. Ahem. The two things I remember most about Jordan are 1) how amazing the ancient sites would have been if they weren’t crammed with assholes trying to sell me shit, and 2) the millions of assholes trying to sell me shit.

Oh, and 3) all the unnecessary shit I bought.

But it was great fun, and I had the rare opportunity to sneak into a Wonder of the World without paying the exorbitant entrance fee (of £50!) by impersonating an Australian who had already paid it. See, how much fun travelling can be?

I blogged about it HERE and HERE.

Ruins in Jordan

Find a monument. Climb on it. That's how I roll...

April – I recovered. Not from the holidays, but from a bit of news I received at the York Festival of Writing. It was there that I discovered I would never be published in the conventional sense – two agents out of two said they loved my work, but simply couldn’t sell it. Travel books, it seems, are only to be written by the already-famous. I had a blast at the Festival (my account of it is HERE) and returned with a New Mission: Publish Myself! And an epic hangover.

May – You know what? I honestly can’t remember. If you know where I was, or what I was doing in May, 2011 – please drop me a line. Unless it’s really, really embarrassing. What’s that? It IS? Oh, right then. Best keep it to yourself.

June: Just vanished. The preparations for my baby sister’s wedding took over everything, and then – oh yeah. MY BABY SISTER GOT MARRIED!!!

Wedding

Ain't she pretty!

July was a mixed bag. I will remember it forever as the month I finally married my gorgeous girlfriend Krista. In fact we got married twice, once (legally) to a CD of Dueling Banjos, which was not at all how I’d imagined it, and again a few minutes later, in the secret garden of Taunton Castle, to the trilling of a harp. It was magical – so much so that I’ve yet to blog about it at all… um… yeah. Getting married does tend to drive things like blogging out of the mind.

I will remember July as the month I launched my book: ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ took off better than I’d dared hope, sliding up the Amazon charts to #1 in all it’s categories and #423 overall. Ever since I’ve been meaning to ask someone more knowledgeable that I, whether or not that qualifies me as a ‘bestselling author’. Well, a man can dream…

I will also remember July as the month my Uncle Paul, stalwart guardian of his family, passed on to Whatever Comes Next. I never told him until right at the end, but he was the strongest man I’ve ever known. Uncle Paul, I love you, and I miss you. Sleep tight.

Where are we now? August. Krista and I took our first Honeymoon in Spain, a gift from my parents. It was just what I needed – to unplug, just for a week, from everything. The internet; the book launch; the insanely busy life I had somehow created for myself over the last six months – and my grief. Spain was a time of healing for me, a time of tanning on the beach, and a time of… well. It was my honeymoon!

September! Jeez, I better finish this quick – or anyone who’s still reading will be bleeding out of their eyeballs by the end! September I decided to apply for a visa to emigrate to Australia. I’d been meaning to look into it for months, but stuff kinda got in the way. See above for details. Immediately I noticed three things:

1)   It was going to cost me a fortune. Just over £2,000 so far, and counting.

2)   It was going to take Forever. Six months in fact; as of writing, I still don’t have my visa, or the legal right to work in Australia. Which is kind of a shame, as I’m living here.

3)   It was going to be a lot of work. Just the application form was over 40 pages long and every page turn revealed a new delight. Such as this innocuous question; ‘Is your spouse Australian? Yes? Please attach her birth certificate.’

What a mission. It delayed all other plans while I collected Police Clearance Certificates from every country I’ve lived in for more than a year (!), hundreds of documents supporting the validity of my relationship with Roo, sworn statements from Australians, medicals, financial reports… well, fictitious financial reports anyway. I mean come on! What government in their right mind would honestly let me in?*

*If you’re reading this, Australia, I’m sorry. Please let me live in you.

Octoberbegan the odyssey which became known as ‘The Grand Adventure!’. Actually it was always called that. I hoped to gather enough crazy experiences to fill another book; alas, England in the dank, cold Autumn, is not a Mecca for adventure. Well, unless you’re a train spotter. We had a great time, (almost) hiking the length of Hadrian’s Wall, and returned home just in time to Grandad-sit while my parents took a much deserved holiday.

