A NOBLE ENDEAVOUR

For a couple of years I lived in a seaside village in East Yorkshire when, in autumn and early spring, storms would blow in. Sometimes I watched from the cliff tops as huge waves, crested white, rolled relentlessly on to the beach smashing themselves in fury against the cliffs. The raw power of the sea, uncontrollable, unfettered, filled me with awe tinged with not a little fear. Occasionally I would catch a flicker of light on the horizon – some ship making for shelter or just riding out the storm. I tried to imagine what it must feel like to be out there and what it must have felt like in earlier times before modern technology made the sea a slightly safer place. There were times when I watched the RNLI lifeboat launch when it seemed almost impossible for it to remain afloat and admired the courage and dedication of the crew. When all else fails it is the bravery and determination of lifeboat crews and coastguards that save lives.

This is the story of the day of February 10th 1871 when a violent gale tested the courage of all who went to assist ships and sailors in distress.

For several days earlier atrocious weather forced ships to seek shelter in ports along the north eastern coast of Britain. When a break in the weather occurred, a convoy left shelter and headed south. But the westerly wind that helped them on their way dropped suddenly on the evening of February 9th and many of the ships were becalmed in Bridlington Bay on the east coast of Yorkshire. In the early hours of the morning of February 10th the wind got up, increasing in strength and bringing a maelstrom of sleet and snow. Crucially, it also changed direction and blew from the south-east straight into Bridlington Bay and in doing so trapped many of the ship in the Bay.

In the grey morning light, lifeboats and all their crews were readied. Clearly many of the ships were in great danger. Some captains tried to run their ships ashore for safety; others, choosing to ride out the storm, found their vessels driven mercilessly onto the shore by huge waves and boiling surf. Bit by bit, with anchors dragging behind them, 17 ships were thrown ashore to be pounded and smashed up by mountainous waves.

Both Bridlington lifeboats were launched. The local coastguards swam or waded chest-high through turbulent surf to pull crews off the nearer wrecks and get them to safety. Townsfolk ran to the sea walls to help out wherever they could.

The lifeboat Robert Whitworth went out time after time to the wrecks, snatching the sailors from certain death. In one case its crew fought for two hours to reach a vessel but was repeatedly beaten back. On returning to harbour, exhausted crew members were lifted from the boat with hands raw and bleeding from the oars. By this time conditions were so dangerous the Robert Whitworth was withdrawn from service, having saved 12 lives.

Meanwhile the other Bridlington lifeboat, the Harbinger, put out to sea again and again and as one crewman fell exhausted another stepped forward to take his place. However, after the seventh launch, during which sailors from another four vessels were safely recovered, replacement crew were becoming difficult to find. At this point it appeared that the Harbinger, like the Robert Whitworth, would have to be withdrawn.

It was then that David Purdon, Harbinger’s builder and John Clappison, his assistant, stepped up and volunteered to take her out. Another seven men came forward to help. They set off to rescue the crew of the brig Delta, aground and breaking up on Wilsthorpe Sands. On the way they came across another grounded vessel and took off the five man crew, landed them and then turned back to the brig. When they finally got there only one crew member, the captain, remained, clinging desperately to the rigging. The rest had taken to the brig’s lifeboat and drowned when it capsized.

Just as the Harbinger hove alongside the Delta a tremendous wave struck the brig sending her crashing into the lifeboat. The lifeboat, hit by the same wave, was thrown into the air and turned turtle. For a few minutes the Harbinger hung upside down until another wave righted her. Only crewman Richard Bedlington remained in the boat; he helped another, John Robinson, to climb back in, using his scarf as a rope. One further crew member, Richard Hopper, managed to scramble back aboard. The six other lifeboat crew all perished, including the first two volunteers David Purdon and John Clappison. All the boat’s oars were lost or smashed and eventually the boat drifted ashore near Wilsthorpe.

As the day wore on the destruction and loss of life continued as it became almost impossible to launch rescues, though not for want of trying. Those on shore could only watch helplessly as men struggled for their lives. A contemporary report describes how, ‘the piercing cries of the drowning crews were frequently heard amidst the howling of the storm’.

All through the night distress signals were seen far out at sea. At daybreak on February 11th the wind dropped and the devastation of the storm was revealed. Estimates put the number of ships lost to be around 30 and the number of lives lost to be 70.

