Blackboard Fiction Publishing: ‘Swansong’, by Barbara Swanson


One of the things that Blackboard Fiction does, aside from write educational books for students, is to help other people self-publish. After some small success with my own volume of short stories, ‘Death and Stationery’ (sneaky plug: download Kindle or iBook) I was contacted by the grandmother of a friend. Having self-published her autobiography in paperback, and, although not having many expectations, she was keen to find out how to take the text to the new opportunities electronic publishing could offer.

I found Barbara Swanson’s manuscript engrossing. It’s a real treat to, as an editor, enjoy your work – even if it does mean you have to do an extra read to catch any mistakes you missed while you were enjoying it so much. Barbara has had an extremely interesting life, mainly due to her childhood under a tyrannical stepmother, later marriage to an uncompromising (and unfaithful) sailor and her travels with him and her growing family to exotic locations, and, later, having to start again – with nothing. As her author biography puts it:

‘Barbara Swanson has lived in London, Scotland, Gloucestershire, Bristol, France, Singapore and Hong-Kong. Barbara and her family lived in Emsworth for a number of years during her marriage to a naval officer. She trained as a teacher at Bishop Otter College in Chichester and taught on Hayling Island, Leigh Park and in Emsworth.  Whilst abroad, she taught English as a Foreign Language.  Following her divorce, she worked for a while as PA to the Chairman of a firm of stockbrokers at the London Stock Exchange before becoming a top London public relations consultant, mainly specialising in the promotion of and fund-raising for national charities. She and her second husband were antique dealers for over twenty years, fourteen of them in Petworth until their retirement in 2006.  They now live in West Ashling.’

And the official blurb puts it:

‘From the war-torn streets of London to the exotic shores of the Orient, this is one woman’s extraordinary story: an emotional rollercoaster that sweeps the reader along on a breathless voyage through her turbulent life. Bombs and doodlebugs; cruelty and heartache; sultans, snakes, Sikhs; spies, sailors and ships; ex-pats and alcohol and wild, wild parties; love, betrayal, near-terminal illnesses; an angel, three witches and numerous ghosts – they are all included in this searingly honest, sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious memoir.
A tale of danger, sorrow and loss, of cruelty and fear, of a great love turned sour, of sickness, suffering and despair, but also a tale of love, kindness and compassion, family, friendship, and the healing power of laughter. Above all, it is a tale of survival, of the constancy of love between a mother and her children, and ultimately of happiness regained.’

It was inspirational, honest, as well as historical, and I read it three times in total as I made my edits, which in general were few but just evened out some of the depth of the storyline.

With Barbara’s book came a package of beautiful old photographs, which I re-scanned in full colour to include in the eBook – a delight for any Kindle Fire or Kindle for Computer readers –

bebe picture 1 2 copy copy 19 copy copy 30 copy copy

and also the opportunity to design a new cover (a blog post on that coming soon) that met with Barbara’s approval.

The old cover, with the beautiful swan picture taken by Neil Lawson Baker
The new cover, designed to stand out against competition on Amazon, incorporating the swan and an exotic skyline important to the book…

Finally, a new website for Barbara ( and a Facebook page for the book itself (

bebe fb header bf

Lastly, a bit of marketing using Kindle Direct Publishing, Facebook and Twitter. Using the KDP program, you can give your book away for 5 days out of every 6 weeks you choose to sell it exclusively on Amazon. I’ve used it for 7 days in four months, advertising the fact on each of the publicity pages I’ve set up for it.

You can download Barbara’s book, ‘Swansong’, for Kindle here, and later next year it will be available in other downloadable formats, including iBook!

Here are just some of the lovely things that have been said about ‘Swansong’:

  • ‘It’s a long time since I read anything so profoundly moving or so gloriously funny.’ Annie, London‘I am in love with this book and am reading it every spare second I have, immersing myself in every word, running through the fields with Squire Hale and sobbing at Daphne’s cruelty.’ Norma, Los Angeles‘I read it in one day, crying, laughing, I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t want it to end so I read the last chapter twice !’ Lisa, Kent

    ‘I have just finished ’Swansong’ and am overcome by such courage, love and determination of spirit to triumph over adversity.’ Ilona, Warwickshire

    ‘It just got better and better until the end, which made me cry.’ Jenni, Hampshire

    ‘A fascinating and moving account of such a turbulent life. I enjoyed the mix of personal and social insights it offered.’ Carol, Hampshire

    ‘It’s enthralling.’ Teresa, Capetown, South Africa.

    ‘Powerful and compelling.’ Liz, Somerset

    ‘She writes like an angel.’ Manon, France

    ‘I was in the bath and the water had gone stone cold but I didn’t notice until the last word was read!’ Jo, Hampshire


I’m pleased to say that, tonight, in total (paid and freebie downloads) since it was re-published as an eBook on September 1st, ‘Swansong’ has had 433 downloads and is #1074 in Amazon’s free download chart! (I think it was #100, 000 or something when we started the freebies, so good going!)


I’m looking for more authors wanting a hand-up on the self-publishing ladder. As my first author, all of Barbara’s services – editing, proofing, formatting, cover design, website design – were done for free, but an extremely affordable paid-for service is available at a first-come, first-served preferential rate on my website Blackboard Fiction – just step into my office…

I’m also looking for authors interested in publishing serially. Are you interested?


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