Tag Archives: planet germany

Commenting on royalty and representing the Germans to the French

It’s been a hectic week in Planet Germany. Not only has the Rhineland been turned upside down with Karneval, but the fame of Planet Germany has been spreading.

This week I was asked by Christoph Driessen of dpa why the Germans love the British monarchy so much. Of course that one is easy. The British monarchy is in fact descended almost entirely from German nobility. In a sense, the Germans have merely outsourced its royals to Britain.  As German children grow up and transition from reading about princesses in Grimms Märchen to reading about them in Bunte and Gala, the British Royals take centre stage in the German psyche.

I suspect the Swabians were behind sending the German Royals to Britain though. You see, as Germany gears up excitedly for the royal wedding, it is now the British taxpayer who will foot the bill for the celebrations. Germans everywhere are hoping for a profligate affair – especially the Schwaben.

Mr. Driessen’s article can be found here (in German).

German royalty

I rather fancy moving to Britain darling, what do you think?

Apart from my new-found status as German Royal watcher, I am also now a cultural ambassador to the French apparently. The auswärtiges Amt is featuring Planet Germany on its website at the moment as a fine example of expats loving life in Germany.

I shall await with interest the response of the French to my (British) views on the Germans –  these being three nations that have never been known to see eye to eye on many cultural matters.

Entente Cordiale

Entente Cordiale?


Filed under About Germany, books, german history, Life in Germany

Win a FREE copy of Planet Germany

Great news for all regular Planet Germany readers! Young Germany is giving away a FREE copy of my book . If you haven’t already read it, it’s a great opportunity to pick up a copy for nothing. Swabians… take note!


Filed under books

Planet Germany as a university set text

I was alerted this week to a small ad on the Leipzig University notice board. It was from a Russian student and she was looking to buy a second hand copy of Planet Germany.

I emailed her and found out that she needed the book because it was a set text for her univerity English course. She was looking to buy it second hand (and for this she apologised to me profusely) because as a student without a grant or scholarship, she cannot afford all the course books she needs.

Of course I was delighted to learn that Planet Germany is being pored over now by students of English. I hope it turns out to be one of the course books which genuinely gives delight, rather than loathing and last-minute pre-exam panics (what was that quote about the cat and the enema again?)

Of course, I sent a copy to the Russian student – and I hope she manages to sail through her exam with a top grade now!


Filed under About Germany, books, children in germany, german education, German language, Life in Germany

A call to Planet Germany readers

It would appear that Planet Germany, along with a very excellent selection of other ex pat blogs,  has been shortlisted for the accolade “Best German Blog”.

Obviously I would be delighted if any of my readers here would be kind enough to pop over to Go Overseas and vote for Planet Germany.  But I would also be pleased, if you use this as an opportunity to check out some of the other very excellent blogs on the list too. Many of the writers are online friends of mine – so I’ll also be happy if they win the ultimate accolade too.

Of course, as we’re all here in Germany, we should really run this as a duel… complete with Renommierschmisse.  Perhaps I should lay down the gauntlet and suggest the weapon. Ladies and Gentlemen…. Bratwursts at dawn?

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Filed under Life in Germany

Teatime and Cellos in Düsseldorf

Just a quick alert for anyone in Düsseldorf on October 3rd. I will be appearing at Teatime and Cellos on Planet Germany.

The event is organised by Rhinebuzz. It will be an afternoon of fabulous classical music interspersed with me reading funny passages from Planet Germany . It starts at 5 p.m. (that’s 17.00 if you’re German) and will be at  Kwadrat, Blücherstrasse 51, Düsseldorf.

I really hope to meet some of my regular readers there!


Filed under About Germany, books, comedy, german art, German language, Life in Germany

The hottest product on the planet

Apparently Planet Germany is it! Wow!

Many thanks to all those visitors who bought a copy this week!


Filed under About Germany, books, Life in Germany

Amusing the Germans

This week the very excellent Christoph Driessen wrote an article for dpa which was syndicated to news sites all over Germany, including Bild, Welt Online, T-Online, Web.de, Focus Online… to name but a few.

His article looks  at the unusual portrayal of Germans by various travel guides and other books – including Planet Germany. Of course for a gripping article it was essential to pick up on some of the quirky or even downright insulting descriptions of teutonic habits and characteristics which are picked up by the authors – myself included. The parts praising teutonic qualities and virtues don’t make good news copy.

But what really struck me was how the different headline writers have had a field day. There seems to have been a competition to see who can sensationalise this story most.

This got me into thinking what I would expect each of these articles to be about if I’d only read the headline, not the article…

Britische Reiseführer warnen vor Deutschland

announces T-Online… conjuring images of the imminent collapse of a German tourist industry, dependent on beer swilling Brits to keep the Oktoberfest in business.

