(Without losing your mind and sense of perspective)
Is there a better reason to write a book than to get to have a big party and celebrate? Well, maybe that the story needed to be told, that you’re a committed writer or a thousand other important reasons. But the idea of a book launch, and the level of legitimacy that offered, really got me through the last face-dragging, eye-rolling, teeth-grinding round of editing.
But if you’re a new author, or being published by a small press, or self-published, how do you do it? I’ve read articles, surfed the web for ideas, called on all my writer and artist friends, and it’s hard to get a set idea. Especially once family get involved.
1. Make it a damned good party!
You’re there to celebrate an achievement, having created something. Now, the ‘Book as Baby’ analogy has been done to death, and I won’t go into detail likening inspiration to conception, or editing to childbirth (or the desperate hunt of the singleton with low self-esteem to the writer looking for her perfect publisher husband) but it’s something you’ve created. You worked hard. You made something. Finishing a book (and being pleased with it) is a big enough deal. Getting it out into the world for people to read is a bigger deal. So party on! Food, drink, music.
2. Make it about you.
It should be something you enjoy. I had the option between a fun pub environment with a band and spoken word artists, and a gallery event with canapes. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re both fun, but take into account your book’s concepts, and what makes you comfortable. I’d much rather be joking about how many glasses of wine my main character drinks than making awkward speeches in a white room. Also, I tend to spill stuff. Plus, there’s things like cost, location, guests to consider. If you’re the kind of author who can eat a salmon-dill crostini without dropping it down your cleavage, then go have a grown-up party!
3. Don’t Make it All About You
Yes, your friends love you, your family are proud of you, and they will probably do everything they can to help you sell books and celebrate. But they do not want to spend an evening listening to you recounting what made the story arc come to life in chapter sixteen, and how many times you changed the main character’s surname. No matter how much wine you ply them with. Give them a few guest speakers, some music, some entertainment of some sort that isn’t you. Now obviously, you’re going to need to do a reading, but hours of you reading segments of the book is probably not going to sell it. Unless you have a voice like David Attenborough or Stephen Fry.
Facebook, twitter, flyers, posters, invites. All the basics. Word of mouth, friends of friends. Book groups, writing groups, people in ‘the biz’. Even more importantly, people desperate for a bit of local news, like local radio stations and magazines/local newspapers. Maybe even your old schools/clubs etc. If you live in a suburb of a big city like me, it’s surprising how much they need news. Otherwise it’s all letters from angry people, and articles on changing the paving. Go on, invite them to a party, send them a press release with an invitation and see what happens!
5. It’s Not Just a Party
By this I mean that if you are a young female author like myself, then sometimes your family get very confused about having a big party in this time of life that is not a wedding. So do as I do, and don’t let yourself get drawn into it. Keep it simple: snacks, drinks, entertainment, sales. It’s a celebration, but it’s also business. If you feel yourself getting too drawn in to colour schemes, floral arrangements and seating charts, go outside and slap yourself in the face. Or do as I do, and desperately scour the internet for people who will tell me how to do this correctly.
I’ve read various reports on sales at book launches. Some say it’s just a party and not really good at selling your books, and others have claimed they’re invaluable starters to a brilliant sales target. You need to remember why you’re there. 1) to celebrate your achievement with people who support you, 2) to sell books and get the word out about them. Ideally, get someone else to be in charge of sales (I have bribed friends with wine and everlasting gratitude) and be that person who can talk to everyone. Answer questions, get to know people, be available- don’t ramble on about it for ages, but a chance to chat and actually explain what the book means to you is probably invaluable.
7. Merchandise/Neat Touches
I decided to copy an idea found online and print my own bookmarks to put inside the books. These will say thanks for supporting the book, offer more info, website, future possibilities to support etc. It’s a cute way to stay in touch with your readers, give them a little something extra, and publicise. I’m also tempted by tote bags, badges and all manner of other ridiculous things, but I’m a merchandise whore. I also want to make book cupcakes.
Do what you feel
I haven’t had my launch yet, these are just some thoughts I’ve had whilst planning it. I find a lot of American authors have had great ideas, but some of them aren’t always applicable in the UK. This is definitely a list in progress, and I’ll keep you guys informed as the publication for Wine Dark, Sea Blue looms nearer. In the meantime, you can see my author’s profile over on the Stairwell Books Website. Fun Fun.
Any recommendations or launch night horror stories?