Ellis’s trials and tribulations as a book publisher

A book on Kent cricket is the first from a new publishing house founded by a former Telegraph sports writer, as ANTON RIPPON reports

When Clive Ellis, the former Daily Telegraph sports writer, and ex-Kent Messenger cricket correspondent Mark Pennell decided to write Trophies and Tribulations: Forty Years Of Kent Cricket, they wondered if they would find a publisher for their effort. Then Ellis decided to publish the work himself. Now he is hoping that the book will be the flagship for a new enterprise: Greenwich Publishing.

Ellis, whose CB: The Life of Charles Burgess Fry, won the Cricket Society’s jubilee literary award in 1984, took the plunge after deciding that Trophies and Tribulations wouldn’t find a commercial publisher.

The result is a handsome hardback book that will be officially launched this evening at Waterstone’s in Rose Lane, Canterbury.

Trophies and Tribulations is the first book about Kent cricket to reflect the players’ view of events, from the Gillette Cup win in 1967 to the present day. It is about the men behind the statistics, rather than the stats themselves, and the authors have drawn on the reminiscences of a wide selection of players to present a compelling account of an era full of peaks and troughs.

Colin Cowdrey had two overriding ambitions: to lead England in Australia and captain Kent to the County Championship. The first dream was never fulfilled, but the second was realised in glorious style in 1970; it was Kent’s first championship for 57 years.

The honours kept coming – 11 in 12 seasons – but even as the trophies rolled in, the storm clouds were gathering. Cowdrey’s successor, Mike Denness, quit the club after losing the captaincy amid confusion and acrimony in 1976. Asif Iqbal became another casualty when he signed for World Series Cricket, and Alan Ealham was ruthlessly deposed in 1980.

The titles dried up and loyalties were stretched to breaking point when first Chris Tavaré was preferred to Chris Cowdrey as captain, then cast aside. Cowdrey got the job he had always coveted, but admits now that the county should have stuck with Tavaré. The last 30 years have been played out in the giant shadow of the golden era.

Both authors are well qualified to tell the story. Pennell, a former Birmingham League wicketkeeper-batsman, draws on his 16 years as the Kent Messenger Group’s cricket correspondent to offer a personal view on a period in which Kent have become frustratingly good at finishing second. A former Shepherd Neame Kent sports journalist of the year, and a regular contributor to both the Wisden Almanack and Wisden Cricket Monthly, he is now managing director of the newly established sports reporting agency Kent and Sussex Sport and still covers all of Kent’s home games for the Press Association.

Ellis, although born in Cambridge, has been a Kent supporter since the age of eight, when he adopted Derek Underwood as his hero. After leaving the Daily Telegraph he has freelanced and now looks to a new career as a publisher. “I’m very keen to see how far I can go with Greenwich Publishing,” he said. “The first book has been very enjoyable, but it’s a tough gig to combine writing with all the publishing chores.

“An autobiography of a well-known cricketer ” I’d better not reveal who it is at this stage ” is almost certainly going to happen next year and there are another couple of putative projects. As author, I also have an Olympic-themed book in mind for 2012.

“I see sport as the lead-in, but I’m keen to do non-sporting titles as well. I’ve spoken to a couple of literary agents about the possibility of giving me last-resort option on titles that can’t find a home with mainstream publishers.

“On the business side, I believe that I can produce a reasonable return for publisher and author as long as a title can reasonably expect to sell 2,000-plus copies.

“Although my approach is reasonably flexible, I will try to angle writers towards a greater share of net profits, rather than offering generous advances. The other advantage of this approach, I hope ” and it has certainly applied with Trophies and Tribulations ” is that publisher and author work like business partners, although I still pick up the tab.

“The feedback I’m getting so far is that as long as I concentrate on readily marketable titles ” again the Kent book is a reasonable example ” the idea has some potential.

“I think it’s fair to say that a book like Trophies and Tribulations would have struggled to find a publisher ” it wasn’t something I even tried to do ” but I’m optimistic that it will do reasonably well.

“Mark Pennell and I have certainly explored every avenue in terms of trying to get the book sponsored, getting free use of photographs and pursuing every possibility for publicity and promotion.

“My perspective, both as someone as who has had a couple of books conventionally published and from hearing the sob stories of other writers, is that there always seems to be some area of discontentment.

“I believe that journalists, especially those who have written, subbed and been involved in commissioning, should have a decent instinctive grasp for many of the elements involved in bringing out books.

“Although you do need someone to guide you through the technical maze. And the internet means that a humble laptop can be turned into an administrative hub.

“I find the whole process intriguing, although this first sally into publishing has been a bit like walking off a cliff in the fog: you don’t know whether you’re going to fall five feet or five hundred.

“But I’m convinced that if someone goes into it armed with humility, a journalistic all-rounder’s feel for what is required, a modicum of business sense, a realistic budget, tenacity and energy, then it can be made to pay, even if that is more in terms of job satisfaction than hyper profits.”

Trophies and Tribulations: Forty Years Of Kent Cricket by Clive Ellis and Mark Pennell (Greenwich Publishing, £16.99) available post free by clicking here. For a limited period the book has been discounted to £13.99.

□ Prospective authors are invited to contact Clive Ellis at

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