My fifth book is co-authored, but unlike the other four is self-published, and is just out. I thought I would record what the latter part of the process of self-publishing has been like, as it was certainly interesting, and not perhaps what I was expecting. Covid-19 and Brexit both hindered things quite a bit.
It all started in November 2019, so has taken just over a year from idea to fruition. The book is a hardback celebrating the great fell and mountain photographer, Pete Hartley. The first ten months were all about (co-author) Denise Park sorting through some 60,000 photographic images and working with me to make a suitable selection of 400 or so to go in the book. This took countless hours of work, and many discussions about inclusions/exclusions. Having pulled together the necessary contextualising text and done a dummy layout in Word, we had the material ready to hand over to a graphic designer to produce the camera-ready artwork. On 29 October I posted the text file, and all the folders of original hi-res images into a Dropbox, and in effect handed-off the project for a while to a professional.
Before that we had already investigated and selected a printer. This was important to get right as the images needed quality paper and printing to show them off to best advantage. Fortunately, we were recommended to contact (and get a quote from) Latitude Press, in the Lake District. Having seen samples and had a warm welcome we agreed the quote with them. It gave me an extra good feeling that they were based in the Lakes, and had printed two excellent recent books about the area. Having said that the actual print works recommended by them was in the EU, but were likely to be able to turn the work around within an agreed 4-5 week window. [For those interested in the finer details of the book, I am happy to discuss if you want to contact me for further info on our particular print specifications. Below are details of the print company.]
Back with the layout phase, we were fortunate that our chosen graphic designer was also a fell runner and very sympathetic to, and in tune with, what we were looking for in the look and feel of the book. Again it is pleasing that Britas Design are based in the Lakes, just outside Keswick. The deal was that if we could get the camera-ready PDF files to the printer by 6 Nov we could have a 17 Dec delivery for the final copies of the books. A tough ask.
At this point (31 Oct) we decided on a process for accepting pre-orders of the book. Denise also researched post and packing options. We found a supplier of cardboard wraps and inner bubble wraps, which with postage were going to add £5 to the cost of delivering books to folk. We agreed a payment to a photographer for reproducing two of their photos of Pete, and quietly waited for progress/info on the layout.
We decided that we would advertise the book on 7th Nov which would have been Pete’s birthday, offering pre-orders. We had decided to deal with the payments for, and the despatching of, pre-orders ourselves – which added quite a burden, which mostly fell on Denise. We started sounding out publications for a mention, including Fellrunner and Trail Running magazines, and flooded every social media channel we could access with info on the book, and how to order. Meanwhile, we had missed the print deadline, but had received the first few pages from the designer.
By 16 Nov only a third of pages were done, so we agreed a new deadline of 29 Nov, which Latitude fortunately were happy to go with. This still allowed a new delivery date of 21 Dec, which was getting tight, but amazing to hear. We supplied them some pages to do a test print, to ensure we were happy with the result.
Even on 23 Nov we were STILL making small corrections to the text as we proof-read the pages as they came through to us. On 26 Nov we agreed the final proof copy, and the next day it was received in the Czech Republic at the print works. We were contacted by Latitude on 1 Dec that somewhere in the process of making the final PDFs an error had occurred in the cover layout and in the internal cut marks positioning. As they were unable to ‘rip’ the files to the press, they couldn’t proceed with our printing. We were already passed our deadline so this needed to be rectified as a matter of urgency or we would completely miss our newly allocated printing slot. Anxious emails and phone calls between Denise, the designer and Latitude Press ensued over the next 24 hours until Denise received an email at 13-31 on 2 Dec saying they had finally managed to ‘rip’ the files and now needed final approval to go to print that afternoon. This hiccup even more confirmed our wisdom of hiring a professional for the layout rather than trying to do it ourselves (which we did consider at one point). Now the fun started.
On 5 Dec we were informed that it would be two pallet loads, which would be delivered to Denise’s business address, in a small road in Clitheroe. A week later the news reported port delays, but we avoided the worst of these. Then the books were held in customs on 17 Dec. The packaging was all labelled and ‘postaged’ in readiness. TIP: buy your Royal Mail postage online,as it is slightly cheaper and lessens issues at PO itself.
We were then informed that the books would be delivered on a 40-tonne ‘international’ articulated wagon which didn’t have a tail lift, so the wagon sides would be raised and a forklift truck would lift the palettes off the wagon. This wasn’t the original plan! The international freight company then contacted Denise to say they had Googled her business address and were concerned that the wagon would not make it down the small road of Denise’s business address. A quick decision was made to have them delivered to her home address instead – but as Denise drove home to meet the wagon, unannounced roadworks had been set up outside her house with the road being closed to traffic. Another rapid decision had to be made – and it was decided to divert yet again to a delivery company based in Manchester where the books could be unloaded and reloaded onto a smaller English wagon.
Eventually, on 21 Dec, two palettes weighing one and a quarter tonnes of books were unloaded onto the road outside Denise’s business address, and Denise and her secretary embarked on carrying 94 boxes of books inside the clinic before the inclement weather could also add it’s toll. We had a distribution company booked (Despatch Bay) to deliver them in bulk into the Post Office system, and they did a marvellous job in that people started receiving them on 22 Dec. The designer, printers, delivery company had all worked wonders to get a good number of the books in people’s hands prior to Christmas. Thanks to you all.
