Niche Book idea - help needed from authors....

13th August 2007, 21:46

I have been toying with the idea of writing a company history of Holyhead Towing Company from its inception to today. I appreciate this might be a niche market but I'd like to include crew members stories ( I still know a few), drawings and specs for the ships, photos - were available - and, of course, the input from the company itself. A bit more than an enthusuiast's book but one with a broad appeal from local people to ex crew members to shiping enthusiasts and so on.

I have written web columns, short stories, articles and also had a column in a radio magazine for four years so I am aware of things like layout, deadlines and the 'red pencil' approach.

I know some of our members have published - how do I go about this and is this a go'er? I do not want vanity publishing so would appreciate any help that can be given by those members who have already achieved this.

No-one has done this before - and if you do, I'll sue you for intellectual rights! :-)


13th August 2007, 22:20

I know we have a few authors in our midst so hopefully one of them can point you in the right direction. I take it you are not expecting to make any money out of this as I am sure the demand would be very small. I would not let that put you off though as it would be great if you were to record a chapter of our heritage. It just needs determination and initiative to see it through.

An alternative (especially if this is going to be a relatively short piece) is to set it up as an SN Guide. I would be happy to advise/assist you with this if you decided to take that approach. Depends what you want to do - record the information for posterity or publish a book; the SN Guides approach avoids the aggravation of publsishing but obviously does not get you a book on the shelf. I can easily set up a new category of shipping companies in which this could be located.



14th August 2007, 13:20
Jonty, I'd be delighted to offer any help I can with your project. As a first step I would recommend getting your hands on a copy of "The Writers and Artists Yearbook" published by A&C Black (your local library should have a copy) In there you will find all he contact addresses for specalist publishers who would have an interest in your proposed book. Most publishers will want to see at least a draft manuscript and an idea of how many and what type of illustrations you propose to include. The hardest part is in getting a publisher interested enough to invest the cash to finance the project and you are very right in staying well away from vanity publishing. Obviously there is a hell of a lot more to this than just the above and as I would not want to bore any other member can I suggest you send me a PM if you want any more information on how the process works (well in my case anyway.) In the meantime may I just wish you the very best of luck in eventually seeing your work in print.

14th August 2007, 19:19

Sent PM - thanks!

Brian - we'll see how it goes and what happens and then plump for one way or the other!


19th August 2007, 07:25
Hello Jonty,
25 years ago, I wrote a small book on ship modelling & it was accepted almost immediately by a once well-know publisher. Although they paid advance royalties, they never actually published it & refused to answer my many letters. I eventually came to the conclusion (right or wrong) that they accepted it to keep it off the market & considered the advance royalties worth it (They specialised in what they called "Model Boats!") eventually after several years, I offered to refund the 150 & they replied immediately then. Next I sent it to another who also accepted it immdiately, but reneged on the contract with the excuse that my models were simply not accurate enough! Having had enough, I then had a Vanity Print done of 500 books for 1,000. I sold the whole lot & actually made a decent profit! The vanity publishers did the whole lot within one month & made a very good job of it!
Between 1992 & 1999, I wrote a sea book covering my last 13 years at sea. This was rejected numerous times between 1999 & about 2005. The usual cry was "Nobody is interested in boats these days." Two publishers said they liked it & if I re-wrote it to their specifications, they would be interested. I did this, but both of them had changed their minds by the time it was finished & told me not to bother even sending it in! Consequently I gave up for a while, but then decided to give it "one last shot," & sent it to a small Scottish Publisher who said they were interested in it if I re-wrote it to their specifications. By this time I was sick & tired of the whole affair & said that I was not prepared to do it - "take it, or leave it!" There the whole matter seemd to end, but several weeks later, they decided to "Take it" & would edit it themselves. I accepted. The editing was quite minor & the text came out over 90% of my original so I was very happy with that. The photograph content that they initially selected was pretty poor, but on approaching the Managing Director, he agreed & the photograph content was boosted to a very respectable 75 photograpgs in both B & W and colour. The final book surpassed my expectations in its technical quality, but I still had to wait a long time for it to come to print (Last year). The publisher deals with all the sales & advertising & I have already had advanced royalties. It is selling well & they also carry a stock aboard my last ship, the RMS ST. HELENA. Despite this, I found the whole process rather too time-consuming. As has already been said, the profits are quite small for the work put it, but I am glad I have at least had one success story. After than, I wrote a ship-modelling manuscript & put it on CD disk in Acrobat PDF format so it would work internationally with Acrobat Reader. The advantage of a CD is that it can hold as much as you like & I think the disk has over 50,000 words in it plus over 200 photographs & drawings. I placed it on Ebay & sales were enormous & World-wide. I could sell a disk for 10 with an extra 1 postage to anywhere in the World. I printed on out for myself & had one copy bound so that I do have something to hold. I then wrote another on valve radio construction that was as successful as the first one (Ebay). Since then any major writing for me will be on CD disk (unless some publisher comes to me on my terms). Apart from that, I have a monthly column in TELEGRAPH (Merchant Navy Officers Association paper) & write for every issue of MODEL SHIPWRIGHT. Without a doubt, the CD disks make most profit (& you have full controll of what goes in). Article writing comes a close 2nd, but conventional book profits come a long way behind in monetory reward.
This has been a bit long-winded, but I hope it has helped.
Best wishes whatever you wish to do with you manuscript.

