‘The Remarkable Journey of Mr Prins: WWII, Jewish Refugees and the Bath-Alkmaar Friendship’ by Aletta Stevens

Yes, you CAN self-publish in a crisis!

This is my second book and my first self-published book. The reason for choosing to self-publish was that I was on a tight schedule to get this book out for VE Day to commemorate 75 years since the end of WWII. I did not have time to approach traditional publishers and wait for their reply (or not, as is the case more often!), nor to wait to be fitted into their publishing schedule, which can take a year or more.

SPP came recommended and communication was prompt and friendly from the start. It was ideal that SPP is based in Bath, since a large part of my book is about the city’s history. It also meant I could have a preliminary talk in person with Douglas, and since the book was going to be sponsored, it was also crucial for the sponsoring organiser to visit SPP. He came away so impressed that he was convinced the project was in excellent hands, which in turn enabled him to secure the funds quickly.

The inspiration for the book came from a moving and uplifting story of escape, war and friendship, which I discovered through the Bath-Alkmaar Twinning Association. I had just written a book about my Dutch uncle who was killed in Holland in WWII, and so had done a lot of research on that particular subject. The story centres around a Dutch Jew, Eli Prins, who in 1940 escaped from Holland by boat as the Nazis invaded and who, during the Dutch Famine at the end of the war, inspired the city and Rotary Club of Bath to fundraise for his hometown of Alkmaar and its children.

As we reached the final stages of manuscript preparation the Coronavirus crisis hit, so just as I came out of my self-imposed isolation to finish writing, I went into another form of self-isolation! I began to worry about all the things that could go wrong with the project and was hugely reassured by an email from Douglas, confirming that SPP staff were now working from home and that the company was trading as normal. It was a tremendous relief, as was their positive reply that the printers were also continuing to operate.

The different stages of correction to the page proof and cover design went very smoothly, with good communication between the members of the team: Matt meticulous in his proofreading, Tim methodical on the internals, Kev wonderfully creative on the design, and Frances efficient in holding this whole thing together. The questionnaire sent out at the start of the project is a great idea, because it enables authors to detail what kind of look they want. After just eight weeks from the proofread file I had printed copies and I am absolutely thrilled with the result. Not only is the cover design exactly as I wanted, but also being allowed a say in the overall look inside means that I am entirely happy with the typeface, leading and layout of the text and illustrations. Even the paper, which I had not specified, was perfect and much better quality than the thin paper in a book by a big publisher I had just read. I love handling the book, which is important when you don’t just sell through Amazon, but also from your own website and have to pack the book multiple times yourself.

Best of all, I felt I was in control of the process. Hats off to SPP, a reliable team even in a crisis!

‘The Remarkable Journey of Mr Prins’ is available on Amazon or visit Aletta’s website for a signed copy and 20% discount.

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