I’m excited for three reasons today: my wonderful friend Holly Robinson is guesting, Holly’s sharing a brilliant post on book launch events, and Holly’s new book, The Wishing Hill, is just about to be released. Welcome and congratulations, Holly!
The Successful Book Launch Party: Visual Effects Aren’t Just for Movies and Other Advice
by Holly Robinson
I’m far from being a novice writer, yet organizing next month’s book launch party for my new novel, The Wishing Hill, makes me alternate between wanting to do cartwheels and plotting my escape to Nepal.
Cartwheels, because I’m so happy to have a new novel to introduce to my family and friends.
Nepal, because a book launch party is a terrifying event for any writer.
Hilary Clinton once famously said it takes a village to raise a child. The same is true of writing a book. A launch party gives an author the chance to be surrounded by her village as a book makes its debut.
For the writer, it’s an opportunity to thank everyone who helped support the endeavor along the way. For the reader, it’s an opportunity to meet the person behind the name and interact by asking questions or making comments about the book.
I’ve attended many book launches that were high entertainment, and others that dragged on like mammograms in winter. Nearly all such events include a reading and a talk by the author, followed by a question-and-answer session. The best ones also offer wine and snacks during the book signing afterward, with an opportunity for everyone to mingle and celebrate.
Since this is my second book launch, I thought it would be useful to make a few notes to help myself—and other writers who might be launching their own books soon–create a memorable event:
Find a Bookstore, Library, or House Close to Friends and Family
Nobody wants to drive far after two glasses of cheap plonk and snacks. Check out your local bookstores and libraries to see who schedules author events and get on the calendar early. If you can’t find a suitable place, ask a friend with a forgiving spouse and a big living room to host the event. You can request books from the bookstore to bring with you, or carry your own stock if you’re self-published.
Promote the Event
Yup, it feels weird to blow your own horn, but remember: you’re inviting people to a party to thank them for supporting you! While many authors use Mailchimp or Constant Contact to advise their readers of appearances and launch parties, you can also do this simply through Evite, which has an easy (and free) way to send out invitations via email. Post the invite on Facebook and contact your local newspapers to see if they want to do a feature and announce the event.
Wear Comfy Clothes
For my first book launch, I bought a pair of racy peep-toe heels and a slinky wrap dress, figuring I don’t often get to feel like a celebrity. Worst idea ever! I might as well have been walking on stilts in those heels. I nearly keeled right over the podium. To add to my discomfort, the bookstore owner wanted me to wear a microphone; these typically clip onto your belt, the waistband of your pants, or the front of your blazer. Since I had none of the above, our only option was to clip the microphone onto my ladies’ unmentionables. Naturally, the more excited I got during my presentation, the lower my undergarments slid, until the microphone was nearly to my knees.
Don’t Just Read from Your Book
Nothing is more boring than a book launch where the writer drones on and on, reading from the book you were going to buy anyway. Remember that these events typically happen at night, when people are either tired after work and/or itchy to move around and socialize because this is a PARTY. Prepare some chatter ahead of time—think of interesting stories about what inspired the book, how you came up with the characters, why you chose this particular setting, etc. Then read short passages that illustrate what you’re talking about. This lets your audience feel engaged in your creative process—and with you.
Visual Effects aren’t Just for Movies
Is there anything you can bring to demonstrate your book? When I gave a launch party for my memoir, The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter, so help me, I brought my son’s gerbils to demonstrate what kinds of rodents my father raised by the thousands. Recently, I attended a book launch for historical novelist Anne Easter Smith’s latest book, Royal Mistress, where she riveted her audience by showing blown-up photographs of the newly discovered remains of King Richard III.
Prepare for Questions
What inspired you to become a writer? When and where do you write? Who are your favorite authors? Why did you write this particular book? Make a list of the questions your readers will most likely ask and plan out interesting answers ahead of time—that way you’ll sound a lot smoother during the Q&A.
Forget the Dollar Signs
At the very worst book launch I ever attended, the (famous) author literally turned her head while signing books to say to a fellow author, “I see this big line of people and I can hear that cash register ringing up my royalties!” At the second-worst book launch in my experience, the author issued this plea to the audience: “I know it’s tempting to get books out of the library, but please support authors by buying my book!” No reader wants to be thought of as an ATM machine! And what’s wrong with supporting libraries? Our mission is to bring stories into the world and get them into the hands of readers. Sign your books with feeling. When someone approaches you to have a book signed, ask that person something about herself. Then write a personal message or draw a cute cartoon next to your name. That will make your book more of a keepsake—and the book launch a smashing success with your readers.
Excerpt from The Wishing Hill
Her husband, Michael, wasn’t a bad man. People fell in love and out again every day, as easily as going in and out a revolving door. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t love her anymore, and he had always been good to her. Better than anyone.
