I am reconnected to the world via the umbilical cord provided by Demon, which seems to feed my entire being, not just my (many) computers with internet access. Bless you, Demon, and yah boo sucks to Orange who should sit in a corner and reflect on their appalling customer service.

And …

--The edits (revisions, redrafts, polishings, call them what you will) have winged their way to the desk of the agent
--I have returned, if not recovered, from Cove Park. I am suffering withdrawal symptoms from the breathtaking loveliness of the view
--For the past week I’ve been pondering book promotion.

It’s a bit of a dirty subject. Should we? Can we? Are we likely to be any good at it? Wouldn’t it be awful if it was compulsory? Isn’t it just wrong to require authors to deal with it because ‘the work’ should be all that matters?

Well in my view, the answers are: yes, yes, possibly, yes (but the day is coming) and no.

And what brought all this about is the fact that three fine writers of my acquaintance are currently doing ‘the book promotion thang’ – that is: Lisa McMann promoting her wonderfully dark, funny and somewhat scary Wake; Sally Hinchcliffe promoting her extremely disturbing and yet poetically glorious Out Of A Clear Sky; and Charles Lambert promoting Little Monsters, which hasn’t actually arrived yet, so I can’t précis it for you. Each is taking a very different route, but each is doing the right thing – trying to get their very good work to an appreciative audience.

The thing is, I went into City Books this week, to see if they had Charles’s book and to order it if not, and discovered something rather shocking (no, not that they didn’t have it, although they didn’t and I’ve suggested they order some copies to keep mine company). What I found was that Neil Bartlett had a book out last year. Not only that, the book, Skin Lane, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award.

I am a big Neil Bartlett fan – his novels are delicate, allusive, full of menace, faintly surreal, sumptuous in detail and sleepwalkingly slow in pace. I simply adore his work and re-read it over and over. So how did a new Neil Bartlett novel slip by me?

The answer is simple – I am (presumably) not part of his ‘target audience’. It’s a fact that I don’t have anything to do with reviews in national papers or the lists for national prizes, because I read a book every two days, one a day if I’m not hugely busy, and that means I don’t need people to recommend things to me, with a reading rate of between 250 – 330 books a year, I get round to most things sooner or later. And wherever his target audience is located, I am not there, so I didn't hear about it.

And if it wasn’t for City Books, in whose target audience I fit with ease, I might have taken a lot longer to find out about Skin Lane … and that would have made me sad. So promotion is good, and knowing how to do it is useful, and I shall be talking about it on and off for the next few weeks.

Leaping Fish courtesy of Fion Gunn. See more of her work at http://www.fiongunn.net

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