Those of you who’ve had a wander around my website will be aware that I’ve written over one hundred local history booklets. I own a large historical photograph archive, which I’ve digitised (many thousands of hours work) and I also have a collection of Victorian travel guides. It occurred to me, a few years ago, that it might be interesting to combine text from one of these fascinating guide books with photos of the same area from my collection.
Publishing local history booklets has always been a significant financial risk, as the initial printing costs are high and there’s no guarantee that you will sell any. It only really makes sense if it’s a labour of love. That was until the introduction of print-on-demand technology. Now, anyone can write a book, put it on the internet and when an order is received, the book is automatically printed and sent to the customer. There are various providers of this type of service and I use Amazon’s, called createspace. There are no upfront or ongoing costs and the books are listed on Amazon sites around the world.
Having made the decision to write a booklet, my chosen subject was ‘The River Thames from Source to Sea’ as I have a set of magic lantern lecture slides with the original showman’s script. The process was harder than I thought but I persevered and eventually it appeared for sale on Amazon. That would have been reward enough but, to my surprise, people actually bought it. So, I wrote another and another and I now seem to have published over one hundred titles!
My booklets relate to various cities and towns in the UK and topics such as the 1908 White City Franco-British Exhibition in London but my best seller is about Hull and the surrounding area, a city in the north east of England with a rich maritime history. The text is taken from Black’s Guide to Yorkshire published in 1888 and the photos are from my archive. You would think that my booklets about cities such as London and Manchester would have a far bigger potential audience and thus sell better but, for some reason, they don’t. I’m particularly proud of my London booklet but have hardly sold any copies.
So, why Hull? Perhaps the history of places like Hull means more to their inhabitants than it does to those living in large cities which, through growth, immigration and the dispersal of modern families, may have lost some of the identity that local people can relate to. It’s only in recent years that I’ve understood the need to feel connected to and grounded in a ‘place’, somewhere to call home. I wish I’d known that earlier in life. Perhaps the sense of belonging is stronger in Hull than it is in London. Or maybe my Hull booklet just has a more interesting cover picture than the London one!
The three images are the cover of my Hull booklet, the Albert Dock and Hull Fair. You can click on the cover image to go to the relevant page on Amazon.