Monument... on it. Innit.

The Grand Adventure blog (which was actually bloody funny!) is HERE, HERE and HERE.

November: this was when the reality of emigrating to Australia began to sink in. Largely because it was happening at the end of the month! Roo and I packed our cases, realized we had FAR too much stuff to put in them, and ordered a ‘small box’ from a shipping company. They sent us a large and a small ‘just in case’. Clever bastards! I suspect our story is not unusual; we quickly gave up on the small box and filled the large. Then we placed a quick call to the shipping company, altered our quote slightly, and started filling the small as well. About the time Roo floated the question ‘I wonder how much they charge for a third box…’ I called time; anything that wasn’t packed already was staying. Cue another frantic round of unpacking and re-packing, with Roo shoving stuff in one side and me removing it from the other. In the end our boxes were less than 1 kilo under the maximum allowed weight – between them. It truly was a feat of tessellation. We left England praying to every God that our bathroom scales were accurate…

December.Malaysia. Theme parks inside shopping malls, insane luxury in a 5-star villa (a wedding gift courtesy of Roo’s family) and much assorted ridiculousness. It rained torrentially every day in Kuala Lumpur, so we skipped on to Perth – where it rained torrentially every day. The hottest year since records began, but for once a wet one – the perfect way to acclimatize after a year and a half in England! Since then we’ve been to the beach (and got sunburnt), been to the gym (and got busted), been outside (and got bitten), been inside (and still got bitten), and I have personally killed over a dozen cockroaches (every shoe has at least some limbs stuck to it). I did not, however, kill a scorpion – that honour was bestowed upon Sonja, Roo’s sister, who caught the little bugger trying to sneak into the fridge.

Theme Park

All this is INSIDE a shopping centre - I shit you not!

Australia, eh? It’s a pretty crazy place. Who knows what next year will bring…

PS. Roo and I, along with my family, also renovated three houses during the course of the year! The story of one of them is HERE.

So. Tell me. What did you guys get up to?

Query Letter Advice (or, How I Done Mine)

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a writing blog. If you’re looking for real, quality advice on perfecting your query letter, go here, or for great advice on e-publishing your work, go here. In fact my writing is so bad that I have to publish it myself! :0)  (Little dig at my Indie Writers friends there!)

So because Covering Letters (the ones you send out to agents with your precious manuscript) are so important, I thought I’d share my advice on the topic – for what it’s worth…

Scribbled NoteFirst up, here’s my example. I sent out a boat load of submissions to literary agents and publishers throughout the UK. None of them gave a shit, of course. That is, until I came up with this version of my covering letter. I only sent out five of them, and had three requests for a full manuscript and two personal rejections. I came within a gnat’s bollock of getting an agent that time – only to find out that I was unpublishable because I wasn’t famous. Bugger. As a result I published the book myself and am now practically famous – but that’s a whole different story. (And at least part of it is a lie.)

20th February 2010

Dear Lucy,

I am writing to you because you represented HOW LOW CAN YOU GO by TOM CHESSHYRE, and I feel that my book fits into a similar genre.

I nearly died in Ecuador. Pretty much on a daily basis. The trouble with being a volunteer at an exotic animal refuge is that everything wanted a piece of me; and the trouble with being me is that I wasn’t particularly good at it. So most of them got one. “THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!” is the tale of how a desperate bid to escape conventional life took me to the other side of the world, introduced me to pain, love and the insides of a cow, and brought me back with a strength and self-confidence I hardly dared dream of. And a bit of mucus in my hair.

Right now, climate change and the economic downturn means millions of people are looking for environmentally friendly, low-cost holidays. All of them need a socially responsible guide book.

This is NOT that book.

But those people also need a damn good laugh! So for everyone who wants to know what it’s like to be bitten by a crocodile, mauled by big cats, blinded, shot at and head-butted in the balls by a wild pig – all in the same few weeks – “THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!” is just the job. A sequel, based in Thailand, is already underway.

