Launching a book during the end times
COVID-19, climate change, political discord, oh my!
If you’re going to invite all of your friends, colleagues, neighbors, and strangers off the street, I highly recommend name tags. I also borrowed a page from Facebook and had people write one word about how we met along with their name. Some said “coffee” or “Gymboree” or “Inlandia” but it was fun to see what words people chose.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. For the pre-launch, I did a thing where anyone who voluntarily preordered (I really, really hate presses asking anyone to pressure anyone to preorder, but that’s a topic for another post) could suggest a “novel” place for me to read, and I did. I recorded myself reading from my book NOVEL in these novel places. It was fun and got a lot of attention. I read at a mortuary, to a random fireman on the street, beside a huge parked military vehicle called a Water Buffalo by the side of a lake, while applying lipstick in the rearview mirror of my car, and so on. I think the novel approach enticed people to preorder just so they could suggest somewhere weird for me to read!
Being read to/at gets boring after a while. If you’re going to do a public reading launch event, try to find a way to make it fun for everyone. Do something that keeps the audience engaged. I was inspired by readings by Stephanie Barbé Hammer where she invited people to participate. There is also the joint reading idea, to read with other writers. Or the round-robin approach, a variation on that, where you alternate reading poems. Or you have other people read your work. Whatever you do, don’t spend an hour reading at the crowd. You will put them to sleep and they will leave feeling it was a dull event.
This is sort of counter-intuitive, but buy less food than you think you need. I’m still eating leftover cookies. (Not a good thing when you shouldn’t be eating cookies at all!) And we had to pawn off about half of the leftover sandwiches to kind friends, and still we had sandwiches at home for days.
Above all, don’t forget this event is about celebrating the book. The book is not you. The book exists on its own terms, and deserves its own space. Don’t do what I did, which was stick it in a basket and call it done. Have someone designated to help you with book sales, someone who doesn’t mind talking to people. If it weren’t for my publisher grabbing them and taking charge of selling my copies I might not have sold any at all.
If you anticipate signing lots of books, think of some clever things to inscribe in the books in advance. (Just have a trove of them in your head.) Otherwise, you’ll be like me and write the same thing in everyone’s books. [Pro tip: Real friends don’t compare notes! Real friends don’t hold it against their writer-friends if they fail to write something appropriately clever on the spot! <3]
If you’re holding your event down a flight or two of stairs, know that even when you put “stairs!” prominently on the invitation, not everyone will notice, or they’ll try to find a work around, which is wonderful but not always feasible. Consider your friends and their accessibility needs and comfort levels when choosing a venue.
If you’re holding a reading in the summer, pick somewhere that has A/C. Vice versa in winter. No matter how much you love the venue, consider these things.
If your work contains political themes, don’t invite your contrarian uncle.
Remember to say thank you.
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