Once upon a time, three people from Bridport wrote novels inspired by their home town
Their manuscripts languished in various drawers until 2013 when the three authors decided to throw caution to the wind and publish and be damned.
The three authors are Maddie Grigg, S.C. Geraghty and Mitch Norman. Bridport Press founder Margery Hookings, a former editor of the Bridport and Lyme Regis News, who writes under the pen name of Maddie Grigg, tells Yarn Magazine more about it.
I’ve been writing creatively for many years, my mentor being the late David Martin, who wrote crime novels and was a scriptwriter for television shows like Doctor Who and Z Cars.
We worked on several things together, including an investigation into the death of T.E. Lawrence, which was optioned by HTV but never made into a programme. Sadly, David died in 2007 and it was a bit of an epiphany moment for me. I signed up for an Open University honours degree in humanities with creative writing. It changed my life.
I began writing a blog under the pseudonym Maddie Grigg, a combination of my grandmother’s names. The World from my Window, which takes a humorous and affectionate look at life in a West Dorset village, became a big success and was chosen by Google’s Blogger team as a Blog of Note.
From there, I went on to enter various writing competitions. I was shortlisted in some and won others. And I’ve subsequently been asked to be a columnist on a national magazine and I’m a regular contributor to a website for older people.
But I knew I had at least one book inside me.
I published my novella, A Year in Lush Places: tales from England’s rural underbelly, which was based on the blog, in 2012. But I’d written a book years ago, set in a town like Bridport, and I still had the manuscript. It was a Tom Sharpe-style farce, based on my experience as a young newspaper reporter. I looked at it again and decided it was about time I did something with it.
You can contact agents and publishers until you’re blue in the face. Some don’t even bother to reply, some come back with really helpful feedback, but it’s a real struggle to get published. Publishers want big name authors or something that jumps out at them and punches them in the face. With the advent of digital publishing, more and more people are doing it for themselves, some better than others. But the notion that vanity publishing is a thing to sneer at has completely changed. It’s become respectable to publish your own books. With digital platforms, the writer is in control of all aspects of the process and gets far more in the way of royalties. There are lots of success stories of writers who’ve gone down this route and have then been approached by major publishing houses.
What it costs to self-publish
Margery has earned back the costs of producing her books and made a small profit on top.
She says the key to success is to shop around and be aware of the various options. Authors need to decide how much they can do themselves and when it’s worth paying someone else to give your book a professional edge.
“It’s easy for people to get ripped off by companies who don’t do much more than you can do yourself,” she warns.
Her advice is: “Pay someone to proofread your book and get your front cover professionally designed. And then publish and market your book yourself, or pay someone to help you publicise it.”
In Margery’s case, publication didn’t cost her any more than the standard £88 fee to have the book listed by the likes of Amazon and The Book Depository. Her books were printed by FeedaRead, a publish-on-demand process for paperbacks. For a book priced at £6.99, you can expect to receive about £1.85 in royalties.
You can also publish your work as an ebook on Kindle. This is free and up to 70 per cent of the money from sales goes to the author.
I knew that Mitch and Sean, who are both musicians who I’ve known for many years, had once written novels about Bridport and the surrounding area and, like me, had never done anything with them.
People are so interested in anything to do with Bridport. I thought it was the right time to reveal a side of the area which might not be appreciated by those who’ve moved here recently. And by publishing together, there was safety in numbers.
Between us, we used the Arts Council-sponsored digital platform FeedaRead to print the books and I set up The Bridport Press as an umbrella to promote them. We launched our first three books in November 2013 with a party at the Lyric Theatre. Since then, three more books have joined The Bridport Press stable, with more being worked on.
Mitch Norman’s Well, Fare Thee Well is a funny and poignant, bitter-sweet coming-of-age story, featuring scooters, Tamla Motown and girls; The Borassic Coast by S.C. Geraghty is a dark tale revealing the underbelly of The Jurassic Coast through linked characters and stories and A Town Like This is a farcical romp by Maddie Grigg, featuring a cavernous outfitters with hidden attics and a local newspaper reporter out to make a name for himself.
In 2014, there were three more books: The Battle of Binthrop and Lucy’s Adventures by Jenny Billett and Don’t Take On So Mother by Jan Eade and Helen Billett.
All the books can be ordered from local bookshops or via Feed a Read
For more information, visit the Bridport Press website