15 Dec 2019 MY BOOK – THE ESSENTIAL BACK STORY
It was apparently during my 2006 visit to the UK, less than a year after the initial publication of the archive in late 2005, when I was staying with Clive, that we came up with the idea of a book and made notes about its scope and presentation. We visited bookshops and wrote down the dimensions of illustrated volumes with a likely-looking format. In 2008, Clive produced a Preliminary Draft Synopsis, which I still have, together with a list of natural history publishers I gleaned from a visit to Waterstone’s in Leeds.
The year was pivotal. Angela McKinstry, a graphic artist who designed the DVD covers and locations map for the 2005 published archive, designed and printed a mock-up of the book in 2010. The title was ‘One small place on earth …’. There was no subtitle. Later that year Jan Watson, the book’s designer, produced a design template which has been followed for the published book. By then there was a subtitle – ‘Celebrating biodiversity where you are’. At some point thereafter, Clive came up with the transformative improvement ‘discovering’ biodiversity.
In 2012 Steve and his wife Paulina, dumbfounded me with a birthday present of a book of my images, hard-bound and digitally printed. For years, before and since, I had unsuccessfully submitted publication proposals to publishers and literary agents, in Australia, the USA and primarily in the UK. I don’t know why it took me until April 2017 to ask Steve if he would be willing to help me put the book together. We decided to retain the dimensions of his 2012 book, to make the task easier. The intention was still to try and find a publisher. Jan agreed to design the book.
Steve and I assembled a layout for a publication proposal which introduced visual content. Jan produced a design which featured the introduction to all the chapters and the complete contents of one of them, for which I had to provide the finished writing and captions. The publication proposal was submitted to a few publishers in Australia. Meanwhile, Steve and I pressed on with the rest of the book, so that by the end of 2017, Jan had produced the first draft design of the complete book.
I gave myself the whole of 2018 to find a publisher, refining the book all the while with late additions, text improvements and getting experts to check species identification for the all-important species list. In June I ordered 4 printed copies of Jan’s publication proposal pdf for posting to additional Australian publishers. In October and November, I contacted more publishers in the UK and one in New Zealand, initially by phone. Most did not take unsolicited material. Four asked to see Jan’s pdf. By year’s end, I resolved to have the book printed in 2019, even if this required me to self-publish it, which I was reluctant to do.
Consequently, I needed to rule in or out as quickly as possible, the publishers to whom I had sent the pdf at the end of 2018. By the time Amanda Klaer agreed to proof read the text, the self-publishing die was cast. Not only does Amanda have an eagle eye, she suggested a number of crucial improvements to the writing. The finishing touch was provided by Darryl Jones’s heart-warming Foreword. Now it was time for Jan to obtain quotes from printers – 2 in Australia and 2 in China. One of the Chinese printers had printed Jaap Vogel’s book, the quality of which was acceptable to Jan. We were quoted for print runs of 500 and 1,000. The Australian printers’ quotes were at least twice the unit cost of the lowest Chinese quote (which fortunately was Jaap’s printer) and the higher Chinese quote was 60% more. We chose Jaap’s printer.
To say that self-publishing and printing one’s book in China is a learning curve, is putting it mildly. Our interlocutor in Hong Kong, Anna Li, was invariably courteous and attentive. Her English was basic, which required Jan and me to choose our words carefully when requesting changes or confirming arrangements. However, our knowledge of Mandarin Chinese is and was, non-existent. Jan kept the printer up to the mark on the specifications and supplying proof copies. Tariff war or not, the quote was in US dollars. Shipping was priced at $350, which seemed quite reasonable, until we discovered that this only covered the cost of delivering the books from the factory to the boat. At this point I realised that I required the services of a customs broker. I made enquiries of Federal Customs in Canberra and accessed their list of approved brokers who only appear by name and not location. I was able to match the name on a list of brokers in Brisbane with one on the federal customs list. Ferrying the books from Shenzen to Brisbane was the least of it. There are port charges to be paid, handling charges, clearing customs which includes paying GST, delivering the books to the mountain and insuring the cargo throughout its journey.
A couple whom I met socially in 2018, had self-published a book with a much larger print run than mine and had sold nearly all of them. They helped me improve my pitch to publishers and in due course, offered space in their storage unit on the mountain in exchange for a share of the rental cost. I received the books on August 5.