Sunday, 20 October 2013

Amazon Ranking

Thanks in part to a great review of The Leftovers Handbook by The Frugal Queen my sales have improved dramatically over the last few days.  I check once or twice (or eighteen or thirty five times) a day to see how it is doing and sometimes it makes me grin.  This, for instance …

Me, Suzy Bowler, ahead of Delia!  Not really of course; it’s due to how the books have been categorised.  The Leftovers Handbook is under Books > Food & Drink > Reference & GastronomyGastronomy.   Actually it has been as high as number 4 in this category and is at 8 today but looks so much more impressive with Delia beside it don’t you think?

It does mean, however, that I can rightfully claim to have been in the Top 100 Gastronomy books for quite a few days now!

It was recently brought home to me how important categorisation is after my lovely agent Jen Christie managed to get the Kindle version of The Leftovers Handbook re-categorised under Gastronomy and sales rank improved considerably – something to bear very much in mind when self-publishing on Amazon.

This isn't cheating at all; it’s making life easier for possible purchasers to find the information they are looking for which will, naturally, boost sales.  This is why my book features nowhere under Books > Food & Drink > Food Writers > Delia Smith

In other news

In case you are wondering about how our BT Fiasco is going – the matter is now in the hands of The Chairman’s office who were sadly confused and in fact placed a new order on our behalf which we didn’t want.  They did cancel it quite efficiently after I pointed the error out and I think started to understand that at the moment all we want is the reinstatement of our old number.  (Yes, we will need more work later but that can take place months from now after we have rallied a bit!)   

We don’t have our number back yet; it’s been something like 10 days since the Chairman’s office took the case over and I would have thought returning our original number, which is not in use by anyone else, would be a piece of you know what.  They’ve managed to change it twice without too much trouble, or our consent!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Sorry about this rant but I've got to talk to someone!

Back story ...

  1. We live in a house with a barn at the end of the garden.  We have converted the barn into a home and intend to gut, renovate and then rent out the house.

  1. I have recently had a book published and both urgently and constantly need phone and internet access for marketing it. I have had business cards printed and distributed with my phone number and email address on them.  I have sent out press releases and magazine pitches via email and need to respond immediately to replies. I tweet and use Facebook, Linkedin and other social media, all of which have a positive effect on sales and keeping my name and my book in people's minds.  Networking being so very important these days my sales rise and fall dramatically depending on whether or not I am active online.  My agent, publishers and publicist communicate via a joint Dropbox in the cloud which now, of course, is not available to me. 

  1. Even more important and upsetting we have a family member with terminal cancer and need to be in touch with him (so far he is still living alone in his own home in Newcastle) on a daily basis.


On 27th June we arranged with BT for the transfer of the line from our house to the barn on Friday 26th July between 8.00 am and 1.00 pm and based on that date made other arrangements for our move.  During the intervening month we received a call from the engineers asking us to confirm some details of the location and he called later to say this was fine and the work could go ahead.


•                    No-one showed up all morning but we moved and at 12.55 pm our line was disconnected, 15 minutes later I received a text message...

"We are really apologize (sic) that the engineer could not visit your new address to activate the telephone line.  Reason for Delay: Job Delayed with TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT.  Next Update Friday 16 /08/13.  We will keep you updated so that you needn't call us back.  Thank You Bt (sic)"

•                     Called the 0800 800 150 waited 20 minutes then spoke to a girl in India who gave me the number to call. It was 0800 800 150! 
•                     Called again and got a guy in Birmingham who spoke to the engineers who said the work could not be done because "it is a very busy road" and they need clearance from the council.  Seemingly they assume a road is quiet till proved otherwise! 
•                     I asked for the line to be switched on again but was told this is not possible and I would be updated on 16th August.
•                     I was told a manager would call me back on my mobile within the hour. He/she didn't.  This phone call, including waiting time, took over an hour.
•                     I called again and spoke to girl who said she would do her best to arrange for the service to be switched back on sometime Monday (although transferring the line would still not happen till at least the 16th) and would call me back to let me know how she got on.  She didn't. 


•                     Spoke to a savvy guy who set up a temporary phone number to our house and said it would be charged at the same rate as our original line ***.  He suggested I get a dongle for temporary internet access and credited our account £25 to cover this.


•                     Contacted people saying that I would be out of action for day or two till I got a dongle.  Sadly this information was wrong. 


