Published: 15/08/2014 15:55 - Updated: 15/08/2014 16:52

Giving local authors a literary leg up

Richard Burkitt and designer Stewart Forbes put together cover ideas.
Richard Burkitt and designer Stewart Forbes put together cover ideas.

A CHARITY set up to combat addiction is helping new authors across the Highlands realise their dream of being published.

When Richard Burkitt, an Episcopal Minister on the Black Isle, wanted to release a book of sermons, he decided the simplest option was to make use of the new printing facilities at the Merkinch based anti-addiction charity he set up, For The Right Reasons (FRR).

Since then writers of all genres and all ages have followed his lead and Burkitt has now found himself and his charity an important part of the north literary scene.

"We have so many books now, we can hardly keep up with them," Burkitt said.

"At the last count, we had about 23 of them and the wonderful thing is there are books being written and published which quite possibly wouldn’t exist without us."

The authors who have been helped into print by For The Right Reasons range from a 14-year old teenager to a woman in her 90s, while the subject matter ranges from poetry to fantasy and crime fiction, to local history, travel and autobiography.

Some of these authors come to FRR having already been published elsewhere.

John Dempster, who writes the weekly Christian Viewpoint column in the Highland News has published a collection of his essays.

Black Isle resident Elizabeth Sutherland has a successful career as both a novelist and non-fiction writer, while one of the biggest sellers, genealogist Hugh Grant, has already published a well received memoir of his National Service in the Parachute Regiment in A Game of Soldiers.

His first title with FRR is fiction, but Grant’s novel The Finkelstein Legacy also draws on his experience as the manager of the old Caledonian Hotel in Inverness before its demolition in the 1960s.

"It gives a real flavour of what it was like to work in a grand hotel before the developers came along," Burkitt said.

Some books deal with topics so specialised that they would be unlikely to attract the interest of mainstream publishers, Burkitt acknowledged.

However, that does not mean these books will not find an audience.

"It’s taken us by surprise what a demand there is for 200 books here and there. We definitely fill a whole in the market," Burkitt said.

"We have also improved enormously. I remember the first time we produced a book five years ago. Half the copies fell apart.

"We have now moved from being a printer to being a book publisher, able to fulfil people’s dreams."

As well as physical copies, the charity’s publications are now available electronically, another sign of the major changes which have taken place in the publishing industry which have seen would be authors increasing turn towards self-publishing.

"We realised there were many ‘vanity publishers’ out there charging far too much to put books together," said Burkitt, whose own self-published venture was the inspiration for the venture.

Joe Lindsay from North Kessock tells a tale of a true African adventure in Ticket to Timbuktu
Joe Lindsay from North Kessock tells a tale of a true African adventure in Ticket to Timbuktu

"Our only stipulation is that the customer buys the first 100 books. It will cost £350 to get an average sized book printed." Potential books arrive at the charity’s Grant Street premises in various degrees of readiness for publication. Burkitt revealed that The Finkelstein Legacy was submitted as a handwritten manuscript, something no conventional publisher would look at.

The charity’s involvement does not necessarily finish with printing.

"We work together with the author to try and market the book," Burkitt said.

"We try and get reviews and so on, but it’s very much a joint effort. At the moment we don’t charge for marketing and some authors are quite brilliant at it. Alison Spriggs (author of The Real Owners of Skye and Knitting Makes You Fat) sold 150 copies at her book launch. But a book can’t sell if it isn’t good."

At the moment authors put up money to pay for printing costs, but Burkitt sees the time coming soon when that is reversed and he offers an advance to authors he sees as having commercial potential.

This had almost happened already, he revealed with a book about World War I, but had been outbid by another publisher.

"What we really want to do is create jobs and get people back on their feet," Burkitt said.

"This is one way of doing that."

Five from For The Right Reasons

Doctor Archie: The Life and Times of Doctor Archibald Cameron

Mary McGregor

The carefully researched story of the brother of Cameron of Locheil, the last man to be executed for the Jacobite cause.

The Finkelstein Legacy.

Hugh Grant

The local author draws on his experience of managing the Caledonian, the Drumossie, The Douglas and Palace Hotels in Inverness for this nostalgic novel.

Ticket to Timbuktu

Joe Lindsay

For his 60th birthday, North Kessock’s Joe Lindsay joked that he would like a ticket to Timbuktu. His wife took him at his word. This is the story of his adventures.

Skipper’s Yarns From Avoch

Donald Patience

One of For The Right Reason’s big sellers, the autobiography of a Black Isle fisherman.

Passages in the Life of an English Heiress: Recollections of Disruption Times in Scotland

 Lydia Miller

Reprint of an 1847 novel by Lydia, the wife of Victorian polymath Hugh Miller.

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