End of the Year Blog 2021 — Annus Fertilis

Annus fertilis

I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve 2021, a year that personally for me I would describe as annus horribilis, having lost my dear mum to the ravages of cancer in April. She gave me my love of the written word and passion for books. She also left a storage unit full of books (which I’m going through box by box). There’s no easy way to follow that news and it has taken its toll on me, for sure, but I am truly thankful I have a lovely partner and family around me that have helped. I’m healing, day by day, whatever that means. Also, I am grateful that my hard work to create Beachy Books gave me a disciplined focus of ‘work’ to distract me and keep me alive through some very very dark days. 

It is a comfort to know that my mum was proud of my writing achievements in the past and was so happy I had started my own publishing company. She was always my favourite cheerleader and encouraged me in everything. I still hear her voice in my head and I speak to her every day. One of the last things we talked about was how Beachy Books was doing and I proudly showed her some of the latest books we had published.

I truly miss her and want to honour her memory by making Beachy Books a success and continuing to grow steadily in 2022 and beyond. But before I do that, it’s been a sobering exercise to take stock of another publishing year. Looking back, I know feel like, perhaps, I can lightly pat myself on the back, because I was surprised at quite how many books we published—six in total! Not bad for a very small publisher, considering how much work is involved in each book and when most of the work is done by me (and our authors of course), along with a handful of excellent freelancers and family help. On top of that, I have helped a few independent authors publish their own books and worked on several design/typesetting projects throughout the year. I’m proud of how much we have achieved in such a short space of time. To be positive, it’s been a productive year—annus fertilis.

What we published in 2021

It seems such a long way back to think of how the year started, coming out of the back of the lockdown coronavirus year, where we had just relaunched our ‘Beachy Books’ imprint as a traditional title list, alongside our existing Partner Publishing imprint and author publishing services.

Early on into 2021, we moved house and business location to my birth county of Kent, but we still have close connections with the Isle of Wight where Beachy Books was born.

After successfully kicking off the imprint with our first title in 2020, a children’s title called Thingamanose by Lynne Hudson, I quickly had to make new contacts in the publishing industry to get us into the book supply chain. After initially having our books on wholesale with Gardners Books, who were so helpful in getting our books to customers all through lockdown in 2020, I eventually found a fantastic book distributor. I had been searching for one for most of 2020 and coronavirus didn’t help, so it was a very happy day when, after all the dead ends, false starts, and rejections, we signed with Combined Book Services (CBS), also based in Kent. We also secured sales representation with veteran book sales agent, Chris Moody, of Bang the Drum, who now represents our list and help us sell into booksellers and wholesalers. The experience of having both of those industry professionals helping us has been fantastic and it finally feels like we are really making progress now.

And so, out of the traps first in March 2021 on our Partner Publishing imprint, was a delicate volume called Travel Mementos: Personal Stories about Faraway Places by Julie Watson, which contains some beautifully written true tales of some of the adventures of the author around the world. It seemed the perfect antidote to lockdown blues when travel to exotic (or even not very exotic) places seemed so far away. It was exciting to publish this little volume of imaginative tales of armchair travel tales and it’s been a pleasure working with the author who works so hard to promote her book and writing.

In April, it was a pleasure to publish what has become a fantastic seller for us—Pon My Puff! A Childhood in 1920s Isle of Wight by Peter Stark Lansley, which started as a manuscript that had been found in a suitcase by Charles Lansley, the late author’s son, who painstakingly edited and annotated the title. We had been in contact for some time, so it was a joy to finally see it published and it’s lovely the book has been popular with readers, and a lasting legacy for Charles’s father.

We published the second title by our talented author/illustrator Lynne Hudson in May called That’s My Cat! The story is a rhyming, comical picture book about a mischievous cat who seems to be owned by several neighbours at once, until he’s found out! That’s My Cat! was a fun book to work on because Lynne Hudson’s illustrations are so entertaining, and it was great to work on full colour picture book. It’s doing well, but due to covid, a proper book launch was not possible, so we hope to give this title a reboot in 2022.