Vom Horror in der deutschen Sauna

screams the Nürnberger Zeitung. I’m expecting an article about a gruesome chainsaw massacre here…

Behaarte Wesen ohne Lederhosen

suggests News.de.  I guess an alien invasion has started…

Rechnen Sie mit gedüngten Körperregionen!

suggests the Sueddeutsche. Good grief! This must be about mud wrestling gone mad!

If anyone else spotted any other good ones out there, please let me know! I love German humour!


Filed under About Germany, books, Life in Germany

So you want to publish a book?

Every few months, someone or other (usually an expat in Germany) contacts me to explain that they too are keen to publish a book and would like to know about the process of getting it published.  This post is for all those people – and for any others who haven’t yet got round to asking me!

First of all, a bit about the publishing business.

There are lots of different types of publishers, but the main ones you need to be aware of are:

–          The big mainstream guys

–          The specialists

–          The self-publishing houses

In addition there are also online publishers (ebooks) – which is a smaller but rapidly growing niche. Each of these has a potential role, but only one will be right for YOUR book.

The big mainstream publishers

Obviously it would be great to be plucked from obscurity by the likes of Harpur Collins, Penguin or Bloomsbury… but let’s be realistic about the chances of this happening. For a previously unpublished author, it is very, very low. There is, however, one potential route to this (if you’re prepared to give it a go). Harpur Collins runs a portal for aspiring authors at: www.authonomy.com and usually picks out two or three new writers a year from the many thousands who submit manuscripts. Not only that, their competitors and various agents also trawl the site looking for new talent. It’s not a bad place to showcase yourself, but you will need to do plenty of reciprocal reading/commenting/arselicking in order to get your book up the rankings and into prominence.

The specialists

This is the more realistic scenario for a first time author. Smaller publishers tend to have certain areas where they specialize (travel, cooking, history, gay writers, poetry, etc.). It takes quite a bit of online research to find which publisher would be the right one for your book… but if you do hit one who is looking for exactly what you have to offer, then you’re in with a chance.

Self publishing

For most first time authors, self publishing is the only realistic route to getting into print. The advantages are that you are guaranteed to have the printed books in your hand and on Amazon within a matter of weeks. If your book sells well, you will also make more money than you would through a mainstream or specialist publisher. The downside is that you have to fund the publication yourself and take on the commercial risk and the marketing. The bigger upside is that self publishing can be very inexpensive (remember – it’s a print-on-demand model rather than one which requires a large print run), and as the marketing support most of the mainstream publishers would give your book are negligible, you’re going to have to do that bit yourself anyway! The only real disadvantages to self publishing are actually that your book won’t physically be on the shelves of bricks and mortar bookshops (though booksellers will be able to order it for anyone who asks for it).

The economics of publishing a book

First time authors sometimes forget that publishing is a business. A publisher will look at your manuscript as a product and will be working out how many copies they can sell at what price and margin. They really don’t care much about your honeyed turns of phrase or how much you agonized over the title of Chapter 3. Publishers are risk averse (in an inherently risky business). Even some of the best (commercial and/or literary) manuscripts are rejected many times before someone spots their potential. The first Harry Potter book was rejected by more than one publisher before Bloomsbury picked it up. Teenage wizardry was an unproven concept and carried a degree of risk that some publishers wouldn’t accept.

Royalties on a paperback for a first-time author would normally be about 6% of the net price. So if the initial print run was 5000 (and all were sold) at €10 + VAT you would make €3000.

If you were to self publish (print on demand), you can spend anything from €300 – over €1000 upfront depending on what is included in the package (things to look out for are layout, cover design, editing, pr support, etc.). But you get around 20% of the net price as royalty (this is illustrative based on what most people charge – with self publishing you can choose the price point yourself).

If your self-published book sells for €10, you’ll make €2 per book sold. If it cost you €1000 to publish (assuming you went for a fairly full service package), you’d need to sell 500 copies to break even.  If you sold 5000 copies (as in the publisher example above), you’d make €10,000 –less the €1000 initial outlay – so €9000.

The point is, if your book is likely to appeal to a fairly niche audience, first of all, no commercial publisher will look at it because it won’t shift the volumes they require. But self publishing offers you a route to getting into print economically at very low volumes. And if you do happen to publish something with a wider appeal, you’ll make a lot more money in the end.

Is my manuscript suitable?

Only you can decide whether your manuscript is suitable for publishing. A couple of important points though:

–          If your text has already been published in any other form and is still available (e.g. online, as a blog or articles on a website) no commercial publisher will accept it

–          Readers are far less likely to pay for something which they can get for free elsewhere

–          Blogs, articles and unrelated snippets sometimes make good books… but usually don’t, either because the manuscript lacks cohesion/storyline/plot/structure or because some essential aspects (photos, videos, links, comments) are lacking – if your manuscript wasn’t written as a book initially, be very self critical. It might be better to start again and write something new. Remember – the planning is the most important stage in writing a book. You should spend at least as long on this as on the actual writing. (Editing is also critical).

