Wee Pat dropped through my letterbox a few days ago, which was a pleasant surprise as I had forgotten I’d pre-ordered it some months previously. Pat Nevin is one of my all time favourite Chelsea F.C. players. Opening it put me in mind of my own book published a few weeks previously, especially the sub-title the accidental footballer because in many ways Frank Laird was an accidental soldier.
Frank Laird was in his mid-30s when the Great War broke out, a mild mannered civil servant working for the courts of the Dublin Metropolitan Police who “had never considered soldiering as at all in my line” and “was naturally a man of peace”. He could have ignored the early recruitment drives and sat tight; conscription never took place in Ireland. However, as the months went by he “began to experience searchings of heart” and by the end of 1914 he found himself in military barracks at The Curragh to begin training as a Private of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. By the time the First World War ended, and he returned from internment in Germany as a Prisoner of War, he was Lieutenant Laird and had been badly wounded three times during the course of his service at Gallipoli and the Western Front.
The two books cover the “accidental” stage of the two men’s working lives and are similar in terms of size, number of pages and price. And there the similarity ends. A celebrity name is a big bonanza for conventional publishers who bring all their expertise to ensuring a polished end product, a slick marketing exercise, product placement in retail and online outlets, bulk buying postage rates and, at some point down the line, they can discount the recommended retail price shown on the dust jacket. This service also applies to publishers of professional historians.
As a mere amateur I did my best to produce a polished product, but discounting the price and postage isn’t an option. Of course I could have self-published a cheaper version in order to try and attract purchases from people (even obsessive Great War bibliophiles) doubtful at paying £20 for my hardback book with dust cover and colour images. I chose not to and early into reading Pat Nevin’s memoir I was struck by the last couple of sentences in the Prologue, because it pretty much sums up how I feel about my treatment of Frank Laird’s memoir:-
“Try and stick to what you believe to be right, if you possibly can. There is nothing wrong with failure on your own terms if you have given it your best shot. But there’s a great deal to regret if you fail doing something you don’t believe in.”
I’d like to say thank you to those people who have invested in Frank Speaking to date; I hope he’ll come to the top of your reading pile soon. It’s still early days and I await reviews. They say patience is a virtue!
It’s always going to be possible to reorder Frank Speaking from the print on demand service; even now my first book published in 2013 is available online. It’s great to be in control, given that I’ll never reach the dizzy heights of having a conventional publisher. I’m lucky to have a small disposable income to self-finance and, having researched self-publishing and found a helpful printing company always willing to take time to address my queries, I found the process a lot less daunting than I originally thought. Who knows, I might break even on my costs some time down the line!
I could tag Pat Nevin on Twitter to say the bill’s in the post for promotion, but I don’t think he needs my help!
The image shows:-
Pat Nevin, the accidental footballer, published by Octopus Publishing Group, 2021
Frank Speaking, from Suvla to Schweidnitz, published by me (H&K), 2021