Thursday, 17 November 2011

Paul Nash in London, Oxford, London again &... Bristol!

Thank you to those who came to Sotheran's on Tuesday evening for the launch of 'Paul Nash in Pictures: Landscape and Dream'. A few people mentioned that they had read this blog from time to time, and it was fun to meet them - you, I should say. Well, the whole evening was fun. How could it not be, in such fantastic surroundings? If you have bookaholic tendencies I would be very wary of 2-5 Sackville Street, Piccadilly, unless you're a bookaholic and proud! I was surprised by the range of books, which varied from the terrifyingly expensive to the surprisingly affordable. Marvellous.

One thing people rarely tell writers when they start out is that the hardest part of the job is not coming up with the idea, or pitching it, or negotiating with publishers, or researching the book, or writing it or even - though this can seem like torture - editing it. The hardest bit is catching the attention of people who might like the book, so they can think about buying it.

The oldest antiquarian bookshop in the world...
Where, after all, do you hear about books? Each week there are a few pages of newspaper reviews and a couple of radio programmes, and these tend of course to be dominated by one or two Books of the Moment or, at any rate, by the products of big publishing companies.

I think the situation is probably hardest for writers who are snapped up by big companies then neglected, their books published but not marketed. Anyone who is published by a small press knows the score: if you want anyone to know about your books you have to jump up and down crying 'Look at my book what I wrote!' like the worst kind of B-list celebrity. In this respect Amazon, not always an institution that writers call Friend, is quite helpful: your book might occupy the slenderest of niches, but if its ISBN is registered it will most likely have some kind of presence on Amazon. You can get helpful friends to review your book and give it five stars and, should anyone buy it, it will appear on 'People who bought that, bought these' type of lists. Of course someone might also review it and give it no stars, but hey ho.

Otherwise you're reliant on word of mouth, the odd plug here and there, and shameless self-promotion. Which reminds me... Next Thursday evening (24 Nov) I will be at Blackwells bookshop in Oxford, giving an illustrated talk on Paul Nash that will include his paintings from the local area - 'Totes Meer', 'Pillar and Moon', 'Landscape of the Vernal Equinox'... - and other favourites. I'll be leaving the art-speak locked up at home and trying to match the enthusiasm levels of your hero and mine, Dr Fox (no not that Dr Fox, this one). So, if you fancy spending an evening getting to know a fascinating artist and his work, tickets are on sale at the remarkably reasonable price of £2.

Then the following Thursday (1 Dec) I'm back in London again, taking part in the Paul Nash evening being held as a fundraiser at the St Bride Library (see above). This should be a real treat, with Alan Powers and Brian Webb speaking as well as David Heathcote, and it will probably sell out. The St Bride Library has a devoted group of friends and they will no doubt turn out in large numbers as they did for a Ravilious Evening a couple of years ago.

Not the oldest antiquarian bookshop...
And then it's home to Bristol on 6th Dec, and the new Foyles bookshop in Cabot Circus. I'll be giving a free - yes, not even £2! - talk on Nash and Ravilious, which I hope will appeal to Bristol's large artistic community. Quite how I'm going to tell them all about it I haven't worked out yet, but I'm hoping a few hours walking around Clifton with a sandwich board and a loudhailer will do the trick.

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