On February 14th the first mass funeral took place. An estimated 4,000 people turned out to pay their respects. A public fund was set up to assist the widows and orphans of those lost as well as those who manned the lifeboats. Public subscriptions also paid for a monument erected over the mass grave at Priory Churchyard in Bridlington in memory of all those lost. The inscriptions serve to remind us of the price paid that terrible day. On one side of the monument the inscription gives the names of those lost, ‘whilst nobly endeavouring to save those whose bodies rest below’. The other three sides contain inscriptions, ’in lasting memory of a great company of Seamen who perished in the fearful gale… on February 10th 1871’, listing the names and number of ships lost before finishing with the grim tally, ‘Forty-three bodies of those who on that day lost their lives, lie in this churchyard’.

(Extract from “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” )

Memorial - Bridlington Priory Church

Memorial – Bridlington Priory Church

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To Market, To Market, To Sell a New Book

I’m back from a whistle-stop tour down the East Yorkshire coast where, with copies of my book about the coast “Close to the Edge” in hand and hope in my heart, I did the rounds of libraries, museums, indie bookshops, tourist offices and (thanks to a brill idea from photographer June Berridge) the large caravan parks.

It was an enjoyable if exhausting experience with lots of learning points to reflect on. So here goes.

1. You can’t prepare soon enough for your marketing activities. I had a rather fixed idea that it would be better to see people in person (and I still think so) but with that wonderful thing hindsight, I should have at least dropped an e-mail to some of the people I wished to meet. As it was, several were on holiday so I made double work for myself in having to contact them on my return. However, I’ve still managed to get the book into the three relevant libraries. I donated a copy to each of them (received with thanks in these austere times) and they will appear in the local history section. Note to self: in future go direct to the Library Acquisitions person based in local council offices.

2. Be as clear as possible about who will be likely to buy the book and think “out of the box”. June’s idea of the caravan sites, packed with tourists was a brilliant one and I was able to leave wodges of leaflets and sell some copies at those I visited.

3. Places that sell books are not likely to appreciate any promo that says “available from Amazon” on it. Doh! I made the mistake of having some flyers printed featuring the front cover of the book with just that written on it. Only the caravan parks were willing to accept them. It’s obvious now I come to think of it but the original purpose of the flyers was a different one which leads me to…

4. I had intended to use the flyers as mini-posters believing that the local supermarkets and visitor centres would let me post them on their notice boards. However, they turned out to be more useful as ‘grab and go’ leaflets so the large box of drawing pins and a wodge of blutack were redundant.

5. Be aware of the space that some potential outlets have for displaying books. The tourist offices I visited were small with little shelf space. However, I have been able to do a “sale or return” deal with one of the larger ones but even so, they don’t want to stock more than a half dozen. They take 10% of the sale price by the way.

6. Check opening times! I would have saved myself time and the price of several lattes, if I’d checked earlier for some of places I wanted to visit.

7. Have some sort of ‘pitch’ ready. I’m really uncomfortable trying to sell anything and found myself gabbling away to some poor soul that I cornered. After the first day, it went a bit smoother and by the last day I had it down pat. I wish I’d thought out what to say sooner. Be upfront about price and not apologetic and squirmy. The price is the price – take it or leave it…in the nicest possible way.

8. Listen to what potential buyers/stockists say to you. I picked up quickly on the fact that although the book covers the whole East Yorkshire coastline, the buyers/stockists wanted to know specifically whether the contents covered their specific town/village and was able to adjust what I said to them accordingly. I also found that they were able to suggest other places and people to contact that I wasn’t aware of (see 1 above) so I came back with a load of new contacts. I also learned more about stockists’ buying process and how that works.

9. This is a point I’ve read a zillion times elsewhere – it’s the cover that counts. Even if you’re doing the whole publishing shebang on a shoestring I would suggest that the biggest and best investment to make is in the cover. My cover features a photo of Spurn Point which spreads across front and back and drew a lot of positive comments – I think because it’s quite striking and a bit intriguing. But it’s the cover that buyers/stockists look at first, last and in between. They’ll riffle the pages a bit but they always come back to the cover.

Photo of Spurn Point - adapted for the cover

Photo of Spurn Point – adapted for the cover

10. Finally, if, like me, you have to travel around to do your marketing bit, have a good friend with a comfy sofa where you can flop out at night.