•                     Tried to get a dongle but all suppliers, including BT, say there is not sufficient reception where I live.
•                     Spoke to Durham who said we could cancel the order and have our old number back with 48 hours.  We could then rearrange the transfer for a later date. She said she'd transfer us but unfortunately it was a wrong number!   
•                     Re-dialled and talked to a guy in India who didn't really understand but eventually decided he couldn't do what we were asking and indeed no-one in India could deal with this problem and he couldn't transfer us to anyone who could. 
•                     Tried again - same guy. 
•                     3rd call we got a Scottish chap who, after about half an hour discussion, came up with the information that he couldn't deal with it and transferred us to ....
•                     ... Open Reach in India who after about 10 minutes transfer us to ...
•                     ... Open Reach in Warrington. They said cancelling the order was not the thing to do as it would take until at least 5th August to reconnect and there was no guarantee that we would get our original number back.
•                     She transferred us to Order Management in India, the guy's English was not very good so he transferred us to his supervisor.
•                     We asked if it would be possible to speed up the procedure and transfer the line within the next few days, he said "No" and that was it.


I posted the above information in a letter to the BT Correspondence Centre at an address in Durham given to me by one of the friendly folk above.


"Hello - this is a message from BT. This is to confirm we will contact you 20/08/13 by 20.00 to discuss the delay in activation of your services.  There is no need to contact us as we will not be able to provide you with any more information.  Thank you. Sender 2123001"


Emailed BT from a friend's and was told I would receive a reply within 24 hours, I didn't.  Filled in complaints form at,5681 but have not heard anything.


Received a call from India in response to my letter sent to Durham to reassure me that work would be done as soon as possible after 16thAugust. I gave him some details, he was surprised and gave me a direct number to Order Management. 

Called the number held in a queue with a recording every few minutes saying "will be answered".  After 25 minutes I realised as I had already got through to the number I was being charged for this long wait. 

I hung up and just for a laugh called 0800 800 150 and was held in a line for a few minutes and then an automated service took my mobile number and said they would hold my place in the line and call back within the hour. They didn't. 


I called 0800 800 150 again twice, as above, no return calls.


Wrote to Warren Buckley asking for his help, no reply.


BT called to say would be erecting traffic lights on 22nd August.


No traffic lights by 5.30 pm so I rang and bugger me if I didn't get through to a sensible girl in England who spoke to the engineers who said the lights were scheduled for 7.00 pm. and also that the distribution box was full and they needed to split the line before completing the work

At 7.00 there was a Traffic Lights van outside and bollards had been placed for some way along the road BUT they had gone again an hour later!


Called BT and was told the engineers had arrived that morning but were unable to do the work as there was a parked car in the way!  How odd, if this is true, that they didn't knock at our door or any of our neighbours to find out whose it was or to get it moved. 

BT called on my mobile to say that they needed to do some work at the exchange first and would update us by 8.00 pm that day.  They didn't.  I called the number and got a recorded message:

"We tried to call you but there was no answer ... you have not been charged for this call."


Called 0800 800 150 and spoke to a guy in India who said it's in the hands of a facilitator  and that he'd put a note on the file.  As it was a bank holiday he'd try to ensure someone calls 8.00 pm on 27th August but, this did not mean the work would be done then!


No one rang. 

Sent an updated letter to Warren Buckley, still no reply. 


Called BT and some genius said they could add internet to our temporary line and did!  I was very pleased and wished they'd done it earlier. 


I went to France with a friend leaving my partner in UK and giving BT his daytime and mobile numbers.  I had expected the situation to be resolved by my return on 24th September.


BT texted me in France to say they had called but were unable to get hold of me. I tried to reply to the text to re-iterate UK numbers but not possible to reply to that number.  .


Received a text, in France, saying they would contact me on the 18th September.


Received a phone call, in France, from BT, told them again the UK numbers and was told that they'd call my partner in a day or two to let him know how things are going.


I received, in France naturally, a text saying ...

We have tried to contact you unsuccessfully. We apologise for the delay in providing you with Telephone service, we are working with our engineers to resolve this.  We will contact you again on 27/09/13


*** On my return to the UK I opened my post and do not think it is as agreed.


Called 0800 800 150 and said "billing".  Spoke to a guy who said he was from "Customer Optimisation". I asked what that was and he explained that it meant "customer optimisation".  I didn't so much discuss the bill as rant on about what a balls up this is and he was less than helpful.


