From Traditional to Self Publishing and Back

When I first thought of writing a book I had no confidence in producing anything people would want to read. So I took my (brief) manuscript to the local printer, who mostly produced posters and newsletters. The finished book (a bit of nonsense called One Dog and His Man) cost me just £1 (Irish) in 1984 and sold quickly at £2, so whatever it made was doubled. I sold 500 copies locally and thought I should rewrite and improve my work and offer it to a publisher. A writer friend found me an agent and everything stopped for more than a year. My book was rejected again and again, making me think I should have stayed with the printer. My agent was ready to give up and I asked him to try just one more publisher. He tried the Blackstaff Press in Belfast and they accepted at once. It was out in a matter of weeks and got fantastic reviews. I followed with a sequel, One Dog and his Trials and that did well too. I turned the two books into one, One Dog, his Man and his Trials, which stayed in print for many years and is still popular. Before I acquired an agent, I had tried to place ‘One dog’ with a publisher myself. Having no idea how to start, I thought I’d send it to the next publisher whose name I saw in print. I went to Church and noticed that my hymnbook had been published by Collins of London. I duly sent the handwritten copy to this august firm. They answered! They liked it! They said they would contact me if they wanted an animal book. Because the book wasn’t accepted at once, I thought ‘it’s no good. Forget it.’ I was 54; old enough to have more sense, but I didn’t recognise the personal...