When thinking about publishing a book, you need to ask yourself some key questions:

–          Who is my target audience? (Hint: the answer can’t be “everybody” or “all parents” or “women” … it’s more likely to be “women in the UK aged 25-35 who are trying to juggle a job and a toddler” or “middle-aged women whose husbands are going through a mid-life crisis” … or whatever. But there must be a core target market who are the people absolutely pre-destined to buy your book. )

–          How many people are there in my target audience? (You need to manage your own expectations here about how many copies you can sell – if your target audience is “rollerblade salesmen in Switzerland”, rethink your book.)

How do I get people to buy my book?

Your publisher (or self publisher) will sort out the mechanics of it all – ISBN number, sending copies of record to the appropriate libraries, getting the book listed on Amazon and other online bookseller sites. But the marketing will be mainly up to you. This is true, whether you are self publishing or with a mainstream publisher. You are the one who will need to publicise your work.

Here are some things you can do:

–          Email all your friends, relatives, colleagues, acquaintances…. These people will buy your book without a second thought. They will also tell you it’s great, (even if it isn’t). When they do, make them put that thought into writing in the form of an Amazon review. Reviews on Amazon do help sell books, particularly if someone is dithering. Specific, detailed reviews are much better than “I enjoyed this book” – so if necessary get your family and friends to run their review past you first. Be shameless about this – it’s your single most important piece of advertising!

–          Find out where your target audience is on the internet. Forums, Facebook groups, Twitter, blogs, communities etc. Join all of these, and become an active member. Don’t annoy people by “pushing” your book, just play an active role, get people to like you and eventually they’ll buy. Occasionally you can slip in some anecdote which alerts people to the fact you’ve got a book out… but don’t overdo it.

–          Set up a blog on the same subject as your book, and advertise your book there (link to the Amazon page). By blogging regularly on the same subject, you’ll draw traffic from search engines – and they’ll be people with a specific interest in this subject

–          Do some offline marketing – give readings, book signings, etc. to appropriate groups. You can buy copies cheaply straight from the publisher and make a far higher margin than normal.

–          Send review copies to bloggers who blog on the same subject – they particularly like it if you give them an extra copy to give away via their blog

–          Send review copies to any appropriate other media (newspapers, magazines, radio stations) – include a press-pack with biographical details, a photo and a summary of the book

–          Donate copies of the book as prizes – the more people who read it and like it, the more they’ll recommend it to others

–          Join sites like Librarything.com, shelfari and goodreads and ensure that your book is on there


Filed under About Germany, books, Life in Germany

When I heard you were coming I phoned the British Army

I spent a lovely evening in Münster yesterday as a guest of the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft. They had kindly asked me to be their guest speaker for the evening and also do a reading from my book Planet Germany.

Beforehand I was treated to a tour of the fabulous city of Münster and a lovely meal.

Over dinner I asked who would actually be coming to the reading. My host said: “I circulated it round the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft, and the University, and some of the local Grammar schools English departments.. and I called the British Army.”

Luckily when we got to the venue, it wasn’t actually being guarded by tanks and armed soldiers.

Afterwards I was also invited to join some of the attendees in a trip to a traditional local pub.  A great end to a lovely day!

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Filed under books, Life in Germany

What do you call a German electrician?

I was taken aback the other day when a critic reckoned I’d used “silly pseudonymic names” for some of the characters in Planet Germany.

The thing is… all of the names in the book were given for a very specific reason. So our local beer-delivery man, known as Dr. Bier in the book, I can actually reveal as really being called Mr. Beier. In fact he’s one of two Mr. Beiers… because he runs the business with his brother. Appropriately their van sports the slogan Keine Feier ohne Beier (no party without Beier) – which is absolutely correct. We wouldn’t even attempt one!

Another apparently silly name was Frau Grimm the headmistress. I admit – the real lady on whom the character was based does not have that name. But her school does…. and pretty much everything they do is labelled as Grimm. So why ever not?

Zirkus Grimm on the school playground

Zirkus Grimm on the school playground

Anyway… more importantly, the truth of the matter is that Germans very often have funny names. No really they do.

On the main street of Meerbusch there is a provider of fine grave stones who always makes me laugh because his name is Fucken – I hope not too many of his clients are forced to complain: The Fucken inscription’s wrong on Gran’s grave.

Our local garden centre is called Bogies… which I feel fits admirably with their slogan exhorting us to “experience the greenness.”

And of course, imagine my delight when the local electrician called the other day. His name is Mr. Dose – and appropriately Dose is the German word for an electric socket.

The German word Dose means electric socket

The German word Dose means electric socket

Of course, I now know that in any future writing I really ought to anonymise these people by calling them Herr. Schmidt or something. But wouldn’t that make life just that little bit less weird?


Filed under books, German language, Life in Germany