Confessions of a Micro Publisher: My most costly mistake

In Childrens books, independent publishing by Kateinnes_123.@hW

Confessions of a Micro Publisher: My most costly mistake

There are some mistakes in life that cause brief embarrassment. Some cause us momentary inconvenience. My biggest professional mistake (so far) was longer-lasting than that. 

It’s only now that I feel able to admit to this mistake, now that the hours and hours and hours it took to rectify have come to an end. More than two years later.

I’m an Indie writer, and therefore also a publisher. Sometimes this secondary aspect of my job trips me up. I hope that writing about my mistake might save myself and others from the same pitfall. Maybe we’ll fall into a different pit – after all there are so many – but not this one!

It was 2021 and I was finishing my 4th book – the first for children – entitled Greencoats. I had taken care to choose a font that’s easy to read, for those readers (like all my own children) who have a degree of dyslexia. I’d found an excellent illustrator, Anna Streetly, to bring the historical fantasy world to life and beautify the text with some motifs. I edited it over and over so that the sentences would flow. It was ready to go to the printer – or so I thought.

I have an old computer. Seriously old in computer years. The software is also old. I tried new-fangled things like Scrivener – said to be excellent for preparing manuscripts – but I couldn’t get on with it. I like my old, familiar ways. I trained as an archaeologist after all. I know where I am with ancient things.

But computers develop glitches the older they get, just like people do. They run out of memory and energy. They become intransigent about certain demands and expectations. They end up saying ‘No’ more often than not. And it is particularly common for one of these glitches to occur when you need to do something in a hurry.

I don’t even remember why I was under pressure on that day. It was April of 2021, Covid was still in the air, I had 3 teenagers at home and I was planning on publishing two books before Christmas. I had to get my skates on. But there was some particular reason that the manuscript had to be approved on that day, and it was probably because I’d already had to stop one print run half-way through to change the uneven type setting. That was expensive. If I didn’t get this version to them, they wouldn’t be able to deliver before the (small, socially-distanced) launch event in May. All my plans would fall apart.

I had noticed that sometimes when I saved the book file as a pdf, the page numbers disappeared. Then I had to perform some magic spell with scroll down menus to get them back. Something about the margins, the footer, the page layout. As I went through the numerous checks, I was sure they were showing up where they ought to be – doing their job of telling the reader where they were and how far they had to go. I pressed ‘Send’, and later that day I pressed ‘Approved for Print’.

Fast forward two weeks to the moment I open the first box of books. 

No page numbers. 

I almost faint. The printer must have done something wrong and not printed the base of the page. But it’ll be the printer who has to fix it. And fix it quick! I run to my desktop and reload the proof that I approved. 

No page numbers. It’s my fault not the printer’s.

I stand still for a long time feeling sick. About £1000 of investment, and these books are useless. I want to cry. I want to burn them. I want to give up.

Instead, after a few deep breaths and lots of swearing, I conclude I’ll have to live with it. I don’t have the money for a reprint. Everything else about the books is perfect. Serves me right for writing a book that includes Forest Spirits and Elves. Of course they would make mischief. What was I thinking??

And why do we have to have page numbers anyway???

I decide to visit one of my best friends. We laugh. Well she does, and I pretend. Then she gives me the first solution. A genius way of looking disaster in the face and smiling anyway.

Engage your audience.

Turn a weakness into a strength.

Carrie Bennett was excellent at PR and Marketing. It was one of the jobs she did brilliantly. She died last year, on this day, and her loss has been hard to bear for all those who knew her. She was a very kind, unique, generous and gifted woman.

The addition of the bookmarks made everything okay. At the Book Launch, I was able to make light of it and see the empty whiteness at the bottom of the pages as freeing, expressive, doodle space. (To those of you who never write in your books and never dog-ear pages either – I apologise).

I also ordered a small emergency supply of print-on-demand books with the page numbers in their proper place to give to bookshops. Phew. But I quickly ran out of bookmarks and numbered copies. 

I also realised that it was impractical for schools to use books without page numbers, and I dearly hoped lots of schools would use Greencoats as part of their WW2 curriculum.

I needed another solution.

And that’s where my Great Wall Model 46 Mechanical Numbering Stamp from Shanghai came into the story.

Luckily I enjoy watching tennis, rugby, athletics, and other Olympic/Commonwealth sports. I sat in front of the tv with a wooden chess board on my lap, a cushion at my back, and stamped every other page with an odd number. I stamped the even number onto a piece of paper. It was too complicated to move the book to and fro to get numbers on each page, and the ink would have smeared.

I made lots of little mistakes, like printing the numbers upside down, or missing a number because someone was about to score a try or win the gold medal. 

I still have a few of these ‘Seconds’ in a Box of Shame near my desk.

But after a while I got better at it and managed to ink the pad just enough, get the numbers in the right place on the page, and the clever thing would click over – all the way to page 285. 

A number seared into my brain.

On the positive side, the stamped numbers have a lovely vintage look, which is appropriate for a book set in 1940. I estimate that I numbered around 170 books. That’s approximately 48,450 times I pressed down that mechanical numberer. It’s still in perfect working order. I’m impressed. Great manufacturing.

But am I in perfect working order?

No. I never will be. I’ll always make mistakes.

But now I have a new mantra. A motto I whisper to myself whenever I’m feeling stressed about getting something done.


I have decided that this is a key piece of wisdom that will help me in all kinds of situations, not just writing and publishing.

DON’T RUSH – with my kids, family, walks in the woods, creativity, friends, teaching, driving, cleaning, listening, and enjoying life.


And also


And perhaps


And certainly


And finally


Last week I finished stamping the last unnumbered book. The numberer has fallen silent. 

I’m just getting ready to order a reprint. 

Wish me luck!!

In memory of Carrie Bennett – who made everything better.