Thursday, July 04, 2013

How to Launch Your Book: part one

So you’re publishing a book. Whee! Now what?

Now you need to think about launching that book of yours!

Once you’ve figured out when the books will be available (i.e. the earliest you can get your hot little hands on them), work with your press to arrange for a suitable location.

Bookstores are good, because a successful launch will motivate them to keep your book in stock. They’ll also take care of sales, which will be one less thing for you to think about.

Ariel reading at a cafe in Saskatoon, 2013.
And believe me, you’ll have lots to think about as your launch date draws near.

“Preparing for a book launch involves roaming through Polo Park looking for something to wear that looks casually chosen, yet trendy, yet not so trendy as to appear carefully chosen,” notes Melissa Steele, who has published two books of short stories with Turnstone Press.
Ariel and Regina's Tracy Hamon at a library at 2010.

“It involves getting a hair cut and considering how aging happens without one really noticing until events like these. Preparation also involves looking over the new book and discovering at least one typo and several passages that still need rewrites.”

Typos and launch frocks aside, bookstores are not the only place you can have your launch. Roller rinks, bars, museums, multi-purpose rooms in universities and other similar spaces are all good options for launches.

Ariel launching at a bookstore, 2010.
Though your press might give you some money to put on the launch (or, if they’re in the same town as you, throw the party themselves), try to find a venue that A) will be fun and maybe a little different for you and your friends/family/fans and B) won’t cost you a pile of money.

“Much as I like launches at bookstores, I also really love unique venues,” says Edmonton poet Jenna Butler, who has published and launched three books of poetry.

“They seem to attract folk to a literary event who might not otherwise attend the same event at a bookstore. But the venue still needs to work well for a reading: good accessibility, accoustics, seating, etc.”

The most important detail, of course, with an alternate venue is getting a trusted friend/spouse/cousin to work the book table. Then, all you need is a big stack of books and the ability to make change for all the inevitable bank machine twenties.

Doing your own launch means you have control over things like the configuration of the room, the music, and the decorations…all of which can contribute towards a memorable event.

“I launched my first book alongside Robert Kroetsch last March at Greenwoods Bookshoppe in Edmonton,” says Butler.

“My favorite thing (aside from reading with Robert Kroetsch?!)? My publisher brought a bowlful of beautiful smooth green beach stones to the launch and everyone who bought the book took some stones. Beach stones feature in the cover design, and the book is about skipping between worlds, England and Canada. It was a thoughtful touch. I still have a beach stone in my coat pocket a year later...”

There’s also the question of food. We’re not talking sit-down meal here but anything small like squares or cupcakes or a fruit platter or even just crackers and cheese is greatly appreciated by the audience.

If you want to go all out, have a launch cake. (CAKE!)

Remember that some venues require you to order catering from them. And even if they let you bring in outside food (and this is where you ask your mother /sister / grandmother to do some baking for you…), remember that things like nut allergies are serious business.

Remember too that you can go a bit too far with the whole ‘theme launch’…

“I think my publicist asked me if I wanted to launch my fist book, Donut Shop Lovers, at Timmy's or Robin's Donuts but at the time the smoking laws weren't in place yet and I'm severely allergic to cigarette smoke and the book has very little to do with donuts or donut shops so I said no way,” says Steele.

Though there is something to be said for a big shindig, it is probably best to keep things as simple as possible, especially if you’re doing the bulk of the work yourself.

Because a launch is a party for you and your book. And you don’t want to have to worry about very much.

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I'll be posting the second part of How to Launch Your Book next Thursday.

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