A little self-publishing tale, part 2
< Continued from A little self-publishing tale, part 1
The first print run of 20,000 copies of the Whitley Bay Guide were lounging around awaiting circulation, held back till our planned WB Chamber of Trade launch that evening. That morning, however, we dropped-off a box or two to our "advisory" hotelier chum, out of courtesy. Just an hour or so later we received word from the Department of Tourism that our guides were not to be handed out by them after all due to "several complaints" from hoteliers because our listings included a number of B&Bs and guesthouses not certified to Quality in Tourism standards. Strange that "several" hoteliers had registered their complaints so quickly seeing as only one hotelier (yep, you guessed it) had actually received the guides at that point.
Of course we wanted no part in this snidey, back-stabbing elitism—our independent guide was to promote all such businesses, however small, and we were not going to ignore, say, a guesthouse who had not the funds to assume a higher status. But a compromise was reached that, should one of our guides be mailed out through “official” Tourism channels, a disclaimer slip would be enclosed.
So then the moment of truth arrived. The unveiling proper took place that evening at the Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade meeting. We took along several boxes of our pocket-sized wonder-booklet and, in front of the assembled proprietors and businessfolk, smugly ripped open the boxes and, in slow motion, flung our guides in generous handfuls across the lengthy board table. We needn’t have worried… the scene was like feeding time in a monkey house.
The following day a van was borrowed and, armed with the boxes and the guide holders we had purpose-made, off we chugged around each restaurant, bar, takeaway and pub, to spread the love around the masses. We were assisted by some rather more helpful hoteliers and landladies who made sure that each of their own received plenty guides to leave in the rooms and reception areas for guests. They were also given out in their thousands to the cruise ship passengers for whom they were originally intended.
What was fairly common initially was on asking the nonplussed owner of a bar or restaurant if they would care for some guides and a counter stand to display for their customers, they would respond with a "never heard of it, mate, but leave us a few copies." Then invariably, after a couple of hours, came the phone call… "this is great, can you deliver a couple of boxes—they've all disappeared!"
Orders were coming in twenty-to-the-dozen, and so what we needed was the regular use of a van. Paul just happened to have going spare a little Japanese ‘bug-eyed’ S-Cargo runabout which was duly commissioned and liveried-up loudly in our familiar graphics to whizz us around the daily delivery circuit.
The response was tremendous, a lot of newspaper column inches were devoted to our cause, folks argued about us in the letters pages, our guide was discussed in the Houses of Parliament, and we had requests from places as far away as Canada. (It was also flattering in a way when a certain Whitley Bay newsagent was caught putting his own price stickers on the covers.)
Our print run soon ran out, necessitating a couple of reprints to a total of 60,000 copies. An additional insert was inserted additionally so advertisers who had missed out (or didn't trust us) first time round could be included. These extra advertisement spaces were filled within an hour.
We did it again the following year. For 2009 we toyed with publishing not only a Whitley Bay Guide but also a ‘sister’ version to cover the next town, Tynemouth. But why not keep the printing costs down, increase the page count, and combine both as the Whitley Bay & Tynemouth Guide?
So that’s what we did. We received yet more benevolent funding and endorsement from local authorities. Another 60,000 were produced but with more pages, more content, and more features from another host of brilliant writers; that we managed to coax the great Ian La Frenais into writing 300 words for us still thrills to this day.
For 2010, with our 'day jobs' taking precedence again, we produced an online-only version. No problems there but that was a long time ago; perhaps the e-Book form or the App is the way forward should we ever decide to produce another guide in future.
But I'm an eternal book sniffer and the website admittedly failed to match the sense of wonder from holding a real booklet put together with so much love. The perfect A6 format and substantial ply of the pages, the smell of fresh print, and the little cooling zephyr of air as you flicked through was so much more inspiriting than prodding at the digital devices of today. Physical books will still be around for generations to come.
Thus, should the lay of the land be suitable for us to make a comeback with a new Whitley Bay Guide in a year or two, never say never!