Robertsons book launch

As he announces the publication of Robertson’s Insurance principles for leasehold flats, Paul Robertson advises anyone considering writing a book to think again. Despite the effort involved in bringing the project to fruition and his wife’s description of his first venture into the world of publishing as a ‘vanity project’, Paul’s book will however be an essential guide to flats insurance for property managers and many others involved in the residential property sector.

Robertson’s Insurance principles for leasehold flats – A vanity project?

A new guide to blocks of flats insurance is now available to pre-order but the journey from initial idea to publication has been more complex than expected, as Paul Robertson explains.

Sitting on a beach just over a year ago I tried to explain to my not-too-interested wife why it was a great idea to write an insurance reference book. After all it’s never been done before. Strangely there is not a single comprehensive source of guidance on the subject of insurance for leasehold flats. With the Insurance Distribution Directive looming, together with its new requirements for CPD in insurance knowledge - something that will affect many property managers - this is a publication with a purpose.

I am well aware that writing a book can be a vanity project and plenty of would-be authors never get as far as having their book published. Simple I thought, why not self-publish and then I won’t have to face that hurdle. So I excitedly downloaded an eBook on self-publishing while Mrs R quietly carried on sunbathing.

Just how hard can it be, I asked myself?
After all, I wasn’t short of material. I could simply collate all of my last five years articles and presentations into a single bound document that could act as a useful reference point and training guide. As it turned out it would be a lot harder than I imagined.

The first problem I encountered is that insurance is not generally considered the most exciting subject. Despite being told that people enjoy my light hearted approach to making insurance issues more compelling, simply pulling together all the articles I have written wasn’t going to meet the requirements of an interesting book.

The text needed to be far cleverer than the usual magazine article. It had to be both a coherent guide which could be read by a junior property manager as training material, as well as having credibility as a relevant and accurate reference point for the more experienced. Perhaps most important, it had to be read without becoming the next cure for insomnia.

So it was back to the drawing board, or my laptop to be more accurate
In the end, I started 2017 with a basic framework and I set to work with great enthusiasm producing the first five chapters. So far, so good. Why not aim for 20 chapters and I can call it 20 shades of flats insurance, understanding the grey areas. It will be published by the summer.

As 2017 drew on I dug deep to finish my literary masterpiece, as Mrs R was now calling it – possibly with a hint of irony. As I started to talk about what I was spending my time on, people began to get excited about it – yes, really. That made the task even harder as it became clear that more people than I had initially anticipated were now interested in the project and had ‘suggestions’. This was welcome but added to the complexity of what I was hoping to achieve.

So with Christmas approaching I sent manuscripts to a group of willing (and in some cases alarmingly excited) friends with instructions to be honest. And they were; some coming back with comments on every other page. Clearly this was now not going to be a Christmas stocking filler for many property managers - probably luckily for them.

Then the real editing began.
Many comments in red pen had been added across multiple copies of the same manuscript and I discovered my study desk wasn’t big enough for the task. Obviously I needed a more suitable space. The dining room table was the logical choice but it doesn’t have a TV and it’s too far from the kettle. So the kitchen table it was and for the next few months it became base camp. Mrs R was naturally delighted with the invasion – and my watching her every move in the kitchen. Probably not a good time to perfect the big brother voiceover: “Mrs R is boiling the kettle”!

This is the point at which you start to doubt yourself and have to double check everything you know.
It was only at this point that I discovered I needed to seriously reconsider some of the terms I use day to day. Phrases like ‘block insurance’ and ‘block policy’. Does that mean a policy for a single block or a policy covering multiple locations? Does the term ‘residents association’ imply an unincorporated association and would RMC be a better generic term? Is it a ‘tri-party lease’ one with three parties or is ‘tri-partite’ with three types of party more accurate? This is the point at which you start to doubt yourself and have to double check everything you know. Of course this is also the point at which one of your cats has now decided that you shouldn’t be spending this amount of time in the kitchen and has taken to using one of your legs as a scratching post.

It’s a great day when the first proofs arrive with your name on the cover. Mrs R is of course highly supportive; commenting that she thought after all this time it would have more pages. But it’s my book and about to be a reality.

I am delighted to report that I have finally reached my revised editing target for a launch at the end of January.

So if you are a property manager needing to understand insurance for leasehold flats then this is the book for you. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend it for reading on a plane or beach, although strangely two people have already done so. One even read extracts to their children on holiday; frankly that’s just mean, even if it was only read out loud to explain the concept of insurance to them.

So where can you buy it? Trust me you need to appease Mrs R and prove to her that losing her husband for so long was worth it – but marital issues aside, you might find it quite useful. So straight to the website please at www.1stsureflats.com/book-release.

In the meantime I have promised Mrs R that I am not about to start another book while on a beach this year. Whatever will I do for entertainment?

Paul Robertson is MD of Midway Insurance and 1st Sure Flats

March 2018