Over the last few months, I’ve been re-publishing the blogs I wrote in 2017 about my journey from initial idea to publication of Blood and Bandages. It’s a chance for me to share the process, highs and lows and tenacity required to bring a project to a conclusion. Obviously now it’s tinged with sadness because my co-author, 106-year-old William Earl, died recently. This series will end with the book launch which marked the culmination of my job and the start of his. That blog will appear on 12th May, on what would have been William’s 107th birthday.
I couldn’t finish the book.
However, Karl French had identified one outstanding chapter. I tweaked that and prepared a pitch, synopsis and a CV. Although I had created something to show, I lacked the confidence and skill to sell the book in person. Luckily, I had my good friend, Sandra Clark, to turn to.
Sandra was a successful actor with years of experience with the Royal Shakespeare Company and performing on TV and radio. There was nothing she didn’t know about playing a role convincingly. Sandra also knew the book intimately. In the lead up to the fair, she bolstered my confidence, coached me on my attitude and agreed to come along for moral support.
Prior to the event, the London Book Fair (LBF) provided a directory of attendees. I took advantage of this to pitch Blood and Bandages to a number of publishers. As a result, I secured two meetings, one with Steve Darlow from Fighting High Publishing and another with Ian Bayley from Sabrestorm Publishing.
The first day of the LBF arrived and I turned up early to get my bearings.
When I entered the hall, I felt like a child on their first day at nursery. This was BUSINESS writ large and ebay was my only experience of selling. I panicked and fled to the cloakroom to steady my nerves and remind myself of Sandra’s coaching.
My first meeting was with Steve Darlow. His reputation had been built on Bomber Command stories but he liked Bill’s memoirs. In fact, he’d already spoken to his distributors, Casemate, about publishing it but they thought it inadvisable to branch out into a completely different field. However, rather than cancel the meeting, Steve listened to my pitch and gave me some tips and support. Importantly, he also introduced me to another publisher, Unicorn Press, whom he thought would be interested. They were and a meeting was arranged for the following day.
Bouyed up with Steve’s positive comments, I returned on day two with a sense of belonging.
I met Ian Bayley of Sabrestorm Publishing first. I pitched the book and he was instantly engaged. Sabrestorm had already published another RAMC memoirs, Parachute Doctor, so Bill’s story was a nice fit. I was thrilled with Ian’s enthusiasm, but held back because of the Unicorn Press meeting. Ian knew when I was seeing Unicorn so just before I went in he called me and asked to meet up. When we did, he offered me a contract. I was absolutely thrilled.
I went into the third and final meeting relaxed and confident. Unicorn also liked the story… alot. I had to pinch myself.
Sabrestorm were the first to produce a contract, so I went with them.
It was both fabulous and frightening to have finally found a publisher. Bill was over the moon and we each celebrated with family and friends. Then things suddenly took a turn for the worse. An overwhelming sense of dread floated in like a sea mist and enveloped me completely. I became paralysed by the fear of failure. I dreaded getting up in the morning because I was transfixed by the enormity of the task ahead and how poorly equipped I was to do it. I chided myself for ever thinking I could write a military memoir without being an expert in the field. So complete was my loss of confidence that I rendered myself incapable of writing a single decent word. If this was writer’s block, I had it, and the deadline for delivering the final script was approaching rapidly.
I’ll tell you how I tackled it in part six which will appear on 14th April.