Seeking John Campbell: Turning an Idea into that First Book John Daffurn sits down with William Eichler to discuss how he published his first book, Seeking John Campbell.
N 31 Dec 1995, 68 year old widower Isabel Greig passed away in her home in Petworth, West Sussex. Isabel died without making a will and so her estate passed to the government where it joined thousands of others that sit unclaimed by potential heirs. In 2010 John Daffurn, a retiree who used to work in the pharmaceutical industry, decided to try tracing the legitimate beneficiaries of one of these estates. He chose Isabel’s name at random. This led to the unearthing of a story that encompasses three countries, two continents and two world wars. It also led to John writing and publishing his first book: Seeking John Campbell: Finding Pioneers and Patriots in the Pampas (2015).
before purchasing his own estancia. The British migrants and their descendents maintained a strong connection to the motherland. The colonists built a home from home in Argentina. They founded British churches, clubs, schools – all the basic infrastructure necessary for recreating the lives they left behind. In the Argentinean pampas, it would seem, they created a small “corner of a foreign field that is forever England.” And, in the spirit of Rupert Brooke’s patriotic poem, all three John Campbells chose to fight in WWI. Later, their descendents also ended up on opposite sides in WWII.
Putting Pen to Paper
It all began simply as a mental exercise. John was curious as to why probate researchers, or ‘heir hunters’, sometimes met “road blocks” in their search for someone’s next-of-kin. As an ex-Mensa member with a taste for genealogy, it was the perfect pastime. “It was an intellectual challenge and I figured that if I failed it would still teach me something about genealogy and tracing ancestors. It was a learning experience.” John soon discovered that Isabel had been born in Argentina and had become a British citizen in 1951. Further research led him to her mother, Gladys Pemberton, and her marriage certificate listed her father as a rancher named John Campbell. These initial successes were surprising. “I picked one [a name] at random and started, and it just went on and on and I seemed to clear the road blocks.” Using Internet genealogy forums, John discovered three John Campbells who were potentially Isabel’s father: John Argentine Campbell, John Burnet Campbell and John Otto Campbell. All three John Campbells were born on, or owned, estancias (ranches) in Argentina. John Argentine and John Burnet’s forefathers left Scotland in the 19th century as part of a wave of migration to South America and their families became landowners and merchants. John Otto came from a different background, but his destination was the same. He was born in Germany to a German father and mother of Scottish descent and became a British citizen
Seeking John Campbell is a captivating story. Surprisingly, this is the first time that John has ever written anything like this. “The only things I’ve written before are financial plans or strategic plans or acquisition papers.” What did he learn from the writing process? “If you have an idea then just write it down. Write from the heart. Get the facts on paper. You can tidy it up and change it around later. But write, write, write... you’ve just got to write it!”
Going it Alone After working on his manuscript with an editor, John decided to go down the self-publishing route. “I was then into a whole new world. I started to read lots of blogs and tried to distil as much as possible about what is the best thing to do in self-publishing.” His research showed that all-in-one vanity publishers (where you pay to have your book published) could be unreliable and expensive.
A lot goes into publishing a book. Cover design, typesetting, indexing – every stage is important. John taught himself how to do the indexing and he also designed the outline of the cover. However, he emphasises that you must be realistic. You will not be able to do everything yourself. Sometimes you will have to outsource the difficult tasks in order to ensure the finished product is of professional quality. “You’ve got to have a good cover and it’s got to be professionally typeset and well laid out.” Seeking John Campbell began as an idea that came to John over breakfast. It is now a work of social history available from Walkers Bookshop and on Amazon.co.uk. It goes to show that, with a little bit of luck and a lot of hardwork, becoming a published author is within everybody’s reach.
Five Point Guide to Self-Publishing: 1. Decide on your goals. Do you want to publish for pleasure or for profit? 2. Research publishing service options thoroughly. Beware of all-in-one vanity publishers! 3. Decide on what you can and cannot do. Be honest with yourself! 4. Ensure you have a professional-looking final product 5. Don’t be shy about promoting it
STAMFORD LIVING MARCH 2015
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