Filled in another BT complaint form.


Received a reply to above complaint form filling in, it basically said the matter was in hand and traffic lights would be erected on 30thSeptember.  No apologies or even much politeness about  the situation.


During the day bollards were placed along the road and then, late afternoon a real live man from Open Reach came to see us. 

He told us that the work that needs doing is under the road opposite the bus stop about 20m up the road.  He said traffic lights need to be erected to do this work and that there is a car parked there so not poss. 

He then said that there is an embargo on putting traffic lights up during the hours of daylight on our road due to the large lorries that use it.  (There have been other service with daytime traffic lights and I have the pics).  He said that so far as he could see the situation was impossible and suggested we cancel the order and ask for a switch ie. extend the line down the garden, and worry about reconnecting the house when the time comes which would be with less pressure and forewarned.


We were still thinking about this advice but received a surprise visit from Open Read who apparently performed a switch by extending our line from the house to the barn! We assumed from this that our original order had been cancelled and although we were still considering what to do decided it was for the best.  Fingers crossed.

The guy said to us, no kidding, "Now I've done this probably other people will turn up to do the work.  For a communications company the communication in BT is terrible."


Received a text from BT saying

"Sorry your orders been delayed and we need to rearrange your engineer visit. To book another visit call 0800 800 150.


Received a text from BT saying they will call us on 8th October to "discuss about the order".  Just a few minutes later received another text saying:

"Sorry.  Your "BT order start date" has changed.  Your new engineer's visit is on                     29th October ..!"

That will make it over 3 months.

Also received an email, reputedly from Warren Buckley with same info giving reference no.  HMNMG*************

Called 0800 800 150 to get our old number back.  The guy, Harold, said it was not possible as there was an order pending on this number.  I explained the whole sorry mess to him and he said to hold on and he'd talk to the engineers.  He came back to me and said he had spoken to two departments.  One said we had cancelled the order (we hadn't although have been advised by BT to cancel it) and the other said they would cancel the order immediately.  He then went to reinstate our original number and, what a surprise, the order had not been cancelled!  He was quite upset himself and said he will work on it and call be on the mobile tomorrow.  He didn't.


Called O800 800150 and spoke to a girl who put me through to another girl called Bernadette at Customer Care. She said cancellation of our original order was "pending" and shortly after confirmed that it had been cancelled.  She applied to have our original number back and said it should be done within 24 hrs.

Received an email confirmation of the above.

Later same day BT called to say an engineer would be calling on 29th October to complete the (recently cancelled) order.  I explained the situation although the Indian lady and I had trouble understanding each other.

Received this email ...

Automatic Mailer
This e-mail has been sent by an automated system, please do not respond to this e-mail.
Hello - This is a message from BT. This is to confirm your telephone service will be activated by midnight 29/10/2013, the engineering appointment is between 08:00 to 13:00. Your reference number is VOL0**********. Thank you for choosing BT

As you can see this is different from the new order number above!


Received an email from BT (Warren Buckley again - but still no reply to my direct letter) saying

"We're all done Hello - now ready for you."

A friend called on the mobile to say that neither our original number 5 nor our temporary number  were working.

Called 0800 800150 and talked to Mark who said that our new number (!) is now completely different!!!  I explained to him all that had gone on and he has tried very hard to help us out.

He spoke to the engineers who said that there is an order pending on that number.  He said that it had been cancelled and they said that it was "supposed" to be cancelled but wasn't!  He has asked for the order to be cancelled and our old number reinstated which, he thinks will take a day for the cancellation and a day for the reinstatement.


We received 2 texts and an email saying …

We need to change some dates

We're sorry, but we need to change the date that some of your services will start or stop.

Your broadband start date is changing from 26-Jul-2013 to 29-Oct-2013.
The date your current phone service will stop is changed to 26-Jul-2013.
Your broadband stop date will also change - it will now be the same day as your phone line.
Services can start/stop any time up to midnight on their start/stop date. Any kit you're expecting will arrive on time.

If you need to change any other dates in your order or postpone the stopping of any of your current BT services, call us on 0800 800 150.

You'll need order number HMNMG*************

Followed by a text saying …

Important BT Order Update – unfortunately we are unable to provide an update on your order as planned.  You do not need to contact us as we will be in touch before 8 pm on 11th October.


