Tag Archives: book launch

I’ve chosen the best place to launch my book!

Today is the official publication day for my new book, Free-Range Writing: 75 Forays for the Wild Writer’s Soul, and I think I’ve found the perfect place to launch it.

All my previous book launches have been nibbles-and-bubbles parties, with a lot of mingling, a spot of reading and somebody lovely raising a toast.

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Usually, it’s mostly mingling

I’ve held them in my garden, my local library, the back room of the village pub, an art gallery, the Sterts open air theatre… Every book is different, and so is every launch.

When I discovered that the Looe Literary Festival coincided with publication week I really wanted to launch my new book there. It’s a festival that truly celebrates local writing and grass-roots creativity as well as big name authors, and that’s very much the spirit of Free-Range Writing.

There are readings from the Looe Writing Group and the Liskeard Poets, whose book launch I attended recently, having been invited to select the poems for their anthology. Alongside talks by famous authors like Lord Owen, Adam Hart-Davis and Dr Susan Blackmore, there are lesser-known writers of fiction and non-fiction. There are panels and discussions on topics as various as fisheries policy and self-publishing. There’s plenty for children as well.

I’ve been in the green room at the Cheltenham litfest, mingling with TV stars who’ve written a book and hawk-eyed photographers trying to get photos of them, and felt curiously detached from the whole business. For me, writing is about all of us, ordinary people; we all have something interesting and beautiful to say.

Thinking only famous writing is good writing is a mistake, as anyone who has any experience of writing workshops will know. It’s also harmful because it can make us feel discouraged and reluctant to explore our own innate abilities. My new book is about freeing up your thinking, venturing into every area of your writer self and being surprised by what you find.

So this book is all about the writing, and I’ll be launching it in a different way, with a free-range writing talk at 12.00 on Sunday 19th November and then a workshop after lunch, at 2 o’clock.

I love doing these community workshops, partly because they’re a chance to work with writers of all ages. They’re not just for children, or for adults, or for families – they’re for everyone age 8+. We all have something interesting to say and we so rarely have the chance to write together. (Participants under 18 must be accompanied by an adult).

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Looe island

The Looe Literary Festival is a great event in a gorgeous location and it’s the perfect place to hear about Free-Range Writing, so please come along and help me celebrate if you can. I will hope to see you there!

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The loneliest day in the life of a published writer

In between books, when I’m pondering my next project, I like to read about writing, and I particularly enjoy books by other authors in which they share their own experiences of the highs and lows of the writing life – thoughtful books, personal books, such as the one I’ve just finished reading by Dani Shapiro, Still Writing.

This one's definitely going on my recommended reading list
This one’s definitely going on my recommended reading list

I read this book a few days after publishing my own book on writing, When a Writer isn’t Writing, and a few days before the publication of my YA novel, Driftso this idea caught my attention:

The loneliest day in the life of a published writer may be publication day. Nothing happens. Perhaps your editor sends you flowers. Maybe not. Maybe your family takes you out for dinner. But the world won’t stop to take notice. The universe is indifferent. You have put the shape of your soul between the covers of a book and no-one declares a national holiday.

Shapiro goes on to explore why writers keep on doing it, even though so few are heading towards any major recognition or celebration of their work.

I pondered before reading on, because of the moment I was in. I remembered when publication days really did feel like the loneliest time to me, in the days before social media, when maybe your publisher would send you a card, but that was all.

Back then, I learnt to make my own celebrations. I followed the Weatherly rule (Lee Weatherly‘s genius idea, passed on to me by Liz Kessler) and opened a bottle of bubbly with friends as soon as I finished a manuscript, rather than waiting a year or more for publication day before feeling I could celebrate.

I learnt to get started on something new as soon as possible, so that my creative energies were happily engaged in writing the next book rather than focusing on the build-up to publication day for the one I’d finished.

When publication day did eventually come, I learnt the importance of throwing a party, not as a publicity or sales event, but as a personal celebration, because writing a book is hard and, as the writer of your particular book, you know what an incredible achievement it has been to go the distance.

This year, the launch is in a lovely gallery on the edge of Dartmoor. All welcome!
This year, the launch is in a lovely gallery on the edge of Dartmoor. All welcome!

I still do all these things, but I must say publication day doesn’t feel so lonely any more to me now that we’ve got facebook, twitter and blogging. When I put the word out about a new book, I straight away hear back from people I know and people I’ve never met, so that instead of a solitary card on my doormat I receive a steady flow of congratulations.

Soon after that, rather than waiting several months to receive a few letters from readers via my publisher, I start getting direct messages in twitter and fb, and emails through my website, from people who have bought my book, and started reading it.

A lovely selfie via fb from a friend who has just bought my book
A lovely selfie via fb from a friend who has just bought my book

And rather than just a press review or two, readers begin to post their thoughts on my new book in amazon and elsewhere.

