A note before I begin: The following posts will be focused on trying to sell more copies of my book.

I don’t know how I’m going to do this yet. So to help, I thought it’d write myself a “Brief” (this is a hangover from the 18 years I spent working as a copywriter). You can’t do anything without a brief. Professionally, they’re often written by fiercely intelligent people with degrees in marketing who can earn vast amounts of money and drive company sports cars. They’d be horrified to learn that, as soon as the “creative team” (typically a copywriter and an art director, although this was changing as I left the business in 2007) have read the brief, it is cast aside and sometimes never referred to again. (Except for the “Proposition”, which is explored well beyond the bounds of plausibility.)

This is probably not a very good brief, but it will suffice. If you’re going to do your own marketing, just copy the headings and spend some time writing the necessary information underneath. “Suits” (the client-facing people who write briefs in agencies) – please feel free to criticise this brief in the comments section. Or tell people what is missing.

C R E A T I V E     B R I E F


People thinking about moving to France. Adults 18-60 & young families.


écovallée behind the seams Part One: “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance”, a 50pp pdf describing one young family’s journey from suburban Brighton to rural France.


Alex, Clare & their two young children left England to live in France and create a sustainable life, with a dream of building a smallholding for food, and running an eco-luxury family yurt camp for money. Part One tells the story from before they had the Big Green Idea, through the move to France and what happened during the first year of being there. It is a cautionary tale of hopes and dreams dashed against the wall of unfeeling French bureaucracy. In short, they were lied to, ripped off & left penniless in months. The only reason they survived was thanks to the help of the English community – the people Alex came to call “mafia”.




Dreaming of a new life in France? See what a nightmare it can be.


Part One contains real experiences of buying property and trying to start a new business in France. It also covers practical aspects, like registering a non-French car and joining the social security system. But France doesn’t operate in the same way as, say, England. Assumed rules of fairness, honesty and decency do not apply. Instead, even people you’d expect to trust can end up plunging a knife in your back, with a small smile on their face. Essential reading for anyone considering making the move – to France or to the self-sufficient lifestyle. A bargain at €1.






Link to the écovallée facebook shop.


I forgot to include the section “Mandatories”. (Oh the irony.) This is where logos etc. are listed. Much of it seems like common sense, but it’s essential to have on the brief. (Hence the name.) Real life example: In 1992, when I was working in Leicester, an artworker was bollocked by a suit for not including an address on a press ad for a housebuilder client. He picked up the “copy sheet” and threw it at the suit, saying: “It’s not on the f*cking copy sheet”. Needful to say, every copy sheet for the rest of my career included every image, logo and piece of punctuation that was intended for the ad.

Then, if someone tried to give me a hard time for something that was missing on an ad, I could say: “Well, it’s on the copy sheet.”

A couple of weeks ago, I published the first part of “écovallée behind the seams” – my book about our life since having the Big Green Idea.

It’s quite a good book, even though I write so myself. Funny, interesting, surprising, educational – all the stuff you should expect from a book – and at €1 for 13,267 words, impressively cheap. I thought this was a reasonable price to ask, being somewhere between the €0 I’d already earnt from the book and the over €200,000 it cost me to write (a figure arrived at using applied Man Maths).

I launched Part One of the book, called “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” using this blog, which is linked to the écovallée facebook page and the twitter account. Then I sat back, excitedly, to watch social media work its magic.

The first sales were exciting. Selling two copies in five minutes was very exciting. But since then, I’ll admit, sales have been sluggish. And after a week without a sale, it’s clear I’m going to have to work on my marketing if I’m going to stand any chance of selling the 1,000 copies I need before I can start writing part two (ominously entitled “Descent into Hell”).

I’ll be using a variety of tried and trusted marketing techniques and giving totals of sales made as a result. I hope you find them interesting and/or amusing.

It’s a personal challenge for me – I spent 18 years as a copywriter (if you’ve seen “Mad Men” you’ll know what this is now), working in the UK and USA. I’ve written a The Afternoon Play for Radio 4 and an episode of The Tomorrow People for Big Finish Productions. I’ve also written a number of unproduced film and TV scripts, which I absolutely love doing (although if you haven’t done it, coming up with a story is astonishingly hard).

Now, I want this experiment to work. I do actually want to write Part Two – and not just for the second euro it might earn me (less fees from paypal). But there’s no sense in doing that if no one is interested. Or if no one likes what I’ve written already. Only time – and the next few posts – will tell…

UPDATE: If you want to buy a copy of “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” right now, simply click on the sock monkey in the écovallée shop.

Last Winter I wrote this:

It tells the story of écovallée from before the Big Green Idea, through where it all went horribly wrong, and up to the point where we…

No, I shouldn’t give too much away. The thing is, I could spend ages looking for an agent, then a publisher, then go through the stress of meetings, edits, proofing and the like. Or I could just publish it myself. Which is what I did a few minutes ago.

As you might expect, I’ve gone about it a bit differently. Part One, called “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” is available via paypal from the shop on the écovallée facebook page. It costs €1 and will be emailed as a pdf. Obviously, this gives you the chance to share it around for nothing – but if you did that, you’d never get to read Part Two. Because I will only start writing “Descent into Hell” when I have sold 1,000 copies of Part One.

Obviously, you could go about it a bit differently too, and share it with everyone you know for nothing. They could always come back and buy their own version at a later date.

Right. Having launched myself onto the world stage as An Author, I have to go and feed the animals.

Back in May 2007, I hinted at some books that have profoundly influenced my thinking. I said they “might be a bit New Age for your tastes” and left it at that. (What a book tease.)

But I recently got a message on a Popular Social Networking Service from a former colleague who said I lent her one of those books and it also had a profound influence on her. It just so happens that this was the book that started me off on a journey from the kitchen table in an apartment in Minneapolis to this old garden table in a yurt in the Dordogne.

Who knows where it could take you?

The book is called “Journey of Souls” by Dr Michael Newton. In a sentence, it’s about what happens between the point of death and the point of re-birth, using case studies from many clients under deep hypnosis to tell the whole story. Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for reincarnation and it was great to read about the process in more detail. But it’s a touchy subject for a lot of people, so I’ll say no more about it for now.

The other book I’ll give you (it’s nearly mid-winter, can you tell?) is far less challenging. It’s called “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by the astonishingly named Audrey Niffenegger. You may have read this already, but I’m re-reading it now and it’s just as good the second time round. Unwaveringly brilliant (and unless I’m mistaken, a key source text for the current series of “Doctor Who”).

Today we saw our first Early Purple orchids poking through the ground, between the veggie patch and the tractor. We think it’s a bit later than last year, but can’t know for sure. Next year, I’ll be able to tell you with something approaching scientific accuracy.

(Reading “Song of the Dodo” at the moment, after a few years of resistance. Predictably, it’s brilliant. Makes island biogeography a subject you’d want to queue up to study.)