Silly Beggar 1st Anniversary
I graduated, got married and bought a house all within a matter of months. As a consequence I was broke, and this was long before anyone had heard of the credit crunch. However, instead of feeling sorry for my empty pockets, I decided to do something about it (and have some fun at the same time). I, basically, embarked on a campaign to bag as many freebies as I could from companies in Britain and overseas.
So I started writing emails to Customer Services departments. I told one company that my house was invaded by penguins who had pecked apart my favourite shirt, so if they had a spare promotional one kicking about, could I have it? Other companies were told of weird experiments to clone myself or alien invasions I had thwarted. It was all good fun.
To my immense joy, the emails were received with a very positive reaction and, much to my surprise, I started receiving tee shirts, vouchers, hats, toys, and all sorts of goodies. Over the next few years I would periodically write batches of letters and wait for the postman to bring me free loot! When I would read the emails to my wife Tiffany or my friends, they often said that I should submit them to a publisher on the off-chance that they could do something with them. I didn’t know if anyone would really be interested in a book of weird comedy letters, but eventually I agreed and sent out a sample chapter to a handful of publishers.
To my great surprise I didn’t have long to wait. I had sent the scripts out on a Friday, and by the following Monday I had been offered a publishing deal by Aurora Metro, a respected London-based publisher.
The book was released on the 14th of May 2009. To promote it, the publisher sent out a press release and we were excited to learn that the Daily Record, one of Scotland’s most popular newspapers, were going to write about it the following day. I expected a small mention in a remote corner in between the shipping forecast and the crossword. Imagine my surprise when I opened up the middle of the paper and saw myself splashed across the pages like a centrefold! It was an amazing kick-start to the promotion campaign.
The book was launched with a signing at Borders Books in Edinburgh. I had a lot of fun speaking to customers, trying to persuade them to buy a copy, and using many of the insane techniques in the book itself! Please excuse the dance moves in the following video, I am a silly person.
To my great surprise and delight, one of England’s national papers, the Daily Mirror then showed an interest in the story. A photographer came around to my house and took photos of me and my collection of freebies. What I didn’t expect, was that when the story was published, everything would go crazy! That morning, my phone started ringing non-stop with newspapers, radio stations and TV shows wanting to talk to me about ‘blagging free stuff’.
That evening I was interviewed on BBC Radio 2′s popular Drivetime show, broadcasting to an audience of four million! The Richard and Judy Show then flew me down to London appear on their show.
Over the next few weeks, I was interviewed by BBC Manchester, BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and several Irish Radio Stations.
I was interviewed by more newspapers including the Weekly News and my local paper, The Dunfermline Press.
More book signings followed in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy and I made another TV appearance, this time for Scottish Television.
All in all, it was a remarkable few weeks.
However, all good things come to an end and when things settled down again, my head was spinning. I wished that the momentum could have carried on forever, but my fifteen minutes of fame had ticked away and the adventure was over. When I look back at Silly Beggar now, one year on, I almost can’t believe it happened to me.
Today is the first anniversary of Silly Beggar: The World’s Stupidest Begging Letters.
Silly Beggar, The World’s Stupidest Begging Letters By James Spence was published by Aurora Metro Press on May 14 2009 and is still available at all good bookshops.