As our original number has not been reinstated I called 0800 800 150, waited 15 minutes, spoke to order management in India who said the order is completed!  Said I needed to speak to the guy I spoke to in England on 8th October, Mark.  The man in India said he could not transfer me.  Tried again, same result. 

For a short while after this our phone line and broadband went dead!

Tried again but was not put through to anyone.

No-one called as indicated by yesterday's text.


The road we live on is fairly busy-ish, I suppose, for a single carriageway main road through a village in Cornwall. The telegraph pole is on our side of the road directly outside the house, the line needs to be extended for a few yards down our garden.  We own both properties. 

So far we have spoken to 20 or more people, been held in line many, many times usually for 20+ minutes and once for over an hour.  When we do get to speak to a person we have to start all over again, repeating all the details and telling our story which gets longer each time.  We have not been called back at least 15 times.  We have not been replied to twice by Warren Buckley or his staff (despite being told that is who to contact), BT complaints in Durham failed to deal with the situation and nor did BT's complaints department after filling in an online form.  We have been told all sorts of things from we can be reconnected within days to it is humanly impossible to reconnect us.  We have been told the problem is the distributor box, the exchange, somewhere in between, the busy road, Traffic Management, not being able to contact us due to me being in France despite having left two alternative numbers, need clearance from council, engineers encountering a parked car, and so on.  We have heard so many different versions of what could or should happen next that we don't know what to believe.

I would very much like this situation resolved asap.  I have lost a great many book sales because of this and also lost momentum in my writing career but am unsure how this converts to monetary terms.  I would like the money for our recent bill refunded as it is, after all, BT's fault we needed this temporary line.

Please is there any way you can sort out this problem for us and also perhaps the problems that BT seem to be experiencing as a whole?  Some suggestions ...

  1. Check if the work is to be done on one of Britain's rare busy roads before the moment of commencement.
  2. Don't disconnect a line till confirmation is received from the engineers that the work can be done.
  3. Try to get all staff, all over the world, to synchronise their stories.
  4. Don't say you will call back unless you will.

SORRY ABOUT THAT RANT ~ I just wanted to talk to someone!


Wednesday, 2 October 2013 ~ useful-ish and fun!

As you may or may not know I "publish" or "host" or whatever it is a couple of newsletters;

Click here

Click here
Now that you have clicked on the above two links I trust you will click "share" or "subscribe" or, ideally, both! 

The reason I started these two papers was, of course, in an attempt to promote my writing and my blogs but they do seem rather random and even reading my own issues I have learned a lot!  In fact in one of my earliest editions of Lush Ice Cream News was this headline ...

Cat Snores Into Glass Of Orange Juice For No Apparent Reason 

... and it doesn't get much better than that, does it?

If you are unfamiliar with then, briefly, what happens is you set up a newspaper thingy concerning your area of interest and then you designate various websites, twits and facebook pages plus some appropriate keywords and every day or week, your decision, collect together relevant items into a new edition of your paper, email it to subscribers and mention it on Twitter.

This method means that unless you are very stringent with sources and keywords some interesting stuff crops up.  I subscribe to a number of papers:

~   The Food Stuff Extra Daily   This recently linked to a version of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic".  Well what a treat! I love Mr. Morrison and, I kid you not, I once had dinner with him, just him and me, at his invitation!  Anyhoo my point is - what has this to do with food? 
~   The British Cheese Daily  Often very interesting but frequently not about cheese.
~   The FoodiesSW Daily - don't tell Olive Magazine, "foodie" is one of their banned words!  They recently linked to a story about this rather attractive older gentleman who at 50 still gets asked if he's old enough to buy booze.  Weak link but pleasant!

~   On #writing 
~   The Click Cornwall Daily  - because I live here.
~   The Caribbean Travel Daily - because I used to live there

You get the picture, I'm often tempted to sign up for more but reading them takes up so much time every day; they can be fascinating.

And why am I telling you this?  Well 3 reasons ...

1.   Another attempt to promote myself, I have no shame.
2.   In case you have not heard of this way of getting your work out there.
3.   So that you too can waste hours reading all sorts useful info, plus irrelevant but interesting stuff.

I have a favour to ask of you!  

FOOD - the South Wests favourite food magazine have just launched their third Food Reader awards. Please go to my foodie blog Sudden Lunch and click this logo in the sidebar to nominate your favourite chefs, restaurant, retailers and more in the South West. May I suggest Sudden Lunch as the Best Food Blogger?  

After that browse their site, you won't be disappointed.

Thank you,