Standing next to him in the garden now, Juliet saw the tender pink scalp peeking through his wispy brown hair and knew that she was clinging to him, to what they’d had, because of the hollow fear she felt at the prospect of being alone.
“I only came to say goodbye.” She took his hand and led him over to a shady bench.
“We’ve already said our goodbyes.” Michael slumped down next to her.
“No. I mean, I’m actually leaving Mexico. Just for a while. I’m on my way to the airport now.”
“My mom fell and broke her hip. I’m going home to take care of her.” She took a deep breath and added, “This is your last chance to clear your things out of the apartment. Anything I find in there when I get back, I’ll just toss. I mean it. I need to be done with this. With us.”
There. She had done it. She had delivered her ultimatum. Instead of feeling forcefully in control, however, Juliet only felt pathetic. Especially when she met Michael’s glance and found sympathy there.
“God,” he said. “Why do you have to be the one to take care of her?” Michael had met her mother twice. Twice, it had been a disaster.
She shrugged. “There’s nobody else. My brother and his wife live too far away. They’ve got jobs, kids. I can paint there as well as here.”
“For how long?”
“She’ll eat you alive.”
Juliet surprised them both by laughing. Of course she was afraid of the same thing. But she quickly grew somber again, knowing that she had to tell him the rest. “There’s something else you need to know, too,” she said at last, wiping her eyes. “It might hurt you. I’m sorry if it does.”
“Thank God!” Michael grinned. “I deserve to have you hurt me,” he said. “Go ahead. Hit me with your best shot.”
His grin faded. “You’re kidding.”
“Don’t worry. It’s not yours.”
“Well I know that,” he said impatiently.
“What?” Startled, she squinted at him. “How?”
“The timing’s all wrong,” he said at once.
Juliet could tell by the way Michael avoided her eyes that there was something he wasn’t telling her. But what?
“What do you mean?” she asked. “Why couldn’t the baby be yours? It hasn’t been that long. You don’t know how far along I am.”
Michael still wouldn’t look at her. He stared at the ground, his hands dangling between his knees.
“Tell me,” she said, nudging him with her elbow. “How do you really know this baby isn’t yours?”
“You’re not showing, so you can’t be very far along.” His voice, aimed at the dusty ground between his feet, was muffled and dull. “And we haven’t been together in months.”
“Women don’t usually show for a while. Not with their first babies, anyway.” Juliet said this with more assurance than she felt. She had read books, but what did she really know? She felt her neck flushing with irritation, a slow creep of red fury suffusing her body. What was he lying about?
She had a fierce urge to wound him. “I guess now we know it wasn’t me who was infertile.”
To her shock, Michael laughed. “Sweetie, I knew that already.” He stood up, smoothing the creases in his white trousers.
“How could you? You never went for testing.” Juliet was confused, anger clouding her vision. Michael shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and did a strange little shuffle on the sidewalk, bringing attention to the fact that his transformation from beach bum back to businessman was not yet complete: he still wore rope sandals, his toes gleaming like white pebbles against the brown twine. “Remember that time when I left you here and went back to San Francisco for a while?” he said. “The time I called you and said I had the motorcycle accident?”
Juliet squinted up at him. “Of course. Why?”
“There wasn’t any accident. I went to San Francisco for a vasectomy,” he said. “I already had my family and couldn’t stomach the thought of another one. I thought you’d get over wanting a baby.”
“What?” Her voice was a whisper. Rage had clogged her throat.
He smiled a little. “I guess in the end it doesn’t matter, right? We both got what we wanted. Good luck with it all. I’ll clear out my stuff next week.” Michael gave her a funny little salute and then, before she could respond, he was off, strolling back into the building.
Juliet sat for a moment longer on the bench, chest heaving, her legs leaden beneath her. Then she remembered her mother and stood up. She had to put one foot in front of the other and get on that plane to Boston. Then she could fall apart.
About The Wishing Hill
What if everything you knew about your life was wrong?
Years ago, Juliet Clark gave up her life in California to follow the man she loved to Mexico and pursue her dream of being an artist. Now her marriage is over, and she’s alone, selling watercolors to tourists on the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk.
When her brother asks her to come home to wintery New England and care for their ailing mother, a flamboyant actress with a storied past, Juliet goes reluctantly. She and her self-absorbed mother have always clashed. Plus, nobody back home knows about her divorce—or the fact that she’s pregnant and her ex-husband is not the father.
Juliet intends to get her mother back on her feet and return to Mexico fast, but nothing goes as planned. Instead she meets a man who makes her question every choice and reawakens her spirit, even as she is being drawn into a long-running feud between her mother and a reclusive neighbor. Little does she know that these relationships hold the key to shocking secrets about her family and herself that have been hiding in plain sight…
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