Tag Archives: stevenage local history

Whomerley Wood Moat Stevenage – Review from HALH

The other morning, a complimentary copy of Herts Past and Present dropped on the doormat, and inside I was delighted to find a review of my book by one of the editors, Ruth Jeavons from the Hertfordshire Association for Local History.

moat review HALH 1

Kind words, indeed!
The book is available from me (signed copy with free UK p&p), Amazon, eBay, Lulu and is for sale in Stevenage Museum. Check out the details here!

cover 1d

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The House in the Clearing – Update

The booklet about the Whomerley Wood moat in Stevenage is coming along nicely, and has grown quite a lot since the previous blog. I am very conscious though that there is a delicate balance to be struck between including generalities about medieval times and topics specific to the moated area. So, it is probably time to stop writing and start editing.

I had some useful feedback on how to press ahead with publishing (thank you!), and decided to try out two Print on Demand providers, Lulu and Blurb, by working up a test project using what I had written so far.

Blurb, which started off life predominantly as a provider of photo-books initially looked promising. However, my hopes were dashed when I uploaded my MS Word file and most of the formatting was ignored. This would largely have been repairable, if a lengthy process, but Blurb had also removed all of the end-note references I had included. I’m not sure how much citations add to the booklet, but since they do at least give my writing some authority I wanted to leave them in. The process also removed all the images inserted in the text. I decided to leave Blurb for a while, and return to it after trying out Lulu.

What a different experience Lulu turned out to be. I uploaded the same MS Word file, and it was replicated exactly, including all the images and the references to end-notes at the back. Experimenting with the covers was an interesting experience though, and the limited range of formats made it difficult for me to replicate what I had in mind. Until, that is, I realised I could upload an entire page as a jpg file, and use that. So, opening up MS Publisher for the first time since buying MS Office 2007, it wasn’t long before I had the front and back covers completed (although they will be probably change). Both of these uploaded perfectly, and are just what I had planned.

cover 1d

Lulu it is for me, then.  At least for this first venture. They will have the booklet listed everywhere important, and can also source an eBook version using what seems to be a simple process. But there is one thing I’m not sure about, and I wish Lulu was a bit more transparent on this point. It concerns the choice between using a free Lulu-provided ISBN or paying for an ISBN of my own. I know that having my own is a Good Idea, as it allows me to be named as the publisher and take control of the publication’s metadata recorded against the ISBN so that searches on Google and the like have a stronger chance of finding it. Also, there would be no US tax liability on sales to the US which would occur with Lulu as the publisher.  What isn’t clear, though, is what the difference is regarding how Lulu’s various distribution options are affected.  Everything seems to be available whether you use a Lulu ISBN or your own, but nothing is mentioned about any charges that might be made with the ‘own ISBN’ option. Maybe I’m being over-suspicious, but there surely must be a penalty for not allowing Lulu to be named as the publisher?

I shall probably go ahead with a free Lulu ISBN this time around, but wish I knew if I’m missing a trick!

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Self-Publishing, ‘The House in the Clearing’

I wrote in the previous blog about my fascination over the years regarding a medieval moated site in an area of ancient woodland where we regularly walk our Labradors.

It was no exaggeration when I said that very little information is available about the site, any buildings which may have existed there, and the people who lived in the moated area. But by knitting together snippets from around fifty sources, I have ended up with a 32 page A5 booklet!

The question is: What do I do with it now?

Because the topic is very local to Stevenage, it is unlikely that many people outside the area would be interested. On the other hand, medieval moated sites seem to hold a mysterious attraction for historians and archaeologists so there could be more widespread curiosity. For instance, Hertfordshire Association for Local History have said they would be interested to see a short article on the subject for publication in their journal.

It is tempting to take the plunge and have a go at getting it published. Although I have had articles in print in magazines and journals, the idea of publishing a booklet which is all mine is quite exciting. It could also act as a learning exercise should my two NaNoWriMo novels ever get re-drafted and polished up !

First, though, there are problems to overcome and decisions to be made:

It’s a 32 page booklet, so no-one is going to pay a lot of money to buy it. Colour printing is expensive and would probably price it completely out of the market. Trouble is, when I print the booklet on my laser in black and white, the lovely photographs I have included come out as smudgy rectangles. I’m going to try converting them all to greyscale images, but if they still don’t print then I shall have to consider leaving out the illustrations. That would make the booklet less attractive for a general audience, though, so I really want to keep the pictures in.

Should I use a Print on Demand house like Lulu or Create Space? I checked out a paperback on Amazon which had been made available through Lulu and it quoted 1-4 weeks for delivery. Four weeks sounds a real put-off to me. Create Space seems to print and ship from the US so I imagine that postage costs would figure highly with that option. The upside of using places like these is that they also provide marketing (to some extent) and distribution. The author doesn’t have to do anything. Consequently, the author doesn’t seem to be left with much either after everyone has taken their cut. Not that I’m looking to make money; it would be nice to get some of my investment in time and resources back though!

Maybe I should get a heap of copies printed from one of those self-publishing houses like York Publishing? How big a heap? Twenty? Fifty? One hundred? They would have to be stored somewhere warm and dry. And marketed. And I’d have to keep careful accounts, package the booklets and post off copies, chase up late payers. I don’t mind doing any of those things, though, so it is an option.

Perhaps I should simply print the booklets on my own laser. Be my own POD house, in other words. The results are quite good actually, and because it can print colour photographs that particular problem of image quality goes away. This could work for a smallish quantity, maybe twenty or so. I think even the cost of the laser cartridges could be accommodated in the price when I get around to thinking about that. But could I still sell them on Amazon, and arrange for e-Book sales, without someone like Lulu being involved?

Should I submit an abridged version of the booklet to Hertfordshire Association for Local History as requested? It might dilute the sales potential, but on the other hand it would be free advertising as well! If there were juicy bits, I could leave them out so people had to buy a paid for copy to get them. Alas, medieval moated homesteads don’t offer any juicy bits!

If anyone has some advice to offer about any of this, it would be most welcome.

In the meantime, a writer friend has kindly offered to read the booklet through, and I have also asked the curator at the local museum if she might do the same (no decision on that yet, though!). With the exception of any revisions being needed as a result, and sorting out the image quality, I could be ready to move forward in a week or two.

If only I knew in which direction I was going to move !

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