Things were now moving. My agent sent me a publishing contract with Casemate UK for signing . All very exciting but a bit scarey; the contract held me personally responsible for any defamation of character or breach of copyright.
Sorting out copyright on old photos was the devil of a job; two of the photographic companies listed on photos I had carefully chosen were long since out of business but their copyright could have been sold on to other companies or passed in wills to family. All too difficult; I did not use such photos. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the US Navy came up trumps and allowed me to use all of their photographs. For this type of book, I had also to ensure that I was not breaching the Official Secrets Act. As I was well aware of what information should not be divulged, this was not a problem and MOD gave me security clearance virtually without challenge.
As this was an autobiography, real people were involved and I had to ensure that I was not guilty of libel. That was much more sensitive. This was not a kiss-and-tell story and I had absolutely no desire to settle old scores or stab former colleagues in the back but it was still necessary to describe difficult inter-personal experiences. So, where I felt that offence may be caused, I used fictitious names. As the book was about my personal character development, the few name changes did not diminish it. As far as I could, I tracked down all the people I had mentioned and sent them copies of the relevant manuscript pages, a time-consuming task and a white knuckle ride when writing to people with whom I had crossed swords.
This latter process could have raised real problems if too many of my subjects had demanded major changes or threatened legal action. In reality, few did and several offered extra tit bits for inclusion. It was in the end a life re-affirming experience. I found myself entering into the warmest of e-mail exchanges with old colleagues and former bosses. The most touching was a most generous reply from a former Captain who had sacked me in my first job; he had been a bete noir for about thirty years.
WARNING: Putative memoir writers beware: one former senior officer with whom I had crossed swords, despite his name not being given in the book, took serious exception to my description of our clash. Out of courtesy, I had sent him a draft for comment. He was hostile, hinted at legal action and subsequently wrote a character assassination of me disguised as a book review in the Naval Review. That action entirely vindicated my description of him and gained me unsolicited support from other readers of the Naval Review through letters to the editor. Two other former colleagues who were named fictitiously in the book, recognised themselves and gave adverse feedback comments on Amazon; I could recognise who they were. I have now received over fifty five-star ratings on Amazon at the last count.
MEETING MY PUBLISHER
The moment I had dreamt of: on 30th June, 2017, I met my publisher for the first time. Casemate (UK) is based in Oxford and specialises in military history. I met Clare Litt, the Publishing Director, and Tom Bonnington, the Marketing Executive, in the Ashmolean Museum - clearly I was viewed as an old fossil! We hit it off straight away.
On first contacting me, Casemate had asked for any suggestions I had for a cover and I sent them a photograph. Now Clare ambushed me with their graphic artist's cover design and asked for my opinion. I thought it was brilliant. It is a really dynamic cover, worthy of a thriller, and far better than a photograph. That's where the skill of a professional graphic designer comes in.
Getting the cover done is the first priority for a publisher. New books have to go into trade catalogues well ahead of actual publishing. My cover appeared in Casemate's Spring 2018 Catalogue. After that, professional editors/readers attack the manuscript and may call for changes. Mine did not. My manuscript had already been so well edited that virtually no changes were necessary. I was chuffed by that. Advance copies are then sent to book reviewers. After that, the print copy surfaces for final agreement; a sort of speak now or forever hold your peace moment. After years of slogging away on my laptop, it was difficult to believe that this was actually happening.
Then it's on to marketing.