Inside publishing

When publishers decide to woo an author, they usually choose drinks in the boardroom with the top brass followed by an expensive lunch at, say, Aubergine or the Atlantic Bar and Grill. Not so with Daniel Hooper, the 24-year-old environmental protester better known as Swampy.

Swampy's introduction and synopsis for Going Underground is currently on the desks of a dozen publishers. An auction for the rights is due to begin this week and the agent who's calling the shots, Luigi Bonomi of Sheil Land Associates, had to prove himself before Swampy agreed to sign up.

For Bonomi and Swampy conducted their negotiations amid the chaos of the Manchester Airport protest. Having driven up from London, the agent was required to swing Tarzan-like across a river, scramble up the muddy bank, lower himself into a tunnel and finally clamber up the tree where Swampy had decided to hold court. Having boned up on the minutiae of eco- politics, Bonomi felt himself well-prepared. But he was surprised by Swampy's opening question: "What's your percentage then?" Apparently happy with 10 per cent - agents can charge as much as 20 - Swampy extended a muddy paw and Bonomi gingerly lowered himself back to ground level. Wet and muddy and without a change of clothes, he stripped off in the car, making the return journey clad only in Y-fronts and T-shirt.

A copy of The Kamasutra sits, well thumbed, on many a baby-boomer's bookshelf, doubtless providing hours of furtive fun for the children. Over the years, the ancient Hindu text, translated into English in 1883 by the flamboyant anthropologist and (cunni)linguist Sir Richard Francis, has appeared in numerous guises, including pop-up and CD-Rom. Now - at last - comes, as it were, The Kamasutra for Women, "the modern woman's way to sensual fulfilment and health", by Dr Vinod Verma, founding director of Delhi's New Way Health Organisation. Billed as "a new classic for women", the book presents a series of exercises, massage instructions, breathing and rejuvenation methods, and homeopathic and herbal remedies all designed to "heighten the senses and expand sensuous experience". But don't rush to your local bookshop today, however: Gala doesn't publish until October.

Rosie Thomas, a writer of "women's fiction", will this autumn take time off to take part in the Paris to Peking international motor rally, accompanied by a thirtysomething adventurer and photographer with whom she will share the driving of a venerable Volvo Amazon. The 16,000km journey will take Thomas halfway around the world, across China, Tibet, Nepal, Turkey, Greece, Italy and finally into France for the home run, arriving in Paris in October. Along the way, Thomas will be keeping a diary, which will be published by Little Brown as Forty-Five Days from Peking to Paris. The rally has been run just once before, in l967, when the winner was Prince Scipio Borghese.

Golf's latest superstar, Tiger Woods, arrives in Britain next month for the Open. Scarcely heard of a few weeks ago, he is now to be the subject of half-a-dozen books. First off and just out is Training a Tiger: A Father's Guide to Raising a Winner in both Golf and Life written by Earl Woods and published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Further off - "he is very young" as publisher Alan Samson points out - is Woods' autobiography, bought, along with an "inspirational instruction manual", for close on pounds 400,000 at auction by Little Brown. Other projects known to be in the works include The Tiger Woods Way by John Andrisani and Tiger: A Biography by John Strege.

Tiger's very first round of nine holes is already the stuff of legend; the three-year-old got round in 48.

Desirable as it is that the minimum wage be set at pounds 4.50 an hour and above, there is concern about the likely effects on the small bookseller. A sales assistant in a bookshop earns an average of pounds 9,000 a year, which translates as around pounds 4 an hour - and that's on average, which means that many earn less, perhaps around pounds 3 in small shops. Meanwhile, according to early figures from the Publishers Association, consumer spending on books fell in real terms by 2.1 per cent in 1996. A survey by Book Marketing Ltd, however, reveals that the number of people who bought a discounted book in the same period increased by 12 per cent to 62 per cent. Thirty one per cent bought in a bargain bookshop, 30 per cent in a booksellers/ stationers such as Smith's - and only 21 per cent at a bookshop, down 3 per cent on 1994. The slick London chain, Books Etc, meanwhile, this week announced its intention to float on the Stock Exchange to fund further expansion.

One author at least, is happy. According to Booktrack figures, Terry Pratchett saw 20 of his books in the top 50 of bestselling science fiction titles for the first quarter of the year. Of those, three were in the top 10, with Maskerade at number one. In total, 56,798 sales. Who said truth is stranger than fiction?

The Literator

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