My stories have appeared in Take a Break magazine, That’s Life magazine (in Australia) and I recently contributed to the anthology THE VOLUNTARY TRAVELER, published by Dog’s Eye View Media. I also have a background (and a BA degree) in Acting, so I have plenty of experience both on stage and in front of a camera.

Please find enclosed the first 30 pages and a Synopsis, as per the guidelines on your website. I’d be very grateful if you would consider representing me! Thank-you so much for your time. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Tony James Slater

Okay – it’s not a masterpiece. I’m self-critical enough for three people, but I thought I’d use it to illustrate a couple of points I think (and it’s only my opinion) are key.

The first is, know thy enemy! You hate receiving form letters from agents, right? So it makes sense, as a form of revenge, to send them one! HA! Take that… oh, hang on – what I meant is, please will you devote your life to helping me become successful?

Don’t send them form letters. They can do that to you, because you are scum and they quite rightfully despise you.

So, research them. Specifically, find out who or what they have represented that is close to your work. I make this comparison right at the beginning, to:

a) put them in mind of a book they loved, and repp’ed, and sold – POSITIVE association, and;

b) give them a quick ball-park idea of the genre and/or style of the book.

But DON’T make it sound like you think your book is better – even if you do! Most of the books I was comparing mine to are complete crap, but their agent wouldn’t have taken them on if s/he didn’t think they were awesome. So none of this ‘It’s like Stephen King, only scarier,’ malarkey.

Next up, the length – short as poss – and the book description, also short. Three paragraphs, I’ve heard, is ideal. I also like to show a bit of my writing style in the letter, which is why there’s a bit of strong-ish language and an attempt at a joke – normally this is a big no-no, but any agent who baulks at the word ‘balls’ is going to hate my book anyway. Why go to the bother of posting them a copy?

Pile of lettersI spent a few sentences trying to give them a feel for the book, but as mine is anecdotal there isn’t much in the way of plot twists – instead I blew this extra space on trying to convince them the book as funny. Mistake? Almost certainly. But then, so are most of the things I do. It’s why I still have something to write about after all this time!

Seriously though, this section is a play on a very smart ploy – enumerating your potential audience. Remind the agent that there are eighteen point five million lactating octogenarians out there who feel your pain and would love to read your memoir. Tell them that crotch-eating bacteria is hot news and affects one in six males between the ages of eighteen and twenty four who holiday in Thailand – use numbers to suggest the size of your market. If you write sci-fi… well, let’s face it, you’re already screwed.

I repeated my title twice in the letter to help it stick in their mind and used the magic phrase ‘a sequel is already underway’. At the time it was a lie. Hell, it’s still a lie! Depending on how flexible your concept of ‘underway’ is. But the agent will be very interested to know I’m not a one shot deal – and that I’m aware of how important this is.

Finally, I gave them a bit of info about my previous publishing credits. This section is small, as I don’t have much, and it’s generally best not to try to pad out you resumé. Any waffle here, listing all sorts of minor accolades, will make you appear less professional rather than more.

I also showed again that I had read their submission guidelines and was sending exactly what they asked for – and then I thanked them. If there’s ever a time to remember your manners, this is it.

I could have included a word count, or stated that the book was finished, but the word count is on the title page anyway and the fact that I’m writing the sequel suggests this book is done – common wisdom, however, suggests you do both of these things. I am quite clearly not a wise man.

One other way I’ve seen people write queries is to start right out of the gate with the drama –

Dear Agent X,

Jeremy was already dead. He just didn’t know it yet… etc.

I think this is quite popular in the states and might work here – who knows? Anyone tried it? Personally I think it’s too ‘in your face’ for our more traditional English agenty types, and I would save this kind of opening for the manuscript itself. Don’t want your query opening to be more exciting than your book, eh!

Well, that’s it for now – this is already too long I know, particularly for someone like me with no authority to back my opinions up. Please – don’t go away and write a query letter just like mine – I don’t want to be responsible for derailing any more careers, I can’t take the guilt! Just keep in mind,

  • Brevity
  • Proving that you know the agent and/or her previous clients (and chose to submit to her for that reason)
  • Two or three paragraphs giving succinct plot synopsis
  • Demonstrate your writing style – but not too dramatically!
  • Mention sequel (even if you don’t have one)
  • Mention publishing history (only if you do have one)
  • Mention platform (again, if you have one. I don’t. Well, unless you count  :0)
  • Keep it to one page at all costs!

