Despite a series of successful books published, no one in 1992 wanted to print my illustrated guide to London’s dockland. Publishers loved it, but thought that limited interest in a guide to such a parochial subject precluded financial success.
The photographs to illustrate the book (GUIDE TO A DOCKLAND OF CHANGE) were taken by me from the riverside road from Tower Bridge to Limehouse from 1949 – 1969. They were never taken with publication in mind, but were of black and white shapes as seen through the primitive viewfinders of several Baby Brownie cameras. They were to help with my vision as a painter. The words were my own from research, observation, and from talking to dockland people over that period of time.
The area was of a dockland very familiar to me as an artist, a supernumerary on coasters leaving from that part of the Thames, and, eventually, when I rebuilt a warehouse to live in at the head of Limekiln Dock in Limehouse.
Unable to interest publishers, there was only one option left – to publish the book myself.
We, that is my son Pete, my wife Margreet, and I, then had a lot to learn about the publishing trade, and much work to do.
Good distribution is a key to the successful publication of books. We were to do our own throughout the whole of the dockland area. Another key to success is to have a target readership. We had those living in dockland. Yet another essential is publicity. For this the editors of dockland newspapers and journals liked our book and quickly came in on our side with glowing reviews.
For the rest it was dealing with the mechanics of publishing, extensive leafleting and, for me, the writing of further books.
In all, we produced, wrote, illustrated, and sold 5 titles over a 3-year period.
Extensive leafleting bore fruit as Pete and I posted book information and prices through thousands of dockland letterboxes. In came the orders. We mailed the books, and sometimes delivered them by hand. Doing this resulted in many an adventure and considerable exhaustion and aching limbs, not to mention the odd dog bite. We made many a friend as we toiled, and even received Christmas cards from readers who felt they were part of our endeavour.
Each of our books was paid for and in profit within three months of publication – perhaps a record of some kind.
Then we had other important things to do. Dockland changed, the books became a bit dated, and sales tailed off. We didn’t mind at all.
It had been a splendid and rewarding period in all of our lives.
So, in February 2011, The Mudlark Press came to an end.