I am the child of a past era. When publisher lay in wait for unsuspecting authors at the top of dusty flights of stairs.

They lived in attics with sloping ceilings and fed their authors sherry and dry biscuits.  They took them to lunch at restaurants where other publisher and authors lunched. They held little parties for superior people, people who read books, who didn’t turn the page down to mark their place, but used a book mark.

Publishers in those lost days sent books for review to all the papers and magazines, to be read by friends so carefully maintained, so assiduously wined and dined that sparkling reviews streamed from their pens.

The books were bought in their hundreds by these discerning people who used bookmarks and who, when their library shelves filled, resorted to the floor.

No longer. Today’s author is on his own. We  don’t hire ourselves out, we do it for free – readings anywhere any time, no library too far, no readers’ group too small, we come, with a small box of books to be arranged on a small table, not to forget the pen which must be a real pen containing real ink, for we are real writers.

Do not hesitate, hire a publicist. Make sure it is the right one. Some  of them will take on anyone; a higher mathematics text book, the Barbara Cartland romance de nos jours, a thriller which has as many thrills as a cold blini.

Interrogate your publicist. And when he offers to send you a proposal, smile and eagerly accept. For this is where  you are in charge. Can you tell a publicist by their proposal? Oh, Yes.

As you spend time honing your writing, editing, cutting, checking spelling and grammar, so must you minutely examine the proposal. The first thing to notice is the length.  Is every line and every word justified?  Does he offer to place review copies with people whose last wish it is to read the kind of book you have written?  Does he promise to place it where you suspect he has no influence? Your chosen publicist must demonstrate that he can present your book to people he has hand-picked as likely to respond.

Is your book a treatise on WWI but, because you are a woman, he plans to carpet bomb all the women’s’ magazines with it?  Are you hoping for interest from Mills and Boon? Then do not accept urging to send it to the OUP or even Yale.

In order to avoid this misdirection of effort, ask your publicist to send you a one-page proposal that will play to your and your book’s strengths..

Most important of all, try and discover whether he actually likes your book (they will all say that they do)?  Ask him – have you read it?  Read it all?  Have you suggested your friends read it? And make him tell you why  he likes it.

If you are happy with all these replies, hire him and do whatever  he asks you to do and be very, very, grateful when he scores a hit because this is not easy for anyone in today’ publishing world.

I was happy with my choice, and  happier still with the publicity I received.