What do you think? Thoughts/comments/plasticine fish?

Throw ‘em all this way!

And to all my regular readers – those who’ve made it this far – Don’t worry! Next time I’ll be blogging about crazy shit, as usual. I promise.

Love

Tony

Promo stunt goes horribly right!

There was an unlikely occurrence this weekend, as the home-made promo team for ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ swung into action at last.

Promo team outside Water stones

Well, you’ve seen the picture. What more do I need to say? If I was known for having rational ideas, well, it probably wouldn’t have been worth writing a book about my life.

If things had gone according to plan, this little stunt would have taken place on Launch Day Weekend, on Friday and Saturday last week. A family crisis meant we had to delay it ‘till this Fri/Sat, and the fact that is pissed it down with rain most of Friday persuaded us to reschedule for Sat/Sun. No-one wants to hug a soggy bear. No-one wants to wear one. There was a major disadvantage in these delays; it meant that I was available. On Launch Day I’d hardly dare leave my computer to pee, and my wonderful sister (Gill) and fiancé (Roo) had planned to do the bear-and-pants-show without me. Now, a week later, I had no excuse at all. And neither did my Mum, so I roped her in too.

Mum in bear suit

At a gnomic five-foot nothing and a quarter, she looked less like a bear and more like an Ewok.

We’d been up all night printing flyers and reinforcing the gigantic pair of cardboard underpants. So, a fairly typical evening in my house. On a beautifully clear Somerset morning, we descended on the town of Taunton.

My first victim was an older woman, slender with long grey hair. Unlikely to buy my book, I thought, but an ideal test subject; my sales pitch had yet to be practised. Hell, it had yet to be invented. I approached her and muttered something about having written an e-book.

She turned on me, eyes blazing with righteous fury. “I don’t approve of THAT at all!” She declared.

Oh bugger.

She then proceeded to tell me in emphatic detail, how technology was the work of the devil. How our society is being destroyed by it, even as we speak! How we are sinking further and faster – the only way to free ourselves is to wipe it all out forever!

“I’ve just paid this young man in cash,” she indicated the green-grocer’s stall behind her. “Credit cards ruin people’s lives – credit cards and COMPUTERS! If I could I would burn the lot of them.”

There really wasn’t much to say to that. I hadn’t been cursed so thoroughly since… well, ever.

“Would you like a flyer?” I offered.

She glared at me as though I had stood on one of her doubtless many cats, and I retreated slowly.

The rest of the morning passed without incident. Not without interest though. Once the crazy woman made her departure, I offered a rather more subdued sales pitch to the green-grocer she’d so kindly paid with pure, innocent cash. He was more receptive.

“Sounds great,” he enthused, and whipped out an iPad from under his stall. He concentrated for a few moments, tapping the evil device on various corners with a grubby finger.

“There!” He proudly showed me the display, featuring the front cover of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants’. “Got it! I’ll read it tonight.”

I was stunned. For a techno-whoring minion of the antichrist, he was a jolly nice chap.

There was a bloke collecting for Guide Dogs for the Blind, sitting outside the car park on a stool with his bright blue plastic bucket. We’d all donated after parking, and had threatened to come back in costume. Now seemed like the perfect time for it. Gill handed him a flyer and he glanced down in surprise.

“We’re advertising my new book, all about my crazy adventures in Ecuador!” I explained.

His brow wrinkled. “But… I can’t read. I’m blind.”

It honestly hadn’t occurred to me. “Oh. Um. Sorry!”

He was still clutching the flyer the next time we walked past.

Gill was wearing the pants. Her new husband, much amused, was trailing us and taking photos. Every so often she would stop and ask him to help her adjust the string shoulder straps. Every time she would mug an unhappy face at the nearest passer-by and tell them “My pants are falling down!”

Roo was a great advocate, loudly proclaiming the merits of the book to everyone we passed. “Buy it – it’s hilarious!” she told a businessman.