19th August 2007, 07:38
Hello again Jonty,
I see from your profile you were in Everards. I was in the FREDERICK T. EVERARD in 1962. Here is a miniature of one of their tugs that I built some time ago. Not an advert as I don't do private commissions!

21st August 2007, 14:16
Thanks guys!

TMac has given me useful guidance via a PM and also offered to look the MS over when it is done (ish) and if he thinks worthwhile would recommend a publisher. That is an excellent start!

Currently I have a few home projects going on before I start to lay the book out and I also need to contact HTC with a view to getting them interested. Members on Tugspotters have, so far, sounded enthusiastic - but I am wary of the 'niche' market and very aware that for a broader appeal it needs to straddle two camps: HTC's history and some 'human, anecdotal' angle as well.

I was with Everards way back - 1974 (Agility) and '73 (Geo. V. Everard) but never set foot on a tanker / dry cargo ship afterwards as I preferred tugs and specialist vesels!

BTW, lovely model!

Thanks again - I'll keep you posted!


21st August 2007, 22:46
Good luck Jonty. I would also be happy to review your draft if you think it would help.



27th August 2007, 19:10
Wish you all the luck in the world Jonty in your endeavour to become an author. Writing a book is the easy part. Finding a publisher is the test. The bottom line is, most publishers will want to know whether the book will sell and make them a profit.
My manuscript was turned down by two publishers before interest was shown by the next publisher I submitted the script to. J K Rowling author of Harry books went through 31 publishers before she was accepted, so dont dispair, write the book!
My book "Oceans Of Time" Memiors of a happy-go lucky sea-dog was published just 11 months ago and sells world wide. It takes time for people to read and interest to gather, but your book is forever. A 2nd printing is now on the cards.

Cheers Daveyjones

27th August 2007, 19:55
Davey and all,

Thanks - I have contacted the towing company to seek their views and once I get that back, look at where to start!

I am doing it because Holyhead, as a port town, is known for its ferries and yet HTC was built up by an ex Marine yard carpenter and is now a thriving worldwide business - but who knows that when it is the cinderella at the Ferry ball?


28th August 2007, 20:18
Hi all,

Well, looks like the company will be no help! here is a cut and paste of the e-mail I received from the director today. Not, as I think you will see, a good place to start at:

Thanks for your interest. While we would like to be supportive, in practice we don't have anyone with any free time to offer any help, so we can't really help at present. The history is nice to see, but it's the realities of the present and future that we need to keep on top of! Regards. M. Meade.

Ah well........


30th August 2007, 23:15
All - including Benjidog!

HTC are not being co operative in this, and they are the key. TMac sent me some excellent advice but once again the answer was a polite 'no'.

Hmm, rethink time. What I can do is write it and look to post it as a sort of on going history on the SN site - in that special place we have created for just such things. Now, how do I access it and get started? I am not thick (well, OK I am) but when I tried before (idly) I got snarled up.......


30th August 2007, 23:58
Hi Jonty,

I am sorry you have had problems with getting a publisher but I know from speaking to others that it can be a very dispiriting business.

I suggest the starting point is to take a look at a few of the existing articles in the SN guides - start here at the index:

As I said earlier, I would be very happy to help you with this so if you start with an outline of what you want and the title of it and email it to me (I will PM you my email address). I will set up the starting entry for you and you can edit it. You can then ask questions about how to do specific things as you go along and I will try and help you.



31st August 2007, 13:31
Thanks Brian - and all.

PM'd you.