I became a publisher by accident. As a freelance writer and editor, I’d approached someone who was compiling a book about Woolworth’s – it was to be full of anecdotes from both sides of the counter which had been contributed by people all over the UK – and offered to edit the book. But when we met, he confessed he had no money to publish the book himself. I heard myself say: ‘no problem – I’ll be the publisher’, little knowing what I had let myself in for.
Two years on, and Chaplin Books is an established independent publishing house. It’s difficult in such a competitive market for small publishers to get their books noticed: the publishing business is dominated by large companies with vast promotional budgets, who are happy to pay retailers to stock their books. So we have to find ways to reach book-lovers direct (such as through book-groups, offers in magazines or newspapers, and through book-signing events) – and we have to focus on publishing books that we are really passionate about.
When we discovered James Christie, a Glasgow writer working on his first book, we knew we were onto something special. Dear Miss Landau can best be described as 84 Charing Cross Road meets Rain Man and is the true story of the unlikely friendship between James – who has Asperger Syndrome – and a Hollywood star, Juliet Landau. As well as giving a witty and moving insight into what it’s like to be autistic (a ‘Mr Spock’ adrift in a world of neuro-typicals), the book tells of James’ solo road-trip across America to meet Miss Landau on Sunset Boulevard. As a member of a book-group myself, I know how hard it is to find books that will appeal to every member – Dear Miss Landau ‘hits the spot’, not just because it’s a gripping and inspiring read, but because it touches on so many issues that can spark a lively debate, such as how society treats autistic people … why they often feel they have no soul … and whether the gap between the celebrity and the man in the street is really an unbridgeable one.
Dear Miss Landau by James Christie is published by Chaplin Books on March 14 at £8.99 but Scottish book-groups can buy multiple copies (10 copies plus) at only £5 per book post-paid. Just send an email via our website with your details and we’ll get in touch to sort out the details. We can also supply a book-group guide to the book with suggested discussion topics – and if you’d like James Christie to come along to your book-group in or around Glasgow to talk about Dear Miss Landau, he would be delighted to do so.