“Fuck off,” he replied.

After that she decided to take a turn in the bear.

We de-beared and de-pants’ed outside Debenhams so we could swap jobs and take it in turns to use the loo. Roo suited up and immediately started dancing to the music in her head. Within minutes she had been offered a job by the cafe next-door. They needed a human statue for the upcoming flower festival. Apart from us getting married that week (and going to my Uncle’s funeral in Manchester) we really didn’t have much else on. So she took the job.

Bear and pants

We moved to the seaside for the afternoon and the lifeguards were fascinated. When the Giant Underpants shoved their way into their hut there were gales of laughter on all sides.

“Hot pants,” one of them quipped, eyeing up my sister.

“People have been trying to get into her pants all day,” I warned.

“Well, I’m the one in authority here,” said the oldest of the lifeguards; “Knick-her!”

I groaned all the way down the beach.

Halfway back up the ramp I was accosted by a tiny blonde girl of about six. “Excuse me, what are you doing?”

I favoured her with a grin and launched into my standard spiel. “I’m telling everyone about my new book, ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ It’s very funny, and there are bears in it doing very funny things!” Okay, so it wasn’t exactly my standard spiel. I handed her a flyer to seal the deal and strolled off.

A few steps later I turned to check on the bear, only to discover the blonde girl was walking along behind me. “Excuse me,” she said again, “can I have one of those for my friend? He wants one.”

“Here you go,” I told her, handing her another flyer. She skipped away merrily.

“We’d better move,” I said to my team.

“Eh? Why?” They followed me quickly back up the boat ramp and into the crowd at top speed. “Where are we going?” Gill asked when she caught up with me.

“Well, those flyers I gave to the little girl?”

“Yeah?”

“The second line on them reads ‘Holy SHIT! I’m about to be eaten by a bear.”

“Oh…! Right. Yeah, we’d best get moving then…”

The flyers did their trick though. I was delighted to see some people had kept hold of them, and were brandishing them at me the same way you’d show a crucifix to a vampire. ‘Keep away,’ their eyes said, ‘you’ve got me already…’

Of the teenagers we met, some were clearly too cool for skool. These types, terrified of anything that could endanger their street cred, fixed their ludicrously outsized sunglasses on the horizon and strode past as quickly as possible. But one group of lads showed an interest. They dared each other to hug the bear (something that kids as young as 18 months had been managing to do without being dared all day). “Is it a boy or a girl in there?” One lad asked.

“Girl,” I replied.

Suddenly they all wanted a hug. One even tried a little dry-humping. His mate noticed and dragged him away with a stern warning. “Matt, bestiality is NOT the answer!”

Bear poses with lads

Then Gill offered a flyer to a confused looking man. “But I am here on holiday,” he said in heavily accented English. “I don’t know what to do?”

“Where are you from?” Gill asked.

“Cherr-many,” Came the response.

Gill brightened, and gave the bloke a wide smile. “Welcome to England!”

This marks the first time in the history our our two nations, that a citizen of one has been welcomed to the other by a gigantic pair of cardboard underpants. At least as far as I know.

As the day drew to a close and our dancing bear had hugged her way into heat-stroke, Gill (in pants) tried to flyer a flyerer – only to find out the man was advertising The Path To Heaven. In fact he had a large placard with a flow diagram, neatly depicting which sins pointed you towards Purgatory and Hell (and in which order), and which acts of redemption allowed you to ascend to the clouds. It looked so… definite.

He didn’t even offer me a flyer.

I could tell from his expression that there is no place in heaven for people like us.

So. What did I learn?

1) NO-ONE can resist ANYTHING when it’s handed to them by a walking pair of underpants.

2) Children love bears. Especially smiling ones. This works well, as while they are hugging, poking and otherwise molesting said bear, I can chat to the parents about my book. HOWEVER, it does make a lot of people think it is a children’s book. Perhaps I should consider writing a children’s book. Or renting a werewolf.

3) Promoting from behind a keyboard isn’t nearly as fun as getting out there in the real world. Especially if you’re a complete lunatic. I can’t imagine we made many sales from our activities, but we sent some photos and an article to the local paper. They’re bound to print something – literally nothing else happened here last week.