July brought bounty in the form of a non-fiction title called The Bounty Writer: How to Earn Six Figures as an Independent Freelance Journalist by Andrew Don, a veteran journalist who tells how he achieved success in this memoir-come-writing guide to successful independence. Now, don’t we all want that! It’s been great to work with Andrew and his professionalism has shone through during the promotion and marketing of the title.

Grandpa's Dear Old Girl - Front Cover

September saw the publication of a new children’s chapter book in a larger format called Grandpa’s Dear Old Girl by Felicity Fair Thompson, an experienced writer and tutor who has also published her own titles, so knows how challenging it is to write and sell a book. It really was a pleasure to publish Felicity’s wonderful adventure story of a girl who helps her grandpa, the last lighthouse keeper, save fishermen in peril at sea. The story was fun to typeset and edit, and seeing Carolyn Pavey’s wonderfully atmospheric illustrations in the final published book brought a great smile to my face. It was also fun to work with new printers on this project and learn more about the very competitive children’s book market.

Lastly, and by no means, least, in November—following several rescheduled publication dates due to various factors including production and supply chain issues—I was relieved to see our first fiction novel on the trade imprint published called Ted’s Cafe by Roger Sanders, a wonderfully timely story about retirement, friendship and Brexit, all set in the year leading up to Covid hitting our shores. And before Omnicron had had a chance to take effect, we managed to arrange a fantastically successful book launch at a library on the Isle of Wight, where all the copies on the table were sold. It was a relief to see the novel being stocked and ordered by bookshops all over the UK despite the supply chain problems and delivery delays that have hampered the book world.

Hopes for 2022…

Funnily enough, I have not personally met all our authors face-to-face, as either distance or covid has prevented face-to-face meetups, so video calls, telephone and emails have sufficed, but it will be exciting to finally meet authors in person in 2022, covid permitting.

I am truly thankful to all our authors, publishing partners, retailers, booksellers, experts, freelancers, friends, family, partners, children, and, of course, our wonderful authors—without them all we would not be able to publish our books.

Beachy Books is a very author-friendly publishing house, and we look forward to working with you in 2022 and in signing-up new hopefuls from the mountain of submissions we are currently working our way through. We want authors from all backgrounds, minority groups and from diverse backgrounds. No matter what is sent, no matter who its from, we judge the work on its quality alone.

For the next year, I personally hope for annus mirabilis, rather than annus horribilis. I hope to see my children as much as I can, spend quality time with my lovely lady and my friends, keep in contact with old friends, and read a few more books for pleasure (I read so many for work, I often don’t feel like reading at the end of a publishing day). I have already started a new daily exercise routine and I even bought myself a skateboard, a retro one from the past as I used to pop an ollie or two, back in the day, so no need to sign up for a gym membership that will not get used come February. On the creative front, I hope to paint, just for fun, as I dipped my toe this year and really enjoyed it. But, I’m most excited to start a new writing project of my own again. It’s true, my muse certainly left me several years ago, but I am getting those tingling feelings back and a new writing idea is starting to form in my mind. In any case, I am just excited to just keep learning more about publishing and improving the quality of books we publish. For myself, for the memory of my mum, I’m going to work very hard and make 2022 a memorable publishing year for Beachy Books.

From all at Beachy Books, I wish you a Happy New Year. See you on the other side. I’ll leave it to those now gone, who have made their mark on literature, to sum up the new year.

Onwards…

“New Year’s Eve always terrifies me. Life knows nothing of years. Now the horns have stopped and the firecrackers and the thunder… it’s all over in five minutes… all I hear is the rain on the palm leaves, and I think, I will never understand men, but I have lived it through.” 

Charles Bukowski
“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, 'It will be happier'...” 

Alfred Lord Tennyson
“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.”

from Moby Dick by Herman Melville