Somewhere in the suburbs there is j awriter sitting byadesk ata window. From time to time he leaves the desk with its blinking computer screen and surveys life on the street below. He knows each crack in the pavement and is intimate with every leaf that falls. When the gate slams or the telephone rings he jumps as if he has been pricked. The postman brings buffenvelopes. the phone goes dead before he reaches it. He needs to talk to someone so he goes out to buy a stamp or evening paper. Days pass by in such somnolenee. On good days there is the possibility of meeting people in town; lunch with his publisher or a word in edgeways on a radio programme. But most days are dull and others are just plain bad. when the whiteness of a blank page glares angrily at him. He can go weeks on end without having an intelligent conversation

with anyone.

The writer lives. as Jonathan Raban has said. in one place and works in another. but both places mysteriously have the same address. Each day he commutes from bedroom to study. encountering no one on the way. He begins to talk to himselfand forgets to wash. shave. dust. hoover. He is near the end of

his tether when the phone rings. It is the publicity department of his publisher. His book which he had given up for dead is on their autumn list. ‘Wc’re all terribly excited about it.‘ trills a girl with bouncing vowels. ‘Tom says it will sell millions. And I just know they‘ll love it in Andalusia.‘ The writer stammcrs surprise.

‘Now. what do you want to do about publicity?‘ she asks. ‘I see when you signed your contract five years ago you said five years ago that you wanted to avoid it ifat all possible. Well. I don‘t know if you feel the same way now. but 1 don‘t think you should be an old stick in the mud. You‘ve got to sell yourself today. I mean push your book in people‘s faces. What do you say just for me - to Wogan, Aspel and Jonathan Ross. the heavy Sundays. the literate dailies. ten or so radio progs and a lightening tour of nation‘s better bookshops? Oh good. Well. I‘m glad that‘s settled. I‘ll be in touch with an itinerary. You better buy a map and a railway timetable.’

Once upon a time writers were read and not seen. A few with flair and a feel for the theatrical. like Dickens. were visible but most kept to themselves. Now it‘s those who prize their privacy that are in the minority. Jeffrey Archer. asked why he is a number one bestseller while Graham Greene languishes a long way off. said. ‘Because he won‘t go out and promote his books like I do. I can‘t understand it.‘

The belief that the author is a

at the market forces current

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ly at work in the book trade.

and. on the following pages, we present The List guide to the books of the year and the books to buy this Christmas. Plus. your chance to win a thousand pounds

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book‘s best salesman or woman is now taken as read. ‘Difficult‘ authors are those who stay at home and. presumably. get on with the next book. With over 50.000 books being published each year. publishers have to work hard to make their titles stand out for the multitude. For there's no denying that publicity. in all its weird and wonderful ways. can do wonders for sales. So the author is cajoled or persuaded into believing that it's up to him to get off his backside and come face to face with the great reading public.

In Scotland. for the past three years. the best time to spot an author outside of the Edinburgh Book Festival has been the last week in October and the first in November. during Scottish Book Fortnight. At the end of a three year pilot-scheme. the Scottish Book Marketing Group will take stock of the Fortnight in February. But already there are signs that if it does go ahead next

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.. year it will be in a revised form.

Lorraine Fannin. the Scottish Publishers Association‘s Director and a member ofthe SPMG says. "The chances are there will be another Scottish Book Fortnight‘ but she is keen to see books promoted in other ways and cites a ’books for tourists‘ brochure which was successful.

Authors were much in evidence during SBF and Ms Fannin says these were generally successful events though turnouts were not always inspiring. It may be that mere readings are becoming passe’. says Ms Fannin. who believes, ‘We are in danger of over-doing author events ~ they can pall eventually. Ifevery author is going to appear. it may lose that feeling ofa special event.‘

That familiarity may be breeding contempt is also acknowledged by Maggie Lennon. manager of Edinburgh Waterstone‘s. ‘It‘s up to publishers to do it sensibly.‘ she says. Waterstone‘s turn down twice as


many authors as they are offered but when big names are suggested it 's commercial suicide to turn them away. And. says Ms Lennon. ‘thcic‘s a great status attached to being able to persuade someone like Maya Angelou to come only to tis.‘

Butgetting big names is likely to become more difficult. particularly for independent shops like .lohii Smith‘s in Glasgow. Director \Vilhc Anderson claims Smith‘s introduced such events to Scotland but feels that in future the big authors w ill be gobbled tip by the chains.

At Smith‘s the emphasis is ‘definitely not on book sales‘ but on entertaining the public. It‘s a view shared by Barbara ( ’ampbell. managerofHatchard‘s iii (ilasgow: ‘It‘s nevera big profit thing. You must think of author evenings as l’R rather than money-makers. althouin overallwe dotry and cos er costs Maggie Lennon does look ‘lairlv hard‘ at the commercial side but ‘hard sell comes from us people wouldn‘t take to an author w lio say \ “buy my book".‘

(iimmicksand attentionattracting ploys are scheduled to flourish as book marketing scales new unashamedly commercial heights. No longer the coy milk-maid V »t the business world. bookselling has made big strides in the last few years. moving. in the words of Barbara Campbell. from the 1950s and 1%! is into the 1980s.

Richard Drew. like many Scottish publishers. lack the i‘esouiet s to finance massive publicity campaigns for every book. But for what .\lis Drew described as 'laige bo« iks‘. theyemployoutsidepublicists for the Travelmate series. the publitists pulled out the stops. pioy iding an aeroplane meal with each book designed to catch the attention of reviewers.

Opinion is unanimous that. especially with the flood of new bookshops in Glasgow . an .tlllili *1 reading from his or her work will no longer satisfy the voracious appetites ofthe book—hungry public Such events as literary lunches and dinners. events outwith bookshops. prizes and the enticement of audio-visual presentations are set to proliferate. The author will not always be enough.

So now our w riter sits in bookshops on his own behind a pile oi pristine books. walled in on all sides by other people‘s literary efforts The bookseller smooths his ruffled ego. assuring him that it‘s snowing. it's World (‘up night. but someones bound to turn up. The publisher glares angrily around and loudly blames the bookseller for not sticking up more posters. [he author wishes he had stayed at home Next time. he‘ll have to bring slides of his pictureless book. sound effects and home videos.

The List 25 Nov -- 8 Dec Wb’b' 55