4) Hot day + hot bear costume = one sweaty fiancé. The Giant Underpants were far better ventilated. That is not a sentence I get to use very often.

5) My family love me very, very much. And I use this love to make them look foolish, and then write about it. But you know, I’m okay with that…

So. Done anything crazy lately?

Bear hugging tree Roo in bear suit

The Pre-Launch Process

I bet you’ve always wondered what goes on in the household of an Indie Writer just two days before his first major book launch. What’s that? You haven’t? Ah well. Let’s just sit and watch The Apprentice then.

Except that I can’t. As I write this, my sister Gill is carefully constructing a big pair of pants out of cardboard. We are talking really, REALLY big pants. My fiance is taking time out from organizing our wedding (in less than three weeks’ time) to phone around every fancy dress shop in the west country, looking for an adult-sized bear suit.

I won’t even get into what my Mum is doing. I mean, I know I say some crazy shit on this blog, but there are some places even I dare not venture…

In between times we are sitting side-by-side on laptops, all four of us tapping away furiously – only the occasional expletive shatters the silence. Okay, so occasional shards of silence intrude on the torrent of swearing that pours forth from three mouths simultaneously! My fiance, of course, is above all that  :0)

My Dad, bless him, is relegated to a support role – making vast quantities of tea, largely because he does that anyway. Seriously, if you put an empty tea cup down in my house there’s already a fresh cup sitting next to it ready to be drunk. If you’re not on the ball you can quite easily end up with three or four lined up waiting.

And flyers are being printed. Ink is running out. More swearing follows a frantic Google map search to find the nearest PC World…

I make a ‘press release’. Then I look up ‘press release’. Then I destroy mine, as what I’ve made doesn’t even remotely resemble a press release. Well, it had a button that you press to release and that’s all I’ll say about that.

Having never done a book launch before I have the following piece of advice; Get Advice! I’ve been making it up as I go along, and it’s not pretty. By Friday I’ll be able to sleep standing up outside in a rainstorm – which is just as well, as I’ve more chance of seeing that than my bed. Oh, I do love my bed. Will it start to forget me? There’s always a danger someone will clean it while I’m not in it…

We’ve emailed every radio station and newspaper for miles around. We told them to expect a ‘promo team’ – I harbour a suspicion they might be a little disappointed if they show up in pouring rain to find my Mum waggling her ass in a bear suit outside ASDA, while Gill hands out limp leaflets. We’re not exactly the Red Bull Display Team.

Oh, how I HATE printers! I would say roughly 80% of the use of the word ‘BASTARD!!!’ in my house right now is directed at the printer. For no reason under God, it’s just decided to print two flyers per page instead of four. We haven’t changed a thing. It just fills half a page, then gives up. Apart from occasional psychotic episodes when it chews three pages to shit in one go. An hour later, when I finish screwing the top back onto it, I discover a small handful of plastic components that I swear didn’t come out of it… but now it won’t print at all. Plus I think I left my other screwdriver in there. I would have made a rotten surgeon.

Kevin McCloud once said that surgeons can bury their mistakes, whereas architects have to look at them forever. Where does that leave writer’s mistakes? Oh, I know: Amazon Sales Rank 400,000. At least down there no-one will ever see them. In obscurity, no-one can hear you scream…

So fingers crossed for a successful launch, eh! I mean, I don’t see why not.

Threats Made Involving Outsized Fish? – Check!

Inanimate objects cursed within an inch of continued operation? – Check!

Enormous pair of cardboard pants? – Check!

Strong belief in the power of positive thought? – Wavering…

What can possibly go wrong?

We’re almost done now. The house looks like an explosion in a stationary warehouse and flailing around in costume I’ve personally spilled more cups of tea than I’ve drunk. If anyone comes around tomorrow to congratulate me on my efforts, and they notice the mess, wet patches and tufts of hair on everything, perhaps they’ll think to blame the dog.

And I’ll be able to say, without a trace of a lie, “Oh, no. That’s from the bear.”