E-Day for “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast”

Tomorrow the Kindle version of my history/travel book becomes available on Amazon. The Paperback is already out and some lovely people have bought it – more than I anticipated since I don’t really get into the marketing swing until 10 August when I’m back in the UK.

I thought I’d share some of the marketing ideas that I’ve put together and the responses I’ve had to them -bear in mind that this is a non-fiction book and likely to have a limited audience.

1. I’ve had A5 posters made of the cover. I spent ages agonising over the size of these – naturally I thought the bigger the better. However, the posters are going to library, museum, visitor centre and supermarket notice boards in the towns and villages down the coast that feature in the book. The decision about size was taken on the basis that there is always pressure for space and it’s far easier to remove a large poster to make more space.

2. I’ve been fortunate enough to have articles published in a number of regional magazines and I approached the editors to see whether they would review the book. As all have agreed to do so a copy is winging its way to each of them.

3. I’ve used social media to a limited extent mainly because I don’t want to put folk into a catatonic state as I rabbit on. Creative1 publishing – the company that formatted the e-book has offered to do a number of tweets about it for me and of course I use this blog, Facebook and Twitter. In addition I’ve uploaded a number of the photos from the book as well as some that didn’t make it to Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/sheila0661/close-to-the-edge and I’ll be adding to the Board over the next few weeks.

First Spurn Lighthouse later used for storing explosives.

First Spurn Lighthouse later used for storing explosives.


4. I’ve approached the local radio station to see whether they would be interested in running a short piece as well. So far, the air waves are silent.

5. I now regularly follow some of the local newspapers to pick up any snippets of news relating to the area I’ve written about. This enables me to contribute to any debate or news item on-line without overtly touting the book.

I find, like many independent publishers/authors, that marketing is just not my thing. I shrink from banging on too much about The Book and don’t find it easy to “naturally” mention it in both on-line and direct conversations. When I’m back in the UK I’m going to a couple of independent bookshops in the area to see whether they would take the book on and that fills me with some trepidation too…and I’m not normally what you might describe as a shrinking violet. I can’t quite put my finger on why this is just yet so I’ve tried to adopt the attitude – “if you don’t ask – you’ll never get”. I also keep asking myself – “What’s the worst that could happen?” and have (perversely) rather pleasurable moments thinking up the most horrifying answers. It helps to soothe the fears.

So this is where I’m at right now. Saturday 1 August is E-Day for “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” – it’s also Yorkshire Day so it seems fitting. Breath is baited!

At Last!!

Close_to_the_Edge_Cover_for_Kindlejpg (2)
It’s all over bar the marketing. The paperback is up on Amazon and the e-book shortly follows – “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” is a reality. It’s taken around two years to get to this point and the final product is not a bit like my original idea. Perhaps that’s inevitable and I’m happy that it’s so.

There are lots of questions to ask myself when I have time to reflect a little; four big ones come to mind:
Was it worth it?
Would I do it again?
What would I do differently?
What have I learned from the experience?

Perhaps in another blog I’ll share my reflections with you. For now, I’m putting my rather sketchy marketing plan in place and I’ll be back in the UK at the end of the month to drum up some interest…well try to at any rate.
In the meantime if any of you kind souls are interested in an eclectic and occasionally irreverent history of a unique stretch of English coastline, toddle along to Amazon and have a peek.

Here’s the link (I hope) and all reviews of whatever ilk will be much appreciated.

Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast

The Gentle Art of Indie Publishing

Spurn Head

Spurn Head

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I’ve been struggling somewhat with getting my book “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” published and available to my eagerly waiting fans (yes all two of you). I have news for you…it’s much harder than I thought! I’m not the most gifted person when it comes to technology and the good folk at Createspace have tried to help me as much as possible but it has still taken 10 uploads of the text to get it right. Mostly the problem has been with the images, photographs in the main, and the complete mental block I have when it comes to pixels, dots per inch and other esoteric measurements. The cover has changed at least five times and the back cover blurb about three times.

However, it’s done; the mss is having its final review at Createspace; cover completed, distribution channels selected, keywords and pricing are settled; it’s been a steep learning curve. I don’t want to raise hopes (!) but I think it’s going to be August before Close to the Edge sees the light of day.

