On Books, Other Stuff

how to (or not) launch your new book!

You know the feeling when you have prepared an exciting, celebratory event and when the event arrives and it’s time to shine, you want to crawl under the covers and not answer the doorbell?

Yip, that was me on Tuesday past at about 5:45pm. The rain had just started bucketing down, I stank of smoke trying to stoke the fires and felt like just hanging around home alone in my ripped jeans and socks with the dog at my side.
Why don’t you go and shower quickly and I’ll put out some snacks? Suggested my sweet friend who had come earlier to help me set up but found I had already kind of done that.

It was my escape.

But of course once out the shower I then dawdled a bit longer than I should have, even succumbing to the suggestion of my 13 year old to try and curl my hair a little with her curler (never worked out how to do a proper blow dry or anything vaguely fancy like that), after smudging on some cheap foundation which I knew did nothing to enhance my over 50 facial features.

I just wasn’t really feeling like it.

Babe, what the hell are you doing? He says, ‘There’s some people here already and you’re in the bedroom. Won’t you come down now please?
Rich coming from him. There have been many occasions when the lunch guests have arrived and my darling partner was mowing the lawn.

So, that was the start.

I made it downstairs and thought to open to first bottle of bubbly to set the tone. There was a beautiful addition of a vase of flowers, some familiar faces and not so familiar ones and I turned on my favourite jazz while people started to come through the front door, their coats and jackets dripping, dripping with rain.

And soon the house was full and warm but I realised that perhaps the seating should have been arranged completely the other way round so that more people could see us or hear us, and where was my friend to do the ‘interview’ (traffic was hideous at that time of day, exacerbated further with the pouring rain) and what was I going to say and where was my own copy of book now? Some post- it stickers?
‘I hope you are going to read something from it’ said a guest who I’d invited but had no idea would come and threw me off balance a little in terms of where I wanted the conversation to go. But of course that’s part of putting yourself out there with a book such as this: learning to deal with the various responses you may or may not foresee and of course it was only the beginning.

So, here’re some things to do that I didn’t do (not that it mattered much but which I did ponder over afterwards for far longer than was necessary) but hopefully will for the next one:

1. Make sure that you know what it is you want to talk about.

Even though whatever you wanted to say you wrote about, try to remember that your readers want to hear about what YOUR BOOK. Not what you may have said (or feel like talking about) or written about somewhere else subsequently.

2. Try to keep your emotions in check.

As soon as you start to feel a little more than you should reveal, you lose control of the process and become a little too vulnerable.

3. Find an extract or two to read which is the essence of your book.

Your readers want to know the content and style of your writing if they’ve never read any of your work before. It helps to get them more interested. (Most of the audience had read my first book (I think) so knew what to expect but of course many hadn’t.)

4. Understand that it’s likely they will buy a copy and so have a system in place to receive the payment. Especially if it’s cash.

As with most of the logistics for the evening, I hadn’t really planned well, didn’t have a little credit card machine, had mentioned that books would be on sale for cash, but hadn’t provided for anything. Fortunately some kind friend started a kitty of cash in one of my coffee cups which seemed to work well. (My 13 year old was quick to notice the takings at the end of the evening ‘Geez mum, I thought you said writer’s don’t make money’. Sweet girl. And another reason we need to have hard conversations.)

5. Make sure that you sign copies with just a short message. Maybe just sign a few in preparation. It shortens the process and no-one like to queue. For anything.

I felt the distinct need to comment a little more than necessary in each person’s copy because I like them to know that I really do appreciate who they are to me and what they mean to me having bought my book. (Actually, I’ll probably do this again next time as well too but you can decide to do this if it makes sense for you.)

Finally I just want to thank Porcupine Ridge wines, who generously and without question (as with my first book launch) sponsored a couple of cases of wine for the occasion. They make the most delicious red, white and pink and sent all three and more than enough for the occasion. How wonderful is that?
It made me feel quite like I was back at the Franschhoek Literary Festival except this time it was my own.




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