I often get commissioned to publish books by businesses or organisations for specific purposes. These books may not go onto wider sale in the shops or online. Instead I am funded to print a batch for a specific purpose to give away or sell for charity.
One such commission was from Carisbrooke Castle Museum Oral History Department in collaboration with Isle of Wight Council Heritage Education Service and the Island Free School. The project was funded by a Young Roots grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The project was to publish a book of recorded memories from local retired people on the Isle of Wight. The memories were al recorded by children from the Island Free School. It was all part of a integenerational project where the children would work with the oral history team and the retired people to show them artefacts and record their responses to these objects.
I was asked to come into some of the session at the Island Free School and introduce the children to the idea of creating a book full of photos they had taken and edited highlights of the recorded transcripts. Over a number of weeks I helped two groups of children put together an outline boo and curate the content into different themes such as seaside memories, leisure and wartime. More importantly the children came up with a great title for the book: Step Back in Time – A collection of oral histories of older people living on the Isle of Wight.
There wasn’t time for the children to create the whole book at school so I took their outline and designed and typeset a full book full of wonderful memories and images. Funding provided for a print run of copies for a book launch at the Island Free School so that copies could be given to the children and the people who had taken part in the interviews.
It was a rewarding project to be involved with and I think the final colourful book was received very well.
I was approached by a local lady called Jo Cooper who had written her childhood memories of living on the Isle of Wight during the 1950s.
Her problem wasn’t so much with writing the book, but formatting it correctly to publish it herself on Amazon. Really there is only one solution for self publishing direct to Amazon – Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
I’ve published an ebook autobiography (Animals Never Judge Me) for a client before as well as publishing my own short stories via KDP As well as ebooks, it’s also very easy to then go on and create a full printed paperback. That’s what Jo wanted – a real paper book of her memories that she could sell locally.
I worked as a publishing consultant for Jo and helped her format the book correctly for upload to Amazon as well as advising her on the cover. It was a fun project and after a few drafts we had a correctly formatted manuscript ready to publish.
I’d always wanted to publish a hardback, but never really got around to it with my own books and most clients choose paperbacks, mainly due to cost considerations. That was until I was approached by a lady called Rosey Messing, who had written a family history with a difference.
Most family history books are written from the third person, keeping strictly to the facts as known. Rosey had wanted to do something different with her family story after finding a letter written by an ancestor who had travelled from Ireland to Canada in the 19th Century. The letter from her ancestor inspired Rosey so much that she decided to travel the world meeting and talking to relatives. Before long she found herself obsessed with her research and knew she was uncovering a fascinating story.
When it came to writing the facts Rosey just couldn’t get the ‘voice’ of the girl out of her head and she soon found herself channeling her epistolary style as she wrote the story. Before long she found that pages of prose and dialogue and fiction had suddenly poured out into her word processor. She was mindful of keeping as best as she could to the basic facts of the story, as told by her ancestors and from factual accounts and records, but she isn’t ashamed to say some of her story is a figment of her imagination.
When Rosey had finished and read it many of her extended family all over the world were itching to read it and thought she should publish it. She came to me and we worked on a plan to publish the book as an exclusive hardback with a nice modern design twist on the usual family-history cover. When I read the story I enjoyed it and thought it would appeal to fans of historical novels so thought it would have wider appeal than just direct family or people interested in local history.
And the rest is history because it is now published and for sale and has actually been our best-selling book this year due to a large order from an American wholesaler. I was over the moon when I saw the royalty statement, which means a nice little earner for Rosey and Beachy Books.
If you fancy a historical read about a woman who makes an incredible journey to start a new life on the Canadian prairies then take a look at Lizzie by Rosey Messing on our website.
In June of this year I was commissioned by Newchurch school, who is also federated with Nettlestone Primary, to publish a new version of a book I created with the children years back.
The book is called Your Journey Starts Here and has been a book that has been republished in new versions each year since the book was first made in 2012. The book introduces new pre-school children and their parents to the school using photos and simple text to explain the whole school day from arrival to departure.
Your Journey Starts Here has proved very popular with parents and children and I’m so chuffed to have been asked again this year to make changes with new photos and text and publish more books for the school to give our to new arrivals before they start school.
Last year I created and published a book called Fairyland Fairytales, which was a book commissioned by a lady from a Shanklin tearoom who wanted to compile a book of fairy stories written by children. She wanted the book for sale in her tea room and for all profits from the book to go to a charity of her choice each year.
I’m happy to report that another 100 copies of the book have been ordered for sale this year! This is the third book order now so it’s lovely to see a book completely selling out and being reordered and doubly satisfying when it’s for charity.
I never started all this publishing malarky to do anything other than publish my own books. But, over the years I’ve learned a heck of a lot about writing, creating, publishing and selling books, along with all the ups and downs the process entails.
As the years rolled by I started to work with community groups and schools in helping them create and publish their own books. This then developed into publishing books for private individuals and becoming a mini-imprint boutique publisher I suppose. It has gradually grown and has mostly come through word of mouth, slowly establishing local contacts and establishing myself as a good solid publisher of books, all be it local books mostly because that’s what sells well around these parts.
I put out an story in the local paper and it got a great response and it was amazing to hear from a range of writers who had written books ranging from children’s poetry to local history books. I’m pleased to say the work seems to be rolling in but the trouble is I’ve not had so much time to write my own books. You can’t have it all!
Philip rambles about some very very good news for him, how it’s easy to lose faith in your writing, dragonfly spotting, and he attempts to sing.
Philip Bell, published author, writer and publisher at Beachy Books, rambles on about writing while on his country rambles. He rambles about writing, children’s books, publishing, self publishing, and anything to do with books and literature. With thanks to Dan O’Neill, who composed the wonderful music.