So now I turn my mind (or what’s left of it) to marketing.I must have read half a dozen books and a zillion articles about “how to do it and what to do” and am left feeling that it’s a full-time job. So how does one market a non-fiction, local history book?

At first I thought only in terms of a local niche market – local residents and tourists. This has now expanded somewhat and my “audience” hit list includes ex-pats in Europe who were once connected with/have an interest in the area; emigrants to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. How do I reach them? The classic answer is through social media and apart from this blog and my Facebook pages I’ve started to explore Pinterest. I think I need to learn how to use Twitter effectively too. I’d be very happy to hear from anyone who has survived their first book marketing project and is willing to share their experiences and tips.

In the next few weeks – if you happen to be out and about in East Yorkshire (and why wouldn’t you be) you may well see some tasteful flyers for the book in indie bookshops, libraries, museums and hopefully in one or two visitor centres. I have yet to discover how to persuade these cash-strapped organisations to actually buy some copies for resale and what sort of a deal can be done between us but I’m working on it.

I’ve also approached some regional and local magazines, newspapers and, when I get to it, local radio stations to see whether they would do a review or give me a few column-inches/air time. So far a deafening silence but I live in hope.

All in all August looks like being pretty hectic but, who knows, it could also be a whole lot of fun.

PS Just got a “Yes happy to review” from the Editor at The Dalesman. Thank you Adrian.

It had to happen didn’t it?

Back from a great week in bonnie Scotland only to find the gremlins are definitely at work. Why oh why did I have to say “Close to the Edge” would be available 1 June? For those of you waiting with bated breath…I’m sorry but there will be a delay. There are problems with the photos which, if said problems can’t be resolved, means I am not willing to publish as an e-book. Looking as it does at the moment, I wouldn’t buy the book so how could I expect others to do so?

I’m gutted really but 18 months of my life has gone into this and I don’t want to turn out a rubbishy looking product.

I’m absolutely not going to predict any more launch dates – but it could be…No! No more predictions! This indie publishing is a lot harder than I thought it would be – perhaps it would be easier if it were all text; perhaps…perhaps. Well I’m not going there either.

So please stay tuned in and bear with me in my frustration. AAAAGH!!!!!!!!

I’m Almost There!

Almost where? I hear you ask. Answer – ready to upload “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” which, at the risk of driving you into mild catalepsy is my local history book about the East Coast of Yorkshire.

The Holderness Coast, East Yorkshire

The Holderness Coast, East Yorkshire

The book has taken around 18 months of research, writing and faffing, including an abortive sojourn at a publishing house (for which, if I’m honest I still bear a grudge). On reflection a good lump of that time was taken up with editing, copy reading, obtaining permissions/rights and I still worry that someone will find a typo.

On doing yet another re-read last night it was good to remember how many people and organisations have indirectly contributed – not in the least local museums and libraries. I know these invaluable institutions are under threat from “austerity measures” in the UK so I wanted to use this space to give a shout to some of them and urge anyone looking to spend a bit of time on this eroding coastline to go and visit.

So roll of honour:

Hornsea Museum situated in an old farmhouse in the centre of the town. Don’t be deceived by the apparent smallness of the building – it takes a good while to get round and is packed full of great exhibits. (Sorry Hornsea Museum – I don’t have a photo of you.)

Withernsea Lighthouse Museum – situated – yes you’ve guessed it in Withernsea. It stands, a little incongruously in the middle of the town and has some interesting coastguard and RNLI displays and selections of old photographs relating to local history.

Withernsea Lighthouse and Museum

Withernsea Lighthouse and Museum

The Bayle Museum in Bridlington is located in the old gateway to Bridlington Priory, itself a victim of his royal humpingness, Henry VIII. It is dedicated to the history of the town of Bridlington.

The Bayle Gate, Bridlington

The Bayle Gate, Bridlington


All three museums give a great flavour of times past on the coast and are open now, for the season. Check websites for details.

In addition to the museums I made shameless use of three libraries when researching “Close to the Edge” – these were Hornsea, Bridlington and Beverley libraries. Since libraries seem to be becoming endangered species I’d just like to say that without their helpful staff and the ability to plunder their resources I wouldn’t have been able to write “Close to the Edge.” Thank you one and all.

Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast is scheduled for publication as an e-book on 1 June and will be available from Amazon – that is gremlins permitting.