Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Notting Hill

I had dinner with Sarah Anderson last night, whose Inside Notting Hill is stacked up as a bestseller alongside the latest Harry Potter in the Notting Hill Waterstone's (Sarah and co-author will be presenting the book there on thursday night, for anyone in the neighbourhood).
Sarah has her own part on this book's story. She set up Notting Hill's Travel Bookshop. Pass it by any time of day and you are likely to step around a small group of people (often Japanese) posing outside its window - Julia Roberts was a regular in this book shop when it was used for filming Notting Hill.
This new guidebook comes six years after its first edition. Its a spirited mix of user info on the likes of the restaurants, shops and markets, but also takes in the place's historical and spiritual dimensions. Some snazzy little essays too, fine writers recalling memories of the place and its people.
The book comes out from Sarah's own imprint, Umbrella Books. Sarah is a lively advocate of self-publishing, and indeed this book is the perfect exemplar of a book served best in such a way. It's a book that spins out of a local community, and while its sales reach is quite substantial with all the tourists that make it to the area each year, its primary market is a local one. Sarah's even managed to strike a blow for 'green' book distribution - instead of sending the books off to Eastbourne so the distributor can ship them back to the local store, she has won an agreement that means she can jut carry supplies round herself when needed.
Sara brought in Georgia Vaux to do the design - a professional step that's a wise one for any self-publisher. So often books scream 'self-published' just from a host of mistakes scrabbled onto its design. This pone, in an unusual dominant yellow, is punchy and attractive from the get-go. It also avoids one of the commonest pitfalls of self-publishing - the margins so narrow that the text disappears when you open a page. For more of such tips, for those who are around, check out a talk on self-publishing Sarah is due to give to the Society of Authors in London in October.

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