We were thrilled to receive our books today. Thank-you for getting them here so speedily. Wow – what a tribute to Pete – really impressive. Makes you smile and admire, and yet feel sad and nostalgic at the same time. Well done.
A real trip down memory lane, it is excellent, exceeded my expectations. Please accept my thanks on a great book and pass on my thanks to everyone involved in its production.
A lot of hard work, but we are really pleased with the result – and so it seems are purchasers. Even after all the issues noted here, we both decided that we would consider self-publishing again.
If you want to know more about ‘Fell and Mountain Running: through the eye of a lens’, Athletics Weekly has published a full review which will give you a feel for the content. It is reproduced in full below.
Pete wanted to publish this book before he passed away, but his cancer was far more advanced than he ever wanted to accept. It has been my wish to do it for him at some stage, but had I not had a chance meeting with Steve in November 2019, followed by the announcement of lockdown in March, I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened for quite some time. Denise Park
The meeting was because I was looking for a couple of photos for my fourth book (‘All or Nothing at All: the life of Billy Bland’). I travelled up to Clitheroe and looked through part of Pete’s huge archive of photos, finding a couple that fit the bill, which Denise was happy for me to include. Just talking casually afterwards Denise mentioned Pete’s book idea. Somehow we came away from our first ever meeting having agreed to collaborate on the book.
Steve agreed to select the images for the book, but before Steve received his ‘digital selection’, I searched though approximately 60,000 images which were on a variety of hard drives, cd’s, memory sticks, slides, negatives, computers and boxes of printed images! Whilst Pete had them all catalogued in his head – I’m sure you will appreciate the enormity of the task.
We soon agreed on some chapter headings and Denise started sending files over by Dropbox in the New Year. To cut a long story short, Covid-19 changed everyone’s situation and we both had a bit of time to work on it. I pitched the idea to a couple of publishers, but neither were interested, thinking it ‘not a seller’. So, we decided to self-publish, and tried a couple of printers for quotes. The second were excellent, and very helpful. They are based in The Lakes, and have the print job set to run in the EU, giving a slightly better lead time.
As I was making decisions about which photos to include I was also writing some contexualising text, and tweaking the captions (mostly from Pete’s file data). I was also working up a rough layout plan to see how many pages it would be for print quote purposes. Having finalised the content and draft layout with Denise, and having had someone proof-read the draft, it is now being laid out professionally by a graphic designer who is also in The Lakes.
We have set up a system for taking pre-orders, as there is a strong possibility of it not being delivered from the printers prior to Christmas. This will allow people to still be able to gift the book.
Once pre-ordered, digital gift vouchers will be made available so you can still give that ideal Christmas present.
The book is hardback, full colour and 200 pages. It is available to pre-order for £25 by emailing your details to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I can now reveal the cover for my new book: All or Nothing At All: The Life of Billy Bland (detail above). It has again been designed by Heather MacPherson (of Raspberry Creative Type). The cover image is of Billy Bland in dominant mode, as he leads the Ben Nevis race in 1981.
The Foreword to the book concludes with:
In this book, Steve continues to explore the history of fell running in the brilliant style of his previous books, his in-depth analysis leading us to understand Billy Bland, whilst highlighting his achievements.
Billy Bland is a legend, and he is a fine man. Steve takes us through Billy’s life, to meet and know the man behind the legend.
Fine words indeed from the current Bob Graham Round record holder.
I am so very pleased (and indeed honoured) to note that the Foreword has been written by surely the finest mountain runner of his era (Kilian Jornet); and that the two cover quotes are from: someone I think one of the finest writers on sport of running (Adharanand Finn), and the other arguably the greatest female fell runner of all time (Jasmin Paris).
A series of quotes by these latter two runners, together with four others (who all read advanced copies of the book), will adorn the back cover; and I can now reveal them to you.
Those six ‘quoters’, and Kilian, are the only people not involved in the direct publication process to have seen the full manuscript, so it was with some trepidation that I awaited their thoughts. I was not to be disappointed, as thankfully they all seemed to rate it.
‘A pacy jaunt along those muddy trails where Billy Bland set records few people have approached since. Anyone with a love of running will find this an engrossing and enjoyable read.’
Adharanand Finn, author of Rise of the Ultra Runners
‘Born in the Lake District and moulded by its hills, Billy Bland is a truly fascinating character’.
Jasmin Paris, record breaking ultra-runner
‘A detailed insight into the life of legendary fell runner Billy Bland, a straight talking Cumbrian who thinks as deeply about the environment as he does about running.’
Steve Birkinshaw, author of There Is No Map in Hell
‘This tale of fortitude and formidable athleticism transports readers to the heart of the fell running scene. Billy Bland is undisputed king of the fells.’
Rebecca Robinson, Consultant in sports and exercise medicine and mountain runner
‘An engaging look at the life of running legend Billy Bland of Borrowdale, encyclopaedic on his training, his character, and his wider contribution to life in the Lakes.’
Damian Hall, ultra-runner, author, and outdoor journalist
‘A truly inspirational book that highlights the importance of passion and hard work in achieving goals.’
Denise Park, Chartered Physiotherapist, internationally recognised for her work with fell/mountain runners
The book (ISBN 9781913207299, to be published in July by Sandstone Press) can be pre-ordered from all good bookshops (most of which are still offering mail order in these difficult times), where you can also order my three other running books.