So publication day is no longer the loneliest day for this writer, and that’s down to all of you. Thank-you for calling by!

Organising a book launch – your 10 point check-list

It’s a common misconception that if your book secures a deal with a major publisher they will organise a lavish book launch and all you’ll have to do is show up in a new frock and graciously accept the toast. This can happen, but only for the chosen few books that get the lion’s share of the marketing spend. The majority of traditionally published authors have to organise their own book launches, although publishers are often happy to make some kind of contribution. If you’re self-published, of course,  you’re on your own.

A book launch is a major undertaking and to be honest I haven’t bothered with it for every book but, when I have, I’ve always felt glad I made the effort. After all, a book is a major personal achievement and one that’s worth celebrating. If you’re organising a book launch, here’s what needs to be on your check-list:

  1. Notify your publisher if you have one and ask if they would be willing to help by, for example, providing promotional bookmarks and cards, designing the invitations or contributing towards the cost. Don’t think this is cheeky. You and your publisher are a team, and they’ll be delighted to know you’re making an effort to help promote your new book.
  2. Plan your guest list and send out invitations well in advance.
  3. Choose a venue that is appropriate to the kind of event – small and intimate, big and showy or possibly themed to the book, such as a historic building if it’s a historical novel or a railway station if it’s about travel or a cake shop if one of your themes is food. Be creative!
  4. Set a time and date. Most launches tend to be early evening, say 6-8, during the week, so that people can come by after work and you don’t have to provide a meal.
  5. Think about the catering. As well as sparkling wine for the toast, what other drinks are you going to provide? If a lot of people are likely to be coming by car, remember to lay on plenty of soft drinks too. Can the venue provide a cash bar, to top up your offer?For food, you could get a caterer to lay on a variety of canapés or provide something simple like cheese and olives yourself. Most launches these days seem to involve a fancy themed cake, but that’s still optional. Remember you’ll need someone to serve the drinks and nibbles.
  6. Think about setting out the room. Don’t have too many chairs – just one or two for those who can’t stand for long periods, or else people will not circulate. You’ll want flowers and possibly some kind of display, with posters of the book cover, you doing events or whatever. You could have a colour scheme, such as pink and sparkly for a children’s fairy book, which could extend to the food and drinks as well as the tables and displays.
  7. Arrange for a local bookseller or friend to handle sales of your book on the night (a bookseller will normally charge 30% of your takings)
  8. Arrange for at least one person to take some photos and possibly video your speech/readings (Liz Kessler took mine, including the ones in this blog post – thank-you, Liz!)
  9. Decide whether you’re going to do a talk and/or readings and practice in advance. Check there’s an elevated spot such as a step to stand on, or take a footstool for yourself so that everyone can see you.
  10. Ask someone to propose the toast – this could be your agent or publisher, a fellow author or someone else who has some connection to the book.
Remember to take your signing pen!
Remember to take your signing pen!

The way you tackle these points will depend upon your goal in having a book launch. For example, if you’re having it to get publicity and make lots of sales, your guest list will include local media, any movers and shakers you know and as many people as you can bring in, via leafletting and social media. If you take this approach, ask people to let you know if they intend to come along, so that you’ll have some idea how many you’re catering for.

But publicity and sales are not the only reasons for having a launch.  There may be times when something more personal could feel more appropriate. For example, my book launch for Writing in the House of Dreams last week came from a deep desire to thank my family and friends for all the support they’ve given me over the years with this child-of-my-heart book.

Me and Liz
Liz Kessler and me

I didn’t invite any press and I chose the little cafe at the open-air theatre in my village for the venue. Those of my children who could get time off work and my ex husband travelled from Orkney, London and Brighton to celebrate with me; my friend Liz Kessler came up from St Ives, my friend-and-editor Helen Greathead came from Plymouth.

Family came to celebrate with me
Family came to celebrate with me

Among my local friends, there were Cornish Crones, Gospel singers, counsellors and some of the people who have been on my dreaming and writing workshops, all of whom, in some way or another, have been present for me during the often-difficult writing of this book.

I did a speech! I don’t normally do that, but Writing in the House of Dreams isn’t my normal kind of book. I wanted to explain what writing it had meant to me, and express my gratitude for the help and encouragement I had received. The book was available to buy, but I would not have been upset if nobody had bought it – actually, I might have been relieved. It’s a personal book and a bit out there, and although I’m happy for strangers to read it I was worried what people who know me might think.

Launching it felt like a kind of coming out, and it has been liberating. Before the launch, I had three weeks of technology meltdown, with both my computers and my mobile phone all giving up the ghost, so I couldn’t  do the publicity I had planned.

Sometimes the outer world expresses what’s going on inside, and I think maybe I had to announce the arrival of my book-baby and show it off to my family and friends before I could feel really ready to take it out into the world.

Have you ever organised a book launch? Is there anything I’ve missed from my check-list? Is there anything you might do differently next time?