My friend Tom Sangster said one evening, when I recounted a story about when I had met such and such a singer, whose hit song was being murdered by a covers band in the corner of the pub we visit most Fridays ‘You really ought to write these stories down you know’. I wasn’t sure who would be interested. He said I’d be surprised. People of a certain age ARE nostalgic about the ‘golden era’ as they see it, of groups and singers from all over the world. The decade or so I was performing in saw an incredible upsurge in different styles of music and fashion; people travelled like never before. The world became a smaller but much more vibrant, exciting place than the one our parents had grown up in.
Despite my reservations, he persuaded me to think about trawling through my memory banks and writing down as many stories as I could remember (which were fit to print!). Even if the only people to see the outcome were my children and grandchildren it was better that the stories were there, in print, than lost for ever once I had popped my clogs!
I started in early 2006. Around eight months later I had a collection of anecdotes, but no real structure. I also discovered, after asking someone to knock my manuscript into shape, ready to submit to a publisher, that I had committed a cardinal sin! My compiler was pulling her hair out! My stories jumped about from 1962 to 1968, then back to 1965, all over the place. Publishers HATE that she told me! Why didn’t I get a proper beginning and ending and organise the stories in a chronological sequence, as far as was practical!. Everyone’s a critic!
For various reasons; a fairly long wait for my original manuscript to return because of other commitments, then my ‘52 card shuffle’ as I manoeuvred the stories into the correct order, plus some re-writing and additional stories that suddenly came back to me from the ‘mists of time’, and it was almost 2009 before I had a manuscript that looked maybe 99% like the book which finally appeared in print.
My next task was to trawl the internet, searching out UK publishers who were still in business and looking to publish memoirs or autobiographies. As you can imagine, in 2009 things were starting to get decidedly difficult, so potential partners were thin on the ground! I diligently read all the ‘do’s and don’ts’ on submissions and selected a dozen to approach, then with a finely honed synopsis and where appropriate, a couple of sample chapters, I fired off my submissions.
Rejection hurts! Cast your mind back to when you were 15 and the girl on the sweet counter in Woolworth’s knocked you back, when you asked her if she wanted to go the pictures! Especially if she didn’t politely decline, leaving you with a little fragment of hope, but laughed like a drain and couldn’t wait to run and tell her mate over by the pick‘n’mix. Hurt? Gutted more like! (Okay she was about 18 and way out of my league but it still hurt like hell!)
Of course, the rejections in the case of a submission to a publisher aren’t quite so quick in arriving. Be prepared for perhaps 50% of them, at least, not to even have the decency to reply. Then there are the standard letters akin to the ‘Dear John’ versions that we all dread which tell you very little except that they have dumped you! These start turning up anything between a month and three months after you have attached the first class stamp to your submissions envelope.
I was lucky. I got 4 ‘Dear Ted’s’ which commented on an ‘interesting proposal’, and a ‘well written, well observed commentary on the era’ but also mentioned ‘extremely full lists in the coming months’ ‘very few titles being commissioned at present’ and ‘slim lined lists’ or even ‘no longer actively pursuing memoirs or biographies’.
I also got one from a well known publisher in Scotland, from a Submissions Assistant who apologised for the impersonal nature of his reply and who outlined several options I might pursue to help me achieve my dream of getting published. The only firm to go the extra yard and offer some constructive advice.
Because you believe SOMEONE will be keen to snap up your book and publish it post haste, of course, you don’t quite know when to accept that you have lost the first skirmish in the battle for global
domination. Around six months after the submissions were sent out; I stopped looking wistfully up the driveway for the postman to be approaching with a letter that carried glad tidings. The manuscript was consigned to the dark corners of my computer and marked down as ‘something to get around to again when the economy starts looking up’ and I occupied my time with my family, my snooker, my quizzes and my advancing years.
When the spring of 2011 arrived with an unseasonably warm spell just before we flew off to Ibiza at the end of April, my wife Lynne went out with one of our daughters for some retail therapy. She returned with a ‘freebie’ booklet she had picked up, with some interesting articles she wanted to read, plus the usual liberal sprinkling of local adverts. I picked it up and idly flicked through the pages one afternoon, deciding whether to risk chucking it in the recycling bin or double checking with her first.
I spotted an advert for a local firm which offered to ‘help you get your treasured memories in print’. Just the job I thought. I fired off an email asking if they could help and what it might cost, then we went on holiday. I eventually got around to checking my inbox sometime on the Sunday on our return and for a modest sum, they informed me they could analyse my computer file, advise on any edits, typeset the book, register the ISBN and sort out a short production run at a printers in no time flat. A second email after the file had been forwarded to them, suggested the paperback could be listed on Amazon and that we could also offer a kindle version.
We were now in the middle of May. One afternoon a bright eyed young man managed to find his way to my house and we sat together for perhaps 20 minutes going over the few items that needed sorting out, like a front cover image. a succinct blurb to go on the back cover and finally the lad calmly announced that he had set a provisional publication date for August and asked if that was okay? Panic stations!
A file of ‘What it’s going to look like’ turned up in my inbox in early July and believe me, that’s when you start getting goose bumps! I dropped into Amazon books more frequently than usual to look at the ‘Coming soon’ category for paperbacks and the ‘Available for download now’ kindles just to convince myself it was actually happening. Every time I checked it was still there!
The proof copy arrived from the printers around the same time & I couldn’t put it down! I sat in the garden for a quick proof read, then, as I needed to pop to the bank I walked into town carrying the book! Pathetic isn’t it? Just casually laying it down on the counter as I checked the details on my paying in slip! I’m sixty six years old for crying out loud! Anyway, it served me right because I missed a couple of ‘bloopers’ and they’re in the book to this day. If you spot them, fine, there are no prizes.
Come back soon for the next episode entitled – Spreading the Word.