Friday, April 20, 2012

A Publishing Question

On the off chance that somebody in the publishing industry may stumble across this blog, I have a question that I'd like to ask (don't worry, I haven't written a novel or, even worse, a collection of 'lyrical' short stories).

I have a book that was published in 1943, containing the memoirs of a pilot in Bomber Command. Unlike many autobiographies from this period, the narrative has a disarmingly contemporary feel and reminds me of Geoffrey Wellum's bestselling memoir 'First Light'. In some places the writing almost reads like a screenplay.

It's a remarkable book. I bought it a few years ago in a charity shop and forgot all about it. When I went on to get a job working with old books, I neglected reading any of my own as I wanted a break from foxed pages and cracked hinges in my spare time, preferring clean new paperbacks. But the other day I found the book in my wardrobe and was immediately struck by the author's vivid prose style.

I've tried to find out more about this title, but I can't find any copies on sale anywhere in the world. I've also found it impossible to learn anything about the author, which obviously has a bearing on copyright.

I could put the book on sale, hoping to attract a decent price for such a scarce title, but I'd rather see it gain a new generation of readers.

Does anyone in the know have any recommendations?


Lucille said...

Persephone Books?

Little Nell said...

What is it called and who is it by?

BTW did you know you still have that wretched word verification going?

Georgie said...

I'm sure you will have tried the British Library's enquiry pages? Also, there used to be Navy Lists, showing who was who (I think, officers only) - maybe there's something similar for the RAF? Can you work out where he was stationed when or was that classified in 1943?

Sam Jordison said...

Sounds interesting.

My first question would be whether you've tried/ it's possible to contact the estate. Or indeed, the author, should he still be with us.

Otherwise, have you thought about publishing it as an ebook? Drop me a Facebook email if you want ideas on that score...

Martin said...

I was also going to suggest the British Library. If I knew the title and author, I could run it by a former colleague of mine, who heads the Bibliographic section in a top UK university.

Little Nell said...

Another thought. I’ve been on Bomber Commnd website a bit lately on behalf of my father, who served with them. They’re in the news a bit as their first ever memorial is about to be unveiled, on 28th June. Is it worth contacting the Bomber Command Association secretary? He may be able to help. If it’s as good as Geoffrey Wellum’s book, I’m sure there’s be no shortage of buyers.

Steerforth said...

Lucille - I'm a huge admirer of Persephone, but I think this book is a little too masculine for their tastes.

Nell - I've disabled the word verification, but if the Chinese porn returns, I'll have to bring it back.

Universal - You credit me with more research skills than I have. I didn't know that the British Library had such facilities.

Sam - No. I wouldn't know how to go about it. The author would be over 110, if he's still alive.

I'd thought of publishing it as an ebook (if I could get the rights) but I'd like to give readers of my parents' generation a chance to buy a paper copy too.

Martin - Thanks. I'll take you up on that.

Nell - That's a really good idea (and I didn't know anything about the memorial). I'll see if I can find out anything from them. Thanks.

MikeP said...

Like everybody else, I'm dying to know what this book is. It's worth contacting the original publisher, if they still exist, even as part of a much larger combine. There will be files and contracts squirrelled away somewhere, and there's generally someone whose job it is to field enquiries of this sort.

There's a publisher called Woodfield Publishing, in Bognor Regis no less, that seems to specialise in books about Bomber Command exploits. You could always run it by them.

Steerforth said...

Simon - Sorry, it isn't.

Mike - I was hoping you'd see this post. I've sent some scans of sample pages to your email address.

lucy joy said...

So glad you received sensible responses to this intriguing post.

I'm going to spoil it by posting a comment purely for the novelty value of not having to (attempt to) type an excruciating word-verification first.

Thanks, Little Nell.

yorkybar said...

I work for Bello at Pan Macmillan and use Copac ( to look up the original publishers of the books we're republishing, might be worth having a look there? As far as getting something rereleased, you'd need to try and find out which Agent represents the Estate (presuming the author has passed away by now).

That said, we republish both fiction and non-fiction!

john problem said...

'Not written a novel nor a collection of short stories.' Er, excuse me. Is there something wrong with that? I'm offended! I did all my scribbling and now you make it sound like it's the pox...

Steerforth said...

Mr Touchy, I was talking about if I had written a novel or collection of short stories. I'm all in favour of other people writing fiction (including you). In fact I've just spent the last four hours completely engrossed in a novel by Amanda Craig.

Having said that, when I met publishers' reps, short stories were treated like the pox ;)

Yorkybar - Thanks for that. It's good to hear from someone in the trade. I'll try Book Trust to see if I can find out any details about the estate.

Lucy - I know that the word verification is a pain in the arse and I resisted it for years, but the Chinese porn spam became a real problem. However, I'm pleased to report that I've had no Chinese porn spam during the last 48 hours. It's been Russian insteasd.

Canadian Chickadee said...

What's the statute of limitations on copyright in the British Isles? In the US and Canada, I think it's 50 years (unless it's renewed) and then it becomes part of the public domain, like Shakespeare, and can be quoted and reissued at will.

If that's the case, then I would think you could pretty much do whatever you wanted with the book, though you'd have to check with an attorney first, just to make sure all the bases were covered.

Good luck! I'd love to see it; I spent quite a lot of time on the net a few years ago doing research on an RCAF flyer who was killed in Feb. of 1945, and it was fascinating to see how many links and how much info is actually out there.

zmkc said...

I've suggested it to my friend who runs Moving Toyshop books.

Mark G. said...

Thanks (friend of Zoe here). I'm a publisher, though we're still at the early stages.

Our first book is out on sale and our second book is close to printing -

Can you tell me a bit more about this wartime text?