English Pensioner Won Royal Seal Of Approval With Self-Published Book

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES:  Fox Brothers had been in business on the Pantiles since Josephine Butcher's childhood when she took this photograph in 1990

“This Is Kent”, an English local newspaper, reports on a sweet story of one pensioner whose self-published book was read by Princess Diana. There’s hope for us all.

Thanks to modern technology, writing and printing your own work has never been easier. And if you’re looking for more professional results, there are plenty of publishers willing to take on the job.

But back in 1990, when Josephine Butcher decided to design and print her childhood memoir, I Was Born on the Pantiles, self-publishing was often seen as a bit of a joke, at least in professional circles.

Not that the 78-year-old author was in the least fazed by this.

Speaking to the Courier as her smart little gold-trimmed black paperback hit the shops, she explained: “It said in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook that you should allow up to two months before you heard from publishers. I phoned up after three and was told they hadn’t got round to reading it yet, so I thought, ‘Right, I’ll do it on my own’.”

And in two ticks, she had.

Leafing through the newly-published book – she set up Turney Publications, named after her grandmother, to do it – she insisted that the need to sell half of the 4,000 copies simply to cover her printing costs was not a problem.

“Responsibility doesn’t worry me, and producing the book was no trouble at all. I’ve had to find out things for myself all my life, from reading up about stocks and shares to teaching myself to drive using two pokers and a couple of matchboxes.”

Ever practical, she went on: “I don’t read books myself, so I went to a shop and looked at the paperbacks.”

Concluding that they looked cheap and garish, and suffered from lack of pictures, she promised herself that her own book would look quite different, with “good quality paper and coloured pictures”.

Unruffled by the fact that she had never held a camera before, Miss Butcher explained: “I went and bought the cheapest one on sale at Boots, asked them to load the film for me, and then went out and took the pictures.”

She divided the fast-moving account of her childhood years in the Pantiles, where the family lived comfortably above her father’s extensive furnishing business, John Butcher, into 12 chapters, written from a dozen half-hour tapes.